Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Post-party Pre-Conference Blues

I have this blues riff running through my brain....

I ain't got no agent
I ain't got no deal
Am I really a writer?
Am I even real?

I got the blues...
I got the writer blues....
I got the no good, low down, bustin' my ass and still no book deal blues.....

A bunch of my friends gathered with me to celebrate my birthday recently. Bunch of creative, brilliant, amazing super-wonderful people whom I am so honored to call my friends. Celebrating me.

Sometimes we can be humbled by things we least expect to be humbled by -- and I am humbled by this amazing group and the esteem they seem to hold me in.

And that kind of sparked my blues -- for whatever reason, I AM held in high esteem by this group, and I'm feeling a bit unworthy of it all.

But, with Pikes Peak Writers Conference just around the corner, I have an opportunity to maybe feel a bit more worthy. Because I HAVE been working my ass off...writing, editing, shaping my pitches (yes pitches, plural). And I am going in with everything I have.

And that will be for me, not for my pals, because they apparently don't need or want me to be anyone or any way other than who I am right now.

Still, opportunity is on the horizon.

And really, it's self indulgent (if slightly cool) to have the blues. I remind myself that I am in charge of my future, I own my destiny, and it is up to me to make things happen, in my life and in my writing career.

So, even though I really like singing the blues, I don't much like having them. And as a writer, I can rewrite the blues into something more uptempo, rock-opera, synth-success, just by sheer force of will and some hard work.

Go write your own songs, folks.

And if they come out rather more bluesy and sad than you like, re-write at will. It's what we do.

The Final Snippet: Nothing mixes quite like absinthe and kids (overheard at my party).

Deb Answers: To Miller in SD: This is not the job you seek.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Random Shoplifts, Part, uh, Whatever

Yeah, I know eavesdropping isn't polite. I was, in fact, raised properly -- ask my mother. It's just that...well, I don't care. People say the most amazing stuff, out loud, in front of me. I feel as a writer I have an obligation to capture the amazing ways in which people use language to express themselves. Obligation.

Yes, probably some day it will get me in some absurd kind of trouble, but I don't care. I just don't.

When possible, I tell the folks from whom I lift stuff that I am stealing their words, and I immediately write what they said in the special file I have set up on my Blackberry. In front of them. I even tell them their words will end up in my blog. I have never been asked NOT to use something I shoplift, though I have been asked to make sure it is anonymous. For the record, I don't shoplift anything that would make a person easily identifiable. As far as I know, anyway.

Having reiterated all that, we are on to Random Shoplifts...many of which are from a rather rambunctious few hours I spent careening from art galleries to nightclubs in Downtown Colorado Springs last Friday.

~There was a drunk Russian man in the ladies room. He had pretty eyes. (You should always judge the eye-prettiness of the drunk foreign man in the wrong's really a matter of courtesy...or something)

~I kissed one guy I thought was Mormon, but it turned out he was just gay. (I don't write 'em, I just steal 'em)

~God apparently did not want my insurance rates to drop. (God does rate reductions? Who knew?)

~What are you doing with integrity? (Buying it an Irish Car Bomb, of course)

~The way you eat a Popsicle is a metaphor for sex. (Oh really? I stopped listening almost immediately....very graphic blush-inducing conversation ensued, and for me to find something blush-inducing means it was frighteningly graphic)

~Butt Cheek Diamonds (which I am filing under 'Great Name For A Rock Band')

Right -- that's all I have for you. Hope you enjoy these, and I hope even more you say something awesome in front of me so I can Shoplift you.

The Final Snippet: would be redundant

Deb Answers: Ray in South Beach: Fighting would not be the right course of action unless you are positive you will win.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Real Life, Only Better.

Life. That thing that inconveniently steps in when you’re trying to write. The audacity of it, insisting it is more important than the next chapter, the current plot twist, or Edits, Round 10.

My litany of issues with Life this week include: Really, you HAD to break my washing machine AND my dryer in the same week? Coincidentally the same week that I needed to have the contractor out to do the bid on my stairs? And you couldn’t have pushed the brake repair on the car out a week? Not just for the money, but now I have to find time to get all this stuff done too? And still single-parent, cook, clean, cart the teen around…have you no mercy, Life?

Makes me want to swear. Loudly. In multiple foreign languages.

The suck truth is, Life doesn’t really give a crap about plans or schedules or ‘need-to’ versus ‘want-to’. It just is. And we have to pick ourselves up every time it happens and just keep doing what we do. Just how it is.

How come Life really doesn’t much get in the way in books? The intrepid sleuth never has a pipe burst in the basement when she’s on her way to track down the bad guy. And what would she do it she did have a pipe burst? It’s not like you can just walk away, let the flood happen, ruin all your stuff. Or could you? There’s a conundrum to anguish over….lose my shit, or let the bad guy get away. Five minutes to decide.

And how come the intrepid sleuth never has 18 of her closest friends over to dinner only to find the loin chops have gone off and she has no backup main course available? Or that the carpet has suddenly detached itself from her stairs, causing a guest to fall on his ass as he is attempting to leave after the loin chopless dinner? Causing a personal injury suit her insurance won’t cover?

Or am I just reading the wrong books?

I swear, I am going to inflict calamity after calamity on my main character, to the point that it becomes absurd. I bet someone will read my draft and say – wait, THAT would never happen. Sigh. Real life is definitely more complex than fiction, and yet, we have to write fiction like it is real life, only better.

That’s where I’d like to be today – Real Life, Only Better.

Only I bet Life is lurking there too and it isn’t really ‘better’ if you spend enough time there.

Hope Life is kinder to your schedule than it has been to mine this week. I’m off to write some more…unless something else breaks.

The Final Snippet: I just need to get past the crying babies. And the chewing. (I have nothing to add to this).

Deb Answers: Mary in Detroit: Inconsequential delusion. Really.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Embracing Rejection

On the fourth Monday of every month I host a get together of writers in my local community for Pikes Peak Writers. Sometimes we workshop, sometimes we share, sometimes we whine about how unrelentingly difficult it is to get through publishing gateways when you are really trying hard to do everything right. Wait, that’s just me.

I fib. I don’t whine that much. Only a little.

Be that as it may, at last night’s meeting the subject of querying to land representation was a big topic, and therefore REJECTION was a big topic. To be sure, the folks at the table wanted to discuss and double check to make sure they were doing things right, that they had all their bases covered. There was no real whining at all. I promise.

But I kept asking “What kind of rejections are you getting, and how many of them have you gotten?”
I know why I wanted the number – in trying to garner representation, assuming your product is good, sometimes it’s a matter of finding that agent who will fall as much in love with your work as you are, of finding the person who sees its potential and who can commit to it. Given that most of us do not have the luxury of living in New York, it’s a numbers game, at that point – keep sending queries until you find that one agent.

On the other hand, if you are getting rejections they can fall across a spectrum. The impersonal form rejection means you barely made if off the slush pile before you were rejected. Slightly better is the form rejection with a personal note or signature – some indication that an actual human read what you sent. These are pretty standard.

Even better still is a brief note which gives an explanation of sorts – we like it but don’t love it, we love it but don’t think we can sell it, the market is saturated with this, your voice is strong but the story doesn’t quite work, do you have anything else we can look at. These are ‘Good Rejections’ in that they provide a little salve for the sting of another “no” and maybe an indication of things you can do in response.

In the case of actual information, as a writer you might change something about your work that keeps coming up from professionals who are rejecting it. You might shelve a project for a while to re-think it. It may just be a ‘trunk novel’ something which many writers end up with (trunk novel being one which is done but just isn’t good enough or right enough for the market to get published at that time).

Problem is you can’t EXPECT a “Good Rejection” – you can really only ever expect a form, impersonal one. And sometimes rejections really are because your work isn’t ready, isn’t yet good enough. But that’s not a reason to be disheartened – it’s a reason to do whatever you need to in order to change those circumstances.

And here’s the thing….EVERYONE gets rejections. I did some research this morning and found some awesome stuff. Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language in a rejection letter. H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” was called ‘horrid’. JG Ballard was told “The author of this work is beyond psychiatric help.”

If you are feeling the sting of rejection, take a look at this book, from which the above are referenced: “Rotten Rejections: The Letters That Publishers Wish They'd Never Sent,” by Andre Bernard.

Some of these rejections make a form rejection seem kind and desirable.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the writers who were rejected in the fashions included in this book persevered. They did not give up. They went on to publish in many instances to great acclaim and success.

So, keep sending your work out and embrace the rejections. Know you are following a well-worn path, and one which, if you follow it long enough and with enough dedication and perseverance, can lead to your desired destination.

The Final Snippet: Caution, we are now experiencing a brief interlude of sanity. (I have no notes on this one, no clue where I got it)

Deb Answers: Marissa, in Tampa: Yes, that car makes Your butt look big.