Agent Research

•August 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I have half an hour left before the end of the work day and work is slow, so I’m trying to keep myself occupied so that I don’t start to ruminate and get myself into a gloom loop. I’m asks fighting off a killer headache pressing down on my sinuses so hard it’s making my teeth ache. Ibuprofen has done nothing, so I suspect it is being caused by some change in the weather.

I kept my mind occupied for most of the day by reading up on listings on the Manuscript Wish List: a site where agents can post what kind of projects that they’re looking for and writers can read up and decide if their work fits the bill. Mostly, I’ve learned these things:

Women outnumber men handily in the agenting game. At least on MSWL.

Everybody wants female protagonists and diverse voices.

Rock Opera isn’t a literary genre.

I’m definitely going to need to find someone with a sense of humor and an impulse for subversiveness.

It’s a little bit funny to me because in some ways my novel should have a lot of commercial appeal: rockstars behaving badly, dysfunctional family drama, chaos, rock and roll, etc., but in other ways it’s definitely going against the (apparent) trends: diverse voices, female protagonists, LGTBQIA, empowerment, etc. Not a whole lot of call for a straight, white, male protagonist dealing with issues of toxic masculinity. Which is not to say there’s no market for it, only that I do find myself trying to read between the lines of each profile trying to determine whether the individual I’m reading about is more likely to engage with my Strong Character Voice or be turned off by the bad language and poor taste. More research is required, but at least now I’m starting to form a short list.

To a certain extent I’m sure it will just be a matter of trial and error. Or, if querying is anything like job hunting, it will be a matter of getting to know someone who knows someone and can put in a good word for me. Someone who can say “don’t be fooled by her lurid content, she’s actually quite professional and down to earth,” or, vice versa, “don’t be fooled by her mild mannered appearance, her work is actually quite spicy” etc.

At any rate, it’s a journey and I’m just getting started, but at least now I feel like I have a vague travel plan at least.


At Last

•August 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Friday at last. This week was a rollercoaster and I’m still working to keep myself in balance. Wednesday was quite a good day, mood wise. Thursday was quite difficult. Yesterday when I got home from work the Curmudgeonly Lion suggested that we walk to the corner for pizza for dinner. There was a little mom’n’ pop shop there that he’d seen while driving past and thought it looked like someplace worth checking out. As the resident pizza expert, I was inclined to defer to his expertise. And I needed the walk: for two days in a row I’d driven to work in order to be able to get to my afternoon appointments. (Yesterday’s appointment was cancelled last minute, which was partly the reason for my sour mood). Driving to work meant I hadn’t gotten my daily walk in.

The pizza place was a nondescript storefront. The walls were painted orange with white trim and the dining area was empty; no surprise since the air conditioning seemed to be off and the space was stuffy and hot with the setting sun. A single employee worked as cashier, cook, and bottle washer: stepping away from the counter for an interlude to box up a pizza from the oven in the back while we surveyed the menu board. We ordered a Supreme; which at this place meant it had everything on it. Everything. Including pineapple and jalapeno (we asked for these on the side).

The pizza was due to take ten minutes to bake so we stepped outside to wait and watch the traffic go by. When we went back in, a second worker was there: possibly the owner- who offered us a free piece of cake while we waited, but at that moment the pizza became ready. The gentleman offered to box up the cake- I felt awkward accepting it since we hadn’t paid for it, but he seemed encouraging so I accepted. It was worth it: turns out it was a lemon cake and it was fantastic and I never would have tried it on my own, but darn tooting I’ll be ordering it if I ever go back.

We walked home, both ravenous, and descended on the pizza like piranhas. It was delicious: different than a fast food pizza like we might have gotten from Pizza Hut or Little Caesar’s, but we both agreed it would be worth getting again. With food, my mood improved, and I felt human again: a state that I worked to maintain throughout today. (So far, so good.) With luck, the weekend will be uncomplicated and calm. We shall see.


•August 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I drove into the office today. It’s that “quiet” time of the year when everybody takes their last vacation before the start of the school year so I decided that if ever there was a time to schedule all those appointments that can only happen on a weekday, as if none of us have to work for a living then this was it. I feel guilty for taking the time off. I’m not even taking the whole day: just a few hours in the afternoon. And I’m coming in early to make up for it. Sort of: I’m in early but there’s nothing to do.

I miss having my writing. It used to be that free time like this would be a time to brainstorm whatever writing project I was working on. Now, I tend to fall into the trap of ruminating. I sometimes think that my train of thought is like that old Snake game where you had to keep a little line of dots, the”snake”, moving and dodging obstacles and eating little food dots. The snake gets longer and longer the more you play and pretty soon the whole game is about trying to zig zag back and forth enough to keep from tangling yourself up in your tail until the whole screen is full.

There’s no winning in this game.

So I’m trying to keep myself distracted in other ways. Sometimes I will guiltily read a few pages of my manuscript just to reassure myself that it still exists. Yesterday I ran the dreaded “that” word search (“that” being a word that is easily overused and often superfluous). I had about two-thousand hits. I’ve started going through to remove the extra ones and I’m pleased to only be deleting about every forth or fifth one: which I take as a sign to mean the rest are used meaningfully. But I have a long way to go.

My energy and mood have both been very low again lately. On Monday, my therapy session with Aurelius got cancelled because the insurance authorization ran out. At the time I thought I’d be fine without it, and was even a bit glad to be able to save the weeks copay (because, yes, my finances are getting to the point where that makes a difference). But now I’m wishing I’d had the outlet for some of the feelings swirling around me. Hopefully, next week things will resume.

So, that’s life right now: don’t breathe too deep, don’t think all day, dive into work, drive the other way.

I’m quoting “Rent”.

What have I become?

Bird in the Hand

•August 5, 2019 • Leave a Comment

On Saturday we drove to Alhambra are the crack of dawn to get the transmission looked at in the car. Just what everybody feels like doing first thing in the morning on a Saturday, but the car needed the attention. For months now, it had been jerking us up short between first and second gear: always at low speeds, but that wasn’t much consolation when it happened on the approach to an intersection or when trying to make a left hand turn across oncoming traffic while pressing the accelerator to the floor hoping that the gear would finally decide to catch.

Alhambra was all the way across the valley from where we live. It didn’t make sense to drive two vehicles out, and until we knew what kind of repairs needed to be done and how long they would take, we didn’t really know if we’d need to get a rental. So we decided to make a bit of a date of it: we’d drive out the car, drop it off at the service center, then see what kind of entertainment Alhambra had to offer at eight in the morning on a Saturday morning.

Our first stop was to a bakery and coffee shop called 85°C. We loaded up on pastries and coffee that completely flaunted any ambitions we might’ve had of getting on or sticking to a diet plan. We just sat and talked for about an hour, which was nice: we hardly ever get to do that anymore.

Afterwards, we wandered up the street to a shopping center. There was a movie theatre across the way and we debated catching a matinee of Hobbes and Shaw or Once Upon A Time In Hollywood but we didn’t want our phones to go off in the middle of the movie when the service center decided to call us back with their diagnosis. So instead we wandered around Burlington Coat Factory and Five Below and generally stimulated the economy buying things we only kinda needed with money we only kinda could afford to spend. We lamented our spendthrift ways. We drowned our sorrows in dark chocolate.

I got a new lunchbag, anyway: now I don’t have to carry my lunch around in a secondhand shopping bag.

Our warranty covered only a fraction of the cost of our repairs, which was annoying, but better than nothing. We waited for the work to be finished in a waiting room; the TV tuned to Fast and Furious: Muscular Bald Dudes Dodging Explosions while I tried simultaneously to read “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. It made for a strange combination of conflicting impulses.

By the time we made it home we just wanted to nap, but neither of us could sleep. Eventually I dragged myself out of bed to go for a run before dinner and then eventually heading back to bed.

All in all, a good day.

Sunday, we slept in. My goal for the day was to get outside and work in the yard, but by the time I was actually ready to do so, it was well into the heat of the day. But if I wanted to try to propagate my rose cuttings I needed to get them into the ground, so I slathered on the sun repellant and headed outside into the scorch.

According to the internet, if you dip a rose stem in honey and then embed it in a potato and then plant it in the garden, you can get roses to propagate. I happened to have roses and I happened to have honey, so we bought a bag of potatoes to give it a try. It took two hours to dig up the Bermuda grass and get all twelve clippings in the ground, but it was worth it: I now have a garden full of thorny leafless sticks.

Gardening: a leap of faith.

I went for a run as the afternoon wore on. On the outward leg of the run I nearly stepped on a live bird sitting on the bike path. It fluttered is wings but failed to take off: I wondered if it was a fledgling that hadn’t yet learned how to fly. Worried that someone else might run it over I tried to shoo it across the path, but it mostly just fluttered in panic at the enormous human looming over it. I finally managed to get a hand on it- terrified that I’d accidentally hurt it- and carried it to the fence nearby in order to let it go in a place of relative safety. I don’t know if it helped anything, but it would have bothered me to do nothing.

So, that was my weekend. Now on to another busy and complicated week.

Summer Reads

•August 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Girl Reading by Charles Edward Perugini

I just finished reading “A Place Called Freedom” by Ken Follett over my lunch hour, and I regret it a bit since now I won’t have anything to read on the bus ride home, but I do feel good knowing I’ve gotten a toehold on my reading goals for the month of August. It feels so good to read for pleasure again!

It was a pleasant read, but not particularly challenging: which actually made it ideal. Sometimes I need complex and nuanced writing and sometimes I just want something exciting and fast paced. I’m definitely still in the latter category right now. I keep having to remind myself that it’s ok to have fun and relax but it’s a new muscle for me. My mind has largely interpreted it as an excuse to shut down all non essential functions and go into a kind of summer hibernation. I can motivate myself periodically to accomplish discrete tasks (Write Your Blog, for instance, or Return That Phone Call) but mostly my default state is one of restful langor.

On the plus side, my mood has steadied out for the past few days, which is a profound relief. Although I don’t seem to have the drive to stay On Task at every minute, I am seeing small steps of progress beginning to happen. This gives me hope.

First Cuts

•August 1, 2019 • 2 Comments

I knew there had to be a catch: I’d asked the general Twitterverse writing community if anybody knew what the rules were for quoting other works in fiction, but either nobody knew or the post didn’t show up in front of enough people to find someone who actually knew the answer. In particular, I needed to know about song lyrics: my main character was a musician and it seemed likely that his everyday patois would include a fair amount of “sampling” from pop culture. I didn’t get an answer, so I decided to go ahead and write the draft freely: I could edit it later if I needed to.

Well, I’ll need to: alas. Song lyrics in books are like music clips in movies: you have to get the rights and they’re going to cost you money. The auteur part of me wants to stand my artistic ground and insist “I *must* be able to use this lyric, no matter the cost!” The idealist part of me wants to include lots of musical references so that the success of the book could translate until a reward for the very musicians that inspired me (not that they need my help). The realist in me realizes that I can’t even afford to pay a proper editor right now so let’s not get carried away trying to add on other expenses.

Mostly, I realize, I’m just going to have to cut. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Maybe it’ll help me cut down my word count.

I’m a little bit low key embarrassed because this seems like an amateur mistake to make, but then again I’m still an amateur when it comes to prose so I think I could be forgiven for my enthusiasm. I’d tried to find out what the rules were, but maybe I would have flaunted then for the first draft anyway: rules don’t belong in the first headlong rush of creativity- that’s where you should feel free to play with all the colors on the palette. But I recognize that the rules need to be observed if I want to ever go from “writer” to “published writer”.

I still have a few months to go before I break out the red pen, though: I’m not allowed to touch it until the end of September. My hope is that the intervening time will allow me to get some perspective on the work so that editing will feel less like a death by a thousand cuts. Admittedly, I keep sneaking peeks at it now and then- reading a few pages here or there as I hear my readers tell me about bits they’ve just read. I’m in limbo waiting for responses, just trying to bide my time.

•July 31, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Artwork by Edward Gorey

It’s the last day of the month and I’m feeling good but I’m definitely having one of those days when I just don’t feel like doing anything. In the morning before work, I knew I should have been querying my novel or applying for jobs or cutting theblooms off last week’s roses to try to propagate them using honey and potatoes (yes I DID see it on the internet, why do you ask?) but instead I just kinda putzed around on Twitter and stared off into space.

I think it’s ok to take a day to just do whatever. In today’s case that mostly means reading and surfing the internet. I like to believe I’m one of those phenomenally disciplined people who puts every minute to good use, but some days I’m just a blob and today is one of those days.

A happy blob, though. A calm blob. My brain isn’t tying itself in knots for the moment so I’m enjoying the tranquility even though I know it’s not likely to last. People keep posting such nice, supportive messages inn response to my tweet announcing that is gotten the first rejection letter for my novel and I’ve been making an effort to respond to each one. It had turned into a kind of vortex of support and good cheer which is nice and I’ve found a bunch of new people to follow.

I don’t really have a sense of what August is going to bring. July seemed curiously overwrought with emotional burdens and I’ve been putting some effort into making changes, but most of them are things that take time and there’s no good way to know when my proverbial ship might come in. Waiting is hard.

%d bloggers like this: