*Sigh* Rejected Again

I just received this little email:

Andra,

Thank you for offering your story to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

We’re sorry to tell you that we will not be using it; you are free to submit it elsewhere.

That makes Rejection Number Two for my story “Ashella’s Heart.”

At this point, I don’t know if I have the energy to find another magazine to submit it to. Sure, I have access to significant lists of magazines that accept stories like mine, but the problem comes with the necessity of reading a copy or two of each one to find out if it’s really a good fit, or not. That takes a lot of time. Sure, I could submit it to every science fiction/fantasy magazine out there without reading any of it, but that seems too . . . impersonal, I guess. Not quite the word I’m looking for, but I’m not motivated enough to find it.

So, yeah, I’m feeling a little maudlin about the whole thing.

Part of it is due to spending the last three days looking for agents for my sci-fi novel. I found over a dozen that look promising, and that’s a good thing. Better to have too many choices than not enough. All I need to do is structure and personalize my query letter and synopsis according to each one’s submission requirements – starting with the agents that I like best and work my way down from there.

The good news is, I at least I didn’t have to wait until my birthday to find out the magazine thought my story sucked (kidding a bit there. My story didn’t necessarily suck. Most likely they’re looking for something different).

I just wish I could better predict what magazine/publisher/agent will fit with what I write. It’s so damned unpredictable in that the only way to discover it is to send it out there to be rejected. I’d like to think I have a thick enough skin, but on days like today – apparently – it’s not thick enough.

Yay! I’m Rejected!

One more rejection letter to add to the growing pile:

Dear Andra,

Thank you for submitting “Ashella’s Heart” to Apex Magazine. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it’s a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Sincerely,

Lesley Conner
Managing Editor
Apex Magazine.

I’m a bit disappointed, but it is what it is. All it means is I need to find another magazine to submit to. I have one in mind, but I want to read a few more issues to make sure it’s a good fit (according to moi). Although this particular magazine says it takes both fantasy and science fiction, most of the stories included in the few issues I’ve read so far have been science fiction. I don’t want to waste time submitting to a magazine that’ll reject it out of hand because I didn’t get the genre right.

EDIT: Have you ever responded to a publisher/editor/agent and thought the moment after you sent it, “Oh crap! Did I spell their name right?”

I had that moment of panic after I responded thanking the editor for their time and consideration. Thankfully, I did spell it right *wipes sweat off brow, and takes a deep breath to slow down heartrate*.

Rolling in Poison Ivy

When a writer or author follows me on Twitter, I usually follow them back.

When I do I inevitably get a private message stating, “Thanks for the follow. Be sure to check out my book . . .”

It’s a marketing thing, I get it, and I try not to allow cynicism to take over in that they only followed me in the hopes of getting a sale. Have I purchased a book from a Twitter message?

Once.

And I did so because the author of whom I returned the follow messaged me this:

“I’d roll around in poison ivy to get you to read the free sample of my book . . .”

How could I not turn down such an offer?

At $0.99, I decided to buy the book before I even read the sample. I figured at that low cost, I couldn’t lose either way.

“The Scattered and The Dead Book 0.5” reads like a long prologue (as if the 0.5 didn’t give it away).

With some books, less is more, and the authors Tim McBain and L.T. Vargas proved that with this 162 page book.

“All my friends are dead. Everyone I’ve ever cared about is dead.”

Loneliness drives an introvert to write a letter to the girl in the apartment across the hall. He is anxious. Reclusive. Desperate for a friend. The apocalypse interrupts this attempt at human contact.

Now he watches out the window as the world gets gut to pieces by plague and riots. Buildings burn. Pedestrians vomit blood.

Soon bodies line the streets. Rumors of zombies spread. And then the power goes out.

Getting to know someone could be harder than he thought, let alone surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

He might even have to leave the apartment.

The entire book is Decker’s (the main, and really, the only character) letter to the girl across the hallway. In it he describes everything he does and everything he sees out the window before, during and after the apocalypse starts.

On the surface it might sound boring. Where’s the action and interaction between characters If most of the book takes place in a single apartment through the mind of one person? Unless you count the girl, but we don’t meet her; we only know her through the main character and his imaginings of her. The authors don’t reveal how the apocalypse starts, but I don’t care. It’s not relevant to the story; what matters is how Decker responds to the challenges before him.

In order for a writer to build a character who’s believable and sympathetic, the writer must love that character — even if he/she is the antagonist. The love the authors have for Decker is obvious from the first page. He’s not only believable, but I could see a lot of myself in him. I felt as though he was talking and writing the letter to me. That, there, proves how solid the writing is.

The writing is smooth and direct, and I didn’t find a single error. The authors give just enough detail to immerse us into Decker’s mind and his world, but not so much it gets bogged down. I read the entire book in less than two days, and I honestly didn’t want it to end. Luckily Book 1 is out, so I can keep going.

I won’t offer to roll in poison ivy to get you to read it, but I recommend you check out the book nonetheless.

You can find out more here: http://www.amazon.com/Scattered-Dead-Book-0-5/dp/1523769025/

10,000 Ways

One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Edison when he talked about creating a light bulb:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

With my first rejection letter out of the way, I can now say I know one way that won’t work.

But I am impatient. Always have been.

I buy a lot of books — too many of which I haven’t read — on subjects ranging from basic economics to warfare.

They collect dust, because for some reason I keep thinking that the mere presence of a book on my shelf means I can learn the subject, as if I can absorb it through osmosis. It’s a sad realization that I don’t necessarily want to learn new things; I want to know them without having to work to get there.

Unfortunately for me, to find an agent who’ll hopefully find me a publisher requires not only patience, but a lot of studying and research. I have to study each prospective agent carefully to see if they will not only be a good fit for representing my book, but also a good fit for me personally. I will, after all, be working with said agent — for years if everything goes right.

I must be like Thomas Edison, and continue to write, to pursue, and figure just the right combination for success, even if it means learning 10,000 ways how not to do it.

To quoth Mr. Edison again:

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

God willing, it won’t take me literally 10,000 tries. I’ll settle for 12. Okay maybe 20. 50?

What I Miss — And Don’t Miss — About Facebook

November 30, 2015 was my official last day of spending time on Facebook.

After over two months of freedom from that site, I found there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing so.

First the disadvantages (because I want to end this entry on a positive note):

  • Daily happenings. I have little to no idea what my friends and family who don’t live nearby are up to. I’m way out of the loop, and feel a bit left out when people talk about the latest happening, or viral meme or video on Facebook.
  • No more writing ideas. At least as far as non-fiction is concerned. Facebook provided a lot of fodder for me to comment on, and inspired many a blog entry. It’s part of the reason I’ve posted fewer entries here since then. But only partly. The other reason is a big positive that outweighs this negative.
  • People miss me. More than one person has expressed how much they miss my updates — some of whom I see fairly often. I guess they like my stuff.

 

The advantages:

  • Writing and more writing. While I’m empty of ideas for inspirational blog entries, I have completed two novels, and am now working on completing a third. Since December 1, I have written over 110,000 words.
  • Reading. I have more books in the last two-and-a-half months than I’ve read the previous year, which further inspires me to keep writing. Which reminds me. I need to start posting reviews of said books . . .
  • No more — at least way less — anger and frustration with the constant flow of memes and angry proselytizing with regard to politics and religion.
  • No more pissing people off with my own opinionated opinions with regard to politics and religion.

 

At the end of the day, while I miss out on a lot, what I’ve gained is far more important. I may actually get a book published out of it. That’s the hope anyway.

Once I finish this third novel, I will have time to write and send query letters to agents (I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s got to be done. Maybe that’ll be the subject of my next entry . . .).

Since this blog is supposed to be about my writing journey, I will keep you apprised.

Creating a (Positive) Online Presence

Along with researching agents and publishers, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating a better online presence.

The problem is, how without sounding like some annoying salesman?

From what I’ve read, the commonest advice is to offer something potential readers want and will make them keep coming back.

Okay. What do I have to offer?

It has to be free to start. It could be humor (that one’s easy. My son and husband are always coming up with something). Information and advice is another. There it gets wrinkly. Everything I know and learned has come from someone else. The trick will be to put my own unique spin on it and make it entertaining as well as informative. Otherwise all I’ll be doing is adding external links to every blog entry.

I should care about my readers, and respond in a timely manner to any comments or questions they might have. One way to do that is see myself not as a writer, but as a reader. What do I look for in writer websites/blogs? What encourages me to keep coming back? How can I emulate them, again without being repetitive or plagiaristic?

Yes, I want to sell my writing, but that should the end result of an online presence, not the foremost.

After all, if a reader enjoys my blog, my website, Facebook page and Twitter tweets, then they’ll naturally want to read my books.

The mindset has to be thus: It’s not about me or my books, per se, but about pleasing my readers.

One thing that sucks about writing and desiring to publish is that my writing succeeds or fails based solely on the opinion of others. That said it’s something I chose (sort of) and knew going in, so I really shouldn’t complain.

So far I have several ideas:

  1. Book reviews. I’ve wanted to do more of these, and I could certainly use the practice. That I read a lot makes this fairly easy. It’ll also help garner more readers, because if they’re well-written enough, the authors may link the review on their own websites.
  2. Humor pieces. There’s a blog I read (Literary Agent Steve Laube) and every Friday he writes an entry called “Fun Fridays”. He’ll either add a humorous Youtube video, or fun facts. For me, I’ll likely dedicate Mondays, because who couldn’t use a little laughter on Monday?
  3. Continuing my publication journey. I’ve written a few entries in an older blog dedicated to the pitfalls of pursuing publication, and received some very good responses to it (One even went so far as comparing me to Erma Bombeck. Yeah, I’m as shocked as you are). Apparently I’m fairly humorous when describing rejections. Good, because I have a feeling there will be a lot more of those.
  4. Faith. Seeking publication is a journey of faith. I’ve learned more about God and seen my faith grow ever since I decided to pursue it. There were a lot of bumps and bruises from falling on my face, but I learned more from those failures than I ever will from my successes. Perhaps others can learn from them as well – without the bruises. And laugh at my obvious ineptitude.
  5. Write more. One entry a month simply won’t cut it (my average of late). People’s time is short and precious, and if I’m not consistent – no matter how good the entries are – they will lose interest.

Now it’s your turn. What would you like to see me write or add to my website? As an incentive, I’ll send you some free stuff.  I’m thinking some pens and bookmarks, or a free critique of the first five pages of a novel, short story or article. Your choice.

What? It’s Not Perfect?

I read a while back that to help gain interest of publishers and agents, a writer should have endorsements from other authors. Taking that advice, I asked Amy Deardon if she’d be willing to write me one for “Traitors,” but only if she felt it was good enough. I also asked if she found any boo-boos to let me know.

She kindly agreed.

A few days ago she mentioned there was a consistent mistake I’m making that’s reducing the tension in my story, and she would explain what it was if I wanted her to.

She emailed me back today and said that although she is enjoying the book, she’s found a consistent mistake that reduces the tension, but that it was a big enough problem it would take some work to fix it. My response was to email her back and nearly beg her to tell me. it’s not mere curiosity, but a fidget-in-my-chair eagerness to know what that is.

It’s funny how I no longer tense in horror at the possibility of criticism, or even take the blows with quiet grace. Instead I’m banging at the proverbial door for it.

Does that make me a glutton for punishment, a slight case of masochism?

Or perhaps I want to see my novel as perfect as can be before it’s released into the public.

Soon (I hope) I will have yet another editing project to add to my list.

In the meantime (so I’m not checking my email every three minutes for the author’s advice), I’m going to continue on with my Nanonovel.

From the Just ‘Cuz Files:

I’ve decided to reduce my inventory of “A Reason to Hope” by offering it at a 55% discount. See my Products page for more info.

Branding is a Very Bad Thing

Just ask a cow.

Yet that’s what writers are required to do if they want to sell their books. Develop a brand, something that sets them apart from every other writer out there. Something (or things) that will attract potential readers and keep them coming back for more.

It’s a horrible thing to ask (demand) of a person who — in general — is anti-social by nature. It’s not enough to merely write, find a publisher, and write some more. Now we have to create a Brand before we even hook an interested publisher.

I recently watched a show entitled “Genius Minds” on the Science Channel about an autistic lady named Temple Grandin. Since a little girl, she always had an affinity for animals. She understood them, because, like her, they have no grasp of abstract concepts. She empathized with the cows especially when they were herded into the chutes to be branded. They bounced around in terror, potentially injuring themselves and others, until the headgate closed on them. They immediately calmed down. When she was in college , she created something similar for herself, which she used when feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts. She called it the “hug machine.” It was so successful for her, that it’s now used for other autistics to help keep them calm.

What does that have to do with branding? Other than the fact they’re used to brand cows?

Because I’m not a cow. I’m not like Temple Grandin where I would find something like that comforting. I see it as constraining. I don’t want to be branded, to be known as one thing and one thing only.  I’ve seen other authors who’ve gone from one brand (or genre) to another and it either failed dismally or it took years for it to catch, because the author had to find a whole new set of readers.

Admittedly, the fight against branding is an excuse. I keep asking, “What do I have to offer that will keep them interested enough that they will buy my product without feeling pressured to buy it?”

Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from others. I know a lot , but I’m not an expert at much — unless you want to know how to survey land. Even then, there are thousands more who know more than I do. There’s nothing unique I have to offer except my stories.  Unfortunately, that’s not enough anymore. I have to sell myself.

*shudder*

But it is what it is. As much as I might hate it, it has to be done. My reticence, fear and lack of confidence has more to do with not knowing how to even start marketing. At Barnes and Noble the other day, I spotted “Guerrilla Marketing for Writers.”  I’m only 20 pages into it, and I’m still feeling overwhelmed. I will continue to slog ahead, however, because the desire to publish is greater than my fear of putting myself out there. I will simply have to fight my anti-social tendencies.

Hopefully getting branded won’t hurt too much. Once I figure out what it will look like, that is.

The Interview

First of, to listen to the show I did on Saturday, go to www.ashfordradio.com. From there click on the first microphone that says “Radio Studio A”. From there scroll down until you see my name. Click on that and the show will start playing.

Overall, I think it went well. I didn’t stutter too much. At least I don’t think I did. Just over halfway through, they accidentally cut me off and had to call me back. It was a good experience, and I wasn’t as nervous as I anticipated. Many a prayer was whispered as I waited for the show to start, let me tell ya.

Turns out I needn’t have worried about whether or not I would be more open about my faith during the interview. The subject never came up as the interviewer focused on my job and what Land Surveying entails. My biggest concern was that I described what land surveying is without talking over people’s heads. As with any technical occupation, there is a tendency to techno-speak. I tried to stay away from it, but I’m not willing to listen to the interview and find out. I never did like the sound of my voice (although I’ve never heard anyone else complain about it). I prefer blissful ignorance and believe I did okay. Why listen to the show and discover I sucked? Yeah, when it comes to this, I prefer delusion.

Since I received such good feedback so far, I’m doing another four half-hour interviews over the next four Saturdays staring at 9am Central time. These will focus more on my writing and photography. A perfect venue to talk about my faith since it’s such an integral part of my writing. As with the first one, it will be archived. I’ll provide a link should you miss it.

But it’s hot, I have a cold (when I just got over one two weeks ago), and I’m tired.

I think my next entry (should I have more mental energy) will be about the definition of faith, and why it can be such a struggle at times.

Later!

It’s Time

When I started writing my first book, I couldn’t wait for it to be published. I wanted to see my name in print right now! That was ten years ago. Sure my name has seen print with three short stories, as many articles and a self-published novella, but my novel is still in limbo. I’m not concerned about it. In these last ten years, God has taught me patience.

But it is patience I’ve finally gained, or is it complacency? A bit of both?

I haven’t written much of anything since my last entry in March. Four months! Hard to believe. Where did the time go? Admittedly I wasted a lot of it catching up on favorite tv shows and movies (Netflix and Hulu can be quite addicting).

Over the last few weeks, my fingers have been itching to write. But write what? Sure I submitted two articles to AUGIWorld, but each one took less than four hours to write.

Two of my books need serious edits, and I’m about a fifth the way through the first. Not something to brag about, because I’ve been working on that since January. I’d also like to rewrite “Traitors,” or at least the first three chapters. I went through the comments for the Genesis Contest last year, and realized the first part needed work.

My first draft started with an assassin right before she entered the house to kill her victim. I had since changed it beginning with the assassination itself while in the mind of the victim.

Based on the comments, I decided the story would be better the way I had it originally. Funny, that. My instincts were right to begin with. It’s a good thing I keep all my major drafts, both on computer and hard copy.

I also need to come out of the shadows a bit. I’ve been in hiding, mostly because I’ve let my faith stagnate some. Okay, a lot. I haven’t gone to church since January, and I’ve barely picked up my Bible since then. My only communion with God in any capacity is when I say bedtime prayers with my son.

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Ashford Radio. They wanted to do a half-hour radio interview of me. I was ambivalent at first, but finally agreed. Partly it was due to cost. They wanted $2000. Not happening. After saying no about three times, they took away features such as a plaque and travel vouchers, and lowered the price to $500.

I figured if I want to come out of my shell,and start promoting myself more, a half-hour interview live-streamed on the Internet would be the boost I need. Even if I do have to pay for it.

They called me this afternoon for a pre-interview, and one of the questions they asked was, “Who was your biggest influence on your life?”

On the tip of my tongue was, “Jesus,” but I instead said, “Mostly my parents.”

That’s when I realized just how far I let my relationship with Jesus falter. Didn’t he say, “those who acknowledge me to others, I will acknowledge in heaven, and those who deny me, I will deny in heaven?” (Paraphrased because I’m too lazy to get off my bum and look it up). If I were to split hairs, I could say I didn’t deny him outright, but I sure didn’t acknowledge him either.

Luckily I have another opportunity during the actual interview to say what I wanted — and needed — to say. Hopefully I won’t chicken out then.

I also focused more on my actual job as a land surveyor and less on my writing during the pre-interview. Mostly because writing has taken a back seat to other priorities. But, we’ll see what happens during the actual interview. I may just have to sit down with God for an hour or two beforehand and discuss with him what I should say. He’s never let me down, even when I’ve let him down so many times. God’s kinda great that way.

You can listen to the interview on www.ashfordradio.com, on Saturday, 7/23/2011 at 12pm EST. You can also read the press release HERE.