Friday, November 17, 2017

Learning the process - content edits

On Nov. 8th, I got my "content edits" back from the editor for Danger Tastes Dreadful. I must admit, I was quite nervous, but I needn't have been. She made some very helpful suggestions, including a rewrite of one scene, but didn't think anything major needed changing. Thank goodness, as I am very busy at work.

Of course, this does not mean I sat down and made all the necessary changes immediately. I went in and tweaked the small stuff she identfied, and then read all the comments and put it away. Every few days, I go back and work on it a bit, letting myself think through some of the deep topics such as "how can there be eels if they are so far from the ocean". A perfectly good question, and it happened to mean some changes in four different parts of the novel, including a couple new lines for a song they sing.

I need to be done by December 1st, which should be no trouble at all. If there were more significant changes, we'd probably go back and forth a lot in December, but I would guess it will be fairly straightforward since the changes I've made will be so relatively minor.

Then on to copy-edits! Also, they've told me that the book will be released in August. Not great for summertime middle grade reading, but perhaps well suited to homeschool reading curricula.

I've been very happy with the Electric Eighteens, a group of authors with their YA/MG debut in 2018. There's been a ton to learn, and a lot of perspective on how the publishing journey doesn't get that much easier, even with your first book deal in place. A few general notes I post here so I'll remember them:

  • A multi-book deal for unrelated books (as opposed to a series) means you have to satisfy the editor with subsequent books, which can be harder than it sounds.
  • Agents are great, except when they're not.
  • Not all publishers are transparent with their authors, not about the size of print runs, and not even about little things like when they schedule giveaways. Be prepared to be caught unawares.
  • Writing a first book is hard, and may take years. Writing a subsequent book is often even harder, but faces short deadlines and high expectations.

Aside from finishing up the developmental edits, I am starting to think about marketing. Most of that is on me, and I am increasingly certain that it is better to focus on a few things and places rather than spreading too thin. Social media is all well and good, but developing contacts and allies in libraries and bookstores and schools may be more important, especially for a lower MG book like mine. School visits, or homeschool talks, may be the best way to reach out. Even then, MG books seem to take a while to grow, so patience and persistence are necessary. (As in all of this, I'm afraid.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Learning the process - a rough schedule

I heard back from my content editor (Yes! I have a content editor), and now have a rough timetable for Danger Tastes Dreadful. Without going into too many details, the plan is to have the developmental edits in a few weeks, revise/rinse/repeat, and have the novel ready by about May. So excited.

There are more iterations than I expected, but I'm enthusiastic about this. As my debut novel, I want it as clean and polished as possible. I've been reading blogs and suggestions about how to handle the first round of edits, though I doubt anything will fully prepare me for it. Girding my loins and all.

I've been accepted into Electric Eighteens, a group of authors with their YA/MG debut in 2018. It is fascinating for me, as there are authors with the Big 5 publishers along with a variety of small publishers. There is a lot of discussion about different steps and decisions, some of which I've never considered as part of the process (e.g., who will host your cover reveal, or will you handle it yourself). I am trying to learn everything I can from everybody, and trying not to feel inadequate because I don't have an agent, so I don't have that sort of advocate/buffer. Fortunately, the people at Clean Reads are great, so I also haven't need it much.

Aside from waiting on the developmental edits, I am starting to think about the cover. I sent off my notes about themes and scenes and all, so now I wait to see what they'll make of it. I hope they find a way to represent the trolls that works well.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Learning the process - Pre-Edits

I'm hoping to capture some of the process as I prepare Danger Tastes Dreadful for publication, for my own sake and for others as well. With this in mind, I plan to talk about each step of the editorial process.

I got my New Author packet from Clean Reads. It had various forms to fill out including tax forms and forms regarding author information and cover art and so forth. It also had a document describing Pre-Edit guidelines.

I'll admit, I am enough of a newbie at this that I hadn't expected a "pre-edits" phase, but as I went through the process, I grew more and more enamored of it. The reality is, after tweaking here and there over a long period of time, many typos had crept in. Also, a full read through by my wife, an excellent editor in her own right, made it clear that my characters had some inconsistencies, and that some themes were not carried through completely. That latter is because parts of the themes were added after the initial revision process, but were more focused on the beginning and end of the book.

So, I put on my revision hat again, and cleaned up and polished and made things more consistent. There were modifications in almost every chapter.

Now, the pre-edits version has gone off to the publisher, and I will wait many weeks for what I think will be the developmental edit. But I may have missed a step. In any case, so far I am very happy with the process, and am more confident that my novel will be honed to its best form before publications.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book deal for Danger Tastes Dreadful

I am excited to announce that my middle grade troll fantasy, Danger Tastes Dreadful, will be published by Clean Reads. The date has yet to be determined. Clean Reads is a small press with a few hundred authors who write books with an innocent vibe which fits perfectly for my writing. No swearing or raunchy stuff. They started out with clean romance, but have moved into a wider variety of young adult and middle grade as the appeal of the concept has proved itself.

I am excited that it will be published in print as well as ebook. I think middle grade readers often want a physical book, and it makes it a lot easier to sign copies to go in my local indie bookstores. I am especially eager to be able to see it in Mac's Backs, a wonderful indie bookstore in Cleveland Heights, OH which has been so gracious about hosting our writer group for the past three years. They are very supportive of local authors.

The story of how I got this contract is interesting. I have gone through a number of Twitter pitch contests, but also through agent queries. A lot of agent queries. One hundred sixty eight to be exact. Of those, eight requested fulls and three requested partials. Eventually, every one of those either passed or never responded. I got lots of compliments on the writing and the characters and the story, but ultimately it either didn't grab them or, more often, was too young and innocent.

I more or less moved on. I have two WIPs in particular, and I made sure they were a little older and little edgier, while still being the books I want to write. But I decided that my trolls, Bernie and Tish, would have to wait. Or possibly live in the cave under my bed forever.

Then at lunch one day, I was on Twitter and noticed #Pit2Pub trending. (When you follow as many authors and agents as I do, the Twitter pitches always trend.) I've never participated in that, as I was aiming for an agent, but I thought, "What do I have to lose?" It was halfway through the pitching time period, so I figured I'd just pitch once or twice and let the chips fall where they might.

So, I went to my document with pitches and pulled out some of my favorites. I wound up posting three.

The third got likes from two publishers. (You can see for yourself here.) This is the tweet.

I was pleased, but I also knew I had to do my homework. One of the presses was Immortal Works. I didn't find anything terribly wrong, but it just felt too new and too inexperienced for me, plus I wasn't quite sure about the close association with the Mormons. Nothing against Mormons, I just didn't want an overtly religious publisher if I could help it.

The other was Clean Reads. It had been around longer and clearly had a more editorial bent, which I wanted. I believe in my writing, but I also believe that it could always be better and I always have more to learn. My only pause was their website, which is being recreated after a hosting problem, but I checked with a couple of their authors who say it was good and will be again.

So, I sent Clean Reads my query and full MS, painfully aware of the eight to twelve weeks it said I might have to wait. But twenty four hours later, I got a very enthusiastic message back from Stephanie Griffin, the owner, saying it would be an AMAZING addition to their catalog. That's right, all caps. I've been waiting for the all caps response to this book for well over a year of querying, and I finally had it.

So, more research, more talking with authors, and a series of questions for Stephanie to which she had all the right answers. I signed, and less than a week later, I got my NEW AUTHOR packet.

Of course, this is just the beginning of the road, but I have to tell you, it is a heck of a lot nicer road than the one which led to the cave under my bed.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

All On a Walk

Walks are wonderfully calming and enjoyable, but they do pose certain risks for a writer. While your feet take one path, your mind is left free to wander on quite different ones.

So, back from my walk, realizing that 
  • my WIP should start at least two chapters earlier;
  • my villain has an unexpected relative I didn't know about;
  • my mystery has a twist which I didn't expect; and 
  • have a ton of writing (and some rewriting) to do.
See, risky. But wait until tomorrow's walk!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Izzie - from WIP

I introduced a new character in my WIP. Her name is Izzie, and she looks roughly like this... when you can see her at all.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

StoryStorm Recap

Well, my StoryStorm plans were upended for the best possible reason - I started getting so many ideas that I threw myself into writing. I still wound up with 33 ideas (as I defined them), but didn't spend time posting them.

If your plans have to go astray, that is the best reason.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Storystorm Days 3 & 4 - Thor and Loki in Jotunheim

Storystorm Days 3 & 4 

I outlined two chapters together for Danger Tastes Dreadful, and I am so excited by them I am going to take a break from outlining and try putting these revisions into place. Instead of writing a new poem, I have posted one I wrote several years ago which triggered my thinking. This poem is posted on and some unknown person happened to read it yesterday. When I saw it, it triggered an idea which is very loosely related to the poem, but which made sense to me at the time. In any case, enjoy the poem if you like that sort of thing. The form and all are described at the bottom of the post.

Thor and Loki in Jotunheim

An icy wind blew o’er the land
Its bitter cold killed plant and beast,
The giant’s breath the blizzard fanned,
Each passing day the fear increased.
Until at last, we vengeance swore,
Me, Loki, and the great god Thor,
Until at last
Until at last
We crossed Ifing to distant shore.

Fierce Jotunheim where giants dwelt
In mighty castles tall and grim.
Before the giant lords we knelt,
Beseeched an end to fatal whim.
They challenged us to prove our worth
Then laughed and jeered with cheerless mirth.
They challenged us
They challenged us
But we had faith in speed and girth.

A footrace first was named to test
Our fleetness and our fortitude
But though great heroes may attest
With what great swiftness we’re imbued
Our traveled feet could not keep pace
Could not begin to win this race.
Our traveled feet
Our traveled feet
At last gave up in in sad disgrace.

A feast was next to demonstrate
How little were our appetites
At home our hunger seemed so great
But though we took such mighty bites
We barely seemed to make a dent
Compared to him, not ten percent
We barely seemed
We barely seemed
To start before we were quite spent.

Through wretched feats of strength and skill
We failed to beat a single foe
At last ‘twas clear we’d not fulfill
Our vowed revenge for ice and snow.
We bowed our heads, in sad defeat
Could not their champions defeat
We bowed our heads
We bowed our heads
And shuffled us in sad retreat.

We left in shame with downturned eyes
Until our host explained their ruse
The giants tricked us with disguise
And posed such feats as couldn’t lose.
They cheated us, as we did learn;
In rage, Thor raised his hammer stern.
They cheated us
They cheated us
Left us unable to return.

Extended Trijan Refrain: Multiple 9-line stanzas. The first four syllables of line 5 in each stanza are repeated as the double-refrain for lines 7 and 8. The Trijan Refrain is a rhyming poem with a set meter and rhyme scheme as follows:

Rhyme scheme: a/b/a/b/c/c/d,d/c (d is refrain of first 4 words of line five)

Meter: 8/6/8/6/8/8/4,4/8

Tells part of the story of the Norse gods Loki and Thor traveling to Jotunheim ("gianthome") to lift the curse of endless winter on their lands. For more on this story, see . Won first place in Nov. 2008 for an epic poetry contest.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Storystorm Day 2 - This train

Storystorm Day 2

My outline was for the first chapter of my WIP, and I re-imagined both the setting and purpose of the train station.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Storystorm Day 1 - Moonlit Romance

Storystorm Day 1 - Moonlit Romance

As promised, I cleaned up and clarified the first chapter outline for Danger Tastes Dreadful - The Possible Revision. Here's my poem that hints at the changes (fairly broadly, this time). Most of my hints will have to be a bit more vague.

Storystorm - My plan

Tara Lazar is running a month long activity called Storystorm. It replaces the PiBoIdMo (which was a hard name to remember, but indicated writing picture books for a month), and has been opened to developing 30 story ideas in 30 days. If you are a Picture Book author, it might be 30 picture book ideas. If you are a short story author, it might be 30 story ideas. Novelists may have to be a little more creative. I am writing 30 chapter outlines, both for my LEFTOVER MAGIC WIP and for a possible revision to DANGER TASTES DREADFUL. (I plan to write a complete outline for that possible revision and see how it feels before I decide whether to go forward.)

Read about Storystorm and sign up.

Problem is, sharing the ideas isn't a great idea because both **spoiler alert** and people might borrow the ideas. But I like blogging things like this, so I plan to write a poem or include an image related to my idea. It will keep me honest, and with any luck, keep you entertained. Watch for my first post later today.