Sunday Stroll

The year is winding down, and this week has been quiet, which is more or less what I expected. So when a rejection came in early this morning I was a little taken off guard. It seems so many literary agents are waiting to send out bad news until after New Year’s. Not that I want to start 2015 with bad news, either. Maybe I would rather receive it now and close out the year with a clean slate.

I’ve been cleaning up my office in advance of the new year, too. Ready to start fresh with a tidy workspace. I’ve fallen behind on the actual writing, though I’ve edited the first half of Changers (on paper; need to go make the changes in the Word document). And I have a rough outline for the rest of the book. Or, if not an outline, a general idea of where things are going.

And today the weather was nice enough for a walk. So:

1. “Whenever We Wanted” by John Mellencamp
2. “Through With You” by Maroon 5
3. “Like Sugar” by Matchbox Twenty
4. “Why Should I Cry For You?” by Sting
5. “Getting Late” by Rob Thomas
6. “Chanson Pour les Petits Enfants” by Jimmy Buffett
7. “As Long as It Matters” by Gin Blossoms
8. “Sunday Morning New York Blue” by Rob Thomas
9. “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat
10. “It’s My Life” by No Doubt
11. “All Your Reasons” by Matchbox Twenty
12. “I Don’t Need Another Thrill” by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers
13. “So What” by P!nk

Those first few songs tell quite the story. An edgy, defiant relationship that ends (1–2) . . . Except he can’t quite let go (3) . . . Until yes, he finally does (4). There’s the dip in energy, an inward focus (5–7), before the chrysalis bursts open again and hopefulness shines out (8–9). But the last four songs speak of a certain back and forth tension.

In short, it was a good walk filled with a really good musical story.

Now I’m off to rework a TV pitch and make those edits to Changers . . .

Downs and Ups

The past couple weeks have been difficult ones for me, so I took a break from writing this past weekend and focused on family instead. Well, okay, I did at least outline a bit for my current WIP, and I named a character (after much research and consideration) . . . So I did a *little bit* of work. I’m pretty excited about how my WIP is shaping up, too. If I could just find Peter a home, I’d be happy all around.

This morning’s walk:

1. “Wave Bye Bye” by Gin Blossoms
2. “Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song” by Matt Hires
3. “Lonely Ol’ Night” by John Cougar Mellencamp
4. “Home” by American Authors
5. “Like Sugar” by Matchbox Twenty
6. “Put Your Hands Up” by Matchbox Twenty
7. “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer
8. “Pieces of the Night” by Gin Blossoms
9. “Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons
10. “Here We Go Again” by Everclear
11. “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat

“Put Your Hands Up” is such bubblegum, but every now and then I do just want a song that makes me want to move my body, and that one fits the bill. As ever, Rob and his crew brought my spirits up. Last week consisted of nothing but rejections, but today I at least received one request for my manuscript. So already this week is better than last. And having the Christmas decorations up helps my mood, too.

Random Notes

I hope everyone [in the U.S.] had a nice Thanksgiving Holiday. Ours was good, with family visiting (so at least we weren’t driving or flying anywhere). I even got in a nice Thanksgiving Day walk:

1. “Sister Golden Hair” by America
2. “Love Is the Seventh Wave” by Sting
3. “Hands Are Tied” by Gin Blossoms
4. “Falling Farther In” by October Project
5. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon
6. “Natural” by Rob Thomas
7. “Not Over You” by Gavin DeGraw
8. “The Burn” by Matchbox Twenty
9. “Never Seen Anything ‘Quite Like You'” by The Script
10. “Disease” by Matchbox Twenty
11. “Here Comes Horses” by Tabitha’s Secret

As for submission stats for the week, well, I received 4 rejections, 1 request, and continued some e-mail correspondence with one agent who has been giving me great (read: useful) feedback on making the manuscript a bit stronger. Progress.

#PitMad is coming on Thursday, too, over on Twitter. So fellow writers looking for agents should plan to participate. Rules can be found here.

What Goes Up

Well, and then I received two rejections this morning. I guess it can’t all be good news.

But I still have six agents reading my manuscript, and I only need one to like it enough to want to take it on. I’ve made it clear I’m willing to do more work on the book. I figure I’ve come as far as I can on my own and with beta readers and whatnot, but that doesn’t mean the manuscript is perfect. And I want to make it the best book it can possibly be.

It’s a juggle. If yesterday’s hopeful feedback was an up, and the two rejections today were downs (neither rejection, I should be clear, was from the agent I heard from yesterday; there’s still hope there), then another ball in the air today includes some promising feedback regarding my original TV pilot. While the reader suggested some tonal changes, on the whole it was mostly positive, the bottom line being it could be good network television material. That’s something at least.

So. More work to be done. On Peter most likely, on the TV pilot, and on my current project as well, which is about one third of the way finished. I’m aiming to have the first draft done by February. With the holidays looming, I know I won’t be hearing much from the publishing side, so I will try to focus on my work. Oh, and spend time with my family, of course.

Encouraging Words

I received some via e-mail this morning, and I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but it’s difficult.

In the meantime, I’ve also turned down a book contract with an indie publisher. That was difficult, too. I had to really dig deep and determine whether it was the best path for me and Peter, and it just wasn’t. Even if all the other interest in the manuscript were to fall through—and I’m knocking on wood now in the hopes it won’t—the contract didn’t offer me anything better than I could do for myself by self-publishing. So, if all else fails, that’s what I’ll do.

But the e-mail this morning really has me hoping it won’t come to that.

Meanwhile, there have been many walks and I have many playlists, but I need to eat something and get some more writing done. Stay tuned.

Big Dipper

Or maybe it’s more like a see-saw. Or a dance: steps forward, steps back. I got two rejections, but then I got two more requests for the manuscript. Back and forth we go.

Actually, it’s like I’ve brought Peter out on the town and am introducing him to people, and they’re telling me, “He seems nice enough, but . . . There’s something not quite right about him.” I want to shout, “You just don’t know him yet!” But at the same time I give Peter a slant-eyed look and say, “Maybe we need to dress you differently.” Thing is, while my feedback has been largely good—”We like your writing, we like your characters, etc.”—no one has said what I can do to make the manuscript better. They all just say, “I don’t feel strongly enough about it.” It’s so vague. How can I get Peter better clothes if no one tells me what he’d look good in?

I guess I’m supposed to figure that out, but I dressed him in what I thought looked good on him, and now others are saying he needs to be changed.

Sigh.

Short walk this morning as (a) it was already getting warm out (but we’re looking at 60s rest of the week, yay!), and (b) I wanted to maximize my writing time since the kids are home tomorrow for Veteran’s Day.

1. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon
2. “How Long?” by Matchbox Twenty
3. “Vienna” by Billy Joel [my favorite Billy Joel song!]
4. “Rain on the Scarecrow” by John Cougar Mellencamp
5. “Skin” by Collective Soul
6. “I Am an Illusion” by Rob Thomas
7. “Landfall” by Jimmy Buffett
8. “Get Back In My Life” by Maroon 5

The last three seem to go from: “I’m not here” to “I’m leaving” to “Get back here!”

As for the Paul Simon song, I used to work with a guy named Julio, so I always think of him when I hear it.

Tuesday

1. “American Girls” by Counting Crows
2. “Feel So Bad” by Rob Thomas
3. “Soul Sick” by Rob Thomas
4. “I Go to Extremes” by Billy Joel
5. “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd
6. “New Shoes” by Paolo Nutini
7. “Smuggler’s Blues” by Glenn Frey
8. “Goin’ to California” by Gin Blossoms

Weird mixture here. Going from “Extremes” to “Comfortably Numb” really was as if someone had wreaked havoc and had a doctor come to sedate him. But I guess the guy felt better after a nap since “New Shoes” was very upbeat.

Actually, if you look at the playlist start to finish: the guy is pining for this girl who has confused him emotionally, and then he goes to the extremes, takes drugs, feels better, sells drugs and moves to California (possibly while chasing that first American girl—”I know where you are . . .”). Interesting story, eh?

Meanwhile, I have a Sherlock Holmes story to finish and that YA novel to work on. I’m trying to stay busy while waiting for responses to queries and submissions to come rolling in. Even the rejections have been encouraging, with many of them saying I have talent and they like my style but Peter isn’t the right fit for them. More than one has said that, if I’m still unagented after this book, they would like to see other work by me. Of course, then I’ll have to figure out which of these would read a magical realism YA . . . But I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to finish it first! Allons-y!

Hello, November

Ah, autumn. I really do love the cooler mornings; they’re perfect for my walks.

1. “I Don’t Need Another Thrill” by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers
2. “English Town” by Matchbox Twenty
3. “Just Say Yes” by Snow Patrol
4. “Broken Arrow” by Rod Stewart
5. “More Than She Knows” by Spin Doctors
6. “If I Fall” by Matchbox Twenty
7. “Crazy Lucky” by Better Than Ezra
8. “What If I Came Knocking” by John Mellencamp
9. “Problem Girl” by Rob Thomas
10. “You Know Me” by Rob Thomas

The way I see it, songs 3–5 are all about the guy trying to convince the girl. By 6 & 7 they’re together, but at 8 he begins to have doubts. I sort of feel like 9 & 10 suggest they’ve separated but are still (loosely) friends.

Adding to the music this morning, some encouraging news: Yet another request by an agent for my full manuscript, and some feedback from one of the agents who has it. Yes, he suggests some changes (and I think he has a good point), but he also says he enjoys my writing. So I’ll stash that under “win.”

From a Certain Point of View

You’re not going to like every book you pick up in a bookstore. There are a lot of books there, covering a lot of topics, and you’ll first go to the section(s) that have the kind(s) of books you like . . . In fact, you may never go to any other part of the store. And that’s okay.

Even when narrowing it down to the fantasy or biography or whatnot, you won’t like all the books that are there. You might like a lot of them. But you’re going to put back most of what you pick up. (Well, I’m making an assumption there; you may very well stack up a lot of books, but let’s be honest: Will you ever read them all? Probably not.) You’re going to look at the covers, the titles. You’re going to flip the book over and skim the back, or else you’ll open and read the flap. You’ll glance over the first page or two, then skip ahead to a random page. You’re looking to see if the writing “sounds” right to you, whether the book catches you from the start or if it seems like a slog. You’ll use all this data to decide whether to buy the book or not.

Of course, sometimes it’s something you’ve heard about somewhere, or it’s an author whose name you recognize or whose other work you’ve enjoyed.

But I’m talking random books by people you’ve never heard of. There are thousands of them, and you have to narrow it down to the handful you can reasonably afford to buy and (hopefully) have time to read.

This is what agents do, too.

They are in a virtual bookstore of as-yet-unpublished books. They are skimming the back covers and book flaps (known to them as synopses). They are testing the first few pages to see if these manuscripts are the kinds of books they want to read—more than that, are they the kinds of books the agent wants to work on and with for months and years?

Like anyone in this world, an agent won’t love every book (query, manuscript) he or she receives. They, like you in a bookstore, are just looking for a few to take home. And just because one agent or reader doesn’t love your book, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t. The agent puts your book back on the shelf for someone else to come along and discover.

The day started with another partial request for my manuscript. That’s seven out now; four full and three partials. Not bad, really.

Nice walk this morning, too, sunny and cool, which is my favorite kind of fall weather: crisp.

1. “Mrs. Rita” by Gin Blossoms
2. “Overkill” by Jimmy Buffett
3. “Real World” by Matchbox Twenty
4. “Runaway” by Maroon 5
5. “Deep As You Go” by October Project
6. “Final Act” (from the Sherlock soundtrack)
7. “I Don’t Wanna Know” by Fleetwood Mac
8. “Robin in the Rain” by Raffi
9. “Miami” (live cut) by Counting Crows
10. “Until I Fall Away” by Gin Blossoms

There’s a nice symmetry to beginning and ending with Gin Blossoms, and those two songs in particular are good for starting and stopping.

And, yes, I keep Raffi’s “Robin in the Rain” on my iPod. It’s so cute and jazzy, and when my son Robert is around, we sing “Robert in the Rain” instead.

As for the live cut of “Miami,” I don’t usually like live albums unless there’s something new and different about the way the songs are played, but for some reason I do really like the New Amsterdam album.