Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mini-Musing 3/18/2015 ~ Can You Really Go Home Again?

I've mentioned previously that I haven't written as of late.  I just haven't felt like it, waiting for word from Tinderbox. I know that's the absolute worst thing to do -- not continuing to write that is. Have you ever had so much faith in a work that you don't want to stick it into that awful box and start something new?  That's how I'm feeling right now.

As some of you may know, I graduated from college!  The first person in my family.  My Big Brother is so proud!  Well then so am I!  I was so antsy about not passing the last class that the stress levels were very high.  And now I received the email today that my degree is on the way! Boo-Yah!! So that's one less thing stressing me out.

I still haven't heard about the promotion yet, although I did get the your application is still under consideration email.  I was calm about it, now I'm climbing the walls again.  Time for some deliciously fortified wine.

OK, so one stress inducer is gone, as for the second, there isn't much I can do about it.  And the third...

Well, I've mentioned the writing defeat I had which was about a decade and a half ago. I'd written a young adult book, the wrong publisher got their hands on it and everything went to hell in a hand basket.  I got both good and bad reviews and a write-up in a major magazine, receiving a five star review when another more famous writer received a two-star for their first YA. But I simply haven't been able to write like I used to since.  Well I'm thinking it's way past time that I stopped letting that incident control my muse but on the other's hard to kick those feelings to the curb.

While I await word on Tinderbox I've wondered, should I have a go at that YA again?  I've been doing research into what YA's read.  It all seems to be dystopian and futuristic, which quite frankly I think is being played out (no offense intended) and that's not what I want to write.  I noticed quite a few that followed the path of The Hunger Games and Divergent -- places where the world is divided into four or more sections and someone is trying to change the balance of power -- usually a young girl.

Mine is a good old fashioned YA heroic fantasy along the lines of the works of Tamora Pierce (whom I incidentally must start reading again, it's been too long!) and authors with a similar style.  I've seen a few books like it but not many.

I would have to do extensive rewrites and major changes even right down to the character names. And I'm still a bit antsy about doing that.  Also that science-fiction idea keeps trying to force its way out of my brain and onto my keyboard.

I'm not going to go back to school for my Bachelors until this fall so I have a good six months to myself.

But as the title suggests -- can I really go back?  Can I really make the tale into something exciting? I've got eleven years of additional practice and experience since then.  I'd like to think I've improved. Hell, I KNOW I've improved by leaps and bounds if you'll pardon the cliche.  Whenever I think of it there's that annoying nagging doubt.

So I'm not sure what I want to do right now,  Any thoughts?



Friday, February 20, 2015

MUSINGS ~ 2/20/15 - Writing The Way I See It: Changes in the Industry

OK, here's what I've been doing as of late...

I haven't been writing.

My brother is down with a little bug so I'm having him relax and I went out at his request and bought him some soup and Gatorade.  He's now resting quite comfortably and has been marathoning Daria and Mother-UP.

Meanwhile I went out and had a somewhat smallish Me Day.  I avoided the bookstore and decided to put a serious hurt on my store card.  Hey, I think I earned it.

At the 9 to 5, I continue with my relentless schmoozing in order to obtain a newly available assistant manager position.  This will of course mean a bigger mini-office, higher pay and business cards! Woo Hoo!  Ok -- well, I'm going to make a PowerPoint presentation this weekend to present to the powers that be.

And it looks like I'm going to swing a C in my last Algebra class so it appears I will finally earn my degree by the end of March.  And now I'm thinking of going for my Bachelors...yes, I'm insane.  But at least there will be no more Algebra. 

Right now I have a three day weekend to enjoy.  And a brand new XBOX One! Anyone else have a Gold Membership?  I've used my old name Bellatrix Thorn and am currently working on a very interesting artistic RPG called Child of Light.

Oh yes, and I'm still not writing.

I have been asking questions though.  Like on Twitter today, I posted these...

I'm confused. Why would a lit agent request a full & then never respond to the author again? It's very discouraging. #literaryagent #MSWL

Especially if your site says, we respond to everything & I've seen responses to authors who submitted queries after me. #literaryagent #MSWL

An email with a, no thanks, would suffice. I know you're busy but you asked for my full for a reason didn't you? #literaryagent #MSWL

I think they're fair and not meant to bad-mouth anyone.  I just want to know why.  This business is hard enough.  And of course, so far I've received no response except from a fellow author.  In my last post I revealed that I had a few full and partial requests out and waiting for a response.  It's been months -- no for one, it's been a year and a month and the other, its been six months.  The yearlong one received two nudges, the six month one got a nudge after four -- and that was three months ago. I also saw on Query Tracker, the agent in question received a query from someone in October, requested a full in December and offered representation a week later.  A full two months after my full request.

So I'm assuming his answer was no?  Neither agent has a no response, means no policy, and I can find little to no information about what's going on with either one of them.  Then there are the thirty or so queries which never received a response (and of them only about four had the no response means no policy) although I've again seen the same agents answering the queries of others.  Maybe they got caught in their SPAM folders?  Maybe, but forty?  And others have received my letters.

I was going to name names, but I decided not to after all.  Who needs that aggravation?  Then again, if someone really wants to know...   

I just want to know what's going on.

Some may see I've been back and forth a bit lately about my writing.  I made a comment on FaceBook about how I made a promise to myself, that I would retire from the business at the end of the year if I didn't get published.  That I was just tired.  And of course, the first response I got was someone saying that maybe instead of making resolutions, I should try and work on my craft.  If you're planning to do that, I ask that you don't.  Or if you must, try reading my last two blog posts which explains a lot about how I'm feelings and my experience.

However, if you'd like to share your own experiences in my comments, feel free.  Whether you got THE CALL or not.

Meanwhile I'm trying to decide if maybe I shouldn't wait until the end of the year.  A couple of things happened making me want to. The issues were resolved but still I can't seem to get my groove back.  I've been trying to keep myself up and be positive but the more time passes, the more I just don't want to anymore. 

And why don't I make up my mind then?  Because I LOVE WRITING!  I love it with a passion and don't even want to think of quitting.  That's why I hang on, but hanging on has become a lot of work lately and I'm getting a little too old for this.  But then I have all these ideas that have been screaming to get out for years.  For people to see them, read and enjoy them.  I know people will LOVE my work as much as I do.  Hell, I've been published via online, so I know I must be doing something right or at least I thought I was.  Getting those full and partial requests told me that I had finally reached that point that all writers strive for.  You're a true professional.  You've written the perfect query, synopsis and most important of all, THE BOOK!  Now without getting any type of a response, how can I be sure anymore?

So I really don't know what I'm going to do but I wish I did.

Well I do know what I can't do, and that's self-publish.  I've been researching for months now and I simply can't afford it.  That and the fact that I simply don't want to chance it.  I can't spend thousands of dollars on the risk that I won't even make a quarter of that back.  I have to give props to the writers who have successfully self-published and have made back what they put in and then some.

And of course, there is this:

By Shana Ting Lipton 
February 13, 2015
Vanity Fair

I'm not saying it's a bad article, it's very well written.  And I’d like to see what Ms. Lipton thinks of my post.  But I mean have you read the article?  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Done?  OK.  As you saw, it basically states that literary agents are now searching the web for the next Fifty Shades or A Pound of Flesh by reading more fan-fiction.  Also by going on Watt Pad among other places to continue their search.

*Hey wait a sec, I'm on Watt Pad?  When the hell did I sign up for that? Why did I sign up for it?!

The article begins of course by citing Fifty Shades and its phenomenal success.  

*Oh, BTW, here's the score for the Fifty Shades movie on my favorite review site, Rotten Tomatoes
Part of me feels vindicated, yet part of me is thinking...well all respect for erotic works just got flushed down the toilet...

The article goes on to state that literary agent Lorella Belli, : "...snagged a six-figure advance from Simon & Schuster for her author Sophie Jackson’s forthcoming trilogy, A Pound of Flesh, which also started out as Twilight fanfic."

I mentioned this of course in a previous post.   The article continues by Belli saying her fan-fiction authors have solicited her directly. And that "...submissions she receives from fan-fiction authors are often higher in quality than the average submission."

This must be something new since every agent I've dealt with have said that if a writer so much as suggests that they would like to send redone fan-fiction there will be some serious hell to pay.

*Hold up…does that mean that my works are not as good as fan fiction?!

“It’s almost like having thousands of editors at one time,” said first-time novelist Anna Todd who credits fan fiction and its open-forum style with helping develop her writing chops.”

Wow.  OK, that's great for her and all, but, you know there was a time when there was no WattPad, Amazon Kindle Worlds, or  Hell there was no internet!  Yes, I'm repeating myself.  So I had to develop my writing chops by actually writing original works or as original as they could possibly be.  And keep writing them with no one to judge them but me and of course my English teacher.  No millions of discerning readers to tell me what was right and wrong.  Just writing, researching and studying.  That's how I developed my chops.  I wonder what she would have done back then?  But then again it simply doesn't seem to matter anymore.

Keep reading.  I'm naming names now.

"Jennifer Udden, a literary agent at Donald Maass in New York concurred, adding: “[The film studios] don’t care about the stories; they just care about numbers, for better or worse.” As an avid fan-fic reader, Udden is less focused on fanfic page views, and more interested in connecting with authors who can develop compelling characters and a good story structure, to see if they have any original work that doesn’t involve copyrighted characters."

Um...I did that.  I mean made an original story with everything you asked for and you -- well more accurately your agency, turned me down.  And shouldn’t you as a literary agent care about the stories?  Why would you want to deal with someone who didn’t?  I always thought literary agents had to fall in love with the story or at least that’s what they always say on their sites, blogs and in interviews.  So that doesn’t count anymore?

"Caitlin McDonald, an associate literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic in New York and vocal champion of fan fiction, admitted, “Fanfic is always treading that fine line,” between fiction-inspired original writing and copyright-infringing work."

Um...Ms. don't have to worry about my work infringing on anyone's copyright -- hell not even Hans Christian Andersen!  Unfortunately, she's already said no too.

"Turning a work of fan fiction into a publishable book can be as simple as “filing off the serial numbers"

Um...isn't that plagiarism?  And again, you don't have to worry about that with me.

"Belli feels the snobbery and criticism leveled against Fifty Shades of Grey and fanfic-based books like it is “small-minded”: “Fifty Shades of Grey has put loads of cash into publishers’ pockets around the world, who can buy more books, and has opened up the market in an incredible way,” she says."

OK, silly me, I'm just a snob.  I’m being completely dishonest when I say the changes in the literary world are somewhat disturbing to me.  How so many years and such hard work are being reduced to basically nothing.  How the literary gatekeepers insisted all these years on creating your own works, on making that perfect query and synopsis and yet now they say, we’ll take re-done fan-fiction or ask for a full on a 140 word pitch.

Maybe I’m too old fashioned.  Maybe I should just go with the flow.  I said on my last post, maybe I’ll just give in and write some Hunger Games fan-fiction, change a few names, times and places and start sending it out.  And all of my works?  The ones that I can say are truly mine?  Put them in the closet I guess.

*And again, isn’t this annoying Stephenie Meyer just a little?  Having all these people make money off her work?

Or I could just retire like I planned.

I don’t want to take someone else’s story and try to call it my own.  I’ve done fan-fiction but for me it’s always been a separate entity and mainly for fun.  Nor do I want to struggle to shove an entire 95,000 word manuscript into 140 words.  It took me years to get what I thought was the perfect query and synopsis.  And most recently, I got a Publisher's Marketplace Page.

I want my work to be my own or at the very least something that I thought of, maybe inspired by another story like Tinderbox, but not coming from a ready-made package.
If the literary gatekeepers no longer want to do it the old fashioned way, then it is time for me to ride off into the sunset.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Musings 1/1/15 ~ It’s 2015. So now what? Or Writing the Way I See It Part II.

Happy New Year, all!  OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the end of 2014 and what’s may or may not happen in 2015.

So I made a promise to myself – not a resolution!  I promised myself that I would officially retire from the business if I didn’t get traditionally published this year.  Hey, I’m old.  I have to think at one point well, this is obviously not going to happen after a certain time.  I just chose this time to be now – well December 31st at any rate.

I’ve been keeping this to myself until I was sure of everything but now, I think I’ll just let everyone know what is going on with my quest to go the traditional route.

But first, something else that’s kind of bothering me.  Or more accurately – I’m so confused.  Has anyone seen this article on Publisher’s Weekly by Jennifer McCartney concerning Sophie Jackson and her work, A Pound of Flesh?  The link leads to the article itself.

Yes, my fellow authors it’s happened again!  Someone wrote fan-fiction based on Twilight and Simon and ( “Hey, we know a money maker when we see it!” )  Shuster grabbed it up.

Here another link to an article in case you wish to see more:
Twilight-based fan fiction promised the same literary success as 50 Shades of Grey

OK, am I the only one who wants to write a forty chapter fan-fiction and make not just money – but a sh**load of money?  All right, no, I’m not in it for the money – well I want to get paid, but I truly love writing.  I have mentioned before that I’ve been writing since I was five (take that Paolini) and started on the road to publication when I was fourteen, when a friend stopped me in the cafeteria line and pressed a newspaper clipping into my palm.  
Unfortunately it was from one of our favorite scam publishers (neither of us knew that of course) and that was enough for me.  For a few years I’d been writing short-stories for my friends and teachers with them as the main characters.  They loved them and my English teacher and her university professor husband became my mentors.  It was very encouraging to have someone tell me, I think you’re good enough to be published.  I wrote my first book in three months. 

Of course it never a steady thing for me.  Life often and very brutally got in the way but when I could I wrote.  I was bound and determined to see my work in print.  Now mind you this is before e-books, Kindle and smart phones.  Hell this was before the internet (Yes, I’ve said it before, I’m old) so if you wanted to see publication you wrote snail-mail letters to publishers to obtain their guidelines, including an SASE of course.  Writer’s Digest and The Writer were around but I didn’t realize they existed until I was in my late twenties.

“Try this for a deep, dark secret: the great detective, Remington Steele? He doesn't exist. I invented him. Follow. I always loved excitement, so I studied, and apprenticed, and put my name on an office. But absolutely nobody knocked down my door. A female private investigator seemed so... feminine.” ~ Laura Holt: Remington Steele

So I started my journey on the path to publication and it was damn hard.  Of course we all had that time that I thought it wouldn’t be.  That you just write the book send it out and viola!  You’re published and they’re making a movie about your book with a Behind the Scenes feature on the VHS (Yes, I’m old) and rubbing elbows with Hollywood.

It was difficult to send full novels out because it costs a lot of money, not to mention there were no home computers back then and novels had to be typed long hand and then copied unless you wanted to send your original and pay for its return,  You couldn’t just print multiple copies like you can now and even that’s expensive.  The copy of Tinderbox I sent to DAW cost me a total of $120.00 to print and send.  That included ink, paper and postage.

So I continued to learn and read.  Did I say I read?  I devoured books with a passion.  My idea of a fun adventure would involve being locked overnight in a bookstore or a library.  I’ve read tens of thousands of books in my lifetime.  Yes you heard right. I’ve said I’ve got almost four hundred books on my bookshelves now and am planning on buying more.  Books and bookshelves that is.
Still I worked to perfect my craft.  To realize that everything I wrote wasn’t brilliant to start with and immediately worthy of publication.  That I had to work at it and learn to edit the hell out of my writing but not edit it too much that I lost the overall story.  Yes you can over edit.  Back then it seemed as though all agents wanted money although I was assured by the owner of one of the bookstores that I frequented that there were some who didn’t do so.  I didn’t believe him.  Those were discouraging times.

Then the net came along and a new world opened up.  I didn’t have to write snail mail letters anymore or print out a whole manuscript.  It was just getting agents to want to look at my work.  So I continued to write, study and research.  I joined critique groups took some courses all of which helped me improve.  More agents were appearing with more genre wants and they didn’t charge fees!  When I was better equipped financially, I started joining various writing organizations to learn even more.

“I've done everything the Bible says! Even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! What more can I do?”

~ Ned Flanders: The Simpsons

I read articles, blogs, websites.  Found a list of the agents I wanted and researched them, followed them on social media.  Asked them questions when I wasn’t sure about something.  Some answered, some didn’t.  I learned to write query letters and synopsis.

I had my writing defeat and quit then but the urge to write wouldn’t go away.  I managed to make it about two years before I started Tinderbox.  My brain refused to stop thinking like a writer.  It took me five years and three crashed computers to finish it.  I feel it is my best work to date.  And I have proof of this.

About eleven months ago, an agent made a request for a full of Tinderbox. Unfortunately after sending it and nudging twice, I haven’t heard anything since.  There is no indication on their site of a “no response means no” policy when it comes to submission, so I wrote it off as a no response.  I then received two more requests for fulls.  One was a pass and the other is still out.  I also have two partial requests I’m waiting on.  So obviously I’m to the point where I am talented enough to catch the interest of agents.  And of course there are my e-books so publishers as well.

But it’s been a long and hard fight for me, and I’m getting a little tired, so I decided this was going to be the year it happened and if it didn’t, then I was going to officially retire from the business.  I know I’m great at what I do but I haven’t been able to figure out what it is I’m missing.  But still I tried.

Then I see a case of fan-fiction writer makes it big.  First EL James and now Sophie Jackson.  Now me, I love fan-fiction and yes I wrote some back in the day, more for pleasure and the love of the subject than anything. But I had already written several novels and short-stories of my own already and long before I even knew what fan-fiction was.  I’ve always thought if it’s not yours then it’s not worth it. 

“Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else’s world is the lazy way out.”  ~ George RR Martin

Now don’t get me wrong, if I get to a point where readers want to write fan-fiction about my characters, then I say, go forth and enjoy!  Hell, I’d be as flattered as all get-out.  Just as long as you don’t try to make money off of my work.  To me it’s disrespectful and let’s face it, it is plagiarism.  As hard as I have worked to create what’s mine, I feel no one should take it away.  I’m sure if the shoe was on the other foot – if you’ll pardon the cliché they would feel exactly the same.

“As for anybody publishing any story “derived from” my stuff, I am absolutely opposed to it & have never given anyone permission to do so. It is lovely to “share worlds” if your imagination works that way, but mine doesn’t; to me, it’s not sharing but an invasion, literally — strangers coming in and taking over the country I live in, my heartland.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Stephanie Meyers isn’t making a big fuss but she also doesn’t seem to be 100% behind EL James either.  She seems to have adopted a “Good for her, but I won’t read it.” type attitude.  But it just makes me wonder, does she care about her words?  Maybe she didn’t have to work as hard, I really don’t know.  She did say in an article that she also feels people should write their own words so maybe she does.  But me, as I’ve written I did work hard and still am.

And I guess my point, after this long missive, is that when I see things like this happen – fan-fiction into millions of dollars, I wonder, why am I doing all of this work?  Why have I studied and researched and worked to improve my craft like I’ve been told so often by agents, publishers, editors and other writers?  What’s the point of writing the perfect query letter, the perfect synopsis and choosing carefully who you submit too when someone else comes along, writes something that isn’t even theirs and bam!  They’re a damn millionaire.  Agents, editors and publishers are always writing and speaking about how writers need to follow instructions to a tee, how they want query letters to be a certain way, how they want our writing to be and how we should submit to them. 

So I do this.  I’ve done this for decades and when I see stories like Fifty Shades and A Pound of Flesh and publishers and agents are snapping it up, it’s like being punched in the stomach.  I know it’s not a common occurrence – well I suppose it is now.  But it only hurts authors who are truly working hard to become a part of the business.  Well actually, I’m more confused than anything.  Why do you tell me to do all of these things then you grab someone’s bad fan-fiction, or ask for a full on the basis of a 140 word pitch on Twitter, when it took me a query letter, synopsis, partial and finally the full?

I’ve always prided myself on being able to write my own works.  With Tinderbox although it takes a page from Andersen’s story, it’s not a complete re-write of his words from a fan-fiction I might have wrote.  I’m very proud of that fact, not to mention this isn’t the only novel I’ve written over the years.  Go and look at one of my e-books or novellas.  There’s nothing like them on or any fan fiction site for that matter.

So that’s about it.  One more year at this. 

Then again, I wonder if someone would accept some re-written Hunger Games or Divergent fan-fiction?

Peace ~