Thursday, December 31, 2009

Six Sentences – Volume 3

I just saw on the Six Sentence website ( that there is going to be a third volume published. Some of you know that I had the privilege of having a submission published in Volume 2.

The short version is you have until January 31, 2010 to submit your six sentences. I will be working on mine and I hope you will too! Go to for full submission details.

Happy New Year everyone!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kindle for Everyone

Before I begin, I want to make it very plain that I’m a big fan of books. I like feeling the weight of it in my hand. I like the smell of the paper and ink, I love to see my bookshelves full of them (to my wife’s chagrin). But lately I’ve been forced to wonder about the Kindle and Sony readers that are becoming so popular. My sisters both have Kindles and love them. Me? I have an iPod Touch and a friend of mine told me about the Kindle Application that’s available for it (and iPhones).
I downloaded the Kindle Application and about the same time I was informed by Amazon that a book I’d ordered was out of stock. So I used my iPod Touch to navigate out to the Amazon store and downloaded the book.
I have to say that now that I’ve used it, I loved it. The text was large enough to read and the touch screen made maneuvering through the book easy and convenient. Setting bookmarks caused me a little problem for about 45 seconds, but once I had it figured out, it was easy. The iPod is lightweight and easy to hold, even in bed, and is backlit so you don’t need a light on to read (a plus for me since I usually read after my wife’s asleep). The screen flips automatically from portrait to landscape, depending on the orientation of the iPod, which is sometimes annoying when you change it accidently, but overall, I saw it as an advantage.
The only downside I can think of is that it was hard for me to judge where I was in the story. Glancing at the placement of a bookmark in a book, you can easily gauge whether you’re halfway done, or near the end, or whatever. I wasn’t able to do that as easily with the Kindle app. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I would give the Kindle App for my iPod Touch 5 stars.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One Word

If you don’t know me by now, I’m big into writing exercises. If you’re going to be a writer, you have to write. It doesn’t have to be fantastic or even good, but by writing, you’ll discover what works and what doesn’t.
So the latest writing exercise is a website called The website is set up to be a writing exercise in and of itself.
When you go to the website (, you click “go” and it will give you a word. You have sixty seconds to write whatever you want, using the word as a prompt.
When you’re done, you can put your name on it and submit it. Or you can put an alias on it if you aren’t proud, or you can choose not to submit it.
But whether you decide to submit it or not, you should go out to the website to give it a try. You just might like it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing the Breakout Hit

So after so many close but not quite comments, I got to thinking if you have everything but the right story, how do you figure out which one is the right story?

Donald Maass put out a book called "Writing the Breakout Novel." I thumbed through it and got the sense that there is a different character or ambiance to a debut novel then other works down the line in a published writer's career. Even Mort Castle, a horror icon, noted how the first book he wrote ended up actually being the seventh one published because the agents/editors decided he had the chops, but not the right story for a breakout novel.

With that in mind, I am still editing/tweaking a novel that is heavy on exploring themes, but focusing my efforts on completing a sci-fi adventure for the (hopefully) debut piece. It's just one more thing to show you how many additional factors beyond talent and tenacity affect a writer's career.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


This author is approaching overload! How do people continue writing during the holiday season?

I know agents continue working, because they are sending me their rejections. Frequently, in the last week or so. The car is in the shop, waiting for me to post bail. And the Christmas cards are unmailed, no baking is done, very few presents have been bought, and the kids are sending me lists! That negative karma piles up.

Yesterday, I did something that made me feel a little better. After two rejections, one by email, one carried snail-wise, I abandoned ship (the USS WIP from NaNoWriMo) and trotted out some short stories that have not found homes yet. I worked on them for a few hours, then sent them out to two different markets. Actually, I felt a LOT better after doing that. I accomplished something! The Christmas preparations are still waiting. They're not going anywhere, right?

I'm drinking kava tea today, before I go get the car. Another rejection came today.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


You may recall that I offered to help an 80-something-year-old woman with the account of her brother's death at the hands of the Mafia, or so she has always suspected. I called her Hildegarde, but that's not her real name.

Well, Hildegarde gave me her handwritten notes a couple of weeks ago. They are on three sheets of yellow legal paper, front and back. The pages are numbered, with additions in the margins, some written sideways, some on a slant, crammed in where she could fit them. Stars and arrows point to added material.

It was…interesting…sorting it all out. I typed it into the computer and it came to almost four pages double spaced, 1344 words. That's a lot of words in her small writing on those few yellow pages.

I'm not sure if there's a story here or not. She relates incidents she recalls from her childhood. They are mostly mysterious happenings that hint of nefarious doings having to do with money and property changing hands. As it stands, it is a list of events, but there are no conclusions, just some opinions.

I didn't have time to make it back to her place, which isn't very near. And, after she made her trip to my place to hand me her pages, I didn't want her to drive here again. She had offered to come here and I didn't think anything of it. My husband wondered if she should be driving.

She has to travel with an oxygen tank, for one thing. For another, she phoned on her cell phone from someplace about a mile away, thinking she was at our house. Her cell phone reception was poor and neither of us could tell what the other was saying very well. She never did get the street name or house number from me correctly and she said she would just drive around and probably find us! I finally got through that she should wait right there. My husband was able to lead her here.

So, after I typed the pages, I called her and got her email address, which she was obviously reading from a piece of paper. She said she had the software to read what I had typed, MS Word, but the email bounced back. When I called her about that, she said, Oh the kids had been fooling with her computer. About a week later she gave me another email address and this time my email and attachment didn't come back. But I haven't heard from her.

I have no idea what else she'll want me to do. I gave her the nicest comments I could on what she had, which were that it's an interesting story. I'll let you know what happens next.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get back to my WIP after being away from it for two weeks. That's hard!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Emerging From the Fog

Okay, so we are all finally emerging from the Nanowrimo fog. For those of you who participated, I hope you met your word count. If you're like me, you met your word count, but have a long road of editing and reworking ahead of you. With that in mind, I wanted to share a fabulous new book I discovered on my last book buying run.

Thanks, But This Isn't For Us by Jessica Morrell is a guide to why your work is being rejected (a.k.a what's missing or what isn't working). I have read tons of books, articles, and agent blogs about editing, but this one by far is the easiest to read and incorporate into your writing practice. Where most books either focus on one aspect of development or technical items, this one covers the whole package. Plus, the Quick and Dirty tips at the end of each chapter let you walk straight over to the computer, notebook, or stone tablet and immediately make improvements to your writing. I've been able to make drastic improvements to several works and know that this will be a key tool in my writer's arsenal.

Good luck to y-all with your editing and Nano masterpieces. There are several manuscript contests coming up in 2010. Who knows?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Writing the Successful Synopsis and Query Letter (or Selling Your Book Without Selling Out) Part 1

I recently attended John Pipkin’s two part workshop, Writing the Successful Synopsis and Query Letter (or Selling Your Book Without Selling Out). The first session was on writing a solid query letter, something that takes a little practice. While I have read numerous books on the subject and there is an overwhelming number of resources about it on the internet, I found the session to be helpful and was reminded of the basic rules of query writing.

The set up for a query letter should be something like this:

1st paragraph: The hook/one sentence summary/title and genre
2nd paragraph: Summary of characters and plot
Optional paragraph: Historical background/relevance/potential audience
3rd paragraph: Writer’s bio
4th paragraph: Formal closing, thank you, give length of manuscript

Mr. Pipkin sold his current novel, Woodsburner, after sending out only five query letters, but he is quick to point out that his first attempt at publishing ended with 75 rejections. One of the things he did the second time around was to keep the idea of the query and synopsis in mind as he was writing. Doing that helped guide his book and made it easier when it came time to getting down to writing the dreaded query letter. He also reminded us that agents are trained to look for certain things in the queries they receive (manuscript name, word count, genre, summary). When they don’t find those items, they lose interest.

One of the more interesting things discussed was what happens once your book is accepted by an agent. Most people tend to think it’s a streamlined process with the agent taking the book to the publisher and the publisher getting it to the bookstore. In reality there are lots of steps in between, and it can take up to two years to get the book on shelves once it’s been accepted. Knowing that, an agent has to look carefully at the manuscript to make sure it’s right for them and that they know someone to pitch it too. Often a query may be rejected not because it’s poorly written or uninteresting, but because the agent doesn’t have the contacts and can’t help you. Always research what the agent represents before you query.

I’m attending the second session of the workshop this Saturday, which is on creating the one page synopsis. I’ll be updating the site next week with more information on that subject.