Encouraging Rejections

No one likes rejection, right? But the other night, I got one of the nicest rejections ever. I’ve had a few of those along the way, and they always cheer me immeasurably.

The rejection in question was in response to a query for my novel, The Last Summer Queen. After apologizing for taking six months to get back to me, the agent wrote that they didn’t take novels like mine, but that after reading what I’d sent, she’d been tempted. And to please keep them in mind if I write another novel.

Now I had to question what reasoning allowed me to send a novel that didn’t fit, although that’s a longer discussion for another day. But yes, indeed, I have a novel in the pipeline that, judging by what she said, might work for her. If only I had time enough to write it now.

An encouraging rejection is not an acceptance, after all. But it is encouraging. And I was … encouraged.

Totally fits with my Embracing Rejection approach to submissions.

I’m Busy

No joke. It’s a busy time of year and I find myself getting more and more distracted.

The photo shows yesterday’s garden haul. Cucumbers and eggplant, peppers and cherry tomatoes. I gave away most everything. While I’m planning on making babaganoush one of these days, it won’t be today. The cukes and tomatoes I still have will go into dinner salads. I just have to run out and buy lettuce. Maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the PitchWars submission starts a week from today. The Romance Writers of America contest submission will go in later that same week. I’m still waiting to hear from six agents and an e-publisher. I’m staying positive and Learning2bLucky about it all.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking–incessantly–about an old story I tried to write many years ago. Clones steal a human egg that’s earmarked to produce a genetically different leader for their world. And get caught. Can’t get it out of my mind. Keep writing notes. And frankly, I’m too busy for short-story writing at the moment.

I also have it mind to start some microgreens in the basement. That seems doable in October. Since I have zero experience, I’m eagerly asking for advice from the knowledgeable.

Here’s hoping for cooler temps as summer comes to an end this weekend. Happy Fall.

#PitMad

Today is #PitMad. For the non-novelists reading this, #PitMad is a Twitter event to pitch unpublished novels to agents.

I’m pitching my unpublished paranormal romance The Last Summer Queen. I’ll also be looking for a mentor via PitchWars to give me assist. I finished the novel last December, significantly edited and revised in June, a process I wrote about in Twelve Thousand Words. I’ve queried about thirty agents and had one agent ask for a full read. Exciting, but I haven’t heard back.

So keeping-on, Pitch Wars may give me insight into how to better market my novel. Especially since I’m halfway–HALFWAY YAY–through the second in this three (okay, maybe four) novel series.

#PitMad gives you a chance to pitch three times during the day. I plan to pitch at 8 am, 11 am, and 3 pm. Here are my three pitches:

#1: Dance and sing and lie in wait. Summer’s sting is Winter’s fate. “The Last Summer Queen” #paranormalromance #pitmad

#2: Will Macy embrace her role as Summer Queen and convince Ethan to be her Winter King? Will Ethan’s unwillingness to be a father keep him trapped in Holiday forever? Or will they learn that love really is the greatest magic of all? #paranormalromance #pitmad

#3: Macy is eager to get pregnant, the price to practice magic. Ethan agrees to father her child so he can go home. But first they must confront sideways magic, lost powers, and a deadly curse. And whatever happens, they must not fall in love.  #paranormalromance #pitmad

See a way to improve any of it? Please comment!

If you’re on Twitter and want to help out, please go to my profile, which you can fine @sykreps. The #pitmad tweets will be pinned under my profile at 8 am, 11 am, and 3 pm. Please RETWEET but please do not LIKE. Likes are reserved for agents.

Clearly, the more times a tweet is retweeted, the more likely it is to be seen by the right agent. One of the things I’ve learned in #Learning2bLucky, is to take advantage of every opportunity to meet my goal. #PitMad is one of those opportunities.

Thanks for reading.

Tell Me a Story: Part 3

For those who have been following along, the question at the end of Part 2 was whether a third character should narrate the story.

And the story so far: King Felipe promised to marry the Duchess Josefa if she bore him a son. But he betrays her and marries another. Josefa, duchess and witch, stays pregnant for nine years, maliciously keeping the King’s son from him. But when the Queen dies and the King once again plans to marry another, Josefa gives birth to a magical, evil child. Prince of the Black Heart.

To revenge his mother’s honor, Prince Severiano travels to the capital where Felipe’s wedding to the foreign princess is taking place. Accompanying him is my potential narrator, the giant Marquez.

If Marquez is to tell this story, he has to have some stake in how it ends. He also needs his own character arc.

As a young giant, he promised the Duke of Fontanár that he’d guard Josefa, then a child, with his body and soul. To keep that promise, he’s committed all sorts of heinous acts, including the murders of the king’s messengers. The story might begin with Marquez murdering the ninth of nine messengers, cleaving him from crown to groin with his broadsword.

He’s a giant, after all.

It’s the end that’s giving me fits. Josefa has a change of heart and arrives at the wedding in time to–what? Save the king? Or would it be better if Severiano kills the king? Save the foreign princess? That unfortunate young woman’s only purpose in the story is to die.

No, for this to work, Josefa arrives in time to destroy her son before he murders the sole remaining royal, the king’s daughter by his first wife. The princess becomes Queen of Talavera.

In destroying Severiano, Josefa destroys herself.

I dunno. It seems a bit of a snarl to me. Marquez as observer-narrator doesn’t really work. He may be horrified by events, but does he change?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Tell Me a Story-Part 2

Last week, I started thinking about Duchess Josefa of Fontanár, betrayed by King Felipe of Talavera. He promised her marriage. She slept with him and is pregnant with a son. He married another. Oops. That’s the beginning of the story.

The duchess is also a witch—bruja—and for revenge, she stays pregnant for nine years, withholding Felipe’s son. This is officially the start of the story’s middle. For things to move forward, someone has to act to change the status quo.

Felipe has been married to the wrong woman—in other words, someone not Josefa—for nine years. He has a nine-year-old daughter but no sons.  His queen dies and Josefa thinks, “Aha, now he will marry me, and I’ll give him his son.” She prepares to give birth.

But no. Felipe—let’s say for political reasons—has decided to marry the much younger princess of a foreign land. Do we need to know her name? Hmm. Depends on the length of the story and the princess’ role in it. For now, let’s call her the princess. As part of the wedding preparations, Felipe sends to Fontanár with a message. “My son must attend my wedding.”

Now, Josefa has a choice. She can continue the pregnancy or go through with the birth. This nine-year pregnancy, like all magic, has a cost. The baby is eating Josefa’s life force. She can’t live and stay pregnant. So she has the child, and what a hateful, awful, terrifying child he is.

Not surprisingly since it’s magic, Severiano goes from birth to nine-years old within a few weeks. Learning about his mother’s desire for revenge against his father, Severiano decides to go to the wedding and kill his father the King.

Rush to the end. Josefa realizes the evil she’s done. She has a change of heart. Hastening to follow Severiano to the palace, she arrives just in time.

The wedding is in progress. Severiano has already killed the princess, her bloody body is draped over the chancel rail. He has his arrow pointed at Felipe, ready to do the deed.

But here’s my quandary. Does Josefa destroy Severiano and save Felipe? Does Josefa arrive that single moment too late and Felipe is already dead? Does Josefa destroy Severiano and in killing her own son, destroy herself?

It seems inevitable to me that Josefa and Severiano die together. But then, whose story is this? Certainly not Felipe’s. First he’s unlikeable as the betrayer of an innocent woman. Second, he doesn’t appear in the story at all until his life is in danger.

No. The transformative moment belongs to Josefa. She is the main character.

Except. There’s that old adage: dead men tell no tales. Okay, in this case, dead women.

Maybe what I need is another character, someone sympathetic, someone who always tries to do what’s right, someone with enough skin in the game that it matters what happens to him. Or her.

Sigh. I have another week of thinking in front of me. Meanwhile, all comments welcome.

Tell Me a Story

For me, stories start with a premise. It might be a concept or an image or even a title. The premise might be compelling or intriguing or even stunning. But I know that the premise–no matter how intriguing–is a necessary but insufficient ingredient in telling a story.

I’ve been reading about “how to write stories” for most of my life. The first thing I ever read–sitting in the middle of the Montclair Public Library at age twelve–was this. Stories need a beginning, a middle and an end.

Okay, but what exactly does that mean? I had no clue at age twelve. I have a better idea today, although it’s still–always–a struggle.

For example. I have this great idea about a witch betrayed by a king. He promised her marriage. She’s pregnant with his son, so when he marries another, she stays pregnant. For nine years.

But where’s the story? Maybe the beginning is implied in the premise, but then what? There’s not much story (conflict, try-fail, transformation) in staying pregnant for nine years.

But what if the king sends an annual “give me my son” message? And what if every year, the witch kills the messenger? The witch hates and someone has to pay. There’s conflict in that. And the king is surely in a try-fail cycle.

But then, whose story is this? The witch? And yes, let’s give her a name. Writing “witch” and using pronouns is likely to lead to problems, including way too much narrative distance. She’s Josefa, the Duchess of Fontanár, and once she was beautiful enough to attract the King Felipe of Talavera. The names give me both characters and setting.

If this is Josefa’s story, maybe the question is when–and why–does she decide to give birth? What is the trigger to move the story forward?

King Felipe’s first wife has died and he’s marrying again. Josefa’s angry and awfully uncomfortable after nine pregnant years. The little bastard prince–call him Severiano–is born with teeth and hair and knowing how to talk, saying, “I am my mother’s black heart.” Actually, there might be a good title in that bit of dialog. Prince of the Black Heart.

Okay, but here’s that pesky question again. Whose story is this? Josefa’s or Felipe’s or Severiano’s? Where does it start? What happens in the middle? And most important, where will it end?

I’m still not sure I know. So really, all I have is a premise, some names, a tiny bit of plot, maybe a title. I’ll have to let the rest percolate in my unconsciousness until I know whose story this is. Once I know, the rest may follow.

I’ll think about it this week and will try to let you know–in true cliffhanger fashion– next Thursday. Comments and fresh ideas are always welcome!

Writing Doldrums

I haven’t written about writing for a couple of weeks. In fact, I haven’t written much at all. I’m in–I was in–the writing doldrums.

After cutting 12,000 words from my completed novel, I sat back and took stock. I really believe in my paranormal romance, but getting it out there is going to be harder and take longer than I thought it would.

My editor emailed that she loved the cuts and would get the proofed document to me soon. Meaning there’s more work to be done. Sigh.

So instead of going full steam ahead on my work-in-progress–also paranormal romance–I’ve been pecking away at it. A chapter here. A half-chapter there. A page. A half-page. Hmm…

I keep checking Duotrope to see which of my pending queries needed to be updated as REJECTED. I had one email rejection from an agent. I had one contract for a short story to appear next month.

But then, this morning, I had an acceptance for a short story I wrote in response to a submission call. That changed my attitude fast.

Except, here’s the thing. My short fiction is almost entirely horror. I’ve had relatively good success with horror. Maybe I should be writing horror and not romance.

Something to think about.

What do you think about changing genres mid-stream?

Twelve-Thousand Words

When Anna Yeatts suggested I cut 12,000 words from my completed, edited 87,000 paranormal romance novel, I was a bit skeptical.

Her reasoning was perfectly sound. The shorter paranormal romance would be more marketable.

But sheesh. 12,000 words, or just a bit less than 14 percent of the book. Was it possible? Could I do it? Did I even want to do it?

But okay, I’d try.

I’m now on Chapter 23 (of 39) and have cut 8,000 words. That’s about 350 words per chapter. With 16 chapters to go and only 4,000 words to cut, I’ll probably make it.

The process has taught me three things:

  1. This story needed to get “colder” before marketing. The line edits were completed in January, and it would’ve make a huge difference to let it sit until at least March, and then giving it that final once-over.
  2. Cutting extraneous details makes for a stronger story.
  3. “Kill your darlings” (Faulkner) is good advice. I noticed that this month’s Writer’s Digest included an article on overwriting.

So where am I, and where do I want to be?

I’ll finish up the word-cut this week. A final read before restarting the query process and thinking about #PitchWars this coming fall. And I’ll go back to writing the first draft of the next in the series–which is one-fourth completed.

Whew.

I’m Conflicted

I had another short story accepted for publication this week. I also had another rejection, but I get so many of those, it almost doesn’t count. The story should appear in July—more on that as I know more.

Meanwhile, I’m getting my completed novel ready for the next round of agent queries. I can’t decide whether to send queries out before or after I submit to #PitchWars. If accepted, I’ll work with a mentor to more fully polish my query materials. That’s coming up in September, which feels like a long way away, but really isn’t.

In the process, I re-read my first chapter and hated it.. What was I thinking?

As a result, I devoted most of this week to revision, cutting extraneous details to laser in on the primary conflict for my main character. I’m about to re-read chapter two. I sure hope I won’t be rewriting this coming week.

Hope yours is a good one.

An Uninvolved Narrator

I wrote a short story about a sorceress betrayed by a king. She offers to have the king’s son, but he reneges on his promise to marry her. Her revenge? She refuses him his heir by staying pregnant for eight years.

That’s the premise. The story, which is mostly about what happens to the boy after he’s born, is told from the perspective of the sorceress’ giant bodyguard. More or less an uninvolved narrator. He follows the boy and tells the story, but doesn’t contribute much of anything to the plot.

The story—in addition to being somewhat clunky in its current form—has just never worked. It comes across as mostly “tell” with huge narrative distance. Maybe due to the point of view. The giant just doesn’t have enough at stake to keep the tension high.

On the other hand, both sorceress and son die at the end of the tale, and since “dead men tell no tales,” the piece can’t be written from their perspective. Maybe one of them should live?  I might try writing it that way and see if it works.

Have a thought about the uninvolved narrator? Pass it along.

On the querying front, no news to report. I’m looking at a couple of interesting options, including #PitchWars in September.