Archive for August, 2008

From Sunrise To Sunset.
August 29, 2008

In Arizona, both sunrise and sunset, monsoon storm and blue sky (and everything in-between) is just one big photo opportunity. Below is some beauty to usher in your weekend.

 

Sunrise in the desert

 

Severe Thunderstorm (8-28-08)

 

 

Sunset

 

 I feel a bit like a photographic fraud, as even a monkey could take wonderful photos when nature is strutting her stuff so brilliantly.

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Serendipity On Query Road.
August 25, 2008

“There is nothing either good or bad

but thinking makes it so.”

Shakespeare

 Hamlet, II, 2, 253. 

Who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies? I highly recommend them, myself. Not only because they’re easy to eat while driving down Query Road, but because they’re a yummy example of serendipity.

Chocolate chip cookies, therefore, also remind me of the query process.

 As you chug down Query Road collecting tickets (Dear Author rejections), keep your eyes on the road and continue to follow the map — the map of your aspirations. As you pull out of the (insert your favorite writer here) Rest Stop, do bet on the fact that your oil tank will be full of serendipity.

Even better than oil, serendipity never runs low. It also works with your gas tank (full of hopes and dreams) quite exquisitely.    

Actually, chocolate chip cookies owe their very existence to serendipity: 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

“When the Toll House Inn’s Ruth Wakefield ran out of baking chocolate one day in 1930, she smashed up a bar of semi-sweet chocolate and added the pieces to her dough. Upon their removal from the oven, the cookies weren’t uniformly infused with melted chocolate, but rather studded with little chunks throughout. The signature sweet put her Whitman, Massachusetts inn on the culinary map.”

(information courtesy of AOL)

Some more tips for navigating Query Road, and to avoid dinging your chances of agent representation? 

1) Don’t, don’t, DON’T gripe and complain about specific agents and their rejections on your blog.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about the process and your experiences. By talking about it, you help other writers not as far along as you. It’s important that we keep helping each other.

I’m just saying that, just like us, (you know you do! : ), agents and people in the publishing industry google their names. The last thing you want to do is insult or anger agents (or their agent friends) who might have been considering representation until they read your blog.    

Just last week, through my own googling of agents as I prepared more queries, I came across many blogs (of irate, rejected writers) complaining about rejection letters, the type of rejection letters, how long it took to receive the rejection letter, the wording of the rejection letter, etc. and etc. 

Doing this (being a bad sport) is tantamount to racing down Query Road and aiming straight for a tree at one hundred miles an hour.

Talk about your experience, sure, but leave out the names. Plan on getting a mail bag full of rejections. The more realistic you are, the less the sting.

2) You’re not a serial killer (I hope not : ) but are you a serial comma user? Do you use too many adjectives? How about typos?

There is a wealth of information to be mined down Query Road. Learn something!

For example, before you query, check the agency’s website and their agents’ blogs — not just for submission guidelines, but for their personal preferences. Often you will come across a goldmine of information on grammar, how to prepare your query, how to improve your manuscript and other information that only works to make your work and your submission better.

3) For every rejection letter you receive, send out two more queries. Get filled with the excitement of new scenery instead of stalled out on Query Road, going nowhere.  

Using my past three rejection letters as an example, there are now six more query letters sailed off into the world. It only takes one yes — so keep those queries coming.

Query Road.
August 21, 2008

They say that I won’t last too long on Broadway

I’ll catch a Greyhound bus for home, they all say

But they’re dead wrong, I know they are

‘Cause I can play this here guitar

And I won’t quit till I’m a star on Broadway.

“On Broadway”

 Interestingly enough, I’ve been thinking lately about how the query process is much like a cross-country road trip. You start out all excited for new adventures and new scenery, with a “gas tank” overflowing with hopes and dreams, and a vehicle called the internet.

Like any other road trip, there will be stops (self-doubt) and starts (new agencies to query), wrong turns (form rejections), and wonderful sights (personalized rejections, requests for pages, partials and fulls).

Continuing on-course, the final destination (agent representation, your book sold, publication) is just around the bend. You may not see it from where you sit, pounding on the keys and obsessively checking email, but it’s out there waiting for your arrival, with cake and champagne and helium balloons and maybe, if you’re lucky, a small, grinning monkey that does cartwheels and handstands.

Of course, as you’re querying, there are things you can do to make the process more enjoyable.

1) Wear diamonds. Yes, I’m not kidding. As you watch your fingers readying the next email query, it’s a lot prettier when you’re wearing diamonds that catch the light and throw rainbows onto the walls. In this case, more IS better, with diamond anniversary bands throwing the most light to guide you down Query Road.

2) Query in your pajamas — heck, do it in a t-shirt and undies while sitting in bed. Thumb your nose at authority and professional protocol, but in a way that won’t impact your query letters or your chances.

3) Each time you hit send on a query letter, get up on your bed and jump up and down, like you did as a kid. Memorize how it feels to be launched into the air, and imagine your book doing the same. But a word of caution: remove all purring cats and snoring dogs, first.   

Of course, even on Query Road, your vehicle can overheat. Sometimes it’s one mile forward and two miles doubling back. At times the road will be closed, or you’ll encounter a dead end. That’s okay. It’ll make for great stories, later.

I keep all this wisdom in mind today, especially after the request for pages I wrote about last week turned into a form rejection this week, along with two more form rejections — one yesterday, and one this morning. 

I’m still standing tall, or, um, sitting. I’ve got my diamonds on, the gas tank remains full of dreams, and it’s full speed ahead.

If you find yourself rejected and dejected as you make your way down Query Road, pull over into the nearest Rest Stop (named after your favorite writer, of course) and give yourself permission to feel it; set a time limit, get a slurpee and a soft pretzel, kick the tire a few times, and then settle yourself back behind the wheel. 

Take a deep breath, and repeat after me: There are amazing and exciting things just around the bend. There are amazing and exciting things just around the bend. There are amazing and exciting things just around the bend … 

Because that’s what the published authors tell themselves.

A Request For Pages.
August 16, 2008

“An ice age here, a million years of mountain-building there, plates of bedrock grinding against each other over a span of millennia… Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes, really. Pressure and time.”

The Shawshank Redemption

 It was just about the most exciting thing that’s happened to me yet — a few days ago I checked my email and found a response from an agent I queried, written like a regular email, devoid of stock industry phrases, requesting manuscript pages after reading my query letter and synopsis.

I’m just so excited.

It’s good to know an agent thinks my novel’s premise can hold up in the publishing world. She wanted to see if my writing style was a good fit. I’m still waiting to hear the verdict.

“Opinions vary widely in this business”, as you get used to reading in rejection letters, and it’s true; we’ll just have to wait and see if it’s my time to shine. If it is, great; I’m ready to go because I’ve done the hard, hard work, and I’ll continue to do it. If it’s not, it’s not, and my time will come. I believe that’s true for all of us.

The days have been getting kinder in the desert, a welcome break for humans and animals. The temperature during the day is still one hundred degrees or more, but the evenings are finally cooling off as the monsoon rains sneak in at night and work their magic.

Last night, sitting on the porch as the storm built up, my hot hair off my neck in a clip (and the breeze worth ticket money), I imagined the email with the next request: a partial.

In anticipation, I woke up early this morning and went back over the first one hundred pages.

Stumbling into the kitchen a few hours later and seeing me typing away, my husband groaned at my declaration that I would continue to go over the whole manuscript, all 387 pages, “just one more time”. He now laughs when he hears me say “the book is done!” or “I’m done editing”, because we both know the insidious, book-writing truth: it’s never really done. A writer will always reread, recheck and fiddle.

A writer friend, upon hearing of the request for pages, was happy I’d no longer have to fret over disinterest or form rejections.

However, just last night another impersonal, form rejection arrived in my inbox. It just goes to show how subjective the business really is — “Opinions vary widely in this business” — as you sail your book out into the world, say, tasting like pizza, when the agent had more of a hankering for wild cherries.

You just never know. It’s why rejection is never a good reason to pack it in — the pizza-loving agent may only be a query letter away, looking through her inbox, famished.

Your Voice For The Wild Mustangs.
August 12, 2008

 

 Photo courtesy of Marilyn Newton of the New York Times.

The above photo depicts a round-up of wild mustangs by BLM officials. Sometimes horses or foals are trampled by the herd as they flee in fear from the helicopters. Some, falling, break legs. Others have been driven over cliffs in their attempts to elude capture.  

We all know, especially those of us who honor the human voice as our profession, how important and life-changing our voices can be. It’s why it’s so sad to hear of voices silenced in our society. It’s why books and poems are cherished and valued by the people — the voice is the mainline to the heart and soul, and to everything meaningful and beautiful in our lives.

Also, our voices can be powerful weapons for change in this wonderful, yet imperfect world.

This is one of those times.

The mustangs need your voice NOW. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is asking for YOUR opinion on the proposed Fall euthanasia of some or all of the 30,000 wild mustangs presently in BLM holding facilities. With a once-estimated 200,000,000 or more wild horses running free, and an estimated 25,000 left on the land (at numbers not genetically viable), our wild horses are facing future extinction.  

The concern over the plight of America’s wild horses isn’t limited to just Americans, either; people from all over the world are speaking out to help save the mustangs. 

There HAS to be another way, and another answer to the mustang issue, than to massacre wild horses in BLM captivity. It’s time to initiate change in the BLM program (paid for with YOUR tax dollars) and come up with an alternate, life-saving solution.

The best solution would be to set the wild horses free — let wild horses be wild horses, preserved and protected on the land already set aside for them. 

There is no doubt that we as a society care about the horses. Polls and petitions have proven this to be true over and over again.

Here is where your individual voice is worth its weight in wild mustangs. Here’s your chance to tell the BLM that you seriously object to the euthanasia and/or slaughter of the wild mustangs in BLM captivity.

Ask them to utilize birth control procedures (a vaccine called PZP) as a way to thin the herds and keep numbers manageable. Tell them killing wild mustangs is out of the question, and ask them to brainstorm until another solution is found that doesn’t involve the death of these magnificent, sentient beings.

You don’t need to be an expert on the subject — you just need to let the BLM know that you value these horses’ lives. 

What did you do to change the world, today? Here is your chance. You don’t even need to leave the house.

Please do let your most powerful, compassionate voice be heard. If a wild mustang could argue for its life, its voice would sound just like yours.

Click on the picture below to sign a petition (30,000 votes are needed!) and to send a letter to the BLM. Pass it on — tell your family and friends.

Author’s Note: Congratulate yourselves, fellow horse lovers, because the goal of 30,000 signatures has been REACHED, and is climbing!

New Goal: 50,000 signatures. Please click the badge above and join in the effort to build a kinder world for horses! Let’s save our wild horses!