Various announcements and funny things.

1.  I finally gave in and did a Querytracker interview. The link isn't up yet, (sadness) but as soon as it is I'll post it.

2. If you've ever feel guilty about self promotion, you should read this article from the New York Times. I found the link on Saundra Michell's awesome blog and she said it best.  

"At least I never locked an entire room full of strangers in a crypt all night long with grim reapers serving them an endless dinner, while I hid in the balcony and shouted insults at them to promote my book..."

And yes, it is that awesome.

3. And if you were at all interested in the royal wedding this week, especially the bride's dress, (OMG, veilsquee!) you should check out fashion blogger's Tom and Lorenzo's take on the message behind Kate's dress. I found what they had to say fascinating, especially this part:

Just as everyone had that image of Diana in her enormous confection of a dress foremost in their minds, out steps Kate, saying loud and clear, "I don't want you to compare me to Princess Diana. Compare me to Princess Grace instead." 

4. I love Failbook. That is all.




5.  Next week I'm starting a worldbuilding series! I already have a lot of thoughts about it banging around in my head, but as always, I need your help.

What do you know about worldbuilding? What do you WANT to know?

Have a great weekend!

History of a query

I was digging through my querying files this week and guess what I found?

The very first query I ever sent out for The House of a Thousand Dolls.  

Do you want to see it?

*pretends to hear clapping and applause*

found at www.nma.gov.au

Oh good, I was hoping you'd would!

The date on this query is January 31st, 2009.
Dear Awesome Agent,
In the Sagitarian Empire the sky is always gray, there are creatures who can turn from animal to human in the blink of an eye, and everyone knows exactly where they belong.
Everyone except Katrin.
Katrin Satogo was left at the Houses of a Thousand Dolls at the age of seven. The Houses are an old and complex institution where orphaned girls of lower castes are taken and trained to be the wives of upper caste men. Too old to be groomed like the other girls, Katrin has spend her life on the outskirts. But now she's seventeen. If she doesn't find someone to hire or marry her at the yearly Redeeming ceremony, she'll be turned out of the Houses, or worse, sold.
When Katrin finds out that three girls have died suspicious deaths, she strikes a bargain with Matron, the head of the Houses. If she finds the killer before the Redeeming, the Houses will set her up in a trade. To solve the crimes, Katrin gathers some unlikely help: a half-human, half-fox warrior, a nameless assassin, and a tribe of sarcastic, mind-speaking cats.
But missteps in the Houses are as easy as wearing the wrong robe, and hidden anger simmers under the ginger-scented air. And when Katrin accuses the wrong person, events spiral out of her control....
The Houses of a Thousand Dolls is young adult fantasy and the complete manuscript, 50,000 words, is available for your review. I discovered your enjoyable blog through (famous author) blog and have found it very informative.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Oh, the awkwardness! The culturally inappropriate names!  The confusing info dump in the third paragraph!  o_0

This query got me a couple of partial requests, but the vast majority were form rejections. So I worked on it. A year later, this is what my query looked like:

Dear Most Awesome Agent,
Nisha Arvi grew up in the Sagittarian Empire, a casteless orphan in a strict class society. Raised by the Houses of a Thousand Dolls, but never one truly one of them, Nisha is facing an uncertain future.
When a body is found in one of the House fountains, and Nisha learns that other girls have met mysterious deaths, she strikes a deal with the Matron. If she finds the killer, she’ll have a chance at a life outside the Houses. If she fails, she’ll be sold as a slave.
But mistakes in the Houses are as easy as wearing the wrong robe to dinner. And when Nisha begins to suspect her friend Mara, she risks losing not only her freedom, but everyone she’s ever loved.
The Houses of a Thousand Dolls is a 50,000 word young adult fantasy, set in a world based strongly on Southeast Asian culture and lore.  I have enclosed the first five pages for your review.
Thank you for your time and consideration

This one is smoother, but I think it leaves out a lot of what makes the book unique and doesn't give a good sense of the voice. Which may have been why I got nothing at this stage but form rejections and silence.

found at shopper.com
*sound of cricket chirping*


So I reworked it again AND rewrote the book. And almost exactly two years after I started querying, I wrote this letter.
Dear Ms. Laughran,
Nisha Arvi is a casteless orphan in an empire where caste and tradition are as unchanging as the roof of gray sky above her head. The only exception is the Houses of a Thousand Dolls, an estate where abandoned girls are trained to be anything from assassins to courtesans to nobleman’s wives.
Nisha is not so lucky. When she finds out that the Houses want to sell her as a slave, and also that they are hiding a series of mysterious deaths among the girls, Nisha makes a desperate bargain. If she can find the killer, she’ll have a chance at a caste and a future.
But it won't be easy, because in the Houses of a Thousand Dolls missteps are as easy as wearing the wrong robe. And when Nisha suspects her best friend of the murders, she puts both of their futures in jeopardy.
The Houses of a Thousand Dolls is a 57,000 word young adult fantasy based on East Asian (it's actually South Asian. Oops...) culture and lore. I queried you partly because I know you are the agent for Magic Under Glass by Jackie Dolamore, and I thought you might be interested in another multicultural fantasy. I also queried you because I follow you on Twitter and have a bit of a pet-crush on Moxie. :)
I have enclose the first ten pages as per your submission guidelines. The whole manuscript is available upon request.
Thank you for your time and consideration,

Jenn was impressed enough by the query and the pages to ask for a full and the rest....

found at thechangeblog.com

found at flickr.com

artwork by Rob Smith Jr. found at robsmithjr.com

...well the rest is history.

I could try to pull a lesson out of this, maybe something about always trying to be better and never giving up, but I'm having too much fun googling celebration pictures. So I'll let you do it.

What do YOU think?

This is what happens when I psych myself out.

Did you know it's veeeery difficult to come up with a good post to follow the "I have to step away" post?

Well it is.

And because I now only blog twice a week, I feel an added pressure to be deep. I can't just slap a cute animal up if you're not getting another post until Wednesday, can I?

*runs in frantic circles* *falls over from exhaustion*

Apparently I can.

*points*   Look, EAGLE OWLS!

found at zooborns.com

And I thought MY adolescent pictures were awful. Actually...come to think of it, I kind of had that hair.

Is it just me, or do these things bear an uncanny resemblance to these little monsters?

found at moviegoods.com
*shudders* So. Many. Nightmares.

And now for a lovely game of "caption this photo"


"MOM! SHE'S TOUCHING ME AGAIN!"

Want to play? Leave a caption in the comments!

Something's gotta give.

Sometimes life traps you between two necessary things and forces you to choose between them. That's kind of where I'm sitting right now.

The problem is, I'm not a good life multi-tasker. I don't function well if my attention is divided too much between different parts of my life. Unfortunately, right now my attention is split squarely down the middle between two things.

1. My writing.

2. My job.

I want to choose writing. I want to more than anything. I'm so close to getting to where I wanted to go, closer than I've ever been and I can practically TASTE it.

And I want to choose my blog and my social media and my online writer presence. My writer community gives me so much joy and support that the idea of cutting any of it out makes me incredibly sad.

But I need this job. It supports us, and gives us health insurance. I like the company I work for and the people I work with and I want to be a person of integrity who does the best she can. Right now I'm not that person. I'm distracted, and when I'm distracted I forget meetings and write down my schedule wrong and make mistakes on the floor. My job is a fairly high-velocity environment that demands all of my attention while I'm there. I have to be present.

And being present there means, unfortunately, being less present here. So until something changes, I have to cut back. *sob*

After a lot of thought, I've decided on the following things:


Writing. I'm still going to do this (of course), but mostly on my days off. I'm too obsessive and it's too much of a brain-suck otherwise. But I do get two to three days off a week, so I should still be able to keep some consistency and progress.  (I hope.)

Blogging. I'm not leaving entirely, not unless I have to. But I am going to drop back down to twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays. And I might have to take a short blog hiatus every now and then

Social Media. A writer I know is only doing social media after 3pm right now. She says it works wonders for her ability to focus, so I'm going to try it. I'll try to keep up with everyone, but on a restricted schedule, I may not be able to. I promise, it's not because I don't like you.


I don't want to make any of these changes. I want to kick my feet and scream and say I'm a WRITER dammit and I need to write and tweet and do all those things. But the truth is, I made a commitment to my husband to help him get through school. And I made a commitment to my co-workers to be a part of the team. And those commitments are important too.

So I'm cutting back. But I'll still be here. And I value you all, with your comments and your tweets and your funny jokes, more than you will ever know.

Thank you.

Call for writing post ideas!

 Thank you everyone for the great responses on my writing weakness post on Saturday! (I will get to the comments, I promise.)  There were some great thoughts and to be honest, I had an ulterior motive for asking.

In the three years I've spent on this blog, the series posts have been far and away the most popular. And I love doing them, but I must confess, I'm running out of ideas.

So far I've done a character series and plot series and a voice series. I've also done posts on first draft tips and why being agented is weird.

I'd love to do more, but I don't know what part of writing I should focus on. Or should I do more agenty posts or some query advice? Maybe a series on good writing tools...

So much to choose from.

What do YOU want me to do?

What part of writing is hardest for you?



Achilles' heels. We all have them.

Mine is pacing. I have to feed my rough drafts through a basic story structure outline to make sure all the climaxes and tensions are in the right spot. Add to that the fact that I'm always missing at least half of the middle and have to add it in later and you have a definite writing weakness.

Fortunately, like most weaknesses, knowing how to fix it is my greatest weapon. But without blogs like Alexandra Sokoloff's The Dark Salon and websites like Save the Cat, my story structure would be sad indeed.

What about you? What's your writing weakness?

Things I have to do before Thursday afternoon.

1. Dishes
2. Laundry
3. Pack to visit parents
4. Revisions
5. Study for anthropology test
6. Work

Things I've gotten done so far this week.

1. Laundry (sort of)
2. Revisions
3. Work

*looks at clock* *looks at list*

*head asplodes*

As most of you know, when my head explodes, you get cute baby animals. And this time I've outdone myself.

Presenting cute baby animals USING CELL PHONES.

Enjoy!

Monday cute: Lion cubs try to be tough.

 RAWR! I is ferocious!


 No you're not. *I* is ferocious!


Lol. You guys are lame.

Happy Monday!

(lion cubs found at zooborns.com)

Why being agented is weird: reason #3

People WATCH you.

Seriously.



As an unagented author, most of my blog and Twitter followers were people I met online,  or friends of people I met online. We were all in the same boat, working on our manuscripts, fighting with edits, and dreaming big dreams. When I gave advice it was mostly in the context of that relationship. People were free to take or leave it, after all they were in the same place I was. I was happy in that place. I was comfortable.

Since I signed with Jenn a month ago, I've gained at least a hundred more Twitter followers and almost fifty new blog followers. I've met so many amazing people and my community has expanded so fast that it's increasingly hard to keep up. (Hence the new comment section and my earlier question about connection.)

Most of these new people are strangers to me, and a lot of them are unagented writers. And they WANT my advice. They're actively looking for wisdom and when I offer advice they take it seriously.

Which, to be honest, is kind of scary.
__________

Every time I get a message or a comment by a new reader complimenting the blog, or thanking me for advice, I become two different people. Miriam #1 is deeply touched. That's the person who responds, the grateful one who loves to meet new people.

Meanwhile Miriam #2 is jumping up and down in the back of my head screaming "DON'T LISTEN TO  ME! I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I'M DOING!"

*flails*

I am not used to being take seriously by complete strangers. Heck, I'm not used to being taken seriously by people I know. Most of my life has felt like a struggle to get people to take me seriously. I'm a goofy, often absentminded marshmallow. A little sensitive, a little clueless. Someone who doesn't worry about the things she should and gets anxiety attacks over things no one else thinks is a big deal. Someone you love to pieces, but don't necessarily listen to.

And of all the strange, wonderful things about the last month, this is by far the strangest. People are listening.  They're listening to ME.




It's only going to get worse. When I sell a book, when it comes out, and on and on. More and more people listening to me, watching me. I'm used to living my life under the radar, being invisible or at least mostly harmless. And now the question is this:

If people are listening, what do I say?

What would YOU say?

Sorry for the construction...

I'm messing around with the blog a bit. Things should be back to normal soon.

(Or as normal as it ever gets around here, anyway.)

Why being agented is weird: reason #2

You stop querying.

As I said in my last post, I spent several years on the agent query treadmill. I refined my query letter over and over. I made notes on any personal rejections I got. I knew exactly who I was sending it to and where they were in the process.

No more.

I couldn't tell you what my agent is going to say in her pitch. If there are rejections, I won't see them (unless it's a special circumstance). And while I know who's on my submission list, I have no idea who's actually looking at the project at any given time.  I could ask about these things, and I know Jenn would tell me, but still...

It feels a little weird.

It feels weird to go from absolute control over the process to this. It feels weird even though I trust my agent, and even though I know selling isn't a job I want or enjoy.

And it feels weird despite the fact that I know control is an illusion.

Let me say that again.

CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION

found at newopticalillusions.com

All that control I thought I had, I didn't REALLY have. I couldn't control the market, the preferences of agents and editors, whether or not I was accepted.

The only thing I really controlled back then was the same thing I control now: the quality of my writing.

If I could tell you the biggest lesson I've learned so far in this part of my adventure, it would be the value of letting go. 

Write well. Keep learning. Don't stress. It was something I tried to do as a querying writer, with varying degrees of success. But it's something I must learn to do now or I'll drive myself (and my agent) insane.

Relax.

Go write something.

If you have to, look at funny cat pictures for a week.


(What? It helps!)

Why being agented is weird: reason #1

You stop looking for an agent.

I know that sounds obvious, but think about it. If you're anything like me, you spend vast amounts of time and energy learning about the publishing industry in general and agents in specific.

You read agent blogs and follow them on twitter. You look up agents on Literary Rambles and Querytracker. You plan out your elevator pitch, read posts on how to talk to agents at conferences and study interviews to find out what specific ones are looking for.

And you read the Miss Snark archives until your eyes cross.


(Okay maybe that last one was just me.)

You work on your query, constantly rewriting it. You jump at every query workshop you can find. You enter contests because the prize is a critique of your query or--even better--your first few pages. You send stuff to Evil Editor and Query Shark. You read other people's successful queries and dissect them.

You do that for years. 

And then you get an agent. And all of it, that whole crazy, obsessed merry-go-round, just... stops.

No more bookmarking agent profiles.
No more entering contests to win query critiques.
No more taking notes on how to pitch.
No more agent search.

A huge chunk of your writing life has just dropped away. And even though you hated all of that researching and worrying, and even though you are SO grateful and happy (and I am), it still feels... weird. Like a missing tooth.

Once the shock wears off, you realize that this is for real. That you really don't have to do any of that ever again. Now there will be different tests, maybe harder ones. Tests that depend more on your writing. Tests that depend more on you.

It's a frightening thought.

So you try not to think about it. And use your free time to catch up on dishes.


Sort of.

I would totally do this for money...

This was my favorite Internet prank from yesterday. Starbucks puts baristas on scooters!


images found at starbucks.com


This would make coffee so much more fun.

What crazy thing would make YOUR work more fun? A slide? A waterpark? A pet tiger?

What do you want to see?
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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.