For the Criminally Inane

For the Criminally Inane

Monday, October 31, 2016

And here's the pitch! ECWC Post #2

Pitching in baseball is where the catcher and the pitcher try to outsmart the batter and either make him swing when he's not supposed to or  fake him out so he doesn't swing at a perfectly good pitch.

That's not what we are talking about here. But it is similar. I am throwing a potential home run to a potential catcher...wait, I think the metaphor just fell apart. At any rate, I've got something, they might want to catch it. They call it pitching.

We're talking about Industry Professionals: Agent and Editor pitches. Face to face. Just the story.

Before going to the conference, I researched some pitch strategy because I really didn't know what the heck I was doing. The best one, I thought, said to build a relationship of trust first. We had five minutes to 1) introduce ourselves, 2) talk about our book 3) ask or answer questions 4) exchange information for further contact. There wasn't a lot of room for building trust.

But I tried.

So after my experience with the page 1 (see last post) and they all didn't hate it, I actually changed my mind as to who I wanted to pitch to. One of the agents, (we'll call her L) seemed to really "get" my character and what I was trying to do. Afterward in the hall, I just tapped her on the shoulder and said, "I like you, but I didn't sign up to pitch to you." And she asked why not and I simply said, "I don't know. I didn't think you'd like my story." But then the girl who was next to me wanted to ask a question, so I lobbed the attention that a-way.

Guess what I did? I switched around my pitching appointment to L--the very first one of the day. I felt pretty confident going in there because I knew she already liked my first page AND I'd already talked to her so she didn't seem so intimidating. So I went in and she asked me after my pitch if we had read the page 1 the day before (She remembered!) and asked for a full.

The second pitch, went well and we had extra time, so I asked her what she was reading.

Now we only got two pitches but I hovered around the front sign in table and asked if there was anything open. They had two minutes left in a "round" and they said someone canceled and I could jump in and pitch. Since my pitch was short and because I asked, I got an opportunity to pitch a third time. There's a life lesson in there somewhere...

 I read a startling statistic somewhere that most people who go to conferences and pitch don't ever turn in their work. That made me sad.

There are so many opportunities out there, if we are prepared, watching for them, asking for them, and follow through we might just be able to make our dreams come true. Now that sounds like batting.

Next week, I'm going to talk about the Passport to Romance and I've got a picture of me with a bunch of male models.

Monday, October 24, 2016

First Writer's Conference: ECWC Post #1

The whole story.

Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be a writer. In fourth grade, I wrote mysteries and my friend illustrated them. They made no sense. The clues were contrived and there was always a cute boy. I wrote again in Middle school, in high school, took creative writing classes in college. About eight years ago, I decided to turn my dream into a reality by taking writing seriously and started writing about two thousand words every day. I read books, watched tutorials, and studied my craft. And I wrote. I wrote a lot of crap. But finally I felt like I had something worth sharing. Something I could put out there for the masses.

So, back in February Rob bought me a writer's retreat on the beach for Valentine's Day. Four days on the beach, writing, agent critique, yoga and no kids. I know, romantic right? But that's what I wanted so it was. Can we just give it a collective, awwwww? It even came with a box of chocolates.

However, in June, a month away from the retreat, we got an email saying they had to cancel. This was going to be my first time going and putting myself out there to agents and editors, have my work critiqued and take this really big step in investing in my writing career. The word "disappointment" doesn't say enough. At least I got a free box of chocolates. And they did critique my query and my first chapter for free to make up for the inconvenience. So I actually chalked it up as a blessing.

However, I still wanted to attend a conference this year. So we scrambled around to find another conference. The local RWA chapter had finished up their conference the day we got the email. THE DAY WE GOT THE EMAIL! So I couldn't go to the local conference. Plus we had plane tickets and a fat refund coming. So we starting looking around for a good fit.

We came across the Emerald City Writer's Conference, for romance writers in October. Their itinerary looked interesting, I liked the agents and editors that were coming and it was a romance writer's conference. PLUS.... They still had rooms at the event hotel for way cheaper than a hotel in Seattle should cost. SOLD! And Rob could come stay with me, too!

As the days drew near, I polished my manuscript and my pitch and watched the weather. GREAT! Seattle was supposed to have one of the biggest five storms ever to slam their coast come through the night we landed. I'll be danged if I was going to have to cancel this one too! So I prayed. And lo and behold, the storm blew over. We landed under the normal Seattle drizzle.

Friday--Ego fluff and Ego burn

I am a big believer that good things follow bad. And conversely bad things follow good. I think the world seeks equilibrium or maybe I'm pessimistic or optimistic.  But Friday afternoon, I had a triumph, followed by a totally tragic miss at the end of the day.

Triumph. The first morning, I got an email from the admin saying there was a workshop that afternoon that we could bring our page one to and have it be read aloud by industry professionals and critiqued. (I'd already made massive changes to my page one after feedback from the canceled conference above, so I was anxious to try out my new page one). But I didn't have a copy. In fact, I felt before we left that I should bring a copy of my first chapter, but ignored it. Thankfully, Rob was there for the rescue. He managed to find the correct copy of my page one and print it for me. So I went to the class and slipped my page one in.

Agents and Editors. Looks like a tough crowd, huh?

The game.  A moderator would read the page one until three agents or editors raised their hands, indicating they would've stopped reading. Super scary.The first couple of pages had some great feedback, but they hadn't finished a page all the way through yet. I was biting my nails, wondering if my previous edits would make the cut. The agent who critiqued my manuscript before said she hated the first couple of pages until it got to a certain part and then she liked it. When the moderator started reading it, I broke out into a cold sweat, tremors--the whole bit. But no one raised their hand. I think by the end maybe one did, but they got all the way through it! Wow! There was definitely things wrong with it: info dumping and one editor mentioned he liked my previous first line better, but they said they would overlook some editorial things because my voice was so strong! Yay! I managed to fix my totally sucky first page.

Failure. To be able to talk about my triumphs, I must also include my misses. Friday night, authors who were pitching to editors or agents could get feedback from previously published authors. I read my pitch to a table of eight. Some lady, who was also pitching asked me who I thought would buy my book, who did I think my target audience was. I could tell they were trying to be nice and they were exceedingly helpful, but they hated my pitch. I reworked it with their suggestions and I think it's a lot better. I'll write it in the next blog posts about my pitching session since this one is already too long.

So I faced a few of my fears. I think we need to do that every once in a while. Do something scary, but brave. Put yourself out there. What have you been dying to do? What is standing in your way? How are you going to overcome it?  Get out there and live!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Alton Brown: My first author-signed cook book

Alton Brown and I are like besties.


Sunday morning I saw it come across my Facebook feed that he was coming to town. And I knew I had to go. The kids and I came to know Alton Brown after binge watching FoodNetwork Star on the internet. (No cable here!) We thought him, funny, genuine and, I don’t know, unique. Authentic.

So one thing I’ve learned from going to a few of these book signings at our local Indy bookshop (see previous posts) is that the faster you buy the book, the earlier you get in line for the signing, hence out of the bookstore and the less likely I am to find something I want to spend my money on. You see, you get a letter code at the time of purchase. Since it was Sunday and the event was Tuesday, and Alton Brown was popular, I knew we were in trouble.

So I had a dilemma. Was buying something on the internet breaking the Sabbath? But if I didn’t buy it on Sunday, Monday would surely put me at an F or a G! I went round and round with my husband and guess what.

I broke the Sabbath and bought the book.

I’m not bragging about that. I actually regret it now, mostly because somehow I lost my husband’s credit card in the process. But also because it didn’t matter because we got out of there early, but that story is below. So lesson learned, don’t buy things on Sunday, even on the internet. Even if it is time-sensitive. Even if I want it real bad.

Tuesday night came and we had planned on leaving here early as with evening traffic, but there was a confusion about a parent-teacher conference and well, we arrived there at 6pm, an hour before the presentation and the seating was already full. Now, they have big events and lots of people come. But because of the Fire Marshall they have to tape off areas where people can sit or stand. This is in a book store remember? Not at a library or even an auditorium. So, luckily, an hour before, we managed to squeeze by a cash desk, grabbing baskets to sit upon. And we waited. And while we waited we read.

In the next hour, hundreds of people came. I overheard the employees talking that each letter group had sixty people in it and the groups went to H. About 400 people. The floor swelled with people. And, I tell you, not all of them were inside the blue lines. (If the Fire Marshall reads this, the employees did their best!)

Alton Brown drew an eclectic mix from home cooks, to culinary students. Conservative housewives to green-haired punks. 

Then, when the furor of the crowd grew, Alton Brown finally came bounding down the stairs. We all cheered. He took the mic.

He told us our book was a collector’s item because there was some mistakes and they are going to second printing. You’re welcome. Find the corrections at altonbrown.com/oops

He answered a few questions:

He listens to jazz while he cooks. California jazz. For some reason it made me think of the music from the Incredibles.

He won’t give people advice about food allergies because he doesn’t want to get sued.

He’s releasing Good Eats II as internet episodes (cut the cord!), so be looking for that. He said he was tired of the head honchos at production telling him what he could and couldn’t do on TV. So now he’s able to cook rabbit and deer.

All photos are shot with iPhone6.

The pics were shot in his house with own stuff. Even the briefcase that is holding chips.

He said all the people at FoodNetwork were lovely humanitarians.

They talked a lot about Cutthroat Kitchen but since I’ve never seen an episode, it didn’t mean anything to me. But if you have, no one has never not bid on something. And they wouldn’t always listen to him for the Challenges, or they called them something else. (Write me in the comments if you know what it is.)

And the weirdest thing he’s ever seen is Giada’s teeth.

Then the line up began. People began snaking around Teen Lit and Travel, up the stairs.

With four-hundred people, it was taking a long time and they kept getting on the mic saying thank you for your patience. We were waiting in a bookstore for crying out loud, how bored could we be? But it was getting late. Our letter (E) was about to be called when Alton Brown’s personal assistant asked us, after seeing my daughter on the floor with a book, if it was a school night. “It’s a school night,” I said, thinking she was making conversation when she said, “Come with me.” I showed her my ticket, which letter was about to be called up and she said, “Let’s get these kids home.” And I said, “I’m with you!” Actually, I was really touched at her thoughtfulness.

She took us to the front of the line. We cut in front at least a hundred people! (There is some school teacher shaking her head at this lack of protocol.) And finally, we get to see him.
Me asking questions.
Alton thinking
Him responding



They took a bazillion pictures. These are just three of those bazillion.





He seemed pretty cheery half-way through the signing, standing there. He even took time to indulge me in a personal question. I asked him when he knew that this was his life mission. He said he always cooked and wanted to be on TV and went to culinary school as his ticket to TV.  He put his arm around me. We took pictures. And we were done.

Conversation on the way home. I asked my daughter what she thought. After all that we saw and heard her only comment was, “I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted that his personal assistant thought I needed to go to bed.” I stared at her, shaking my head.  “You should be grateful!” I said.

And now you want to see the book, don't you? Okay.





Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October is Prep Month!

Calling all Writers!  Have you ever wanted to write a novel but never had an excuse to just do it? Now you do!

November is novel writing month, that means that October is making Halloween costumes for the cuties as well as plotting my novel as much as possible.

What is NaNoWriMo?  It’s where you write a novel or 50,000 words with a beginning middle and an end in one month. For me I write about 2k words a day and that gives me Sundays and Thanksgiving off. If you’ve done your homework, writing two thousand words won’t take you that long. See link to sign up and get more info!

Why do it? Because there may be an idea itching around the corners of your brain, wanting to come out. Here’s a time when you can actually do that.

Make it happen.

I write romances. But I take my NaNo as an opportunity to write in a different genre, to explore a new voice, to try out different skills, to push my boundaries. In the past, I have branched out to write a fantasy and a historical. This year I’m going to try a cozy mystery.

Your NaNo will not be perfect. That’s not the point. It’s not to create this work of perfected art. It’s to finally put to words ideas floating around your head and it’s going to be messy. I change names of characters mid-story, I change their background and make a note that I’ll go back and fix it if I ever decide if this story is worthy of the time it will take to revisit and revise.

To be successful I suggest a few things:

Give yourself permission to write crap.  There are a lot of perfect, partially written manuscripts out there. Let go of your inner critic and just write. Sometimes in my writing it will actually say, “THIS IS CRAP!” But that’s okay.

Bum glue is most essential. Keep going. If you’ve run out of words, ideas, have someone with a gun come in and then figure out why. Have someone drop a time bomb and they all have to scramble to find it and prevent it from blowing up.

Plot before you write. I don’t know if this is cheating, but lately I’ve been drafting out a rough sketch of my plot before I hit Oct. 31st. I have at least some idea where the book is going. It may change. Last year I also complied a list of complications that are brought on by the personalities and desires of my characters. I think I’ll try that again this year.  It was helpful for when I got stuck. I just had to make something difficult for my main character and I was back in the game.

Plan time to write. This is so important. Block it out on your calendar, put in headphones, ignore phone calls, skip some sleep, tell your friends you are busy, whatever it takes to carve out some time to write. When I first started writing, I wrote when my kids were in bed at about 8pm to until midnight or one or two am. It was wonderful and quiet. No one called during that time, and I had no other engagements. Of course, when the kids started school, that was no longer an option as I had to get up early and take them, but in those dark, quiet hours I really progressed as a writer.

Write everyday. If you are thinking about your novel everyday, writing everyday, thinking some more, writing it will be easier. Monday is my hardest day to get back into writing because I don’t write on Sundays. If you make a constant and consistent effort, it will be easier long term.

Write for as long as stretch as you can handle. The creative process often has to be coaxed out of the grey matter on the right side. Sometimes that takes time.

Music. I like to write with music as it helps me shift my left brain to my right.

Comfy spot. When I first starting writing, I sat on a woven rattan chair. It was horribly uncomfortable. Then I moved to my bed when my husband got me a laptop, but my bum fell asleep a lot. Now I sit in the bay window in my room on a comfy couch and spin tales. Where ever you chose, make it yours. Grab some water if you're going to be there for the marathon, snacks, chocolate, whatever keeps you there.

Decide now what your story will be about. What unique perspective do you have? What story do you want to tell? Write it down and then come and tell me about it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Signed Author Copies

It's time to talk about my collection.

Books are friends to me. Characters help me battle my inner demons and vicariously overcome as they overcome. Their creators are kindred spirits when we meet, so these are some of my most valuable possession. Each has a story.

I got my first author signed books at Project Book Babe in Arizona in 2008. I had just experienced a terrible heartache and my husband thought that this charity benefit would help me shake off my depression. I came home with Stephanie Meyer's signed copy of Eclipse and by luck of the raffle, a copy of Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand days. Plus another one.  There, I started my Signed Author Collection, and I became acquainted other authors that I have since met.

Brandon Mull: I first met him when I was pregnant with my youngest over seven years ago, when we lived in St. Louis. St. Louis County library visiting author program is unsurpassed in the nation and it was a real tragedy when we had to move.  When we first met, I had only read the first few pages of his book Fablehaven and to be honest, I was just about to give up. Even he admitted it was a little slow and encouraged me to keep reading. I met him in Austin Book Festival this last spring and finally told him that he really got me with his book the Candyshop Wars. (Good read!) Signed Books: Beyonders, FableHaven, Spirit Animals. Other good ones I wish I had: Candyshop Wars 1-2.

Some other favorite authors I have met a few times: Shannon Hale, Ally Carter and Brandon Sanderson.

I told Shannon Hale once that she inspired me to write. She gave me the advice that to be a mom and a writer, I can have no other hobbies. I thought that was good advice. It's true, I've put a lot of other talents on hold while I've worked on my craft. Signed Books: Bayern Chronicles, Actor and Housewife, Book of a Thousand Days. Other books we own: Storybook of Legends.

Ally Carter: I read the first book in the Galagher Girls series but it wasn't until I was having a dull mid-January slump that I picked up her third (skipping the second) and it just cheered me right up. Books have the power to do that. It was just what I was in the mood for, fun, romance and action. My friend and I dressed up as Galagher Girls with my daughter to see her in St. Louis at the signing for Heist Society. Signed Books: Galagher Girls 1-4, Heist Society 1&2. Other books: Embassy Row.

Brandon Sanderson: I was the slowest one in my family to pick up Sanderson's stuff. I like fantasy but he's pretty hard core and I wasn't sure if I would like him. Do I regret it! When I started reading, I was hooked. He's setting the bar for fantasy, in my humble opinion. Clever, funny and he usually gets me in the end. We have a ton of his books, the thick ones we buy in digital format because we don't want to get scoliosis just from carrying them. His magic systems are unique, well-thought out and incredible. His worlds are vivid, fleshed out and memorable. He also gives a lecture on-line on how to write fiction. Signed copies: Steelheart 1-3, Alcatraz (my personal favorite). Other books in digital: Mistborn trilogy et al, Word of Radiance series. I tell you the man is prolific and profound. One of my favorites. 

Do you own any signed author copies? What authors did you wish you had signed author copies from?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Opposition

School's in again. That means I'm back to writing full-time.

At least that's what I committed to on the first day of school. "Nothing is going to keep me from prioritizing my writing time," I said to my husband that morning.

Foolhardy declaration.

I was in the kitchen when I heard the phone buzz. It wasn't my phone but my husband was showering so I picked it up and said with a formal voice, "This is Amey Zeigler."  You never know when the next agent is going to call and I want to get in the habit, so even though it was my husband's phone, and I knew no agent was calling on his phone, especially from a local number, I still answered it with my most professional voice.

"Mom!" I heard.  My near teenage daughter sounds normal in real life, but on the phone she sounds like a four-year-old and this was amplified by the pleading in her voice that sounded close to tears.  "They won't let me go to class!"

"What?" I ask, feeling the morning slip away with this phone call.

"I don't have all my shots!"

Oh, yes, the poorly communicated immunizations. I looked on-line at their parent portal two days before school started under the tab 'immunizations' where you'd think such important information might be shared, but gathered no intellect.  You see, we decided to have one last hurrah in the last free minutes of summer break and made a mad dash to Yellowstone, realizing that we only have five precious summers left with our daughter before we pack her off to college. So we asked a friend to pick up her schedule whilst we were out of town. I got a disturbing text: Can't pick up schedule. Shots not up to date. School holding it ransom until you comply.

Ok, that wasn't it verbatim but that was the gist.

No shots, no school. Great.

I had to do some digging as to which shots she actually needed to get into school. I was wondering what dreaded disease I was unwittingly exposing my child to while everyone else was protected.

Meningitis.  Not on the national schedule for immunizations but on the state required list.  Glad Google knows these things because it was no where on the school site.

So I start making phone calls. "Can I get an appointment, like, yesterday?"  Earliest appointment is at 2:50. I take it. That's fine she can come home and have an extra day of vacation. Wait, schools in. My boys get out at 2:50.  I call back to cancel appointment. Then call another clinic for their earliest.  It's in a half hour!  Half hour! And in the next city. But I have to have her previous immunizations faxed to them. Fine! So I rush down to the school to pick up my daughter.

I was on the phone talking to the old pediatrician's office trying to get the fax number to the new pediatrician in the school parking lot and oh, ho! ho! the internet is blocked on my phone when my daughter calls. I tell the old pediatrician's office I'll call them back and switch over to my daughter.  In her four-year-old voice, "Are you coming to pick me up?"

"I'm in the dang parking lot!" I say, because no matter how frustrated you are, you do not swear on the phone to your daughter when she is calling you from the school you are parked at.  So I hang up, jump out of the car, run inside, slap my ID down, wait while the computer prints out some handy thing that I sign to take my daughter out of school. She comes out and we're running out of there like Batman and Robin. I wish I had a cape.

We make it to the doctor's on time. She gets her shots and they say we have to wait fifteen minutes, but my daughter says she wants to make it back for third hour. Fine! I say. Again, Batman and Robin out of there, only more stealthy because I don't want them thinking I'm a bad mom for taking her out of the doctors before the fifteen is up.

At the school, I take her inside, give them her "proof" of shots and the secretary says, "Do you have a doctor's note?" I was like, that print-out says she was there!  It wasn't some back alley! "If you call them and have them fax a note, it will be excused." Oh, yes, let me spend more time on the phone making phone calls and finding fax numbers.

I get home and the morning is gone and I am still in my work out clothes, hadn't eaten breakfast, cleaned up or showered. "Tomorrow," I said carefully. "Nothing is going to keep me from doing prioritizing my writing time. As long as nothing more important comes up!"



Friday, July 8, 2016

Vision versus Reality

As I am always trying to learn and improve my craft of writing, I'm constantly checking out books and reading what I can do to improve my skills. If you are looking for writing books at our local library, they're all at my house, sitting in a stack on my nightstand. Please don't put a hold on any of them because then I have to lug them back.

One of the books I found helpful recently, asked the question: what do you want your readers to feel when they are reading your books?

I thought about it for a minute, searching around the themes and the genres of my past and present works trying to find a common thread. I found! I want them to laugh!

Crap!

I'm not funny.

I mean, I'm not funny when I write.  I'm hilarious in person where I can add facial expressions and gestures, change the tenor of my voice to make a hilarious point. But in writing?  I guess I haven't found my voice. Or maybe I'm just not funny.

And it's slightly humiliating.

There is always a gap between reality and vision. And there should be or else we wouldn't grow. I have this vision of being a funny writer, of having great wit and vivacity but when I read my books, well, they're rather serious and dramatic.

So how do we close in the gap between vision and reality? You, too, may have a vision of the person you want to be, a skill you want to learn, a project you want to create but may be falling short of that vision. How do we get to our vision? I have a few suggestions.

First, have a vision.  A specific idea of what you want to accomplish, the person you want to be, things you want to learn.

Next, write it down.  I mean it, write it down! If you don't write it down, then it's gone, it's not concrete. It's easy for it to morph into something less, something not what you wanted.

Then, create a plan.  The first two steps are spiritual creation, this one begins the work. How am I going to achieve your vision? What is it going to take? How can I break this into smaller steps? What do I need? Classes? Feedback? Professional help? That would be professional training, not psychiatric, although, I may need that too.

Finally, start. Start today and everyday. Do something, anything, everyday. Think about your goal everyday and what you are going to do to achieve it. If you skip a day, get back on the wagon the next day, don't beat yourself up, just be persistent.

Something to keep in mind: You are going to fail. A lot.  Remember your vision and get back up. You are going to get discouraged. Keep going anyway. People will laugh at you. Ignore them. Things will distract you. Focus.

What do you do when you achieve your vision? Create another vision of course!

What are some ways you've accomplished your visions? What hard things have you done?


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Change is hard

I am sitting here trying to write a crap (first) draft of a second book in a three-book series.  And I'll have to say, it's rather difficult.  I've got a plot, I've spent one whole book exploring characters, giving them life, back stories, goals, fears.  But I still struggle with this second book.  Why?

Because my characters have to change.  Their relationship, their natures, their wants, desires all change as a consequence of the world we live in. 

Change is hard.

Change is hard to write.

Change is hard to write about.

We live in a changing world.  Someone once said you never see the same thing twice.  That's probably true.  More dust has settled on the bureau or night stand in the bedroom in the few seconds between glances, more sun fade on the carpet.  So the very objects around us are changing, decaying, growing.

And so do our relationships.

Sometimes the change is small, a gradual growth of love, imperceptible, deepening without realization.  Sometimes it's very dramatic, a fight, a blunder, forgiveness, apology.

But, nonetheless, we are always changing.  Sometimes that makes me sad.  I want to hold on to moments like my children's kisses, an embrace, a laugh.  Other times, I am so glad that something changed, like a pay increase, or less responsibility.

Change makes life dynamic, sorrowful, joyful, painful, and exciting.  Sometimes it's just hard to make that leap.

What are some of the changes you've had in your life?