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Friday, March 22, 2013

When You're Writing Til 7 AM, I Love You--and That Will Save My Writing

Writing all night long. A soft pressure in the back, and sides of your eyeballs. A dryness on your lids. A weird taste on your tongue no matter how many times you lick your teeth. One hand's pressing harder against the keyboard than the other, and that's driving the edge into your wrist. It'll leave a stupid-looking itchy mark. Unshowered, unkempt, and with eyes like a ghost in the sallow face of a fresh zombie...

That's when I love you most.

"What?" you say. "You don't even know me!"

But you know you. You know who's got a crick in her neck or a slow burn at the base of his back from stooping over the keyboard. And I know you exist.

Maybe you're not a writer. Maybe you're a student, fingers stumbling through your textbook for tomorrow's test. (Oh wait, it's today's now.) Maybe you're a construction worker who just got back from working the cold, dead twilight shift so commuters can drive during the day without hitting you. You whacked your finger with something today. Your whole spine's an electrical arc of pain. You stubbed your toe coming in.

I love you! I love you so much! You are most beautiful to me, right now, as you strain and suffer and blink and sigh, aching just for a pillow as you shuffle onward. Oh my wonderful reader, you're the flame that makes humanity worth reading and writing about. You're the gold purified by fire, and my heart here, splattered a bit foolishly all over this page, goes out to you. We write about you. Every single story ultimately longs for a rest, a denouement, a catharsis. Every hero and every good villain hurts for his or her own peace. The advice forums talk about conflict, about immediacy in your scenes, and I'm suffering to implement that right now, but--but! But because of you. Because of you I strain, because straining is what we are about, and straining makes beautiful stories. You know, as modern medicine eliminated our diseases, our immune systems had nothing to fight, so they began to fight us--that's diabetes, allergies, most Western diseases, and the story of how we're made, from body to soul to mind: we are made to struggle. 

So we struggle. We shuffle. We fly.

We fall.

And we rest.

That's the story of our lives. That's the story of our all-nighters. And that's the "formula" that will save our writing. All beguiling characters, gripping plots, and electric voices come from this formula.

It's the formula that will save the world.

"For we who have believed enter that rest." Hebrews 4:3

Thursday, March 21, 2013

R2D2 Hats! Your favorite astromech droid on your head!

Since a lot of you have asked about the hat my husband made me, I thought I'd offer one to you! We have extremely limited supplies since Brian makes them by hand, but if you pre-order about a month in advance we can slice 'em down to $27 plus shipping.

"Excuse me, sir, but that R2 unit is in prime condition, a real bargain." C3PO's right--far as I can tell, this is the best knitted R2-D2 hat available. Any other hats just aren't the droid you're looking for. Most either miss important details, or come in crocheted, not knitted, patterns, which makes for kind of a less droid-like and more "pixelated" look. Google and compare: with delicate knit, accurate 3D details birthed by thorough comparison to all the movies, and breathable warmth, this hat's definitely my chosen one. Mine's a little stretched, as you can see, because I keep bunching my hair up into it: the original hat actually looked even better than what I'm wearing here. Who says when 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not? With this hat you can.

The droid you're looking for.
Paypal's above so you can get this hat without the Empire finding out. (Translation: you can pay securely) Make sure you leave a comment below first so I can confirm your order--we have very, very limited supplies, so it's first-come first-serve!

May the Force be with you!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why You WANT An Agent to Reject You

I came across a post on Absolute Write today that was more passive-aggressive than Emperor Palpatine on sedatives--in which a prospective author said an agent could 'drop dead' for rejecting him.

Okay, maybe that's not passive-aggressive. Maybe that's straight up aggressive.

Here's the thing, everybody--you want rejections. You need them. Without them, you will not survive in the writing world.

What was that? And who am I to say such a preposterous thing?

I'm a ghost. An invisible nobody. No, really, I'm not kidding--I ghost-write for a living--and I'd be humiliated if some of the things I wrote even just three years ago saw the light of day. Thank God I got rejected. That's not blasphemy. I mean it. I write so much better now because some folks looked me in the eye across the internet and shot lasers at me until I stopped vomiting adverbs and purple prose. So maybe you're not like me. Maybe you wrote like Shakespeare's Muse from the day you burst out of your mother's womb. But you still need rejection.

No, I'm not gonna break into a spiel about how it makes you stronger and increases your soul's power to over 9,000 or anything like that. That's been said.

No, you want rejection because you want to avoid the terrible things acceptance could do to you under the wrong circumstances. Would you rather become trapped in a legal contract with an agent who actually hates your work, or would you rather get a pleasant rejection? Would you rather humiliate yourself and destroy an agent's reputation by forcing her to represent sub-par work, or would you rather improve? Would you rather deal for years with an agent who doesn't really understand your subject and can't figure out where to pitch your work, or would you rather he told you, "hey, I'm not really into superheroes, I'm gonna pass"? You deserve an agent who's crazy about you and your work--and your agent deserves a client who can keep her career on the rise. Anything less than that, any kind of compromise, will only damage your career in the long run.

Back in 2011, Wendy Lawton of the Books and Such Literary Agency wrote a post that involved these five words about her agenting approach: "Speak the truth in love." She doesn't give out manuscript requests too liberally at conferences, she says, because she doesn't want to raise the hopes of an author who really needs to do some polishing first. I'm not going to say I hate getting manuscript requests--oh gosh I don't--but please just reject me if it's not going to work. Waiting and waiting for a manuscript request that really only holds me back from much-needed revisions? No thanks. If my partial is so bad you're only reading to see where the trainwreck goes, please, please don't request the MS. That's just mean. I'm not saying agents do this. I'm saying I'm so glad they don't. I'm so, so happy that agents take the time to send kind, honest rejections, whether or not they have time to give a line of feedback.

So, dear writing friends, this isn't a "quit your whining" post. God only knows I'm here with you. This is a post to tell you how much you need rejection to protect you from the scary publishing world, to cleanse your writing, and to strengthen your character. Please don't go sending a 'thank-you' to every agent who sends you a form rejection, now, but do say an honest thank-you in your heart--or a prayer, if you can--for each rejection you get. Don't let it hurt.

These are only the pangs of the rebirth of your muse.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Interview with Neas, part II

Last week, I was interviewing a dirty tunic-clad hero in the Ilium underground, when he suddenly pushed me!

 “Goose-it! Get behind that column, pronto!”

I jump! I just catch the buzz—like bees, wind, and my computer fan mixed together—before lights with riders roar by my hiding spot. Neas has disappeared in the fog.

He’s back before I can see where he hid. “Yikes,” he says. “You still itchin’? Perfect. See those two bogeys? The ones whizzin’ down the road? Those markin’s mean they work for that gooser I was tellin’ you ‘bout earlier. Gore. Yeah. And you hear that whizzin’ when they flew by? Soundin’ kinda like Vergil?”

“Like me, Sir?”

“Yeah… that’s my favorite sound. The whizzin’ a hoverboard makes when it boosts across the road. Always wanted to try ridin’ one… yet another thing Mentor won’t let me try. But they’re hard as heck to find, you know? And bikes ain’t the same, no matter what Acamas says. I can see it now… wind blowin’ through my hair, boosters flyin’ me higher and higher, then… BAM! All of Ilium right in front of me. The stars and the spires and everythin’ in-between. Yeah…”

“That sounds pretty cool,” I smile. I can see it—shoot, I have seen it. But I won’t spoil the surprise for him. Aeneas, Ilium's future unwilling savior, doesn’t need pro-tips from a—uh—‘porter’ like me.

 But if I'd given him a pro-tip or two, I might have saved him a lot of heartache. Keep reading here to find out how I got stuck between a love for a new friend and the rules that hold our universes together--and if you'd like me to interview YOUR character, e-mail me at petrepan at gmail dot com.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Totally Pigeon Interview with Lost Boy, street urchin, and unwilling sci-fi hero Aeneas, Part 1

Travel with me to the land of Ilium, a creation of author John Krissilas, and meet unwilling teen sci fi hero Aeneas as I conduct an intergalactic, cross-dimensional interview! Follow John on twitter @JohnKrissilas and check out his blog at JohnKrissilas.com. Drop him an encouraging line if you like what you see here, and if you want me to interview YOUR MC, let me know! For the fully illustrated version of this interview with John's notes, head here.

 I think I'm on time; at any rate, I think it's illegal for me to be late. Laws of fiction, space, and time, and all that. Not that law matters much where I am now. The Underground of Ilium, full of scaled gangsters, lost urchins, and flat, corrupt policemen--it's where rejects from the Colonies live.

I'm here for one reject in particular, and I find him leaning against a column by the side of the littered, winding street. He sees me and dashes behind the column; I smile a bit and wait, shivering in the dark, rancid mist. Ships whir overhead, but I pretend not to notice them--probably couldn't see them anyway in this smog if I tried. I'd no idea it'd be this bad.

My host peeks out at me with steel-grey eyes. Clumps of dust pepper his curls, and I can just see the edge of a blue tunic that looks like it's seen better days.

A centipede scuttles out of a crack by my foot. I step away--the kid snickers. At last he inches out from behind the column, cracks a smile, and strolls over to me.

"Hey! You, um… you the... porter?" he says. "Like… from outside of Ilium or somethin'? That your deal? Hmm. Never seen no one dressed like that before. Guess you're legit. Name's Neas. Neas of the Lost Boys. Nice to… you know… meet ya."

I nod, and he invites me to sit next to him on the curb. Awkward silence falls, and it's entirely my fault--but it's hard to prepare for a cross-dimensional interview. He prods a bundle of wires with his boot. He seems antsy, nervous, even, and I want to say something, but I'm suddenly wondering if I'll sound funny to him. Porter? I--well, I--

A little light in the background saves me from saying something stupid. A compact cylinder rises from behind some unrecognizable junk and flicks a spotlight at Aeneas. "Sir…" it says.

"Cool it, Vergil! I told you to stay hidden, buddy!"

"My apologies, Sir, but…"

"Don't scare me like that. What's so itchin'?"

"I believe she has a question for you, Sir," Vergil says. Thank-you, well-informed Ilium drone, I'm thinking. I need myself one of these: it remembered the questions I sent ahead of time.

"Hmm?" Neas asks.

"About your preferred form of… sustenance, Sir."

"Sustance? What're you goin' on 'bout? Oh… you mean food!"

"Indeed, Sir."

"Hmm. Hey porter. You, um… don't know much 'bout the Underground, do you? We ain't got much 'food' down here… 'least not the kind you'd be used to, you get me? You're lookin' like you'd be better off in a Colony. Yep. Hear they got big farms… with every kinda food you can imagine! Even got these bogeys called cooks… all they do is make food! Um… not that I give a goose or anythin'…"

Which of course, makes me think maybe he does 'give a goose,' at least enough to feel jealous of the Colonists, but Vergil interrupts him again. "Sir..."


"Her question, Sir."

"Oh yeah. Well, down here, there ain't exactly table service. Me and the Lost Boys — you heard of us, right? Right?"

"Of course." I have. It's a bit tragic, but I don't tell him that.

"Well, we usually end up choosin' between the green thing, the rotten thing, or the thing that's kinda… still alive, you get me? Can't say I've gotten the hang of it myself. Say… you wanna try some?"

"Sir… I do not believe that is an optimal decision."

"Goose-it, Vergil! Hold your beef! Where was I?"

Vergil's got me cracking up inside. I'm not gonna argue with him--that's not professional--but I gotta admit Neas has me gastronomically curious. Green thing?

But Neas comes up with something else. "Oh yeah…Speakin' of beef, it's not all bad down here, you know," he says. "There're some places… kinda like clubs… deep in the Underground, where they got the good stuff. Steak… taters… even beer! Um, not that I've ever tried it, of course. You can even watch the goosers on stage while you're at it. Called performers or somethin'. My favorite's the sword swallower! Guy's got…"

"Sir, it seems you have forgotten about…"

"Oh yeah. Well, they ain't exactly welcomin' places, you get me? They're run by mobsters, you know. This one bogey… think his name's Gore or somethin'… he's a real piece of work. Got a head like a melon, eyes like grapes, and the nastiest scar this side of the Wall. Bogey'll never catch me, though. I'm kinda like a… a thief, you know? Anyways, you can actually find the best stuff on the surface… above the club. In the dumpsters, you get me? Hey… hey Vergil?"

"How may I be of service?"

"Remind me to stop by Gore's on the way home, yeah?" A little alarm rings in my head; I silence it.

"It would be my pleasure, Sir."

"Yeah, so... How long's this innerview gonna take? I'm hungry!"

"Eh, half an hour, an hour, however short you want," I shrug. I love Neas's attitude, and I'm tickled he's this willing to talk to a stranger like me--with all his chatter already, I almost wonder if he isn't a bit lonely. I continue, "But I don't like interviewing on an empty stomach--so I'll follow you to the dumpster, if you don't mind, and we can talk and eat. Is that--doable?" 

"Hmm… you sure 'bout that, porter?" He smirks. I pause. Suddenly I doubt we'll be in a position to chat while stealing out of the dumpster. 

"You know," I say. "We could just talk on the way, do the dumpster thing, and then talk after if we get a chance. I got a few questions--just while we walk or however we're getting there."

He shrugs. "Um, yeah. Guess we can walk…" He stands, and I follow him, brushing some kind of gunk off my khakis.

"Just be ready to bolt," he says. "Jukes own this road, you know. The last thing you want is to get caught by those bogeys, you get me? Hear they got a taste for porters..."

"Sir, I do not believe it is appropriate for you to--"

"Cool it, Vergil! I'm innerviewin'!"

"Indeed, Sir."

"Okay, okay. I'm ready."

Right, interview. I smile, and start off easy. "'Kay. First, tell me how old you are."

"Hmm… gettin' kinda personal, ain't you, porter?"

Shoot. I don't think so, although--I hope I didn't break any of this world's social taboos by asking age. But he continues.

"Okay, well… I kinda just turned seventeen. Not too long ago, you know."

"Just yesterday, Sir."

"Um, yeah. What Vergil said. Mentor tells me it's supposed to be a special day or somethin'… you know, turnin' seventeen. Don't know what that old goose's goin' on 'bout, but he and the other Lost Boys're plannin' somethin'. Told me to goose-it for a few days while they do their preparin'. Get some fresh air, you get me? So yeah. Don't know what they're plannin'… or why things're any different now. Hey, um… you ain't gonna tell anyone 'bout this innerview, are ya? They'll kill me if they found out I was talkin' to you…"

"I believe she is planning to publish it, Sir."

"Dang it. It never ends…"

Kill him? Hold up! I hope he means that figuratively, but in Ilium you never know--I throw up my hands to interrupt. "Whoa, whoa, back up, no one in Ilium can see this thing. I'm publishing it so far away you'd never read it even if you travelled for a thousand years."

Neas raises an eyebrow, but he doesn't protest, so I go on: "Next question--what's the funnest thing that's ever happened to you? Or you can tell me the worst, instead, if you like."

"Funnest? Hmm. Okay… once, Acamas took me to a slider match. You got slider where you come from, porter? Well, it's the most pigeon you'll ever have in one place, you get me? Got this fireball that bolts 'round an oval like nothin' else. And one gooser on each side, tryin' to, you know, juice it. So everyone's screamin' and Acamas is yellin' at the bookie, tryin' to place his bet, when the slider smokes through the wall and juices some gooser in the front row. And I'm like: 'Woah!' Then we hear sirens, which means the spooks're 'bout to come flyin' in to bust everyone, and so Acamas and me get the heck outta there!"

"You have never told me about this story, Sir."

"Um… yeah. Keep this between us, okay buddy? So anyways, Acamas stops me just before we head home, and tells me to tell Mentor that we were tradin' or somethin'. The old man doesn't want me near slider, you get me? But one day, I'm gonna play. Just me, the slider, and all those bogeys cheerin' for me…"

"I do not like the sound of this, Sir."

"Whatever, Vergil…"

They stop talking as he kicks a rock in his path. I jump in: "Then I'd like to know your favorite sound."

  But Neas shoves me and jumps to the side. "Goose-it! Get behind that column, pronto!"

Next installment next week! Find out whether or not I get killed by Ilium police. = P Follow John on twitter @JohnKrissilas and check out his blog at JohnKrissilas.com. Drop him an encouraging line if you like what you see here, and if you want me to interview YOUR MC, let me know!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Interview with Author Tamara Mataya (AKA Feaky Snucker): Multitasking & Platforming

If you participated in Pitchmas, you know you're in for a treat. If not, well, now you know you're in for a treat, since I just told you.

Tamara's represented by Marisa Cleveland of the Seymour Agency, and she loves to give back to the writing community by offering opportunities for other writers to get closer to agents and editors. She's good at multitasking and building a strong community presence, so I thought I'd ask her to share her strengths with us. Without further ado:

1. You're an author who switched from NA to YA, and from what I hear it sounds like you may be putting out some NA again soon. What's the big difference between NA and YA, and how has writing in these two different age categories affected your personal writing style?

I just write the ideas that come to me. I've always been an eclectic writer, an eclectic PERSON, really. It's the same reason I hate singing with choirs - I hate being limited to a section. What if I am totally into what the sopranos are doing? What if I want to live where the altos are at?! I hate being limited! The defining difference between YA and NA is the age group, and their shared experiences. NA is 19-24ish. They're at a different time in life - it's not about high school anymore. The characters are still young, but they're going out in the real world on their own. College, or the workforce. Living on their own. Some people think the difference is that NA has graphic sex whereas YA is closed door, or toned down. I think that's ignorant to books in general. But I've ranted about that at length on my blog haha.

I have ideas for literally EVERY category, and almost every genre. I'm lucky that I've found an agent who gets me and (so far) has loved everything I've written.

2. You've got three completed MS's that you finished within a relatively short time of each other. How does your time management work? What's the "multi-tasking" writing secret?
Yes, 3 MS's in 8 months. I think you really have to focus, and decide that your writing time is something that family/ friends have to respect. I give my husband a heads up when I'm going for a high word count day. (High word count day for me is pathetically low to some writers I know. My record is 8k words in a day). He knows if he interrupts me, that he will probably get snarled at. You have to decide your writing gets priority, and then just DO it.

I was on Query Shark a year or so ago. And my query got to yes, but it was after an embarrassing amount of revisions. But that taught me an incredible lesson - it's not what you write, it's how you revise. The words don't have to be perfect, but unless you sit down and write them, you've got nothing to polish. Just write. Fix it after. You can't polish unwritten words.

I think a lot of writers use things as an excuse as to why they CAN'T write. Having no time is a big one. MAKE time. Not having time is bullshit. NO ONE has time. You have to make the time. I don't write all day every day. If people only wrote a page a day, in a year they'd have a novel. 1 PAGE a day! Just do it. Stop making excuses. The laundry can wait.

3. You've built a rather large online platform, and from your agent-story I know that's contributing to your writing success. How long did it take you to build your current platform, and what's the number 1 thing writers need to remember as they build theirs?
I only started tweeting actively a year ago, but I'd say Twitter was a big part of it. I also interacted with people on blogs in the comment sections. People need to remember that it's give and take. You have to WANT to interact with other people. You can't just expect people to be interested in you and your writing. There's a fine line between self promotion and spamming. Don't spam people. Support others, but don't expect anything from them. Support people you care about, and be genuine. You'll find people willing to reciprocate, but don't be a self-entitled douchecanoe. Focus on the relationships, not what favours you've done for people, and who owes you ___.

4. If you could say your manuscripts had a sound, what sound would characterize each one?
As a synaesthete, this is a FABULOUS question.
When the Music Stops: A crunchy electric guitar with the gain cranked while someone wails on an alto sax.
Living in a Rubik's Cube: A low-pitched Tibetan Singing Water Bowl and someone murmuring in their sleep.
Moondreamer: An electric cello in a deep cave.

5. What's the most important sound in the world?
A contented sigh. Or the sharp intake of breath when someone understands you on a base level, before they exclaim that they Get You. 

 If you'd like to find out more about Tamara's work (doesn't it sound colorful???), follow her on twitter @TamaraMataya and check out her blog http://feakysnucker.blogspot.ca/ She's got loads of funny advice and great stories about her writing journey.