Don’t be lazy, do it yourself!

Great advice. I wholeheartedly agree.

Have We Had Help?

Editor

Writer/editor at work!

For a quarter of a century now, one aspect of my chosen career path has always bothered me…

We all know that writers in publishing house stables are expected to apply all the corrections and plot suggestions that their editors have made. So why should Indies have to suffer this totally illogical practice as well? For many, myself included, we parted company with traditional publishing to get away from this less than satisfactory aspect of the writing game, and the often dictatorial way in which publishers rule over their writers, amongst other things.

I’ve given up counting the number of times I’ve heard fellow Indie’s complain about their editors, and the hard won money they’ve spent on their sometimes dubious services.

If you take the sensible decision to go it alone and self edit, its down to you to find the errors and correct them, as well…

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Is Somebody Cooking a Novel?

While I’ve been able to get back on the writing horse since my latest disappointment, it has proved itself to be somewhat of a bucking bronco this time.

After my close encounter with traditional publishing came crashing down around me, an idea for a novel (or maybe a novella) began to form in my mind.  Normally, novel writing just isn’t my thing.  I don’t think I have the patience for it, and years of writing for kids has trained my brain to keep things very short and to the point.  I never thought of myself as having the literary stamina required to write a novel.

So what is this story idea doing in my head?  I suppose it could simply be the result of long-term stress and emotional upheaval finally looking for an exit (as if the erosion in my esophagus weren’t enough).  The plot isn’t fully formed in my head, though as usual I know the last line of the story.  At present, it’s about a woman who returns home to bury her father, clean out her parents’ now empty home, and put it up for sale.  The conflict for my protagonist lies in the fact that her mother was an emotionally abusive monster and her father a weak man who never stood up to her.  Returning home is the last thing she wants to do.

It’s not based on my life, though I’ll be dumpster diving my own memories in order to flesh out my character a bit.  It’s all grist for the mill, right?

Did I tell you there were ghosts involved?  Yeah.  So there’s a bit of the supernatural in the story, as well as the struggle to forgive in the face of injustice and learning to recognize how generational abuse is perpetuated.

Sounds heavy, I know.  It’s also meant to be allegorical.  What happens in the story isn’t meant to be a theological commentary on what happens after death, heavenly reward, or punishment.

So this is brand new territory for me.  I’m still working on the Winthrop Risk sequel, for which my serious sit-down time is reserved (though I’ve admittedly been giving the day job more attention of late).  The basic plot of the novel is still coming to me in small bits of random ideas arriving at inconvenient times that are scribbled in a notebook.  Eventually, it will all coalesce and the first draft will begin.

I’m intrigued by the idea of being able to slow the story down a bit, to indulge in more descriptive language, to give my characters more than a name.  I might be good at it.  I might suck at it.  Who knows?

It’s quite the adventure, isn’t it?

Maybe Next Time…

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Well, I finally heard from the publisher today.  My manuscript made it through the slush pile and through editing, but the folks in acquisitions decided to pass on it.

I won’t pretend I’m not deeply disappointed.  I’ve been riding this cautiously hopeful wave for months, only to sink right before reaching the shore.  What I want to do most right now is to sit on the porch and watch the grass grow.

I will allow myself a brief period of mourning for what might have been.  I’ll wait until the house is empty and I’ll shed a few tears.  Maybe a lot of tears.  Then I’ll get over it.

In the next couple of days, I’ll change the manuscript back to its original form.  I wasn’t thrilled with the change the editor requested and felt it interrupted the flow of the story.  Changing it was a business decision on my part, not an artistic one.  No doubt, an editor at another publishing house will want different changes anyway.

While I regret the outcome, I appreciate the experience I’ve had.  I received affirmation of my writing skills.  The next time I’m asked to revise a manuscript, I won’t feel quite as panicked as I did the first time, resulting in a headache that didn’t go away until the revision was done.  I can revise on demand.  I also learned that editors aren’t monsters.  I was treated with respect from start to finish.  In spite of the sadness I feel right now, I also feel like I’ve found my professional footing.  This is the business side of writing.  In retrospect, I feel good about the interaction I’ve had with this publisher over the last several months.  In the past, I’ve received a couple of form rejection letters or (for the most part) no response at all.  I guess I would call this progress.  Painful progress.

I believe that in a situation like this, inaction would be a mistake.  I know how easy it would be to just shut down and adopt an “it will never happen for me” attitude.  It will do me no good to sit in a corner, eating worms.  This is probably the point at which many a good writer has given up entirely and silenced their own voice forever.  I’m making a conscious decision not to take that route, though right now I feel like I’m trying to dance in knee-deep mud.

Time to start, once again, looking for publishers and agents accepting unsolicited manuscripts.  Time to finish the sequel to Winthrop Risk, Detective (I’ve decided to keep that series in the self-publishing realm).  Time to open up the purple box and see the story nuggets I’ve buried there.

If I never achieve publication of my picture books, it certainly won’t be because I gave up.  There’s no adventure in surrender.

robinhood

 

Book Review: “A Dread So Deep” by Anita Rodgers

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Mysteries seem to bring out the worst in people.  I don’t mean in the reader, but in the characters.  Murder.  Deceit.  Infidelity.  Violence.  Otherwise normal-appearing people who are successful businessmen, loving wives, and doting mothers.  Well-manicured lawns that hug stone walkways leading to magazine-cover-perfect homes.  What evil could possibly exist here?

Well, things aren’t always what they seem, are they?

The latest book by mystery writer Anita Rodgers, A Dread So Deep, leads us up to that lovely front door and into the nightmare that is Christine Logan’s life.

Christine Logan is the pretty wife of a successful contractor, Phillip Logan.  A talented artist who teaches painting to children at a local community center, Christine has often had to use her artistic skills to cover her bruises.  Emotionally abandoned by her abusive husband, she recklessly turns to one of her husband’s young employees for comfort.

Recklessness seems to be the one trait the Logans have in common, as Phillip’s choice of mistress proves.

When Christine becomes pregnant with a child Phillip is certain is not his, he orders Christine to have an abortion.

Will Christine give Phillip what he wants, or will she finally defy him and flee with the man she loves?  Will she be trapped with Phillip forever, or will fate intervene?

When Detective Davis and her partner are called in to investigate what looks like an accidental death, the number of possible suspects and motives for murder tells her there is more to discover.  Much more.

With A Dread So Deep, Anita Rodgers has given us a brisk whodunit with plenty of gnarled paths to keep the reader engaged and wondering what’s next.  We’re even treated to a cameo appearance by Scotti Fitzgerald, the plucky and intrepid protagonist of Anita’s Scotti Fitzgerald Mystery series.

So pull up a beach chair and pour yourself a glass of iced tea.  There’s a murder to solve.

About the author:

Anita Rodgers is no stranger to the mystery genre.  Among her other works, she’s the author of the Scotti Fitzgerald Mystery series and The Dead Dog Trilogy.  Her books are available at https://www.amazon.com/Anita-Rodgers/e/B004N8IWY6.

You can also check out her blog at https://writerchick.wordpress.com.

A self-published children’s book brought down Baltimore’s mayor — Literary Hub

Storyteller’s note:  This story just pisses me off.  Some no talent hack in government made $680,000 selling her self-published books to people in institutions that wouldn’t recognize a good children’s book if it were stapled to their foreheads.  It’s alleged that something fraudulent was going on and the investigation is ongoing.  Putting a self-published book out there with no marketing budget is hard enough, but watching someone else cheat with bad books that are designed to make adults feel good about buying them is enough to induce vomiting.  I hope they throw the book at her.  

“Buy a self-published children’s book” is admittedly not at the top of the list when it comes to ways to gain political influence, and yet that’s the emerging picture in Baltimore, where Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned yesterday after controversy from such a book came to a head. The Baltimore Sun reported in March that the…

via A self-published children’s book brought down Baltimore’s mayor — Literary Hub

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The Paralysis of Waiting

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I’m still some weeks away from learning whether or not the publisher will make an offer on my picture book manuscript.

Friday I had to vacuum the dust off the backpack containing my laptop and WIP.

Yeah.

I have the most miserable sense of being in author’s limbo.  It’s nothing like the limbo I was told about as a child, where babies go if they die before they’re christened.  It’s more like the lowest circle of hell.  A terrible place where images of success and failure alternately flash before my eyes–the dream realized vs. the dream dashed.

My sense of identity as a writer has grown stronger over the last couple of years.  It’s no longer simply what I want to be, it’s what I am.  Lately, I find myself slipping back into that insecure place where I’m waiting for a third party to nod in my direction and bestow upon me the coveted title of published author.  Something inside my brain is telling me I have no business sitting down to write before permission is granted.

I hate myself for allowing that to happen.

I have no excuses today.  The inbox for my day job is empty.  I already did the dishes.  I have forced myself into writer mode by dropping this little note of confession to you.  I’m going, at this very moment, to grab the backpack and see where I left off.

Join me.

Not So Fast!

Just got an email from the publisher.  I’ve made it from the slush pile and through the editorial board.  They liked the revision.  The final decision on whether or not to publish will be made at a meeting next month of their sales and marketing team.

One thing I’m learning is that the wheels of the publishing machine move rather slowly but deliberately.

Patience.

I think I’m having an out-of-body experience.

Now What?

Well, the publisher who contacted me said the acquisitions board would meet in late February/early March.

We’re coming to the end of March with no further word from the publisher, so I have to assume they decided not to publish my manuscript.

A dream-crushing experience once again.  How should I, as an author, respond?

I checked their website.  They’re open for submissions once again.  I sent another manuscript.

Stand up.  Dust yourself off.  Get back in the game.

So, This is Where Things Stand…

Four years ago, I sent a picture book manuscript to a small publishing house that was accepting submissions.  I never heard from them and eventually forgot I had submitted to them at all.

At the end of November, I received an email from one of the editors there, asking me if the manuscript were still available.  I responded in the affirmative right away and began looking for the long-abandoned ledger I had used to keep track of submissions.  There it was, January 28, 2015, via snail mail.

December and January dragged on with no further word until January 30th when another email announced that the editorial team liked the story but wanted a minor revision.  They wanted it before the acquisitions board met at the end of February/beginning of March.

Hackles up.  Paralyzing fear.  I kept my cool, though, and responded that I’d work on it and send the revision in soon.  I had a few weeks to make or break my chances of being published.  No pressure, right?

I spent the first few days frantically trying to think of a way to revise the scene in question.  It had seemed simple and elegant to me at the time and quite frankly, I didn’t see why it should be changed.  They thought it was confusing.

Breathe.  Take another bite of that reality sandwich.

I can’t self-publish the story because I can’t draw.  I also can’t afford to pay someone to do the illustrations for me.  Could I swallow my pride and do what they asked?  What if I changed the story and the acquisitions board passed on it?

A fellow writer I know had been through this song and dance.  Agent acquired.  Publisher interested.  Publisher asked for a revision.  Revision submitted.  Publisher passed.

Was I compromising my manuscript?  Would the manuscript go from being liked to being rejected?

After several false starts, I thought I had a revision I liked; but I held off sending it in.  I like to let a story stew for a few days and then go back to it.  I tweaked it.  Waited.  Tweaked it some more.  The more I worked on it, the more the panic subsided.  Finally, I felt it was ready to be resubmitted.  Off it went, accompanied by an email that sounded upbeat and confident.

I had turned it around in a little over a week.  I sent it in and then put the folder away in my desk.  If I look at it again, I’m sure I’ll find something else to change.  The revision would spiral out of control and the editor would have no time to consider it before sending it to acquisitions.  If there is another change to be made, I want time to make it.

Unless the editor wants another revision, I probably won’t hear from them again until after the acquisitions board meets in a few weeks.  I’m trying to stay positive.

I wrote a good story.  I choked down my considerable sense of pride and made the revision they asked for.  I turned it around quickly.  I behaved professionally, even though I didn’t feel particularly professional.  Will it pay off?

Stay tuned.

Is It Spring Yet?

Here in southeast Michigan, we made it most of the way through January without snow, which is unusual; but as my birthday came to an end Friday evening, the flakes were beginning to fall.

I woke up Saturday morning while it was still dark and found we had accumulated a few inches of fresh snow.  For a few hours, I was able to sit in my recliner with a cup of tea and enjoy the silence that follows when the sounds of the city are muffled in white.  The peaceful sensation of watching the snow fall outside my window while I sat warm and snuggled inside would be broken by late morning by the sound of snow blower motors and the scraping of shovels.

It was nice while it lasted.

Today, the sun is shining and the reflection on the snow makes going out without sunglasses a foolhardy venture.  It’s a January sun, though.  Plenty of light but no warmth.  We’re currently at 12F, not counting the wind chill factor.

January is a month that requires me to put my head down and just plow ahead.  I hate the cold and the dark that dominate most winter days.  While February (a mercifully short month) isn’t much better, I know that by the time Presidents’ Day passes, the robins will be returning.  They’ll brave some very cold temperatures and a few more snow storms, but their presence is one that tells me to hang on, spring is almost here.  February will give way to March, when a few stubborn patches of dirty snow will cling to the shade.  With April, I’ll see the buds on the tips of tree branches.  With May, the sun will stop playing its dirty trick and will once again give us warmth to go with its light.

Spring.  Windows open.  Birds chirping.  Walks in the park.  Friday night cigars on the porch.

Wait for it.

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