Thursday, September 27, 2012

Amazing case of avoidable Waffle-foot...

Waffle-foot - the condition caused by repeatedly shooting oneself in the foot.

So, I'm catching up on my blog-reading, having been crazystupidbusy the last few days with a sick daughter and husband birthday celebration.

I finally get around to reading parts 2 and 3 of the GUTGAA Agent interview.

Oh hey, there's one of the agents who requested a partial.  What'd she say about pet peeves?

... Oh God.

She hates when you mention things from her agent profile in your email.  And if I'd read her interview question before I send off the thingies, I'd have known that.  I can't help but think she's going to read the email I sent (mentioning a mutual love of the authors she mentions in her profile), and immediately trash the query, because it's reasonable to think I'd seen her response, and then ignored her preferences.

I thought I was showing that I'd tried to do my research and was happy to find some common ground to address the letter, since I couldn't put my query letter in there.


Dammit. Maybe she'll just download the attachments and not read the email. Right? ...


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Keep calm and carry on...

So I made it to the Agent Pitch final of the GUTGAA Agent Pitch contest!  Much rejoicing! Celebrate!

Cue twitchy clicking of the link on Deana's blog every twenty minutes all day Sunday and Monday. Nothing.

Add in a relaxation pep-talk after each failed click. Determine that Tuesday I will NOT check the blog all day because I am making myself nuts, and my 15 month old does not approve of Mommy huddling over her computer instead of playing ball and Legos.  I have things to do! A husband's birthday to prepare for! A baby to nurture and play with!

So I go forth to the thrift store! To the grocery store! Productivity! No desperate clicking! Ha ha! I am a real human being! I use exclamation points and everything!

And I get a text message from my husband to tell me that an agent commented! They want to see a partial!

.... I am wrist deep in raw gyoza filling. I can't stop what I'm doing to go and sit down to send off the files. I've got to finish dinner, then feed the daughter, (Because throwing her into a box of goldfish crackers is apparently considered "lazy parenting" instead of a lesson in survival skills.), then bath the daughter, then read her a book, and put her to bed. Establishing a bedtime routine for daughter is vital to my sanity, which dreams of a day when sleep deprivation is something that happens to other people.

Five hours later I finally manage to get to work on tweaking the submission materials. I've imagined every ridiculous permutation of possible outcomes, from the agent waiting impatiently, nay desperately! for my little gold brick to hit her hands so she can call me to rave over my genius, (I giggled at the thought; I couldn't even imagine it properly.) to the agent calling me after receipt to say, "Wow, you really put a shine on that godawful P.O.S. in your query letter. Not interested, and I'm letting every other agent on Twitter know that you're out there so no one else suffers the way I have! Good luck on Amazon self-publishing!" (Strangely, that one was much easier to imagine. Thank you so damn much for the support, brain.)

Having a daughter has done the one thing that I thought was impossible. I've learned to be patient. I sent it off, updated my submissions spreadsheet, set a note to check back in six weeks, and then, I went to bed.  This doesn't seem like a big deal, but for someone with OCD tendencies, it was huge. I didn't stay up all night, letting my brain froth itself into a frenzy.

I didn't sit there and check my email thirty seven times, write rhapsodic posts on facebook and my blog about how I'd FINALLY DONE IT, or call my mother at midnight, or any of the crazypants behavior I would have indulged in pre-daughter.

Of all the things I expected to happen in my life by having a child, I did not see that one coming. Hormones are weird.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

If you have power, give joy

About six or so years ago, I won a competition to become the Royal Scrivener within the Kingdom of Atlantia in the SCA. There were only two people competing at the time, and you get to hold the position for a year. The idea is that you support the arts of calligraphy and illumination by sponsoring competitions, and generally being a visible artist-of-the-year. It comes with no prizes, and no "rank" or extra privilege. Or so I thought.

While I was Royal Scrivener, I made a point of seeking out artists who entered my competitions and telling them how much I liked their work, or giving advice if I could be helpful.

One day, I held a competition, and there was a stunning entry. The calligraphy was better than mine, (and my calligraphy is DAMN good), and the illumination was phenomenally better than mine. I made a point of hunting the lady down, (after I had chewed my jealous bone a bit in private), to tell her how amazing I found her work.

This lady is a better artist technically than I will EVER be.  Think I'm being modest?  Go look. Yeah. She makes my work look like the amateur efforts that they are, and always will.

I literally had NOTHING I could offer her in terms of advice, suggestions, or helpful improvements. In fact, I wanted to sit her down and ask for lessons. But I went and gave her my admiration and encouragement anyways.

She told me five years later that she was so grateful and humbled to have the ROYAL SCRIVENER come and talk to her about her work that she was giddy over it for days. That it had meant the world to her that I had come to tell her IN PERSON how amazing her work is.

That was a major lesson to me on perspective. I felt like my input to her was valueless. To her, it was priceless. She was new to the SCA, and still trying to feel out her place. She didn't know many people. To her, I was one of the established, a Kingdom Notable, someone who was in a position to "know".  She's learned better since then, but we're now good friends, and she recently made me one of my most prized possessions, a handbound book that is shaped like a heart when you open it.

I recently entered the GUTGAA Agent Pitch contest, and I saw one of the judges worrying on her blog that all she had to give was her subjective opinion, and she didn't want to crush the dreams of others. I wanted to hug her and pet her nose and tell her that she wasn't crushing dreams in absentia, she was giving joy.

In my category of 43 entries, 19 received at least one "vote" from a judge. Almost half of the entries did the happy dance of joy! The rest all got professional comments, good advice, and encouragement! There is no losing here!

If you're in a position of authority, you have the opportunity to be someone's moment of joy. Don't waste them! It's the most precious of gifts, and the true reward of working hard to get where you are.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My reworked Query Letter!

So thanks to GUTGAA, I got some great feedback on my query letter. I've spent the last couple of days reworking it to address the comments I received hopefully in time for the agent pitch polish content!

Dear Super Awesome person,

Mercy and Justice Givens, twin sisters and co-owners of the Givens Detective Agency, do not take murder cases. But the private detective business is having a dry spell, taxes are due in three days, and their bank balance is lower than a rattlesnake’s belly.  Desperate times call for bad decisions, and the twins agree to take on an impossible case, trying to prove drug-addled debutante Genevieve Simmons didn’t stab her abusive boyfriend.  

Trapped by their own insolvency, but determined to wriggle out from under the contract and return the retainer, the twins grab at a “quick” embezzling case, hoping to find out who’s robbing Peter so they can pay off Paul.

Their hopes of a fast fee are crushed when someone parks a forklift on an accounting clerk’s head and dumps the body in the back of their truck, implicating them in murder. Caught in what seem like two separate murder cases, the twins are working double-time to keep out of the body count.

The real problem is that Mercy and Justice don’t know that the embezzler isn’t the one who wants them dead. Genevieve’s been framed, and the framer's hell-bent on making sure Justice and Mercy stay out of the picture. Mercy’s genius plus Justice’s thirty-eight may not be enough to survive a Machiavellian murderer pairing up with a panicky killer.  

REMINGTONS KILL PEOPLE was selected as a finalist in Janet Reid’s Liz Norris Pay it Forward competition for debut novels, and is approximately 77,000 words in length. It is set in San Antonio, Texas and has the potential to be the first in a series featuring Mercy and Justice Givens. I am a native West Texan who likes to recreate medieval book art in pre-1600 styles, when I’m not engaging in armored combat or changing diapers. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Kind regards,  

My only concern is that it's a bit long. Query letters according to Janet Reid should be 250 words, and mine tops out at 319.

But what do you all think? Improved from Version 1? Worse?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven years ago...

I was in Toronto, visiting my then-boyfriend-now-husband. I was supposed to fly home to North Carolina later that morning. We'd been up late the night before, so I was sleeping in.

He was up early, watching the news.  He saw the first plane hit, and came to wake me up with the words, "I don't think you're going home today." I got up in time to watch the second plane hit.

I spent the next three hours cleaning his apartment, desperate to do something constructive, to alter some part of my environment, try to overcome the sense that everything had changed and our world was different.

We went up to the CN tower and watched the smoke rising up from across the lake. I prayed for the people who'd been in those towers. I prayed for the people working rescue, the doctors and nurses who were going to be overwhelmed with mass casualties, and for understanding because I had none.

I felt like someone had wrecked my house, and I couldn't go home to pick up the pieces. The borders were closed, and the airports were full of stranded travelers. There was no news as to when or even if the airports would reopen international flights.

I was lucky in that I had a place to stay, but hundreds of Torontoans opened their houses to take in those who were stranded, to give the Americans a home while their country recovered. Americans are often told that other countries hate us, for our arrogance, our illogically aggressive defenses, or our unpredictability. But all over the world, people came forward and gave our stranded countrymen places to stay, food to eat, and beds for their children.

I remember the kindness, the generosity, and the humanity that the human race still manages to find when we are hurting.

But I also try and remember something else. Muslims around the world were as much a target of the terrorists as America. "Look, we have poked the sleeping giant, and do you think those crazy racist Americans will differentiate between us bad Muslims and you?! Better join us or die, because they will never trust you NOW." The terrorists would love you to believe that all Muslims are evil. It makes their job easier.

Around the world and in America, Muslims worried that they would be made scapegoats, victims of America's wrath.  And unfortunately, we have not proven them wrong, even in our own country. Muslims are buried in Arlington, having died defending America. Muslims work as teachers, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and representatives in Congress. And yet they are afraid to travel in their own country, afraid of being pulled off a plane because some other passenger might get nervous while they are trying to figure out how to turn their phone off, and this makes our Muslim American citizens angry, because they ARE Americans, and they know that this is NOT supposed to be how our country works.

So today, honor 9/11. Smile at the guy wearing a turban. Don't shy away from the lady in the burq'a. Don't spit in front of a mosque. Don't let the bastards turn you into their ally of hatred. Don't let them make you proof of the bigotry, hatred, persecution, and intolerant assholedom they claim all Americans possess.

We are a country of religious tolerance and religious freedom. 9/11 was an attack on both. Don't let the bastards change who we are, both as Americans and as human beings. That's how they win.


P.S. Don't bother posting a comment about how sha'ria law is secretly infiltrating our legal system / Obama's a secret Muslim / it's all the gay agenda blaming the muslims in a clever pre-counter counterattack. If you don't know that ALL laws have roots in the Hammurabic code / Judaic laws / Sha'ria simply because those legal systems PREDATE ours, then we really can't talk.  Ditto if you think that it would actually matter if Obama was a Muslim or not.  Also gay people are too busy dealing with the Christian religious extremists to bother starting a second fight with another religion.

P.P.S. I'm going to go down to the mosque in the neighborhood later today to be supportive. Even though I was sad when they moved into the building, because it meant the extremely convenient library that was two blocks away moved (to a much nicer building) out of walking distance.

Monday, September 10, 2012

GUTGAA Query Critique - (I'm #94!)

I got in the Query Critique on Deana Barnhart's Gearing Up to Get An Agent contest!  I'm #94 if you want to leave comments / critiques (Oh please?)

My goal for today is to leave comments on at least 5 other queries today, and 5 more each day until it closes on Thursday. :)  I managed to leave comments on one from the bloghop last night, (Hi Diana!) after driving back from my mother's house last night.

My littler brother is getting deployed in October/November for his fourth tour. He's got two Iraq, one Afghanistan, and now he's adding Kuwait to his list of destinations, so the family was getting together to wish him well.

He lives in Arizona, so I don't see him often, but he's tall, handsome, and single, if you're into that sort of thing. :)

I need to get a picture of him from my mom, but here's a picture of my other little brother, (who is also tall, handsome and single!)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Neat Writing Tool - The Beat Sheet

Today my Writer's Group got together, and one of our peeps (Rachel! Hi hi hi!) mentioned that she'd found a book on screenwriting (Save the Cat!) that had been so highly recommended, she'd finally read it, despite her interest being novels.

She's trying out this particular tool, and has been finding it really helpful, so I figured I'd post it in honor of the GUTGAA spirit!

Also, in other news, a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate raspberry truffle goo is DELICIOUS.

Not so good for my weight, but DELICIOUS.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

GUTGAA Introduction Post

Greetings everyone! (she says optimistically)

Thanks to the Feaky Snucker and Mittens for the link, and of course to Deana Barnhart who is sponsoring the Gearing Up to Get An Agent Bloghop!  (I feel like I should be wearing a poodle skirt for blog hops. This is my first Blog Hop. Is there a dress code?)

Of course I opted for the medievaloid button option, (It's not bad Gothic Formata, though the letters are too far apart for the true representation of the hand.)

Deana Barnhart

 Woo button!   Now the introduction questions!

1) Where do you write?

Usually on the couch with my laptop.  But I tell myself that really, I'm writing inside a conservatory, with open windows that let the breeze blow the smell of grass and gardenias through to me. 

2) Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?

The leftover pillow fort made by my fifteen month old, a blue bear blankie, and my phone, blinking a red light because I've forgotten to charge it. 

 3) Favorite time to write?

 As the mother of a toddlebug, either naptime, or after bedtime.  I spend a lot of time not sleeping.  I usually write until three in the morning. 

 4) Drink of choice while writing?

 Of choice? Hot loose-leaf tea, brewed in the purple orchid teapot my mother-in-law gave me, and sipped from a delicate porcelain cup with tiny powder-sugar dusted tea-cookies on a saucer and doily nearby, served by John Morrison pre-beard and shirtless. Possibly pantless, but he may wear a loincloth if he wishes.

What I ACTUALLY drink?  Red Rose tea, hot or cold, whatever caffeinated soda is in the fridge, and lots of water, out of my big plastic mug that I bought from a garage sale for a nickel. Sometimes Oreos will appear on a plate nearby.

 5) When writing, do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?

Silence freaks me out.  When I'm working on my West Texan centered detective stories, I put on the Classic Country channel on T.V.  It reminds me of home and pulls out all the memories and details that make it real.

6) What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?

 I had a dream about two detectives named Justice and Mercy, and I felt so clever I immediately wrote the idea down and started trying to flesh it out. Three years and a lot of trial & and mostly error(tm) later, I have one finished novel, and one short story. :)

7) What's your most valuable writing tip?

 Realize that you have your own personal writing style, and that you have to learn what works for you. I tried to sit down and write every day, but that's not the way my mind works. If I don't know where my plot or characters are going, I simply can't write. I stare at the screen, get frustrated, and angry, and waste two hours trying to write past "the".  So I have to go walk, or do dishes, or spend my usual writing time doing something else while the plot and characters simmer and untangle themselves in the back of my mind.  Then once they've resolved themselves, I'll blow out 15,000 words in a week and catch up.

Editing I can do anytime. I also sometimes write schlocky stuff I'm not serious about, just to write something every day, and to redirect my block. I've found that works as well. Initially I thought that was just a waste of my time to work on schlock, but now I realize it's a necessary evil.

Also, WRITER'S GROUP. My writer's group is small but invaluable.