Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dream 1734

I had a dream last night that I woke up to find my right leg was amputated. Below my shin, there was nothing but a fresh, painless stump. I had to get to the restroom and couldn't find it, but nearby, there was a ruddy, hairy foot, complete with shin and shoe. I pressed it against the fresh stump. It felt odd. I tried moving my toes, and my big toe slightly wiggled. I stitched the foot on with a shoelace and hobbled out of my bedroom.

My parents were awake, but my mother was in a hurry to get to work and ignored my questions about where my leg had gone. My father was driving me around, and when I asked him what had happened, he seemed annoyed. I was asking too much too early.

"Well, when we looked in on you last night," he said gruffly, "we could tell you had blood poisoning in your leg. Took you to the doctor and they confirmed it. They had to amputate, at least until the poisoning went down. I knew you'd miss having it, so I left you my old leg."

"You couldn't have woken me up?" I asked, but he ignored me. He had bigger things on his mind at the moment.

He dropped me off near a town square where I was meant to see a doctor, but I wasn't sure why. I limped around for a while on my father's food and tried wiggling my toes. This time, it felt natural. My father's foot was beginning to become a part of my body.

I looked at my arms. They looked fine, except for the gaping holes in the middle of my forearms. When I looked inside, I saw muscles and tendons, and couldn't I see the telltale sign of rot? In fact, rotting holes weren't a good thing to have, were they? When I wandered inside the clinic, I thought of asking if it was possible that I had blood poisoning in my arms, but I wasn't sure of my doctor's name. My high school government teacher sat down and greeted me, and I left. I tried calling my mother's cell phone to ask her advice, but I couldn't dial her number. Every time I tried, my fingers fumbled.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I disappeared for a month! The book's bummed me out, so I'm dropping it for the time being. I'm supposed to be having fun with this, and even though I thought I was ready for this level of rejection - I wasn't. SO! Let it all calm down, start working on something else so I don't take this so personally, and think about querying later.

We went to a goat farm today!! Rebecca should have pictures up in the next day or two. Noble Springs Dairy is just a few miles away from us, and I buy some amazing chevre and feta from them every week - and they had their first tour today.

We milked a goat.

It was fantastic; this weekend feels like the first time in a long time that we've really been social, that we've really been out in the world, and it was fantastic. Even with my new job, it feels like I've put myself into a little bubble, and I've just started making little experimental voyages here and there. It's exciting.

Everything just seems so bright and full of possibilities. I've been feeling it more and more since I left Memphis - especially in the last couple of months. Escape velocity.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


One month later, I've just gotten my fifth rejection. Twelve sent out, five form rejections. It's weird - The Dead Rise, even though it was clumsier than a third grader on roller skates, got at least a couple of personal rejection letters and a full manuscript request in the first ten queries. This one - no feedback. Some positive notes at Querytracker, but nothing from agents.

If I knew what was wrong with it - if it was the concept, the query letter, the first chapter, or just the genre - I might be able to fix it! But it's just a crapshoot right now. I'm working on a new query letter to send out when this batch is rejected - it's a little gimmicky, but a lot less 'distant' than the other. I'll post them both when the time comes and see what works best. Feels like like tossing pennies blindfolded, trying to hit a bottle across the room.

Monday, September 28, 2009


First rejection! I told myself I'd send out five more query letters when I got my first rejection email. So I'll do that after work today. Weirdly: this does not concern me as much as I'd expected.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I just sent out the first five queries for The Cherubim. Feeling pretty ill. I've worked so hard on this, and I know that the way things go, there will be a bunch of rejections coming in soon. Still, without query letters, nothing would get published, right?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Description of my favorite hats

Things are getting exciting again.

Last weekend, Rebecca and I started reviewing The Cherubim - giving it that one last layer of polish before I begin querying again. It's good. It isn't The Best, but it's the first thing I've written where, on rereading it a couple of months later, I feel pretty good about it.

That's not true. I used to write short stories, and I *still* think they're funny ten years later. They're my sad little orphans; I feel pretty sorry for them, but they're kind of cute in their rag-tag dirty clothes and funny hats. But this is different - when I finished The Dead Rise, I was kind of embarrassed to show it to anyone. Whenever I sent it to anyone, I'd have this disclaimer of "This is the first thing I've written, I'm still working on polishing it up..."

So maybe this might go somewhere. Maybe not. Who knows! At the very least, I'm finally getting to the point where I'm wrapping it up. I started writing it in December of last year, and when I go back and reread the notes and the original, first draft, I can't believe how much it's changed.

I'll finish it up and start querying next weekend. And then I can move on to the second draft of Mrs. Shadow. And then Rebecca will have another book to read!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The hermit glances dubiously from the cave

Inspiration comes from strange places.

The Dead Rise was rejected again this afternoon. By the first person I queried with my rewrite, six months ago.

The thing is, I didn't expect a reply. Way back in the day, when I first queried the agent, I got a reply twelve hours later. She said she liked the idea of the book, but it was too short. So I rewrote it, pureed it and remolded it and made it something new. And then I queried her again shortly thereafter, and never heard back.

All this time, I've figured - well, it slipped through the cracks, but there's this ant-sized chance that one day, she'll find it in her inbox. And then...

And even though I decided a while back that the book was going nowhere, that it was not only unmarketable, it was pretty... green, to put it politely... it was still a disappointment.

But it made me realize that yes, I need to start everything up again. I need to start writing. Revising. Querying. Rebecca is going to start reading the latest revision of The Cherubim and making notes for me, and when we're back from our vacation next weekend, I'm going to go over it one last time with a fine-toothed comb and get it out.

And when that's done, I want to finish Mrs. Shadow. I haven't looked at it since early July. Feels like a lot longer. It needs a total rewrite. Thing is, I can't wait to start the next book after that. I've been working on it in my mind ever since I finished the first draft of Mrs. Shadow, and I'm *really* excited about it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Post fifty!

I love my job.

That being said, I got an email today from our parent company urging me to exercise my voice in the ongoing healthcare debate. I also got a letter containing four preprinted postcards with my representatives' names and addresses and MY name and address preprinted. There's a cute note asking me to slap on postage and send them off. Each postcard says I support healthcare reform, but NOT anything that might compete with private insurers.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

His Blog has Four Posts; All Apologies

I read something the other day about when people are mentally engaged with work, they don't seek out alternative forms of brain-exercise after hours. At least, I think I did; it was a fast skim in-between projects.

The good news is this: I've been at my job a month and a half, I've been doing real work for two weeks, and I love it. It's never repetitious and rarely tedious. Every day, I'm assigned anywhere between two to five ideas for possible insurance screw-ups. It's my job to figure out how to take that idea and to find as many refunds as possible. I pass them along to the rest of the team and they see what they can make off of it. In return, I get a very tiny cut of whatever refunds are found.

I think I've explained all that before, but I don't think I can get across how much my mind has latched onto it. This is the first time I've worked somewhere and I'm genuinely interested in what I do. I like it. I think I've said that enough.

But I haven't worked on any writing projects in the last few weeks. I finished off The Cherubim, polished up a query letter, and sent it off to the Query Shark for analysis. That was about a month ago. I figure soon enough, I'll give the whole project another once-over and then start querying it. I think it's good; I think that it might go somewhere. But I'm not as invested as I used to be. My mind is elsewhere of late.

Which doesn't make me happy. I hope that I snap back into it soon; if not, I'll have to set a date and get started then. I can't wait to get back to Mrs. Shadow; I had a few ideas for the second draft, and I think that when everything's said and done, it might be the first thing I've written that has something to say.

But there's not any rush. We moved three weeks ago to a quiet suburb of Nashville; there's a farmer's market selling food from dozens of farms, and the weather's just lovely, and I wake up in the morning now looking forward to getting to my desk, and the day flies by. And in the afternoon, I can't wait to come home and spend the evening with my best friend. Everything feels wonderful, and I want to enjoy it as long as possible. I think this is the first time in my adult life I haven't felt any stress or pressures. I know how lucky I am, and I know it won't last forever.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why I was Late for Work Today

What follows is a true story, unexaggerated in any way.

Last Thursday, as I've mentioned, Rebecca and I were in an accident. Just a little one – the car behind us smacked our bumper, and we got pushed into the back of a pickup truck. No major problems, except that the hood was crunched.

We were both off the Friday before the holiday weekend, so we went to a nearby auto body shop, hoping to get everything done before the weekend. Knowing that there was no way that would happen. Was there any way that the hood could be popped back into shape, we asked the mechanic. Unfortunately, no. Not with this make. We needed a new, unblemished hood. But the good news was that he could order one and have it in by Monday.

“Do you happen to work on the weekends?” I asked. “See, the thing is, this is our only car, and I work fifteen miles away…”

He gave us that look that says, "Oh, if only I could!" Of course not. But he could get us in for Monday. Rebecca suggested that she take me to work in the morning and pick me up after the repairs were finished, and our new mechanic friend, Kevin, agreed that the plan sounded fine.

So, as these things go, he told us on Monday that there was no possible way he could do it by the end of the day, he had to keep it overnight, no other possible way. The tone he used suggested that we were naive, dippy children. Of course there was no way that he could do it all in one day. What was he, Santa Claus? This was after I was already stuck at work, fifteen miles away from our apartment. What could I do? Well, suggested Kevin, if I could get a ride home from work that afternoon, he could deliver the car to us Tuesday morning. And we thanked him again profusely.

My friend Chandrika drove out to Franklin to pick me up, and it turned out she had a flat, so I had to put on the spare and then we went to get it changed. This is the kind of thing that always happens when I go to a mechanic. I inevitably get neck pains the night before I have to go, because I know that a series of unforeseen problems will arise. It’s never, ever failed. Once, I went to get a tire changed and had to go back five times because the tire wouldn't stop leaking. Even after it was replaced. I never managed to get that problem sorted out.

So today, I get up early to call and ask when the car will be delivered. I’ve already told my boss that I’ll be a couple of hours late getting in. He understands; after all, we can't be sure when the car will be delivered. So when I call and Kevin tells me it’s ready an hour early, I’m ecstatic.

“When are you going to deliver it?”

“Deliver? Son, I wish we had the manpower to deliver repaired vehicles. But we don’t.”

“…What?” I'm already an hour late to work. This is the thing: Kevin seems genuinely bewildered and angry, as if we’ve repeatedly asked him for a bucket of chicken on the side. This is the same mechanic who we talked to Friday, the same one who offered transportation yesterday. Apparently, as far as he’s concerned, we’re lunatic troublemakers who take wrecked cars to shops and then try to game the system. A free delivery, sure, right. Another damn kid with pipe dreams of freebies. All I can do is stammer and say that I guess we'll figure it out.

The only thing I can think to do is ride the bus. I hate buses. There’s a set of unexplained rules that all bus riders know and I don’t. There's no way to ask; the driver is surly, the riders are distant. The website says the bus will arrive in ten minutes. I get exact change, throw on some clothes, and rush to the stop. When the bus arrives (right on time!), I ask for a transfer ticket.

First off, they don’t do ‘transfers’. After telling me this, the driver gives me a transfer card. Bemused, I sit down and wait to get to my first stop.

Only no one bothers to explain that they don’t automatically stop. You have to watch out for it and pull a rope. This is not explained, and I’ve been too ashamed to ask for a tutorial. I only realize that this is how it works when I see another passenger do it So when the bus stops for another guy and I recognize I’m sort-of-kind-of near my stop, I hop out.

I manage to find the transfer point, which has a giant sign next to it and three covered bus stop areas. Then I wait twenty minutes to see the bus casually zoom by the other side of the street. I curse profusely and cross the street. There is another, tinier sign on the other side. I’ve just missed my bus.

I call Rebecca and she tells me that the mechanic is just a couple of miles away. It’ll actually be faster to walk than to wait for the next bus. By this time, I’m two hours late for work. I start running.

That’s when the first hobo flags me down. He shakes my hand four or five times in a row, never letting go, only slowing down between sentences, as he asks me my name, where I’m from, where I’m going. When I tell him about my dilemma, he offers me a handful of spare change and says that he’ll travel with me and give me a $200 book of food stamps.

“Thanks,” I say, “but I just need to walk there alone, I think.”

“Oh, that’s great. That’s great,” he tells me. I give him my unused bus transfer card in gratitude.

I run down the street as far as I can, which is about a block, and then a man wearing a fishing hat and carrying a violin under his arm approaches me. I assume he’s going to ask for money, but the day is full of surprises. He says, “Do you know where the violin shop is at?”


He speaks slowly, as if I’m feeble. “Do you know… where the violin shop… is at?”

“Uh? I don’t think so.”

“You from around here?”

“Not really.”

“You got any cigarettes?”

“Unfortunately, I don’t.”

He looks frustrated, and wanders past me. “Good luck!” I call.

It is at this point that the bus that I was supposed to transfer to drives past me. Somehow, I've managed to *walk* faster than this bus over the past mile and a half. It stops right next to me, as if to laugh, and I really, really wish I hadn't given my transfer pass to a homeless person.

I’m another half mile down when another hobo stops me, hands me a leather CD case, and asks if his rock CDs look any good. I tell him they’re great, but I’m out of cash, and he asks if I have cigarettes. I apologize and tell him that I don’t, and keep walking.

It's hot. I mean, like, stomach-achingly hot. I'm indubitably late for work now, sweating like crazy, and when I see a sign offering 'spaghetti with goat', I actually consider grabbing a plate. But I perservere, and at last, I reach the mechanic's shop.

“Oh,” Kevin says, smirking. “Guess you finally got a ride, huh?”

Friday, July 3, 2009

My first week

So how was my first week at the new job?

Really good. Too good, I think. I've done enough similar work so that I'll be able to easily start pulling queries on insurance data after training, and there's enough new stuff to learn soI'm kept interested. This is the first job I've had where I really like going in the mornings.

That's why it's almost too good. When I get home - at least, so far - I haven't felt like writing. I figured I'd edit the last 100 pages over the course of several evenings, but so far, I haven't even looked at The Cherubim.

I planned to start on it today, as it's a three day weekend. And then last night, we were involved in a minor fender bender. Not too bad, but we were sandwiched between two cars and the hood is crumpled. Today, we have to go around to body shops to see what exactly needs to happen, and so there goes day one of writing.

Other writers - if anyone's still reading this - when do you take the time to write, and how do you work around your schedule? My old job, I had enough downtime so that I could write uninterrupted in the middle of the day. I don't think that's an option in my new job.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Officially official

I've just sent back the scanned, signed offer letter. In twelve days, I'll start my job as a data analyst.

That sounds like an awful job title, like I'm planning on becoming a robot. For the mildly interested, a data analyst is apparently a person who goes through health providers' dense data files and figures out a system for overpayments. In a majorly geeky way, I'm really excited about it. It's all crunching numbers and figuring out patterns, and there's bonus figures for how well I do it, which is a first for me.

The only concern I have, like I said before - how will this affect my writing? Am I going to be able to balance the job and the books?

I'm maybe an eighth of the way through my third draft of The Cherubim. I plan to be near the halfway mark by the time I start work. I hope.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Great news!

Now what?

Today, I revised the first fifteen pages of The Cherubim - moved a few things around, added a few things. For some reason, the first paragraph is always the hardest for me. It has to really draw in the reader, and I always pay extra attention to it - it has to hit hard. I spent as much time on that paragraph as the next two pages combined.

The phone rang a little after lunch. The place where I was interviewed a couple of weeks ago called me back; they've offered me the position. The job pays better than any place I've worked, offers amazing benefits, and has some sort of commission system where I'll get paid... for something or another. I really don't know; they said they'll get back to me tomorrow morning with details about that. This is big, huge, great, amazing news.

The recruiter said I'd start next Monday - if they could get the information to me this afternoon. That's out the door, so I may start the Monday after next. The only problem is: what about the book? I'll have to figure out how to handle this. I need at least three more weeks to get it into decent shape. I guess I'll have to start doing this stuff on the weekends / after work.

Which doesn't give me as much time, but - the past four months was a great run. I knew it had to end sometime; hopefully, I've given myself enough to work with for now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Number forty-four

Starting is the hardest part.

That's why, I guess, it's best to never take a break. Getting back into writing is terrifying. I stopped writing and editing after finishing the first draft of Mrs. Shadow. Vacations, visitors, Van Halen; every week, I told myself that something else was in the way and I needed to wait before editing The Cherubim.

It's been three months since I've looked at it, and a month since I've done any sort of writing (other than at our new blog. It's time to clean off the rust and get started.

Over the next couple of days, I'm rereading the book, making a few changes that Rebecca suggested, and then I'll start going over everything with a fine-tooth comb. Hopefully, when all is said and done, I'll have it in a place where I can submit it to Critique Circle, and - eventually - out to agents.

Granted, I don't know if this is strong enough to be published. I still have a lot of work to do!

Sorry for my lengthy disappearances, guys, and sorry for not posting more comments - believe me, I'm still reading all of your posts! I'm just being quiet right now.

And I'm still waiting to hear back about last week's interview. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Now - onto the editing!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Blog!

Rebecca and I have just posted our first recipe at our new blog, the hungry lemur. Expect more very soon! For now, go check it out and comment!

I'm just back from a job interview at a really, really nice place. Good feeling about this one; please send positive thoughts my way.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Time Passes.

I've been pretty lazy the last couple of weeks. I'm enjoying it. My birthday, our anniversary - and, this week, a visit from the in-laws. I'm lounging around, living off the work of my beautiful wife, and baking the occasional cake.

I needed to step away from the two books for just a bit; enough to clear my head so that I can get around to editing and rewriting. In the meantime, Rebecca and I have been working on a new recipe blog! She's taking pictures of the food, and I'll write the text. I'm kind of getting excited about it. She's really good at photography. We worked on the first post last night - it should be coming up very, very soon.

And of absolute interest to nearly no one: I have a couple of great job interviews coming up over the next week. And every time I say something like that, I think I cast a hex on myself. Keep your fingers crossed for me, everyone.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Tomorrow is our first anniversary! I'm not sure what's expected on an anniversary. I think it's sort of a birthday for relationships, but without the cake. I really wouldn't mind an anniversary cake, honestly. But we're going out of town and staying in a bed and breakfast. My 28th birthday is less than a week away; cake can wait until then!

Sometimes, when I try to remember what happened a year ago, I pause. I think, there's no way that a year could've passed by so quickly. But considering what's happened since we were married - I don't feel like I've been cheated by time.

I'm genuinely happier than I've ever been in my life. I hope our next anniversary finds life just as spectacular for Rebecca and me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


When I first started this blog back in February, I had a very clear mission statement. I wanted to describe the entire writing process of a book, from beginning to end. I already had one-and-a-half under my belt (along with a novella and a few short stories), and thought that this would help me refine the whole process.

And see how well it went! I complained, whined, and procrastinated. And, this morning, I finally finished the first draft of Mrs. Shadow. The complaining and the whining is the important part. Finishing was only a side effect. Seriously; I'm no closer than before to figuring out how to write. It's like falling down a hill and somehow finding that I've managed to cross a finish line on the way.

The more I write, the slower and slower I seem to get. When I moved here, I figured I might get down 3-4000 words in a good day. That may seem ridiculously optimistic; one cannot write that much and expect it to be good. And, of course, I didn't manage it; by the end, 2000 words was a good day for me. When I'm working on a first draft, I don't care about good. My first drafts are *never* good. I have to rewrite 90% of it. For some reason, that's what works best for me: it's about making a framework. I have to make the framework before I tear it down and replace it.

For instance: when I first started the book back in March, I had the basic spark - not a unique idea, but something that made the wheels in my brain turn. I couldn't *stop* thinking about it; I kept thinking of complications. I know this is vague, but that's because I don't want to spoil the book for my wife, who isn't going to get to see it for a few more months.

So I sat down with the name of the character, a really shallow idea of who she was, and a little bit about what was going to happen in the near future. And then I started writing. I know; there should probably be more preparation. But that's the point of my first draft; it IS preparation. While writing, I find out who everyone is, what they want, how they react. It's a big surprise.

The first page I started writing was a little girl's birthday party. Without thinking about the consequences, I took away her mother and gave her a very young stepmother. And then I kept going; let the characters interact however they wanted.

And the stepmother ended up being one of the most important people in the book. That's the reason I have to come up with a framework - I had no idea. I thought that certain people would die; certain others would disappear. I was completely wrong about most of it.

There were times I had no idea what would happen. Those were the worst; I had to force myself to sit at that keyboard and type a thousand words of what I can only assume is pure drivel. Enough to get me to the next exciting point.

In any case - the book is finished, and it's awful. No one's going to read it. But there's good potential; there's a decent book waiting to be carved out. I'm putting it aside for a couple of months and taking a break. Rebecca and I are going to be celebrating anniversary / birthdays in the next two or three weeks; once that's all over, I'll get back to revising The Cherubim, and - eventually - Mrs. Shadow.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Early May!

Rebecca suggested I update my blog. "You're like a toddler running around after preschool," she said. "You need to find yourself a juice box. Metaphorically speaking."

She's right. What made things worse was when I came to update, I'd forgotten the URL. I was so ashamed.

What's new on the news front? Nothing, which is one of the reasons I haven't updated in so long. It's a little embarrassing, like trivial Facebook status messages. Starving Author... is excited about spinning class. Starving Author... needs a new set of brakes. Really, it's hard to keep an interesting blog when things are so dully consistent.

What's happened since the last post? I went on a second job interview and, afterward, emailed the interviewer to tell them I was no longer interested in the position. This is a dangerous trend, I suspect. But I pulled out a slip of paper from my last position filled with notes I wrote in a conference, and here are a few highlights:

"Quiche ? (?)"
"Cant do this for a living WAFFLES"
"Im part of presentation WTF?!?"
"Jeopardy got UGLY"

There's an trend of strong capitalization and ludicrous punctuation that I don't like. I need (or, at the very least, want) to find a position with minimal ... bureaucracy, to put it nicely. It's not that I mind work; I love work. I love thinking, planning, and acting. And I understand the need for bureaucracy. But when I have to go to meetings where I have time to play Jeopardy, think about multiple breakfast foods, and consider a dead-end future, I either have to love the job or be adequately compensated. Or both.

In any case, so that I can move on, let me note that both positions were not only steeped in bureaucracy, but also paid less than what I'd need to live off of. I'd gladly work doing something I love for cheap - at least for a time. Trader Joe's: I'm talking to you.

I've made little discoveries and observations about life in the last two weeks: namely, that things are better than I could hope for, life is lovely, and I hate tuna fish. I hadn't realized before.

I'm nearly done with my newest book - it should be wrapped up in the next couple of weeks. I have the same reservations as I did before; I like the idea, but I don't know how well it works. I'm going to sit on it a couple of months and reread it. So when I'm finished, I'm going to take a break until June or so; Rebecca and I are going back to Memphis for our anniversary, my birthday is the following week, and I think a week without writing would be reasonable. Then I can get back to The Cherubim, and - maybe - get it into shape so I can begin querying.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On Nothing

I ran into a bit of near writer's block late last week / early this week. Truth be told, I'm not writing nearly as fluidly as I did back when I had a job. Back then, it was an escape from a really dull career. Not that I disliked my job, but there's only so much repetition one can do before his brain starts to go in strange directions.

Here, though, I can do whatever I want whenever I want. Sure, I have a schedule. But a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I didn't have to set the alarm at 7. Or go for a walk after breakfast. Or, you know, actually write once I got on the computer. No one's tracking my internet usage.

That changed on Monday, when I went for a job interview. At first, I was really enthusiastic, full of zip and pep. Only... everyone was so dull and miserable. When I told them that I was the kind of guy who liked a 40 hour workweek without overtime because I wanted to get home to my wife, I got a weird look. "Well, here, most people work until 7 or 8 at night, and they come in on the weekend. Not every week. Just when it's necessary."

I got home and emailed the recruiter, apologizing, but explaining that the job just didn't feel like a good fit. It wasn't the overtime. It wasn't the company. It was the people there; they seemed like they were just sleepwalking through the day, just trying their hardest to get through life.

That killed the writer's block. Realizing that I can either get some writing done or sleepwalk through the day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rejections, rejections

More rejections over the last few days. But this morning, I got a rejection that made me a little happier - they enjoyed the writing, but they didn't feel they could work with the book. Still, they'd like me to send them future submissions.
I'm starting to wonder if some of the problem with The Dead Rise is the atheist aspect. Maybe that's a risky sell, especially now. I'm going to pull it back from querying for now and try focusing on the next two books; they're far more mainstream (and, according to Rebecca, reader-friendly. Which is another problem with The Dead Rise; it's a first novel by someone who majored in computer science. It's a little clunky.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Not the best way to begin a morning; the full-manuscript request ended in rejection. Inconsistent writing, no offer of reevaluation after an edit.

Rebecca says I should start querying The Cherubim, as it's a far better book (I agree; The Dead Rise is a little piecemeal.) But I don't want to give up on The Dead Rise yet, as I really like it.

I'll keep querying as I work on this book, and if I haven't found a home by the time I finish, I'll work on getting The Cherubim up to snuff. But man, I wish today had started better.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Query Shark revisited!

Two months later:

I'M SO, SO HAPPY! This is amazingly awesome. I want to dance. I got the "Good Revision Example" tag. This is what comes of - they helped me polish this to a fine shine. At least I know now that if I'm getting rejected, it's because they're genuinely disinterested - not because of a particularly bad query. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Tomorrow, I should wrap up the second draft of The Cherubim - and my lovely wife can finally read it. I'm really excited; she hasn't read any of it yet. I don't think she even knows what it's about.

Thursday, my family is coming into town to spend a couple of days. I'll take off to recharge my brain before starting Book Three.

Sorry for the brain-dead, infrequent posts. I'm spending my off-hours watching youtube videos of Sandra Lee, my new favorite person. Who else can make a $40 cake into a $500 cake by adding store-bought cupcakes, decorated cookies, and sprinkles? "Priceless", quipped a moronic co-host of the show, devastated after he was told his smiley-face cookie was too Wal-Mart to be added to the cake.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day ???

I'm two-thirds of the way through the second draft of The Cherubim. Still spending 90% of the week in the office revising away; at least it's more readable than the second draft of The Dead Rise. Still going to get back to Critique Circle once the chainsaw's put away and the scalpel comes out (right now, I'm trying to get rid a lot of the mundane stuff - those who've read earlier drafts of my first book know what I'm talking about :-) )

I've started to worry about the joblessness. I know; I planned to stay out of work for four to six months. That's still very do-able. But I'm getting grumpier the more I read the news, and when I look at job websites - NO ONE is hiring, and the few times I've submitted a resume for IT positions, I haven't heard a reply back. Sometimes, I wonder if my email is working properly.

So I applied for a job at a local bookstore that's a quarter mile away. Think I did well on the application, except when it asked for a salary, I listed an hourly fee more in line with an IT position than a bookstore clerk. That was silly of me.

I'm still not sure what to do. I'm nearly done with the second book, but I haven't heard back from any agents in a couple of weeks. I can't decide if I should send out a few more queries, or wait to hear some kind of feedback from the agents I've already queried.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Cherubim finished!

As planned, I finished the first draft of The Cherubim today. The ending frustrates me; I don't think it's 100% there yet, but that's what rewrites are for, right? I'll spend the next month working on the second draft. Normally, I'd wait a couple of months, but I think the near month long February break was long enough. Time to jump back in and do some serious reworking; I'll spend the next couple of days on a reread, since I apparently forgot 90% of the book.

Go suck an egg

Just for reference: AT&T has the second-worst customer service I've ever seen (the crown for shitty service still goes to Time Warner.)

Once again, I've been yanked back to their bizarre world where my accounts do not exist, yet I'm being billed for services that were canceled two months ago. Half an hour later, transferred to my third customer service tech, I hung up after finding that their computers are mysteriously down again and even if they wanted to, they couldn't look up my information.

Tried to login to their website to look at my really true secret hidden final bill with a $120 worth of credit, and here's what I get:

Fuck you, AT&T.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Wait

There's nothing left but the wait.

Last night, Rebecca woke me up because of a racket outside. There was a wild rainstorm; we're talking SHEETS of rain. I couldn't get back to sleep for a while, and I feel a little like I'm walking through clouds this morning. I'm taking a break from the writing until tomorrow, as this morning we're going to go to estate sales. Rebecca's gonna find stuff to sell online!

Speak of the devil; I started this entry to waste time until she was ready, and now she is. Back to everything tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I can't believe we went through that entire book in two days. I deleted another huge chunk and added some back. Rebecca fixed at least a hundred typos. My brain just wants me to type like a seven-year-old. We're going to sleep so well tonight.

It's been sent to the agent, though. For better or for worse.

Back to writing again tomorrow; I may just finish up The Cherubim before even THINKING about glancing at The Dead Rise again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The revision

Rebecca and I are working overtime to get this draft ready by tomorrow night. We finished up the synopsis (I hope; I keep having second thoughts. It's hard as hell to get 70,000 words condensed into two pages without sounding dry.)

So why am I blogging? She's reviewing the chapters and pointing out mistakes I've missed; mostly typos I've made from corrections in the last few days. Magazines rusted! His padded chair magically changes to a plastic yellow chair! The time for major changes is gone, though I've deleted another 500 words. Really, I just want the first third of the book to read okay. For my part, if I get a third of the way through a book and enjoy it, I have to finish it.

I really, really want to do this for a living.


I got excited with the progress of the new draft yesterday and queried an agent. This morning, she's written back asking to read the full manuscript.

I am terrified.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Plea

On behalf of all computer guys and former computer guys out there, I beg the world:

Please stop asking us to fix your computers.

We understand that your computer is not working right. That is okay. Many computers aren't working right. Unless you are our best friends or we owe you a favor, we do not want to fix your computer for free. A home-cooked meal isn't going to do it either. I am a complete jerk and snob when it comes to food; I will starve before I eat that casserole. Canned soups, canned vegetables, and canned meats are not allowed in the house, and mayonnaise should never be used as a sauce-base.

Please, do not immediately ask me after we meet if I can drive forty miles to fix your computer. That is too far. Offer me cash and we'll talk; I want gas money, fifty dollars minimum for the first hour, and twenty an hour afterward. That includes the drive. We're talking a hundred bucks baseline, and realize that I am doing this begrudgingly.

Computers are okay. I have been paid in the past to work on them, and I do it okay, but it isn't a hobby. I do not like doing it for fun. There's not a constant urge inside of me to install Spybot and remove viruses from random machines. This has happened too many times; it is breaking my heart. NO! Go to Best Buy, or just find your grandchildren.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Beautiful Saturday

Today seems like no wrong can happen. The weather's nice. The revising is going beautifully. Liz and Marva are helping me shape up the book, and the first 40 pages or so read SO much better. Comcast is (supposedly) heading over soon, I'm getting a refund from our old apartment, and I got a polite letter from our local senator thanking me for my application for Press Secretary. (Rejection, but he suggested I shoot him an email and he'd let me know if anything else was open. The most gracious rejection letter I've ever seen.)

It's one of those days that makes me think I should be a betting man.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Here we go

After revising a particularly good part of my manuscript, I got excited and sent out my revised query and first chapter (thanks to LizB and Marva!) to the exciting, semi-interested literary agent.

I do not recommend doing this. I'm a very anxious man, and now, one minute later, I'm second-guessing myself and on pins and needles. I could run a mile.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nashville: Day Two

Honestly, it's day six or so, but who's counting? It's my second day of writing. I did my quota of revising yesterday and created a rough outline for the synopsis, so everything's great.

Got up this morning to do my so-called daily routine (make breakfast, go for a long walk), and only half of that happened. It's twenty-nine degrees. I got as far as the dumpster before saying, okay, I'm awake enough.

I spent all of yesterday afternoon wrestling with this fucking internet. Finally made the deal with the devil and called Comcast. I promised myself two years ago that I'd never, ever, ever have anything to do with them for the rest of my life, but... AT&T customer service is just as bad. If the choice is between the $40 slow, intermittently failing devil and the $40 blindingly-ten-times-faster devil, I'll... wish for municipal broadband?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The city is cold. The city is rainy. I have a headache, and I guess the three things may somehow be correlated.

Yesterday, the furniture arrived. Most of it was in one piece; some of the plastic lids were cracked, and there was a brief moment of panic (and simultaneous exhilaration) when I saw our television box impaled on the legs of a wooden chair. Fortunately (I suppose), the legs just smacked the back of the television, leaving the screen intact and working fine. Two hours of lugging in boxes that weighed more than a tired man; my legs ache today.

Last night, my mind went from "Let's take a day to get everything in order" to "Let's start the book right now, right away!" So this morning, I woke up, found it was raining (no walking!) and started immediately. The book is good. I left it in decent shape. I sent the first chapter to LizB to post on CritiqueCircle, which makes me feel a little nervous (and excited.)

I'm hoping to get the book and query to a point where I can start querying again late next week, and I think that's do-able. I found out today that I need a synopsis. How'd I miss that? I started writing one, and it is just awful. AWFUL. But awful is better than nothing; awful can be carved into decent and polished into good.

By the end of the day, I'm hoping to have read through the first quarter of the book, have a decent first draft of the synopsis, and posted on QueryTracker and CritiqueCircle.

That may have something to do with the headache, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Week one

We're in Nashville! Furniture: air mattress, a cardboard box, and (fingers crossed, very soon), some plastic chairs, courtesy of my mother.

My computer isn't hooked up yet. I'm on Rebecca's old P.C., and we still aren't sure where everything is going. I'm starting to get very, very antsy. I planned to start writing / editing / EVERYTHING on Tuesday, Wednesday at latest, but it's been almost a week since I've been able to write, and I don't like it. I feel lazy. I've given myself sixteen weeks to write before finding a job, and every day I don't feels like a waste.

But typing from the carpet is hell on the wrists.

I'm about to do some more posting on QueryTracker (feel like a total heel for accepting all of this criticism / advice and not critiquing on my own, but yeesh, it's not something I can help at the moment!) and, hopefully by the end of the week, I can start editing The Dead Rise again. I think the last 10% of The Cherubim will have to wait; I really want to have a near-finished book to circulate to agents.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So long, farewell, goodbye

Yesterday was my last day of work. Very surreal. Today, Rebecca and I are packing up everything; we'll be gone for the next week or so. Once we settle in, it's back to writing, posting, and sleeping.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Thank you, LizB, for suggesting I post on! It took a few days before I got around to it. I'm nervous about putting out a piece of work for criticism. When I sent out my first couple of query letters, I felt sick to my stomach every day I didn't get a reply. I irrationally kept expecting replies like, "Who are you, and why are you sending this to me?" But really, that's part of the point of writing - just putting everything out and taking criticism.

I've got some GREAT suggestions so far - suggestions that address a lot of problems I have with my current query. Once we're in Nashville and I finish polishing this draft, I'll feel a lot more comfortable about sending out queries again.

This is a weekend of goodbyes and packing.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Today was my last Friday at work! Just one more day to go. My boss is avoiding me because I have been insisting on training him. Someone's got to learn to do this stuff; the girl I'm supposed to train took off the last two days "because my daughter was sick." Two days ago, she told me that she was considering telling the boss her daughter was sick so she could go home early. Luckily, she stayed long enough to find out she got hired full-time as my replacement. That's pretty good timing, buddy.

I'm currently 4-5 days from being finished with my third book, tentatively titled The Cherubim. It's a science-fiction horror young adult novel that I've been working on since I finished the second draft of my second book, The Dead Rise. I like it much better. Action is way easier to write than an exploration of the teenage psyche.

And in six days, we'll be heading back to Tennessee. I had another couple of "wow, you're quitting? Right now? You don't have a job? Are you an idiot?" conversations today. After gamely reassuring the other parties that yes, I will be able to find a job, and I will be fine, I will not die in a gutter in the next few months, I wonder why I bother. We're doing what makes us happy, and no one's going to come out for the worse. That's all that matters!

Monday, February 2, 2009

So it goes

It's my last full work week in Houston, and I'm gearing up to leave. I'm training my coworker, and that's going better than I'd hoped.

I'm still hoping to write through this week; I'd like to get to Nashville with maybe a week's worth of writing to finish on Book Three. Still written like an enthusiastic fourth grader's book report, but I just have to remember that story is the key, not detail. Once the story's in place, I can fix the rest.

I started looking for Nashville jobs today, breaking our solemn oath of No Full-Time Job for Four Months. This is because I found a job in Nashville as Press Secretary to the Democratic Party. Taking notes, writing agendas, and hanging out with the Senate. Have I ever been a Press Secretary? Absolutely not. But as I read, I thought - I can do this.

So I sent them my resume, and I wrote a nice cover letter explaining that I was an IT worker, but I'd had plenty of experience doing the kinds of things that Press Secretaries seem to do and, as someone who enjoys writing, I'd be well qualified to handle the workload.

That was probably quite naïve of me. But how could I pass up an opportunity like that? It was surreal, and that drew my attention.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Book three

Still slogging away at book three. I only have a week and two days left at my company, and I hope to be at the 70,000 word mark by the time we move. Right now, I'm starting to get worried about actually DOING it - moving six hundred miles away with no job and no plans to look for one in the next four months. Especially with the recession.

So I'm writing like crazy; if I can get this thing finished and polished in the next three months, then I'll have two queries to pitch - not just one. Hopefully, something will work out.

He says, in abject terror.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BACK - and the Query Shark!

I wrote this yesterday figuring I'd post it last night. Now it's being posted today:

Big thanks to AT&T for confusing February 12th with "this very instant" and cutting off my internet (and VOIP) while on hold with the cancellation department. Bigger thanks to AT&T for their inability to reconnect my service without being directly inside my apartment. Four Internet free days doesn't seem like Chinese water torture, but I couldn't wait to get to work every morning so that I could check my email. Fingers trembling as I waited for the computer to boot. And that's sad.

[Editor's note: THREE more hours on hold today. The tech didn't ever show up. It's finally hooked back up. Total time on the phone: 5 hours. Oh, and I have to call back to get service canceled.]

Monday, I came in to find that the Query Shark posted my query! Even better - even though the query was pretty god-awful, she said she'd read the book anyways. This is huge; this made me feel delighted.

Since the query was based on my second, far-shorter draft, I've been updating it. I really don't know how to write a good query, and the only way I can get better is through critiques. Sure, there's advice all over the internet. Most of it is conflicting.

Here's some advice I've heard on writing queries:
* Get in and get out in as few words as possible. You just want to introduce your work.
* No gimmicks, unless they work.
* Include a bio.
* Don't include a bio, unless you've been previously published.
* Pretend you're writing the back cover of your book.
* Be professional, be curt. Don't pretend you're writing to a friend.

So after several tries, I pretended I was a librarian and asked myself what I'd write. I summarized the book's set-up and themes. And it was DULL. No positive responses, except from the Query Shark.

After a few rejections, I rewrote the query and polished it up a little. Same thing, but I traded the tight suspenders for a decent belt. It read a little better, and this is the query that netted me a critical response (though positive!) from the great literary agent.

Last night, I completely scrapped and rewrote the query, looking at some of the suggestions from the Query Shark. Some people found parts of the setup confusing. The biggest complaint, and the truest, was that it was BORING. And it was. I didn't have a 'voice'; I was writing a book report. So I rewrote the query, pretending I was my main character: how would HE summarize the book?

It's still geeky and uses too many 25 cent words. But I think it's a lot better. I'm going to send the revision to the Query Shark and see what she makes of it - knock on wood, she'll let me know what works and what doesn't.

My wife is waiting her turn to get online. Four days is too long.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Today, it is finished. I celebrate with drinks. Next, my wife will read it until she is so sick of it she shouts.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day eleven

Nearly done writing for now - on track to finish by tomorrow.

I originally planned to keep this journal vague, since I wasn't sure anyone would want to read about my personal life, but - looking back, I'm going to really regret not talking about how excited I am about the Obama presidency. In Texas, my wife and I are one of the very few who aren't die hard conservative Republicans, so they didn't broadcast the inauguration at the office - in fact, no one talked about it. So I had to wait until I got home to check it out.
It felt like I was dreaming. I've been excited about Obama for the last few years (since his speech at the DNC back in the day), but thought he was such a long shot. Watching him take the oath, I thought, damn it, sometimes things DO turn out for the best.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day Ten

I finished filling in the gaps in the book, but there's still a lot of work to do. When I finished the book, I was at 68,500 words.

Over the next couple of days, I'm going to go over the book again, cut the stuff that's fluff, and fill in any confusing transitions. Hopefully, I'll be at 70,000 by the time everything's said and done. Then I'll print one last copy and put the book aside until we're comfortably moved in to Nashville.

Thirteen more days of work, and they're dragging. I've already figured out a work schedule once we move, and I have the next two projects lined up. Hopefully, by the time July comes around, we'll have a better idea of where we are and what will happen. By the end of February, this book should be completed and a revised query will go back to Very Helpful Literary Agent; by the end of March, the rough draft of book two should be finished, and by the end of May - if everything goes well - I may have a third project well on its way.

I'm so excited about life right now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day seven

The agent sent me the email a week ago, and since then, I've gone into manic mode - sixteen thousand words as of this afternoon. Every morning, I wake up thinking, "Oh God, I have to write again," and it doesn't go away until I've finished.I have no idea if any of it is any good or if the book is any better or worse; I can't wait to be done and distance myself.

The good news is, we have officially signed on the dotted line for the new apartment. The moving company has been contacted. I have three weeks and a day left on my job; tomorrow, I'll write my letter of resignation. Or copy / paste, whatever.

I can't wait to be done with the day-job office for a while. I've had a four month break in the past ten years; I could spend the rest of my life without the computer-geek job...

Friday, January 16, 2009


Sorry for the title. Imagine little twinkling bells.

I just woke up from a series of dreams about my youth - which is what I'm writing about. It's strange; the more I write, the more memories are stirred up. It's like someone's flipped a switch in my brain: everything I thought I'd forgotten forever is coming back.

I can't stop thinking all the time.

It is a little unpleasant.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It gets tough

The writing's still going strong, but I'm running out of additions fast. I planned several new sections - only instead of getting, say, five thousand words from a section, I'll get half that. It's not that I'm a lazy writer. It's bad estimating; I still don't know how many words fit a scene.

I finished the fourth chapter today. I planned to get there around 61,000 words on Monday. Instead, it's Thursday, and I'm not quite at 57,000. That's an enormous gap.

What to do? I could try rewriting the sections, but I'd just pad them - and that's bad, in my book.

I could add new scenes, but it's not going to be easy since I've already made a framework and started filling it in.

The agent suggested I get to a *minimum* of 60K words, preferably 75K. I know I can hit the first mark. The second ... might not happen.

It's discouraging.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ten Word Story

Authentic psychic meets doubting skeptic. Love follows: a happy medium.

That was awful, wasn't it? Puns are shameful and unfulfilling; a tryst in a dark closet.

My day

Today, I:
(a) wrote a thousand more words than planned on the book.
(b) saw a little girl dressed as a pirate - then an entire crowd of children dressed in Halloween costumes. It's January.
(c) got mooned.

What an extraordinary day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day two: reconstruction

Sometimes, it's not easy to write.

I usually try to hit 2500 words a day, and once we've moved, I'm going to shoot for 3000-4000. I figured by the end of next week, I'd finish the rewriting and could focus on editing.

The problem: today and tomorrow, I have long dentist appointments in the morning. Which means working overtime, which means less time to write.

Which shouldn't be that much of a problem. But I didn't get to write nearly as much as I wanted to today because I spent most of my time reconstructing the book. It was originally a seven part book (each day of the week was a different part) with a prelude / epilogue. But since I need to go with a two week time span, it's now a ten chapter book with short stories between each chapter.

I went through the book (along with the ideas I had for rewrites) and picked out what I call "linchpin events" - things that happen that are extremely important to the plot of the book. Each chapter now has one linchpin event. Then I figured out the days of the week - what needs to happen when, and what day of the week that event should fall on. For example, there's a scene where my main character hangs out with a classmate - has to happen on a weekday, according to the book's internal logic. And it has to happen after another linchpin event.

Which is boring. Sorry.

So I played literary sudoku for three hours this afternoon, figuring out when those events occur, then moving around minor events to balance out the days and to fit into the book's new timespan. I took my lunatic shorthand notes and then wrote a summary of the new book to keep everything in place in my mind. Tonight, I plan to do the actual copying and pasting so that tomorrow I can get back to writing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Revisions, revisions

My wife and I finished the month-long revision of the book today. It seems moot, since I'll be writing an additional 50-60% over the next two or three weeks, but it really does help. I know that most of the pruning is done, and it's easier to mimic the clean style. I think I'll need to expand so that the book happens over two weeks instead of one. The problem is that I originally wrote the book as a diary: seven days, seven entries. Now, that structure is gone. I have to take all of this text and make it into something completely new.

The easiest thing to do, I think, is to create a map of everything that happens in the book day by day, and what needs to happen *when*. In other words, I can't make the kid have the dramatic break-up speech before he's asked the girl out.

That way, I can take the original seven days and make them fourteen - writing additional segments to stretch the days out.
Sounds painful. But I'm excited, like, Christmas-time excited.

The first answer

Spectacular, wonderful, magnificent, incredible news!

Saturday night, I reworked my query letter after reading through a few posts on Query Shark. Of course, after finding Query Shark, I was too excited to revise and THEN email; my brain went into stupid mode and I immediately sent her my query, and afterwards, I rewrote it.

Because after reading a few queries, I had a better idea of what agents want. I read over my query and thought, "This isn't going to excite a sixteen year old - or anyone else. It has all the charm and cheer of a drunk's bar lament. This is going to attract Eeyore and Roast Beef."

So I rewrote the letter by rearranging it and trying to write a hook in the first paragraph. When I was done, I wanted to try out the query letter on someone new.

I went down my list of agencies and grabbed the next two to research. I went through their websites, found a couple of agents, and read through their blogs.

One seemed perfect for the book. I sent her a query and crossed my fingers.

And yesterday afternoon, she replied with a polite "no" - with the caveat that she'd be glad to reread if I changed a few things.

The changes aren't trivial. I need to expand my book from 48,000 words to a minimum of 60,000, preferably 75,000. I need to delete a few things, and I need to rework the opening section so that it grabs the reader.

I can do that. It may take two or three weeks to write and another couple of weeks to revise, but I can hit that goal before I move. It will mean putting the third book on hiatus, but I'm okay with that; I hit the halfway point last Friday and I feel comfortable with taking a break.

I'm excited because I found an agent that caught my eye and who took the time to read through my query / first few pages, give me a few pointers, and suggest revision and resubmitting. And she's right on every point.

Not a form letter, and not an apologetic "this doesn't fit my needs right now."

I was so excited, I could hardly sleep.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The weekends

It's the weekend, which means it's time to work on the "finished" book. As far as I can tell, that's an oxymoron. This thing won't be finished until it's on a shelf somewhere.

During the week, I do the actual grunt work - putting words down on the page for the third book. It isn't pretty. When I write, I don't care about prose, dialogue, or consistency. Those come later. All I care about when I write a rough draft is: am I advancing the story?

In a couple of months, when I'm writing the second draft, I'll post an original paragraph and a revised paragraph to show the process. I don't know how other writers work. I just know how I write, and if I don't get my thoughts quickly down on the page, I end up with dull. Once I have the frame of the story assembled, I can decorate.

So Monday through Friday, I type the grunt work; so far, I'm hitting my goal of 2500 words a day, five days a week, and the story's still on track. By the time we move in February, I should have it finished.

I spend the weekends polishing the second book and sending out queries to literary agents. This morning, I looked at the next eight names on my list of agents and looked at their websites - did they seem like the kind of people who might publish my book? I don't want to waste their time and look like the kind of writer who sends out queries en masse.

Then I edit my basic query letter and try to personalize it to the agent I'm sending it to - mention how I found them (usually through The Writer's Market) and why I think my book would work for them. Out of my eight names, five looked like good bets. One only represented black authors, and a couple didn't look like they worked with young adult books (which is, by the way, what I've written.) I sent email queries and marked them off my list.

I haven't sent any snail-mail queries, and I don't know if that's a faux pas in the writing industry. I'm a computer science major, and whenever I look at an author's biography I'm discouraged when I see something like "So-and-so has been a journalist for ten years / teaches literature at a New England university / is a popular columnist." They've been working in the general 'writing field' (I'm so sorry for sounding yokel) for years. They have a general idea of what's going on; I'm not sure if there's an etiquette I haven't learned yet.

In any case, after I finish sending out the query letters, I polish the second book. My wife's been working on going through the latest manuscript for the past month, and by the weekend she has another large chunk finished. I think she'll be finished this weekend or next, which is exciting. She hasn't read the new ending yet. I look through what she's suggested and (usually) take her advice. Polishing may be the most satisfying part of writing. The book's finished, the characters and story are fleshed out, and I only need to rub down the rough edges.

The projects

I'm working on two projects. In the right corner, weighing in at 50,000 words, is book two, which I'm polishing and sending to literary agents. In the left corner is book three, which is halfway through the first draft.

There's a good reason for this.

When I finished my second book, I thought, great! It's through. Now to send out to a couple of agents and let them fight over it. When the dust settles - and that may take at least a week - I'll sit back while my agent teases publishers. Why, in a few months, I'll sip champagne at a cocktail party and laugh about my book's success!

I waited a couple of months, spent another month polishing it, and gave it to my wife to tear apart. The manuscript is covered in scribbles, cross-outs, and notes. When she'd polished it enough that I felt comfortable with sending it out, I did - to exactly one agent.

Six weeks later, I still hadn't heard back.

Fine, I thought, that's simple enough, and sent out several more queries. A week later, most had been rejected via form letter.

If you're a first time writer and looking to get published, here's something I wish someone had told me before I started: it is not easy. You will be rejected. Many times. By everyone.

Agents get many, many queries. It's inevitable that yours will be rejected. And rejection isn't fun.

Which is one of the reasons why I'm writing a new book as I query agents: because every time I get rejected, I tell myself that this next book will knock them off their feet.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The first, second, and third books

Remember the first thing you were proud of writing?

I was fifteen, a freshman in high school, and I wrote a stream of conscious story - I don't remember what it was about, but I passed it around to a few friends in class. Everyone was impressed; it's easy to impress freshmen. Hey, I thought, writing is easy!

Over the next twelve years, I wrote a little every now and then. I posted a few stories online, kept a personal blog, and one day, I was going to write a novel. Except I never did. I'd get an idea, I'd write a couple of pages, and then I'd forget about it.

Only one day, I kept writing, and I finished my first book.

This blog isn't about that book. That book was garbage. The story of this blog begins a week after I finished rattling the keyboard.

At first, I thought: this is great. Let's get this published. And then I had a good night's sleep and realized that I'd have to start again at the beginning, because no one would ever want to read it.
It was a learning experience. A forty thousand word learning experience. Writing isn't easy; writing is - sometimes - about doing a lot of work with no payoff.

The next week, I started my second book. I slowed down; I plotted, I planned, I thought. It took me three times as long to write my second book, and then came revisions.
Five months after I started writing it, I finished it and started the next.

My wife and I are moving to a new city and quitting our jobs. Instead of being smart and finding new work, we're taking off the first few months to get my second (and third, eventually) books published.

I'll document our progress via this blog. I hope that other writers attempting to publish their first books will get something out of my eventual success or probable failure.