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Sadie Hawkins Query Day

When I think back to my high school days, I literally cringe.  Back then my introversion was just taking root, establishing a solid foundation for the future that the Empire State building would be jealous of.  And my shyness was in full swing as well.  It was the worst when I found myself one on one with a girl, and downright debilitating if I liked her even a little.  Needless to say, dating was something I thought about all the time, but sadly never experienced. I lived my life in fear of four things…1) No…2) Hell No…3) An awkward silence…and, 4) Laughter in my face.  I was so afraid of those four possibilities, that I never considered the fifth.

You know, it really is a miracle I’m married.  But that’s another story for another time.    

During those Saturday nights lying on my bed, commiserating with sad songs playing on the radio, I would imagine ways I could change life’s dynamic to make it easier for me.  It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized the irony of it all, that while I moped around because of my own choosing…there were girls sitting on their own beds wishing for the phone to ring just once.  Anyway, back then it boiled down to one thing; girls were in control of the dating process.  Boys had to ask the girls out and all the girls had to do was say yea or nea.  If there was a way I could flip that around and have the girls on the other side of the equation, then the world would be cake! 

Then I found out about the Sadie Hawkins Dance.

*The Sadie Hawkins dance is named after the Li'l Abner comic strip character Sadie Hawkins, created by cartoonist Al Capp. In the strip, Sadie Hawkins Day fell on a given day in November (Capp never specified an exact date). The unmarried women of Dogpatch got to chase the bachelors and "marry up" with the ones they caught. In the U.S. and Canada, this concept was popularized by establishing dance events to which the woman invited a man of her choosing, instead of demurely waiting for a man to ask her. (*thank you Wikipedia)

So, one time out of every year (from the day the dance was announced to the actual dance itself) the stars would re-align and the dynamic would change.  The girls would experience some of the agony that their suitors go through, and ditto the boys.  Now stick with me here, let’s take that concept and run with it.

Every time you send out a query letter, you are in essence asking an Agent on a date.  I’ve read a few blogs where the querying process is likened to dating.  Aspiring writers live in constant fear of this process because the answer frequently comes in the form of a rejection letter bearing one of the four possibilities I outlined above.  Agents hold all the control and writers agonize as a result.

What if?  What if one day out of the year there was a Sadie Hawkins Day for Agents and Writers.  What would that be like?  What if Agents had to ask writers to allow them to represent their work? They came knocking at your door?  How many Agents would you say NO to…waiting instead for that dream Agent to ask you out?  I bet there’d be more than a few Agents who would sit the day out, choosing not to take part because they fear discovering how often they might hear NO.

Yes, it’s silly day dream fodder, but turning things inside-out to see what things look like from a different perspective is what we writers do.  Sadie Hawkins did nothing for my dating life in high school, so why should I expect my imaginary spin on things to be any different.  But it does makes for an interesting blog post. :)

*Beep*'ve reached DL, but I'm not here right now.  I'm over at Chris Fries place today, A Writer's Expanding and Slightly-Warped Universe.  I'm supposed to be doing a guest post for him, but I'm actually just soiling the furniture and emptying his fridge! Kidding (mostly).  Chris is a long-time writer friend and when he asked me to do a guest post, I didn't hesitate.  Over there I talk about the writing path I took to where I am today and what successful blogging really means.

So leave a message after the beep...or you can rush right over and say HI at Chris's place.  I promise that you won't be disappointed!


Cross Pollination

This blogosphere we inhabit is vast.  It’s made up of thousands upon thousands of active blogs, all with a different story and message to share, and I’m just talking about writer blogs.  If you’re like me, you spent the first six months just trying to figure out how everything worked and learning that IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME doesn’t apply here.  Once you learned that, then you went about the task of developing your own niche.

As big as the blogosphere is, it’s impossible to maintain meaningful connections with everyone (unless you’re Alex).  So what ends up happening is that we gravitate to blogs that we learn the most from, that we really “get”, that are on a similar path, that resonate for us, that brighten our day, or otherwise fits into some definition that draws us back time and time again.  What ends up happening is that we form these pseudo-cliques, kind of like in high school – except without the finger pointing, back-biting, gossiping, and exclusionism.  Unlike high school cliques, here they’re formed out of necessity, not choice.  Another differentiator is that we are constantly looking for ways to expand our reach in the blogosphere, diversify our exposure, and spread our influence.  To do this we sometimes hitch a ride on a bee.

The bee I’m referring to are the different mechanisms we use to get to know other bloggers.  Blogfests, Blog Hops, Blog Awards, A to Z Challenge, Book Tours, Guest Posts, are just a few.  Writer conferences take it to a whole other level. They each have a unique function and objective, but the underlying purpose of them all is to bring bloggers closer together and help us find one another.  The benefits you’ll see are directly proportional to the number of events and amount of effort put into each.  Even still, that’s only half the battle. 

Once you’ve made new connections via a “bee”, you still need to cultivate those relationships.  Landing a new follower should never be considered simply a notch on the belt.  Visit and comment on their blogs regularly, then find out who they frequent and follow them there.  They should be doing the same with you.  As often as you can tout their achievements, discuss their books, or mention their feats.  Help make it so that the ripples of success rattle the entire blogosphere.

Yes, I realize all of this requires energy and devotion in order for it to blossom the way it should, but that’s what creating a brand – an on-line presence – is all about.  However, what if you’re comfortable with this cozy little spot you’ve carved out for yourself, with just a handful of active followers?  Is that so bad?  Absolutely not!  Every blogger needs to determine for themselves just how involved their willing to get, or what works with their already congested schedules.  All I’m trying to do is point out this nifty little reproduction system I discovered that can help enhance your on-line presence, should you desire to do so.

A little bee told me.  :)


Recently a coworker approached me with a question.  She was considering writing a book and since I basically announced to my whole company I had written a couple, she was seeking my advice in getting started.  Right away I informed her that although I had written a few books, none of them were published yet and I was still figuring that part out myself.  But this didn't deter her and she told me that she just wanted to pick my brain about what to expect, how to get started, landmines to avoid, you know...the whole nine yards.

What was funny, and not totally unexpected, was that I believe she expected my response to fit inside a 30 minute conversation, or even worse maybe she could download my entire 4+ years worth of experience from somewhere and go through it all when convenient.

Her questions made me realize something.  One of the driving forces behind my blog, behind most of our blogs, heck...behind the blogosphere in general, is so others can learn and benefit from our accrued knowledge.  Why should newbies have to make the same mistakes we did?  As Dianne Salerni recently pointed out, this isn't a competition and one of the awesome aspects of our community is the way we help and support one another.  If used properly, it can serve as a huge leg up into the industry.  But what people need to remember is this isn't The Matrix.  You can't just plug in a disc and suddenly know how to fly a helicopter.  Ask any pilot, they don't log hours and hours of flying time to learn what all the buttons and levers do.  They do it to become skilled at the techniques of flying.  The same is true for the craft of writing, and the pursuit of publication.

What I ended up telling my coworker was that I'd be happy to pass along everything I've absorbed during my journey, but she still needed to be pay dues.

"You mean like to the Romance Writers of America?" she responded.  I laughed and answered by telling her that the dues I was talking about weren't monetary (at least not directly) and there is no list of benefits you should expect to receive by paying them.  Also, the amount paid would be determined solely by her, and NOT necessarily proportional to possible future success. 

When she started getting the look on her face as if I just told her the precious puppy she adopted was going to end up weighing 150 pounds and shed hair faster than an anemic buffalo, I knew I was finally getting through to her.  That's when I explained what dues were.  Continual writing, reading, writing, reading...endless amounts.  Blogging (a must in my opinion) and other forms of on-line social interaction.  Re-writes, revisions, edits, critiques, negative feedback, critiquing, synopsis, querying, crying on shoulders, lending a shoulder, and rejection, rejection, REJECTION.  And if she happened to be successful and land an agent/book deal, the due paying wouldn't stop there.  Deadlines, writer block, marketing, self-marketing, negative reviews, tongue-biting, dealing with disappointing sales, etc.  I told her there are thousands of blog posts about these topics and more out here, full of valuable information, and that she shouldn't just rely on what I say about any of it.

Above all else, I tried to get across to her the amount of work in front of her if she decided to pursue this book, and how much of it had very little to do with actual writing.  There were no short cuts.  But if she was willing to put forth the effort and ride the roller coaster, then the reward would be worth each and every payment.

What do you think, was I too hard on her?  I've paid my dues and continue paying them every day. What about you?

10 Warning Signs That Your Novel Might Be In Trouble

1.          One of the readers usually considered a lock (wife/hubby/significant other, mother, brother, sister, etc.) thinks your book is "alright".
2.          After deciding to print out your novel for copy-editing, it takes two of you to lift it.
3.          Your cat suddenly abandons the litter box and starts using your manuscript instead.
4.          All of your query letter emails are returned with a cease & desist notification for spam abuse.
5.          After practicing your elevator pitch on one of your co-workers, they respond with, "I saw that movie last week!"
6.          You believe that anything J.K. Rowling can do, you can do better, which explains your Part One of Eight subtitle.
7.          You're having difficulty deciding if it should be classified as YA...or Erotica.
8.          You considered the term non-fiction a loose guideline.
9.          The outline you based your story around looks like Schrödinger's equation.
10.       When asked what POV it's written in, your answer is, "What's a POV?"

Did I leave out any others?

How I Learned to - Never Surrender

Today I offer for your enjoyment my entry in Elana Johnson's Never Surrender Blogfest, celebrating the release of her second novel Surrender.  This week participants are supposed to blog about a time they didn't surrender. Trained for a marathon? Queried agents? Had to study for an entrance exam? She is looking for inspirational stories that her readers might have experienced.   Once again, I'm bending the rules a bit.  Instead of discussing a specific experience, I'm going to let you see how I acquired this trait in the first place.  Although a lot of memories from my past are cloudy at best, I can recall this just as clear as the memory of pouring my last cup of coffee.  I can remember the exact spot as well...underneath a '57 Buick.

There are those that would say never giving up, backing down from a challenge, or stick-to-it-ness, is just a result of being stubborn.  Fair enough.  I can see where some might believe that.  Personally, I feel that it takes an equal portion of discipline inter-mixed with that obstinate reaction to resistance, to truly overcome obstacles.  My exposure to that kind of discipline came from my father.  He was a military man, in the Navy for 25+ years.  He went in as an enlisted man and retired an officer.  My dad was a strict disciplinarian who kept few secrets (or held them so well I still don't know them) and you always knew where you stood with him.  But it wasn't his ties to the military that taught me the most about discipline, but rather cars.

His passion was working on cars.  He learned that skill from his own father, who operated several used car dealerships throughout the years, some of them out of his front lawn.  Automobile repair was a necessity in his family.  Although my dad tried his hardest to pass that skill on to me and my brothers, with me it was time wasted.  I wasnt interested in spending my Saturdays tooling around with broken down relics, but that didn't stop him from trying.  As it turned out, I did end up learning something invaluable from him. 

On one particular Sunday afternoon Dad had me with him underneath the '57 Buick he had been restoring for months.  Living in military housing, we had no garage to shield us from the weather while we worked, so together we endured the chilly temperatures, drizzly rain, and irritation of sharp pebbles from the street pushing into the back of our heads.  Needless to say, I wasn't in the best of moods.  We had been trying to replace the starter on the Buick for days but were having difficulty removing this one tricky bolt.  It was in an unworkable angle where getting a tool on it was next to impossible, and when you did it wouldn't budge.  I had given up on it long ago, content to have the car towed to a shop and let a professional have a go at it.  But not my dad.  Not him.  I laid there as hours turned into days, watching him try tool after tool, angle after angle, position after position, all with the same result.  And my resentment of him grew with every passing minute, every piece of grit that fell in my eye, every shiver that went through my body from the wet and cold.

Until it moved!    

I couldn't believe it when that bolt finally turned.  I cried out as if the prettiest girl in school had just agreed to go out on a date.  My surprise and jubilation was unrestrained.  But my dad just removed the inflexible bolt and simply continued on to the next task.  For him, it wasn't shock...but an expected result.  It had just been a matter of time, determination, and discipline.  I learned something that day, and continued to see it time after time as I watched my father come up against persistent bolts, or screws.  No matter the time involved, he would crack the obstacle.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.  There continued to be occasions when I'd be laying there beside him thinking its time to throw in the towel, or resort to dynamite (kidding - of course), but he stay with it until he conquered the impossible.  Over time my resentment turned into admiration, and although I never did come to enjoy working on cars, I did enjoy seeing that side of my father.  I was in awe of that quality in him, and found myself trying to emulate him in my own way.

It's important to point out that there were times when father did seek the help of others.  He would recognize those situations in his life when he didn't have the requisite skill or know-how to do a job, so he would seek the help of experts.  But where cars were concerned, he was the authority and he was always going to see it through to the end.  That's something else I learned from him.  Seeking help from others is not surrendering.  Whenever I can, I try to become an expert so I don't have to relinquish control, but there are times when that is just not possible.

There is no need to surrender, when you have friends!


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