Friday, March 31, 2006
You tend to become so detached from your immediate environment that you live in a disorderly, chaotic sort of hodgepodge, though this probably bothers those around you more than it bothers you.*
Daydreaming, lack of concentration, and inattention to your surroundings can be problems for you. Your mind tends to wander unless you are using it in an imaginative, creative way.*
Yeah. I have trouble being present. I have a monkey mind, to borrow a term from the yogi of the world. Very restless, always swinging from thought to thought. It’s not clear from the snippet of my astrological profile if this disorderly, chaotic hodgepodge is an actual physical manifestation or inside my head. I think it’s the latter.
My actual life is nothing I’d classify as a hodgepodge. I’m not overly messy (I’m lazy, though, and straightening up isn’t my favorite chore). I’m punctual. I really don’t care for clutter. I remember appointments and the like. I dress appropriately, and I am highly functional. Maybe I like my physical world neat, because the world inside my head is a definite chaos.
I tried to tell my husband once why I often appeared detached and inattentive. I don’t think I explained myself very well. It’s just that my brain is so busy. Not only do I live my own life, but there are the lives of all the characters I created. And their worlds. That’s a lot of lives to keep straight (no pun intended). Add my kids and husband, the cat and the car maintenance schedule … yep, brain is busy.
So even before we had kids I figured my brain deserved a break now and again. I tried meditation. That didn’t work very well. My monkey mind had no idea how not to think. The concept of not thinking was so alien and foreign, it was immediately rejected.
Tai Chi and yoga were great, though. I had to concentrate so much on the physical demands that my brain had no choice but to shut down all thought processes to get my limbs to tangle and untangle in the correct ways. But the second I am to close my eyes and relax my mind and body, to think of a peaceful place and find inner quiet … my brain perks up and monkey mind is determined to make up for the lost sixty minutes of thought.
I have since come to terms with that contradiction: in order to relax, I have to do something strenuously physical – there has to be a certain degree of difficulty and demand or it won’t work, which perfectly mirrors this problem of mine:
You absolutely cannot tolerate being passive or even patient about getting what you want. You feel that it is up to you to take the initiative and you go after your goal or desire very aggressively.*
*Ry Redd's Cayce Past Life Report for Nadja, born March 5, 18:35, Saarbruecken, Germany
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Now I am working on my husband’s computer, but he uses a different keyboard. No, wait, *I* am the one with the different keyboard, he uses the standard, run-of-the-mill, wireless keyboard. It will take some getting used to. :-/
The good thing: without all my favorite places and links readily available I have nothing to distract me from my writing. :-)
Friday, March 24, 2006
Not only did I receive my update from the agent, but I got the rare personalized rejection writers crave (I still really, really dislike the word rejection; isn’t there a better one somewhere?).
I’ve received my share of standard form rejections. I’ve even received a bad photocopy of a rejection letter once. But this was my first personalized reply. I immediately wrote a short, polite Thank You.
Now I am left with a gentle critique pointing out two weak spots, and several options:
- I could ignore the agent’s opinion and soldier on, querying and working on the second book in the series. After all this is a subjective business and who is she to point out flaws in my writing?
- Armed with her critique, I could take a good hard look at my writing, tear it apart and reassemble it in new and, hopefully, improved form.
- I could hire a professional editor to work with me on THE PROTECTOR.
- I could wait to see if I receive other personalized replies pointing out similar flaws and then work on those problem areas.
- I could throw in the towel and take up woodworking (which incidentally I enjoy a lot).
5. is obviously out of the question. I haven’t come this far, written this much, just to give up now. No, no. But I do enjoy woodworking.
1. never even entered my mind until I sat down to write this blog entry.
Since patience is no virtue of mine, sitting around and waiting for another reply (4.) isn’t what I want to do either. Who knows how long it will be until I receive another personalized reply?
I would love to be able to afford 3.
2. was clearly a gut reaction.
This might have been the opinion of one single, solitary agent, but it has credence. So I’m going to take a good look at my writing, paying careful attention to the weaknesses and strengths she pointed out. I am not, however, going to tear apart what I’ve written. Instead, I sent away for a book critique with a professional editor. This isn’t an edit – which I can’t afford – but rather something I’d call a pre-edit. The editor is going to take a look at the entire manuscript to determine exactly what kind of edit I need. In the end, I should receive a master list of strengths and weaknesses.
Armed with the agent’s comments and that editorial master list, I can then work on THE PROTECTOR and address specific issues.
I have had the first chapter edited twice before (took advantage of a free edit offer to see exactly where my writing stands). I was pleasantly surprised.
The first editor had this to say:
“You write well, to the point right from the start and with good feel for flow and texture. You introduce each character well, and employ a nicely spare style that is instantly readable. You may want to consider merely a proofread.” [scribendi.com]
The second editor had a similar opinion:
“This is quite an interesting set up. I can already imagine what is to come. Clever dialog and it flows naturally. The setting is interesting too, as is the potential list of characters. Good start. You appear to have a good command of grammar and punctuation. In my estimation you just need a good proofreader.” [twobrotherspress.net]
What a nice boost to my writing confidence. Since English isn’t my native language, I am very proud of the fact that punctuation and grammar pass muster. I can’t wait to receive that editorial master list; not because I think it will heap more praise on me – wouldn’t that be awesome – but because it will be a great tool to work with. It will highlight flaws I might suspect already and point out other weaknesses that completely escape my attention.
The reply I received from my choice agent might have been a rejection, but in the end she did me a great favor and my writing will be better for it.
All this means, though, that my focus will be on THE PROTECTOR again. Instead of moving on and possibly committing the same sins again, I will take a step back and work on the first book in the series again. In all honesty, I don’t expect the revision to take very long. It took me six weeks to do a line-by-line edit, often floundering a bit, because I was unsure of what to look for exactly. With the book critique as road map, I should be able to focus my attention and effort exactly where it’s needed.
Thank you, Ella, for thinking I am brave to take feedback this well. I don’t think it’s bravery as much as ambition and a very healthy hunger to learn more, to improve and to better my skills.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Yeah, I’m guessing I won’t have too much trouble showcasing Mason’s darker side this time around.
When the time came during THE PROTECTOR to turn up the heat and deliver a few roundhouse kicks, I rented a bunch of action movies and stocked up on action novels. I tried to watch action-rich shows on TV. I also read a few gun magazines and at least one aimed at police officers, which was very helpful. It got to the point where I felt comfortable penning action. I simply closed my eyes, watched the movie in my head and then began the task of putting into words what I saw in my head.
Soren action is easiest. He’s the untrained fighter who discovered he’s best with a blunt object in his hands. There’s nothing like bashing someone over the head. There didn’t have to be much skill on his part and thus not that much knowledge on my part.
Mason is the disciplined, trained fighter. He required extensive research. The guy’s an ex-Army Ranger, for heaven’s sake. But he didn’t have much opportunity to show his stuff in THE PROTECTOR. He’ll get a few more chances in THE GHOST CRAB.
You guessed it; chapter six is a Mason chapter.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
It’s difficult to remain optimistic when faced with the very real possibility that by the time I check my e-mail again there might be a very nice “No, Thank You” letter in my inbox.
It is, of course, way better to receive a definitive “No, Thank You” than to wait. Yes, sure, waiting keeps hope alive, but the energy used to fuel that hope is energy I don’t have to pour into my current writing project.
It’s just as possible that my partial got lost among all the other partials, that my e-mail will spark a quick search and a hasty read, immediately followed by a “Yes, Send More” e-mail in my inbox.
But, dang, my toe hurts ….
Monday, March 20, 2006
Last year, the kids and I traveled to Germany to visit my family. Somtime during the second day my daughter asked if we could go to the beach on one of the following days. I remembered that today. It’s funny what we take for granted. Of course, for the vast majority of her young life she’s lived on an island or another, never more than a few travel minutes from a beach.
We might move on next year. We’re an Army family after all.
I’ll miss the beach.
By the way, where my parents live in Germany, there’s no beach for hundreds of miles.
GHOST CRAB status: worked on dialogue for two later chapters. Been mulling over the opening for chapter six.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I like agent blogs. They are a great opportunity to gauge personalities and to get a feel for the person you might like to work with for years to come. And then, of course, there are the tips and helpful hints.
I recently re-discovered the blog of the agent who requested a partial from me. It was in its beginning stages when I first queried her. Of course, now, after I queried, she talks about query pet peeves and the like. I was mortified. At least, I didn’t do anything she dislikes, but I sure left out stuff she is keen on reading. Sigh. If she hadn’t already requested the partial, I would have buried my head in the sand, to never query near her zip code again.
I do, however, take the opportunity to comment on her blog. And I use my real name. If a polite comment turns her off, if something I say or ask makes her round file my partial in disgust, then, honestly, I don’t think we would have had a good working relationship.
And in the spirit of complete and utter honesty: yes, I hope she recognizes my name and remembers that there is a partial of mine in her reading stack. (What are the chances of two hundred other authors having a complicated name like mine and writing homoerotic fiction?)
Friday, March 17, 2006
But that’s so not what I wanted to rant about. It’s Friday, and I don’t like Fridays much. For the same reason the majority of regular people like Fridays, they ring in the weekend. It’s around 1pm now, which makes it around 6pm on the East coast. I think it’s safe to say agent offices are closing down now for the weekend, and I won’t be receiving any e-mails. And that just means another week has passed without replies to my queries.
There is still hope, though. Not all the agents I contacted are located in NYC. In fact, the one I am most anxious to hear from isn’t anywhere near the East Coast. And what time is it in Canada? Just kidding …
But I can’t write about this without mentioning that I have indeed received e-mails from agents and one publisher on weekends. The very first agent who requested a partial contacted me on a Sunday. I was duly impressed. The one e-mail from a publisher, Lida Quillen, Twilight Times Books, also arrived on a Sunday. Again, I was duly impressed. She wasn’t interested in THE PROTECTOR, but she let me down gently with a request to see more material when it became available. She might have said No, but she put a smile on my face on that particular Sunday.
So no, I don’t enjoy Fridays, because they mark the end of yet another week. But, hey, as far as I am concerned, Saturday is the start of a new week :-)
Have a grand weekend, everyone.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
So why don’t I?
I have what you’d call a sparse style and it works well for me. No flowery prose, no descriptions to skip (okay, there is one in chapter four, but I had to describe the layout of the Sea Sprite somewhere). I have no trouble admitting that I don’t feel comfortable adding to the manuscript the way it is. I also have no illusions about there being opportunities to flesh out scenes and character movements. I’m afraid, though, that what I would add now would increase the word count not the quality of the manuscript. I’ve reached a plateau with THE PROTECTOR.
Should I admit to this? I don’t know. I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s beneficial to acknowledge one’s limitations. And I think with THE PROTECTOR I’ve reached a level I will not pass without professional help. I think of the learning experience working with a professional editor would be, and I’m almost more excited about working with someone than having the end result published. (What can I say? I’ve always enjoyed learning.)
Now the question becomes whether I have written well enough to make up for the missing words. Is there enough quality and potential in my 59,000 words to give an agent or publisher the idea that I will be able to add a few thousand more with some guidance?
I think so :-)
All in all, I’ve sent out 28 queries since February 2005.
I’m still waiting to receive 14 replies from agents and publishers who’ve received queries and/or partials.
Monday, March 13, 2006
I really liked my original letter. But after posting it to a writer’s forum, I received some mixed feedback and decided to change it. The feedback was okay, but not quite as constructive as I had expected. One reviewer criticized my name choices: Mason and Soren were too androgynous. One corrected my usage of Mariana Trench: it’s obviously Mariana’s Trench. (It’s NOT.) A few suggested rounding 59,000 words to 60,000 words. One generalized by grouping homoerotic suspense in with porn, which apparently wasn’t a serious genre and would make me a laughing stock.
After reading those responses I was discouraged. I’m not easily discouraged, but it was one of those days when I notice how I haven’t found anyone interested in THE PROTECTOR yet. It all became clear, of course, after reading the feedback: my letter sucked.
So I took the two good responses I received and reworked my letter. I added a bit more drama befitting a suspense novel and changed my second hook paragraph. Where before I listed the obstacles my protagonists face, I now concentrate only on two very specific threats. It’s tighter than before. I lost the tiny part I used to highlight THE PROTECTOR’s quirkiness, but I kept the word quirky, so the adjective will just have to speak for itself.
Now I have a great query letter. And no one to send it to…
Saturday, March 11, 2006
The turn-out was great. In fact, there were more people than chairs. The speaker/author was very nice and personable, but he didn’t have a shred of information I hadn’t come across yet. Worse, because sixty minutes is not a lot of time to discuss the publishing industry, he stuck to very general tips and made the query sound like an outline “you’d write for your college literary class.”
He also touched on one of my pet peeves for advice. How to find the agent for you? Simple! Find books that are like yours, check the acknowledgment section and write down the name of the agent. I truly, truly despise that piece of advice. Does anyone who advices to do that even read the acknowledgement sections? I once spent two days at Barnes & Nobel doing just that. I picked up every single book in the gay and lesbian section, jotted down all the names mentioned in the acknowledgements and found only two identified as agents. Editors were thanked much more often, John Scognamiglio among them. He works for Kensington, of course. And Kensington will only work with agents.
Not discouraged easily, I came back a second day and worked my way through the mystery, suspense and thriller section. I did a few shelves of romance novels, then eventually gave up. The number of agents identified and thanked in the acknowledgment section is virtually non-existent.
As far as advice goes: combing through acknowledgements is a waste of time. It is far easier to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace and read the sections on deals and new books, which often identify the agents behind the deals.
As many hours and days as I have spent looking for agents representing gay fiction, I still have not found the agents who represented my favorite writers published with Kensington. Every so often I check to see if those writers have websites yet, but none of them do. Bummer.
Oh, and in case you wondered about all those names I jotted down. Yes, I check each and every one against the agent databases available on the Internet and in reference guides such as the LMP. I found two more to add to the two who were readily identified as agents.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Hafa Adai Nadja:
You will need to obtain an Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) license in order to serve and sell liquor as a bartender. You will have to take a class to qualify for it. There is also a requirement to obtain a health certificate. Your employer will have to assist you in obtaining both of these government requirements.
DAVID B. TYDINGCO
I don’t print very much. For the longest time I didn’t even have the printer hooked up. It was only when I came across agents who required hardcopy queries that I got the printer out of its box.
Next to my desk I keep a box filled with papers that have one printed side. I reuse these by printing on the flip side. I never thought much of it. My kids use that paper, too. So a few days ago my daughter took a few pages and turned them into an art project. With the help of scissors and much glue, she transformed the pages into a very nice bird. She was so proud of her bird, she wanted to take it to school.
“Sure,” I said.
It wasn’t until we were standing in front of her Kindergarten class that I realized what was printed on the back of her bird. She’d taken a sex scene! I stood there staring down at my own writing, wondering how I was going to talk her out of taking the bird inside to show to her teacher.
Now it wasn’t as if the entire scene was printed across the back of her bird. She’d done a superb job of covering the naughty bits and leaving the fairly harmless stuff exposed. I didn’t see any words she could get expelled over. Whew. But I sure waited by the phone all day, expecting a call from her teacher.
No one called.
I was almost disappointed.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Is this a big deal? Yes. No. If he doesn’t need a license, all is well. If he does need a license, then the question becomes how complicated the process is on Guam. Is this a matter of filling out paperwork and paying for a permit? Or is some sort of professional training/course work required before applying for the license?
I had Soren working at Tradewinds in the last chapter of THE PROTECTOR, six weeks after the major events. Clearly, I need to see if that’s feasible.
I contacted the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association. Hopefully, they’ll be nice enough to answer my questions regarding the bartending (liquor) license circumstances on Guam.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Name: Soren Michael Buchanan
Reason or meaning of name: Swedish name: reddish-brown hair
Age: 22-23 (The Protector); 23 (The Ghost Crab) Birth date: October 23
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Birth Place: Hagatna, Guam
Height: 5’10 ½” (179cm)
Weight: 160-165lbs (73-75kg)
Eye Color: green as jade
Hair color: burnished copper (red)
Grooming: clean, but messy, tousled hair, longish, no regular cuts, does not shave regularly
Shampoo: peppermint 2-in-1
Type of body/build: rangy, lean, sleek, muscled and fit
Skin: creamy white complexion, a dusting of freckles over his nose, his cheekbones and forehead, eyelids, his shoulders and upper chest, hands, the inside of his arms and thighs, the backs of his knees, his feet and the sole of one foot (left)
Distinguishing Marks/Scars: scar: right ankle (skateboarding accident)
Facial features: Nordic features, narrow face, long nose, prominent cheekbones, strong jaw, mouth too wide, but very kissable
Physical Features: nipples, small and pale; cock lean and sleek
Work attire: jeans and uniform T-shirt (green, Tradewinds logo emblazoned)
After-hours clothing: shorts and T-shirts
Posture: usually relaxed, slouchy
Mannerism: moods change and body language with it
Gestures: likes to mimic Mason’s facial gestures
Degree of religious practice: none
Current occupation: Bartender
Past jobs: part-time work in father’s accounting firm
Professional degrees/certificates: Cabinet and Furniture Making (traditional, two year, hands-on program) North Bennet Street School, Boston
High School: Father Duenas Memorial School, Mangilao (Guam’s only all-boys college prep school)
I went back to chapter five. It’s a Soren chapter and those are always fun. I have to be honest: Soren is more difficult to write for than Mason. I have an easier time relating to Mason. I share his anal side. While I am nowhere near as compulsive as he is, I am a planner and an organizer. I think things through. I weigh my option. I have back-up plans and alternate routes. I usually come prepared. Oh, and I am punctual.
Soren is none of these things. I have notes tacked up on the board next to my work station, reminding me what NOT to do with Soren. He’s not a driven, goal-oriented, self-determined person. He is far more laid back and happy-go-lucky. He’s very much a product of his upbringing, which is to say, he’s used to others being in charge of his life and making decisions for him.
This is his first time on his own. And, as you know, he’s not really on his own. He’s learning curve might not be as steep with Mason by his side, but he is learning and setting his own course.
That said, chapter five challenges the choices Soren has made thus far. How will he handle this test? His knee-jerk reaction is to back down – the challenge is issued by his father whom he hasn’t seen since THE PROTECTOR. But his gut tells him to steer his course. Once his decision is made, he’ll have to defend it in a follow-up chapter, face-to-face with the man who’d controlled most of his life.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Four most recent jobs you have had in your life:
1. Mother of two and wife to one ;-)
2. Writer for a weekly Army newspaper
3. Reintegration teacher to soldiers returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan
4. Reporter/Editor for a weekly magazine in Okinawa, Japan
Four places you have lived:
1. Hawaii, USA
2. Okinawa, Japan
3. New Jersey and Georgia, USA
Four places you have been on vacation:
1. Spain (many summers with my parents)
2. Italy (summer camp once)
3. France (summer camp once)
4. Austria (once with my parents)
Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Lost and Criminal Minds (they count as one since they are on at the same time on the same day and I watch them both)
Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. Serenity (swooning when Simon gets shoot)
2. uh …
3. hmm …
4. eh … (I don’t have enough time to watch four movies over and over, fit in my favorite TV shows, the kids, husband AND my writing)
Four websites I visit daily:
1. http://pubrants.blogspot.com/ (for the inside track in the agent business)
2. http://groups.google.com.au/?lnk=lt (for fun, insightful discussions and great fiction)
3. http://www.zap2it.com/ (online TV guide so I know there’s nothing worth watching on TV)
4. my e-mail account, my website to marvel at the increasing visitor count, my blog for updates
Four of my favorite foods:
1. Meringue (I cannot remember the last time I actually ate some)
2. dark, semi-sweet, semi-bitter chocolate
Four places I would rather be right now:
1. on a massage table somewhere
2. in a phone conference with my agent and/or publisher discussing my literary genius [sigh, so not going to happen anytime soon; I don’t have an agent and/or publisher yet ;-]
3. in bed with a great book (someone just recommended MENAGE by Emma Holly)
4. at the Oscars, in an awesome gown size 10 (I was going to say size 2, but I am a realist; have you seen my favorite foods?!)
Feel free to share your favorite likes and dislikes in the comment section. Hello? Is anyone reading this?!
Thursday, March 02, 2006
After I first learned of the book, I was all excited to read it. I found it in the bookstore, opened it to the middle and realized it’s a first person account. I don’t care for the first person point of view, so I put the book back. I wasn’t going to spend all that money on something I might not like. I requested it from my local library instead. I finally, finally got a copy this week.
I immediately neglected my housewifely chores and kids – we ate take-out that night – and immersed myself in the book. It wasn’t much of an immersion. I got to chapter four. I have not read past chapter four. Well, that’s not entirely true. I thumbed through the book (tome) and read bits here and there. It’s what I do in the bookstore. I rarely ever look at the first page. I go for the guts of the story and see if anything catches my eye. If nothing jumps out at me, I read the first page.
So I read parts of different chapters here and there, but nothing grabbed my attention. I had a very difficult time reading past the punctuation. Large parts of the book are told to the narrator, accounts of past incidents are recited to her. That means large parts of the book are quoted. And that means there are a lot of these things:
“’Hugh said as much,’ I muttered.
“’I’ll explain later. Go on.’
I seldom read with a reader’s eye; most of the time I read with a writer’s eye or an editor’s eye. I take note of word choices, sentence syntax, punctuation, things like that. And when I read, the reader in me was jarred by all the quotation marks.
This book was Elizabeth Kostova’s debut effort. She received a 2.2-million-dollar advance for it.
I just couldn’t get excite by it. The writing was flawless, but it didn’t sparkle for me; add the first person point of view … I will be returning it to the library later today, and I feel saddened by that. A book is meant to be read.
It’s what drove me to write THE PROTECTOR and begin THE GHOST CRAB. I had read my share of gay mysteries and suspense novels, worked my way through mainstream gay fiction and even indulged in some more sexual texts. What I wanted to read was a book that combined the best elements all of these genres. I wanted an adventure that included sex not happening off stage. And it couldn’t be in first person.
So I wrote one.
Benjamin Disraeli apparently had the same dilemma. He is credited with saying, “When I want to read a good book, I write one.”
And that’s why I write.