Friday, December 15, 2006


I didn't realize it would be this fun. I submitted my hook to the Miss Snark Crap-o-meter, and now I'm reading the blog, updating every 30 minutes or so. I'm enjoying reading the entries as she posts them, and it's fun checking to see if mine is up yet. I expect I'll get a bashing, as I don't seem able to write a decent fucking hook. I'll say that submitting it to Evil Editor was humbling. The good news is, I was able to put my pride on hold long enough to glean the bits and pieces of constructive criticism, and hopefully I've used this information wisely. I think I have. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

What adds to the fun is knowing that there are probably hundreds of other writers out there, doing the exact same thing I am, and waiting with almost breathless anticipation for the beating that is sure to come, but holding on to a quivering shred of hope that you've submitted something she'll approve of, and you can now set about your agent quest with confidence.

Sitting in the darkness, the light from the monitor turning our faces pale blue, reading the beatings that the first queriers are taking. The heart is beating faster, fueled with adrenaline and caffeine, and the mind is performing acrobatics, "I'm going to be humilated... No, I'm not, it doesn't suck as bad as some of these... Hell, it might even be good... No, it sucks and I'm going to be humiliated..."

We're all putting our hopes and, to an extent, our dreams right out there to be shot down in soul-scalding flames. Will the bullet strike my most vulnerable parts, my doubt and my muse? Probably. The hope that I have is, when I'm shot down, let there be some criticism I can use to pick myself up with.

I don't know how long I'll have to wait to see mine. She opened it up at 8:00 and I'm sure there were dozens of people sitting at their computers waiting for the clock to strike the hour, and I didn't send mine until about 9:30. I wonder if this is going to be an all nighter kind of thing? Will she keep going until she gets through all of them? If it is, I'd like to know now, so I can decide if I want to put on another pot of coffee. I shouldn't, I've had plenty of caffeine already this evening.

And now I believe I'll check the crap-o-meter site again. I hope I'm not sitting there squashed like a bug on Miss Snark's limo.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Human Nature

As a student of human behavior, and being a human myself, I sometimes ponder the duality of perspective. I've been occupying myself with this phenomenon lately. What I mean by "duality" is, the perspective from which I view others, versus the perspective from which I view myself. It's interesting for me, as it can provide a sobering revelation of my shortcomings. While considering one's own shortcomings isn't the most ego-boosting activity you can undertake, for me it's a necessary step in making improvements in whatever area of my life I'm working on.

I look at what I value in other people, and then look at my own actions to see if the two are consistent. I have to look at my actions, because just studying my intentions tells me nothing. I've always (well, almost always) had good intentions, but my actions didn't necessarily follow my intentions, and I did some really stupid shit. Intentions only count if they match the action.

So what do I value in others, and how am I measuring up?

The first word that comes to mind is "honesty". I don't know if this is the most important value to me, but it is the one that jumped up first. I like honest people and don't care for liars. I consider myself an honest person, and don't make up lies for the hell of it. I can't say I never lie, but I don't ever do it with the purpose of causing harm. I'll tell a lie when honesty could cause a problem. In fact, honesty can be a weapon in the hands of a cruel, curmudeonly person. If a girlfriend asks me, after a visit to the stylist, "Do you like my hair?", I'm not likely to say, "Uh, what did they do? Comb it with a firecracker?"

No, that wouldn't be kind, or wise, even if it looks that way. If I'm thinking on my feet, I'm not even going to say, "Uh, do you?" No, I'll probably just nod my head as I admire it, rub my chin and make a couple of noises that sound interesting and hope she pipes in with something. If not, I'll say something nice. Is it a lie? Of course. But it saves someone's feelings from being hurt, and unless they truly look foolish and should be told so, there's no harm done. So, honesty and tact are characteristics that I value.

Class is another quality that comes to mind. The way I define "class" is probably a little different than other people, but maybe not. I'm not bothering to look up Webster's definition, I'll use my own for this. Class is a quality that pertains to self-awareness. It's being aware of one's self, one's place in the world, and being aware of and understanding the feelings of others, while being under the influence of humility. I admire this quality in others, and there's no mistaking it when you see it. It's hard to fake. Some people that don't have it try to pull it off but only end up looking pretentious or condescending. Do I have it? Sometimes. Sometimes not. When I have it, it's geniune because it stems from humility. Sometimes I'm feeling more humble than others. But when my ego tries to step up and take control, humility is the first casualty. However, if I'm not feeling it, I don't try to fake it. I've got shortcomings in this department, and I've come to understand that this is probably a life-long process. Self-improvement is not an overnight endeavor, unfortunately.

Compassion is another favorite. I admire compassionate people. Compassion is a tough thing, because it's often inconvenient and rarely is it economical. You could make a career out of helping every person you meet who's in need, but most people have to make a living and provide for themselves and their loved ones. I'd love to have the financial horsepower to provide for the helpless, but the reality is, I can only help so much and so often. Compassion isn't just about helping others, but that's a big part of it. I need work in this area, and I am going to make more of an effort in the future. Actions are the only measure in this area.

Humor is right up there with any quality. I love funny people and I like all kinds of humor: sarcasm, irony, smart-ass are among my favorites. Dry wit is great. I love to laugh, and while I'm not a comedian, I have some pretty good moments. Smart-ass is my predominant style. A person that can laugh at themselves is welcome any time, because that is pretty good sign of humility. I could probably use some work in this area, I think I tend to take myself too seriously at times, particularly when my ego is driving.

More on this later, it's time to work on "The Hook" for the crap-o-meter thing on the Miss Snark website. I think I'm going to submit my hook and look for the grinding I'm sure to get, but if I learn something from it, and it improves my query, I'm a better person for it. I only hope I can laugh at myself when the time comes.

Peace and warm Krispy Kreme donuts for the masses...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The end of another year is rapidly approaching, and as I usually do at this time of year, I'm feeling somewhat introspective. I think most people probably do a mental review of their year, some more than others, I suspect. I've grown to be one that regards the year with a critical eye, and I've had some good years, some average ones, and some very very bad ones. The last few have been pretty good, all things considered. I had several "firsts" in the two years prior to the current one. I had my first hole-in-one in July of '04. I say my "first" because I confidently believe I have a few more in me. I bought my first home the same year, and this was a very big deal for me. And I started seriously working on my first manuscript. I have to say '04 was a pretty damn good year.

Last year, 2005, was a growth year. I finished the manuscript, queried a few agents and also began researching the self-publishing route. I decided to self-publish and submitted the manuscript for publication in December of 2005. I had a couple of reasons for self-publishing. One, I was anxious to get feedback from objective readers. People well outside of my circle of friends and family. People who paid good money for the book and would be pissed off if it sucked. After researching several of these publishers, including the scammers, I decided on a POD house that seemed pretty straight up. My other reason was somewhat misguided. I thought it would demonstrate to agents my commitment to my writing, and my willingness to promote my book. And it would give me an opportunity to get some experience in promotion. What I learned was, agents don't give a damn if you've self-published your book, undertaken that effort and expense. All they want to know is, do you have a manuscript they can sell, or not? If you've self-published it, they may take that to mean you didn't think it was good enough for a traditional publisher. I realize now that my manuscript was not good enough for a traditional publisher, but at the time I thought it was. It was a decent story, but the writing was in need of polish. A good bit of polish, actually.

This year has been another growth year, a year of learning, mostly. My book came out, and at the same time, some financial opportunities came through, and management changed at my workplace. So, the combination of these things allowed me to take time off from a job and get out and promote my book in the local market. The publisher did a great job on the book and the cover. There were a couple of editing flaws but overall it was a nice product. I had a little bit of success locally. I was somewhat prohibited by the stigma that is attached to self-publishing, but I still placed it on some store shelves and sold about 500 copies in a couple of months. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive from the people that bought the book and took the time to email me. It was as this effort was winding down that I began to turn my attention back to traditional publishing. I started researching agents, and I also began searching out books by authors that wrote in the same genre. I've been studying their writing, and reading books on the craft of writing. I started reading agent blogs, and reworking my query letter. In short, I'm learning about the profession and honing my craft. I feel like I've made great strides, and the most useful thing that I've learned is that I have much room for improvement, and I need to continue writing and learning and practicing. When I think I've trimmed a chapter down, it can still be tightened more. Subtlety is the sign of a true pro, and since I still struggle with this, it tells me that I need to get better. So that's what I'm doing.

If I look at 2006 from a financial perspective, it was basically a wash. I'm coming out slightly ahead of where I as at the beginning of the year, but I also went a few months with no income, and a few more with only a little, so theoretically, I didn't really make much forward progress. However, I'm certainly richer for the things I've learned.

I view this year as a building year. I've gained some wonderful experience, but the value of this experience remains undetermined, and the ultimate measure depends upon how I use what I've learned. Next year offers plenty of challenges, and if I put this experience to use, I see several opportunities for progress and maybe some achievements. Some more firsts.

I'm sure that I'll wax introspective again before the year is over. Some things I know for sure: it's good to be alive and sober and American. God bless the good folks who stumble across this corner of the net...