Welcome. This blog was started three years ago by four aspiring writers who are now three published authors of novels and short stories (Barbara Elsborg, Dawn Jackson, Arlene Webb) and one multiple award-winning writer (Laurie Green). We blog to keep readers updated on our new releases or other random topics. We hope you enjoy your stay. :] Coffee?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Great lines.

So, we all see them. We all think wow, that's clever or that's great. We've seen them in classics and not so classics. We've heard our favorite actors say them. "Frankly, Scarlet. I don't give a damn." or "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." And a personal favorite--"It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful."

Or from novels, unforgetable words that send a shiver down our spines as in Ray Bradbury's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'--"The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm."

How about the image this invokes? "In a galaxy far, far away..."

The point is, there are some lines you'll never forget. You hear them, read them and you know exactly what story they came from. An image instantly forms in your mind and you smile. I'm curious, what are your favorite lines?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Choosing Titles

Oh, what a problem. I like to have a title before I start writing, if only to name my document but if I can't come up with one, I launch into the story hoping inspiration will strike before too long. Perfect Timing was not the first choice for that story but 'Driving Miss Daisy' was a bit risque and too close to the film I would guess, so dismissed. Perfect Timing is hardly original but it does fit the story I wrote so I grew to like it. We can all get very precious about our titles, fearing someone will beat us to punch. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant one, only to google and find three other books using it. Oops.
So what makes a good title? Short, snappy? Does it come before you start? When you finish? In the middle? Do you brain storm?
I like series titles eg. Naked Prey, Hidden Prey or Dark Lover, Dark Lord, or Lover Revealed, Lover Awakened - shame I haven't written a series!
My first ever full length story was called Unnatural Selection - about a girl raped by her step father who then runs to New York and gets trawled up in the underworld and becomes the mistress of a mafioso and is then kidnapped by his even worse son. She brings their drug empire down almsot singlehandedly. I thought that title was sooo good. Pity the story wasn't!
My latest story is about a werewolf and a vampire and I'm struggling. Moon struck. Moon shine. Man in the moon. Moon lust. Blue moon. Sense a theme? I probably need to drop the moon. Overdone, over used, over.... but inspiration still hasn't grabbed me by the throat and ripped it out. Oh no, that was the werewolf.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rants

*Snort*
Just went through the bulk mail, and I have to laugh at some of the names they come up with to sell their male enhancement products. Do they really think this is going to entice me to open this spam? Here are a few fine examples.

Ava Shaven
Fanny Call
Brad Hung
Antwan Crotch
Randall Balls

Yes! Sign me up. With that kind of marketing, how can I resist?
Delete.
Delete.
Delete.
Wait, what’s this one? Guaranteed to make me smile. Uh, only when I hit...
Delete. *giggles with glee*

You want to make me smile, Randall? Bring me a large iced coffee, x-tra, x-tra and leave me alone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Adventures in House Flipping and Multiple Reasons Why You Shouldn't Let Your Husband Watch Home Improvement Shows Part III.

Spiders.

Not just any spiders, cannibalistic spiders that are as big as a mouse living in the crawl space under my house.

I suppose I should probably explain a couple of things about me. I’m an Army woman, hard core, tough as nails. I’ve crawled through the mud, trained with men and held my own. But when you strip off all the layers of mud and camo, underneath it is all girl. That being said, I like perfume, dressing up, wearing heels, and along with being female, I have female fears. Have I ever told you the one thing I'm terrified of?

Snakes—no I think they're cute.

Mice—nasty—but no.

Men in net shirts and denim cut-offs—okay you got me there, but that should put the fear of god into any woman. Bonus terror points for back hair.

NO, my greatest fear by far and with gooooood reason—spiders. You get one near me and I'll have a heart attack. You see, it started as a child when I got one of those great big white, marshmallow-bodied, barn spiders caught in my hair. It escalated when I was in the Army, on a training exercise and was bitten all over my face by a spider. My eyes swelled shut, I couldn’t open them and I could barely breathe. They had to rush me back to post before my throat closed up. So no, I don’t like them.

Guess who was in the crawl space laying down ant poison? Yeah. All was going fine. I’d sucked it up and braved the underside of the house. I mean, how bad could it be? My husband, kids, even his 80 year old grandfather had been under there all week. So when my husband told me he really could use my help putting the ant poison down, I figured, why not. Nobody has said anything about stuff crawling around under there. I donned a pair of jeans, leather work gloves and a cap. Looking like a true house-flipping professional, I sucked in a deep breath and crawled into the darkness. Flashlight in hand, I worked my way along the foundation until I was about three quarters of the way back, about 80 feet, when I shined my flashlight on this support beam connected to the sill, looking for ants, something scurried along it. Of course I think it's a mouse. I follow the critter’s path with my ray of light. To my horror I discover it’s not a mouse, a rat, or anything of the mammal persuasion. Oh, no it would have to be the one thing that makes the blood in my veins run cold and it was staring at me.

A great big hairy brown spider. Of course like an idiot, I sat there on my hands and knees, paralyzed with fear, watching it. Soon it was joined by a friend, not quite as big as a silver dollar. Then another about the size of a quarter. The smaller spider crawled over to the biggest one and when it touched its hairy brown legs, the gianourmous spider sprang, bit it and started to wrap it in silk. What came next was the makings of a horror movie, it started to eat it. Barely able to keep breakfast down, I decided I couldn’t allow it to remain under my house. After all, it might find a way to enter the domain above and that was not acceptable. So like a moron, I took this board and squashed it. Green goo squirted out its back end, and then the damn thing proceeded to crawl away. One more time, but with greater force. I smacked it as hard as I could, vibrating the beam.

In that moment, I learned a valuable lesson. Spiders travel in packs. Really, really, big packs. I’m not kidding. Great big and hairy wasn't alone. Two hundred of his friends took that moment to jump from the beam like living popcorn.

How fast do you think one woman can crawl on her hands and knees from under a house? I think I set a record and I'm sure my scream loosened a few floorboards. Never, never again. I'm tossing an insecticide bomb under there. I'm traumatized, scarred for life. And that bastard of a husband knew they were under there when he sent me. “Oh let’s send the wife under there, ought to be good for a couple of chuckles. Har, har.” We’ll see how he likes it when I take the scissors to all his underwear. See, I’m a girl, I like lacy clothes, looking pretty, I’m scared of spiders and among other things, I can be vindictive. Real vindictive.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words


"The Agony of Defeat"
-- the late Jim McKay

Owner Michael Iavarone and Big Brown after his crushing defeat in the Belmont Stakes yesterday. Big Brown's loss ended his bid to capture the first Triple Crown in thirty years, a feat many, including his trainer, believed was "a foregone conclusion."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Welcome to Rejectionville...

or You Gotta Have Faith

To quote Joan Rivers, “Can we talk?”

I’m not supposed to blog that I’m not breaking down doors and setting the world on fire with my queries letters. Ah, well. My Mom taught me never to lie.

Since the most common advice to an aspiring author is “keep trying” I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. But, it does get frustrating. (I know, I’m not supposed to admit that either.) And not just for my own work, but also when I see my peers meet with the same closed doors* when I know first hand how wonderful their work is. I’m beginning to think “market” should be a four-letter word. [*Barbara, of course, has now broke through the debut author barrier, since she’s published one novel and has sold two more.] I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it once more (today, at least): Some of the best novels I’ve ever read have yet to be published.

So I’ve done a lot of chatting, commiserating and war-story exchanging with my peers and I’ve come to a conclusion. What’s the most important factor in turning an unpublished project into a published novel? Faith.

To put things in perspective, here are a few familiar names that made it through the chamber of torture we call the query process.

William Saroyan received about 7000 rejections (a 30-inch stack!) before he sold a short
Ray Bradbury has received around 1000 rejections over his 30 year career
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- Rejected 150+ times
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach -- Rejected 140 times
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde -- Received 76 rejection letters
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- Rejected 38 times
Chicken Soup for the Soul by Hansen and Canfield-- 33 rejections, dropped by agent
Watership Down by Richard Adams -- 26 rejections.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle's – Rejected 26 times
Dune by Frank Herbet – Rejected nearly 20 times
M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker -- Rejected 17 times
Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot -- Rejected 17 times
The Diary Of Anne Frank -- Rejected 16 times
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – Rejected 9 times
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child – rejected repeatedly

Surprised? Look at the comments on some of these:

Tony Hillerman was once told to "get rid of all that Indian stuff."

Someone said of J.G. Ballard: "The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help."

About Sanctuary, William Faulkner was told: "Good God, I can't publish this. We'd both be in jail."

Of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, someone wrote: “The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material.”

And how about this classic: “I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

You see? We are not alone in the rejection universe! There’s a lot of famous people here with us.

Everyone gets rejected. Yes, rejections hurt, but they aren’t intended to cause injury. Agents and editors have a genuine interest in seeing authors—especially debut authors—succeed in a big way. If you’re ready to give up after a few rejections (and many do) then maybe all you need is some perspective.

Writing is a business. I think the failure rate of most new businesses is probably more than 90%. The ones that make it are the ones that believe in their product. They know what they sell is quality and that it deserves to be on their shelves. Writers are no different. First and foremost, they have to believe in what they’re selling.

Being an agent or a publishing house is a business, too. Most agents are taking a huge chance when they give a writer’s work the nod because they see something shiny and sparkly in the work. They’re taking a chance that their attention, time and effort is going to pay off. They are acting on faith. There’s no guarantee they’ll get any return for all their hard work. Publishing houses are also taking a huge chance, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. They spend a lot to produce and distribute an author’s book, and they take on a lot of risk. They do this because they believe the book is going to make a profit. In order for an agent and an editor to believe and have faith in your work, you have to believe in it first. Believe it’s the best possible product it can be and that it’s going to turn the world on its ear. If you don’t believe it, who else will?

Receiving a rejection does not mean that your work sucks. The most likely reasons it was rejected have to do with market or not being a good fit for what an agency or publishing house represents. Sometimes it can be about the agent’s or editor’s mood that particular day, or personal taste, or an element in the story that strikes a negative chord with them. None of this has anything to do with your writing ability. None of this means the next person you query isn’t going to fall in love with your work.

You can save yourself some pain by researching who you should query. Sure, you can send out a hundred queries at a time, spray the industry with random bullets, as it were, but what’s the chance of hitting the target when you aren’t even aiming at one? Put another way, if you’re selling beef, you wouldn’t blanket query a bunch of vegetarians, would you?

Query smarter. Select your targets carefully.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to boldly go out and find that certain genius who’s going to recognize the potential in your manuscript. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into a five-year mission, but be prepared to do what it takes, as long as it takes. To quote one of my MC’s favorite phrases: “Keep your eye on the prize.”

And meanwhile, remember…you’re in very good company in Rejectionville.

Here’s a few links that might also help inspire you:
http://literaryzone.com/?p=340
http://www.theroseandthornezine.com/Article/31Rejections.html
http://www.debbieohi.com/personal/rejections.html