Peacocks and Happy Ever Afters

Just looked out the back door in the dark to check on the peacocks, and in the distance their pen has the glow of a thousand candles. Funny how light in the night has such a different feel to it.

That glow is a little muted by the construction sheeting stapled around the pen, but the heat lamps Hubby put in to keep our birds frost-free are throwing off an impressive warmth. Those birds will appreciate it tonight for sure. Hubby even made sure their perches were still wide and flat. Turns out peacocks are prone to frost bite, and it’s better to use a flat 2X4 plank for a perch so their feet stay flat and their bodies fully cover them as they settle on the roost. Better insulation that way. If they curl their very long toes around round perches, the exposed ends freeze and, well . . . gangrenous toes don’t do well.

Got to thinking (I know, scary) and found an odd correlation. Writing is a bit like that cold-wrapped peacock pen. Like construction mishmash, you set unrelated things in place one at a time to create a particular result. You sheath the pen in careful layers to block out the winds the way you layer elements in a story to shield and strengthen the story line. You set staples at critical points to secure it tightly against the frame, much the way you use key incidents and dialogue to ensure your reader stays with you. You add heat lamps to create comfort in a hostile atmosphere, the same way you add pieces of written illumination to your characters’ surroundings.

But you can’t just toss those lamps in or haphazardly prop them up on something. Too far away from the roost and they aren’t effective, much like a vague plot provides no interest. Too close, and they become a danger. A haphazardly built story runs the risk of it collapsing under the weight of too much confusion. So like the positioning of those little heat lamps is critical, you think and plan where to use your high points and black moments for best effect. Test your reasoning and make adjustments. You have to secure those lamps to something solid so they won’t fall if bumped or jostled. The same goes for your story; your research has to stand up to scrutiny, your time and plot lines solid. Each scene has to serve a purpose, with every scene ending securely locked with the next opening one, or things collapse around your characters and they become lost in a sea of broken pieces.

But without a power supply those lamps won’t shine. All your efforts for naught.

The power supply is imagination. Your muse. That driving demand that a story be told. And like that supply source, it runs in a straight line to its conclusion, insulated against outside elements.

I sat here shaking my head just now, wondering how on earth I got off on a tangent comparing peacock survival to writing. Then it hit me.

Those peacocks are the characters of any story told. If you write strong characters – and by strong I don’t mean just alpha males or kick-ass females – I mean characters that connect deeply with readers on an elemental level. Characters that face the same emotional dilemmas as the rest of the world and find ways to overcome them, characters that hurt yet continue on despite that pain, characters that face crises or impossible odds yet keep going one step at a time. As long as you create believable characters you can modify their setting and maintain a habitable atmosphere, like we did with that peacock pen, and those characters will carry on.

It seems like a lot of work just to take care of a few birds.

But then they fan, catching you off guard with the unexpected display. You can’t help but stare, awed, your senses so involved in the moment everything else drops away. You’re lost in time, entranced by all that shimmering iridescence and the sheer volume of rare beauty. It’s the same feeling you get when all those different writing elements, diligent application of technique, and determined sticking to the building blocks of good writing culminate in that perfect sentence, phrase, scene or chapter. That HEA or HFN ending is when your story fans its tail. Those few moments when everything is right and equitable in the written world and that feeling transfers to the reader.

That’s when you’re glad you went to all the effort.

That light in the darkness is the one you feel in your soul, because it does glow like a thousand candles.

Keep writing, and don’t forget Silken Sands Writers Conference is only a little over two months away! If you haven’t registered yet, you need to do so. Check out the workshops lined up, and see which agents and editors will be in attendance Sign up for pitch sessions to present your work one-on-one to them. I’ve included the link to make it easier.

~Runere~

Silken Sands Writers Conference
March 16-18, 2012
Pensacola Beach, Florida

http://www.gccrwa.com/silkensands

 

 

Visit Runere at www.RunereMcLain.com  Friend her on Facebook at Runere McLain  Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

The fantabulous Danica Avet

SFCatty: Danica Avet was one of our first commenters on this blog.  We all love her and Sayde and I had the chance to meet her in person at RWA National – She is as awesome in person as she is on the net- her blog posts are always funny and I enjoy her tweets as well.  She’ll try to tell you she’s shy but she’ll be fibbing.  This girl is a crazy Louisiana chica and her favorite bar in New Orleans is owned by my client/friend.  We found that out at National as well. Any straight chick that likes to hang at a gay bar on Bourbon Street is totally NOT shy!   Welcome Danica. We’re glad you’re here!

Danica Avet:

Limbo Rock or the Agent Shuffle

I’ve chewed on this post ever since I was asked to be a guest blogger for the Sizzlers. My first thought was: Moi? Truly, truly? My second thought was: What the hell am I going to talk about? I mean really. I’m just one of many unpublished authors scrabbling for publication. I don’t have any great insight into the writing industry. I’m not an expert in anything except for Fantasy Men, but since I was told “no frontal nudity” that took all the fun out it. Yes, I’m still pouting, ladies!

So I stewed. Then I read Brandi Hall’s post about Canceled Contracts and realized I do know something. I know how not to get screwed on the agent end of the publishing world. In May, I sent queries everywhere. I mean, I was ready. I was going to have an agent for Nationals because this book was great. I chose to go with my top level agencies first. My queries went out on a Thursday morning. Friday I had a request for a full from one of my dream agents. Monday morning I sent that manuscript out sprinkled with hopes, wishes, and some holy water. By Thursday, the agent called me back. ME! *swoon*

I was so nervous, so unbelievably excited that I just listened to her for half an hour. She loved my story, loved my characters, loved the world I’d built. She didn’t want to change a single thing. Stupefied? Why, yes I was! So when she said she wanted to start sending out proposals immediately, I was baffled. Should I do this? What to do? I asked her (rather hesitantly) if I could have the night to think about it. She said of course. I mean, she knows I’m overwhelmed and excited. So that’s what I did. I thought over it that night. I would say I slept on it, but that so did not happen. I was a nervous wreck. I asked everyone their advice. Do I take it? Oh the agony of deciding!

I called her back on Friday morning. I was going to do it. This was my break and I wasn’t going to be some couillon and pass it up! We did a verbal handshake and she said the contract would be ready on Tuesday. She wanted to send out feelers while we were waiting on the contract to be drawn up and I was like “cooool!”. I sent out e-mails to all of the other agents saying I had found representation. In the meantime, I wrote up a short synopsis for two more books so we could present them as a 3-book deal and sent them to her. She knew exactly who she was sending them to. Tuesday came and went and I didn’t hear from her. She shot me a quick e-mail later that week saying that seven out of the ten publishing houses she sent the proposal to wanted the full. SQUEE! It was really happening!

The contract still didn’t come in. I was waffling, something I try not to do. Do I call her to find out about the contract? Or do I just send her e-mails that sort of lead into the conversation? I settled on the latter. I didn’t hear back from her. Meanwhile, I have “real” life issues going on that distract me from the agent problem. The next time I look at the calendar, it’s been nearly a month since I heard back from her. What was going on? Where was my contract?

When I finally had enough, I got an e-mail from her. Thank God, right? No. She was no longer with her agency. She wished me luck, gave me the name of another agent at that agency if I wanted to stay with them, otherwise I had to look for representation somewhere else. Wh-What? Wait, what? Are you serious? She gave me a list of the editors who had my full manuscript and the others she’d queried for me. I sat staring at my computer like…huh? Now my process had to start all over again, but I was stuck. My manuscript is on the desk of several editors, but I have no agent. I’m an orphaned author! *cue the sad song*

I contacted the editors I could and started querying agents all over again. Except this time, no one wanted to touch me. I take a bath every day, y’all. Swear it. But it was like I had cooties. One of the agents, another one of my favorites, sent me a lovely rejection. She liked the story, but it needed work and she just wasn’t sure she’d have anyone to pitch it to since it was out there already. This became a recurring theme from the agents in the second round of querying. That’s the limbo part.

For a while, I went through the whole “this isn’t FAIR” stage. I might’ve even imagined running outside during a thunderstorm and screaming “nooooo” at the sky. Instead, I sat back and really thought about it. This isn’t actually a bad thing. My book and name is sitting in front of seven very important editors at right at this moment. (Unless it’s being used to prop up someone’s desk.) These are publishers who don’t take unsolicited work. That’s a good thing. Several of the agents who rejected me the second time around may remember me when I query them the next time, that’s another good thing. I now know not to do diddly-squat without that contract in my hand, which is yet another good thing.

So you see, even though the limbo bar fell on me and you know, knocked the breath out of me, I came away with well-learned lessons that will stay with me forever. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s so true: writing is a journey. Two writers can start at the exact same time, finish their manuscripts together, send them out together, but from there the road forks off in different directions. Everyone’s journey is different. Trials and tribulations seem to hang over some writers more than others, but learning from your mistakes and troubles, learning from your fellow writers’ mistakes or troubles, is what makes getting published possible. Stay positive no matter what comes your way. Be supportive of your fellow writer and accept support from them. Learn as much as you can from the agents and editors in your genre to better understand what they want.

And to borrow a phrase from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Be excellent to each other…and party on, Dudes! Congrats to the Sizzlers for their one year anniversary and thank you for letting me post! Love y’all!

 SFCatty: Thanks for coming by, D.  And just because Danica’s first comment on one of my posts was about  the nude sports team calendar I posted and because she sent me this picture as a joke, here is another team for your viewing enjoyment:

Tuesday’s Industry News: Agents, Editor, Author Friendships Are They Good or Bad

Hello all. I posted a tweet a few days ago asking questions about traditional print vs. digital publishing to gather information about todays post. However I’ve decided to change my post topic today. This past week I received two rejections on my latest paranormal suspense. One from an editor that I pitched to online and had a few emails back and forth with. I really like this editor and want her as mine! Lol, that’s not stalkerish is it?? The second rejection came from an editor that I liked immediately after meeting her. She was funny, blunt, and very knowledgable all things that I like.

So what happens when you form a relationship of some type with an editor/agent? Do you automatically expect to be published by said editor or contracted immediately by the agent? Well I certainly hope not because you will be in for a rude awakening. The publishing world is business and just because someone is your “friend” does not mean they owe you a publishing contract or agent contract. If they do offer you one out of friendship then you should not accept it. Why? Well lets see if I can put this delicately; do you really want an agent or editor that puts her/his friends first when some of his/her other friends may not write worth a shit? That puts you in a situation where not only that person looks bad, but so do you.

Even after getting an agent or editor this still does not change in my opinion. That agent or editor can be your friend of course but we want those people representing us to be honest, to put your work first not your feelings. This may seem harsh and unfair but honestly it’s for the best. Never take rejections personally and let them mess up a relationship you have formed, are forming or would like to form. Agents and editors are there to sell your work. It’s our responsibility as writers to make sure it’s the best it can be, and to understand that friends are just that, friends.

On a different note today I’d also like to let everyone know that my second short story in my “Cowgirl Tough” series has officially been offered a contract which I will sign this week. This story is the second love story in the series and contains all the characters from Riding Double ,the first story of my series. Thanks everyone.

Agent vs. Publisher___Take off those Gloves and Fight!

Hello everyone! Wow, its getting closer and closer to Christmas and I still haven’t taken pity on my husband and told him anything I want. I guess I really should do that, but I’m still trying to think of something I’d like. Oh well, onto my topic for the day.

A good friend of mine and critique partner just received news from an editor who wants to publish three of her manuscripts. WOW! I almost dropped my laptop when I read the email from her! My critique parnter is wonderful and I can’t wait to read her books in print. But get this, not only does an editor want her work an agent(very well known agent!) wants to represent her.

This morning I received an email from my rockstar author friend, needing advice. I was like “What the heck are you asking me for, I’m still in the trenches!” But the phone call brought up very good points to think about.

1. If an editor wants your work what is most important to you? The money, the fame, marketing, or future books?

2. Should you negotiate a contract on your own or bow down to an agent for help?

3. Is the grass greener on the other side????

Okay, so the publishing house Im talking about is major. Not major major, but very well known. I can’t wait to say more but for now I’ll leave out names. (until i get the green light then its on like donkey kong!) Tell me your opinions. If you were offered a three book deal by a very well known publishing house what would your major concerns be???

Tomorrow!

Ok, I have been tracking my ms as it made its way across the US on FedEx Ground (cheapest/timeliest combo from my local pack and ship).  From my neighborhood shopping center to Crestview in the wilds of interior NW Fla, thence to Ellenwood GA, and on to Hutchins TX. It is now coming into West Coast metro area where an agent awaits it, eagerly I hope. FedEx assures me it will be delivered to her tomorrow.

OMG, I am so scared. I mean, she said she enjoyed the partial — even said she enjoyed  it “very much”. That’s a good sign, right?  If she “very much” enjoyed three chapters, she won’t hate and despise the rest, huh? At worst, she will decline it  nicely, maybe with some helpful comments?

I AM FREAKING OUT HERE!!!

Dear God, Susan and the Duke are going out in the wide world, meeting people without me there to take care of them. Will they be ok? Will people like them?  It’s like my girls starting kindergarten, except that I was friends with the principals and teachers — remember,  I’m with the school board!  I knew the people running things would be on my girls’ side — not so with my poor characters, who will have to sink or swim on their own! (And Susan says one simply cannot swim in a corset and petticoats!)

I have a friend from my RWA chapter who has been a member for years, writing her stories, but she told me she has never sent anything to anyone — not an agent, editor, or contest.  This suddenly seems like a rational path to me.

So tell me, gentle readers, how do you deal with the stress of sending baby out there to fight for its literary existence?

Perhaps, having heard my friend Kelly Stone talk about the value of meditation and tapping into the subconscious mind, I should find a restful image to think about. (We are interviewing Kelly, the author of Thinking Write: the Secret to Freeing your Creative Mind here on the Sizz in the near future, BTW.)

Yes, peaceful, restful image:

Ah, a hot bath, a nice pinot, and Hugh Jackman. Yesssss.

Ah, a hot bath, a nice pinot, and Hugh Jackman. Yesssss.

Writing is Fun Again

Yes, Lordy!
 
I woke up, as always at 2 am since I am a big old forty-something year old woman whose body has a conscientious objection to sleep, and in that hypnagogic state a line I just love came to me (No Herman’s Hermits this time): Martyn had held a number of women as they had done some of the most remarkable things, but never before had a young lady softly wept onto his shirtfront.
 
Yes, I know it has an adverb in it. It belongs there. Deal with it.
 
So I got up, wrote a couple hundred words on my WIP before my brain went back to sleep (just not my body, darn it!) and now I am back into writing instead of editing. I feel it coming. All of a sudden one guy I didn’t even give a name to has stepped up and whacked me on the head and said, “‘Struth, woman, do you not even realize that I am the villain?” So a bit of reworking of what I already have, but oh, it works!!!
 
When it is this much fun, it makes you forget all the stupid stuff about publishing and contests. Lordamercy, I just love writing down the stories!!!!!
 
And to inspire us all as we deal with agents, editors, contest judges, and the most uncaring, soul-rending critic of all — yourself — I offer words of wisdom from the late Saul Bellow:
 
There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book.
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