Putting yourself out there

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Trying to find a literary agent is much like putting yourself on an internet dating site.  You spend a great deal of time stressing over how to describe yourself and your work without sounding obnoxiously confident but you have to nail that very fine line between determination and arrogance without exaggerating either of those things.  Contrary to internet dating, that agent is only looking for one very specific thing and if you don’t have it, they move on.

I have never been comfortable being the person to profess my strengths.  I can write for days about subjects that have nothing to do with me, but words vanish as soon as I have to point them in my direction.  I am extremely happy with the final product of my first novel and so are my Beta readers.  I want nothing more than to find an agent or a publisher who believes in it as much as I do.  But that process is much more daunting than staring at that first blank page, knowing that you have to string together over 80,000 words in an articulate and entertaining way.

Agents and publishers who are not interested in your work will not dangle bait in the water to see if you bite.  They are more than willing to move on to the next pond because there are so many fish and so few anglers.  An agent can’t even cast a line into a body of water without a frenzy of fish ready to fight to the death for the rare hook that shines in the distance.  In a sea of Piranhas, I feel like I am the poor carrion waiting at the bottom to be consumed by the predatory beasts with the sharper teeth.

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But there is always hope.  I know that one day, those Piranhas will have distracted themselves by something very shiny and I will be in the right spot in the pond at the right time, staring at a hook that was meant to catch only me.  And like every angler who is waiting for the “big one” knows, it’s all about patience.

 

Three for three

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The term “Beta Readers” is a daunting phrase for fledgling authors.  It means you trust your book to people who don’t know you and won’t be so prone to sugar-coating their review of your work.

My first reader, admittedly, was my nephew.  While he is still a teenager, he is a voracious reader so I knew his opinion of the story would be valuable.  Since I gave him the book in the middle of the summer, his reading was not as fast as his usual pace but he loved the story and he liked the twist at the end.

My second reader was a friend, but a friend who I knew I could count on to be brutally honest about her take on the story, the writing and the characters.  When she handed the pages back to me, they were filled with sticky notes that I was initially afraid to read.  When I finally got the courage to open the pages, her sticky notes were filled with encouraging messages and notes about her excitement to keep reading to see where the story went.  She didn’t want to put the book down.  Her last message had me in tears when she said she was at a loss for what to read next because she enjoyed the book so much.

My third reader is a friend of my second reader.  I have never met her so her opinion was, by far, the most anticipated because she had nothing to gain, or to lose, by telling me her honest opinion of my book.  She enjoyed the intrigue and said my book had all the elements of a good suspense/thriller and she is looking forward to my next book.  For a writer, it doesn’t get much better than that!

After those encouraging words, I followed my pattern from last year and have scheduled the suspension of my satellite service for a six-month period starting a few days after the Superbowl.  Without the mindless distraction of random television shows, I hope to repeat my success from last year and finish book number two while still pounding the internet pavement to see if I can find an interested agent or publisher for book number one.

If ever I needed patience, now is the time.  I will still be looking for a few more Beta Readers in the interim but my confidence in handing over my pages is certainly much higher that it was before.  Most of the fear is gone and has been replaced by hope.  A few positive words can go a long way and I plan on holding those words very close to my heart.

 

And just like that, it was out of my hands…..

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I saw the corners of his mouth turn into a smile as I handed it over.   One hundred and eighty-two pages of eight and a half by eleven paper covered by eighty-two thousand, six hundred and fifty words of a story I crafted were turned over to my fourteen year old nephew so he could be the first person, besides myself, to read the book in its entirety.

My nephew, like me, loves to read and even though his calendar age may prove that he is only fourteen, he reads far beyond his age.   I could think of nobody more suited for the role of first reader than him and I was happy to hand the pages over to him.

My dad was a voracious reader as well.  Although the premise of my story may not have been something my dad would have eagerly pulled from the book shelf, he would have been my biggest fan.  It is bitter-sweet knowing how proud he would have been of my accomplishment but knowing that I can never hear those words come from him.  I know he is up there somewhere giving me a thumbs up and doing his best to encourage a literary agent to take a chance on me.

As much as I sit here, nervously awaiting the outcome of the first read-through, I anxiously anticipate feedback on the story.  I’m sure Dean Koontz or Stephen King never batted a thousand on their first at-bats so I’m expecting to take many more swings before I knock it out of the park.  I just want to make sure I stay in the game!

Words for the wordies

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I have been working on a novel for a few years. Time that should have been spent writing to get it finished during those years seems to have been interrupted by reality, but I will never give up the dream of seeing it through to its completion, hopefully by the end of this year.

As writers tend to do, I always second guess the salability of the story…..and this, dear friends and readers, is where you come in. The following is the beginning of the book and I would love to get some feedback….positive and negative. From perspective comes growth.

The Waking Hours

Jack Brandon looked at himself in the mirror for the third time. The deep circles under his eyes and the numerous laugh lines did much to convince him that he had earned each of his 38 years. Laugh lines he thought, was the definition of irony. He couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed. Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time he had smiled. Pulling his gaze from the mirror, Jack glanced around his modest condominium. The collection of antique and clay figurines certainly looked familiar, but somehow seemed vaguely out-of-place. He could not put a finger on it but his trepidation increased.

Shaking off his uneasiness and the frustration of the day, he moved over to the dry sink and poured himself an aromatic glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. He padded barefoot through the plush carpet and sank into his favorite recliner. Although the condo was tastefully decorated, the recliner stuck out like a sore thumb. The remainder of the chocolate-brown corduroy on the arms hung in tatters and foam spouted from the gaping holes, but Jack refused to part with it. The chair had become as comforting as a warm handshake from an old friend – unfortunately, a subject he could not relate to with great authority. Jack had always been a loner. His parents had been extreme over achievers but had never pushed Jack to open up. Before he could rub any more salt in that open wound, he changed his thought pattern to complete nothingness.

The sun gradually lowered itself and began pulling up the blanket of the horizon. As dusk inched its way to darkness, Jack remained listless in his chair. Blackness swept through the apartment and he found himself awash in a cascade of shadows and jagged streaks of moonlight. Although the solitude did have a serene quality, he could not shake the sense that the darkness held some sort of malice for him. After a few more glasses of wine, Jack was feeling the effects and sleep crept methodically into the corners of his eyes and gently pulled down his eyelids. As his breathing became heavy and rhythmic, the black canvas of his dreamscape was brushed clean and anxiously awaited a new splash of color.

~

He emerged from his sleep to a tirade of rasping coughs and shallow breaths. In the seconds it took for him to discern the sounds, he realized they were coming from him and he felt beads of sweat rolling from his brow. His large hands were flailing through the air, reaching out for an invisible assailant. Immediately he tried to relax and gulped large quantities of air. Jack’s dreams had become far more vivid recently and mornings were a constant source of recollection, collaboration and interpretation. The lingering image of a woman was in his mind but he could not keep hold of the dream and she vanished. Pausing only for a moment, he rose unsteadily from the chair and tried to shake the fragments of sleep from his head. Shadows danced in the corners of the apartment and teased his eyes. Still dusting the cobwebs from his mind, he stumbled to the bathroom and seemed to have lost his inner compass. He tripped over furniture and momentarily lost his equilibrium. He cranked on the hot water, stripped out of his clothes and tried to rid himself of his feeling of wariness as he stepped into the shower.

The heated beads of water stung his skin but he welcomed the pressure of the jet streams. Perhaps the pounding shower could help cleanse his sense of growing failure. Real estate sales were down and reflectively brought Jack’s mood down with them. For every day that passed with no prospects, his depression and loss of enthusiasm increased. Something had to change, and it had to change soon.

Feeling somewhat more awake and refreshed, Jack reached down to shut off the flow of water. He halted briefly and stared, completely puzzled. The shower head and faucet were different from what he remembered. He tried to recall if the landlord had mentioned any changes but he had no memory of that conversation. He turned off the new faucets and threw open the shower curtain. The steam from the shower shrouded his vision as he toweled himself dry. As the mist began to clear Jack stepped from the shower and felt a plush bathmat under his feet. He didn’t own a bathmat. He reached to his left to wipe the mirror and his hand rubbed against nothing but tile and wallpaper. As the last of the shower steam finally dissipated Jack’s mouth fell open. He gaped in horror at the bathroom. It wasn’t his bathroom at all.