Query Ramblings

Recently I began querying the manuscripts for two novels I’ve written.  At first I hated this process.  You pour out your heart into your writing, then submit it to a select group of literary agents in hopes that one of them will snatch it up and say, “YES! I must have this!”  Well, it doesn’t really happen that way.  Some people have been querying for years with not a single nibble.  Even J.K. Rowling has stories of this process that might bring nightmares to those considering walking in her shoes.

Recently I’ve received feedback on both of my novels from agents who chose to pass.  There’s not much I hate worse than a rejection, but it might surprise you to know that I love a rejection that comes with an explanation.

Some people have said, “why would you want to fix it just because someone tells you what they don’t like about it?”  Well, it really depends upon the type of feedback, but the answer is simple:  If I don’t know what’s broken, I can’t fix it.  Understanding the catalyst for a pass allows me the opportunity to know where there are problems and fix it.

“But your beta readers loved it,” some say.  “If your readers love it, why would you change it at all?”

Again, the answer is simple:  if the criticism is valid, then it’s arrogant to not give it real consideration.

So what’s the feedback I’ve received that caused me to make changes?  It seems that I know every technique for writing in a passive voice and utilize them to perfection.  Yes – that’s a near quote.  Haha!  Honestly, I didn’t know that!  Looking back over both manuscripts, I realized she’s right.  Ouch!  But guess what?  That’s easily fixable.  She said she loved my “voice” but couldn’t abide the passive tense.

The second criticism I got on the second manuscript was that I was a pro at tense confusion.  Okay…she didn’t say I was a “pro,” but I’ve identified what she meant and it’s true.  I switched up past and present tense consistently.  That one was a lot harder to fix because it was difficult for me to identify, but I sat down with a talented English teacher and she helped me identify what that meant.  Now I’m hyper-sensitive to it.

So what’s the end result?  Some people hate criticism and take it very personally.  After all, what we write is our baby.  Telling someone you don’t like the style they’ve used can be akin to saying, “Oh, your daughter is so pretty, but she’d be beautiful if only she had red hair and green eyes instead of that brown hair and brown eyes.”  If you’re a writer, tell me that’s not true.  I bet you can’t.

But really, as a parent, who wouldn’t want to help her child to find more success in life?  I like to think of criticism — criticism from those who know their business — as a kind of personal hygiene for the manuscript.  Just because my son thinks his breath smells better when he doesn’t brush his teeth doesn’t mean it’s true.

Now, before y’all go critiquing this blogpost with comments on tense confusion and passive voice, I’m gonna tell you right now that I freely admit that those problems exist within this text.  I’m not going to change them this time, though.  This writing is for me.  It’s how my brain thinks and this particular post is all about pouring out what’s on my brain.

So…back to the query process.  Check in with me in five years and I’ll let you know if I’m still enjoying it.  :)

It’s Pitch Madness Day! #PitMad

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It’s Pitch Madness Day, and I’m so excited!  What is Pitch Madness, you ask?  It’s this incredibly fun game on Twitter, sponsored by a woman named Brenda Drake.  Authors all over Twitter will pitch their novels to literary agents (and publishers?) in only the 140 characters allowed by Twitter.

Holy buckets!  YOU try explaining the plot of your favorite book in 140 characters!!  It’s hard!  But CRAZY fun!

As a writer, I’d loved to have my book picked up and sold to a huge publishing house.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  But the truth is that the game is so much fun that it really doesn’t matter.  So, if you’re in the mood for some entertainment, pop yourself a bowl of popcorn and head on over to #PitMad on Twitter!

BIG RULE:  Please do NOT “favorite” any post unless you’re an agent or publisher.
“Favoriting” is how the authors are notified by agents to send in their queries!  

Want more information?  Go to:  http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/

If you’re interested in my book, here’s the synopsis:

Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene knows her family despises her.  She’s even heard her grandchildren snigger behind her back about the “Immaculate Conception of David” — her fifth child, conceived between husbands.  But Victoria refuses to die before revealing the secrets she’s held locked away for more than 50 years; the secrets only whispered about in family folklore that have made her the feared matriarch of her family.  Widowed with nine children, Victoria will do anything to provide for her large family — even murder, and without remorse.  Each day brings greater challenges:  poverty, homelessness, death, starvation, degradation and disease.  Some challenges will require despicable acts to overcome. But at what cost?  Can her family understand the decisions she’s made to secure their futures?

In the meantime, best wishes to all of that authors out there madly tweeting their books!  And stay tuned to see how I do!

The Waiting is Painful

So I’ve finally done it:  I’ve written a book!  It’s not something I ever expected I’d really do; and – more than that – I never in a million years thought I’d write a book of fiction!  But I’ve done it!  The premise?  It’s loosely based upon my father’s family during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and The Great Depression.  Everyone has read or seen Steinbeck’s version – The Grapes of Wrath – but I’ve never seen a story about those who were too poor to leave, and who were forced to stayed behind.  This is their story…and it’s based on several actual events.

Believe it or not, my father’s family was dirt-poor.  What does that mean?  It means they were so poor that they didn’t even have real floors in their home.  The floors were made of dirt.  When they had a home, that is.  Times were tough, and they didn’t always have a home.  So the question is:  what does a widow with a half dozen children do to support herself out in the boonies?  How does she feed her children?  What does she do to put a roof over their heads?  Those are the questions I began asking, and they are the foundation for my book.

So now the wait…and it’s painful!  I’ve begun querying agents and the form letter reading “thanks, but not for us,” is killing me!  What’s worse is those agents who don’t respond at all!  Ugh!

My day will come.  It’s just a matter of time before someone reads my book and decides it’s worthy of notice.  In the meantime, cross your fingers for me!

What’s that you said?

listeningI think I’m getting to an age where I need to consider stronger glasses and <gasp> hearing aids!  Never was the latter more pronounced than earlier this week as I was driving my 10-year old home from swim practice.  During his endless monologue from the back seat – and my tuning in and out with an occasional “uh huh” or “wow” – I was startled out of my near coma (from listening to his constant narrative from the back seat) when the following conversation took place.

“Hey Mom, Guess what?  I’m a penis,” Braden proclaimed proudly.

“Huh?” I asked.  Surely I didn’t hear him correctly.

“I’m a penis,” he repeated.

“Braden!  What in the world!  That’s not a nice thing to say,” I scolded.  “You can’t go around calling yourself a penis!  What in the world would make you think that’s okay?”

“Geesh, Mom!  What the heck?!” Braden responded with no small amount of irritation. “Pianst!  Pi-ah-nist!  PI-AH-NIST!  I play PIANO!  Seriously?!”

Well…that’s a relief!  I guess I’m off to get my ears checked!

Sometimes It’s Better Not to Know…

Having raised a girl first – and then raising a boy now – I can honestly say that I was in no way prepared for little boy issues.  I never imagined I’d find myself as the mom having to teach a child to “lift the seat” or “hit the target,”among other things.  I never imagined having to explain a variety of different boy-issues, and I certainly never expected to have a need for things to be explained to me!

941310_10201276129769093_714146396_nThough it’s early May, my part of the country has been hit with some extremely unusual weather these last few days.  Just Thursday, in fact, we got hit with nearly a foot and a half of snow…On May 2nd!  Now, instead of enjoying the balmy warmth of what should be Spring, we were huddled up in our winter coats and snow boots once again.  I certainly have a bone to pick with Mother Nature!

The high temperature for yesterday hit around 33 degrees and, of course – thinking that May should be a warm month – I’d packed away winter coats.  As a result, when it became necessary to trek out to Target for groceries, little Mister Braden just about froze his rear end off.

As we unloaded the car and I prepared to put our purchases away, Braden began to alternate crossing his legs with a jumping up and down motion.  “I gotta go to the bathroom!” he exclaimed.

“Well then, go!” I told him.

“I will…just give me a minute,” he responded.

A minute passed, and then another, and then a full five minutes had passed and Braden was still doing his little dance in the kitchen.  “Braden, what in the world are you doing?” I asked.

“I have to pee,” he responded.  “I have to pee real bad!”

“Don’t say ‘pee,’ Braden…it’s not polite,” I responded.  “Now, go to the bathroom.”

“I will.  Just a minute!” he whined.

By this point, I began to get frustrated.  “What are you waiting for?  Just go!” I responded.

With a huge sigh, Braden practically whined “I’m waiting for my hands to warm up…” and he continued to hop from one foot to the other while simultaneously trying to cross his legs.

I had now lost the battle and was officially irritated.  “Braden, what in the world do your hands have to do with going to the bathroom?!  Get in there right now and go before you pee on my floor!” I said with barely-contained irritation.

il_fullxfull.326623038“Mom…first of all, don’t say ‘pee.’  It isn’t polite,” he responded with a smart-alec smirk.  He continued by saying, “I can’t go to the bathroom right now because my hands are too cold!  You try touching your private parts with cold hands and see how you like it!”

I should’ve just left it at that, but those of you who know me also know that there’s no way I could leave it at that.  “What in the world?  Why do you have to touch your private parts when you use the bathroom?  That’s just gross!”

Finally losing his patience with my ignorance, Braden growled “Do you want me to pee in the toilet or on it?  If you want me to pee in the toilet, then I have to use my hands to guide my pee to its target!  Okay?!”

For once I was speechless.  As a woman, this was not an issue I’d ever had to deal with.  How in the world do you respond to that logic?

“Fine,” I replied.  “Just don’t forget to wash your hands.”  And then as an afterthought I added, “And don’t say ‘pee.’  It isn’t polite.”

Are you smarter than a caveman?

526609_10200985780237455_785096382_nTeenagers know absolutely everything!  It doesn’t matter what the topic, if there is an expert on that topic you can be sure that there’s a teenager – probably every teenager – that is the most knowledgeable.  It’s for this reason that I’ve recently decided to quit giving my own teenager more information than she absolutely has to have.  After all, if she knows as much or more than I, then there’s no point in my wasting my breath.

Several days ago, my 17 year old daughter drove her car into the garage to park and – in the process – happened to knock a garden hose rack and hose off of the wall.  Completely.  The rack came out of the wall entirely.  My husband told her to be sure to pick everything up because she didn’t want to run over anything that would cause damage to her tires or vehicle,  Unfortunately – though quite predictably – Amber didn’t need play-by-play instructions of the items she should be certain to pick up and – as a result – she left a screw on the floor of the garage.  Two days later, she ran over that same screw and put a hole in her tire.

My husband is much more patient – and devious – than I am.  He decided that it was time for Amber to learn how to change her own tire, so he took her out to the garage to instruct her in the process.  He showed her how to put the car up on the lifter-thingy (no laughing – I don’t need to know what it’s called!  That’s what I have him for!) and had removed the bad tired and was ready to put the full-size spare on in its place.

“Amber, will you please bring me that other tire that’s leaning against the wall over there?” he said pointing to the tire they’d leaned against the wall some distance away.

Amber walked over to the tire, squatted down, wrapped her arms around the tire and, with a loud groan, lifted the tire off the grown and haltingly carried the tire across the room to her dad and set it down in front of him.

547858_10200985778997424_389451329_n“Wow!”  she exclaimed.  “That’s really heavy!”

“Of course it is,” he responded.  “Why didn’t you just roll it over here instead of picking it up?”

The silence was thick as his words slowly seeped into her teenage brain.  “Oh.  I thought the tire had to be attached to the car to roll it,” she responded with complete sincerity.

Seriously, Amber?  Even the cavemen had this one figured out!

Help Us Decide – Cast Your Vote!

Help Us Decide!  Cast Your Vote Today!

Hi folks!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I don’t have anything humorous to post today, but I’m hoping that y’all will help me out with a little project I’m working on with my daughter.

Amber has decided to audition for America’s Got Talent.  She’s having a hard time deciding which song she wants to do and is  hoping that y’all would watch this short video to help her decide.  It’ll literally take less than 3 minutes of your life, and you can feel good about helping a kid out.  Watch the video and then place your vote below.  And thanks!

Here goes: