Sunday, May 14, 2017
After you write something, the real stuff (non-fiction) or fake (fiction), the first thing you seem to run into is...genre.
What is the genre of your work?
How do I know? I just wrote the thing. It's all made up.
It's all made up, you say? Well, it's not non-fiction, for sure.
I know Syfy. That's science fiction. I have no aliens or space travel. It's not syfy.
It takes place in this century, current day. It's not historical fiction.
There is no major love story. It's not a romance. Or chick lit.
There are no explicit sex scenes. It's not erotica. Or mommy porn.
It's not a graphic novel. I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. That's just a comic book for grownups.
There are no detectives or spies. It's not espionage.
There are no lawyers or court rooms. It's not a legal thriller.
We know all of the characters and what they're doing. We just don't know if they'll succeed. It's not a mystery.
Its target audience is the adult reader. Therefore, it's not YA: young adult.
It has no pictures. It's not children's or youth.
It's not high-brow, esoteric fiction. IE: literary fiction.
So, what the hell have I written?
Wikipedia gives these genres:
If you continue reading their page, they list 25 more fiction genres from which one can choose.
I've read literary agency websites, writing blogs, author/agent/publisher websites until I'm cross-eyed. They all have slightly different definitions of genre parameters.
I want it to sell. I want it to appeal to a men and women. It has some suspense. It has a little deviant sex. It has sad, lost love. It has a psycho liar and a transvestite. A few laws are skirted. Others flat out broken. It ends in success for some. Death for others.
I think my novel is a commercial crime/thriller.
Thanks for stopping by.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
When I wrote the first scene of my story, it was more to get my fantasy on paper. There had been a terrible, painful breakup in my marriage. While my pain had been overwhelming, the pain heaped on my children had been unforgivable. I composed my little fantasy, saved it away in a Word doc, and faced our new life.
Four years later, that new life brought a new love--genuine and mutual, transparent and honest. Something I'd only imagined before.
One day, while searching through miscellaneous files, I found the old fantasy. Dusty and obsolete. No longer necessary. It seemed he was living his own self-made hell.
Still, the writing had been fun. Fulfilling. It fed something inside me. Should I continue? Could I actually write a real book? I'd written in the past. A short story in high school had been published in my school's anthology. After the divorce, I'd written for a single parent magazine before it's demise. A short story had won in a small competition. But I'd never written a whole book.
I rewrote the story objectively, removed my fantasy. Fleshed out the characters, created a protagonist, antagonist, and plot. Their lives grew as I wrote. I gave them a history. Pain, joys, a purpose, and problems.
I emailed the first 30-pages to my husband. "Read this. Tell me if it stinks. Just say, 'Honey, I love you, but try something else,' if it's bad. I can take it. This is too much work to continue if I suck at it."
A few days later, he said, "It's good. I think you should continue. It may be more of a chick book, I think. I might not choose it for myself, but it has potential. You should continue."
So, on I wrote. But I didn't want to write a chick book. I don't read chick books. I didn't want gratuitous sex or unrequited love. I wanted something with diverse characters, an interesting story that taught me something. I gave the antagonist a glamorous job, but a psychopathic personality. I gave the main characters successful lives, but not without personal sadnesses. I created colorful supporting characters. Some of my characters were capable of wicked things. Others were daring, resourceful, and wealthy. By story's end, I liked my people and what they did.
It took five months to get their story down. I thought I was done.
Ohhh, no, no, no-o-o. That was only the beginning. Now, I must edit. It has been said we are not writers, but rewriters. I've spent five, ten times the effort on rewriting that I spent on the original draft.
I knew I needed help. I joined the workshop I mentioned in an earlier post. I attended a few sessions at other workshops. I met a lovely editor at one. I hired her to review the first 11 pages, then we met over coffee.
"Just tell me if it's worth the continued work and investment of time and money. This is not my first-born child. It's nothing more than a story I made up. If it stinks, just tell me. I can take it," I said.
"I'd never tell you it stinks. If I truly think something's bad, I might say, 'Why don't you take this back and rewrite it? These scenes are incomplete. This character is weak.' I'd never tell you it's bad. This does need work, but it's good enough to make me want to read more."
Thus began my long journey of editing. We worked through the manuscript three times, each with a different purpose. At first, we focused more on sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Did you know there was such a thing as an Oxford comma? I didn't. On the last read, we just read through it all as a reader might.
I asked again, "Is it worth continuing to work on?"
She said, "I couldn't have read it three times if it was bad. Your next step is to find a literary agent to promote your book to publishing houses. You must query agents about your work. And that will be hard. It's very competitive and the publishing world is constantly changing. It's a completely different business than what it was even a few years ago. But your story is good enough you should do this."
And she was right. Not the part about it being good enough. I don't know that for sure. I think so. I like the story. I like my characters. My husband likes it. My girlfriend likes it.
I need a hard-hearted literary agent to like it.
And...it is very hard to find an agent. I have nothing in my life that elevates me from the crowd. I'm not famous. I've not had anything extraordinary happen to me. No plane crashes. No inventions. No unrivaled genius. I've been a daughter, wife, and mom. A friend. With a story to sell.
I follow several literary blogs and sites to learn as much as I can about this business. One agent, apparently a quite successful agent, replied to a question on how difficult it is to find representation (my paraphrase), "To give you an example of how hard it is: In the course of a year, I may get 1000 queries from non-clients, of which I may ask for 200 full manuscripts to read. Last year? I took on two new clients."
I read on a literary agent's website that John Grisham's book, A TIME TO KILL, was shopped by his agent at 43 publishers before being accepted.
Yes, it is indeed hard. Today, I will continue to search for representation. What do I have to lose? If I quit now, I will know that I've chosen to lose. If I don't quit, I may win!
Thanks for stopping by.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
A few years back, I joined a local writer's group. There were about a eight or ten regulars who met to critique and discuss our writings. Each week, we brought copies for the group and read aloud eight pages of our work.
The second time I attended, I read a one page synopsis. One member who'd just had her first book accepted for representation by a literary agent, followed along as I read, then said, "This is all wrong. I'd suggest... oh never mind, I'll just take it home and fix it."
Hang on. It's my synopsis. How can you fix something you didn't write and haven't read?
The third time I attended, I read the prologue of my manuscript. One guy, let's call him Adam, had this to say:
"First, let me just stop you right here. Prologues are the kiss of death to a book. I attended a seminar at a conference and they discussed at length writers should never include a prologue."
I said, "Okay, well, this is all I have for now."
Next, a nice little old lady with bad knees, Macie, read her eight pages. Her story was sweet, no bad words, no sex unless married, and the plot centered around a female policeman who was engaged to be married. It was the stuff old ladies love to read and she'd published four in this series already. Obviously somewhere, she had a following.
Adam (condescendingly) asked, "Where did you publish? Have you received any royalties?"
Macie, a little taken aback, said, "Well, yes, I've received royalties on all of my books."
By now, I've had enough of Adam. "Have you published?" I (innocently polite) asked.
"No, I finished my manuscript last year and sent out a few queries, but haven't done that in several months. Just been too busy."
My thought, "Well, then, Sparky, what do you know about any of this?"
I've been in a metal tube, stuck on a taxiway for an hour, and not had passengers speak to me in the negative tones some of these folks used. On three occasions, I had members contact me to apologize for comments made to me by other members during a meeting.
This group was more like the blind leading the blind. Other than Macie, very few had been published anywhere. I hung in there for over a year before I finally called it quits. I continued to pay my yearly dues because they were cheap and it was one of the few credits I could put on a query.
Now, living out in the country, there are no groups near enough to make it work for me anyway, but I miss being a part of a reading group.
I don't miss Adam and the others like him. A writers' group should be encouraging, supportive, knowledgeable, and share information on techniques and the industry. Not a platform for wanna-bees.
Sometimes, it's not a good fit.
Thanks for stopping by.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
The following happened on a flight I took to Charlotte, NC. I was flying as a passenger, not in uniform, and this was my seatmate. I've changed the names to protect the innocent. No, actually, myself and as my guy will attest, my innocence is debatable. For the record, this never happened. It's all make believe.
The agent collects his passengers like marbles tumbling through the jetway. I follow along and find my seat adjacent to an older woman. She is clothed in shades of gray from her crinkled hair that cascades over the pintucks of her blouse to her gathered skirt and laced oxfords. Behind me, a young family stows diaper bags and toys in overhead bins as their youngest drapes over the armrest asleep. Their oldest squirms in his car seat, bouncing his sneakers against what will be my seat.
"Hi, I'm sorry, but that's my seat by the window. May I slip in?"
"Sure." But it sounds like this: shu-ah. The woman's voice, an unhurried drawl of deep southern hills floating over her words, never pauses as I take my seat.
"I'm goin' to see my daughta? My husband died two years ago. Mr. Jackson and I'd been married forty-three years. Andrew Stonewall Jackson. He was a fine man. Why would the good Lawd let you live with someone that long and then just take'em away? What do you do with yo-self?
"We never had children. We couldn't." The engines rev loud as we ease away from the gate so she raises her voice to make sure I can hear. "His sperm didn't swim the way they's supposed to? So we never had any children. He was a truck driver? He worked long hours an' be so tired. But he lov' me."
Nearby passengers cast furtive glances our way.
"That child izza beating yo seat with his feet. You goin' just like this...." She bounces back and forth in her own seat to demonstrate stroller family's child kicking mine--lest I'd missed it.
"My husband bought us this big old house. Then, he lost his job?" Her voice rises at the end of her sentences, whether question or not. "And we had to pay for that house! So, I found a job. Then, he got his job back? So, I quit my job. Then, he lost his job ag'in. I went out and I found a job with the airlines? We'd take trips on the weekends? We'd fly places. We had so much fun. He got his job back and he said, 'Don' you quit yo' job this time.' So I didn't.
"I took my daughter to Paris one time. We flew to Paris, Fra-unce. You ever flown to Paris? It's a beautiful city. We flew eva-where.
"You don' talk much. I'm doing all the talking. Do you have children?" She eyes my crow's feet. "You must have children. Are yo' children grown? They must be grown by now. Where are you from?"
"Charlotte." I whisper, hoping she'll take the hint and match my tone. But no.
"You don' talk like you from Charlotte. People ask me where I'm from? They think I'm from Texas. But no-o-o... I'm from Kentucky! I tell them that? They can't believe it. But you don' talk much like you from the south.
"My daughter's name is Opal Ann? When she was born, they gave her to my husband and he said, 'Opal Ann.' I said, 'No, she's Frances Louise.' But he said she was as beautiful as an opal. My name's Martha Louis? My mother's Frances? And my grandmother's Louise. But, she became Opal Ann. Mr. Andrew Jackson did that. She looks juz like her daddy."
Who is...? I wonder.
"She has his hands? Her daddy's feet? She even has her daddy's butt! He didn't have no butt--and she ain' got no butt neither. Mr. Jackson was tall. He was six foot three and skinny. And she's juz like him. Tall and skinny... with no butt.
"I raised three children. Well, one's my grandson, Jesse James? I had him since he was two. His mother didn't want him. She didn't want him when he was ten. My daughter! She didn't want him when he was twelve. She didn't want him when he was fifteen. But, when he graduated high school? She wanted him.
"He's smart, too. I didn't know he's 'zat smart. I could'a got him all kinds of scholarships to colleges 'cause his daddy died in the war? But, no-o-o, my daughter came up with tickets to Flaw-da. So, he's in Flaw-da. He told me not to be mad--this was his decision, not hers. But, wha'z he know? He calls me one day and says, 'Maw-Maw, guess where I am? I's sittin' on the beach callin' you!'"
Our flight to Charlotte is ninety minutes and we have twenty-five to go. She pauses to look around at the other passengers in the cabin and takes a new breath.
"My daughter lost all this weight? She told me, 'I can wear your clothes now, Ma.' I said, 'No, you cain't!' She's already stole some of my clothes. I had these beautiful leather coats and she took all of them! So, I bought me a teal one. No one wears teal. I have this teal skirt? ... and this teal blouse? ... I hid my teal leather coat. She cain't find it.
"My other daughter is married to a preacher. She dresses like a preacher, too. All consurv'ativ. Plain jackets and skirts.
"She has four years of college and her husband only has one. I tell'em, 'Now, who's the preacher in this family with the egi-cation?' They don' like that much.
"I's raised a Baptist? I wanted babies so bad and Mr. Jackson couldn't hep'a'tall. Sometimes, things jus' work out. Mr. Jackson's brother was so kind."
Ahhh, I think.
"I'm going to this church where we don' believe in women wearin' pants. We don' cut our hair. It says in Deuteronomy that women should look like women and men should look like men. See? I have on a dress and you have on pants... so I look like the woman.
"It took me a long time to come 'round to that. They have a lot of rules in this church? I had to read my Bible a whole lot to see what they waz a' saying. I never did figure out some of it. A lot of people don' agree with'em. My daughter don' agree with me. But, I'm a Pentecostal now.
"Mr. Jackson was in Vietnam. It did somethin' to him. Took'im a long time to git over. Some of it he never did git over.
"He'd lay there in the bed by me and juz' jump. In his sleep. Scairt me to death! He'd flang his leg over me or throw his arm across me. He was heavy. Sometimes, he hit my head in his sleep. I'd just turn my back on him when he did that.
"Lawsie! 'Ju feel that? We juz' landed!"
Did you know stewardesses is the longest word you can type with only your left hand?
Thanks for stopping by.
Friday, February 3, 2017
And now, I come to my Day Job #3. A job I never, ever contemplated having. I'm a flight attendant. A space cadet. A stewardess.
But we're there for your safety!
I fly for a regional. That translates to small. As in so small, you won't even know you're on our airline when you sit down. We dress like the big boys.
Except we fly really small airplanes. Think one- or two-flight-attendants small and the ceiling is so low you can touch it. The bathroom, rather lav, is so small, the mile-high club is an impossibility.
We affectionately call it the Pretty Sh!*y Airline. There are advantages and disadvantages. I could flip burgers and make more money. A thought I try not to dwell on.
So, why do I stay? Health insurance. And free flying is a good thing.
Would I want it for a career? No. I've been there seven years. If I stay three more, I can "retire," or quit is better, there's no defined retirement plan...but I'll keep my free flying benefit forever.
I can fly pretty much anyplace I want to go for free. Even though I work for a dinky, little commuter, we're owned by a major. We can fly free anyplace the major goes, as well as anyplace other carriers go that have reciprocal agreements with my major.
And this is a good thing.
For the most part, it's a fun little job. The passengers have been so pillaged and plundered by ticketing and TSA by the time they board my plane, all they want is to see a happy face and have a place to sit.
That flying on other airlines is at a steep discount. My guy flew to Spokane to meet his best friend in a bar last year to watch the Super Bowl. $40. Round trip. We flew Charlotte to Montana. $64 For both of us, both ways.
I've got three years to go. Then I'm history. Maybe I'll flip burgers. Maybe I'll write a book. No, wait! I'm doing that now.
Thanks for stopping by.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Day job. That thing we do with our time. To make money in order to live. My first day job was as a receptionist for a chiropractor. 1974. I think. It's hazy. After all, I am a living, mid-century modern design. Look it up. Wikipedia knows.
He was a nice man. Like working for a kind uncle. This would be job #1/2.
Next, and I consider this my first real job. Job #1. You know, the kind where you're hired by a complete stranger at a large company.... I was hired by Eastern Air Lines in Departure Services. Did that for about 10 years. I was a gate agent. The guy at the gate who lets you get on the plane.
I had my children in my 30s. My #2 day job. There's no W-2, no lunch break, no paid vacation. As a teenager, I didn't like to baby sit. I preferred puppies to babies.
BUT! I was lucky. I had the only best kids in the world. Ever.
I was a carpool, soccer mom. Sewed costumes. Subbed at their school. Baked cupcakes. Best job. Ever. Think Susan Sarandon in Stepmom. Only I didn't die. Would have made life easier for my ex if I had, though. If I ever write a contemporary Peyton Place-soap, you'll learn about it.
Don't know Peyton Place? Look it up. Wikipedia knows.
I've come to this writing thing rather late in life. How late you ask? Like really, really late. How many of you have even heard of Eastern Air Lines?
I was given an assignment in high school English class to write a myth. So I wrote one. MORNING GLORY. It was chosen for the school's anthology my junior year. My mother still had a copy.
One day, if there's absolutely nothing else to do, I'll pull it out and show it to you.
In between then and now, writing took on more of an escape. Journals, written to record momentous events for me. Journals, written to keep my sanity. The occasional short story.
The constant, creeping-into-my-consciousness thought that I want to write a book. A real story. With a plot. A hero. Better yet, a heroine.
I read. All. The. Time. Some I'd finish and think, "I could write as good as this guy." Others? Not a chance.
Little did I know the secret all published writers know. Writing? Putting words on paper? That's the easy part.
One journal recorded my first pregnancy. I started it the week I learned I was pregnant and wrote sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. I wrote of my fears. My excitement. The changes in my body. The complete occupation of my soul by this tiny creature I couldn't see.
I'd never had a weight problem, but had heard horror stories on how pregnancy ruined your body for life. You were going to be fat afterward. Forever. So I wrote down the measurements of my entire body. From my neck to my wrists to my ankles. I kept a list of before, during, and after measurements. "After" being a few days after delivery, as well as 3 months and 6 months later.
I can't share this journal with you. That little creature grew to be a delightful daughter and thief. She found it, read it, and stole it right out from under me.
I can tell you this. Pregnancy didn't ruin my body. It went back into place okay.
Thanks for stopping by.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Thanks for stopping by. This blog is for my readers. A bit rough around the edges, but still working on it.
Visit my "other self" at Barefoot Affairs. A completely different kettle of fish where you'll learn how to make your life easier, better, lovelier. Where we share recipes. Sometimes, DIY can be a good thing. Tell a few funny stories. Learn a few tips.
Here? You'll read about my journey as an author. Something I've come to late in life. I'll share my thoughts on writing. Maybe an occasional thought on life. I hope you're entertained. I hope you learn from my mistakes.
And I've made plenty. I've heard it said, "I'd never change a thing I've done in my life!"
Not me. I'd probably change something every step of the way. Be braver. Be bolder. Be kinder. Be smarter about life.
I've written for a long time, but never pursued it professionally. I wish I had.
Have any thoughts for me? Share them! I'd love to hear from you.
Thanks for visiting.