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The problem with Query rejections

We’ve all had them, from being completely ignored to a well thought out reply, even the notorious “form rejection”, querying is as much fun as jumping in a swimming pool full of razor blazes and alcohol. But let’s talk about something I don’t think most authors realize, and certainly not the agents. That’s right agents, I’m talking to you. Listen up.

I’m in the middle of querying, and I’ve gotten ignored. I’ve gotten obvious form rejections, and recently, I’ve gotten what I thought was a nice rejection. But it wasn’t. Let me show you:

I have now read your query. I can see the work put into the query and that you have effectively captured the nature of the novel, but I confess that it is not for me. I didn’t love it, and, unfortunately, if I don’t feel that strongly, I’m the wrong agent for the work. Publishing is a notoriously subjective business, and every author needs both an agent and an editor who do love their work. It’s hellishly difficult getting editors to take a look at new authors, so that initial enthusiasm is vital.

FYI, I’ve taken on five writers as clients and turned down well over 4,000, so far… I know it can be as difficult to get an agent as it is to be taken on by a publisher. You just have to keep plugging away. Good luck.

All best wishes for the future.

Yours,
XXX

Ah, what a beautiful letter! So full of kindness and encouragement, but here’s the problem. I took it to heart. I honestly thought I had “effectively captured the narrative of the novel,” and was prepared to review the written query in order to use it as the main backbone for future ones. My first clue this might be a mistake was that I didn’t send this agent any material. How could they possibly know I “captured the narrative” if they never laid eyes on it?

At first I assumed they, knowing far more than I in the biz, were somehow able to deduce this on their own. But just to be sure, I posted this letter on QueryTracker. Guess what? Someone else got exactly the same letter! Hmmm….

This agent wasn’t the only one like that. I had others with the same problem. And I remember, years ago, receiving a letter from an agent informing me that they just didn’t connect with my characters. While that is definitely advice to take to heart in writing and something which should be on the forefront of every manuscript, it was very likely not true. It was probably just another form rejection.

So, dear agent who wrote this, thank you very very much for trying to be nice and encouraging and wonderful but bear in mind, it almost cost me big time. The query I sent you was not my best, and had I used it as such, imagine the consequences. (although to be honest at this point I have no idea what’s best or worst as far as my queries go) Just leave out that little part about effectively capturing, and it’ll be great! And my thanks is most sincere. The last paragraph of chugging away is something I will probably print and mount to keep me going. To hear that from someone such as yourself brings tears from the knowledge of understanding and compassion. Thank you.

And, dear authors, this is a warning to you. Don’t take every rejection to heart. Research to make sure they meant what they said. QueryTracker is a great way to do this. TTFN! And good luck with your querying! You’re going to need it.

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The Importance of Character

Many authors, like myself, get caught up in the plotline or, and this is my big booboo, the setting, the premise. So I’m really into sci-fi, etc, and the thought of watching a movie/reading a book where a building fades in and out of existence, taking its inhabitants to parallel worlds or even places of the universe is pretty cool. But that’s not what hooks the audience. It’s the characters. I know. I know. It’s hard to imagine for those visual effects people out there like me, but maybe this will help.

One of my absolute favorite games to play was/is Beyond Good and Evil. Ah Jade, Pey’J, even Double H, these were the characters who made up that game. The premise was amazing, the gameplay-amazing, the graphics, the collections, the photo taking, all great. But, and I didn’t realize this until I watched a trailer for it this morning, that’s not what made the game for me. It was the characters.

See, Jade is the character you play, and in the sequel us fans have been waiting on for 15, yes 15, years, she’s not in it. I watched the trailer this morning and didn’t recognize a single aspect of it. Pirates? Hmmm, OK, I guess I can pretend pirates had something to do with it. Different graphics? Well, it’s not my cup of tea, but I understand the audience wants the game to be up to date on the graphics side.

Wait.

Where’s Jade?

That’s right, the main character who you won the game with, the character you strove to keep alive, to save Double H and Pey’J with, the hero who struggled through and survived to live another day, who had the chemistry with Pey’J, yeah-she’s gone. And that was it. I was done with the game. I have no more desire to play the sequel, finite, nada.

This is why character is so important.

When I wrote the sequel to Anya and the Secrets of Cupola, the first chapter was almost a preface. It included, not the main characters of Gevin, Anya, and Taika, but a skinwalker named Azizi. A friend of mine read it and actually stopped themselves to look at the cover to make sure it was the right book as they didn’t recognize it as such. Ew. That’s bad. Real bad. Did I make a mistake? I hope not. I mean, there is a bit of a difference between one chapter without your characters and an entire book. Just look at Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Now granted, my books don’t have movies and millions of fans to help the story stay in your head, but Azizi was mentioned in the first book, just like Riddle was in the Harry saga.

So by now you’re asking yourself what my point is. My point is that even though the setting, the premise, the built world is amazing and spectacular and will draw readers in like a mosquito on an otherwise perfect day, you’ll lose readers without good characters, and believable ones at that. Until next time 😉

Redneckgenuity

Yup. We’re rednecks. And proud of it. Our redneckgenuity has saved us thousands of dollars and untold heartache and time. It’s allowed us to do things we would never be able to do otherwise. Anyone who can’t appreciate that, well, we just can’t be friends. (insert appropriate emoji here)

Anywho, we bought a hot tub. Looks a lot like this.

It was used, of course, and they lied to us, of course. The pump was completely rusted and froze up, and the cover for the control panel is still missing. But, the jets and lights all worked, and the pipes were fairly clean.

We spent two months getting it to work, then several days cleaning and disinfecting it. We built a little room around it (still building), and as you can see, it was amazing, awesome, and beautiful.

And then…

We’re sitting in it, the roof finally overhead, and my son (whom I pretty much bought it for) says, “This is just like a real hot tub. It feels like it. It smells like it.” Hot tubs were always his favorite thing at hotels and such. Now we don’t have to worry about finding hotels with them, something I always tried to do because he loved them so much. Nor do we have to worry about the nasty, cause honey, I done seen me some nasty in them hot tubs!

So, right after he says this, the pump starts turning itself off and on. Off and on. I reach over to turn it off. No go. Arlis screams, “Get out! Get out!” We’re all worried it’s gone off the deep end or possessed by aliens like in Maximum Overdrive, and we’re about to be electrocuted any second. He pulls the breaker and it shuts off.

We spent the rest of the evening troubleshooting.

  • It overheated
  • There’s not enough water
  • The filter’s dirty
  • Blah blah blah

Nope. No success. Turns out, that missing top of the control panel was essential for keeping the water out, and as a result of its absence, water got into it.

We took it out, put it in rice, etc. Once dried. We hooked it back up and voila! It’s working again.

Now comes the problem. My original suggestion of Ziplock and duct tape won’t work, they say, because duct tape isn’t water resistant enough. They don’t make that control panel anymore, and even if we were able to get a cover for it, the gel that blocked the moisture from getting into the wiring had to be torn out to get it dry. No, we needed a safe place to mount it, and its original spot was not it.

So, we did this.

This first thing we did was fill up the hole. I found an old Tupperware dish I didn’t even know we had. Arlis cut the bottom out and ground down the edges, sanded it rough on one side and attached it over the hole of where the control panel originally sat with silicone caulking.

 

(I know the picture makes the water look gross, but it was dark.)

Then, we built a place for the control panel to safely rest yet be within reach should we want to use it.

Why yes, the cover is in bad shape. It’s called filling the holes with Great Stuff until we can afford a new one. And yes, it works AMAZING at keeping that sucker warm! Also, the top parts of the walls will be screened in instead of boarded up. This room is a work in progress.

And finally, we needed a way to keep the control panel from getting wet again when our wet fingers reached up and touched the buttons.

And there you have it, folks. Redneckgenuity at its finest. It works great again, and all it took was a bag of rice, and old Tupperware dish, and one Ziplock bag.

*Bows graciously*

Thank you. Thank you. 🙂

Balance

I recently rewatched one of my favorite lines:

Seven of Nine is toasting at a baby shower and says, “May all of her desires come true except one, so she always has something to strive for.”

I have had many goals and dreams in my life, and I have pursued most if not all of them. I have been a complete homesteader, making or growing all of my own and my family’s food. I homeschooled my child. I have sang on a stage to people literally chanting my name. I even finally got that book written. OK, several books written. And I finally, after several years, got a picture book published, albeit independently.

I’ve failed at more than I’ve succeeded (We outgrew our land and were never able to make a business out of it), but I’m pretty sure that’s normal for everyone. If we all succeeded at everything, as Seven so elegantly put it, what would we have to strive for?

I still have a goal, of course. I’m sure it’s more than obvious. I wish to be traditionally published. Will it ever come true? My doubt is growing, but that’s OK. See, I have something to strive for. We all need dreams. We all need something to look forward to.

A coworker friend of mine cruises a lot. At least once a year, sometimes several, and he told me that without the next cruise to look forward to, he gets horribly depressed. As any longtime reader of this blog knows, I have anxiety, but ever since I started writing, that anxiety has become manageable. Oh don’t get me wrong! The veins in my arms are presently burning with the desire to get something done. That will, unfortunately, never go away. But I can function far better now because of my writing, because I have something to strive for. If that desire is taken away, I become lost. It isn’t pretty. Does this mean that once I get my dream of becoming published I will no longer know what to do? Absolutely not! There are awards to yearn for, accomplishments to be had. I do not believe I could, or will, ever reach the top.

This blog post made an impression on me. Although it’s mainly about people who have peaked and therefore need a new life direction, it can be beneficial to us all, I believe. I’ve often pitied those who have reached the top, especially at a young age. All the athletes and gymnasts, now what do they do? It’s a shame really. We all envy them then, but in reality, their lives are but a tiny flash of joy sandwiched between the desire to reach that joy and the depression which follows.

So maybe I’m better off never reaching this goal. Maybe this is my one desire I will have to strive for. And I’m starting to be OK with that.

POC on a book cover

POC is a broad term including pretty much everyone that isn’t stereotypically white, and since a great deal of the world bunches all us “white people” together into one very stuffy, very stale bowl, it obviously doesn’t include everyone. But I recently watched a presentation by Barry Goldblatt, literary agent for Barry Goldblatt Literary, that spoke to me. He said there is still a firm belief within the publishing world that placing a POC on the cover of a book will keep it from selling, at least as well.

I don’t doubt that. But not for why you think.

As a child, when I saw a POC on a cover of a book, I groaned and moaned because I knew the book was going to be one of those serious “teach kids a lesson” books that would bore me to tears. It was usually a girl with some detrimental look on her face who had lived some terrible life of slavery and concentration camps and while very interesting and educational (probably more interesting to me now as an adult 😉 ) they were not fun. In fact, they were often depressing.

Fast forward to today. We pretty much have the same thing, only now the POC’s are Arabic and Indian.

But wait.

I’ve seen a very very few books with POC on the front that looked fun. Of Giants and Ice is one (although they left the POC off two of the four covers, never figured that out), Princess Cupcake is another. This blog post shares 12 books with POC where the topic isn’t racial. Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion looks cute.

I did an internet search and an Amazon search. Both came up with pretty much nothing but serious books that completely turned me off from the get-go. I had to really search to find a book with a POC on the front that was just for fun, like the ones I mentioned above. And I truly think that’s the problem. I think that’s the reason “POC covers don’t sell”. If the publishing community would quit treating POC like some sorrowful event we all have to read with our heads bowed, they would sell more. But that’s just my opinion.

What every character needs, actually … wants

As promised, here’s what I learned about character. Now, this post is not going to go in near the depth the class did, so I highly suggest you check it out.

Every character must have:

  1. A want. If the character needs something, the story is about fate. If they want something, it’s about the story being driven by the character. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as they want it.
  2. A weakness. As the instructor in the videos said, “We love Superman because he’s vulnerable to Kryptonite.” Imagine for a moment if he weren’t. Every character has to have a weakness. Maybe it’s their anger, their jealousy. Maybe they’re allergic to air or moondust. It doesn’t matter, just find one (or more) for them.
  3. Where are they from? This is both geographically and emotionally. Their region of upbringing will affect their language, their culture, maybe even their strengths and weaknesses. Think about how growing up an army brat would change a person. Their emotional baggage they bring with them affects their personality, the way they react to anyone and everything. This needs to be discovered before they first word is written.
  4. Where are they going? This one’s a little more difficult to explain as the teacher didn’t explain it very well to me. What he said was if you know where the character is coming from and what they want, you will know how they will react to obstacles they come across or are thrown at them. I think what he meant was, are they going to have a smooth ride? Will they get what they want? What will happen to them along the way? That sort of thing.
  5. What do they do to surprise you? Pantsers’ characters surprise us all the time. I had no idea Anya would get jealous of Gevin when he was chosen, but by golly she did! She was such a strong character to me, book three really shocked me when she broke down and panicked. That should have been a warning bell for me, and it was. The scene where they face their greatest fears? Yeah, that took me days to figure out what hers was. She didn’t seem to have any, and I kinda made one up in the end. But hey, it worked, so there. This is one reason I’m recommending you do all this before you start writing. That way you don’t wait till book 3 of a series to finally discover what gets your character’s goat.

That’s all I’m going to discuss in this post. Again, I highly recommend you take the class, and good luck with your writing!

Handing in my pants – but not permanently of course

I’m gonna knock your all’s socks off.

I’m plotting.

No. Serious plotting. As in, I’m spending today doing nothing more than creating my characters. It used to be that I discovered plot and characters as I wrote. I totally pantsed my stories, unless or course I ran into a dead end or something. Then I brought out my trusty 8-point arc and went from there. But recently, I found the 8-pointer didn’t do it for me anymore. So, I got more serious with my writing.

Now, I’ve always been serious with my writing, and I’ve wanted to take courses for years, but I only recently have been able to (mainly due to not being able to find any, especially cheap enough I can afford it—aka free—and yet still legit). I’m glad I waited to be honest. I think I’m learning more from it now than I would have in the past.

So here’s what I’m taking:

https://www.coursera.org/specializations/creative-writing

It’s a 5 course series offered by Coursera. In order to get graded and join in on the peer reviews, you have to pay the $50/month, but all the lessons and actual assignments are otherwise free, just not the grading a peer reviews. I’ve only done part of the first course, but I’ve learned a great deal and am very impressed. While I plan to do every assignment, no matter how silly I think they may be, I’m also working on my next story while I do.

For example, we’ve learned the major plot points, but explained in a way I’ve never had explained before. I feel like I’ve leveled up to a higher plane or something. Also, we’ve learned about character. And that character drives the plot. I’ve heard a lot about plot driven and character driven before, but I’m only now understanding it. I’m going to explain a bit about the characters’ needs and wants for the story to have a greater depth, but I’m going to make a separate post for it. Here’s a link:

What your story’s characters need.

How to get an agent and/or published for the beginner

Something happened today that made me decide a few things need to be addressed for authors out there trying to get agents and/or published. Someone asked how to get an agent and/or published, and I answered them. When I read their reply, I went back to read their original post and saw, to my astonishment, something I had missed earlier, something I had assumed differently. See, this was a forum specifically for authors seeking agents, but their question said they don’t want money, they just want the “support” of an agent.

That’s a waste of agents’ time, folks. If you have no intentions of following their rules and/or making money, don’t waste their time and yours by querying. And that’s what his answer was. He was an artist who would do whatever, however he wanted with his art. OK. That’s fine and dandy, but no agent is going to support any author. They’re going to represent professional authors.

So for those of you out there dying to be a professional author, here are some basic do’s and don’t’s:

  1. Do your homework. Aka, read every article, blog post, book on the topic. Soon you’ll be able to skip the bogus and go straight for the true, tossing the garbage left and right over your shoulders. This takes years, yes years, to learn, and you still won’t learn it all. Like ever.
  2. Finish the book. Publishers don’t give advances for partial books, and agents will toss you in the trash without so much as a rejection letter. (This is for fiction only. Non-fiction is a completely different world and is not discussed here. If you are specifically wanting to pitch a non-fiction, this post may help you some, but is not directed towards you in any way shape or form) If an agent gets really bored and feels really sorry for you, you might get a letter that says, “Finish a book before querying.”
  3. Self-edit the book. Go over the book. Over and over and over the book. Publishers and agents do not want your rough drafts. Instant rejection without reply.
  4. Buy the latest copy of the Writer’s Market, preferably in your genre, if available. These can be found at the library too sometimes.
  5. Don’t post your book online. I know I post WIP’s. Those are just tiny snippets of whatever I’m working on. There are people who post their whole book online and then ask for representation, and get this, with a link to where their book is posted online included in their query. Biiiiig no no. No one wants to publish a book available for free elsewhere. (This was what “the artist” wanted to do.)
  6. Don’t pitch to publishers until you exhaust all your agents. Agents can’t sell a book to a publisher that’s already turned it down. (Most publishers don’t take unsolicited manuscripts anyway.)
  7. The literary world is small and has a memory. Don’t burn your bridges. If you continuously insist on querying agents/publishers that don’t represent your type of work, in a way they specifically ask people not to, or without being professional, when you finally do write the next best-seller, it’ll be thrown in the trash without being read.

This is by no means an answer to every question. Nor is it meant to be. But it will get you started. If you are unwilling to follow these rules, don’t query. There’s nothing wrong with posting your beautiful literary work online for the world to read, print it on a T-shirt, I don’t care, but don’t waste an agent’s time by querying them if you’re not serious as a professional author. Please.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

This one’s an easy post, and it’s quite common, but not like you think. See, sexual harassment by co-workers is one thing, but what if it’s from the customers?

Lots of waitresses flirt their way through tips, and put up with more than they should to get what they can, but I’m not a waitress. I work in a retail store. A large retail store than spends more money on their lawyers every year than I will make in a lifetime. And I am harassed almost daily by customers.

Yesterday I had an incident where a creepy old man put his arm around me and gave me one of those side hugs. I scooted my way into the cartpusher who was standing next to me. I don’t know this old man. I don’t want to know this old man. If I say, “Don’t touch me,” I can only imagine how that would go over, so I have to save it for when it’s really necessary.

What? You thought an old man hugging me was really necessary? It depends. That’s almost considered normal where I work, which is so so sad. I know of one girl in particular who is harassed by one customer that comes in there. Whenever he comes around, her supervisor tells her to run hide/take a break until he leaves. That’s ridiculous. NO workplace should have a policy that stupid. But mine does.

But aside from that, I was surrounded by other customers and co-workers. Yes, I probably should have told him not to touch me. I was more in shock than anything else. Hopefully I’ll be more prepared next time. I mean, don’t get me wrong. If I had been someplace other than work, I would have hit him, yelled at him, and who knows what else. (I’ve been in that position before, and yes, I defended myself quite well without hesitation) But at work? My options are far more limited. But they shouldn’t be.

I asked a big guy I work with as he walked by if the customers ever touch him. Why yes, feminists, they do. Although he did admit it’s not near as much as “we girls up front” have to put up with. I asked other men there. They’ve all had their fair share, some more than any woman I know that works there. One guy had a female customer reach out and grab a handful of buttcheek. She then told him she wanted to take him home with her. He told her he didn’t appreciate what she did and no, he would not go home with her. And unfortunately, that was the end of it.

So here’s the gist. If a person touches you in an unwanted way or says something you don’t appreciate on the street, you are not looked down upon for physically defending yourself or speaking harshly to them. Just imagine if you reacted that way to a customer. This shouldn’t be a problem. Anyone should be allowed to react the exact same way at work as they would in public.

But here’s the other thing. Let’s say I go public with this. Let’s say this guy harasses me to the point I’m one of the ones that has to hide too, and I call news stations. I lose my job. But see, I’m not a millionaire actress who can afford to retire and never work again or sell a book on the whole event just because I’m famous. I’m nobody. I’m the lowest of the low. If I go public and get fired and sue the company and this and that, no one will hire me afterwards. Nobody. Let’s say I win the lottery and sue the company or something. All they have to do is sue me, get all my money, and then I’m still broke and jobless.

And this, folks, is why harassment at work still exists, and always will exist, until the employer allows us to fight back. And this, is why no one talks about what happens.

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