And So It Goes
Thank you, Billy Joel, for the title of this post. But it really has nothing to do with your brilliant song.
I wanted to update you...to let you know what's going on in the attempt-to-get-published thing. Yes, I know - Asylum *is* out there. In fact, there's still one copy left on the sci-fi shelves at Barnes & Noble Briargate in Colorado Springs! Get yours today! (You can also download it for your Nook or Kindle. Much cheaper! I wouldn't blame you one bit!) And while I'm thrilled that Asylum is published, I still want to see my whole series on those shelves. Selfish? Not really. I'm not doing this for me. Not doing it to prove a point. I'm doing it because I love the stories. I feel like they were given to me for a purpose, and I need to see it through.
So I have crafted my query for Novel #1 - Poison - after taking an insightful query workshop at the Pikes Peak Writers' Conference. Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary taught the class, and she put the query into simple terms I'd never heard before. I hope tweaking my query to her specifications will make a difference!
As most of you know (I've blogged about it before), I've written my books out of sequence. Started with #4. Jumped to #2. #7. #9. #1. All while writing pieces of the others. Just goes to show how out-of-order my brain is. And that's probably why #9 jumped ahead. But in pitching the series, I figured it was best to start with #1.
And so, Poison is getting some attention. I've reworked some parts. Came up with a really clever element to add. It's actually something that's been stewing for a while, but I had to figure out how to make it work. I'm also reading a few books on the craft to spruce up some of my "skillz," as they say. (I can't believe I just spelled that word with a z. Seriously!)
I'm excited to think about where the Circeae Tales may be going. I do hope you'll stick with me throughout the ride. It'll be a blast!!
It's a Quiet Thing
Today, we had snow. Everyone is joking about how bi-polar Colorado's spring is. Truth be told, that's how it usually is. And I usually love cooler weather, but even I am getting tired of these snows.
However, I had a moment today that reminded me of why I love snow. I walked outside my office to the parking lot, and everything was silent. The snow puts a damper on all the regular little sounds that follow us. Silence with the exception of the optimistic robins grabbing the ornamental cherries that have already given up hope and fallen to the ground.
In this moment, I realized that just as Kander and Ebb said in Flora the Red Menace..."it's a quiet thing." Most things of beauty and delight are quiet. Now, there are many exciting things that certainly are worth celebrating, but when you get down to the essence of them, I imagine you'll find they are quiet.
I reflected on Jesus' humility. He didn't come with a fanfare. (He will...loud enough for the whole world to fall to its knees...but that's another topic.) He didn't shout out who He was. He lived and died quietly. Amazing how that quiet moment of death has affected the whole word, huh? And beyond that, the quiet moment of resurrection! Had Disney had their hands in it, we would have had trumpet blasts and confetti! But no. It was a quiet moment, revealed to one woman. How awesome.
I'd sure like to take a lesson in that. When I accomplish something, I want to shout it from the rooftops! Pride is too loud. And I wish I could say here and now that I'm going to master humilty, but that's impossible. Instead, I'll just enjoy the quiet of the snowfall outside. And perhaps listen to "When it all comes true, just hte way you planned...it's funny, but the bells don't ring..." It's a quiet thing.
Adventures in Adieu
Sad day. Today, PPWC (Pikes Peak Writers' Conference for those who don't know) came to a close, and we all went about our various ways. I think of the sweet woman from North Carolina who told me her story just before pitching. The friend I made from Phoenix. People who had traveled from Vermont. How neat that people came from so far to join us in Colorado!
This morning, I attended a very informative session about writing query letters with agent Pam van (pronounced VAHN) Hylckama (pronounced HEEL-comma) Vlieg (pronounced VLEEG). She was humorous and insightful. I feel like I learned a lot from her. Don't know if I will query her or not, but she seems like a great person to work with! I would be quite lucky to find an agent like her.
After that session, I moderated for Hannah Bowman. She was a blast! She used Star Wars in her examples as she discussed plot structure. She also talked fractals, to which I relate because of my math professor dad. I'd love to sit down for an hour or so with her, just to chat sci-fi. And she turned a creative writing basics course into an intriguing hour long presentation. Great energy!
Instead of attending a last session, I joined a discussion about the future Pikes Peak Writers' Conference. It was good to voice the stuff we liked and the stuff we thought would add to the magic of conference. Some of the top PPW folks joined in and listened to what the attendees had to say. I like how approachable everyone is. I also met a gentleman who later purchased a copy of Asylum! I enjoyed connecting with him, and I hope we'll get to keep in touch.
I had to leave early. I couldn't stay for lunch, as my kids were waiting for me. The line for lunch had started, and I encountered the woman to whom I'd given a pitch appointment yesterday. I had an appointment with a particular agent, but I knew it wasn't going to be a good match. This agent happened to represent the genre this woman wrote, so I connected the two. She was so grateful, and it made my day just to be able to help her. The man behind her joined in our conversation, and it turns out that he's good friends with one of my high school English teachers. Small world!
I loved this experience! I am downhearted tonight, thinking that I won't be able to go back tomorrow and rub elbows with awesome writers and other industry professionals. But I'm also encouraged because I've made some amazing new friendships that I look forward to kindling! Next year will be fabulous, and I hope I get to be a more integral part of the team. How blessed I am to have spent my last three days in such awesomeness. Thank you, PPWC. We shall forever be friends.
Adventures in Pitching
Today was Pitch Day at the Pikes Peak Writers' Conference. A day full of nerves, worries, laughter, tears, and relief. It was also a day of bonding for the hopefuls. I did a lot of praying for those around me, as well as the agents, editors, and staff.
I started my day moderating a session on point of view. It was stuff I mostly already knew, but it was a good reminder. I had worked with the faculty person yesterday, so it was good to see and work with her again.
After that, I got to help at the pitch desk. I'd check folks in while someone else took them back to the room where the pitching took place. It was kind of like America Idol without the tone deaf weirdoes and golden tickets. I found myself encouraging those around me. Asking questions about their writing. Wishing them good luck. And let me tell you, that felt so odd to say! I'm more used to "Break a leg!"
At lunch, I ate with Michael Braff, an editor from Del Rey. He was AWESOME! He reminded me of a friend of mine, so I felt pretty at ease around him. And that last bit of discomfort was shoved aside by his personality. We clicked over Firefly, and I even got to hear a little on his perspective of the Disney takeover of LucasFilm. Intriguing guy! And I told him I was keeping the conversation light because...
...right after lunch, I pitched to him. Again, it was a great chat. I am most thankful he was my first pitch ever in life. He was gracious, kind, understanding...the list goes on. He even took my one sheet and a brochure I made for The Circeae Tales. And it ended on a positive note. If you get a chance to talk with him, I highly recommend it!
The rest of the afternoon passed in much the same manner. I did a second pitch with a gentleman from HarperCollins. I knew it was a long shot, so I was fairly relaxed. I know I came off not at all prepared, but that's okay. It was a totally different project in a different genre.
We had a long break prior to dinner. Everyone was off dressing up and fixing hair and makeup. I sat in a chair in the lobby and worked on my entry for the flash fiction contest. I had to leave the dinner early. As I write this, my eyes are closing. Two days of conference=sleepy Ashley.
Thanks for another great day, PPWC! You've got one more shot tomorrow!!
Adventures in Moderating
Well, here I am at the Colorado Springs Marriott. The picture is right before the big Friday night dinner. I had just changed out of my staff shirt and into something a little dressier. So...let me tell you about my day!
I started out at the pitch desk. I got to greet a few people before I had to run off to moderate my first session. Thankfully, I was connected with someone who walked me through it. This session was about how to get the most out of any writers' conference. It was pretty informative.
The second session I moderated was author Lisa Renee Jones. She spoke on how to find the right agent. I really liked what she had to say - "The agent works for you." That totally twisted my idea of what a pitch session is about. I was looking at it as an audition. Now, I'm looking at it as an opportunity for the agent...not just for me. Wow! What a change! I feel a lot more confident in that! Not to say that I won't be nervous tomorrow when staring down the barrel of the pitching gun, but it sure alleviates some worry. Lisa also talked a lot about indie publishing. She almost has me convinced that that's the way to go. So much so, in fact, I purchased a book on how to indie publish.
I ate lunch with Pam van Hylckama Vlieg. I was late getting into the ballroom and took the first seat I could toward the back. Happened to be right next to her. I leapt out of my comfort zone and asked a ton of questions from those folks around me. I was so proud of myself. I even spoke with Pam quite a bit, but I refused to pitch to her right there. I didn't think that was fair to her. I wanted her to be able to enjoy her lunch. We connected as moms, so that was enough for me.
I then participated in a Read-and-Critique session with agent Hannah Bowman. For the record, she pronounces her name HAHN-ah. Think Han Solo and add the "ah" at the end. She was really pleasant! I had queried her a while back, resulting in a rejection, but I didn't bring that up. Instead, I read the first page of Xadrez. She gave me some notes to work on, and I so appreciate that. The best thing about this session: it humanized the agent. Hannah wasn't a blurb and headshot on a website...an unapproachable, unattainable lofty deity. Nope. She was a regular human being. I LOVE that realization!
And because I had such a revalation in that, I decided to observe the next session with Barry Goldblatt. I'll be pitching to him tomorrow...and I really, really need him to be human. Watching him...getting a feel for who he is in person...makes such a difference. If I couple that with Lisa's advice, I think tomorrow has some real possibilities.
I spent a little more time at the pitch desk before going to my favorite session of the day. A discussion of the Christian market with author Robert Liparulo. It was enjoyable on several levels: I was with people who spoke my language, God could be mentioned without people cringing, and Robert was not only a nice guy, but quite knowledgeable. He took time with a couple of folks afterward, too. I learned quite a bit, and I hope to connect with Robert again in the next couple of days.
This evening, we had our first dinner. It was really nice. I sat with Chris Mandeville, former president of PPW. She was gracious, kind, and friendly. The folks around me were engaging as well. It was a good time overall, although by the end, I was pretty wiped out and ready to see my kids. I didn't stick around, even though I would have really liked to chat up some more folks. But I have two more days of conference, so I'm sure there will be time.
Oh, I also have to mention the highlight of the evening. I got a headshot taken by an excellent photographer! It's for a specific use on the PPW blog, but the conversation I had with the photographer was so much fun. It was indeed a lovely time.
I don't know what you have in store for me tomorrow, PPWC, but I am ready! And so looking forward to it!!
Tonight, I am relaxing on a couch, organzing everything I will need for tomorrow. What might I need for tomorrow, you may ask? Well, let me tell you! I am attending my first writers' conference. I have a binder with my information--schedule, agenda, bios. I have folders with pieces of manuscripts and one-sheets. I have a notebook to write in. I have plenty of pens, pencils, and gum. From that aspect, I am prepared.
This morning, I delivered five signed copies of Asylum to the conference bookstore. Sure would be nice to have to restock! I'd be honored if my peers showed that level of interest in my book!
I went for moderator training this afternoon. Oh, have I failed to mention that not only am I participating, but I'm leaping right in? (I actually wrote about this in a different post, so bear with the repeat sassiness if you normally keep up with me.) Well, I am. I am moderating five sessions. This freaked me out for way too long. When I attended the training, I realized that moderating is pretty much what I did as a stage manager. So I'm looking at it from a theatrical standpoint, and I am good. Looking forward to it, actually.
Tomorrow afternoon, I have a read-and-critique session. I've read through my pages a couple of different times. I know I'll stumble and stutter and act all kinds of nervous. But I'm trying to cut myself a little slack. This is my very first time doing all of this...so I'm trying to relax and enjoy the ride. If something wonderful comes out of it, then I will celebrate! If not, then I'm no worse off than I am now.
I hope to blog my experiences each day, but I'm not going to promise. I know it's a crazy, busy time, and I will need to regroup every night. I'll have to get up early and leave late. So blogging may be put on hold...but I will try. I would like to have a record of what occurs.
I would ask for your prayers. There are some pretty amazing things that could come of this conference...if I play my cards right. I could use some divine guidance! And I shall never forget - all glory belongs to the King! Soli Deo Gloria!
Back in the day, people went ga-ga over artists of all mediums. And rightfully so. It is super hard to stare at a blank canvas and some up with a realistic looking landscape...or something more abstract. To look at a block of marble and see David the way Michelanglo did. Can you imagine?
And yes, there is much more to art than just those examples. But today, we have another medium at hand - computer-aided design. It's everywhere. And I believe the people who can do that are simply brilliant. Not only does it take the artistic ability so many of us covet, it takes a deep intelligence to make the computer do what you're telling it to do.
All that to say, I'm here to praise the work of my graphic designer for the lovely cover I received for Fusion last night. I've partnered with this person to create covers for all the books in my series based on the WestBow Press design of Asylum. So far, I am most pleased with his work. Definitely an artist's hand with a touch of genius!
For the record, the two finished covers are for books that have been completed. Both Poison and Fusion are finished and ready for an editor's eye. And as stuck as I have been on traditional publishing, I am contemplating going the e-publishing route. If I do, I will not go into it lightly. I plan to hire a professional editor to help me polish my work. I don't want to be hasty in this, but I do feel it's time to bring the rest of the Circeae novels to the public.
Because for me, it's not about fame and riches. It's about telling the pretty awesome stories of some pretty awesome characters. Thanks for following along with me in this journey.
The Final Countdown...Eeek!
Tonight, I attended a gathering of writers who are all looking forward to the writers' conference this week. I've been working on "one-sheets," making them as lovely as possible. I figured I would walk in, slip the agent my one sheet, receive praise for the brilliant-ness of it, and receive an offer of representation.
Have I mentioned I live in a dream world?
From what I understand, the agent probably won't accept anything I hand him. So instead, I need to come up with a fabulous sales pitch - a memorized monologue of sorts - to present. My brain is going to be like a balloon that pops out of your hand as you're trying to blow it up and zips around the room with that chuckle-inducing sounds. Man, am I in trouble!
All this time I've wasted on one sheet preparation, I should have spent studying the inner journey/conflict of my main characters. That would have helped me formulate a stellar synopsis, as well as a captivating hook. Instead, I'm blogging about my shortcomings.
So over the next few, very short days I have left, I'm going to try to refocus my efforts and pull together the best pitch I posisbly can. One of the speakers tonight said something that I wrote down word for word because I found it to be such an encouraging thought.
"They (agents) are just people who might be lucky enough to work with you one day."
No offense to agents out there, but goodness! It sure helps to think of you as just regular people. A change in perspective is exactly what I needed.
See you at the writers' conference!!
The Legalisms of Writing
There are lots of rules when it comes to the craft of writing. And understandably so! Without grammar and punctuation, we wouldn't be able to communicate clearly. Without syntax and context, we wouldn't be able to communicate effectively. Those rules are very important!
Then, there are the rules of the writing world. Point-of-view, show versus tell, ten pages per chapter, and so on. A lot of those rules are a matter of preference, of course. But if you want to garner any sort of attention, it's important to follow those.
And there's the social aspect of the writing world. Conferences, critique groups, beta readers. Again, important, especially if you want to eventually publish and gain a fanbase of readers. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and more! Reaching out to potential readers is crucial.
After publishing, you have marketing to do! You want a book tour? You have to believe enough in your book to pitch it to just about anyone you can. You want book signings? You have to all but wrestle bookstores to get on their calendar (particularly if your book is print-on-demand...like mine.) You want interviews, reviews, and ads? Oh, boy... So much to think about!
So...why am I writing about this today? I am a classic introverted writer trying to figure out all of this. I'd like nothing better than to hide behind my computer and escape to my world. If someone happens to fall in love with my worlds, wonderful! But I hate the idea of pushing it on them. However, that's what I have to do if I want it to be a success. Millions of writers have come on the scene, and in order to stand out, I have to have the loudest voice.
I've lived in a small town for most of my writing career. Finding a critique group was impossible, except online. Critique groups are a lot of work. Not only do you have to prepare your work, but you have to give back and read others. Most critique groups have been established for a long time, making breaking in almost as difficult as finding an agent or publisher. And I think I'm like a lot of writers - the introverted type. New people make the writer nervous!
You can see that there's so much more that goes into creating a book than just writing it. I'm struggling with how very much time is taken up by all these extra things. I'm a wife and a mom. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I could balance a lot of this, but now I work full-time. My writing might get a couple of hours of attention, at the most. I have to stay focused, employing every ounce of discipline I have because it's very easy to get distracted. Social media is indeed a gift, but it can also be a hinderance!
I'm about to embark into a world unfamiliar to me. This weekend is the Pikes Peak Writers' Conference. I've never attended a big conference. Not only am I attending, but I am moderating and volunteering. Jumping in with both feet! I know a couple of people, but overall, I'll be meeting all kinds of new folk. I'm going to have to draw on my stage performance experience and push aside Introvert Ashley to drum up Charismatic Ashley. I recently encountered someone who walked up to every person he saw with his hand extended and introduced himself. I'm going to try my best to follow that example...
Prayers are appreciated. *wink*
Mountain of Authors
Today, I was honored to participate in the Pikes Peak Library District's Mountain of Authors. I was invited to participate in their author showcase, where I got to share a little about Asylum, sell and sign copies, and hang out with fellow writers. It was pretty awesome!
The keynote speaker was Stephen Coonts. He was gracious enough to take a picture with me as he signed his book. As a fledgling author, I hope one day to make it to his level...and I'm not just talking success-wise. He spoke with humor and intrigue, like it was second nature to him. His manner was casual, yet respectful. Overall, he was good-natured. Relaxed. Unlike me...
Confession time. I was so nervous. Of course, I wanted to wow the audience with the most brilliant sales pitch ever! I feel like I fell flat, simply because I was up first, and I was quite mindful of the time. We were allowed 1 minute to speak, and that just doesn't allow for much exposition.
The plus side - I have a pitch session with an agent coming up at a conference next Saturday. Guess what I will be doing all this week...practicing! I will plan out everything I hope to say. Of course, I plan to listen and allow the agent to guide the session, but some planning certainly can't hurt, right?
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3