Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sometimes, It Pays to Know What You're Doing

This week’s topic asked us to reminisce a bit about our very first manuscript. Talk about making the old noggin work overtime. I was going to write about a short story called The Root that I did back in 1993, but then it occurred to me that the topic didn’t specify what kind of manuscript.

So, instead, let me tell you about The Ghost.

You have to understand that I’ve only really gotten into horror writing over the past few years. But, in 1982, I wrote a play about a ghost. Right off the bat, you can see the oddity – I wrote a play about a ghost.

It was 1982. My mother brought home information from the Boston branch of the NAACP concerning the ACT-SO regional competition.

ACT-SO stands for “Academic, Cultural, Technological & Scientific Olympics,” and is a yearlong program that encourages young African-Americans to test the limits of their minds versus their bodies. The competition began in 1978 and continues to this day.


Anyway, being a skinny kid who clearly wasn’t going to be the next Bill Russell or Jim Rice or Sam “The Bam” Cunningham, I was glad to enter it.

I tried out initially for the art category and drew a nice picture of a giant lobster attacking Navy ships in Boston Harbor (can anyone tell I watched Gaiking as a kid?).

I tried the short story category as well because that was my forte (or so I thought). I submitted a story based on the grade Z sci-fi flicks I watched on Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons.

Then, I saw that the one-act play category was open and only had a few entrants. I entered based on the fact that maybe I had a better chance of placing with less competition. And, since no one's asking, that was the same reason that led me to do archery and golf in college.

Anyay, I immediately ran into trouble as I didn’t know how to write a play. I hadn’t even gotten to the stage (no pun intended) of English class when you have to recite that damned “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech. I had been to one-act plays on field trips but seeing is not writing (yes, I know it contradicts my writing stories based on cheesy sci-fi movies, but I was a kid; don't confuse me with the facts).

All wasn't lost, though. It was 1982 and there were still plenty of libraries. My skinny legs still worked and I took myself to the main branch of the Medford Public Library. It provided me with books on play writing and ghosts. So, I read and studied and practiced. Keep in mind that I had procrastinated because play writing was not my strong suit. Most of my time had gone into the art and that awful short story. Finally, I did get serious when I realized it was going to be out there for everyone to see.

I let my brothers and my mother read it. From my brothers’ reaction, you’d have thought I just fed them liver and beets. My mom’s reaction wasn’t that bad, but she had one of those looks parents give their kids when they don’t want to hurt their feelings. You know, the kind that makes them either roll their eyes so they can see their brain or causes them to think about enrolling you in vocational school.

With not much time left, I did a major rewrite. Ironically, I fell back on Creature Double Feature. In this case, I "borrowed" from Roger Corman’s famous versions of Edgar Allan Poe with Vincent Price. Still not sure about the final product, I submitted the final version without showing it to anybody.

Yeah, I was deathly afraid of that play getting ripped to shreds. I didn't even want to look at the results. Instead, I focused on my “superior” artwork and the aforementioned short story.

At the end of the competition, all us kids from Medford (including my twin brother Gary, as well as future Grammy-nominated and “Arsenio Hall Show” jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington) gathered for the posted results. 

As the competition was only in its fifth year, there was no big award ceremony. The results were printed on one of the newest dot matrix printers which, back in '82, was considered a milestone over the mimeograph machines (yes, I'm old enough to have used a mimeograph machine; one of these days, I'll tell you all about it, along with x-acto knives and Spray Mount).

I checked the Short Story category and my name was so far down on the list that I had to shoo away the ants so I could read it. The Art category was better as I was the fifth or sixth name under “honorable mention.”

Then, on a whim, I glanced at the “One-Act Play” category. My eyes went wide. I was in second place! And, better yet, I had beaten out 10 other people.

And, yet, I had to kick myself. Only gold medal winners moved on to the nationals (for Medford that year, it was Terri Lyne and some guy in sculpture). What might have happened had I put more time into what I had written? Might I have gone on to the Nationals? Now, the winner’s play was a lot better than mine, but, still, I could only wonder what might have been.

The lesson I gained (and have had to relearn from time to time) is to put in the best effort possible and submit your best work.

Sadly, The Ghost was the first and last play I have ever written. When I moved to Texas, “One-Act Play” was a major extracurricular activity in the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which governed high school extracurricular activity in Texas. Students there were far ahead of me, so I fell back on my journalism and science fiction.

I still remember my play, though. I don’t know what became of it because it was typewritten and I didn’t make a copy. But, it’s the one piece of prose I clearly remember and cherish from my childhood. Well, that and “left right rudder,” but that’s a blog for another time.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Writing on a Deadline

This week we're sharing a story about our first manuscript. Unlike many of the other authors on the team, almost everything I've written is out for consumer consumption right now. I've talked about rejection with my first MS, getting an agent, why I write, what character I most relate to... so I worry I won't be able to share anything new regarding my first full-length manuscript.

Instead, I've decided to talk about some of the challenges I've run into on my current one, The Hunt, which is due to release the end of June. A lot of writers fall into the passion of writing and I see many who tend to jump to the next project before their current one is polished and out the door for sale to readers.

After I edited my first MS several times, and not knowing any better, I did the same. I joined the NaNoWriMo frenzy in November 2009 and began the second book in my series. Lots of roadblocks came up -- I received notice that month my first full MS, Vampire Vacation, was proceeding to the next round in a national contest and had to drop out of NaNo to edit it one more time before handing it in.

That contest proved to be the single biggest thing I'd experienced so far in my new career. Sure, I'd grown a thick skin, or so I thought, from the various peers who hated my work, but that contest taught me more. While we all like to think the writing community is supportive, try going up against some seriously seasoned writers as a newbie and you'll find the claws can emerge pretty quickly.

While the experience taught me a lot, it also got me off track with my second book. My treatment for Lyme was only through the first pass of antibiotics and I had a serious relapse of symptoms late December '09 that lasted into mid-January when I finally got on some new meds. The seriousness of my illness was finally hitting me and by early February I had a picc line installed in my arm for IV antibiotics to be administered daily.

The last day I took those meds in early March will forever stand out in my mind because our nephew, Eric, came to visit us. He was fascinated by the tubes in my arm and thought the 'whole bag of medicine' idea in my fridge was cool. Eric stayed an extra day and I pushed off the first meeting with my agent to sign a contract so the family could hang out together longer.

Next, the whirlwind and excitement of having an agent set in. I had to write out a full detailed synopsis of The Hunt, polish the first five chapters on that MS to the best of my abilities, write loose story lines for books three and four, edit the first book again, submit a marketing plan -- the works! It was exciting and my agent was sure the book would sell quickly. Heck, her foreign market counter part loved it as well.

The end of April brings tragedy to our family. Eric, the twenty-one year old who just finished a tour in Iraq, dies in a motorcycle accident. Six in the evening, perfectly sober... the truck just didn't see him. I won't go into the heartbreak, I'm sure anyone who has lost a young family member can understand. It was an extremely difficult time of all of us.

The weeks trickle by and I realize I've got to get myself back on track work-wise. I'd discussed writing a character based on my nephew with him when he visited us. He was excited about being portrayed as a werewolf and indulged me rambling on about it while we drank beers together on his last visit. There was no doubt this book would be dedicated to him, but could I write the hard parts I'd planned with Eric in them?

Meeting his best friend, Pat, at the funeral got the wheels turning in my brain. I wanted to include him in the story so that a part of Pat would live on in the pages where I immortalized my nephew. Sure, the character isn't Eric, and we all know that, but I thought of him every time I worked on the story and tried my best to weave small parts of him in.

I wrote more in the summer of 2010 but the chapters were becoming harder and harder to write. The biggest challenge was the multiple points of view. Why do it that way if it was so hard? Well, I knew Vivian really well by the end of the first book, and so did the readers. I wanted them to get to know the other players in the story and see what motivated them.

Writing a third person book, which is where a reader often sees multiple POV switches, is not in me. I don't like to read them as much anymore and I find no matter how good the writing, I forever feel apart from the characters. Perfecting each first person voice in the initial seven chapters took longer than I expected. Switching the story and how it's viewed through each plot point was also challenging. The story is told in a progressive fashion, with no character in the book ever going back over the same scene again.

Breathing life into Rafe, Asa, Joanna, Drew, Paul, and Jon felt incredible. As the story evolved so did each of them. I began to see what motivated them and how it molded them as characters within the story.

Rafe is revealed to be a bit of a manipulator as well, often directing his wife's volatile actions behind the scenes. Asa is driven by a sense of honor and misses the family who thinks he's dead. Joanna turns out to be a little crazy from Vivian's occupation in the first book and Drew fleshes out to be a man healing from loss and hoping for love. Paul wants nothing more than to adjust to his new existence and it was fun to write his trials and tribulations as a new vampire. Jon turned out to be something more. His passion, loyalty and dedication to Vivian come through in every painful scene. 

Each character spoke to me, wanting to have importance within the evolving plot.

Unfortunately, as I worked more, I was pulled in different directions. Setting up the paid subscription blog, Everything Erotic, on Kindle was time consuming. Switching gears to write erotica, learning how to make covers, and producing ebooks occupied every working hour of the week. My pesky health problems reared their ugly heads again in the fall and I was sent to another specialist. This one focused only on Lyme and was I in for some surprises.

Eight months of the most intensive therapy yet followed. Thirty pills a day, eight liquids, three powders... my life quickly became one of managing my care. Every time a round of the bacteria died off I'd get a relapse of symptoms (toxins released in your system when they die). It was like an insane roller coaster ride you can't get off no matter how much you beg, cry and plead.

The erotica writing took center stage when I was able to produce words because I had deadlines on new fiction every month. Managing a growing company, dealing with writers and traversing the pitfalls of worldwide distribution took more than just the hours my kids were at school. Combine work with the weekly 3-5 hour IV infusion treatments, monthly doctor visits, new tests every two weeks and increasing medical costs and you wonder when does a body write?

I wasn't working on The Hunt, but I was writing. I managed to publish two erotica novellas and start on a short story collection (which I have to say, is much harder than I thought. I'm wordy, as this post can attest to).

The months tick by and before I know it spring is almost here. I'm not quite halfway done with The Hunt and yet I've told everyone it will come out in June. The biggest hurdle I'm facing when this realization hits is serious memory issues. I find working on the long detailed plot and extensive story arcs to be almost impossible. Every day I go back over my work, edit previous passages and re-read my outline to immerse myself in the story again.

But it doesn't stick. I'm so exhausted by the time I get to the point of writing new words I can't think. Literally, I read over stuff and can't remember writing it. It was kind of funny actually. I'd read a passage thinking "oh, this is a good part" without ever recall having typed it initially.

Thankfully, my health starts to even out by early April and I'm feeling better for the first time in years. I joke with my peers, who've only known me when I'm sick, that I'll be back to normal soon and ready to take over the world.*follow with evil laughter*

The deadline is steadily growing closer and I finally start to write on the unfinished MS. I won't lie and say the story flowed onto the pages like water and it was a dream come true. I worked my ass off trying to keep my mind focused and the story clear. I had good days and bad days. I self-edited and revised more than I wrote each day. It helped to keep the plot front and center in my mind and allowed me to slip into a character's "voice" for each point of view more easily.

In some ways, this is the hardest book I've ever written. The one year anniversary of Eric's death was only a month ago and about that time I was struggling to write the scene where he and Asa meet in the book for the first time. I'd planned it all along... but I'd planned it when Eric was still alive. Breathing life into his character now was very hard.

A reader (who liked V V very much) asked me recently, "Is The Hunt better than V V?" And to be honest, it threw me for a loop. I hadn't thought of the second book having to be better, I thought of it as a continuation of the world I'd created with characters I'd come to love. 

Is the plot intricate and twisting? No, not really. Maybe at times, sure. For the most part it's a bit of a romp, just like the first one, but with more depth to it. Does it top what I've done before? Well, that will ultimately be up to the reader to decide.

I can say this book means more to me. It's taken me longer and the journey has been difficult. Not because the story needed a ton of revising or changing and I couldn't get the pieces to "fit", that's never been my problem. But my personal journey while creating this story had such highs and lows I can't imagine ever repeating it (nor do I want to).

I hope with all my heart that in the end I'll have crafted a story readers find worthy of their time. As always, I'm grateful beyond mere words can express that they took a chance on an unknown and gave me something to focus on while recovering. Without all of you I have no idea where I'd be on the path to getting better. But I can tell you it'd be a lot more lonely of a journey.


**CONTEST TIME**

I'm running a unique pre-launch promo contest. I plan to give away ten signed and numbered copies of The Hunt (numbers 3-12, 'cause I'm giving my brother the first two). They will be mailed to winners one week prior to the book going up for sale, which is slotted right now for June 30th, 2011.



Here is how you enter:  You comment on any blog I do for the next three weeks. I will notify readers when I post on my Facebook business page, and I will Tweet about it. Each comment counts as one entry (only one entry per post, but you can comment more if you'd like). The comments must be made within the first 48 hours of the post going live, and I will post a "closing" comment when the entries for that day are closed.



All entries will be tossed into a drawing, and the participants with more entries have a higher chance of winning. BONUS!! Every entrant who comments on at least six blog posts and does not win a signed print copy will receive a free ecopy when the book goes up for sale.Let the games begin!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Question, an Answer and a Goodbye.

The Topic: If You Could Live At Any Time, Where Would It Be And Why?


You know, the first time that I read this week’s topic, I cringed. I tried to picture myself wielding a sword in the time of King Arthur; imagine what it might be like to drive a flying car; shuffle along behind the disciples during the time of Christ; lean against a dark corner in White Chapel and see whether I might be able to catch a glimpse of Jack skulking about as he preyed on unsuspecting prostitutes; or perhaps just being a grown man during the late sixties and early seventies so that I might be able to see Morrison before he died or stand beneath the shadow of the mighty Zeppelin before John Bonham's death grounded them.


I realize that this topic was meant to be a discussion of fantasy; putting ourselves in the pages of some book we had read or movie we had seen; however, my thoughts immediately focused on the now. What an amazing time to be alive?


From immediately being able to download songs on iTunes or brand new books to my Kindle; to having my iPhone automatically check for e-mails on any of my three accounts; to having the score of the Chicago Cubs games instantly make itself known to me via iPhone; we are living in incredible times. We keep in touch via Facebook and even if we do not speak frequently with one another, just seeing faces and catching updates makes us feel as if we are. We have incredible 3D films, and the ability to watch a film instantly from any one of several devices around the house.


I’m not sure that I get published during any time other than this one. Due to the internet, I was able to find Vamplit Publishing and have the company fall in love with a story and set of characters that I wrote. They’re publishing the second book as well sometime this year.


Once again, I could have listed a few times and places that would have been fantastic to think about living in, but nothing seems quite as amazing as this one. Sure we have our problems. As a world, we still argue and bicker over silly things. We spend more than we earn and we cause a lot of damage to things that we come in contact with. There’s a lot of news on the internet or in the newspaper that I try to avoid because it makes me sad. Yet, all in all, I don’t think that I would have it any other way but to be alive during this time and place.


For those of you who would rather live in another time, even for just a little while, as if in a daydream: do that. If it's good, perhaps I'll join you.


My friends, it now comes time to tell you all that this was my last post for Wicked Writers. I work eleven hours on my day job and am up at 3:00 am every day of the week. On top of that, I am focusing my attention to getting my name out there as an author. I will have the edits on book two very soon to complete and I need to begin working on book three. I also write articles for an on-line magazine in my neck of the woods and there simply isn’t time for everything.


I wish you all well. I hope that most of you know where to find me, whether Facebook, Twitter or my personal blog. I will be checking in here from time to time to see how everyone is doing. I miss my Wicked Writer buddies already just thinking about it.


And all of you as well…

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Romance and Fashion of Olden Times

I'm so glad to write about this weeks topic - on my birthday! The topic this week asks the question "If we could live in any point of history, when would it be and why?"

Those of you who have read my books will most likely know the answer to this question already. The Medieval Ages.

Okay, so before any real historians go jumping down my throat hear, yes I am well aware that the time period isn't all romantic and beautiful the way it is depicted often times. There was no electricity, no clean water, no real medical technology, etc etc. I get that. My mother is a history teacher mmkay? I know! :)

Now that that is out of the way, let's talk about the reason why I love that time period. And yes I hate to say it has to do with out how movies and books protray the period. I guess really you could say I'm more in love with the legends and stories that came from that time, rather than the time itself - if one wanted to get technical.

The legends of knights in shining armor, death before dishonor, and yes, the somewhat romanticism of the time. But where is the real romance of the time you ask? Since ya know, it didn't really happen the way it did in the movies? Well, I'm totally weird (like you didn't already know) and I find it oddly romantic that during the time women would get married to a man they hardly new and yet people made it work. (And don't tell me it was perfect all the time, because when it history is it ever?) I guess really it's more mysterious, and that's what I'm drawn to. It's not really romantic...just mysterious and it peaks my interest I guess.

And, despite the fact that I do not bother to keep up with current fashion trends and really don't care what I wear from day to day - I LOVE the fashion from the medieval ages, especially the dresses women wore. Such beautiful designs!

When I was a kid, my parents belonged to this group that, well basically they dressed up from the time period and had huge jousts and fights and fairs and all that. It was a lot of fun. My parents - and my and my sister made our own garb! I loved wearing the flowing gowns with the super long sleeves, and the ackward headdresses! It was so much fun. I wish I could wear gowns like that now without people trying to lock me up in the looney bin, but I digress.

Now to answer the real question - would I live during that time? Eh, probably not. While I may love the ideals and fashion I would hate to not have clean water! I might be able to be without electricity or my computer (gulp!) but clean water? Heck to the no!

In the end, I'm happy to live in the present. While I do love certain periods in history, I don't think I'd want to actually live during those times. I can live in them vicariously through my writing - and that works perfectly as I can return to the present whenever I'm ready!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Wrinkle in Time

This week's topic is "If you could live at any time, when would it be and why?"

I've been asked this question many, many times before, usually as an ice-breaker on the first day of class back in college, high school, grade school, etc. and it always makes me cringe.

As an urban fantasy author, I'm sure you can imagine how comfortable I am in my own generation. Come on now, I've watched music go from cassette tape to CD to MP3 to vintage vinyl records becoming cool again. *Rolls eyes*

And honestly, how many of us would still choose writing as a career if we had to do all the writing and editing by hand or with a typewriter? Oh no, I'm too attached to my computer and cell phone. Heck, I've even fallen for the e-readers, which a few years ago I never thought I would have caved, but damn I love my Kindle!

It's not that I don't like history - in fact I find it fascinating, especially ancient history and mythology and the ideology of those times. I often use the past as a springboard for my writing - "What if the Egyptian gods were really vampires?" - "What if Hitler was really possessed by a demon?" - "What if the country Lithuania was named after Lilith because she lived there once? Or found her final resting place there?" See? History is tons of fun for writers.

But what makes me cringe when someone asks "if I could live in an other time, when would it be..." is that history has never been kind to it's female population. See, my brain automatically thinks "Oh, JD, they'd call you a witch and burn you the stake, dearest..."

Not sure why my mind always goes there, but it does.

Anyway, I'll be a good sport and pretend this was a life-or-death question. In which case, I would choose to live in the Victorian Era and hope to be fortunate enough to marry a rich man.


Why the Victorian Era? Simply because I'm a girl and I love the fashion of the time period. The lace, the hats, the shoes that look like little boots. The way a gentleman was expected to court and chaperon a lady for some time before asking her father for permission to marry her -  I often think it would be nice to still have those ideals.  OH, and the underwear! Gotta love the corset!  Even the lace gloves and carrying around a parasol while eating tiny cakes...

But at the end of the day, I think I'll stay right here in 2011, looking forward to flying cars, teleporters, and the end of the world...er...Mayan calendar, while snuggling up with my e-reader. :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

My First Acceptance Letter!

Okay, I can recall the first acceptance letter which was actually an email.
It was concerning a story I had written for inclusion in a sci-fi anthology.
I remember hesitating before opening it up. Steeling myself up for the BIG, FAT LET-DOWN I did finally open it.

The gist was something like: your story seems suitable for inclusion...

okay?! I read it as:

Dear Soon-To-Be Famous Writer,

Thank you! THANK YOU SO MUCH! We are thrilled, delighted and ecstatic to publish your absolutely brilliant, evocative, cutting-edge science fiction story you submitted to us.

Never in the history of publishing have we received such a well-written, highly original brilliant little story.

If it is alright with you we are going to contact the leading graphic designers to illustrate your gem. Naturally we will be submitting their work to you first. Of course we will.

One more thing, the publisher, has instructed me to offer you a six figure advance for any novel you decide to submit to us. Having seen your story, we can safely assume your novel will be absolutely brilliant.

The other 10 stories in the anthology are like baby poo poo next to yours! Words fail, truly.

Just accept our sincere thanks for deeming us worthy of publishing your story.
Again, many thanks...
I felt as if they wrote that. I felt as if I could conquor the world with my fiction!

Remember that scene where Boris the computer hacker cries out in Golden Eye:
'I AM INVINCIBLE?'

I felt I was!

You know what? I'm glad because i have the rest of my writing life to come back down to earth, because writing's damned difficult so a little day dreaming and happy fantasy can't be a bad thing!

Life's tough, getting published isn't easy. So when the first affirmative letter comes through, GO A LITTLE NUTS! ENJOY YOURSELF!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

REEEEEE-JECTED!!!!!

That’s the word you’d often hear Marv Albert say whenever a foolish point guard went into the post with a floater against Shawn Bradley, Yao Ming, Ben Wallace or Mark Eaton.

Unlike those point guards who can wipe the egg off their face and then drain a game-winning three-pointer, writers don’t get to shake off rejection that fast. However, they can use it as motivation. Stephen King once pounded a nail into the wall by his desk and hung his rejection slips up on it. Now, he just pounds nails into any editor foolish enough to reject his writing.

As for me, it has been so long since I started writing that I really don’t remember my first rejection letter. Back in 1977, I was just 10 years old and writing what I thought would be better stories for the el cheapo sci-fi films I watched on Saturday morning.

So, pardon me if I choose a particularly painful rejection from my professional life. You see, I was lucky in that I had an in-born talent to write. I joined the staff of the Medford Mustang, the school newspaper for Medford (Mass.) High School in 1981. I also had a small news column in the Medford Daily Mercury, the city newspaper. Each article I wrote was so on the money that I rarely had any corrections.

Medford, Mass., my hometown and hometown of Fanny Farmer, Maria Menounos, Julianne Nicholson, Michael Bloomberg, Terri Lyne Carrington, Thayer David, "Jingle Bells" and Elizabeth Short (aka "The Black Dahlia")
That trend continued with the Palantir at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, and for my column with the Mid-Cities Daily News. If there were any corrections, they were done by the editors of the Daily News or Daily Mercury. In college at Prairie View A&M University, I was learning my craft to become a professional and still was good enough to get my stuff into the paper with only minor changes (though, in hindsight, that piece where I inadvertently insulted the entire Army ROTC should have been edited a lot more).

After my time in the Navy, I worked for JDTV Inc., a magazine publishing company. Ironically, though it published magazines, it got its editorial content from contracted writers. I was the only writer on staff and my bosses had no editorial savvy. I literally had a free run, though I never abused that privilege. But, I got to interview the likes of Arnold Palmer, Larry Holmes and Martina Navratilova.

And then, after JDTV was bought out by Tribune Media and the office was closed, I went to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I started out doing agate (box scores) and, every now and then, round-ups (short pieces of a paragraph or two) of high school sports.

Finally, I got my chance to write a real news story and get it published. A chance for a byline in a nationally-recognized newspaper. It was the goal of my journalistic being. So, I covered a high school basketball game involving Fort Worth Dunbar and Fort Worth Southwest. Proudly, I turned it in.

That sucker came back with so much red on it, I thought someone had bled out on the damned thing.

I was crushed. I didn’t show it because you don’t cry in the sports department unless you’re a Chicago Cubs writer. But, man, I was hurt.

I felt like I got kicked in thenuts. Here I was, a man who had been writing for high school newspapers, a college paper and three small-market dailies in Medford, Euless and College Station (Bryan-College Station Eagle). I knew how to write. It was true that I had spent four years away from the craft in the Navy fighting Saddam Hussein and too many typhoons to remember, but I didn’t think I’d lost my talent.

What saved me that day was that my story was needed for that very day. I had a deadline to meet and I had to supervise the clerks compiling the sports scores. So, I buckled down, listened to the comments and suggestions of my editors and banged out a story that needed only three minor corrections.

I put my pride aside and studied how other sports and news stories had been written. I then began to pattern my stuff on them, while keeping my own recognizable style. I worked on my typing, too, improving from 50 words per minute to my current speed of 70.

It helped. I was laid off from the Star-Telegram in 2004 as the news industry slowly continued its die-off. I worked as a training instructor for Dangerous Goods for American Airlines for four years before being laid off again. Then, I signed on with Examiner.com.

I can proudly say that I have kept my professionalism despite being in a sea of bloggers and writers, many of whom don’t seem to have a clue. Fortunately, my fellow sports writers do, so we keep each other honest.

And with that, I pose the same question to our faithful readers – how did you react to your first official rejection notice?

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Womance Witing"

Recently, I went to Vegas and met up with two writer friends. We had a blast (but that's a whole 'nother story). At one point, one of the writers revealed she can read tarot cards and offered us a reading.


It was terrific and created a nice bonding moment for us all. Reading the cards is often subjective and I felt our friend did a fabulous job. The moment opened up to us talking about the industry, trying to stay the course, and our rejections. I even dug through my old email for my first rejection letter so they could share in my very first smack down from an agent.


They laughed their asses off and then sat in shock. Even at the time I received it, I didn't take it seriously. I laughed. Looking back, it is kind of odd a professional used made up words when giving any writer a rejection. My friends encouraged me to share the entire letter with other writers, not just snippets as I have before, to inspire them not to give up and to never lose faith in what you've written.


Before you read it, let me point some things out. First, My work was edited and the chapter she received had been re-written like ten to fifteen times.  It was the same chapter I had entered and finaled in contests with and the one which gained me over 600 followers on Facebook. With very few tweaks, it is the same work that earned me "fan favorite" and second place in the huge Dorchester contest in January '10, first place in another, and landed me an agent in March '10.


Second, the agent answered my email query in thirty minutes from when I sent it out. I was giddy with excitement but also slightly sick to my stomach. To be honest, the full MS wasn't ready yet. I had bargained on a response time of three to six weeks.


So, without further ado, here is my very first rejection letter, which helped me qualify for PRO status at my first RWA national writing convention, a mere four and half months after typing "Chapter One":




Hi C.J.:
I think you hit part of your target, but didn't land in the best place.
"If it's not your cup of tea, then I completely understand.  Having read a lot in the urban fantasy, paranormal, and erotic genres, I can assure you it is not erotica, but very erotic at times."
OK, it is very much not my cup of tea, but not for the erotica element--what you describe as the erotic element could be OK.
This plot/setting/character of innkeeper is not a bad idea but I can't get with the narrative.
A present tense narrative entices the author to fill the prose with ignorable, non-memorable details and you fell into the trap.  This combined with the narrator's voice which talks as much about how she receives sensory information and thinks, as what she sees and thinks, places the emphasis in the wrong layer of experience. I suggest you study (not just read) some Raymond Chandler to see what he leaves out and what you've put into this draft. Ex: "I mentally counted the guests..." It is much easier to read:  "I knew we had ten guests..."
Real people's interior monologs don't reach so hard for lush, romance-novel-expressions to describe what they are seeing and hearing and saying. So the narrator doesn't sound like an innkeeper or a vampire, but a script that has been shoved through a Romance Novel Thesaurus machine.
My free editorial advice is to revise by removing any word, phrase, or stock expression that even smells like Womance Witing and you might have a nifty Vampire Mystery. Then remove any prose that describes the character operating like a hydraulic system or computer.
Finally, the fact that the vamperoine has a warm (ha) relationship with her husband should provide the romantic element without carving each paragraph from Romantistone.
You might check out XXX by XXX as an example of an Urban Vampire series that worked for us. If you like XXX, you'd likely like this one too.
Other agents may feel differently.
Here are some links to help you survey agents and avoid scam agents and subsidy publishers.
http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html#004641
http://www.sfwa.org/beware/
http://www.aar-online.org/mc/page.do
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/
and you can follow our blog at: XXX



And there you have it. My first rejection letter. I was grateful she took the time to write back and share her thoughts with me. As I later learned, it's rare to get anything other than a stock rejection form letter. 

It was good that I had enough confidence to shake her email off. I can see how writers can easily be crushed by a stranger telling them to get a book and learn the craft, or "here, read what I think is clearly a better writer than you", or being told their prose is carved from "Romantistone."

What do you think? Would you have been humored when this showed up in your inbox? Or cracking open the seal on that bottle of whiskey and starting before lunch?



**CONTEST TIME**

I'm running a unique pre-launch promo contest. I plan to give away ten signed and numbered copies of 
The Hunt (numbers 3-12, 'cause I'm giving my brother the first two). They will be mailed to winners one week prior to the book going up for sale, which is slotted right now for June 30th, 2011.

Here is how you enter: 
You comment on any blog I do for the next six weeks. I will notify readers when I post on my Facebook business page, and I will Tweet about it. Each comment counts as one entry (only one entry per post, but you can comment more if you'd like). The comments must be made within the first 48 hours of the post going live, and I will post a "closing" comment when the entries for that day are closed.

All entries will be tossed into a drawing, and the participants with more entries have a higher chance of winning.
BONUS!! Every entrant who comments on at least six blog posts and does not win a signed print copy will receive a free ecopy when the book goes up for sale.


Let the games begin!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

What You Read May Not Be What You Write


The old adage was: you are what you eat. It was what immediately jumped to mind upon reading what this week's topic was. I was pleased when I read this week's topic because I really do not fit so nicely into any boxes. I suppose it is true for many of us that we are multifaceted and not easily pinned down, but it is especially true for me.

You see, I am supposedly one of two horror writers on these hallowed pages. In the sweeping generalization which springs to mind, you might picture some of the following: a man dressed in black, a person who rarely smiles or laughs, one who listens to haunting or heavy metal music, one who watches every horror film that he can snatch up, perhaps one who likes old and scary-looking churches, but never attends one, etc. Now, I certainly mean no disrespect to anyone. I'm not saying that horror readers or writers are not sweet and gentle people, but there's a picture that often jumps into people's heads when they consider that someone writes horror.

Although I do listen to heavy metal music, it ranges more from 80’s hair rock to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. However, I also listen to easy listening, although I will not spell out here just who that might be. ;) I love romantic comedies and like to sit and watch the neighborhood finches in my back yard that we’re feeding. I also love to laugh and make others laugh as well.

No so terrifying, am I?

My bookshelves are lined with Stephen King, Clive Barker and Michael Slade, but Pat Conroy is near and dear to my heart. Beach Music is my all-time favorite. Not only this, but some of the books that I have found the time to read in the past year have been nothing like horror at all: Anne Kleinberg’s Menopause in Manhattan (women of a certain age), Michelle Stinson Ross’s Revenge of the Siren Song (pirates) and Talli Roland’s The Hating Game (romance/drama). I read these because they were pals of mine and I loved all three.

I do have a second book in my vampire series coming out this year as well as third which I will begin writing at some point, but I also have other horror in me. I would love to do the definitive haunted house story as well as some other real dark stuff. Yet, I want to write a tear-jerker drama piece about heaven and a romance about a married couple.


Once again, I mean no disrespect to anyone, but just like most of you, I cannot be pinned down and placed in any neat little boxes. How boring would that be?

What do you say about this subject, my Wicked Reader and Writer friends? I’d love to hear it.

The above photo shows the author attempting to look menacing and cool. The last one shows me as I am.

(Editor's Note:) Whatever happened with Blogger this week caused this post which I had completed Wednesday night to be deleted. I attempted to post from my iPhone while at work, only to find that I had to rewrite the entire thing. I apologize for the delay...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reading What I Write - Sort Of

This weeks topic asks us what we read vs what we write. I write High Fantasy and, I've admitted this before, I don't read much High Fantasy.

It's not that I'm afraid I'll 'copy' an idea or anything like that. It's the point that quite frankly, I hate the way the majority of High Fantasy novels are written. I know that sounds terrible as a High Fantasy writer myself, but it's true.

I do love to watch fantasy movies however, as it takes away the flowery language to describe the new world - it's just there in picture. This might also be due to the fact that I'm naturally a character driven writer. I want to know about the characters, how they act, their quirks, etc not read paragraphs of flowery adjectives about their house.

I absolutely love to read mysteries! Mary Higgins Clark is my favorite mystery/suspense writer and I own many of her books. I read her books over and over again because the tension is so great that even when I'm reading it for the 10th or 20th time, I still feel my breath caught in my throat in anticipation for what happens next. I don't think I could ever write one though - or anything contemporary for that matter. It's just not in me to write about the world I already live in I guess.

My novels do have a hint of mystery and suspense in them though. I love writing about the many twists and turns of solving some mystery - especially in my series The Kinir Elite Chroicles. The elves are elite warriors and it's their job to bring down the bad guy - much like a cop would! So the mystery element is definitely there.

I also enjoy reading romance novel - but not straight romance. It needs to have another main plot going for me to enjoy it. The romance is the side plot not the main point of the story. I eat those stories up. And as far as my writing is concerned, I always have a romance element in it as well.

Frankly, when it comes to what I like to read - I'll read almost anything. Horror is a definite no in my book and with fantasy it all depends on the voice and style of the writer. Sorry to any horror writers out there but I just can't do it LOL. One of two things happens when it comes to reading (or watching) horror 1 - it's so cheesy I feel like I wasted my money or 2 - it's so scary I can't sleep for a month. Which I know is the point of horror, I just prefer to NOT lose sleep thank you. :P

Since I feel like I've rambled through this post, let's recap. I write High Fantasy but don't read too much of it. My stories also have a hint of mystery and romance. I don't read horror, ever, and I'll read most anything else but my favorite is mystery novels. :) I want to write Sci-Fi some day, and I do read a lot of that.

What about you? What do you like read? Writers, do you read the same as you write? Why or why not?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reading, Writing, and Publishing Announcement

Did everyone have a good mother's day? I hope so. I'm not a momma, but I did receive some very good news Sunday morning.... My urban fantasy novel, Dark Heirloom, is officially under contract with Muse It Up Publishing Inc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *does a little victory dance*

I'm so ecstatic! For those of you who don't know, Dark Heirloom is like THE novel, the one I've been trying to get published for the past year or so. And it's finally happening! YAY!  :-)

Okay, now that it's out of system (not really), I'll lead into today's topic. What do I read vs. what I write? Truth is, I read what I write and I write what I read.

My two top favorite genres are Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, which are exactly the genres I write. Dark Fantasy comes in a close third on my reading list just because the basic elements are similar, but I have no plans to write Dark Fantasy so far. As some of you know, I also write Erotic Romance, which I have just recently become a fan of. I know I enjoy writing Erotic Romance much more than reading it. Erotica is such a selective genre. We all have a different comfort level when it comes to sex so there really is no concrete line between erotic and pornographic which is why I have trouble finding erotic romance that I enjoy reading other than my own stories.

I'll occasionally read Steampunk - though I'm more a fan of Victorian women's fashion than anything - Sci-Fi, Horror, and Gothic. I also like a lot of the new fairy tale spin-offs.

The thing that sometimes baffles me most is that over half the books I read and own are Young Adult. I do have plans to write YA novels in the future, but I admit I'm shocked I didn't start with YA right off the bat. Instead, I started with heroines that are my age - in their 20's. Understandable, I think. It's just easier to write about people your age.

What about you? Writers, is there a genre you love to read, but don't particularly care to write? Or a genre you write, but don't like to read?