Warning For The Future

So, it's 2013 and there are several people in this world who have made the resolution to finally write that novel, to get published or other variations on this theme. For those people I have a word of warning: QUIT NOW! Get out while you can. Just walk away. Really. This industry is so chock full of mind-boggling dichotomy and confusion, arcane rules and bylaws that no one talks about. Save yourself the trouble, the heartache and the endless boxes of Kleenex (you know, for wiping your tears of despair and anguish). Just quit. Now.

No? You won't be deterred? Fine, let me warn you about a few things that are frustrating as shit about this business. Meet me after the jump, if you will...

I've been actively pursuing traditional publication (ie, not self-publishing, although I have looked into it enough to know it's not my path) for the better part of 5 years now. Since mid 2008 it has been my job to learn the ins and outs of this business, to hone my craft, make connections and friendships and tear out my hair because Publishing is annoying as fuck. You hear all sorts of advice around the Intertubez and some of it is not worth the ethernet its saved to. Some of it is gold. In the end you have to decide which is which. While we joke that you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake, little writer, your career IS. No two are exactly alike, no two people necessarily have the same goals or paths to get there. Gah! That's what I'm talking about. Both are true. You aren't special and yet you are. What the hell? Annoying isn't it?

Well, I kinda wish someone had warned me back when I was dewy-eyed and fresh to this world that Publishing is rife with these kinds of both-truths. Here are a few of the more frustrating that I've collected. Take them with a full rim of salt and an extra squeeze of lime.

1. It's Not Who You Know...

We hear this chestnut in several industries insisting that you don't need a special friend, fuckbuddy or other such contact within to get access to the clubhouse. You can make it on your own merit and you should make every attempt to do so. Besides, you don't look at people in terms of where they fit in your Rolodex.  Right?

And yet...

You must network. Your sanity will (at some point) depend on forging friendships with other writers (see #2) and you can only learn about this industry from people more experienced. Talking to writers, agents, editors, critics, slush readers... it all helps you learn more and grow. Trust me, there are people in every category I've just listed who have helped me over hurdles, made suggestions or upped my chances of success just because they were willing to give me the time of day.

It's odd, at least it was for me. We're not supposed to look at people in terms of what they can do for us. We're supposed to build friendships and connections based on commonalities and what's inside the person. And yet, here we are building networks with at least some level of "how will this relationship help me in the future?" I don't like knowing that that voice is there that calculates the 6 degrees of the Big 6 or something, but it *is* there. Learn to deal with it. Make friendships. Help each other. Be there for others. Pay it forward. That kinda thing.

  by Zaratops (deviantart)2. The First Rule Network! Make connections and friends! Have a social media platform! Put yourself out there and be part of the community. Share your journey.

And yet...

A lot of writing is solitary. Trying to get published is a slog of misery that loves company. So we use Twitter and Query Tracker and Book Country and any number of message boards as our water cooler. We talk about everything! We blog about query letters, query rejections, revisions, getting the call. But once you get to a certain point you are expected to tighten the lips and let the publishing happen behind the curtain. Submission, for example. I've been told by many people that it's best to just not discuss your submission period with your blog/Twitter audience. Editors like to think they are your first choice, or it's not professional to complain (I agree).... really, this is where those writer friends are helpful. Set up a Google hangout, open a bottle of something at least 15% and kvetch, moan and otherwise pour out your soul about how agonizing the wait of submissions are.

But this is one of those times where it would be so nice to be able to do what you did with querying agents... read other people's stories to know you're not alone. Sorry, dude, we don't post that kind of thing. You have to learn that one on your own and suffer. You just don't talk about being on submission.

3. Don't Judge A Book Don't judge a book by it's cover. Right?

And yet...

We totally judge books by their covers.

4. Don't Take It Personally When an agent or editor rejects your book, you're told to not take it personally. It's true. It's not a judgment of you, Joe Schmoe. It's not even necessarily a critique on your work. Sometimes rejections come even when an agent or editor likes you and thinks you're quite talented. You want someone who is ablaze for you, so it's okay. Keep working and putting yourself out there. It's not personal...

And yet...

You're expected to write from a place of truth, to bleed on the page. Your writing has to be not just personal but visceral! When you put yourself into your novel so much it is difficult to see how a rejection could be anything other than personal. I get it. But really, it's not about you. Unless it is.

5. The Next Big Thing

Have your own voice. Write like YOU.

And yet....

"Publishers want the next George R. R. Martin/Hunger Games/50 Shades"... So write like you, but be like them.

6. Things Take Time

Above all things (not craft-related) a writer must learn patience. The whole process is a sticky, sluggish waiting game that will drive you to lunacy if you don't have proper coping mechanisms. (Believe me, my agent knows how impatient I can be... and that's after I've been working on being more patient for years!)

And yet...

you can get a query rejection in less time than it takes to make a cup of chai. Seriously. My first ever rejection to a novel came less than 10 minutes after I sent the query. And when things get moving in a positive direction, things happen REALLY FAST. This agent loves you and wants to talk, but you have to call this person, and this one emailed on the same day requesting a full and holy shit avalanche of awesomesauce. But then you have to wait. People need time to read. Phone calls have to be scheduled. Contracts have to be drawn up and sent across the country via snail mail. And that's when a blizzard hits, wouldn't you know it?  Even when you think the roller coaster is about to speed up, it's not, kids. Just be prepared to hurry up and wait.

There are infinite frustrations along the road of traditional publishing. You have to ask yourself if the end goal you've set for yourself is worth all that trouble. It might not be. Then again, it might be just the forge you need to help you become Excalibur.

What about you? What are your gripes? This is a safe place to bitch so let it fly.

A Word From Our Sponsor

 artwork by Skottie Young Real life makes for crazy times, I tell ya. I haven't been blogging much because I haven't had much to say. Okay, that's not entirely true. I've had plenty to say, but there are times when you just don't want to spew negativity, invite drama or spend every waking minute of your online life kvetching about one thing when your life is pretty awesome. 2013 started off by behaving like an unruly teenager. You see, we rent our house, my husband and I. And as of the end of this month, our lease is up. Well, we have to give notice of staying or leaving on New Year's Day, but that usually comes in the form of paperwork we fill out in December. New Year's Eve came along and we still hadn't received that paperwork. So, I got a little panicked that we would be scrambling to find a new place, pack, move and that made Jamie more than a little... um... crazy? Long story short (too late): We're all good. Staying where we are for another year. Woo.

There's also an issue with transportation. Oh, my car is fine. It's the other car. For the past 9 months or so we've been using my late sister-in-law's car. Well, last month, the registration expired. We found out that the car is still in her name and the DMV wants an asston of paperwork to get that fixed. Almost there! So the husband has taken my car to get to work (you know, since he has a real job and not one where he sits at a computer talking to imaginary people and the Internet all day), and that means the kiddo and I had to walk/take the city bus to get her to school.  I lasted all of a week. For one thing, the walk has been brutal on my back. I've been in more pain this past week than I've been in a very long time and I'd rather not put myself back into the hospital. Also? It's Phoenix, but our lows right now are in the 20s. That's the temperature we'd be walking in. I can suck it up and whine about it later, but that's not okay for my 7 year old, ya know? Not cool with that. We ran through many letters of the alphabet before finally concocting a plan that works for all involved and doesn't require her to be out in 20 degree temperatures for an hour to get to school. Yay!

There are good things going on, too. Don't let the above paragraphs fool you. My husband started a new job in December. It was up in the air for months as he waited for security clearances and background checks to go through, but just after Thanksgiving we got word that yes, he would be starting his new position. It's been a huge boost to his sanity and that makes for a happier family all together.

Friends are chasing dreams, finding fulfillment and welcoming their own joys. I've got a couple of irons on the fire that I can't really discuss at present. This year--dubbed by my friend Brian as The Year of Giving it A Shot--seems to be off to a good start. Albeit frustrating at times.

So yeah. How the hell have you been?

Writer Grab-ass 2: Electric Boogaloo

 Visual approximation of Tex Thompson.So, agency sibling, feline wrangler and all-around kickass human being Tex Thompson shot some questions my way in a new game of "Tag The Writer". (You need to check out Tex's blog. She has a great voice, a stellar wit and the book she's written will knock your stripey socks right the fuck off.)I know that you do not, in fact, mess with Tex(as), so I had no choice but to do as she bid me. The mission I've accepted? To tell you about my Work In Progress. Well, the thing is I can't tell you about that because it would be all spoilery and stuff. Currently I'm working on edits of Book 2 in the C# series, plotting (and soon to be drafting Book 3), a short story set in a completely different 'verse and a Super Secret Project that has no title. BUT! I can tell you about the book my agent and I are currently shopping around, Book 1 in the Etudes in C# series "Technical Difficulties"**.

What is your working title of your book? "Technical Difficulties", so named because this book focuses on Trickster gods and technomancers. If you've ever tried fixing a computer or dealing with chaotic gods, you know as well as I do that things don't go smoothly. Thus, my protagonist experiences ... Technical Difficulties.

Felicia DayWhere did the idea come from for the book? I thought it would be a lot of fun to play with a character named C. Sharp. At first, her name was "Candice", but I really hated the idea of her being called "Candy". And while I know every urban fantasy heroine these days is called "Cat" (or "Kat"), I went with Catherine. There are other reasons for this choice, but if I told you I'd have to stuff you in a box with rats and rutabagas. Or Lou Bega. *shudder* You don't want to know where he keeps that little bit of Monica.

Anyway, I wanted to play with a character with that name. I also wanted to explore other careers for urban fantasy heroes. We've got private investigators coming out of our ears. A mechanic here. A waitress there. Then there are specialized vigilantes or those who freelance their power set. Me? I wanted to take a 21st century working class geek. All hail the Code Monkey!

At the same time I was kicking around this idea of a game of poker among trickster deities. After doing a proof-of-concept piece (my short story Ante Up), I decided to flesh out that idea and it snowballed into a 5-book series from the point of view of one Catherine Sharp, your personal Ms. Fix-it when it comes to all things tech.

What genre does your book fall under? Urban Fantasy. However, the constant temptation from a snarky satyr named Marius could make an argument, I suppose, for Paranormal Romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Oh, honey. I have whole files full of images that I use for casting my characters. Catherine would be played by Felicia Day. In a perfect world, I'd go back in time and kidnap Jason Carter from around 1997 for Marius, because that man's voice IS Marius. But, since I can't do that, I'd go with David Tennant. The long hair/goatee he sported in Fright Night? Hummina. Totally Marius. Supporting cast includes Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth and Zoe Saldana.

Just add horns and David Tennant is my Marius.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? When Catherine Sharp discovers that her soul is a bargaining chip in the poker game of the gods, she must turn the tricks back on the deities in order to win her freedom. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Agency. In fact, those interested in this title should contact my spectacular agent Jennie Goloboy at Red Sofa Literary. (Available while supplies last. Have your credit card ready. Please expect 6-8 weeks for delivery. May cause shin-splints, frizzy hair and a desire to shout YOUR MOM! at random passers-by.)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Three weeks. (Of course, that was 14 months ago so factoring in inflation...carry the one...) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? My book fits up there with American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore and WebMage by Kelly McCollough.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? At the root of it? A strong desire to see someone paint a picture of the Tricksters (Coyote, Anansi, Loki, Eris and Maui) playing poker. I want this picture (preferably on black velvet) hanging in my house. Make it so.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Catherine is a geeky, snarky, adept heroine coming into her strength. She's got her flaws and secrets--some of which she tries to keep from herself. As far as protagonists go, Cat is a sympathetic, multifaceted narrator with a great sense of self-deprecating humor. Her partner in crime, Marius, is a bitter satyr with a black-belt in seduction. He's got his own problems and debts to Eris to deal with, and if he can slither out of the trap he's been caught in for centuries, he will do it no matter who it hurts. Together they run around Las Vegas taking the best and worst that some of the stronger trickster gods can dish out while trying desperately not to kill one another. What's not to love? I have had a blast working on this book and its sequels/side-projects, and I really think that translates to an enjoyable ride for the reader.

So that about does it for this foray into obscurity  silliness. Seriously, go check out Tex Thompson's blog. She's awesometastic and you'll want to watch her. Good things are in her future. Also, the meme says I should tag 5 other authors to do the same. While I would love to see them do this for their own works, I'll just name drop some authors you REALLY need to check out.

Joe McCourt - Go bug him and tell him he needs a blog for his snark. Rebecca Blain - See? She's on top of this shit and has her own site! Danielle E. Bowers - I'm totally going to get a banned book before her. Janet Nye - Because she's a blast to tweet with. Kerry Schafer - Because her debut novel BETWEEN comes out next year!

Until next time, kids, just remember to keep your souls away from nefarious gods or satyrs.


**EDITED 16 September, 2013: This book has a new name! Henceforth it shall be called WILD CARD.

Practical Magic

So, back in 1999, my mother and I sat down one lazy weekend and made our very own pouches of Faerie Dust. No joke. I still have mine and I'm pretty sure my mother still has hers. We even stitched together the little bags ourselves. The ingredients were oddly precise for something so random. I can't tell you what all went into hers and I won't divulge all that I poured into mine. While there are some universal components, each recipe will change depending on who is making it. After all, my juju is not the same as yours and would make a terrible spell for you to carry around.

That afternoon we wove magic in a very odd way for two grown women. We played. We imagined. We created our own secret recipes for a talisman of sorts, a bit of whimsical power we could carry with us wherever we went. We laughed, we hugged. And I know I won't forget that. I was 19 and playing in a very pure way with my mother. Those bags are still with us...even after multiple moves and disastrous floods.

So you can imagine my concern when my 7 year old daughter came to me today and told me that one of her imaginary fairy friends was out of dust. There's only one thing you can do then... make more.

So, after dinner, K and I got together the necessary ingredients. Again, I will not tell all of the family secrets of our Faerie Dust, however, there are some things that are basic.

Start with a pouch, something that can be closed tightly and that will not spill. So, nothing gauzy. Fill the pouch about half way with fine grain sand from your local craft store. They have some that sparkles, too, so it's even better for this. Add glitter. The amount added and the color(s) used are entirely at the maker's discretion. For girls, also add a spoonful of sugar and spice (your choice as to which, but cinnamon is a good  option).

Then, fill it with the things that are magical to you. Love, music, the warmth of a campfire, a kitten's pur, a spider's web, starlight. Whatever.

Finally, you will need to clap, giggle into the bag and add something jingly. Tie it up, stitch it shut and you've got yourself a bag of Faerie Dust. Keep it safe and keep it closed. The Faeries who need it will come get it in their own way and it won't lose any of its magic.

It took us less than 20 minutes to make K's bag...and yet, there was some powerful mojo in such a small time. I love moments like that.

I hope she does, too.