Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Now This is a Contest April 13, 2010

Filed under: Write,Writing Contests,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 2:27 am
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Over at Sarah with a Chance (love that title), you can enter a fantabulous contest.  Check out the details on her blog  And let me offer congrats to her – her book is going to be published in 2012.  Yay for her – and yay for us, because it gives unpublished writers hope!

So, I think I have a contest/blogfest problem.  Like, maybe an addiction.  I enter one, and for a few minutes – maybe even a couple of days – the excitement and anxiousness all mingle together and fill my body with this warm, heady feeling.  And then, it goes away.  And I need another fix.  Is there some kind of support group I can join?  Maybe a five-step program (because ten or twelve steps is way too many).

No?

Damn.  Well, guess if you can’t beat an addiction…you try and justify it.  So here goes.

Entering contests and blogfests is fun and a great way to waste your time  improve your craft.  You work on a query/logline/scene and revise until it can be revised no more (on your own).  You enter.  You wait for feedback (if you’re lucky).  And then, you either a) find out what you thought was your best is not or b) find out you’re not the hack you thought you were.  I’ve been really, really fortunate.  The feedback I’ve received on recent entries has been incredible.  Helpful, yes – but the positive remarks also gave me a much-needed shot of confidence. 

And even when you enter a contest – and do not come out the winner – you don’t lose, either.  If you really worked on your entry, then your query/logline/scene is the better for it.  It’s amazing what happens when you do ‘micro-revisions’ – when you work on one scene or even part of a scene.  Every sentence, every word is scrutinized in a way not often done during larger revisions.  Yes, when doing any size revision you should pay attention to every single word – but sometimes it takes focusing on a small section of your novel to really get what that means.  To feel the pacing of your scene, the flow of your writing. 

Recent blogfests – Opening Scene, Murder Scene, Bar Scene.  Recent contests – First 250 words, logline and opening paragraph. 

Results – comments from readers that help me fine-tune each scene or make larger changes if needed.  And that logline contest?  Whew, working on loglines is hard.  But – while I didn’t win – the agent contacted me and said I’d made his top list.  He extended an offer to read my query, and if he passes – to let me know why.  Now, I consider that a win-win situation. 

Hmmm….maybe I’m not wasting my time using my time wisely after all.

 

Bar Scene Blogfest Entry April 11, 2010

Filed under: Where Did That Come From??,Writing,Writing Contests — justwritecat @ 1:25 am
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Ooh, another blogfest!  This time it’s BAR SCENES, hosted by Tara over at Secret Story 

Well, now.  A Bar Scene.  Oh, yes….goody, goody.  Joe likes his booze, that he does.  Below is my entry, an excerpt from the first chapter of Seeing Red: Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  Set-up  – Joe’s taking it easy, enjoying his fine single-malt scotch, basking in the beauty of his favorite bartender and regular gal Pamela.  Enter the bad guys.

             I raised my drink and took a sip; the hint of smoke and sea salt teased my tongue.  I took a few more, letting the booze work to quiet my senses.  I leaned forward and set my glass down on the smooth oak bar.  Our eyes met, and Pamela gave me one of her half smiles. 

            She picked up the bottle, her soft, amber hair slowly falling across her shoulder as she leaned forward to fill my glass.  As she topped off my drink, the front door banged open.  The bottle trembled in her hand, and I watched as a drop of thirty-two-year-old single malt missed my glass and hit the bar. 

            “They’re back.”

            I looked up.  Pamela’s head was turned towards the front of the bar; her hand gripped the bottle, her knuckles white.  Worry flashed across her deep blue eyes. 

            Two goth looking wannabes had walked in, accompanied by a late summer breeze and a scent that seemed oddly familiar.  Cloves, maybe.  One of them sniffed the air and then looked at his buddy.  If they were human, I’d drink a Cosmopolitan.     

            I looked back at Pamela, who was still holding the bottle.  “Easy now, angel.”

            She looked at me, and then set the bottle down.  “Those are the kids I told you about.  They had trouble taking no for an answer when I refused to serve them beers earlier today.  I could’ve sworn one of them growled at me when I threatened to call the cops.”

            The first one walked up to the bar.  Just on the outside of sixteen, I’d bet.  Tallish, with blazing green eyes and spiked reddish-blond hair.  Looked like a damn rooster.  The second one stood close behind—appeared to be about two years younger and an inch shorter, with jagged jet black hair and eyes to match.  There was something grimy about the air around them.  And while their scent was familiar, their faces were not.  Didn’t think they knew me, but if they were trying to cause trouble, it was time I got to know them.  And if they were in any way involved with the reason I came to this town, then yeah—introductions were in order.  I was back on full alert.     

            “We’re starving.  Make it two burgers,” the older one said.

            I looked back at my glass of scotch, contemplating the drop that got away.  “Heard of a thing called manners?” 

            The second one snickered; the first one didn’t do a thing.

            “I said two burgers. Rare. And two beers.”

            I looked up at Pamela, who stood motionless behind the bar.  Still looking at her, I coughed lightly and said, “And I said, how about some manners?”

            The one with the green eyes turned to look at me.  I returned the courtesy.  That’s when I noticed something wrong with his eyes.  They were on fire.  Not because of his true nature, not because he was probably full on human blood, but for another reason.  Sick?  Not very likely, not for our kind.  Had to be drugs.    

            “Keep it to yourself, old man.”

            Mr. Jet Black hair snickered again, sniffed, and then put his arms around himself and shivered.  Drugs.  What the hell were these two thinking?  Drugs and our kind don’t usually mix.    

            “The kitchen’s already closed.  Besides, you know I can’t serve minors,” Pamela said.  “You’ll have to leave.” 

            Green eyes stared at her for a long moment, like he was cataloguing her image for later.  And that, I didn’t like. 

            When they didn’t move, I said, “So you don’t do polite, but maybe you also got a hearing problem?  The lady asked you to leave. Why don’t I show you the way out?” 

            His sidekick shivered again, then said, “Let’s go, Jeff.”  

            The first one stared at me, this funny look on his face.  Like he wanted to bite me.  Well, hell—let him try.  I laughed at the thought.

            “Laughing at me, old man?”  That was twice now.  When you’re blessed with immortality, age is irrelevant.  I hated being reminded of that fact.

            “Maybe I am, Jeff.  Now, be a good boy and listen to your friend.”  I looked at the other one.  “Your name’s not Mutt, I suppose?”

            “Huh?”

            “No, I suppose not.”  I set my glass down on the bar, pushed back my barstool, and stood up.  “Guess you do need help finding your way out.” 

            Just then, the double door that separated the bar and restaurant from the kitchen swung open.  A young waitress by the name of Daisy sauntered through and worked her way up to the bar.  Though at least a decade younger, Daisy was one of Pamela’s closest friends.  She was a cute young thing, a brunette with cocoa eyes, though a bit too cheerful for my tastes. 

            “I forgot my gym bag in the break area.”  She walked over to my side, stopping right in front of the two punks.  “I heard voices up front.”  She smiled at me.  “I’m not suprised to find you here, but who are the kids?  Friends of yours?”

            I heard a low gutteral sound from Green eyes, and in less than a second he grabbed Daisy’s wrist and sniffed it.  As he was about to lick her wrist, I moved between them and grabbed his arm.  I squeezed quick and tight, and said, “Let go. Now.”

            He let out a deep growl, like a dog makes when he’s about to lose his bone. 

            I squeezed tighter and heard bones snap. 

            He growled again, though it was more of a wimper, and let go.  As I pushed Daisy behind me, Pamela rushed over to her side. 

           He looked at me and I started to see the tips of something white and sharp poke out from under his upper lip.  What the hell was wrong with this one?  Pulling that kind of crap in front of humans was not only stupid—it was dangerous for all our kind.  Don’t call attention to yourself unless you need to use it.  Vampires fare best when following that rule.      

          Yeah, that’s what I am.  Vampire.  And it was time for my own fangs to come out.

 

Murder Scene Blogfest Entry April 9, 2010

Heh, heh, heh.  I get to kill someone today.  I LOVE when that happens. 

O.K.  – so before you think I’ve gone all ‘nutso-crazies’, I’m referring to the Murder Scene Blogfest hosted by Anne Riley.  You can find the details at her blog.  Check it out, then please come back and read my entry.  Let me know what you think!

This is an excerpt from Chapter Three of Seeing Red: Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  In this scene, medical examiner and vampire Joe Cooper has just received a call about a fire in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  Remains of something that might be human were found after the fire was put out, so he’s off to investigate. You can read the first chapter of Seeing Red here: Chapter One

Broadway Pier—one of over a dozen in the area—juts far out into the water, making it a popular parking spot for the schooners and water taxis that traverse Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  None were docked tonight, which had probably helped contain the fire.  As I walked to the end of the pier, the smells of the Harbor intensified.  Thanks to the infestation of algae that hit every summer, the water reeked of decaying fish.  I took a deep breath and got an idea of what triggered Mells’ warning bells.  There was a faint whiff of something—musky, like going deep-woods, that lingered in the cool night air.  Catalogued and mentally filed—with all the other vamp scents I knew—for further consideration. 

While all vampire senses are finely honed, and more intense than any human could possibly handle, the one we rely on the most is the sense of smell.  The way I see it, the faster you can detect someone’s scent, the better chance you have of staying one step ahead of ‘em. 

The end of the pier was cordoned off with a stretch of grey, fraying rope.  As M.E. on the scene, anything on the other side of that rope was my domain.  I lifted it up, stepped under it, and got to work. 

Every person deserves to have the full attention of another at least once in life.  I looked at the mess in front of me.  This was its time.  And it had my attention. At first look it seemed the tangled mass of grey and black was anything but human.  But it was, or had been.  Telltale signs of Homo sapiens—charred organs, broken bones and several teeth—lay in the debris.  I dismissed the sounds and smells of the others—the cops and firefighters and onlookers whose hearts still beat in time and whose blood still flowed in their veins—and focused on the victim’s scent. 

I inhaled deeply.  The scent of charred flesh hit me first—but then, not much can cut through that kind of stench.  Somewhere in that smell was a hint of copper, but it should’ve been stronger since that’s the first thing you usually detect if blood is present.  Even with a body burned almost beyond recognition, there should be enough residual blood in the corpse.  Something must’ve significantly drained the body of blood prior to chopping it to pieces, and that had me concerned because there’s only one kind of something that can do that—my kind. 

Goddamn.  One of my own had gone rogue, and in a bad way.  Targeting other vampires, leaving their remains out in public view.  And bringing unwanted attention to us all. 

I called over one of the forensic techs and told him to get to work.     

“How should I bag the—remains?”

“Carefully.”

 

#askagent – It’s Fun!

Filed under: Agents,Life,Social Media — justwritecat @ 2:36 am
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You do know there are some incredibly helpful agents you should be following on Twitter, right? Following now. Agents who tweet about the industry, post links to their blogs, offer helpful tips (on queries, writing, blogging, whatever), and generally do what they can to reach out to writers in an attempt to make the road to ‘publishdom’ less bumpy. Or to agentdom, if that’s a more immediate concern of yours.

There’s a goldmine out there, folks – and Twitter is but one way to get the inside info on things. Case in point: #askagent. #askagent is a Twitter chat, scheduled on a whim, that gives writers the opportunity to ask REAL AGENTS questions about the biz. Please note – there are absolutely no questions allowed about queries (so don’t go to hawk your own manuscript). You can (and should) research individual agents to find out their query and submission guidelines, as well as what genres they’re open to at the time you plan to submit. What you can ask are questions about anything else – what it’s like to work w/ an agent, their take on changes in the industry, views on the use of social media for writers….and just about anything else you can think of that an agent would know.

Last night, I asked if four months was too long to re-send a revised manuscript to an agent who offered to read it again after changes were made. I was worried I’d taken too long to work on the revision. Their replies suggested that wasn’t too long, and in fact – would show the agent I had taken the time to really work on my manuscript. Also, when I resubmit I should remind the agent I was invited to do so. In my mind, I thought waiting too long (which for me, is like a month) might cause the agent to lose interest. I never considered sending it back too soon would suggest my revision work had been….lax. So, good to know that sending the revised manuscript out this month is still a viable option.

The other great thing about the #askagent chat is that you get to interact with agents. You know, as if they are real people. Seriously, when I first started on this journey I felt so nervous by the prospect of interacting with agents. I wasn’t sure how to approach any in a less formal setting. Should I make jokes?  Would offers of baked goods and/or liquor be well-received?  Am I allowed to make direct eye contact, or will that only anger the royalty?

Ok – I’m kidding about those last few things. They agents, not queens and kings.  And while you should NEVER send gifts to an agent until you are officially represented by said agent, they do like sugar as a general rule. But when I started, I was…well, kinda scared by ‘them’. I had this vision in my mind of the archetype agent – someone standing on a pedestal (made out of published books, of course) so high that if she looked down all she could see was some little dot running around, trying to scatter its way up the books (ahem, yes I’m the dot).  Or a bookish sort (and really, I have no idea what that means) sitting at an oversized mahogany desk, looking over his glasses and saying something like “what makes you think you can write?” 

Where, oh where, did I get those ideas?  Who knows?  Certainly not from any agents I’ve actually met (or interacted with via blogs and twitter).  All have been unfailingly kind, helpful and supportive.  Most likely those images were conjured up by my over-active imagination (good for a writer) and insecurity (not good for a writer).   But see that’s one of the problems new writers face – fear.  And the only way to get over that fear (and ignorance, in my case) is to put yourself out there and interact with real, live agents.  You can do that at conferences, via blogs and on twitter.  Yes, you should be professional and courteous – but you can also be yourself (uh, unless your self is naturally rude and obnoxious.  In that case, be someone else). 

So, why don’t you check out #askagent to start – even if you don’t want to post a question, you can follow the chat and see what others have to say.

A few suggestions – some of the questions often asked cover information you can find by doing google searches, reading books, and/or reading agent blogs/submission guidelines.  #askagent is not the place to ask how to query or to find out if an agent wants to read your manuscript on a zombie rockstar who falls in love with a wayward werewolf in a postapocalyptic world (and no, I’m not writing that book.  Sorry – zombies creep me out and anything related to the end of the world as we know it makes me depressed, but I do like werewolves).

To attend the next #askagent chat, you can either do a Twitter search or start following the chat’s host @colleenlindsay  In addition to agents, editors and other book pros attend the chat to answer your questions.

 

And I Have Issues? April 7, 2010

Filed under: Editing,Life — justwritecat @ 4:28 am

So, this is the post I’ve been putting off.  Not because I’m a procrastinator by nature (I’m not), and not because I don’t have anything to say about this particular experience.  I’m torn between wanting to maintain a positive approach to my writing experiences….and wanting to be 100% honest about my experiences.  Honesty wins.

I’ve blogged about working with a developmental editor, and in those posts mostly positive things were discussed.  This is the post about the not-so-positive part of the experience.  The part that has me regretting working with this specific editor and doubting some of his feedback (which means, doubting the revisions I’ve made).  Here goes.

The protagonist of Seeing Red: Set ‘Em Up, Joe (which may be changed to Seeing Red) is a guy by the name of – Joe Cooper.  He’s the kind of guy other guys want to be like, the kind of guy women plain want.  He’s a bit of a cad on the exterior, but his heart’s in the right place and his intentions are good.  In this novel (the first of what I hope becomes a series), Joe hooks up with a gal named Pamela.  Now, Joe likes Pamela.  Quite a bit.  And that’s kinda hard for Joe because he’s a vampire and always on the run for a couple of reasons.  Pamela is a human – one who has no idea that vampires exist.  So Joe tries to keep his distance, for her sake (and for his).  One of the ways Joe does this is by keeping the relationship not too serious (and Pamela is fine with this).  He also flirts with other women.  Or rather, one in particular.  Detective Grace Gutierrez, the officer working the murders Joe is trying to solve. 

The developmental editor said that Joe should be 100% monogamous with Pam.  That he shouldn’t even look at another woman, much less flirt.  That his doing so makes Joe seem weak and despicable.  When he returned my manuscript, all the scenes/lines where Joe flirted with Grace were deleted and a few disparaging remarks were made about the character (Grace) because she shows some interest in Joe. 

I read his comments and admittedly, quickly ignored them.  I wasn’t about to change that aspect of Joe’s personality.  Joe’s a bit of a cad like that, perhaps – but that is who he is. 

When the editor and I had our one-hour phone consult about his suggestions/deletions/possible revisions, I did not bring up the whole flirting issue.  Near the end of the call, he did.  And that’s when things went downhill – and damn fast.  I said that Joe was a flirt, but nothing more (he doesn’t sleep with the Detective, just with Pamela).  I explained that his flirting was a way of keeping things ‘safe’ for him, of keeping his distance from Pamela instead of admitting to himself how much Pam really means to him.  But that by the middle of the novel he realizes what Pamela means, and he stops flirting with Grace. 

The editor implied that was unacceptable.  I say implied, because I do not recall his exact words.  That part of the conversation is a blur of insults and shouts.  Yes, he was literally yelling at me over the phone about this issue.  Methinks there exists a spot that is sore.

We went back and forth on the whole ‘why Joe is like that’ thing, and without giving away too much about Joe’s history – essentially, he suffered a great loss when he was human and is now afraid to get too close to anyone for fear of losing them, too.  So partly it is his fear of loss, but mainly – of someone getting hurt because he gets too close to them.  When I explained this, the editor accused me of thinking that all men who lose someone (say, a widower) must be cads because I think they would they start sleeping around with a bunch of women. 

Now, I don’t ever recall implying I think all widowers or anyone who loses someone starts shagging crazy. And in my novel, Joe doesn’t sleep around.  He flirts around.  And sorry, but I think there’s a difference.  Do I think it is o.k. for someone in a committed relationship to flirt around – no, but Joe’s not in a committed relationship at the start of the novel (when he flirts with the other woman).  When he realizes how much Pam means – he stops the flirting, as I mentioned.

The editor hated this.  Really hated it.  I think he said a few other not-so-nice things – by then, my own blood was boiling.  I said I realized he didn’t like it, but it was my book and my characters and I was not going to delete those lines/scenes at this point.  Now, if an agent or an editor at a publishing house said – hey, you need to get rid of these lines because I don’t like him flirting around – then I would consider it.  But not until then, because I liked that part of Joe’s character and I’d been told by many readers they liked it too.  The editor replied with this “I don’t think people like him as much as you think they like him.”  This coming from the same man who told me he really liked Joe (right up to the point where I refused to make one of his suggested changes).

And please note – I did follow many of his suggestions, even ones I was not 100% sure about at first.  This was the one thing that felt wrong for me to change.  And it is my story and my characters  – if I won’t be true to them, who will?

Whew.  I feel like I just finished writing a scene from a soap opera.  Such melodrama!  It took me close to three weeks to get over that phone call.  To look past the shouting and the insults and gain the little bit of confidence I had back.  And that is really the worst part of it – that I allowed someone else to chip away at my confidence.  Shame on him for acting in such an unprofessional manner.  Shame on me for letting it get to me that way. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve given serious thought to some of the suggestions he made.  The ones that didn’t feel wrong, but didn’t feel 100% right either.  I’ve had to find a way back to trusting my own instincts – and that is not an easy thing for me to do when it comes to my writing.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts. this is new for me – and risky.  And I’m not usually good with risk.  But you know what – I want this and I believe in myself and in my characters and in their stories. 

I am open to feedback.  Honestly – I just don’t need the name-calling/shouting  to go along with it.  That is kind of an instant turn-off, wall-up thing for me.  But whatever the feedback, whatever changes you make – when it comes down to it, it has to feel right to you.  It has to make sense to your story and be true to your characters. 

When I first considered working with a developmental editor, an agent (one who is open to re-reading my revised manuscript) gave me this advice – if you work with a freelance developmental editor, make sure he or she gets your writing.  Make sure he gets you.  Superb advice.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to check for that fit when I started the search for an editor.  Now, I do.

Thanks for reading –

Cat

 

My Entry for 1st Page Blogfest April 2, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps — justwritecat @ 4:22 pm

YA writer Kelly Lyman is hosting a First Page Blogfest!  For details, visit her blog here: http://kellylyman.blogspot.com/2010/03/in-beginning.html

Below is my entry:

     Just me, a bottle of Oban, and Pamela the bartender.  Hard to tell which was smoother.  I’d just had Pamela, so I reached for the scotch.  I poured a double, leaned back in my barstool and watched as she started to close down the place.

She shelved all but the bottle in front of me, wiped down the already gleaming bar, and then turned her attention to a few remaining dirty glasses.  She washed each one, and then began to dry them with a glaringly white towel.  Her work was quick and focused, and she seemed eager to be done with it.  I knew the feeling.

Pamela stopped her task long enough to change out their typical yuppie bar music for a compilation of my personal favorites she’d made for me soon after we met.  Amazing how quickly she’d figured out my tastes, seemed to know what made my blood boil and what made it merely simmer.  Even more amazing, her knowing something about me didn’t cause the usual reaction.  The more time I spent with Pamela, the less I felt on full alert.  I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.  Hell, I knew it wasn’t a good thing—but for now, I was fine with enjoying the ride, however brief it had to be. 

The music started, and as I hummed along to the first few bars of One For My Baby, something inside me stirred.  The melody played out, and soon the crooning of Ol’ Blue Eyes lulled me to a place of easy contemplation. 

My life, by necessity, takes many turns.  The latest was to this place—Baltimore.  I’d been enaged in a bit of—let’s call it freelancing—in the D.C. area, when I’d received a distress call from an old aquaintance of mine.  A brutally murdered body had been found along the Inner Harbor.  Nothing newsworthy there, but according to my aquaintance the exact nature of the murder and of the victim, was in my line of interest.  Given D.C. hadn’t yielded anything worth sinking my teeth into, I’d figured what the hell.  One town’s as good as the next for getting a job done.  It had been close to two weeks since that body was found, and the progress I’d made was barely worth mentioning.  On the murder, that is.  I stole another quick glance at Pamela.  With her, I’d made progress aplenty.