Writing

Seven tips to keep in mind when you query

If you are a writer beginning the querying process, like me, you have a lot of questions. I’ve spent the last six years learning about my craft in every way possible. Like many new authors I wonder how hard it is to get published in today’s market.  Agent Chip MacGregor said, “…there were about 65,000 new books traditionally published last year, and. . .maybe ten million proposals sent to agents and editors… There are a couple thousand literary agents in this country, and if they all get 10,000 queries per year on average . . . the odds are awful.” You know what that means? We need to be putting our best foot forward if we have any hope of success. Here I’ve compiled seven tips for you to consider when you start querying agents.

  1. Make sure, if you’re writing fiction, that the manuscript is complete. Do not even bother an agent until then. Why? Imagine your novel is only barely started. You’ve crafted the perfect query letter. You’ve found THE agent to make your publishing dreams come true. One morning, you wake up and find a response from said agent. She requests your entire manuscript to look over. Now what? She won’t have months to wait for you to finish it. You’ve just blown your perfect shot before you’ve even begun.
  2. Beta readers, get some. I cannot express to you the importance of a good beta reader. They are the folks to whom you entrust your very raw, barely formed word baby. They read it. They offer advice. How do you get them? You ask people who can give you legitimate writing feedback. Your mom is not a good choice. This is the woman who celebrated your first use of a toilet. Her standards are a little low. Do I recommend friends? Nope. The only caveat being they must be able to hurt your feelings and feel no remorse. If you have that kind of friend, use them (and cherish them, because honesty, baby). Pick people who are writers or readers that you trust. For example, my beta readers consist of all writers except for two. My friend AnnMarie, while not a writer, always steers me in the right direction where readers are concerned. In a recent incarnation of my first novel, one of the bad guys killed his girlfriend’s dogs. I needed to make him truly despicable. She freaked out. “Make him despicable, but almost forgivable. I have to be able to humanize him and maybe have a small piece of pity for him. If he kills the dogs, I put the book down then and there.” The last thing I want is a reader to put my book down, so I allowed AnnMarie to save the dogs. My second friend, Renee, is an awesome beta reader. She picks up on the smallest details that I get wrong, something that I, as a reader, have put books down for in the past. Everyone else is a writer. They get the voodoo that I do and help accordingly.
  3. Edits, more edits, and even more edits.  While your manuscript is with beta readers, edit. When it comes back from them, edit. Edit until your brain bleeds. Then you stash that manuscript away for a few weeks and edit until your eyes bleed.  Repeat until your fingers bleed. I know, that’s a lot of bleeding, but it’s necessary. Expect to edit more times than you can count. Then edit again for good measure. You need to be shopping around the very best version of your work. I’ve heard too many writers say that they don’t see the need to edit, because after getting an agent they’ll just edit it for them. That’s like expecting a half done lasagna to bake itself. It just doesn’t work that way.
  4. Platform, Religion, and Politics. You have a platform and a brand. It all revolves around what you write when you are a writer. Unless what you write involves religion and/or politics, don’t write or share about religion and/or politics. If the last presidential election taught us anything it is that those topics are about as polarizing as they come. One fact is true: If you don’t want to isolate readers, leave those topics at the door. If you simply must share, get a private Facebook account that doesn’t allow the general public in on that side of your life. I know Stephen King puts his opinions on social media, but he’s STEPHEN FRICKIN’ KING. When you’re that big, by all means, share away. Until then, stow it.
  5. Stalk your intended agent before querying. Okay, not really. No law breaking. But please research who you are querying. Look them up. Find their social media. Read through it. Find old interviews. Read those. Find out who they represent. Stalk them, too, for good measure. Find the agency they work for. Read their bios. For the love of all that is holy, tattoo their submission guidelines on your soul. Whatever you do, make that query letter as personal as possible and STICK TO THOSE GUIDELINES. You don’t want to get rejected because you didn’t follow what you were told. And don’t blanket a ton of agents and blind carbon copy them. It’s tacky. It’s lazy. It’s a turnoff, and almost a guarantee for rejection. Speaking of the “R” word….
  6. Accept rejection with grace. I cannot stress this enough. Agents talk, y’all. They follow each other. You will find this out when you cyberstalk them. There is nothing worse than getting a rejection to lay you low, possibly even make you angry. Do not take your anger out on them. That’s a first class ticket to Ignoring-The-Crazy-Author-Ville. Try getting someone to take you seriously when you’ve just lambasted their agent/friend all over social media. You hurt a lot of feelings and make yourself look like the amateur, insufferable jerk that you are. By all means, lick your wounds. Be sad. Tie on a feedbag of Ben and Jerry’s. Do not take your anger out on those meant to represent you. That being said,….
  7. Get back up and brush off the moss. Don’t let rejection stop you from achieving your dreams. Trust me, I know how tough rejection is. My first novel has been rejected 29 times so far. I used to take a page from Stephen King’s book and hang them all on a corkboard. But then they started to mock me. My writing suffered. I’d look at that pile of rejection letters and think the worst thoughts. I hung a little Snoopy charm (I love that beagle!) on them so that maybe I’d smile when I saw them. That cute little dog started to mock me, too. I removed it all and just keep a tally list now. I cannot allow the pain of rejection to keep me from writing. First, because there’s no stopping the drive to apply words to paper/computer screens for me. It’s how I process the world. Second, I have faith that somewhere in this wide world is one other crazy person employed by a literary agency that just might believe in me as much as AnnMarie and Renee. And I owe it to myself to find her (or him, but more likely her). So, I am getting back up, brushing off whatever moss has grown on me, and trying again. While I anxiously await agent responses, I’ve started another novel.

You should do the same. Keep chugging along. Follow these tips and give yourself the best possible chance of success!

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Serious stuff

Alan Rickman had me at one word: Always

I’ve written before about the phenomenon that baffled me when people cry over celebrities dying. I thought they were off their rockers, until it happened to me in August 2013 with the death of Robin Williams. Well, 2016 proved that it isn’t just the funny guy that owned my ice-cold heart. Today Alan Rickman passed away at 69 years old. And I wept like a baby.

I remember him from movies when I was younger like Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and several others. He was an actor who was chameleon-like in his roles, changing his appearance and accent to the point of almost being unrecognizable. I remember being in awe of that sort of talent and bravery. In a business where your face and voice are your product, obscuring those in any way could be dangerous to your career, but Rickman proved otherwise.

I’ve got to be honest here, though. As much as I enjoyed his roles and admired his craft, he was never an actor whose work I sought out. It wasn’t like I ever said, “Ooooh, Alan Rickman has a new movie out that I simply MUST see.” That is, of course, until a little wizard grabbed hold of my soul in 1999. I gobbled up the books as quickly as I possibly could, and, right along with most others, hated the character of Snape for being so mean to our heroes. That is until the end. When I realized that Snape was my favorite character of all.

And then the movies came out and Rickman was cast.

My love for that boy wizard grew with each movie, something foreign to this bookworm who usually hates Hollywood’s adaptations of my beloved books. Rickman did such a wonderful job of portraying the Snape that lived in my head that I can’t read those books without envisioning him. No other character from the movies has replaced the others in my mind. Just him. In fact, I don’t recall any actor, EVER, replacing the character that lived in my head. That is saying something, friends.

I watch the Harry Potter movies once a year in a movie marathon with my kids. I sob every time at the end. I cry when Snape begs Harry to take his tears so he can finally tell his side of the story. This scene tugs at my heart:

It’s that last line coupled with the image of Lily Potter in Snape’s arms that sealed Alan Rickman’s place in my heart forever.

Rickman’s end is bittersweet, but he leaves behind a legacy, an immense amount of art that speaks volumes for his talent and craft. But, no matter what role he played, he will remain in my heart, the unsung hero of a tale about a boy wizard. He will be the unlikely, however faithful, friend who kept a promise to his one true love until his dying breath. Always.

Parenting, Writing

Lose The Cape: Never Will I Ever (And Then I Had Kids!)

The big day is nearly here! Wednesday, December 9, 2015 is the release date for the latest anthology in the Lose The Cape series! An essay from Yours Truly appears in this gem. It’s the perfect gift for any parent out there. Be sure to grab one for the reader on your holiday list this season!

 

Lose the Cape! Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!)12036843_10153591622049757_8920000926856798482_n

Most of us had grandiose ideas of what we would be like as parents; what we would allow our children to do and all those things we would never allow our children to do. We may have sworn we would never let our child watch more than 30 minutes of television, or sleep in our bed, or eat chicken nuggets or God forbid, cheese from a can (gasp!). Yet, the moment those little bundles of joy entered our lives, reality took over. Soon enough, we realized that before children, we knew nothing about being parents.

From breastfeeding to co-sleeping, pledging to feed our children all natural, home cooked meals and so forth, there often comes a point in time where surviving parenthood supersedes your views and your “nevers” slip away. Right?

Never Will I Ever is a collection of essays by mothers (and one brave dad!) who share their stories of how they evolved as parents and learned that when it comes to raising children, we can never say never. This is the second book in the Lose the Cape! collection, dedicated to providing support and encouragement to parents in the most difficult stages of bringing up children.

Serious stuff

Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee is released!

April 30, 2015

Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee is finally here!trollops

I am delighted beyond belief to be one of the lucky few authors whose essays were picked to appear in this anthology.  It’s a collection of hilarious and heartwarming stories about what we’ve learned from our mothers.

Let’s face it.  We’ve all got some story somewhere about what our mothers taught us, whether is was about shaving, parenting or dealing with bullies.  This collection is sure to make a great gift for Mother’s Day!

Be sure to run out and grab a copy or two of this book.  You can find it on Amazon here.  It’s available in paperback and Kindle.

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