Thursday, March 1, 2007

MySpace Blog from Sept.6 2006-Oct. 14 2006

(There were no posts between Oct. 14 and Dec. 11)

Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2006 11:52AM

Lucky news!

Well, not really related to the publishing efforts, and probably not interesting to most. It's another one of those things that affects me, personally, and thus affects the amount of time I have to work on my writing. I found out today that they made a mistake in explaining to us here at work about the severance package or "supplemental assistance pay". We were originally told that we had to apply for unemployment immediately upon leaving the company, and that for 10 weeks, our employer would pay us the difference between our current salaries and what the unemployment office paid. That would put us losing almost half our income just as Christmas rolled around. This is not entirely correct.

What will actually happen is, we will have 10 weeks' pay deposited for us in an account. Once we start our unemployment, we'll receive a check from our former employer for the difference in salaries. BUT, it's not limited to ten weeks, it's drawn out of the EQUIVALENT of ten weeks that's in that account. In other words, just to use round numbers, let's say they put in $5000 ($500 a week) for me, and my unemployment is $300 a week. My former employer will send me $200 a week to make up the difference until all $5000 is gone. That makes my $5K last 25 weeks instead of 10.

Now, I make more than $500 a week, so the amount that will be put in my account will be more. Unemployment is also more than $300 a week for me, so that changes the numbers as well. But when you do the math basing it on my salary and what I'll qualify for in unemployment, it comes out to 21 weeks pay. Another cool thing, BTW, is there's the possibility of a retention bonus from my current employer for staying through the end of the contract. They're nervous about that, since so many have already jumped ship right in the middle of transition. So there's another couple grand, cash up front. This all means, basically, if I draw unemployment for that long, I'll still be getting paid my current salary through the second week in February, AND I'll have a couple grand to blow on Christmas (or a new laptop for me hehehe)!!!

Vacation!!! LOL

My bet is, I can finish book two and have a VERY good start on book three in that amount of time. If I'm VERY lucky (OK, so it's not likely I will be, but a guy can dream) I'll have sold the first book by then! So hey, I guess it does have a bit to do with the publishing effort after all!

*sigh* Yeah, I know, nice dream. Chances are, I'll find a job within the first 8 to 10 weeks, in which case I'll stop getting the assistance pay altogether. But a 21 week vacation, with the checks still coming in? Sounds like a dream job to me. What this really does for me is make me not stress out so much about the fact that the new vendor that's coming in is one that I'm not really fond of, personally, at least not the management. I'm pretty sure they're not going to offer me a position within their new structure, so I'll definitely have to find something else.

And do I feel bad about mooching off my company, or the unemployment office, for so long? A friend of mine actually asked me that. He and his wife are DINKs(Double Income, No Kids), don't really have a clue about how a single parent has to live. He's the kind of guy who asks if I want to hit a bar on a Thursday night, and doesn't get it when I say no, it's a school night, I can't get out. LOL So, do I feel guilty? Not a chance! I've given almost six years of my life to this employer, not counting unpaid overtime and just altogether being treated like crap. I work for a company that, nationwide, has over 120,000 employees. I'm just a number, and not a very big one. The way I see it, they can afford to pay me for my trouble. And unemployment? I've been paying into unemployment insurance for almost ten years without having drawn any. That's what it's for. Yeah, I'll be trying to find a job, and I hope I do it quickly. But no, I won't have a bit of guilt drawing my unemployment checks till I find work. I've been paying other people's unemployment for ten years, after all, and I don't ask them to feel guilty or ashamed. ;-)

Friday, Sept. 8, 2006 11:09AM

Quicker than I expected

Well, I'm really rather surprised. I have sent out quite a few submission partials over the last couple of weeks, figuring it'd be at the earliest five or six weeks before I received my first rejection letter. This week, several of the queries I sent out were through e-mail submissions, and I figured I'd hear back from them first. And I was right.

I got my first response from an agent Wednesday, just hours after I'd sent the query. I sent to (an agent I won't name yet) a query letter, synopsis, and 14 sample pages from chapter four of my novel. And not only did I get a response within hours, the response was a request to read the full manuscript!!

Now, I've researched all the agents I sent to on Preditors and Editors, AAR, Writer Beware, and various other places on the WWW. They're all listed as reputable editors, worthy of sending your work to. I've also made sure that they not only handle the kind of work I've done, but that they have recent sales of this kind of work. I was surprised by the quick response, and that prompted me to research this company even more. Everything I've found about them says they do good work. Some of the clients on their client list are SF/F writers I recognize, and even some books I recognize, and they have multiple sales of the genre this year. They do handle new authors regularly. It all sounds very good. The agent that responded to me is a relatively new one with their firm, but not THAT new, so I think it's definitely a good sign!

The only thing that worried me was that they requested an exclusive reading of my novel, but that's pretty much standard, and I don't blame them. It would be unfair to them to spend three or four weeks evaluating a novel and deciding to represent it, only to find that the author had found representation elsewhere. So I replied that I was prepared to give them an exclusive for up to five weeks, after which if there was no agreement with them, I would be free to send my manuscript elsewhere. The agent agreed, and so she'll be exclusively reading my work for the next five weeks. (Not counting partials I've already sent out... none of which are more than 65 pages.)

So, how about that? Hopefully, even if this agent doesn't decide to represent me, I'll be given some further critiquing or at least a little insight on how to make the novel work better! I've been jumping up and down since I got the letter! LOL

Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006 3:13PM

OK, I've sent my manuscript off to the agent for a five week reading. But I need to ask a question here of the folks who have been out there doing this for a while. It's something I'm not really sure of, and it may be one of those silly things that screws me up in this process.

The agent asked me to send a bio along with my submission. Now, I would assume that the bio would be information about your qualifications as a writer, previous writing credits, etc. The problem is, I don't have any of those! Other than a brief major in college, I have no qualifications in creative writing. I have no previous published work, no college degree, have attended no writers' conferences, no awards, zilch.

So, that being the case, what should I have put in my bio? What is it that agents want to see? I settled for sending along a little "About the Author" blurb, the kind of thing you read in the back of a book, but I just don't think that's what was requested. Anybody have any input on this?

Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006 8:06PM

Damn! I just spent twenty minutes typing a blog, and MySpace ate it before posting it.

I'm not going into as much detail this time.

I've been offered representation by Laurie McLean of the Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. They are a small agency located in San Francisco. They also run the San Francisco Writer's Conference. They represent very little SF/F, but Laurie handles that primarily. I was taken aback by the quick response to my query, and the quick response to my manuscript, having expected a much longer wait. I was concerned Laurie might not have actually read my novel. She allayed my fears rather quickly. She was familiar with the book and the characters, and was able to point to parts of the manuscript that she especially liked and parts that might need work. She attributed her quick response to providence. She explained that a day or two before I sent my submission, she had been speaking with an editor about what types of things he was looking for. The editor listed young adult fantasy fiction geared toward boys... which my book fits. This was why she requested my manuscript so quickly. After reading it, she decided that whether the editor wanted it or not, she wanted to represent it.

I've done a fair bit of research on the agency, and have found that almost everyone who has anything to say about them is filled with praise. The only exceptions are a few people who weren't offered representation, and while they have valid concerns, they're not anything that would bother me too much.

So anyway. I got a good feeling from my conversation with Laurie. She seems competent and informed, and also seems quite excited about my novel and what she might be able to accomplish with it. I kept my ears open for any of the telltale signs that an agent is playing with you, and none were present. I have a couple more questions to ask her about their contract, and if she answers them to my satisfaction, I'm going to sign with them.

Yeah. I'm still in shock.

Anybody out there who's still reading my manuscript, I'm still very interested in your feedback. Just because I have probably found an agent doesn't mean I can't still make my book better... and my subsequent books as well!

Saturday, Sept. 16, 2006 9:34AM

It's official

I have an agent. I signed the agency agreement with Larsen-Pomada. My manuscript is currently in the hands of an editor who is actively in acquisition mode, which is an unusually lucky place to be. That means it's being read NOW as opposed to in several weeks when the editor gets around to it.

I'm new to all this, so I'm not entirely sure what this might mean for me, but Laurie assures me that it's a good thing. It could mean that I could have an answer (rejection or sale) within a couple of weeks, which is far sooner than I would have hoped. If it's rejected, subsequent submissions will probably take quite a bit longer; this is a special case, an editor who actively sought her out for new manuscripts and was excited by her pitch about mine.

I'm not getting my hopes up. I figure at best I have a 50/50 shot of being accepted on this go-round, and even that's probably overly optimistic. If it were to be accepted, it'd have to be some kind of record. June to September, from starting the outline to manuscript sale? LOL How often does that happen?!

Still, it's a first novel, a previously unpublished author with no writing credits to his name. It's easy to keep a level head when I look back and realize all the people out there who have been doing this far longer than me, and haven't made a sale yet. Doesn't keep me from being optimistic and hopeful, but I am definitely realistic about what the chances are this soon out of the gate. I'm just ecstatic that I have an agent, so I can settle down to the business of writing book 2 and leave to her the business of finding someone to sell them to. ;-)

Friday, Sept. 22, 2006 9:14AM

Out of Work Author

Well, not quite yet, but soon. Just thought I'd let everyone know that the vendor who is taking over PC support at our site has elected not to offer me a position. In fact, they've only offered a job to one of the people here, who is kind of a necessity because he handles the very specialized mainframe systems. So, next Friday I'll get my final bonus check, the following Friday I'll get my final paycheck, and then I'll be relying on unemployment and supplemental pay from my current employer to get through finding a new job. Like I said before, I have 5 months to find a job, so I'm not all that concerned. I'm actually pretty happy how things have turned out. Now I have to train the new guy in how to do my job, at least the parts that aren't self-explanatory. I've got a busy week coming. But hey, after next Friday, I don't have to spend a total of an hour and a half in my car every day. :-D

On a different note, I know I haven't posted any blogs lately about my novel or what's going on with it. That's because there hasn't been anything concrete to report, although there's been a little motion. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and I'll have some news up here within a week.

Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006 1:45PM


Well, there's been a reason I haven't posted much over the last week or so. My novel was in the hands of Lyron Bennet, an associate editor at Sourcebooks for their new children's imprint. He loved the book, and so did his senior editor. I had a conference call with him and my agent last Friday in which I pitched the book, and two of the subsequent books in the series, and he was very excited about all three. He prepared a pitch for his acquisitions committee, which was scheduled for Wednesday of this week, and I didn't want to post any news about that until it had happened. I especially didn't want to get my hopes up.

Unfortunately, I just got the news today that the committee decided to pass on the book. They feel that the novel is too similar to one specific series out there, the Pendragon books, and while the tone and style are much different, they wanted something further distanced from things that might already be available from larger publishers. I'm told that Mr. Bennett argued my case for some time, pitching my book strongly as worthy competition for the Pendragon series, but they still elected to pass.

SOOOOO close. Undaunted, my agent is preparing a list of large publishing houses to submit to, and we'll skip past the almost-serendipitous miracle that we've missed out on and move back to the more traditional avenues of sending manuscripts and waiting interminably for them to be read. In the meantime, I need to decide if I want to concentrate more on revising book 1, or go ahead and get to work on finishing book 2. Or both. Between that, and the need to find a new job, things are going to be pretty busy for a while.

PS-- Yes, I'm disappointed. I'd hoped for the miracle here, who wouldn't? But as for why I'm not completely crushed after getting so close, Sourcebooks was THE FIRST PUBLISHER TO SEE MY MANUSCRIPT, PERIOD!! To have gotten THIS close on the first step out of the gate has been in and of itself a minor miracle, and then the reason they pass ISN'T because they don't like the story or the writing, but because someone else has already done something in a similar vein... well, it actually gives me a bit of hope and tells me maybe I'm pursuing the right business here.

Friday, Sept. 29, 2006 11:54AM

What a surreal day

I'm sitting here at work, at my remarkably clean desk, with a total sense of unreality. It's my last day. I've been working in the same place for almost six years now, and suddenly I'm faced with never coming back to this desk again, or answering this phone, or working at this computer. My co-workers and I are passing out contact information to each other to make sure we can keep in touch. My clients have all called or e-mailed to express various levels of disbelief, sadness, and outrage that I wasn't offered a position with the new vendor.

Little do they know that had I been offered such a position, I would have likely turned it down. Part of it is just that I feel it's time to move on. I don't feel that I'd be a good fit with the new company, and I don't feel the new company will be a boon to the clients here. But another part of it is simply the fact that I need some time off, and facing the challenges that are going to be hitting in the first few months under the new vendor doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. And the final part... the part that's the scariest... is that I'm ready to try something new. I want to concentrate on my newly rekindled love of the written word, and try to make a life of it.

Don't get me wrong... I'm no idiot. I am fully aware that 99% of the people who want to make a living as writers are unable to eke out even half of what I make a year as a computer technician. I'll certainly be looking for work before my severance package runs out. But I think a month or two off while I work on polishing my existing novel and finish up the second installment will be beneficial. And after coming so close to the miracle scenario, I actually feel a renewed sense of determination that I'll make it, and soon.

I have an idea for either a new novel, or some serialized short stories. It's a drastic departure from the Gatehouse series that I've been working on, which I absolutely refuse to abandon, but now that it's in my head I want to flesh it out and at least make some notes on it. I'm seriously considering doing it as short stories, maybe try and get them published so that I'll have some writing credits to my name. I'm also considering entering some short story or novel competitions... it's nice to be able to put "award winning author" before your name.

So as I sit here, with nothing to do, my desk cleaned out, my boxes packed, and tearful clients all wanting to take me to lunch on my last day, the only thing I can really wrap my brain around is the thought that after I lock up here tonight, I can get to my pen and paper and start the work that I truly want to be doing. It's a hard thing to leave a place you've considered home for as long as this place has been mine, but it's time, and I'll be better for it in the end.

Friday, Oct. 6, 2006 10:31AM

Well, here we go, I've been book tagged. The instructions are simple, and here they are:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your MySpace Blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
6. Tag five people

I thought I'd make it interesting. I'm going to play twice. I'm posting the passage from the book nearest to me, AND I'm posting a passage from my own book. So, if any of you wannabe authors like me out there want to add to the assignment with an excerpt from your own work, I'd love to see it! Here are my excerpts, and below them you'll find my tag list.

Dragonquest, by Anne McCaffrey:

There was no mark on her finger, but a red blotch appeared on the paper.
The smith chuckled raspingly.
"No harm in that stuff. It merely reacts to the acidity of your skin."

And my second post, from The Gatehouse: The Door to Canellin by E.H. Jones:

"He might be able to do magic here, but he's still just a kid. He's just a little boy that's never had to be scared of monsters or dragons or men with swords in his entire life. He's just a kid, and he shouldn't have to do this alone." Ryan shook his head, emotion welling up inside him.

Saturday, Oct. 14, 2006 1:28PM

Revise, revise, revise!

Well, I'm getting deeply involved in some revisions that my agent asked for, and I'm finding it slower going than I'd hoped. Not because I'm having writer's block, or because I don't know what the revisions need to be. It's because I seem to be busier now than I was when I was working!

Let me break it down for you. I've always been kind of a slob. My house is not only a wreck because of that, but because I've been doing a full one-man remodeling job on my house for over 2 years now. So in the two weeks I've been off work, I've been spending a lot of time trying to get my house cleaned up and liveable. I could stand the mess when I was only at home and awake for three or four hours a day at most. I'm now at my house and awake for around sixteen hours a day, and I can't take the mess, and the stacks of stored junk all over the place, and the unfinished projects, etc. Problem is, I'm a slow, unmotivated cleaner! But I'm getting things done, and that feels good.

Second, my son has been having some problems in school. Not with his test scores or understanding of the material, but with his attitude and willingness to do homework. One of the reasons I'm not that hot to find a job right now is that I'm hoping to be able to concentrate a lot of time and energy on getting him back on the right track. I've been volunteering at his school the past couple of weeks, meeting with his teachers, and then basically spending several hours a night working with him to get his homework caught up.

And finally, I've been dead sick for the past six days. Literally down and out. Bad flu, awful cough, congestion. I'm just now getting over it, but I've lost my voice. I've pretty much been asleep, drugged on Nyquil, for an entire week.

And finally, getting all the paperwork handled for my separation benefit and unemployment benefits has turned out to be something that takes about two hours a day.

So all these things are keeping me from getting my revisions worked out. Flimsy excuses? Yes. Real impediments? Yes. I've just got to find a way to work myself around them. I'm devoting the entire coming week to writing while my son is at school, 8am to 3pm. Scheduling my writing is going to be tough, because that's not how I've worked on this project so far. I've kind of just done it on the fly, every chance I could get to sit down and write. Now I'm having to schedule specific time to do it. But one way or another, I intend to have the book completely revised and delivered to my agent within the next two weeks. I hate the fact that I'm the one holding things back at the moment, keeping submissions from being made!

So... wish me luck, everyone!

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