Fit For Office

Remember all those teen movies in the 80s? We loved them. They fueled our youthful hijinks. The role of boys was to try to get drunk and try to get some from girls. The role of girls was to get tipsy, get kissed, yet keep the boys at bay. Remember Porky’s? Basically a bunch of boys spying on naked girls showering. Or 16 Candles, where a major subplot was the boys trying to get a girl’s panties to prove they’d been with her. Recently Molly Ringwald talked about a scene in The Breakfast Club where a boy was under the desk basically trying to look and touch her under her skirt. She admitted that by today’s standards that scene is troubling. They all are. They should have been troubling then, but women were still being taught to blame themselves and not to embarrass the boy.

Troubling or not, those movies reflected the world I grew I up in. It reflects the world Brett Kavanaugh grew up in. Coming from a background of wealth and privilege, he actually had the status to live out those films. Despite his protestations that he was focused on schoolwork, fitness, and his many platonic friendships with girls — his friends, his yearbook, and his personal letters tell a different story. In other words, he lied.

So here’s the deal. There are parts of Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony I believe. I don’t believe he was bragging about a threesome when he mentioned a Devil’s Triangle. I do believe it was a drinking game with cups set up in a triangle. It’s typical that a kid hears a term and then morphs it into something in their own world. Threesome’s aren’t much of a part of a teenager’s world… drinking games are. Boofing? I have no idea what that really means. Again, I’m leaning towards a dumb teenage phrase. I remember us. We were stupid. I think Michael Avennati’s accusations are false. I don’t think BK ran a rape ring. But, I do believe the college story… again, fits the times and I could imagine it happening, exactly as she said.

However, the majority of Kavanaugh’s testimony was not credible. He dodged questions. He lied throughout, downplaying his drinking. Downplaying the culture of the time. And he portrayed the classic behavior of someone privileged who is being held accountable for his actions for the first time in his life. He believes he is owed the Supreme Court. It will be the perfect ending to his wealthy, privileged life, and when he might be denied the thing he thinks is his, he threw a tantrum. He was rude. He was partisan. He was biased.

Dr. Ford was calm. She was collected. She did not dodge a single question. Despite the Conman-In-Thief mocking her testimony, she actually did provide details about the things he said she didn’t know. She was even able to provide scientific backup to questions. Her story rang true. I could put myself in her position, and see it all happening.

Do I think Brett Kavanaugh intended to rape her? No. Am I sure he even remembers the incident? No. Perhaps he honestly doesn’t. Because to him, I’m sure it was nothing. He was drunk, and he was doing what boys his age did in that current culture. He and his friend probably thought everyone was having a good time, partly because it didn’t really matter how she felt, and partly because he meant it in fun, so it was fun. He threw her down, copped a feel, covered her mouth when she resisted, and then his buddy jumped on top of them in a goofy drunken moment, breaking it up. Then, in an alcohol haze, with nobody to have fun with anymore, he moved on, probably forgetting the whole thing in moments. Maybe it was more sinister, I don’t know, but the scene I painted is plausible for the times and both parties could come away with the version they tell now.

Would those actions make him unfit for the office of the Supreme Court? Nope. Not if he had responded something like this:

I testify before you, a humbled man. I did many things in high school and college I am no longer proud of. It was a different time and a different culture. I think back, and wish I could undo some of the things I did. I drank too much, and I was underage. I probably did and said things under the influence of alcohol I would never have done or said if I had been sober. It shames me, but I have learned so much in the past 36 years. I no longer drink to excess, because I know that will alter my actions. I no longer see women as a means to and end. Having daughters myself, I understand how I disrespected girls at the time. I don’t want them to have that experience. I don’t remember that evening, but if Dr. Ford’s testimony is true… even if it’s only partly true… I humbly and sincerely apologize for the pain I caused. I was a stupid boy, and I did not mean to hurt you. I am sorry. Deeply. Please forgive me.

Had that been his response, I, and millions of women across America, would have sighed a deep sigh of relief. Finally, a man would have been a man, owned his actions, and apologized. While I still wouldn’t like that this man is on the Supreme Court, I could have relaxed knowing that he was an honest man. Instead we now know that his is a liar, completely partisan, and will do anything to protect his ego. He doesn’t care what his nomination does to the country. He deserves it. It’s his and he’ll take what he wants. So, in other words, nothing has changed in his life since that night in a bedroom at a party.

We also know that the Republicans in office have insured that for the rest of many of our lives, we are going to have a proven liar on the Supreme Court who hates Democrats/Liberals/Progressives, and now has an axe to grind with women. Until the day we die, most women will no longer feel we have access to justice in this country. The fair and independent judicial branch on our tree of Democracy will die when he is sworn in.

Bruce MacKinnon’s editorial cartoon for Sept. 29, 2018.

Brett Kavanaugh does not have the temperament, and is not fit for office. Only one party nominated him, rushed him through the process without full disclosure, and then covered their butts with a phony 5-day FBI investigation that only interviewed 9 people. Years and millions of dollars were spent investigating Hillary without a single charge, and they’re still screaming for more investigation, but one week and 9 interviews, none of who were principal players is just fine for a lifetime appointment. Hypocrisy much?

 

As a woman, you must vote in 2018 like your life depends on it. Because it does.

 

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A Slight Detour

The podcast Write or Die has provided an excellent window into the world of publishing. There was so much I didn’t know, that I didn’t even know I didn’t know it. My newfound knowledge has led me to understand that an unpublished author is going to have a hard time selling a series. You might have delivered one good story, but can you finish? Will they like how you finish? You have no track record. A stand alone book is a much easier sell.

When I first conceived of this Fear trilogy, my ignorance led me to believe that I would be offering them something great — not just one book, but three! What a deal. Oy!

It has also become clear that many authors have to shelve much loved books and move on to something new. They might write 4 books, 8 books, 10 books before they finally make a sale.

While I’m not shelving the Fear trilogy, I am going to start a new project. There are several other book ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for years. I’ve landed on another middle grade series idea, but each book would be a stand alone, so it carries no risk. And since it is a lower middle grade book, it will be about 1/2 the length of my upper middle grade book.

The first chapter flowed out yesterday. Today has been a day of research, as I learn more about the particular year into which my main character gets plopped. Luckily I once wrote a screenplay in this era, so I’m half way there.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to write two books at once. I don’t want to let my trilogy go. That story needs to be told, but my gut feeling is that I can’t do both. My hope is that if I can pump the new one out quickly, I can get back to work on the trilogy.

The other exciting discovery through the podcast, is pitchwars.org  It’s an amazing writing contest that matches published authors (mentors) with unpublished authors (mentees). The mentees submit their query packages to four of the mentors. if they choose you to work with, they spend the next four months helping you revise your book and then it is presented to agents. Usually I hear about these opportunities just after they closed. Submissions don’t happen until the end of August, so I will have plenty of time to go over my query package again, as well as research the mentors.

The most important thing I’ve learned from the podcast is this: Getting published is simply a matter of perseverance. If you stick with it, take constructive criticism to heart and edit, edit, edit your work until it shines, you WILL get published. You just can’t quit. I don’t plan to.

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A Day at Neverland

The first few years of my career in Hollywood were filled with experiences my teenage self would never have believed could happen to me. I don’t really talk about those experiences since moving back to the Midwest. There are so many more interesting things to talk about. But lately, one memory has been popping back up — my trips to Neverland Ranch to work with Michael Jackson. So I think today, I will share.

Like most girls in the late 70s, I had a huge crush on Michael Jackson. I played Off the Wall  until I knew every song, and had a dance routine worked out. I hopped around and sang into my curling iron for hours.

When I got a call from my boss in either late 1992 or early 1993, and heard I was being sent to Neverland Ranch, I remember jumping up and down and screaming with my roommate. 1992 was just before the accusations, so there was no dark cloud. Michael was close to being at his peak in fame. It was an unreal thought that this South Dakota farm girl was going to work with the Michael Jackson.

The crew met up and we drove in a caravan along hilly roads several hours north of LA. I found it amusing that going onto the Ranch, we had to cross cattle guards. I grew up in a place where cattle guards were the norm on entering a rural ranch, but it seemed strange that Michael Jackson’s ranch had the same feature. Once we drove onto the property, it became clear by the roving cattle, that those guards were actually practical.

Before being allowed onto the ranch, we had to sign all sorts of non-disclosure agreements. I have no idea if I’m violating them right now, but I would assume that since Michael is dead, the ranch is no more, and I have nothing negative to say, I’m not going to be sued.

We drove on a tree-lined, winding road past the house, and parked at the movie theater/dance studio. Just across the road was the amusement park. After unloading my gear and setting up the teleprompter, the crew guys who had been here before, showed us around. The theater was attached to the dance studio. We were told to help ourselves to any of the candy behind the counter. And I did. There were three types of chocolate bars and I took one of each, ate two, and still have one. I’m sure the chocolate is inedible by now, but I felt the need to keep one intact. I also kept a few of the napkins. In the picture on the left, there are some acorns from his tree resting on the napkin.

The theater had traditional seats, but in the back were hospital beds for kids who were too sick to sit up. Everything was designed with children in mind.

Michael wasn’t there, so the crew guys passed the time by telling stories about the tours they had gone on with him. Everyone who knew Michael spoke about him with such love. They also told me that once you worked with Michael, and he came to trust you, he would only work with you… thus, there would be a good chance I might go on his next tour with him if this worked out. My head was spinning.

When Michael still hadn’t shown up by noon, his personal chef prepared lunch for us. I seem to remember it was chicken in some sort of delicious sauce, veggies and rice pilaf. As the afternoon wore on, we began to venture further out. I wandered into the amusement park, looking at the merry-go-round and the ferris wheel. Out of nowhere a security guard approached me, and I was sure I was about to get thrown off the ranch. I tried to come up with a good explanation to my boss of how I’d gotten fired from this job. Instead the guard smiled and said, “Want me to start any of the rides up for you?” I mumbled, “No, that’s okay,” and rushed back to the theater.

Behind the dance studio was a ravine with a small zip line over it. Several of the crew had a blast going back and forth, but I was convinced I would fall and break something, so instead I crossed the suspension bridge and went to the massive oak tree nearby. It had a tire swing hanging from one limb, and a winding staircase around the trunk leading to a platform. On the platform was a pirate’s chest full of blunderbusses and swords.

It was winter, and by late afternoon it was starting to get dark. That’s when the real magic of Neverland Ranch appeared. The trees were wrapped with lights, turning the whole place into an enchanted fairyland. I sat on that tire swing, surrounded by light, marveling at the beauty, and the fact his electric bill was probably more than I made in a month.

At some point not long after, Michael finally showed up full of apologies for being delayed. Trust me, I don’t think one of us minded. It had been an amazing day.

In the early 90s, Michael still looked like Michael. He had started down the plastic surgery road, but hadn’t gone far. Even so, I found it uncomfortable to look at him… until he smiled. He had an amazing smile. I also found it strange how normal he was. He chatted with old friends on the crew, talking about the Lakers game the night before. He was just a guy, hanging with friends, talking about sports. Weird… yet not.

We did our work. He said goodnight, and we packed up our gear to make the long drive back to LA. I had to have been floating as I drove out through those light-covered trees. It was a job I will never forget.

I worked out there again, because true to the crew’s prediction, once Michael had let someone into his circle, he would rather limit his exposure. I remember very little from that job, other than it involved a satellite link with Jimmy Carter.

Then the abuse accusations were made, the Ranch was raided, and Michael had pictures of his privates taken. He wanted to make a public statement about this series of events, and once again I got the call to go to the ranch for this taped statement. However, not long after, I got another call. My boss explained that Michael would be uncomfortable with a woman running his teleprompter while discussing such delicate matters, and he asked that I be replaced. It was completely understandable.

Once things had been settled, he left the country to live abroad, and my opportunity to work with him was over. I have my thoughts on the accusations that ended his career for almost a decade, and if you ask me in person, I may even give them to you.

It was a most remarkable experience, and one that would have seemed wholly impossible to the kid shoveling manure in oversized overshoes while wearing hand-me-down clothes.

And yet it happened.

Isn’t life strange?

 

 

 

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Weaning Myself off Amazon

Before I get to the main topic, I want to speak to any writers who read my blog. There is a terrific podcast out there called Write or Die. Authors are interviewed about the road to publication and it is eye opening. I knew it was a long process, but until I listened to these authors, I had no idea how long. A part of me thinks it would have been good to know it can take 8 or 9 years to get a book from written to published before I took my leap. My 3 year financial cushion wasn’t nearly enough. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I didn’t know, or I never would have taken the leap. Give it a listen. It’s great information about getting published.

Now to the title – I’ve made the decision to end my Prime Membership and wean myself off Amazon. It’s something more Americans might want to consider. Let me lay out the reasons.

  1. Brick and mortar stores have long warned that Amazon hurts local businesses. Local businesses employ local people, giving them money to spend, and building thriving local economies. I’ll admit there have been many times I have ordered products through Amazon that I know I could get locally, but it seemed so much easier to have it show up on my doorstep, rather than drive to get it. There was a good chance the price was better too.
  2. Amazon’s policies are impossible for smaller businesses to compete with, and are creating entitled customers who expect the same service. No shipping expense, and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay to ship it back. Package stolen – Amazon refunds it fully or sends another, without many questions asked. When a business isn’t doing the volume Amazon does, they lose all profit with those policies. But if they don’t provide them, they lose all customers.
  3. Amazon is the poster child for corporate greed – Recently, on the same day they announced huge profits, blasting through all expectations, they also raised the fee for Prime Membership citing rising costs. Riiiiiiiight. Jeff Bezos has so much money he’s using it to go to space, but he can’t pay his workers a living wage, and provides horrible working conditions. When Seattle tried to tax Amazon to help the homeless population, which has grown due to the high cost of living in the area, partially due to tech companies, Amazon fought back and killed the tax.
  4. And for me, there’s a final kicker. They broadcast extremist views that are contributing to the deaths of Americans – NRA-TV.

I’ve got until December before my Prime membership renews, but I’ve already begun the process. I can’t get my cat food anywhere in town, but I can get it through PetCo. I’m searching out item after item and am finding it locally, ordering it directly from the manufacturer, or at the very least, another distributor. That doesn’t mean I won’t use Amazon from time to time. In fact, if I’m trying a new product, that’s exactly who I’ll go to, precisely for the free shipping and easy returns. But once I know I like something, I’ll buy it elsewhere.

Greed is not good, and right now neither is Amazon.

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This is America

I’m going to go a little off the writing topic here. Last week a really interesting piece of art entered my consciousness, and I feel compelled to comment.

Last weekend, I watched Donald Glover host Saturday Night Live. As usual, I fell asleep long before the second song performance by Childish Gambino. The next day, everybody was talking about the video of This is America – the song from that second performance.

 

In case you haven’t seen it… (warning – some graphic violence)

 

If you feel a bit overwhelmed, you will probably want to watch it again at some point. There’s a lot to see.

I’ve read several interpretations, and you will likely have your own, which is only right when it comes to art. Some say that Childish Gambino is portraying America. He is showing how entertainment can distract from the chaos going on behind him. His jerky dancing is a reference to the contorted images from Jim Crow and black face.

I have a slightly different interpretation. i acknowledge that the above interpretation may come straight from the artist, but everyone has a right to see it through their own lens. I see Childish Gambino as representing the black experience in America, not as America itself. His contorted movements and facial expressions show the contortions black American go through in trying to live safely in America. Smile. Fight back. Look tough. Look weak. Comply. Resist. Subvert. Submit. Most of all, don’t get caught slippin’ now. And his struggle, the drama it creates, entertainment in general, becomes a huge distraction from the chaos all around – chaos created by a culture focused on greed, where profits matter more than people. The culture of celebrity that tells us money, power, and fame are what matter. All around is chaos. Crime. Guns. Drugs. Violence. Hopelessness. But, don’t look at that. No! Look over here!

Black man, black man, get your money!

Because in today’s America, money is what matters. You want respect? Get your money. You want privilege? Get your money. You want access to government? Get your money. You want equality? (at least on the surface) Get your money.

You take it by any means necessary…

When I first aspired to work in Hollywood, I dreamed of telling stories. I longed to make people feel the emotions I felt when I watched a movie. It was so idealistic. While pursuing that goal, I was as happy as I’ve ever been. But once I moved into chasing the security of a steady job and paycheck, the idealism fell apart.

No longer was I engaged in the idea of bringing people together with shared stories and experiences. Instead, I was simply paying the bills and attempting to save up for retirement. Our show wasn’t making a difference. Or saving lives. Or doing anything remotely noble. Some people tried to make me feel better by telling me that giving someone a laugh after a long day, or some entertainment to lift their spirits was a noble profession. But we were telling tired jokes in recycled sketches, and trotting out a never ending cycle of the latest ‘it’ actor. We were telling America, “This is what is cool. This is what matters. This is what you should aspire too. If you aren’t this, you’re nothing.” I could see it was working when I looked at the ecstatic fans lining up to see the show, or the questions I got peppered with if I admitted what I did for a living. Nothing was funnier than being ignored during a flight by my seat mate because I was a fat, middle-aged white woman, only to suddenly become the most fascinating person on the earth when they made chit chat before deplaning and discovered what I did for a living.

My disillusionment became complete when I realized that more than anything, what I was doing with my job, was making rich people richer. Rich people, who didn’t necessarily deserve to be richer. Then telling America, those rich people are the only ones who really matter… the ones they should emulate. Talk about a soul in crisis.

Don’t get me wrong, I think entertainment is important. I still think stories can bring us together. I think art can bring us together. I just think today’s entertainment industry has been subverted by corporate Hollywood into a money-making machine that doesn’t care about the damage it is causing to the fabric of society. After all…

Get your money. Get your money.

(I truly hope that because a 53-year-old white woman admits to being a fan of this video, it doesn’t mean that all the cool kids will now flee Childish Gambino. It doesn’t mean he’s over. This is art so powerful that it breaks age and racial lines. This is an artist to pay attention to.)

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#authorstats

If your’e an aspiring author, search Twitter for #authorstats. This hashtag was started to give us encouragement. They asked published authors to list their stats… how long to get an agent. How long to sell their first book. How many revisions.

This is the first one I saw:

Author after author had a similar story. It took years to get an agent, and it took revision after revision after revision.

The hashtag succeeded. I feel encouraged. I’ve only been trying to get an agent for a little over a year. I haven’t even completed ten revisions. My lack of success at this early stage is entirely normal.

Whew!

My only concern now is managing to pay the bills until I land an agent, sell the book, and earn a little income from my hours and hours and hours of up-to-this-point free labor. Because I now have a firm belief that it is not if I sell, but when.

The latest round of major revisions is complete. My next task is to sit down and read it from cover to cover to make sure the new additions flow. Then it will be off to the editor for another quick go-over, and then it’s back to querying.

I’m excited for the next rejection that might give some feedback and lead me to another revision. Of course I’m even more excited for the possibility that they might request my manuscript. Or beyond that, that they might request their own set of revisions (meaning they’re interested enough to see if you can do the work.)

Of course, in quiet moments I doubt myself. I’m sure I’m a talentless hack who has deluded herself into thinking she has something to say. Criticisms and slights ping pong around my head. However, now there’s one thing I can counter with. I’m not an idiot. And even if the doubters are right, right now – I can learn. I can improve. I can revise. I can do this, just like those other authors did.

What goal are you trying to achieve that seems out of reach? Are you frustrated that others make it look so easy? Does that make you doubt yourself more? Rather than stewing about it, try asking them about their journey. Find out their stats. You may just find your doubts are unfounded, and you’re right on track for success.

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Yippee! Another rejection!

After my recent rewrite, and having found Diana Urban’s blog post about querying, this time around things are going much better. If you are querying, check out the blog post for some great information. I won’t write about all her suggestions, but I’m going to share the two I wasn’t doing that are really making a difference for me.

From day one, the entire querying process has been daunting. You only have a few paragraphs in the query letter to get them to read a sample, which is what will hopefully lead them to ask for the manuscript. I’d done some reading online and gotten some advice from an editor, but each time I sent a letter out, it felt like an experiment. The problem was, if the experiment didn’t work, you couldn’t just try again with the same agent. Most were then off limits unless you did a major rewrite.

To solve this problem, new author Diana Urban urges querying authors to hire a professional, such as an editor or junior agent. From my understanding, junior agents assist agents. One way they assist is by screening queries. If you want your manuscript to make it to an agent, you first have to get past the junior agent. (And if I’m wrong about that, they at least likely know what agents want.) By hiring a Jr. agent to edit your query package, you can be sure it includes all the elements an agent would want to see. Ms. Urban recommended two people, and I chose K. Johnson Editorial. She provided great feedback that allowed me to improve my query letter, synopsis, and submission pages. It seems I’m already seeing results and will hire her again for my other synopses.

The other suggestion that has been so helpful is to use QueryTracker. Part of the pain of my previous querying attempt was the silence, and slow, erratic drip of rejections. Now I can see what other QueryTracker users have submitted to the agents. I can see which of those submissions has been rejected or had a full manuscript request. Because of that, I can see where my query is in the process and the rejections don’t come completely out of the blue. Are there still 10 manuscripts between mine and the ones rejected? I know I have a while to wait. Or, like recently, I could see that manuscripts before mine, and after mine had been rejected, leading me to believe it had made it past the junior agent, and was waiting to be reviewed by the agent. While it was still eventually rejected, that information from QueryTracker gave me so much hope.

And my most recent rejection gave me my best hope yet. Literary agencies receive hundreds of queries each week. We authors are dying to know why we were rejected, but they don’t have time to tell us. It’s frustrating, but totally understandable. This week’s rejection came with really useful feedback. If they didn’t see potential, they wouldn’t have bothered with feedback, and I now know if I can introduce my character in the way they’re looking for, I can sell this book. The story, query, and synopsis are where they should be. The first chapter is not.

I have a long weekend of work ahead of me, but I’m very excited to get to it. I believe the first full manuscript request is just around the corner. That doesn’t mean an agent, but it means another step forward, and right now, that’s all I need.

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The Grind

Right now it feels as if I’m just grinding along. In an attempt to prolong what’s left of my savings, thus giving me time to sell my book, I am working more hours. I’m getting up to an alarm 5 days of the week now. Gone is the midweek “weekend.” No more time for daydreaming on the sun porch while ideas float about my brain. There is little time left for my other job – writing. Survival is pretty much the focus now.

For the first few years, when I could balance work, writing, and social time, I didn’t feel the need to take time off and go on a vacation. Now that the work leg of my stool is getting longer and longer, I feel the need to balance things out, except I can’t really afford a vacation. I was very generously given a raise after almost 3 years on the job, but immediately watched my rent go up significantly, and thanks to ACA sabotage, my health insurance quadrupled. I have a dental appointment this week and probably need a crown. I owe what feels like a hefty amount in taxes. One step forward, five steps back. I’ll just have to tighten things up even more, and keep dreaming of a week of relaxation with sand between my toes and bathtub warm water so clear I can see those grains of sand. Hopefully someday before I die.

More work, more stress, less fun, less daydreaming… none of it makes for productive writing time. I was told I needed to focus on two things this year: patience and discipline. So far that is proving true. I need the patience to see the agent/publisher search to its conclusion. I need discipline to keep writing… to grind it out. Not how I work best, but what else can I do? The safety net is being dismantled, leaving me with few options if this all blows up in my face. I must grind.

The grind of querying is also back on. I had one rejection within 24 hours. However, I’ve received none since, and while I may be grasping at straws, I actually see a glimmer of hope with one. I’m using a website called querytracker.net. I originally thought a spreadsheet would work just fine for tracking my queries and didn’t see the benefit of online tracking. I was wrong. My spreadsheet only contained my query information. Query Tracker contains the query information of every author who uses the site, which seems to be a whole lot of them. I can see the queries an agent has received — genre, word count, and date submitted. When the author receives a response, that is also displayed. One particular agent I queried, who seems ideally suited for my story, has rejected submissions made before I submitted, as well as some after I submitted. Mine and a couple of others have not received a response. While this could mean any number of things, such as: my manuscript is making the rounds of the agency so they can make fun of how bad it is; or like my original birth certificate, my submission fell behind a filing cabinet never to be found again; or the rejection got lost in cyberspace. It could mean any one of those things, but I’m choosing to believe that it means I made it past the junior agent and my submission is now sitting in a pile, waiting to be read. Even a nibble fills me with hope.

Now limited to a 2-day weekend, I spent one precious day yesterday cleaning, catching up on my finances, and doing my taxes. That leaves today for really focusing on writing. I finally found the scene/direction I’ve been missing in order to move forward with book two, and despite feeling the grind, I’m looking forward to spending a day lost in adventure. And in the breaks, I’ll daydream about having more days like today during the week, and warm, sandy beaches, and hopefully that will get me through the grind. Hopefully someday it will all be worth it.

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Don’t Quit… Rest

In my last post, I was feeling hopeful. Not long after, that feeling faded. I decided to take the month of December off. A quiet little nudge inside me seemed to make it clear that it was the right thing to do. As the month went by, the voices that had been nagging at me and bringing me down, got louder. You’re not a real writer. A real writer doesn’t take breaks. A real writer lives to write. You’re a hack. Your writing is always missing something essential.  You are, and always have been, a failure. Just quit. Face the fact that the best you can hope for is to be scraping by the rest of your life, and working until you die. 

Even when I tried to turn my thoughts to the hope of publishing, the voice got even louder. The publishing world is no different than the film and TV world. You don’t fit their mold. They want young, pretty women with lovely writery pictures on the back cover that they can trot out on stage to sell books. You are not that. Once again, you have to jump through their hoops, play their games, all with the understanding that in the end, you just won’t cut it. Why bother. Just self-publish and let the public decide, except they likely will never get that chance, because of the sheer volume of self-published books and your lack of experience with marketing. So really, Just quit. Face the truth. Quit, already, and end the embarrassment of trying.

After weathering the onslaught of negative voices in my head, I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago and gave myself a talking to.

Look, you chose this. This is what you wanted. You put everything at risk to do this. You could have chosen an easier path, the kind most everyone else takes, but you didn’t. Is it fair that your work will somewhat be judged on your appearance and age? No, it isn’t. But for many agents and publishers, that’s what’s happening. But, there will always be some who are simply looking for a good story, and  you have to go through the effort to find them. Again, this is what you chose. Put on your big girl pants and see it through. Pending any disasters, you’re aren’t going to be homeless for another 2 years, and maybe even longer, so stop stressing, do the work that needs to be done, and have some fun with the process.

The spring unwound and I came to realize that during the fallow period, even as I fell into an anxious depression, my batteries were actually recharging. I came up with two short story ideas, which is important, because my query letter is woefully short of credits. Winning a contest or two could help with that. During December, I read more from agents on what they do and don’t want and came to a conclusion my instincts were actually right for a change. Chapter one, as is, is the way to go. I’m eager to give

book one another pass to make sure my edits are consistent. I’m eager to hire a junior agent to help me with my query letter. Eager to get short stories out there. Eager to then get back to book two, do a rewrite on that, and then begin to move forward. All that anxiety and fear is gone. I’m ready to work.

I think I got the lesson loud and clear this time. When I feel defeated, anxious and all the voices in my head are telling me to quit, what I really need to do is rest.

Are you tired and ready to give up, especially after a stressful holiday season? Can you take a break from at least one thing that is causing stress and draining your time and resources? Find a way to take time off. Get your balance back. Your feet underneath you. Take a deep breath. Then when you’re rested, ask yourself if you still want to quit. I bet you won’t. I bet you’ll be ready to go at it even harder.

 

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Square One

That’s is where I am again. All those rejections? Meaningless.

You see, I have done a major rewrite of the book, and now I get to send out queries to all those agents again.

When the idea for this book first came to me, the protagonist was a girl. As the story developed, it felt more natural to make it a boy, so early on, I switched. I think I had only written the first chapter before I made that change. Looking back, it was my age that made it natural to want a boy in the character because they liked science. My worldview and the time I grew up in, made my instinct incorrect for today’s world.

As I researched agents, I kept finding they wanted girls who fight with swords or girls who like science. I have a girl in the book who plays a major role, and if agents had had the patience to see my story through, would have discovered in many ways, the story was more about her arc. But unfortunately, she did fit the stereotypical girl’s role — a dreamer who didn’t like science.

So finally, after having these thoughts niggle at my brain for quite some time, they burst through while I was in the shower and took solid form. This often happens. Not sure why. But I suddenly knew I needed to reverse my two main characters. That led to an entire weekend of flipping genders, which means flipping pronouns that sneak in there everywhere. There was also the need to evaluate each scene to see if it still rang true. Surprisingly, there was very little that needed rewriting. And actually, it’s an interesting trick to short circuit my age-related biases — write a stronger boy character, then simply turn him into a girl. It will be tricky as I keep writing to keep that same strong, adventurous character consistent. I have no doubt I can do it.

I like how the rewritten story reads. I like some new possibilities for the story. It’s a very good rewrite. I’ve now got a girl who likes science and fights with swords. Plus a good story to tell. I’m feeling more hopeful.

Additionally, some reading has led me to new query letter knowledge. One author suggested hiring a junior agent to write your letter. They often offer this service to supplement their income. Since they are the ones who read query letters and make recommendations to the agents, they know what works and what doesn’t. Once I feel confident that the manuscript is ready, I will hire someone to write my letter and begin the query process again.

So here I am, back at square one with a fresh manuscript and a whole lot of hope. It’s not a terrible place to be.

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