writing

New Project

Hey, how’s it going? I hope everyone is doing well.

As the title of this post suggests, I wanted to let you know I’ve started work on a new book. Fans of my short story, COVERT GENESIS (which appears in SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror), will be pleased to know the new book takes place in the same world. I’ve talked about wanting to take that short story and make a book out of it. I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

My previous literary agent suggested I finish a different book because it was more lucrative. I’m not writing this new book because I think it’ll be lucrative (even though I believe it will be anyway). I’m writing this one because I love the story, and world of Covert Genesis. This is a labor of love for me and I believe that love will find its way to the page. I have a loose outline and the first chapter is going well. My goal is to have the first draft done before the new year.

What can readers expect from the new book?

While I don’t have a title for the new book yet, it will explain where the parasites come from. It’ll be a mash-up of horror, sci-fi, and military action. You’ll find familiar characters as well as new ones. The goal is to set the parasite menace free and see how humanity stands up to it.

I’ll be sure to share more details as the project nears completion. Stay tuned. It’s going to be one hell of a ride!

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I Finished Writing My Third Book, Now What?

I realize it’s been a while since I posted anything relevant here. There is a reason. I needed a couple of months to iron out the the last hundred pages of my latest book, THE MISTS OF CALTHAR. Then I had to edit and get things presentable for literary agent’s eyes. I officially sent it out into the world this morning.

MISTS is my first sci-fi book. The final word count ended up being a little over 89,000 words. I participated in two Twitter pitches with it to gauge potential interest. One literary agent requested a sample. The same literary agent later requested the full manuscript. I guess that means I’m one for one in the query department. Nice! A grand total of five small presses requested to see more, but I held off sending them anything. My plan all along was to start with literary agents.

So, what’s next?

Now I need to create a synopsis. It shouldn’t be too hard. I’ve tackled them before. I’ll be shooting for a two page synopsis. After that I’ll revisit my query letter. Yep, I penned a query letter for MISTS when the book was halfway done. Then I’ll start subbing to my list of literary agents I’d like to work with. Query trenches here I come!

There’s still life for BSD!

A small press has the full manuscript for BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS. I should be hearing something back in around a month. I can’t tell you how happy writing this makes me. I really want someone to love that book and characters as much as I do. More news as it becomes available.

A couple of short stories of mine are under consideration for various anthologies. You’ll know more when I know more.

For anyone interested, I plan on blogging about my Twitter pitch experiences. Stay tuned for that. Expect to hear more about MISTS too. Until then, be good to one another.

 

 

Recapping May

What’s up, everyone? May came and went. I hope yours went well.

My May started with me tinkering with BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS one last time. Well, at least before going on submission. I even added a new prologue to ENDURING DARKNESS which recaps the first book for readers. Both books are now with my agent. What happens next, I have no clue. It’s my first time! I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Toward the end of the month I got proposed edits back for two short stories. Both have since been edited and returned to their respective editors. I’m excited to share my short story, Death Blossoms, which will appear in the forthcoming Paying the Ferryman Anthology (Charon Coin Press), with readers soon. We’re in the home stretch!

I can’t really talk about the other one just yet. Not until things become official. I’ll be sure to shout about it when I can. Stay tuned.

I polished my YA  fantasy short, Leprechaun’s Clearing, and sent it off. This story is extra special to me because for the first time I had both of my nieces beta read for me. The reader of the two really liked it and wanted more. My other niece prefers first person books and didn’t really get into it, which is okay. She’s allowed to like what she wants. I’ll have to wait until September to find out if I made it into the anthology.

Yet another short story, From the Cold, was pulled from consideration to appear in a magazine at my request. The editor and I didn’t see eye to eye and I felt it was better to go our separate ways. I promptly subbed it to an anthology I’d been eyeing. I should be hearing back from the editor sometime in July.

Working on my next book is still going slowly. I sent a chunk to a friend of mine to get some much needed feedback. Something, I don’t know what, is holding me back. Hopefully the feedback will help get my head out of my ass. I’d rather take my time and make sure the book reads how I want it to now, rather than throwing up on the page and going back to fix everything later. Only time will tell if I’m doing the right thing.

My stories in the first SNAFU and SNAFU: Wolves at the Door both were singled out in reviews too. It’s always nice when readers appreciate your work and then take the time to talk about it. I’m happy with every review, be it positive or negative. Readers are a passionate bunch and I appreciate the opportunity to entertain and engage them. Just knowing people are reading my words is pretty damn cool. Thanks to all the readers and reviewers out there. You are appreciated.

That’s it for me. I’ve got to go and update the blog. I’ve got to make sure it’s nice and shiny for future visitors. Thanks for stopping by! See you soon.

The Future Is Now

My agent and I spoke recently. What did we speak about? The future!

We spoke about my two completed books and what we’d like to see happen with them. She gave me two weeks to make absolutely sure the manuscript looks the way I want it to look. That means going through each word and smoothing out any rough edges. I’m about a third of the way through. My plan is to finish editing and then let it sit a few days before going through it again checking for typos. After that, we go on submission.

My agent also went over my WIPs and we discussed which project I should tackle next. She really liked the concept of BLACK SACRAMENT. I’ve got my marching orders. As soon as I’m satisfied with BSD, I’ll be working on my supernatural thriller. I think what really sold her was when I said, “They’re like the Navy SEALS of exorcists.” I look forward to the challenge of bringing cops and exorcists together with plenty of action and scares.

The best part was my agent said she noticed improvement in my world building, characterization, dialogue, and as a result pacing. As a person who tries to get better each day, that’s good to hear. My confidence is up, which means productivity is also up.

If I’m not around as much during the next few months, I hope you’ll understand. Hopefully it means progress and more things for all of you to read. Having direction is important to me. Now I can concentrate on the tasks at hand with maximum effort. It’s time to take over the world! Em, I mean get writing.

What are you up to? What projects have you excited?

Keeping Hope Alive–A Writing Pep Talk

As I approach the next phase of my journey toward publication, I’ve been thinking quite a bit how I got to where I am. There have been plenty of ups and downs. Like many other unpublished writers there was a point where I wondered if I should hide my manuscript away and write something else. Maybe I should give up writing altogether? I think we each succumb to those shadows of doubt at some point or another.

How long should we keep submitting a manuscript?

The answer will likely be different for each writer.

No two writers are the same–with the same skill level and experiences. Two years ago I thought I was ready for publication but later learned otherwise. Until we experience certain things firsthand, we won’t know how ready, or unready, our writing is. We have to dive in head first. All of the suggestions or advice, while helpful, may not work for everyone.

Someone who writes horror will have different submission experiences than someone who writes historical romance. Every writer’s experiences won’t be interchangeable.

And that’s the tricky part of the submission process. Each writer has to blindly forge their own path toward publication. When things get tough, they have to find the strength to press forward. No amount of advice can prepare an inexperienced writer for what they’ll face, until they’re neck deep in it. Sometimes we have to fall in order to see how bad we want to get up and continue forward.

How bad do we really want it?

It took me four years to understand the kind of writer I wanted to be. No amount of reading “how-to” books really helped. I had to learn by doing, and experiencing, things for myself. Eventually I found confidence in my writing skills. Four years seems like a long time but I’ve talked to other writers who have taken ten years to discover the same thing. Each of us learns differently, has a different motor. Don’t let it get you down.

Keep the faith.

As long as you’re surrounding yourself with people who genuinely want to help, and you continue to learn and grow as a writer, trust that you’re doing the right thing. I’ve gotten some of the best advice from the most unlikeliest places. I’ve also gotten plenty of horrible advice too. We have to be smart enough to recognize the people who know what they’re talking about from those who don’t. Personally, I would never advise someone to blindly follow what I had to say. All I can do is show them what worked for me and suggest they try it out for themselves. Don’t let someone else pressure you into following what worked for them. It may not work for anyone else.

We must believe in not only ourselves, but our writing skills, and manuscripts as well.

When you find the kind of writers who you click with, tell them how much you appreciate them. The really good writers should have no problem giving as well as taking. Ask yourself how your critique partner makes you feel? Do they make you feel like you’ve failed, or that greatness is within reach? In my opinion, the really good critique partners/friends will give it to you straight while making you feel like greatness is right around the corner. They won’t just highlight all the things they feel are flawed, but they’ll also show you why, and different ways to possibly fix them.

I’ve also been on the other side of the spectrum. I’ve had others tell me to forget BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS because the publishing industry was done with vampires after only reading ten pages. A different writer suggested I lose the Japanese elements of my story. A freelance editor straight up cut me down three years ago and made me feel smaller than a speck of dust. Through it all I never gave up hope. My story never let me go and a gut instinct told me to keep going. All I needed was some fine tuning.

Never stop learning.

I could have let those comments get to me. I could have bitched and whined, but I didn’t. I set out to learn as much as I could about crafting quality fiction. Naturally, I focused on horror, fantasy, and thrillers. What made the stories I love work? How could I improve by analyzing the genres I love? I read books, watched movies, studied popular characters, and did anything I thought would help me understand how to be a better writer. I had to identify my weaknesses before I could learn how to overcome them. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning.

Identify. Adapt. Overcome.

I’ve adopted a writing mantra over the years. Identify. Adapt. Overcome. We must identify what’s holding our writing back in order to adapt new strategies that will allow us to overcome any obstacles in our path. Will it be easy? No. Nothing rarely is. We must be willing to put our pride aside and do what’s best for our writing career. I see so many writers who seem content on “landing a literary agent.” But isn’t that merely a step amongst the stairs? Your work has only begun at that point. Ask yourself why you want to write? What are you hoping to accomplish? Once you identify those goals you can adapt a solid plan.

If we, as writers, can overcome our own doubts and keep learning, then we must trust that we’ll get to the end of the tunnel eventually. The subject of our manuscript shouldn’t matter as long as we can produce a quality manuscript. And that’s the key: quality. The best stories will always find a home.

I once asked a published writer I respect for a bit of advice. He responded with, “Always believe in yourself. And fuck anybody who doesn’t.” Those nine words have stuck with me. If we don’t believe in ourselves, why should anybody else?

What would I say to any writer doubting themselves: Never stop learning, and believing. If you can do those two things, you’ll make it. We all have bad days. Stay the course. Hold the line. Eventually you’ll look back and wonder why it took you so long. Because you were good enough all along.

Keep that chin up…and keep writing. Good things could be right around the corner…just like me. 😉

More to come…soon.

A Pitch Wars Pep Talk From a Former Alternate Mentee

Since the list of writers chosen as mentees and alternates came out today, and since many writers weren’t chosen, I figured I should share the adventures of a former Pitch Wars alternate mentee. *drum roll* Yep, you guessed it. I’m talking about me. 🙂

Let’s rewind a year to last year’s Pitch Wars…

A few friends and I decided we would all enter Brenda Drake’s awesomely fantastic Pitch Wars. We polished both our pitches and manuscripts. We chose the mentors we felt best suited our manuscripts and sent our work off. Then we waited.

And we waited some more. I remember telling myself not get my hopes up, but I didn’t listen to that voice. I wanted so hard for my manuscript to be amongst the “chosen ones.” Then something wonderful happened. A ninja mentor sent me an email asking if any other mentor had requested sample pages, and if I could send her the first thirty pages of my manuscript. I emailed her back letting her know she was the first to show any interest and sent my sample.

After more waiting, the glorious day of finding out which mentees were chosen was unleashed upon the interwebs. I made it onto a team! That same mentor who asked for my sample pages, Suzanne Palmieri, chose me as her first alternate. We got along rather well. I even bought her fist book to show my support.

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I want you to keep in mind Suzanne was a very busy woman. She had not one, but two books coming out in 2013. She had edits of her own to tackle. I understood, and was perfectly fine with the fact that she may not be able to help me as much as I would have liked. I think each mentee should be aware of how busy each Pitchwars mentor is. It’s not like they can drop everything and concentrate on just your manuscript. Each mentor will have a different process for working with their mentees. Respect and honor their advice, time, and energy. Make sure you thank them too. They all mean well and want nothing more than to help each and every person who took the time to submit to them.

Suzanne was very straightforward with me, which is something I crave. I don’t like things sugar coated. Give me the unabridged truth. I’d rather know exactly what someone thinks instead of wondering if they’re holding back. While Suzanne admitted she didn’t have much time for me, she helped me polish my pitch and 250 word sample for the contest. I was, and will always be, grateful. She also told me something I cherish to this day. She said I have what it takes to make it in the publishing world today, that my attitude was something special. Having a published writer tell me that meant a lot for a guy who didn’t fully understand how tough the submission process could be. Rest assured, I’ve since learned. Her kind words carried me through some dark times.

Needless to say, no literary agents nibbled at the wriggling worm that was my manuscript.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. It did, but not as much as I thought it would. Subjectivity is a very real thing. Each agent has to pick projects she believes can sell. Not every project will fit in with their vision. Don’t take it personally.

What did I do after being rejected?

I went about trying to improve my writing skills. I had to dissect and analyze what I believed was holding my writing back. It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in my writing journey. One subject kept popping up: characters. Once I identified a list of problems, I set out to learn everything I could about them. This included critiques, books on the craft of writing, and basically reading anything I could get my hands on.

I quickly learned that there’s always something we can improve upon.

I went through my entire manuscript twice more, tightening the POV, characters, and (hopefully) the passive voice. What I had was much stronger. I created a much stronger query letter and set out to get my improved manuscript in front of potential agents.

As the rejection letters piled up, I knew something was wrong. Figuring out what, specifically, proved to be difficult. I believed in my story, still do. After seeing several literary agents comment how they didn’t want anything with vampires, I finally understood what was holding my manuscript back. I stopped querying literary agents. [Side note: This isn’t to say my writing is perfect. I understand there is no such thing as a perfect manuscript and mine is no exception.]

Remember when Suzanne said I had what it takes to make it in the publishing business? Instead of lamenting, I got busy looking into small presses. Today my manuscript is still under consideration…a year removed from Pitch Wars.

In June of 2013 I became a intern for a literary agent, reading and reporting on submissions. I decided to concentrate on creating short stories for the six month term of my internship. Ten short stories later, my short story, LABOR OF LOVE, was published in volume eleven of The Siren’s Call e-magazine. Several others are under consideration elsewhere. I looked at each new experience as a potential way to sharpen my writing skills.

The point is life goes on. Whether you’re picked or not, you’re going to wake up tomorrow the same person. I know mentees from last year who had agent requests and are still in the trenches, still unagented, and still unpublished. I know alternate mentees from last year who are still in the trenches as well. Some went on to bigger and better things. Some didn’t. There are no guarantees.

If I’ve leaned anything in the past year, it’s this: Nothing beats quality writing. And even then, you can still be rejected if the subject matter is a difficult sell.

No matter what happens with this year’s Pitch Wars, remember to keep your chin up. There are no shortcuts. It doesn’t matter who you know or how far you think someone can take you. As long as you enjoy the experience and connect with like-minded writers, you’re all winners. Go forth and write the kind of stories you’re passionate about. Create quality fiction. If you do, trust that somebody, somewhere will notice. I know I do.

My Pitch Wars experience was something I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world. It forced me to identify what was really important in regards to my writing. I came to the conclusion that as long as I was happy with the quality of my words, it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. Getting to the point where I felt that way took many agonizing months. There is no magic formula anyone can follow to become a better writer, no magic potion we can drink. The only way for anyone to become a better writer is to keep writing…and learning.

So get out there and discover anything, large or small, that can improve your writing skills. Allow other writers to critique your words and learn which criticisms are valid and which aren’t. Remember that different things will work for different writers. Find your swagger. Once you do, you’ll wonder what in the hell took so long. And never, ever, give up! Fight on.

You can learn more about Pitch Wars here: http://www.brenda-drake.com/

You can learn more about Suzanne Palmieri here: http://www.suzannepalmieri.com/

Let’s Talk About: Quality Control In Our Writing

I want to talk about something I hold very near and dear to my heart when it comes to writing. If you know the kind of person I am, then you know how I feel about setting the bar as high as possible and putting my best foot forward. After all, our name is attached to every piece of writing we submit. It may be the first time literary professionals or readers will be exposed to us as authors. That’s why I’ll never submit something I’m not 100% happy with.

You never know who may be reading your material for the first time.

As many of you may know, I’ve been participating in a short story competition called Project REUTSway. Each week the editors supply a set of guidelines and participating writers create a short story based on those guidelines. The first two stories I created were great. I accomplished what I set out to accomplish, even going above and beyond the weekly guidelines. The third week I was swamped with various other projects and put Project REUTSway on the back burner. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to submit a short story. The fourth week arrived with a new set of guidelines and I started brainstorming. I came up with a story idea and mapped it out. I wrote about 1,500 words and was happy with what I had. The next 1,500 words didn’t come as easily. I knew this story was in trouble but was determined to meet the submission deadline. I tore the last half of the story apart and tried again. It still felt off, wrong. I read the entire story again. The first half was still solid. The second half still didn’t live up to the quality of the first. After one more try and the deadline fast approaching, I knew I wouldn’t have a fantastic piece of fiction ready to submit.

I could have submitted my short story knowing the second half was broken. Maybe someone would like it. Or, maybe, someone would see what I did. They would know it wasn’t ready.

In the end I chose not to submit the short story. It simply wasn’t up to my high standards for quality. I didn’t want to take a chance that an editor I may have the privilege of working with sometime in the future would see my less than stellar work. My name is attached to it. We must be confident in our writing skills enough to know when our projects are, or aren’t, ready. Literary professionals won’t go easy on us. Their reputation is on the line as much as any author they choose to work with. They’re attaching their name, along with the author’s, to the project. That’s why it’s so important for writers to always put our best foot forward. No half-assing things.

Since my internship is officially over and I can start talking about some of the secret things I’ve been doing for the past six months, I’d like to share why always submitting quality work is paramount for any writer. I’ve been reading manuscripts for a literary agent. My job was to critically, and honestly, break down every possible aspect of submissions and report on the strengths and/or flaws for each one. Think of it like a more in depth critique than your critique partners probably give you. There’s no sugar coating involved. The quality of the submission is left out there naked and quivering to speak for itself. Every little detail is exposed.

After six months of reading, and breaking down, submissions, I can tell you after a few pages if a project is ready for publication. Naturally, this is a subjective process. HOWEVER, quality writing speaks for itself. There’s no faking it. Our projects are either ready, or they aren’t. I’d say around 85% of the submissions I read weren’t ready to be submitted. I’ll also share that after six months of reading submissions, I only recommended one for further consideration. That works out to something like a 2% approval rating.

As writers seeking publication, we must surround ourselves with quality critique partners, and quality in general. We must set the bar as high as possible. We must be open to every ugly truth about our writing. We must learn to recognize when our projects are ready and when they fall short. We must admit when something isn’t working and either try to fix it, or start again. Literary professionals aren’t going to know how much blood, sweat, and tears we put into our projects. All they see is what’s on the page. Like it or not, our words must be able to stand on their own.

That’s why I would much rather hold a submission back instead of sending something I’m not happy/confident with. I don’t want my name associated with poor quality writing. And as authors, all we have is our name. It’s attached to each submission, whether we’re submitting a poem, short story, or novel. As we send our work out into the world, new literary professionals become exposed to us. They start associating our names with various levels of quality.

The next time your finger hovers over the “send” button, take a moment to be absolutely sure it’s ready. You never know who may be reading it.

Expect a post or two about my intern adventures soon. I’d like to touch on why first impressions really do matter and a few other things. Stay tuned.