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Do You Believe in “Meant to Be”?

I’m not talking love, though I guess one could also apply this in that direction. What I’m focused on here is whether I’m “meant” to ever have a literary agent.

I’ve had agents, is the thing, and it’s never worked out. So I’m starting to think maybe I’m just not meant to have one.

The first one was a well-known screenwriting agent who agreed to handle some options for me, but he scared away the directors who wanted my script, so nothing ever came of it.

The second was an agent who admittedly mostly dealt with actors and “personalities.” I was her first writer—she’d been wanting to add a writer to her stable, she told me—and she didn’t really know what to do with me or my work. She was a great cheerleader but no more useful than that.

And the third sent my manuscript to only one place before giving up and telling me she just didn’t have the time.

Maybe I’m just not good enough to attract better agents. But I also have to wonder if maybe I’m just meant to go this alone and continue to self-publish. Am I wasting time and energy looking for a champion and hoping for a bigger, better deal? Maybe it’s time to shrink those dreams down to pocket size and learn to be happy with what I have.

International Cat Day

Crowley

I’ve owned a lot of cats in my life. Socks, Whiskers (aka “Grizz”), Precious, Clotilde, Smudge, Armand (aka “Chook”), Tapette à Mousche (aka “Choo Choo”), Loki, Byron . . . That’s not even all of them. And I’ve loved every last one of them, but you know how these things go—some pets and people leave a deeper impression on you than others. You form a closer bond.

Currently we have two black cats, Crowley and Minerva. Crowley is two and Minnie is three, though we got Crowley first. He was rescued from under a bush, not properly weaned, and he still nurses on my arm, by which I mean he kneads and sucks on my bare forearms. Hurts like the dickens, but I’m unwilling to deprive him. That probably makes me a bad mama.

Crowley is named for the character in Good Omens, though when people hear his name they more often think of the television show Supernatural. Or so I’m told. I don’t watch it. (*gasp*)

Minerva

Minerva, meanwhile, is named for Professor Minerva McGonagall. We got her on Hallowe’en eve, so it seemed appropriate. She, too, was rescued from shrubbery, but she was already 6+ months old at that point. The people who’d found her couldn’t keep her because the wife was allergic, and they were worried the cat would get run over by a car. So we took her in.

Because Crowley was so young when we adopted him, he’s really never known any other life. Minnie, however, had been on her own for quite some time, and it was a difficult adjustment. She lived under my daughter’s bed for several months, only coming out at night to eat and use the litter box. Eventually, she’d stay out longer. Emerge earlier. And now she’s quite comfortable being around us, though she will only allow my daughter to pick her up, and she still sleeps at night in my daughter’s room. I have to schedule Minnie’s vet appointments around my daughter’s schedule because she’s the only one who can get Min into a carrier.

Crowley is my cat. I call him, “my baby,” and have as deep an affection for him as any pet I’ve ever owned. And I’ve had a lot of pets in my life. I love Minerva, too, of course, but we haven’t bonded in quite so strong a way. Crowley brings me toys when he wants to play. He follows me upstairs when it’s bed time. Sleeps beside me. Minnie . . . tolerates me. She lets me pet her. She’ll accept treats and will sometimes play if I dangle a toy in her direction. But she’s closest to my daughter and husband. I’m a distant third.

Anyway, it being International Cat Day, I thought I’d share my two sweeties. Do you have cats or other pets? What are their stories?

Success Soup

This article has made the rounds in the writer world today. Most of the attention has been directed at the fact that this author had the misfortune to be represented by Mark Gottlieb, an agent who has since been outed as pretty terrible on many fronts. But what I keyed into while reading it was the despair. The exhaustion. This author has been pushing that boulder up the hill for 11 years, and I get it. I’ve been there myself.

We’re bombarded daily by messages that tell us: “If you just try hard enough, you’ll get there!” That’s patently untrue. If everyone could get there, we’d all be there—wherever it is we wanted to be. But we can’t all make it as actors, writers, musicians, athletes, investment bankers, lawyers, whatever. Telling people they can be whatever they want sets them up for disappointment in the long run.

This is probably not helping anyone feel better, and in fact it angers a lot of people whenever I say it (which is fairly frequently), but I’m a realist.

The thing is: success is not a measure of talent. Success is a byproduct of a lot of ingredients, of which talent is only one (and sometimes not even necessary depending on other ingredients). Luck, timing, connections, serendipity . . . There are so many things that contribute to success. And even if you have a pantry full of talent, if you don’t have at least something to season it with, you can’t make soup.

And a lot of these things you can’t go buy at the corner grocery. You can hone your skills as a writer, you can up the chances of making connections by attending conferences and events, but some of the ingredients for success soup are like lottery prizes. You hope to win some of them, somehow. “A little luck sure would spice this soup up a bit!”

People like to say things like, “Make your own luck,” but those are the same people who already have what they want, often due to privilege (like their daddy owning the company). Again, if making luck were something we could all do, we’d all be lucky.

So before you tell someone they just didn’t try hard enough, or want something bad enough, think about the things you want and don’t have. Why don’t YOU have everything you want? Is it because you haven’t tried hard enough? Are you too lazy to have them? Is it because you lack talent or ability? And if you do have everything you want, how nice for you. But I can bet it wasn’t your own skill alone that got you there.

Don’t let not “making it”—and it’s really important to define success for yourself and not let others do it for you—make you think you’re not talented. Success soup can be made with various quantities of talent and all the other stuff I listed above, but a big bowl of talent alone won’t do it. And your access to other ingredients may be limited by gender, socio-economic status, geography, support systems (or lack thereof), and other biases. Or it may be limited by bad timing or plain bad luck.

Not everyone will make it. Not everyone can; the system doesn’t allow for that. “Anyone can be a writer.” Not true. Many writers can’t be writers, at least not in the sense of making a living at it. Anyone can put words on paper, sure, assuming they’re literate, but in a compelling way? Not everyone can tell a good story. Not everyone can sort through and organize information into a non-fiction book either, no matter how much they know about a subject. It takes skill, if not talent (not all successful people are talented, they just make up for the lack of flavor with many other ingredients). And even then, many will fall short.

Anyone who promises, “You can do it!” is telling you a lie. Sorry if that seems harsh, but let’s get real. Try hard enough, want it bad enough, and you might succeed. Write anyway. Make art anyway. If it’s in you, you won’t be able to stop yourself. Even as your heart breaks because no one else cares, you’ll keep coming back to it, again and again. And where’s the harm, aside perhaps from self-persecution? If you give up, you surely won’t succeed. If you keep writing anyway, just because you love it, you may yet get there, if only by an accidental left turn at Albuquerque.

Current Reads

With all the traveling I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been juggling a few books. I sped through the Raven Cycle and am now juggling a couple of novels: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero and Scythe by Neal Shusterman.

I read Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements a few years ago, and it is a book that definitely stands out in my mind. Whenever people ask a blanket, “What book do you recommend?” The Supernatural Enhancements is the first thing that springs to the forefront of my brain. I find I’m enjoying Meddling Kids quite a lot, too. Think: the Scooby gang now in their mid to late 20s and dealing with PTSD as they go back to confront a case they thought was closed but . . .

And Scythe I picked up because I’d heard so much about it. I mean, nothing specific in terms of the plot, simply that so many people said it was good. And so far I agree with them. For those few who haven’t read it (I feel like one of the last in the world not to have done), it’s set in a future where mankind has all it needs because technology perfectly manages the world. Immortality has been achieved, and people can move their consciousnesses into younger bodies at will. The one thing that must be done: population control. Which is where the titular scythes enter the picture. You can probably guess the rest from there, more or less.

What are you reading? Any recommendations? Have you tried either of these?

IWSG: Pitfalls

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Right now I’m insecure about 1. finishing this novel, and 2. giving a presentation at the local library this coming November. I know that’s a long time away yet, but I’ll be talking about writing and publishing for NaNoWriMo participants, which is why this month’s question is quite appropriate:

What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

There are so many! For one, don’t read too many how-to books on writing. You’ll get so worried about doing it wrong that you won’t do it at all. Also, don’t start querying the moment you finish your draft. You think you’re done—you so want to be, because you’ve been working so hard for so long—but you aren’t, not nearly. Much revision will be required! Don’t believe your baby has been born ready to walk and talk because it hasn’t. You’ve still got to raise it. Finally, be super selective about who you query. Do your research. It’s so exciting to get that nibble—or better yet, an offer! But not all [agents, publishers, offers] are created equal. So don’t celebrate until you’re sure.

Social Media Letdown

So I have a Tumblr that I only recently started seriously playing with. I was using it as a place to shelve snippets of a fanfic. But though some of the “chapters” got attention, it seems to have tapered off. That might be because I’ve been away on vacation (I did post a few pics while away, and I’m not officially “back” yet, but I’m home for a day before going off on the next leg, hence this post). Or it might be because I’m just not very good . . . at writing, or “tumbling” or whatever. Dunno.

Social media is so, so tricky. We’re told we need it in order to succeed as authors (or in other creative fields). Major companies are convinced they need a social media presence, too. But what we’re really feeding is our craving for validation. And we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Or worse. People get more depressed when faced with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. They see others getting all the followers and Likes, and they feel like failures. Comparison is the thief of joy, or so the saying goes, and social media is really just a massive platform for measuring how “popular” you are. Or aren’t.

I have several friends who have recently announced they’re deleting their Facebook accounts. I’m tempted to do the same. A few years back I slashed and burned a number of my accounts and profiles, but it seems to have ballooned again. There’s always some new platform that authors are being told they need to be on.

For those wondering about the fic on Tumblr, it was inspired by my recent reading of The Raven Cycle. I actually indexed the posts on this post. And then there is a post that came after those. Though I know where the story is going, I’m not sure I’ll bother actually writing it. Social media saps the joy and desire from me, forcing me to face the indifference of the world to my work. It perpetuates the feelings we had in school, I think: there are those who have all the friends (and followers), and those who have only a few . . . or none. The kids at the crowded cafeteria table versus the kids sitting alone.

Away Again

Taking advantage of these last few weeks of summer before the kids go back to school. So I’ll be away from my computer again. I will be able to post on Twitter, my Facebook page, my Instagram, and I think Tumblr (which I’ve had for years but only just started making any use of). Probably won’t be posting any fic on Tumblr (which is what I’ve been doing, kind of), but might post some pictures. So if you hang out in any of those social media spaces, look me up. NYC, coming at you!

Still Worth It?

I saw a tweet today that more or less expressed this sentiment: Even if your book never gets published or your script never gets turned into a movie, the experience is still worth it.

I can’t decide if I believe that.

Writing can be its own reward, that’s true. I often remind myself that I used to love to write just for the joy of it (though that was fan fiction). And I think my best work has been written for love of the characters, like Peter Stoller or the characters in 20 August.

Sometimes, though, writing starts to feel like a chore. That’s when I know I’m also probably not doing my best.

So I guess I can say that experience of writing has taught me something: how to “feel” my writing and know when I’m on the right track.

Still, there’s something frustrating and tragic about not being able to get published or produced. One has to decide, I suppose, whether the end result of simply having the writing exist is enough. Writing that exists but never gets to readers or viewers . . . Doesn’t fulfill its potential, does it? This is all very philosophical, of course, but if prose is meant to be read and scripts are meant to be filmed so others can view them, and that never happens . . .

No, I get it. The point was for the writer to have done the work. And I’ve never been sorry I wrote something, only sorry when I couldn’t get anyone to publish it, or read it, or produce it.

Being a writer means setting yourself up to fail, at least in some respects. If you go in knowing that and accepting it, things will be easier for you in the long run. It’s the people who go in so convinced they’re going to write a bestseller or a huge blockbuster that end up bitter and angry. Me, I’m just sad. Not for myself, but for those characters and pieces of work that won’t get the eyes they deserve. Not because I’m some great writer, but because I failed them in some way—I was too clumsy and inept to tell their stories well.

Is it worth writing even if your work never sees the light of day? That’s a question that has to be answered individually, I think. Putting in the hours hones your craft. You can always go back and rework pieces to make them better. But you have to be self-aware enough to know whether you can live with having written things that live in the dark. How do you take rejection? If your sole goal is to be published or produced, then I don’t think you’ll find the exercise of simply writing satisfying. If you write because you love to write and the hope of publishing or production is the cherry on your sundae, then you’ll probably be fine. The key is to know the answer to that before you even start. That way you don’t waste your own time.

Confession

Under pain of torture . . .

. . . I’ve decided to admit something.

Well, really, it’s just that some thinking it over made it very obvious to me. I probably should have noticed it a long time ago. My friends almost certainly already know this about me, though no one has ever bothered to say as much to my face.

All my favorite literary couples are gay.

While others swoon over, I dunno, Bella and Edward (is that still a thing?), I just don’t get any heat from those kinds of stories. When I stopped to consider my favorite pairings, this is what I came up with:

  1. Touya & Yukito (& Yue) from Cardcaptor Sakura
  2. Subaru & Seishirou from Tokyo Babylon
  3. Adam Parrish & Ronan Lynch from The Raven Cycle

It was, in truth, this last one that caused me to think about this at all. I’m reading The Raven King and I love Adam + Ronan so much it hurts.

I feel kind of bad/weird about this, but it’s not something I can control, either. This is what I like. Not erotica, but these slow-burning relationships, sometimes star-crossed and tragic. I like drama and angst, I guess. I like potential for flames to erupt at any moment.

It seems like a good thing to know about oneself. Particularly as an author, I find myself leaning into the gay relationships in my books. They’re fun for me to write. If I define “fun” as tormenting my characters. Which I do.

Who are your favorite literary couples and how hot do you like your love stories?

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ETA: Someone pointed out that I do also like Rey & Kylo from Star Wars. And that’s true! Talk about drama, angst, and star-crossed, eh? So I guess I do like at least one hetero couple.