Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things I Learned Along the Way Thursdays

Thursdays are the days where I reflect on my journey as a writer and let you know where I am or what I've learned.  This week I've learned that through all the hard work and rejection that comes with the trade, good things can happen too.

For the past month I've been querying my manuscript to various agencies.  It took a week or so for that first rejection to come.  I knew it was coming, it did, whatevs.  I had prepared myself for some rejection, but I wasn't ready for as many as I got in a row.  I knew I had a good idea, I'd polished it, worked on the query, etc. but I was getting back form after form after form rejection.  
Last week the Omaha Public Library had Gordan Korman come speak and sign books.  I took the opportunity to meet an experienced author and get a few autographed books.  I stood in line for an hour and while I was there I thought of a question to ask him.  I'd gotten a book by him meant for younger kids that resembled the genre/age level I was going for.  See I was querying as scifi (which could lead an agent to think it was for adults) and middle grade (which needed a higher word count.)  But other than that, what do I call my book?  What genre was it?  So I asked, "If you were going to query this book tomorrow what would you say the genre is?"  He answered, "A chapter book I guess."  Gee thanks...  I guess.  I responded with, "LIAR LIAR is a 6,000 word work of___________."  "Oh, a 6,000 word chapter book aimed at children in grade 2-4."  I was bummed that my first 50 queries were just for practice, but glad I'd asked that question.  Armed with 3 autographed books and an answer to a question I was dying to get, I fixed my letter and started querying again two days later.  I woke up the next morning, after getting 6 queries written, to 3 rejections in my inbox.  I filed them and recorded it on querytracker.  I was getting my list ready to send more when another email popped up in my inbox.  I began reading the email in my head before I even opened it.  "Dear Author, I'm sorry that.. blah blibbidy blah."  Then I actually ready it.  It had my first name in it!  It didn't apologize anywhere!  Someone read my stinking query and wanted to see some chapters!  BOOM!  My first request.  And man did it feel good for the following reasons:
-I will not go 0-80 on queries.  
-Someone read my query and thought the idea was worth looking at so the query must not be complete fail.
-Someone read my query and thought the idea was worth looking at so the idea must not be complete fail.
-A reputable agency who reps people I've heard of made the request.

I've gotten a rejection since then and expect all of the ones before I changed my query to come back that way, but the one partial tells me I'm headed in the right direction and gives me hope.  So if you are reading this, quit procrastinating and get to doing what you were meant to do.

But before you do check out my contest.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Felt Like Sketching

Before I get to the topic at hand I wanted to give links to some cool posts I found this week.  The first is on Natalie Bahm's blog about how revising can cause chain reactions throughout your manuscript.  The second is by Renae Mercado about her writing method.  I think it's kind of fun to read the comments and compare.

Also be sure to check out my  Giftcard Give Away Haiku Party Contest! for a chance to win $25 at one of 4 different restaurants. 

Topic at Hand:
In the motion picture Napolean Dynamite the first thing Napolean says when asked what he is going to do that day is, "Whatever I feel like doing -- Gosh!"  Today I feel like sketching. 
Since I was a kid I've loved to draw.  When people ask where I learned to draw I tell them it was math class.  While other people took notes about tangents and the like I was drawing costumed heroes (dork alert!)  I really suck at geometry but I can draw.  
But this is a writing blog you say?  Well I use it for that too.  As a chapter book author I like to draw scenes and characters from my story to help me visualize what I'm writing.  I just find that when I go to put a character down on paper they fit a little better and I know them a little more.  
I also know that as an author I should be wary of illustrating my books.  The publisher will decide who the artist is. This is more for me to get an idea of what my characters look like so my words can match my imagination.  I find as I draw I have to go back and read my original description.  Sometimes I have to change something that I missed.
Here is an example of one I did this week. 

What do you do to help you visualize your characters?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Music to Write to

This week our theme is covers. Mostly covers are just like a sequel. Some of the same stuff you loved from the first movie only not nearly as good. These covers are different. They made the song better.

Originally by the Postal Service and Iron and Wine. Ben Folds just makes things better.

Next is the Fray with heartless. Now Kanye I'm going to let you finish but the Fray made one of the best covers of all time!

Next week I want this segment to be clips from other people so send me a comment with a link and I will pick 2-3 for next week's post.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Giftcard Giveaway Hiaku Party!!!!1!

Hey there!  Want a $25 gift card usable at Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster, and Bahama Breeze ?  Of course you do!  Here's what you have to do to get it,

1) Follow me
2) Leave a comment with the best Haiku you can muster.

The contest ends when I have 65+ followers so feel free to blog or invite friends over so it ends before 2020.

I'll go first (no I won't say I won and keep it.)

I have a new blog
It needs more minions promptly
Add me and win big

Best one after I have 65 followers wins the grand ole' prize.  The second best one gets a Sid Vicious WCW Pro Wrestling trading card.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Things I Learned Along the Way Thursdays

This week's topic is word choice.  I used to think that my writing should just be authentic and natural.  The way I say things would probably be best and forcing words I don't use a lot to sound scholarly just felt awkward.  Then last night I went to an All You Can Eat Chinese Buffet.  First of all, this entire post could be about how the words "all you can eat" constitutes poor word choice, but that is for another time.  This time I ate as much as I wanted of dumplings, bacon wrapped shrimp, and low-dollar sushi.  When my wife and I got back from our first round at the buffet a woman was eating at our seat.  We tried to tell the waiter about it so we could get another seat, but he moved her in front of us.  Anyway... eating eating eating, and then the bill came along with the customary two fortune cookies to end the meal (which, had I eaten all I could eat like I was supposed to under the harsh bylaws of the lighted sign out front, would have set me over the top.)

My wife opens hers.  "You will take exciting travel both for business and for pleasure."  Pleased as punch, she texted her friend who she is flying across the country this weekend to see and who she is also going to a vet conference in Cali with.  

I opened mine.  "Everything will now come your way."  At first I was elated.  Do you know what this means?  I'm going to get a book deal!  I'm going to author several popular book seriesesizez...  
I'm going to buy a waffle maker for my yacht!  
As my dreams rattled on in my head the part of me that spoke English started to really analyze my fortune.  The cookie did not say, "Good things"  it said "all things."  I began to panic.  Sure, I was going to get a slinky, and even the stairs to send it down, but I was also going to get tetanus and fruitcakes.  I began to imagine everything that was coming my way: aardvarks, lentils, those little metal brads you poked through oak-tag when you were eight to make leprechaun puppets, anteaters (though similar to aardvarks, clearly not the same.)  I even wondered if I'd get the green cardboard box that the metal brads came in.  Then I remembered I was getting everything.  
But did I really want everything that came with -- EVERYTHING?  Sure I'd get lucky powerball numbers, but what good were those when I was also going to get cirrhosis and wouldn't be around to spend it anyway.  And I didn't even need the powerball numbers because I was going to get gold bricks and barabonds.  For all the fuzzy unicorns and cotton candy I would be getting, cylones and scoliosis were sure to follow.  And what was I going to do with 74.56 pounds of Styrofoam peanuts? 
Everything was too much to take.  It made me realize how much a single word can change and flavor a sentence.  Sure there is also how people interpret a sentence.  for example I could interpret that "your way" means everything will go my way.  Makes some sense, but isn't verbatim what the sentence says.  So for all the times I don't want to bother dusting off my thesaurus or looking at my word choice I will remember the time I almost got everything and came away gaining 3 pounds.  


P.B.P. (post blog post) Lucky #'s 4, 24, 26, 33, 40, 45

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Music to Make Write to

Let's go with Ben as our theme for today.

The Bens

Ben Kweller (this is the oddest song of all time and yet I cannot stop listening to it.)

More Kweller

Kicking it old school. Ben King

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cassastar is Here!

Today is the release date for Alex J. Cavanaugh's CASSASTAR. He told me if I plugged his book that I'd get a free toaster oven, so here it goes.

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron’s tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

I'm going to pick up a copy today.  I recommend you do the same.  Head over to Alex's Blog to learn more. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature type thing (I refuse to use the word meme in a sentence) hosted by Story Siren  It doesn't have to be something literally in your mailbox, otherwise I'd be sharing rejections with you. It can be any book you get whether from a bookstore, friend, relative, hobo.  I've chosen to do it this week because I've been reading a book I can't put down called Red Lightning by John Varley. 

Crazy good book.  When I picked it up I was thinking it would have a space pilot type vibe.  Completely wrong, here is the book blurb type stuff:

Mars sucks, but it has all the comforts of home for Ray Garcia-Strickland, son of Martian explorer and hotel owner Manny Garcia. The family still has connections to Earth, though, and when an unidentified object strikes the Atlantic, destroying a huge percentage of the U.S. East Coast and several Caribbean islands, they head for Florida to get Grandmother, who owns a hotel on the coast, out of the disaster zone. Then there's mad genius Uncle Jubal, singlehandedly responsible for the incomprehensible Squeezers technology that creates incredibly cheap energy and makes space travel possible, who lives surrounded by a web of "security" in the Falklands. Just as the family thinks the worst is over, Jubal vanishes, and there are earthly powers that will stop at nothing to find him. The epic disaster has caused a whole stewpot of political unrest and power plays to come to a head, and Mars is a major pawn in the game, with Ray smack dab in the middle of an epic battle for truth and sovereignty.

 This is a sequel to the book Red Thunder, Which I think I'll move on to next.  I like the character development and voice Varley wrote with in this book.  It was politically charged, but not enough to distract which to me is a plus.  I also laughed several times.  

If you have a book(s) you would like to share you can sign up at  El Sirena de Cuento

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Morning Pump-Up Video

Let's get this morning started off right with a smoothie from Blend-Tec:

Have an explosive rest of your day!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Things I Learned Along the Way Thursdays

Hey, kids. How's it going? 
This week's Things I Learned Along the Way Thursdays is about self-editing. Remember that old summer camp song where you took whatever was obnoxious and put it at the front three times and then the rest went like this:
A horrible way to die,
a horrible way to die,
<insert obnoxious thing here x2>
a horrible way to die?

We'd sing it whenever they wanted to do announcements or we'd throw some goofball Webelo's name in there (Kids can be so cruel!)

That is how I feel about editing and revising. Sure it's important, but it also can be gut-wrenching. Who wanted to wake up this morning, go to the mirror, and find all their zits on their face and other fun imperfections? It's a lot like that. A horrible way to die.

But edit we must.  Because what if we left the house like that?  As a new writer I wanted a resource that would let me know what to look for and also give a lot of examples.  Me likey examples (especially with pictures (SPOILER ALERT!!11! not very many pictures in the book I'm about to recommend.)) Here is my field-manual of self-editing awesomeness:

Most of the writing I've done is for kids, so some of this does not apply, some goes over my head.  But for a comprehensive how-to on writing craft this is a must.  I'm still working my way through it and some of the chapters I will have to read several times, but I learn something new each time I pick it up.  It's like going to the mirror and saying to yourself, "How did I miss that one?" he inquired.

What book or resource helps you with self-editing?


P.B.P. (post blog post) Today is the KU/KSU game.  If we (KSU) lose I might go on a posting hiatus due to being arrested for an armed hijacking an ice-cream truck.  It's not my fault.  I'm fragile.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Music to Make Write to

We need some hiphop up in this hizzouse! A word of warning, youtube does not filter language for me so if you click on a video be ready to hide the children and cover your ears. I tried to get the radio edit if possible.

Also, head over to Deepali's Blog for a chance at a $15 giftcard. Have a good week. Happy Writing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Morning Pump-Up Video

It's Friday. It's early. Can you make it one more day? Can you? Oh? Think not? Wait a minute! You can do it! Know why? Puppetmation! That is why. BTW I so made that word up. Pat on the back for me.

5,4,3,2,1 Thunderbirds are go! Deal with that!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Things I Learned Along the Way Thursdays

Today's thing I learned along the way is that writing is not the only thing in the world (Please don't try and kill me.  I know some of you disagree.)  Everyone needs a release from the emotional exhaustion of crafting a manuscript and then having it repeatedly rejected for the dwindling chance an agent will take it on.  I love to write, but the process can be taxing.  My release is Kansas State University.  I love me some Wildcats.  Today is the last football game between Kansas State and Nebraska, at least in conference.  For those of you who don't keep up with college sports here is what happened with the conference realignment situation this summer:

Anyway, today instead of writing and sending out queries I'm going to watch 4-0 KSU take on #6 Nebraska in Manhattan, KS.  I feel bad not working today, but sometimes you have to cut loose and hope your team kicks the crap out of some other team.  It's a lot like sending out queries, in that I will be dejected if we lose and elated if we do not.  My luck and we'll lose plus I'll have rejections in my inbox when I return, but what are you going to do but hope and try?  If you see a Nebraska fan today, wish them luck for me.  And then as soon as they turn their back to you, punch them in the back of their head.  Or you could just do this:

Clearly not a face mask violation.  Not our fault the guy put his helmet on backwards.  It's trick photography!  But I digress.  Happy writing today.  What is your release?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Music to Make Write to

Welcome to another edition of Music to Make Write to.  Black Cab is a kick I went on for awhile. If you haven't heard of it basically some people in London decided the best acoustics were in a London black cab so they thought to themselves, "why not have bands come record one take in a moving car?" Really good stuff to write to. The only thing I don't like is the into parts that kill the flow of the music.

The first one I'll post is by a guy called Phosphorescent. The song is amazing and he is wearing a cool hat, which is like bonus points.

Our next selections comes from a UK band called Pete and the Pirates. I'm not sure why I like it but it's catchy and the guys seem really jazzed about being there.

The next one is Sunset Rubdown.  The intro is long/annoying, but good song.

Last but not least is Death Cab for Cutie

Friday, October 1, 2010

Location Location Location! Blogfest 2010

Hello and Welcome to the 2010 Blogfest called Location! Location! Location! Go to I see you see to sign up. The best one gets a free mini sno-cone machine and runner up gets a month's supply of corn dogs.

The basic idea was to take one of 4 locations, imagine it, and describe or draw it.
So Welcome to Woodsville:

A city on a Hill cannot be hidden. However, the hamlet of Woodsville, with it's cobblestone streets and delicate masonry, blends into the rocky hills that roll gently into the hinterlands. The wafting smell of ale drifts from the Bottom Barrel Tavern and sticks to the odors of stone and hay-carts before making their way gently down the hill and dissipating into the woods and meadows. The soft sounds of laughter and braying asses flood out into the main street and winds downward from the tavern and Tully's Inn through houses and lofts until it is greeted unceremoniously by Galloways out to pasture.

Random drawering from a picture off of google search:


P.S. My Friday Morning Pump-Up Video is posted below.  Check it out.

Friday Morning Pump Up-Video

It's Friday. You can do it. One more day. How will you get through it? Why a pump-up video of course! This week I thought we should get pumped and in shape. Ready to work that upper body? Well, Dolph Lundgren is. What do you mean, who is that? How could you even ask that? He has played Captain Ivan Drago (Rocky IV,) Frank Castle (Punisher,) even He-Man. Here is a clip from his 80's workout video (Warning!!! this is only funny for 34.8 seconds, after which the creepiness of the black tights takes hold. Consider yourself warned.)

Feel the burn? No pain no Gain! Go get em'


PB (post blog) here is a clip I found of his performance of He-Man. Also very inspiring.