Thursday, September 27, 2012

Critique Partners

I love it when I’m wrong. No, really, I do. Because it gives me pause, stretches me, breaks me out of the box where I had locked myself. Most recently, this happened in the area of critique partners.

Like most of us, I’m a busy person. Busy, busy…not just “busy,” you know? I work at least fifty hours a week, before I even sit at the computer to write, or edit. A crit group brought to mind meeting at Marjory’s house with a bowl of macaroni salad and listening to Bernard drone on about his Romantic Fantasy set in the world of prairie dogs. No thanks

I also had this idea:  “Soooo…since I want to find an agent and get published, the best way to do that is talk to other people…who are also without agents and not published. Huh? Besides all that, as noted in an earlier blog post, I only have so much mojo to go around. So why would I want to spend it on suggesting changes to someone else’s work? Shouldn’t I save it for mine?

In a word…No. 

I saw a tweet about a Critique Partner pair up going on at DeanaBarnhart’s Site, so I popped over and decided to drop a profile into the hat. Within a few hours, I paired with two people.  After a few tentative emails and sample writing, we formalized the “relationships” and bam, we were off. Through the same event, I joined the Unborn Writers group.  

Wow. Talk about getting smacked with a dose of man-were-you-wrong. These outstanding women catch things and suggest changes that I didn’t see in any of the novel-wide edits I had made. With their permission I send a chunk to one of them, edit based on her thoughts, then send it off to my other partner and edit further afterward. The difference it has made in my book is nothing short of amazing. The secondary benefit is that I get to read their works. Not only are they good stories, but I learn from their efforts and errors and apply that to my own work.

Is it more work? No. That’s right, it’s less work. Why? Because even if I could find the errors they did, doing so alone would take more time than I spend reading and critiquing their work. But what about the writer’s group? When I joined, I told them about my crit partners. So I have been helping here and there with people’s queries and not posting much of my writing. It’s a great exercise and fun as well.

My conclusion? In the urban dictionary, under the definition of “Win, win,” it should say:  “See: Critique Partners.”

What is your experience? Love them or was it horror beyond imagining? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bedpans and Literary Agents

My 70 year old father landed in the hospital last week. He had a thoracic aortic aneurysm. He knew he had it, but waited until there was no other option before getting it fixed. It had swollen to about the size of a nerf football. Which made it much more dangerous that it usually is, which is to say. REALLY dangerous. They took him in for surgery Monday, my birthday. (ohhh yippee)

My wife and I have always lived close to my parents. At first it was out of convenience, then through investment (purchasing a house), and most recently because they are getting older. Because of this, I’m the signatory of all the medical stuff, etc. and the one to let my siblings know what’s happening.

I preparation for the operation, they did a chemical stress test. When the pictures didn’t come out well due to the size of the aneurysm, they did a second and in my layman’s mind, gave him a heart attack. Nitro pills, shots and a NO visitors ruling, say that to me at least. Three of my siblings had not been to see him yet, so when this no visitor thing came down I asked carefully. “None? As in, no one?”  “Just your mom, and you, since you are on the paperwork.”

I dutifully let the three know and that’s when things got really interesting.  While two of them accepted it, one immediately called the hospital, apparently sure that I was lying to them in a devious plan to prevent them from seeing our dad. It got even more interesting when the nurses station had not gotten the doctors orders before they called. Then they were sure it was the case. Accusatory texts flew, phone calls to explain were refused…silliness ensued.

Strangely all of the drama brought to mind…literary agents. I know, it sounds off, but hang with me. They are out there, doing their jobs to the best of their ability, letting authors know where things stand. Then, when an author gets a “No Visitors” note, tempers flare, feelings get hurt, and people get mean. Surely, “the gatekeepers are preventing them from realizing their greatness!” I’m guessing that nothing would make an agent happier than to have every query desirable, in a genre they loved to represent and knew to be sellable. Instead, they get hate mail, angry calls, and even morons who beat them up in the parking lot. (No, I’m not kidding)

So. How about this, authors? Let’s give them more than a break. Why don’t we give them a bit of love, a thanks, or pat on the back for taking the time to read our stumbling queries. Who knows? The good things you put out might actually come back to you.

I know this post is part rant and part encouragement, but it sure made me feel better to write it. Why don’t you share a thought and feel better too? 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tag! You're it! Interview

Another fantastic GUTGAA member tagged me with this interview.  Thanks Lindsey!

What is the working title of your book?
Tearing the Shroud is the current incarnation.  It started life as Tearing the Veil, but I felt the images associated with “Shroud” work better. Hopefully, it will be a keeper.
Where did the idea com from for the book?
In many religious writings, there are references to someone seeing a reality alongside our own.  The Bible mentions it in 2 Kings 6:17.  In that moment, they didn't see into "heaven", but something here on earth, just out of normal perception.  It's not a unique concept, but I've approached how that other world works and interacts with ours in a fresh and entertaining way.

What genre does your book fall under?
Adult Paranormal seems to fit best.  The characters are college age, there is sorcery, and unusual things take place here, so I suppose it could slip into Urban Fantasy fairly well too.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My story has two male MC’s, for Vincent I think Robbie Amell would work and for Coleman Alex Pettyfer strikes the right chord.  For Jule, that’s a tough one.  In The Flying Scotsman, there is a scene where a minister is talking to the cyclist and a picture is shown of his deceased wife.  Whoever she was it caused me to pause the movie and say “Oh my gosh, that’s Jule!”  Besides her, perhaps Italia RicciLeighton Meester or some undiscovered actress with a cute tooth. (you’ll have to read the book).   

 Who is this woman from The Flying Scotsman?

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book? 
Vincent has visions about someone who will tear the shroud of our reality and with the help of a warrior from another realm of being named Coleman and Vincent's friends, he tries to stop him.

Will your book be self-published or represented by and agent?
I'm going the traditional route and will pair with an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About twenty-three years and six months.  Yes, I’m serious.  Twenty-three or so years ago, I wrote the first thirty pages.  Life intervened, and those pages sat in a notebook at the back of my desk drawer.  I moved it from desk to desk and we moved a lot so I’m really surprised it survived.  In mid 2011 I opened it, re-read those pages and thought, “I think there’s still a story here.”  I finished the first draft about six months later.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
The book is set in 1984, so get out your tight jeans and pop in a CD of The Cure.  There are strong love stories woven throughout and, cue dramatic music, someone important dies!  The plot is intricate, but its an easy novel to read.  In my "real job" I work at changing people's perceptions of themselves and where they stand in the grand scheme of things.  Here I just wanted them to enjoy a fun story.  So, relax, read, and have fun!

Now, let's see.  I'll tag... 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kiss Off!

In conjunction with the Kiss Contest, Valeire Cole has a best Kiss Off event running at her site.   Hop over and take a peek at the finalists.

This competition was tough because you only entered your first sentence, and then the voting went from there.  I didn’t even scratch the top ten, but had a fun time writing the scene.  It was the first time I tried writing in first person, but that only added to the enjoyment of the attempt.



     Spike always had something up his sleeve.  His call earlier to see ‘what I was up to tonight’, turned into me driving us from San Diego to Huntington Beach, for a double date with a woman I didn’t know.  I’d met her briefly at one of Spike’s famous parties last weekend, but it was just a quick hello. 
     “Is she the blonde or the brunette?” I asked.
     “Jamie, the blonde, you remember, the models from LA” 
     “Yeah, I’ll be your wingman.”  The things you do for friends.

     I’d never been out with a woman like Jamie, and as I spent the day in nervous preparation, my insecurities threatened to turn me into an incoherent comedy sidekick.  The plan was to meet at their condo about eight, go to a club, then play it by ear.  Fortunately, I could hold my own on a dance floor and maybe the politeness instilled by my parents would help.  My heart pounded like a jackhammer as we walked to the door and when Jamie answered it, all of my well-intended preparation called a cab and headed back to San Diego. 
     Her deep blue eyes glued me to the porch as her full lips parted in a slight smile.  “You found us,” she said in a sultry voice.  “Come on in.”  She looked like she’d stepped from a Victoria’s Secret catalogue and just happened to throw on some clothes.  The jeans and semi-opaque top clung to all the right places, revealing just enough to make me want to see more.  She walked ahead of us, her perfect derriere, dancing the tight pants.  If she had a quarter in her pocket, I could have told you if it was heads or tails.  Spike gave me a light push.
     “Step in slick,” he said.
     We had drinks, chatted, and got acquainted before leaving.  I surprised myself by holding my own, making her laugh, and even flirting without a shut down.  Maybe the evening would work out after all.  In the car, Spike and Linda got in the back, while Jamie slid into the front seat next to me.  She set her hand on my arm, sending a small tingle down my spine.  “I’ll tell you where to go.”
     “Sounds good to me,” I replied, with a smile.
     A few miles down the road, a mall came into sight and she said, “Pull in there.”   
     “There’s a club at the mall?” Spike asked from the back seat.
     “I just want to check something real quick.” 
     We drove through the crowded lot until she pointed at a marquee.  “Oh look, The Frightening is playing!”
     “You mean the movie?” Linda asked.
     “Yes, can we see it?  I’ve been waiting for it to come out.”
     Horror movies and I do not get along.  The last time friends talked me into watching one I spent the whole show looking at the heads in front of us pretending to watch the screen.  Even then, the sound track gave me nightmares.  So, I tried an honest approach.  “Hey, I’m a total horror wimp.  I just can’t take ‘em, sorry.”  I smiled to take the edge off.
     “We were looking forward to dancing,” Spike said.
     “I want to go see it, c’mon guys it’ll be fun.”
     “Seriously,” I replied.  “They scare the crap out of me.”
     “I’ll hold your hand and protect you.  Pleeeeease.”   She leaned close, her breast pressed against my arm through the thin material.  “You’ll be ok.”
     There goes the evening, I’ll give in and have to walk out half way through the show, or worse, try to fake my way through it and pay for it with weeks of sleepless nights.  It wasn’t worth it.  “Exactly, its just not worth it.” I thought.  I pulled toward the theater.
     “We’re going?” Jamie asked.
     I heard a sigh from Linda.
     “Well, you seem like you really want to go,” I replied.
     “I do!”
     I stopped in front of ticket booth and put the car in park.  “Okay, here ya go.”
     “Great, I’ll get tickets while you park the car.”
     “Nah, just get one for yourself, we’ll go dancing and pick you up later.”
     I shrugged, both over the loss of a fun evening, and as an answer.  “Hey, you want to see it so bad, and I told you I couldn’t go.  I don’t want to disappoint you.”
     “I can’t believe this!”  She crossed her arms and glared first at me, then out the window, and I mentally sighed.  She was even cute when she was mad, but no going back now.
     “So, are you getting out?” I asked.
     “No.  Just drive, we’ll go to the club.
     I pulled away from the theater, the quiet car thick with tension.  As we turned onto the road I said, “What’s wrong Jamie, hasn’t anyone ever told you no before?”
     I heard Linda gasp and Spike stifle a laugh.
     She remained stonily silent.  Miles down the road as Linda directed us; Jamie’s hand found mine and guided it high on her thigh.  She leaned over and whispered I my ear, “I’m not used to being told no, but I think I like it.”