Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hal Spacejock

This has to be one of the coolest ideas for publicizing novels I've seen. Can't wait to read his books! And the articles on writing on Simon's site (Simon Haynes, author of the Hal Spacejock books) and the freeware downloads he has are fabulous! I downloaded his yTimer and his yWrite. yWrite so far is amazingly intuitive and fairly easy to learn. Cool beaners!!

I joined Hal Spacejock's Support Crew

I didn't pay anything,
I didn't sign anything,
and I didn't read the fine print.
Just like Hal!

No space pilot can exist in a vacuum (hah!), and behind every successful pilot there's a talented and dedicated support crew.

Hal Spacejock is one of the least successful space pilots in the history of the galaxy, and a worldwide support crew is needed just to get him off the ground.

Join now for free Hal Spacejock goodies!
| Join the team | - - - - - - - - - | Hal who? |

Hal Spacejock ... Apr├Ęs moi le wreckage

Fun writing sites. . .

Thanks to a reply to one of my replies on on the (Hatrack River Writer's Workshop forum, I found Liberty Hall, a members-only writing site that has flash challenges, crit groups, all kinds of fun things. Among the fun things I found was a link to a freeware countdown timer, which Mike (who owns Liberty Hall) recommends for use with the "flash challenges" (where you write a story in 90 minutes - ack!!). The timer is available at Spacejock Timer yTimer. In addition to offering free software, Spacejock's owner, Simon Haynes, is a published author with articles on writing, agents, publishing, etc. Here's a quote from his site:

"Over the past ten years Simon Haynes has grown from a beginning writer to a bestselling, award-winning author, and his site contains numerous articles with useful advice and warnings on writing, publishing and agents. Learn from his mistakes so you don't make them too."

Sounds good to me! And his novels look like a lot of fun. Anyone who's favorably compared to Terry Pratchett's work (he writes the Discworld series, which is hysterical sf humor, in case you don't know) is someone whose work I want to read!

And what a good marketing idea he has! I'll have to try something like that myself when my novel's published (four rejections out of eleven queries to literary agents so far - not too bad!)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Back to work for me!

I'm back from visiting our daughter and had a wonderful vacation. The weather was gorgeous, the sightseeing was fun, and it was a joy to see the progress my grandhorses have made in their training. I took over 1500 pictures (ah, the joys of a 2 gig card - plus two 512 mb cards - and a good camera!) and there are lots of good painting subjects among those pics.

The break was a great help to my writing. When I had a chance to read, I worked my way through half of literary agent Donald Maas' book How to Write the Breakout Novel. A lot of what he said is stuff I've read before, or thought out on my own, but some of it is really useful to me. One thing he said that hit home was about conflict. "What's the worst that can happen?" Think that, then make it happen and find a way for the hero to work his way out of it. As I was pondering that, the climactic battle and aftermath of my second novel popped into my head. I've known all along I'd want certain things to happen in that battle, but suddenly, there it was! So today I'm going to write down those scenes while they're fresh in my mind, despite the fact that only the first two chapters of the novel are actually written. I've planned out the rest, very loosely, but I do know where I'm going. Now if I can just keep it down to a reasonable number of words. . . (120,000 or so).


Sunday, September 17, 2006

This 'n' that

I've received three rejections so far, each of them very nice - much nicer than the rejections I got for the kids book I tried to get published back in the late 1980's. I'm not discouraged - I know I aimed high with the agents I chose to query first, but why NOT aim high? There are tons more agents to try if these all reject me, but my hope is that the ones who asked for pages with the query and synopsis will be captured by the story and ask for more. I'm sure my story is better written than my queries!

I've just returned from a week-long painting workshop with Elin Pendleton at the Kentucky Horse Park. I tried to write in the evenings, but my brain was so full of information about painting, I had a hard time stringing words together, much less writing a coherent story! Still, I made a start on a short story to keep my HP readers happy. Hopefully, I'll be able to come up with a fun conclusion to this little piece of fluff soon!

I'm off for a week-long visit with our daughter and son-in-law tomorrow. I'll be teaching her what I learned in my painting workshop, and we'll be sightseeing and messing around with her horses, and I'll get to see her take lessons on two of my grandhorses. Hmm, I need to charge the camera batteries. . .there are bound to be good painting subjects in those pictures! I'm taking notecards with me to try to bash out a logical plot for the second novel, which is started but needs a better framework before I move too far ahead with it. I need to balance the action and story between this second book and the third one planned for this series, so both books have equally good plots. I'm usually a blank-page writer, so this "planning" thing is hard, but necessary for what I'm doing here.

Hopefully I'll start getting INTERESTED responses from agents soon! (Yeah, I'm a dreamer, but at least I dream BIG!! LOL!)

Friday, September 08, 2006


I just sent out a second email query and have a stack of fat envelopes to send to nine other literary agents. "Star Sons" is now officially put to bed, waiting to hear from the agent who's going to find me a publisher who LOVES my work so I can see these (at least) three books (it's at least a trilogy) published before I get too old to enjoy it!!

I feel like such a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, having all this work finished. I'm nearly giddy with it! NOW I'm free to go to my painting workshop and have fun there, and to play with a little story that's niggling the back of my mind, as well as getting going on the second Star Sons book. YAAAAAAAAAY!

I do realize there may be significant changes in my novel once an editor gets hold of it, which may impact the second novel, but I want to get my ideas down while they're jumping around in my head, so I'll get going with it soon. Three chapters already exist, although it's untitled. I'm looking forward to moving on to another novel! Yay!

Anyway, YIPPEE! I'm off to the post office with all these queries!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

*Some* progress, anyway!

I have my ten query packets all nicely packed up except for the queries and synopses now. The #10 SASE and whatever amount of pages of the novel each agent wants is in the envelope, with a sticky note on the outside showing a checklist noting the agent's name, and listing "Query, Synopsis, __ Pages, SASE" (with the __ filled in with the right number of pages or chapters). I check off each thing as it's added to the envelope. If I don't do things THIS carefully, I may slip up and I'm determined to do this right! So I've triple-checked that each SASE is in the correct envelope. I put the agent's name and addy as the return address so I'll know at a glance who it's from when it returns. I'm waiting for one more person (a real, live published author who was kind enough to agree to this!) to get back to me on my query and synopsis before sending everything out.

I've sent my synopsis to a couple of folks from the Hatrack River site who responded to my request for readers. Each of them contributed something very different to the process, but everything they offered was a huge help.

As for my formatting woes, they continue. I'm still fighting with Word documents, but when I save each chapter as a .txt, they behave better. I'm up to chapter 5 of 22 long chapters in reformatting, but I'm making progress. Scott on the Critters Newsgroup said I can do a find and replace with _(*)_ in the "find" box and "\1" in the "replace" box and it will change the underbars to underlines ("underbar" = a underscore before and after the word, denoting italics for the Critters critique site). The underlines will be changed into italics when the book is formatted for publication (note, I said "WHEN" the book is formatted!! Thinking positively here!) Anyway, I'm getting tired of this job, but going through it so carefully is helping me catch tiny little things I can improve, so it isn't a total waste of time.

Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to go to a painting workshop led by Elin Pendleton, a fabulous artist, good buddy and very funny lady - also a beta on "Star Sons." The workshop is at the Kentucky Horse Park, one of the classes offered by the It will be good to immerse myself in art, horses and friendship for a week and rest from all this writing and querying stuff!!!American Academy of Equine Art, a very prestigious group of which I'm an "almost Associate member" - my membership will be voted on in the fall.

It's a gorgeous day. I think I'll fight the formatting battle for a while, then go and ride my horse. Yeah, that sounds like a plan!! Meanwhile, a new HP ficlet is tickling the back of my mind and the second novel is singing its siren song - and Elin has already told me she expects me to paint a scene from it in class next week! ACK! I'm a SCULPTOR not a painter!!!! Maybe by the end of next week, I'll be on my way to being a painter, too! Sure hope so!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ooops - and GRRRRRRR!

*Sigh* I take two steps forward and ten steps backward sometimes. Ignore what I said in the previous post about WIN's format. The format they require for it to print out properly is single-spaced, block left, NOT indented!! So here I am, reformatting the entire novel AGAIN! And when I print it out, if I don't want to have double-spaces between paragraphs (extra double space, I mean), I'll have to go through and fix THOSE! Next novel, I think I'll write it in Word and keep the notes and stuff in WIN - it will just be easier that way. I don't understand WIN's format setup well enough to work with it easily. I wish I wasn't so technically challenged. I've wasted so many hours - several days now, actually - fighting with this formatting problem. I never said I was a genius!

I've tinkered with the novel again, and honestly can't find a lot more I can do to it, so it MUST be finished. It's also at the point where I need to stop looking at it, so when I get the printouts done I need for the query submissions, I'm putting "Star Sons" to bed and going back to my art studio to paint and sculpt a bit and get back to work on the second novel, too. WHEW! I'll be glad when I get these queries out! They're a lot more work than I expected them to be! It really was easier to write a 115,000 word novel (and a lot more fun!!) than to get all these things ready to print and pack up to send to agents!

Back to reformatting for me. *sigh*

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Too much precision isn't necessarily a good thing

I'm still getting my query packets ready to go to agents and asked on a couple of writers' message boards about word count. I'd written my novel in WriteItNow software (WIN), which I like very well for the features it offers, but I exported the file to Word so my betas could make comments. I've been editing it in Word, using their comments, and because I have the entire novel as one file, so it's easy to do "find/replace" kind of things. Now that I'm pretty much finished with it, I put it back in WriteItNow so the program could print out my submssions in proper format (which is much easier than formatting them by hand!) Once I had that done - and I was SOOOOoooooo careful so I didn't copy more than one chapter into a file (each chapter is its own file on WIN), I did a word count and found it was WAY over what it should be according to the word counts done by Word! I went back and checked each chapter - only one chapter was in each file as far as I could tell. Argh. So I blamed the WIN software and growled and grumbled a LOT! Then I had to go through and reformat the novel to fit WIN's criteria (single-space, indented paragraphs, so it will print out in proper double-spaced format). As I went through the chapters clicking on the vast majority of the lines in each chapter, I finally found where an extra chapter had been included in one, thus messing up the word count! ARGH!!! But at least I found the problem!

In the meantime, I'd gone whining to the writers boards I frequent: Hatrack River Writers Workshop and Critters Newsgroups, and asked about word counts there. Everyone there told me "IT DOESN'T MATTER!" WHEW! They said if I was at 127,000+ words as WIN thought I was for a while, I should just say it was "complete at 120,000 words." What a relief! I actually have about 115,000 words in this novel, now that I can get a proper word count, so I'm under the 120,000 upper limit the agency sites say is acceptable for unpublished novelists.

Another thing I learned from these questions of mine on those message boards is that, if a paragraph or sentence breaks at the end of the fifth page, and the agent asked for five pages, it's considered unprofessional if you only send the five pages. Everything I've read said it was unprofessional to not follow the instructions, but as these writers said, common sense should prevail! So I'll include the sixth page that finishes the dramatic arc of the first chapter in just a few lines on that sixth page. Live and learn!