Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hiho the Derrio a Querying I Will Go!

           Well, my friends, it is done.  My book, that is.  After ten months, I’ve finally arrived at the point where I can say that, where I feel I have nothing left to say, that is until someone in authority—an agent or editor perhaps—informs me otherwise.  Honestly, I could probably keep writing, editing, revising and adding until the day I die, but there has to be some point at which I tell myself, “That’s enough, honey,” and I think I’ve finally found that point.  I am satisfied, but I’m not happy about it.
I feel a great loss in my life right now.  I’ve spent nearly every minute of every day, twelve to eighteen hours a day, for the last ten months working on this story.  I have carved out lives for my characters and become intimately involved with them, and I mean intimately.  I have taken every step of their terrifying journey and experienced every emotional and physical blow they have.  I have wept at their losses and rejoiced at their victories.  And now I have stepped away from them and that hurts more than I can say.  It feels like I’ve lost a dear loved one, like they’ve moved far away and I might never see them again.  I miss them all so much.  But I want others to experience their journey, as well, and that won’t happen unless I find myself an agent and work towards getting published. So, my friends, I’m off to the land of querying.
During the last six months, I’ve educated myself on the entire process of properly formatting my manuscript, writing a kickass query and finessing remarkable synopses, both one and four page—thanks so much Nathan Bransford and Anne Mini.  While polishing my manuscript to a high-gloss, I’ve written, rewritten, edited and had my query and synopses critiqued by my wonderful friend, Lisa Regan, until they, too, sparkle and gleam like Edward Cullen on a sunny day (yes, I did read the Twilight series.)  So I am ready to march onward into that dark, terrifying abyss that is querying for an agent.  (Cue ominous music.)
 I’ve been reading all the blogs and forums where hard-working writers describe their querying experiences, and frankly, I am terrified!  It is so disheartening to hear how long—often years—and hard they have all been submitting their queries and receiving nothing but hundreds of form rejections, or even worse, no feedback at all.  Worse still is Natalie Whipple’s nerve-wracking story of being on submission for fifteen months!  FIFTEEN MONTHS!  And all that after landing the beloved Nathan Bransford as an agent only to lose him when he left the business this fall.  Alas, she did find another and seems quite content. 
But still, we writers really have no hope of publishing—traditionally, that is—unless we land ourselves an agent.  And even then, things are not guaranteed.  I read a recent blog by Betsy Lerner where she asked for her writer follower’s worst agent stories, and boy did I get an eyeful of disheartening and downright scary stories.  It’s enough to make an aspiring writer hide under the covers until the coming of the Apocalypse.  But I’ve worked way too long and way too hard to give up without even trying, no matter the bad news out there about how e-books and e-readers are ruining the traditional publishing industry.  I will prevail!
So it is with great enthusiasm and even greater hope that I now declare the opening of the Nancy Thompson Starts Querying Games!  Of course, I just had to pick the worst time of year to start the process, the dreaded holidays.  I hear most agents more or less close up shop between Thanksgiving and New Years then return to their offices positively swimming in a sea of queries received during that time.  Their advice?  Wait until after the Martin Luther King holiday to submit your query.  By then, the agent assistants will have worked their weary selves through most of the slush pile and be ever ready for more.  So that is my plan, readers.  In the meantime, I am compiling a list of appropriate agents to query, hoping somewhere in that list lies the agent of my dreams, someone who truly loves and believes in my book. 
           On a side note, and quite exciting at that, my friend, Lisa, has graciously referred me to her agent who read and accepted my query and then proceeded to request a full manuscript and synopsis!  A request for A FULL!  Can you believe that?  My very first serious query and she asked for a full!  I am humbled and happy and terrified all at once.  I couldn’t eat all day yesterday after I sent the package off to her (and some of you know how amazing that statement is.)  Now I realize this is a long shot.  I mean, come on, no one lands an agent on their first query, right?  Well, one can only hope, I guess.  She has my query and manuscript exclusively until January 17th, after which I start querying in earnest, although I would love nothing else than to land this particular agent at any point in The Games.  So keep your fingers crossed—plus your toes and even your eyes—that I am successful at my querying endeavors.  And I could always use a few well-placed prayers if you’re into that.  I know I am!  God help me! 

And as always, I am looking for followers for my blog, so click that follow button, people and join me on my journey.  I am willing to do the same for your blog, as well.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Music Influenced my Book

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for quite some time because it is about music and music is what started me on my new journey and what specifically prompted me to write my manuscript, The Mistaken.  I cannot live without music in my life.  It is everything to me.  It brings me joy and makes me reflect on all things, both happy and sad.  My very life has what I would call a soundtrack.  To this day, when I hear a song that was popular on the radio when I was say 13, I am instantly propelled back in time to 1977 and with it comes all the emotion I felt at that time.  It’s very much like a mental time machine. 
A few weeks ago, Nathan Bransford posted a blog asking a question: Do you listen to music when you write?  Well, yes, of course.  I couldn’t write if I didn’t listen to music.  But even more important is the inspiration behind the idea of my novel.  Never before was I ever inspired to write fiction.  I love to read and I enjoy helping my son with his homework when he has to write a paper, but other than that, I never felt compelled to write anything.  That is until I heard a particular song.
My husband bought me a car a few years back, a sexy BMW 330i convertible.  It is what I call my happy place.  I live near Seattle which, as many people know, is gray and rainy eight months out of the year.  So when it’s sunny, I jump in my car, put the top down, hook up my iPod and go for a drive, usually around beautiful Lake Sammamish.  Last spring during one of these rare moments, I heard a song that I’d downloaded for the first time.  It was Hurricane by 30 Seconds to Mars. 
The haunting lyrics and melody really struck a chord in me.  The chorus asks, “Tell me would kill to save a life?  Tell me would you kill to prove you’re right?”  Well, that really got me thinking.  What could possibly make someone kill, someone who always navigated on the straight and narrow path of righteousness?  Could a truly good person be driven to do something against their very nature?  That is the premise behind my novel and where it all started. 
I thought long and hard about that dilemma.  I even dreamed about it.  And when I woke up, it was like a switched had been thrown.  It was as if I woke up possessed by some unknown force who had the answer to that question and needed to write it all down in the form of a novel.  So I went along for the ride.  I started writing an outline for this story that was bursting forth from my brain at light speed.  I could barely keep up with my thoughts.  I had a complete outline in about four weeks.  And then I started writing and had my first draft in an additional six weeks.  I don’t know where it came from or why, but it could not and would not be contained inside me.  It simply had to get out.
During that time, I did listen to a lot of other music, but it was only with half an ear.  I really fell into the musical groove when I began to edit and revise.  I found myself listening to the same fifty songs over and over and that they inspired me in a spiritual way.  Weirder still, when I really paid attention to the lyrics to some of these songs, I realized they acted as an opera of sorts, putting my story into song.  I could literally hear my story in the lyrics to these songs.  It was so strange to hear my characters struggles come to life within the music.  It really freaked me out.
At first, after I realized how strong the connection was, I couldn’t get enough.  I listened to those singled out songs again and again as I revised The Mistaken.  I was driven by the emotion of my story set against the melancholy tunes and lyrics of these fourteen songs.  But then a problem arose.  I got too absorbed into my story, experiencing all the pain of human loss, the burning need of revenge, the relentless sense of guilt, the debilitating fear of violent death, the blinding need for forgiveness, the loss of hope and, ultimately, the joy of renewed love that makes up my book.  The problem with that is that I couldn’t find a way out of all the turmoil of those emotions.  Even when I jumped into my happy place, the music filling my car took me back into that dark, scary place my characters were living.  I began to feel trapped and then depressed.  I didn’t make the connection for a couple of months until I literally started to cry when one of the songs came over the speakers in my car.  I realized I had to break away from that music so I could feel whole and well again. 
So I stopped listening to my playlist as I revised and felt much better for it.  Now that I am finally done, I can sit back and listen to the music and see the story unfold.  I can cry for awhile and laugh at the end when I know my characters are reunited.  I feel a great sense of hope and accomplishment.  I would like to share that playlist and give a little insight to why each song means so much to my story.  I have embedded the music or lyric videos for the songs in the titles.  Just click on the song title to see the video and lyrics and hear the hauntingly beautiful music that inspired me.  (Click on the back button to return to my blog.)

Brother by Dark New Day

This song signifies Skylar’s (my protagonist) sadness at the loss of his parents and young sister in a car accident caused by his younger brother, Nick.

All the Same by Sick Puppies

At this point, Sky finally accepts that Nick, as troubled as he is, is all the family he has left and that he will always be there to help clean up whatever mess Nick gets himself into.

Without You by My Darkest Days

Skylar meets, falls in love with and marries Jillian, the love of his life and they are soon expecting their first child. 

Alibi by 30 Seconds to Mars

After Sky’s wife, Jillian, is killed, he says goodbye to her at her funeral then spirals into alcoholism.

Alone With Nothing by Smile Empty Soul

Despondent and bitter beyond reason, Sky’s soul is eaten away by his need for vengeance.  He and Nick fantasize, planning revenge against the stranger who drew Jill toward her death, a woman named Erin Anderson.

Hunter by 30 Seconds to Mars

Skylar, with the help of Nick’s associates, Alexi and Dmitri of San Francisco’s Russian mafia, misidentifies the wrong woman and stalks Hannah Maguire to her home in Seattle.

The Red by Chevelle

Skylar exacts his revenge during an unspeakable act of violence, but he instantly regrets his behavior and pulls back only to discover he has mistaken the wrong woman for his target.

All Is Numb by 32 Leaves

Realizing he cannot follow through with his sordid plans to turn the woman, Hannah, over to the Russians, Sky convinces her to leave her home and go on the run with him so that he can keep her safe and out of the hands of the Russians and a life of sexual servitude.

Change by Deftones

Nick confesses to Skylar that he purposely got Sky abusing alcohol in retaliation for Sky making Nick feel as if he is solely responsible for the accident that took their parent’s and young sister’s lives.  He uses this confession as an excuse as to why his brother should not attempt to save him from the Russians who have captured him.

Pieces by Red

After the all the guilt of his parent’s and sister’s death, the feeling of helplessness concerning Nick’s captivity by the Russians who are using him as leverage to force Sky to turn over the woman, and the overwhelming remorse and shame of what he has cost Hannah, Skylar experiences an emotional break down.  Hannah is desperate to help him.

Anywhere But Here by Sick Puppies

Sky is kidnapped by the Russian mafia and joins his brother, Nick, in captivity

The Battle Of One by 30 Seconds to Mars

Skylar witnesses the brutal dog-fight style battle that takes his brother's life.  He then finds out that Hannah has also been captured.  Sky himself battles his way out, freeing Hannah and killing one of the Russian bosses who is responsible for Nick’s death and Hannah’s recent assault.

A Modern Myth by 30 Seconds to Mars

Skylar is coerced by the FBI to testify against Dmitri, the last remaining Russian mafia boss.  Because he has to enter witness protection, Skylar must say a tearful goodbye to a heartbroken Hannah, admitting that they will never see each other again.

Breathe by Angels and Airwaves

After Dmitri’s death, Skylar is free to reunite with Hannah, but will she take him back? 

Monday, December 6, 2010

E-Books vs. the Real Thing

Last week, Nathan Bransford asked a question on his blog:  Will you ever buy mostly e-books?  And for the first time in the four years since he first asked this question, the yeas outnumber the nays, 32% to 30%.  I was not surprised since e-readers are the gift of the season this year and many of my friends and family now use them, but when I put the questions to myself, a woman who loves electronic gadgets of all sorts, I answered with a resounding NO!

There are several reasons why, most of them having to do with the nostalgia of holding a book in my hand.  There is something about the way a real book feels that is sensual in so many ways.  It’s almost like holding and caressing a lover in its sensuality.  First, I love the smell of the ink and the paper on a new book, especially a hardback.  I love to run my fingers over the pages from front to back and let the scent of the fanned air caress my face and fill my nostrils.  It smells almost as good as freshly baked break or newly ground coffee. 

And then there’s the feel of the book, its heft and breadth, the substantial bulk, that makes me happy.  And I love a really long, big, fat book because that means I get to be absorbed in a story and the lives of its characters for a very long time. I can fall in love with them and hug them as I pull the thick volume close to my chest before I put it down for the night.  I also love the way it feels when I rest an open book above my upper lip and below my nose as I gaze over the top edge at the TV or a loved one when they interrupt my reading.

When I read a real book, I place my thumbs along the open pages and slip the middle finger of my right hand into the as yet unread pages on the right, gauging how many pages I have left, how much more time I have remaining with my new love.  And when something I’ve just read confuses me, I love to fan back through those pages I’ve already read to find the previously read passage that will straighten me out.  When I do, I often note the few places where the corner of a page became dog-eared or where I spilled some food or drink, creating a small speck on the once clean paper, because I never, and I mean never, sit at the table and eat without a book opened in front of me.

My favorite passages often sit open at attention because I’ve run my hand over the binding so many times.  And when the book falls off the table or chair where I’m sitting, it automatically opens to that exact passage and I picture that scene in my mind all over again.  I even love the way I can see the texture of the paper beneath the contrasting ink.  And I love the cover art, which, if I’ve left the dust jacket on, I will see every single time I pick up my book, noting the placement of the bookmark and my progress through another magnificent story.  I love the way the title and author’s name are raised, pressed from below on the jacket so I can feel it every time I hold it in my hand.

Reading a book is so much more than just the story within.  That’s why publishers put so much time, money and effort into it.  I agree that e-readers are convenient, allowing you to carry every book you’ve ever known and purchased no matter where you’re going.  But I’ve spent a lot of money designing and building floor to ceiling library shelves to hold my most cherished collection:  my books.  They sit like pieces of fine art, deliberately displayed (without their dust jackets) and artfully arranged by author, size, color and topic.  They’re my trophies and I am very proud of them.  I feel like I have a piece of the author residing with me.  I often run my fingers over the spines of my growing library and smile as I remember each story, where I lived, or what I was doing when I read it for the first time.  They are like memories of my own life and I want to be constantly reminded of them every time I stand before the tall shelves.  And I can loan them to my friends, too.    

You just don’t have any of that with an e-reader and an e-book. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Achieving More Than Mediocrity

            I read a lot of books.  While I read, I need noise, so I usually turn on the TV.  I don’t really watch or even listen.  I just need the company, especially when I’m alone.  During the long Thanksgiving holiday, I was rooting around the TV for something to keep me company while I read another Greg Iles book, Footprints of God.  Nothing looked very interesting, so I selected a documentary on Capitalism by Michael Moore and settled in to read.  I peeked up to see what was happening and was pulled into the scene.
            Three older men and a younger woman, all white, were video taping themselves as seven police cars approached their modest home and proceeded to bash their door in and forcibly remove them.  Then it cut to another scene where a black man and woman protested while a stranger boarded up their modest home.  In both cases, the evicted homeowners railed at the invaders, screaming that they had no right, that they had no heart. 
            I realized that in both cases, the homeowners had fallen behind in their mortgage payments and the banks were foreclosing.  While I felt badly for them, it kind of pissed me off, too, because it symbolized everything that is wrong with our country.  Too many Americans want something for nothing.  Too many feel entitled.  I wondered why this could be so.  Why did they think they should be granted a home for which they refuse to pay?  Quite simply put, it’s all a case of trying to keep up with the Joneses.  Because they want to appear to be successful.  Because they place their own value on what they possess.
            Now Michael Moore wants us all to believe that these poor people were the victims of corporate greed, which I do not disagree with entirely.  I know that the banks were not forthright in disclosing everything they should have, that they granted loans to those who had no place expecting one, but these people wanted to have a something which they could not afford, yet felt entitled to, nonetheless.  I won’t go into the Democrats creed about how they believe every American deserves a home of their own or how the Republicans, in their own best interest, refused to regulate the industry.  What I will say is this:  regardless of the ignorance of the potential home buyers, they went into a situation that was too good to be true and they knew it. 
Saying that the banks didn’t disclose the details of how an adjustable rate mortgage works does not release the buyer from responsibility.  They should have researched the situation themselves.  They should have realized that the rates could and would, most likely, go up, as would their payments.  If they couldn’t afford those payments under the most difficult of situations, then they never should have proceeded.  Ignorance is not an excuse.  Either is a lack of education.  My own husband lacks a formal education, but he always feels the need to educate himself on the risks of each loan we apply for and proceeds accordingly. 
            So why would these people put themselves and their futures at risk like this?  Because they want what they want.  End of story.  They wanted what they thought they were entitled to, regardless of their ability to pay.  Why?  Well, I put a lot of the blame on how American’s perceive themselves through the eyes of others.  Americans watch too much reality TV and put too much value on what they see there, especially when it comes to sports figures. 
These figures, often young men from poor backgrounds and broken homes, feel they can afford to buy anything they want and they do, in excess, to show how well they are doing, how far they have come in life.  It’s a bit irresponsible, yes, but it’s their life and they can live it how they want.  They’ve worked hard to get there.  What makes it so bad is the TV producer who records bits and pieces of their lives, edits then presents it as reality.  That is so far from reality as to be laughable.   
            Those athletes or celebrities have managed to turn a skill into gold.  It is a rarity that many aspire to, for sure, which is not a bad thing in and of itself.  Ambition is good.  It inspires us to try harder, to achieve a life greater than we have ever known.  But it also means hard work.  It means educating yourself or seeking some kind of training or working diligently to sharpen an already special skill.  It’s not something for nothing.
This is where I have a problem.  Americans, once the hardest working people on the face of the earth, have become lazy.  They no longer feel the need to work for what they want.  They feel entitled to whatever they see on TV or in the movies or on whatever gadget is relevant in that moment.   
            Parents these days spoil their children into thinking they are uniquely special, that they should expect everything they want, but they often don’t teach their kids how to achieve it.  They hear their kids screaming or throwing a tantrum and, in their need to calm the kid down and ease their own guilt at working too much and not being there enough, throw some new toy or electronic babysitting device at their kid and call it a day.  They are not doing their kid any favor by giving them everything they want.  And they are certainly handicapping them, and in the long run, the country, by taking the easy way out and handing over what the kid is demanding because they are too tired or unable to cope.
            What is that kid going to do when its time for college or time to start their career or provide for their own families?  They will have no real idea how to cope with real reality, real disappointment, real misfortune.  They will run back to mommy and daddy and demand another handout because that’s what’s always worked for them before.  It’s no wonder the rest of the world is passing us by, why they see us as spoiled, entitled bigots.  We simply do not aspire to anything more than what we can buy, for what will present us in the best light to our friends, family and neighbors. 
            Now, I’ve known both poverty and wealth, not that I’ve experienced either at its most extreme, but moderate versions, for sure.  I’m in a down cycle right now, and have been for over three years, with my business collapsing and all my clients shutting their doors, but I’ve adjusted.  I never buy clothes or take vacations or make unnecessary purchases.  In one week, I’ve had to buy snow tires and a new fridge and it’s killed me to spend that money with Christmas around the corner.  But they were necessary and I will adjust to accommodate them by giving something else up. 
Luxury for me is taking one day in Portland to see a basketball game or going out to eat Mexican food once every other month.  Those little luxuries help me cope.  I’ll never live outside what I can afford because it means I will have to give up my son’s college education or my retirement.  Instant gratification and seeking the adulation of those around me means my life will be that much more difficult later on, when all those who I try to impress will be long gone and better forgotten.  Yeah, live for today, but plan for the future, as well.
I realize many people will not agree with me and I certainly am not looking for a fight, but I do want people to be responsible for themselves, to think for themselves, to be original and have ambition to achieve something.  Don’t fall back on the tried and true.  Push yourself.  Dream big.  Work hard and long to achieve it, but know the future lies in the children and if we do not set them up for success by allowing them to fail or be disappointed, then we are all doomed.  Teach them that the world is what we make it and can be what we dream it to be, but we need to have a realistic, attainable dream to begin with.  And the only way to get there is with hard work that is not always going to be successful, but with each failure, we learn a better way.  Know your limitations, but push against them…AND STOP WATCHNG REALITY TELEVISION!                                 
(This was originally supposed to be a blog about how we’ve become complacent and accept mediocrity, or worse, as the norm, as exemplified on reality TV.  I wanted to say how our skewed vision of reality has crippled our ability to be original.  Those thoughts are expressed in here somewhere.  I think you will just have to work a little harder to find it…sorry…not!)           

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Having Faith

As some of you might already know, I’ve been having trouble of late, and by that I mean in the last four or five months.  I’ve been edgy and moody, unlike my usual self which is chipper and forever optimistic.  I’m not really sure of the reason why, but I suspect it has something to do with writing.  Now I’ve read about how moody and introspective many writers are and I’ve just been chalking this all up to that, but how can an errant desire to write, something I’ve never experienced before, all of the sudden throw me into an emotional tailspin?  It seems a bit of a stretch to me, but there haven’t really been any other changes in my life this year besides the writing so what else could it be? 
When I get into a serious funk, which seems to happen every few weeks or so, I bear down and keep reality in mind, after all, there’s nothing really wrong with me, just my flaky brain trying to pull one over on me.  I’m healthy, as is my family, including my dogs.  I have a roof over my head, a lovely one, too, which is not in danger of being lost in the mess that is the US economy and has, in fact, retained a strong value.  I have a running car, a really nice one, in fact.  My husband is gainfully employed and earns enough that I don’t have to work, though I wish I did.  My last client, however, just closed up shop this week, putting a final nail in the coffin that is my design company of the last fourteen years.  But I haven’t really worked much in the last three years anyway, so why should that make much of a difference?  
Even still, I have a difficult time holding onto that reality sometimes.  So what I’ve come to rely on more than anything else is faith.  Now I don’t mean spiritual faith.  That’s a given.  I have such a strong, unyielding faith in God.  It never wavers.  And I mean never.  If I let it waver even for even a moment, I would be crushed.
The faith I’m talking about is the one I have in myself.  I suppose that faith has wavered a great deal of late.  I had a strong, thriving business and earned a good reputation.  Now that it’s more or less gone, I’m not sure how to identify or define myself.  And I don’t really know what to do with myself.  My husband told me last night that I don’t have to work.  How generous is that?  He worries about money constantly, but he tells me not to sweat it.  What a fabulous guy, my greatest blessing.  So without the work and business to keep me going, I’ve turned to my writing, but what does that mean if nobody reads it?
I’m a hair’s breadth away from putting the very final finishing touches on my novel and start the querying process in earnest.  THAT scares the hell out of me!   Why?  Well for a couple of reasons.  First, what am I going to do everyday if I’m not working on my novel?  I do have a cool idea for a new one, but the thought of starting from scratch scares me.  I don’t think the second time around will be the same as the first.  When I got the idea for my first novel, The Mistaken, I just poured out of me in some weird, surreal experience I cannot even describe.  It was like I was possessed by someone else.  All the plot twists and characters just worked themselves out in one endless stream of thought.  I don’t know where in the hell it even came from.  Could I ever expect that to happen again?  I doubt it, but I do know how to write well this time, from the very start.
Second and most importantly, from everything I’ve ever heard or read, the querying process is an endless road of waiting and rejection.  The thought of it makes me want to puke.  From what I can tell, most writers never find an agent and therefore never get published.  You can’t imagine how discouraging that is when I haven’t even really started yet.  To make it all worse, so many literary agents are dropping out of the race because the publishing business is so demoralizing.  With book sales doing so poorly, publishers only seem to want to sign well known celebrities who have experienced their tantalizing fifteen minutes so that they can cash in on it.  But what about the storytellers?  And fresh ones, at that?  Are the e-readers destroying one of the oldest businesses on earth?  Although I would like to make some money being a writer, it’s more about having people read and enjoy my work than anything else.  
I can’t help but think this experience of writing my first novel means something, like someone else, some being greater than me, uh, that would be God, is somehow pulling the strings and has sent me on this path for a reason.  I’m trying to have faith in that and let it unfold as it was meant to.  Why else would something like this have happened to me?  I mean, I’ve always been a spiritual person, but it is ridiculous how out of body and surreal this has all been.  All can do is have faith that this is meant to happen, that I was meant to write this book, that I was meant to struggle with my demons and push forth and not give up until I find an agent, and hopefully a publisher, too.  It has to have meant something.  This must be the new way in which I define myself.

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FYI:  On the right side of my blog you will see "Pages".  Click on "The Mistaken" and you can read through chapter 17 (out of 49) of my book.  I'd love to know what you think.

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's a Sad Day for Me

When I started writing last spring, I began researching all the standards for submitting a manuscript and querying for an agent.  There's a great deal of information out there in the blogosphere and elsewhere on the Internet, but the best source I found, by far, was Nathan Bransford's blog.  He worked for Curtis Brown out of San Francisco.  He blogged about everything you could ever think of in regards to writing, querying and publishing and was probably the most sought after agent out there, the most popular at the very least.  

He always seemed so approachable and made the formidable goal of getting published somehow seem attainable.  I read his postings every day, searched back into all his old archives, read all the forums and followed him on Facebook.  I was thrilled for him when he got his own book deal.  His blog is kind of like home base for wannabe authors.  
Well today, those of us who consider Nathan to be a sort of god in the literary world we so greatly aspire to be a part of received just about the worst news possible, second only to him kicking the bucket.  Nathan has quit his job as literary agent to join CNET.  My first response was to lay my head down and cry my eyes out.  
Last night, after all these longs months of writing, editing and critiquing, I finally reached that point where I thought "I'm done!  I'm ready to move on and start querying agents." And Nathan would have been numero uno on my long list.  Actually, I did send five queries out last summer when I first finished and thought I was ready.  I did send Nathan a query, but received no response, which was strange because Nathan always responds to queries.  It's one of the reasons we love him.  
Of course, I regretted sending him that query because I realized a few days later that I was not actually ready.  So I was pumped to see a posting from Nathan informing those of us who had sent in queries within a small window of time that his server had been down and we should resend our queries.  I thought it was serendipitous that I was included in that group because I could query Nathan again when I was ready.  Which is now.  Only today I hear he's left the business!  UGH!  Talk about bad timing!
I know, I know, there are hundreds of other agents out there and the chance that Nathan would have picked me were minuscule, at best, but I was actually looking forward to that rejection letter since he is well known for personalizing his rejections and giving great feedback.  So at least I would know how to revise my query.  But no, he's gone and I feel abandoned.  I do have other agents whose blogs I follow, but there is simply no one out there quite like Nathan Bransford.  I am going to miss him so much.
And it's pretty bad timing, too.  During all these months, I've become very attached to the characters in my book.  They are like family to me.  I could have a love affair with my male protagonist, he's so yummy, though in a flawed, sad kind of way.  I'm finding it extremely difficult to be away from their world, even though it's scary and tragic.  I feel like I've lost them and Nathan in one fell swoop.  It's depressing in a schizophrenic kind of way.  Those four other heads I carried around on my shoulders for the last eight months are gone and the one person I looked most forward to sharing them with is gone, too.  It is a very sad day for...very sad indeed.  

Goodbye friends...I miss you all already (sniff, sniff).    

FYI:  On the right side of my blog you will see "Pages".  Click on "The Mistaken" and you can read chapters 1-18 (out of 50) of my book.  I'd love to know what you think.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Puzzle

            A few of my friends have asked me why I all of the sudden started writing.  What made me get up one morning with the need to write a story?  It’s a difficult question because there is no clear, concise answer.  I can say this.  I had been bothered by reoccurring dreams and nightmares that pestered me from the time I was seventeen.  They visited me in different forms, but the theme was generally the same.  They were born from real life experiences that I had never effectively worked through.  I just simply put it in the back of my mind and ignored it as best I could.  But they were never forgotten and they proved this point a few nights every week.
            One morning, I decided to make sense of the dream, giving it a reason to have manifested itself in my tired brain.  This is essentially the day I began to write.  It was cathartic, of course, but that wasn’t the reason I chose to write.  It was more due to my need to figure out the pieces that made up a puzzle.  And that puzzle was me.
            I’d figured that I was made up of all sorts of strange shapes.  Not the kind you generally see in a puzzle, all homogenous and firmly interlocking.  No, my pieces were all different.  Some simple, maybe round like a circle.  Others jagged and nonsensical.  Very few had those bulbous peninsulas or shapely bays that fastened snugly, ingeniously designed to hold together, so stable that even when they were knocked away, they tended to remain locked in form.  My pieces were much more haphazard.
            Each of these puzzle pieces became a character in my novel, but they were all a part of me.  Some were truly good while others were inherently evil.  Most were just confused combinations of both, struggling to do the right thing, making careless mistakes along the way, mistakes that affected the lives of others.  I needed to make sense of all that, to put it all together in such a way that each of those pieces, those characters, made something that was whole, something that actually worked. 
Of course, I relate to my two main characters much more than the others, the two who struggle to make sense of their terrible ordeal.  They used to be ideal, nearly the same, smooth and round along the edges.  But they both evolved into one of those jagged, pieces that could only interlock with another of similar form.  That’s when they became logical, making perfect sense only when they came together.
That’s why I started writing, to make sense of all my jagged pieces, so I could fit them into a puzzle that told a story, that drew a picture that made sense of who I am.  I am my story, in all its imperfection.  And now, those nightmares have suddenly stopped.  And I feel whole.  That’s not to say that those pieces don’t sometimes come loose, the edges popping up, begging to be smoothed out by running a finger along the boundaries.  But it all fits together now.  And I have made sense of the picture that is me.  

Friday, October 8, 2010


I just wanted to give a shout out to my girl, Lisa Regan.  Congratulations on finding an agent who loves your book, Finding Claire Fletcher.  This is the beginning of something wonderful!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How I Was Saved

            So I often find it difficult to keep plugging along in my quest to get published.  The task of finding an agent who will fall in love with my book seems daunting, especially when I read all the blog comments from fellow writers who have yet to find their own.  I tend to think of every writer as a great writer, though I know this is not the case, but who am I to think I am so much better?  Why should I think I can find an agent if they cannot?  My step falters and my confidence sags. 
            I get so down that I don’t want to continue for fear of failure.  My husband notices that I have once again fallen into the doldrums, the smile that’s usually plastered on my face gone, my brow furrowed in worry.  He tries to pick me up, telling me to remain persistent.  But it doesn’t work.  There’s really no reason for that except to say that he doesn’t really know what I’m going through, where I am, how difficult this business really is.  I need someone who gets me, who gets the heartache of writing, of putting your body and soul into a story and fearing that no one will ever read it.
            There is one person in my life who gets that.  Her name is Lisa Regan and she is my mentor and co-conspirator, my sounding board, my lifeline to sanity.  I refer to her as a drug I cannot go without.  I emailed her, telling her that I needed my “Lisa fix” and she understood. 
This is a woman who has put four tortuous years into a work of literature that is so powerfully profound that I have no words good enough to describe fully how masterful it really is.  She has slaved over her novel, writing and rewriting until is glistens like gold.  She’s also been through the querying process.  She told me she’s received hundreds of rejections, but many of those have been constructively critical which in turn led her to rewrite yet again.  And now she has this intense, beautiful, scary story that I know will be published.  How can I give up if she has remained so stoic? 
I often pray to God for the benefit of my loved ones, rarely asking for anything on my own behalf.  Last night though, I was down and I asked for some sign that I should go on, move ahead, not give up.  The way I saw it, He had provided me with so many other signs along the way, He wouldn’t mind giving me another when I needed it the most.  I told Him I was listening, that my eyes were open wide and waiting.  I knew not to expect anything grand or obvious.  I also knew I probably wouldn’t get anything at all.  But I had faith. Faith that He put me on this path, that He means for me to continue.  And you know what?  I got that sign!  Again, it came in the form of Lisa Regan. 
She emailed me, offering me words of encouragement.  I heard my phone ding with the new message so I picked it up, hoping it might be her.  And while I read her message, a song played over the airwaves in Starbucks where I waited for my son to get out of class.  The song, one I’ve never heard before, was called “You Make Me Smile” at least that’s what the words of the chorus sang over and over.  And I started to cry.  I had my sign.  I knew I was meant to continue.  Her email pumped me up like no other words ever could.  She’s my angel, my savior.  Once I told her I wished I could bottle her, like an anti-depressant that I could take daily.  I think God sent her to me.  And I will do my best everyday to live up to both of them.  Thank you God.  Thank you Lisa.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A New Day

As most of my friends and family know, I have been busy writing my first novel.  The experience has been remarkable to say the least.  I never knew how much I loved to write. Now it's all I ever want to do.  It's been such a strange experience.  The story simply poured out of me.  It was as if I was possessed by someone else.  I couldn't write it fast enough.  And now, after working with some incredible critique partners, I think I'm pretty close to calling it a day and sending out my query letters.

On the right side of my blog you will see "Pages".  Click on "The Mistaken" and you can read a small part of my book, the prologue through chapter 4.  Feel free to leave comments or critique it as you see fit.

I feel like I'm on the cusp of something amazing and I hope to take you all along with me on my incredible journey.