Thursday, February 25, 2010

Using real life as bait

Lately I've been feeling that things are going pretty well for me, at least in terms of the writing thing. I'm waiting to hear back on my revised full manuscript from three agents who expressed interest, one of my short stories will appear in '100 Stories for Haiti', and I've just submitted a three-part short story serial for final approval at a major British magazine. So what's the logical next step? Get a job. That has nothing to do with writing.

That's right. I have a job interview on Tuesday. I didn't plan this. The whole freelance writing and do-what-I-can-with-the-novel gig has actually been working out pretty well, which is good, because there aren't many jobs for my career in San Antonio (recipe developer, food scientist, food stylist). But last night on Monster there was a job listing I just couldn't pass up. I applied and got a call for an interview this morning. In truth, I'm probably underqualified, as this is a total dream job (side note -- this is the job my MC has). But worth a shot.

And I figure, what better way to make the Universe cough up an agent and book deal than to get a full-time job that requires real commitment?

I'm now predicting my dream agent will call on Tuesday while I'm interviewing. Cuz that's the way the universe rolls. Yeah, fate has a sense of humor.

Am I tempting fate? Have you had any of these little happenings, where you think you are going one way and life hands you something else?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Whoops! Fest blog entry

Thanks to Laurel over at Laurel's Leaves for hosting the opportunity to shake our heads and laugh out loud at how stupid we can sometimes be! My character Lara from The Shadow Scribe is no exception. Despite the fact she can't drive in England, she's 'borrowed' her husband's company car and headed down to Manchester to check out some original documents...
My phone rang and I guessed it was David. I didn’t answer, but instead kept driving, concentrating so hard it made my head hurt. As an hour edged by, I could feel my shoulders creeping to my ears and sweat gathered in the small of my back and under my arms, despite the cold that permeated the dark car. I had no idea where I was and was painfully aware that no one else did either. I almost cried with relief when lights appeared out of the blackness and I passed through what could only be loosely called a village. There was also a road sign directing me on to the A1, still some twenty miles away. The road opened up a bit from there, still narrow, still dark, but somewhat straighter. I could feel some of the tension leaving my shoulders and I relaxed a little. I leaned against the head rest, blinking and rubbing my burning, tired eyes.

I was suddenly blinded by headlights that seemed to come from nowhere. A car appeared before me and I swerved to my right just as he, too, swerved to my right. With a flash I realized that I was on the wrong side of the road. I yanked the wheel to my left and felt the leather pull against the still-healing burns on my hands. The car spun around, skidding on stones and crumbly pavement before coming to rest with a bump on the side of the road, one wheel hanging over a deep ditch.

The other car skidded to a halt just beyond me. In the light of my headlights, I could see a man in a waxed Mac jacket jump out, shouting and waving his hands. When I shakily opened my door, his words reached me.

“…killed us both! …idiot! What were you playing at, on the wrong side of the road?” He suddenly stopped and bent over as if trying to catch his breath. I jumped out of the car, worried he was having a heart attack. I almost tumbled into the rocky ditch beside me, my knees so weak and shaky I could barely stand.

“Are you OK?” I stuttered.

He looked up and waved a hand at me. “Fine, no thanks to you.”

“I’m sorry…the lights, I guess I was dazzled.”

“Damn American,” he swore, catching my accent. “Shouldn’t drive here if you don’t know what side…”

“I’m sorry…” My knees continued to shake and I thought I might throw up. Instead, I burst into tears.

He stared at me for a moment. “You OK?”

I managed a few deep breaths. “Yes, just rattled. I’m really, really sorry.”

He looked over my shoulder at the green car with one wheel over the gully. “You might have some trouble there.”

I looked too. Great. David would be seriously ticked off if I messed up the car. A small moan escaped me.

“Try to drive it out. If you need, I can winch you out,” my near-victim ordered, gesturing to his battered Land Rover.

I walked back to the car, clutching at the warm hood to steady myself.

“You sure you’re OK, love?” he asked, his ire replaced with touching concern.

I nodded and slid behind the wheel. With some tire spinning and a spatter of gravel, the car pulled forward onto the road. I did an appallingly bad four point turn to get it facing in the correct direction and then got back out of the car.

“I’m so sorry…” I started but the man didn’t let me finish.

“It don’t matter. But take it easy. These roads are dangerous even if you know what you’re doing.” Which you clearly don’t, was his unspoken message, but I was grateful for his kindness and understanding.

“Thank you,” I said as he climbed back into the Rover and pulled away, no doubt swearing at me and my country as he went. I got back in the car and closed the door, allowing myself the luxury of a good cry for five minutes before sedately, carefully driving on.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The future generation weighs in on e-readers

My 'real job' (and I use the term loosely because for me, writing is the one of the few 'real' things I do) is working as the education coordinator for a large fabric and craft store. That means I organize instructor schedules, plan demonstrations, and organize classes in sewing, quilting, jewelry and more. I sometimes teach the classes too. Last week, I taught a class on Duck Tape Art (that's right, making pictures of out pieces of duck tape). I had three students, ranging in age from 12 to 16, one boy and two girls. Since I had three hours to fill, and since cutting and sticking duck tape is a fairly tedious -- uh, quiet -- activity, I took advantage of my captive audience and started interrogating them of what they read, how often the read, and all things book-related.

In the course of discussion, I asked them if they knew about e-readers. Now, they were a pretty tech-savvy bunch. I say this because they all had phones much nicer than mine. How do I know? Because they each pulled their phone out at least a dozen times during class. So I was rather surprised that none of them had really heard of e-readers, other than the having seen something about the iPad recently. When I asked if they wanted an e-reader, all three said no. When I asked why, they all said the same thing: they liked books. They liked to browse them, liked to look at the covers, and liked to hold them. They wanted to turn pages, wanted to shove it in a bag or read it in a bathtub, wanted to skim through it when making reading choices.

Can I tell you how happy this made me? It was so nice to hear this group (granted, a very small group) of teens talk about books that way. I like technology and I'll get an e-reader someday. But I like books. Before, I was scared that the generation behind me wasn't going to want to keep them. And now I feel a little reassured that there will always be a future for paper-based books.

I'm curious if this is a common feeling among the computer generation. Have you talked to kids or teens about books and e-readers?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

An idea for book promotion

I'm wondering how we can apply these techniques to book promotion.

Friday, February 5, 2010

So how does it end?

In my quest to find the serial filler, I finally came up with an idea that I thought would work for the target market (40+ British homemakers) and the structure (three parts, 3800 words each part, the first two parts ending on a cliffhanger of sorts, and the final part wrapping it all up).  I was supposed to send the idea to the editor first but when I sat down to write the synopsis, the story took over and I finished the first part and the outline of the second two. I'm really digging the storyline, which is a great feeling no matter what you are writing.

I sent of the very brief synopsis and the first part to the editor. Unlike the first two ideas I sent, which got almost immediate knockbacks, I didn't hear from her for a few days. Today, I had an email saying she'd showed it to the editor in chief and they both loved it and to go ahead and finish. But she also said she wondered about the ending, as it looked like it would be tricky. "I'm sure you'll work it out," she wrote, very supportingly.

Um, yeah. I've been wondering about that ending myself. I think I know where I want to go with it, but I'm not quite sure how it will play out. Or if it will play out in the space allotted. Or if it will satisfy the readership. This is new territory for me, as I usually know EXACTLY what happens in my stories (I am a compulsive plotter). I guess I'm just trusting this story and these characters to take me on the journey we are meant to travel.

So how about you? Do you know how your story will end? Maybe you start with the ending and work your way back. Or do you ride the train with your characters and get off when they do?