Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Querying GR and My Writing Space

I began querying Graviton Rift in earnest recently. It's going well. Which is another way of saying it's way too early in the process to know how it's really going.

I've sent off emails and filled out forms. I have a handful of confirmation emails, a few early rejections (fastest so far is 47 minutes) and that's about it. No requests for additional pages -- yet. But I have had good feedback on the query letter and great feedback on the story, so my optimism is high.

I've noticed two interesting side effects of the querying process. First, I have been rather jumpy whenever the email notification chimes on my phone. It's a little like being sixteen again and waiting to hear back from a prospective date. Except I didn't have email when I was sixteen. And I never ever had a dozen different prospective dates all at once. But whatever.

The second thing I've noticed is that most agents want me to include my website URL, which has reminded me of this poor, neglected blog. It's been a busy year, with all kinds of great things I could blog about, and no time to blog. I've been trying to think of what to write about.

So today on the ANWA Conference Facebook page, when we were asked to share a picture of our writing space, I figured this would be a good thing to post on the blog as well -- especially since I've recently done some work updating my writing space,

I write in my home office, which I have tucked into a corner of my unfinished basement. I have boots and fingerless gloves and a thick fluffy robe to use when I work and write. This might also explain why some of my Graviton Rift characters live on an ice planet.

This is where the magic happens.

I've always wanted a wall full of world-time clocks

Monday, April 23, 2018

Progress Update - Graviton Rift

Last September, I set a goal to write a book - start to finish - within one year.

This is significant for me, since I've only finished three books in the fifteen years I've been writing. (That's an average of five years per book, for those who prefer not to do the math.)

Admittedly, a large part of my early writing years was devoted to developing skills and finding an acceptable Author Voice. It was a time for practice, rather than performance.

But at this point in my writing career, I feel an overwhelming urge to shift into a performance phase. Hence the goal to write a book in a year.

I have made several conscious decisions that I hope will allow me to hit this goal. Foremost is the decision to write a middle-grade novel.

I've wanted to write middle-grade for some time. The Space Corps General started out as middle-grade before ballooning out of control. I love the idea of visiting schools and doing presentations. I believe middle-grade is the right genre for me.

Fortunately, middle-grade books are, by definition, shorter than adult and YA books (50,000 words vs 80-100,000 words). Shorter means (hopefully) faster to write.

The second decision I made was to pick a high-concept story, and stick close to established tropes. The beauty of a high-concept idea is that it can be easily communicated, and provides some very powerful focus. The concept for Graviton Rift is: "The Parent Trap re-imagined as an interplanetary adventure."

I made this decision after trying to pitch The Space Corps General, and having a tough time describing what the book really was all about. There are a lot of great elements in that story, but like I mentioned earlier, it ballooned out of control. By focusing on a high-concept idea and the associated tropes, I believe I am creating a much better story, and spending less time wandering through literary wastelands in the process.

The third decision I made was to participate in NaNoWriMo. If I could write the first draft of the novel in a month, then I would be well on my way towards a final draft in a year.

It actually took me 45 days to get a completed rough draft, but I was able to put down the required 50,000 words during the month of November. I won! (With a little help from HeiHei)

But the real work begins after the NaNo win. The fourth decision I made was to spend a minimum of five hours per week editing and revising. (I really want ten hours per week, but for now that remains a bit of a pipe dream.)

For the most part, I've been able to hit that goal, and I have seen slow but steady progress in this revision. As a result, I am about 60% of the way through my second draft. It's not where I want to be, and success is anything but certain. I still need to give this story to beta readers and then do at least one more draft.

But if I stick to my current pace, and maybe somehow manage to eke out a little bit more, I just might hit this goal. More importantly, I have proven to myself that it is possible.

I love this story. I love the characters. I'm thrilled at the prospect of finishing a book, idea to final draft, within a year. I can't wait to share the final product with you.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Writer Friends

As is human nature, I constantly second-guess my decision to become a writer. This is especially true at tax time, when I see how even my tiny operating costs as an author have overwhelmed my tinier author revenue. 

But despite having been in "startup" mode for over a decade, there are two things that constantly remind me that writing is the right avocation for me. 

The first is that I truly enjoy writing, and believe that I am reasonably capable. I know I have much to learn, but the learning is enjoyable. I have progressed steadily since I first started writing fifteen years ago, and I have faith that I will be able to build the writing career that I want.

The second "proof" that writing is right for me is my collection of writing friends. To use a comfortably-worn cliche, these people are my tribe. They "get" me, and I "get" them. And nearly every writer I've talked to feels the same way about their fellow writers.

This past week I had the opportunity to see some of my writer friends that I usually only see once a year. Aften Brook Szymanski had a signing for her new book, Cheat Code, and it just happened to coincide with my quarterly visit to the Onyx home office.

Not only did I get to come support Afton and the launch of her debut novel, but I got to see some other writing friends: Melissa Meibos, Rachael Larsen, and Crystal Liechty

I love these little author reunions. 

For me, this was like the little teaser trailer in preparation for the big Storymakers conference in three weeks.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Carey Forward

My sisters and are working on a new project. We're calling it Carey Forward. Because we're clever like that.

The seed for this project was planted several years ago, when our youngest sister, Noreen, was taken from us suddenly in a tragic accident. The four remaining Carey siblings locked ourselves in a room for hours, and through many tears and much laughter, we worked up a life sketch of Noreen to share at her funeral. We took turns sharing stories and examples that gave our unique perspective as Noreen's siblings, and showed everyone just how amazing our sister was.

From this experience, we were reminded just how important it is to face life with faith, determination, and a healthy dose of humor. And just as important, we were reminded of the value of family, and how much stronger we can be if we lean on each other for support.

Carey Forward is our way of sharing that support, not just with each other, but anyone and everyone who could use a little boost.

Follow us on Facebook @CareyForward and Instagram @carey_forward. Great things are coming.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Living La Vida Lulu

This girl. She's the one they wrote the poem about. 

You know, the one about how when she's good, she's very very good; but when she's bad...

Hoo, boy.

Her life is hard. As a consequence, my life is hard.

I love my Alyssa. She is the child that forces me to stretch; forces me to grow. I could write a book about they many ways she challenges me.

If I survive this current phase, I will write a book about it.

I'll call it, Living La Vida Lulu.

She hates it when I call her Lulu.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Fun With Kidney Stones

In an earlier post, I mentioned how I'm using the Agile Framework to bring some structure and accountability to my writing time. It's been working well so far, though I still have a long way to go before becoming an expert at planning and managing my life in a predictable manner.

I had hoped to make this past two-week sprint an example of efficiency and productivity so I could blog-brag about how great I am becoming.

Unfortunately, my body had different plans.

Monday night as I was getting ready for bed, I raised my left foot to pull on my pajama pants. Suddenly it felt as though someone were stabbing me in the back. I said some words that were probably not appropriate for a family-friendly blog, and crumpled to the floor of the closet.

Alyssa was on my bed; she asked if I was okay. I said I was, believing the pain was from a muscle cramp that would soon diminish.

It didn't. Every time I tried to move, more pain shot through me. And I probably said more bad words. So I lay on the cold tile closet floor, pajama pants around my knees.

The third time Alyssa asked if I was okay, I finally had to admit that I wasn't. I asked her to go and get Kara, since my phone was on the opposite side of the room.

Alyssa failed to convey the seriousness of the situation, and the sight of me lying immobile on the floor came as quite a shock to Kara.

With much wincing, moaning, teeth-gritting, and word-saying, she helped me get my pants up all the way, stand, and hobble to the bed.

Heating pads and pain pills allowed me to sleep through the night, though with every movement the pain continued as intensely as ever.

The next morning I consulted with my sisters, and they agreed with my diagnosis: I was having a kidney stone attack. They've all had stones of their own, and felt it was about time I took my turn. Sisters.

Our dear friend Danyelle came and helped get Alyssa to FOCUS, and Kara took me to the Urgent Care place. They agreed with the kidney stone diagnosis until they analyzed my samples, and noted that there was no blood in my urine. Without blood, they couldn't make a positive diagnosis.

So they sent me to the ER for a CT scan. This scan showed a small stone, though not really in a place that normally caused pain. I was prescribed a very small quantity of pain meds and sent home.

Interestingly, once the meds they gave me in the ER wore off, the pain did not return. I'm grateful, of course, but also a little concerned. I've been drinking like a fish, watching for any further sign of the stone, but haven't seen anything. Hopefully it has dissolved and this little misadventure is now behind me. But not knowing for sure what happened to the stone has me more than a little nervous that another attack could be imminent.

I'll be honest; that little episode rattled me pretty hard. One second I was pushing through the normal aches and pains of midlife, and the next I was crumpled on the floor, unable to move. I repeatedly tried pushing through the pain, wanting to believe that I was strong enough to block it out and make my body do as commanded.

But I couldn't. I felt weak and helpless. And I hated it.

I suppose part of the reason was knowing that I didn't really need to push through the pain. Help was available, and though embarrassing, the situation was not dire. Had I been completely alone, or been in danger, or a loved one threatened, I like to think I would have the strength of will to ignore the pain and do whatever needed to be done. I like to think that's the kind of person I am.

Hopefully I will never have the need to find out for sure.

Monday, March 19, 2018

FOMO and The True Meaning of Delusion

I want to do All The Things. The internet generation as a name for this: FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out.

My FOMO is bad. Really bad.

Now that I've hit fifty, I've had to finally accept that I will never have it all. I will never do it all. Even if there were a hundred of me, each with access to a fortune, I would never be able to do everything I want.

Opportunity in our modern life is an embarrassment of riches, apparently.

Yet there are still things I want to do. Lots of them.  I'm not deluded enough to think that I can do everything. I have limitations. I've even accepted a few of them.

But I refuse to accept all of my apparent limitations. I refuse to let go of all my hopes and dreams and crazy ideas.

Instead, I choose to believe that, with careful planning, determination, and a bit of luck, I can do the things I need to do, and still have the bandwidth for some of the things I want to do.

Stop laughing. I know it's deluded. I'm going to do it, anyway.

Part of this plan involves applying the Agile framework - a set of powerful management tools - to my personal and professional life. (You can learn a little more about my efforts in this post here.)

I have divided my efforts into a bunch of different projects, and given these projects exciting names like Project Sisyphus and La Vida Lulu. Over the next few posts, I'll introduce some of these projects to you, and then share my progress.

It might be an inspirational journey to productivity and bliss. It might be a total train wreck.

Most likely, it will be something in between. Without a doubt, it's going to be an adventure.