It’s Frustrating Being Frustrated

Every time I send out a query letter to a potential agent or publisher, I’m supposed to include in my bio, so ‘they’ say, my writing credentials. They are looking for previous publications and contests won (contests cost money to enter. Did you know that?) That’s what ‘they’ want. Most don’t even want a sample of the writing. Just a query letter containing a two paragraph synopsis and a bio.

Hmmm.

As Jeff says, “I got nothing for ya.” This is followed, about six weeks later, by a kind, well-written email (if they bother, it will be always be well-written) saying “I’m sorry but this is not what I’m looking for right now” or something to that affect. Even though I checked out their website, and made sure of exactly what genre they are looking for, or what they love to see and my book fills every single one.
Every. Single. One.
How do they know when they haven’t even read any of the actual book?

Th first time I ever saw my work printed and bound for distribution was in my junior high school yearbook (my artwork-those domed cities of the future are mine) and a few blurbs about students and clubs) which we, the yearbook committee, cranked out on a Gestetner copier and manually collated a few hundred copies.

Gestetner copy machine

Gestetner copy machine

Hectograph Gel copying

Hectograph Gel copying

They don’t want to hear that I put together, by myself, every week for several years, our tiny church’s Sunday program, including announcements, requests, and little tidbits of inspiration, still using a Gestetner barely smaller than the one we used at school. Sometimes I used a Hectograph gel tray but that was quite tedious as only a few copies can be made before renewing the transfer.

They don’t want to hear that I graduated from high school with an honors in English back when time and language were created, or that I dated Shakespeare. On second thought, maybe they’d like that part, but I promised him I wouldn’t tell anyone because of, you know, Anne Hathaway and the kids (his wife, not Kate and Gerald’s actress daughter!)

Should I include that screenplay a friend and I worked on in that same junior high school, when we created a new episode for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a popular new TV series? Oh, right. It was never published and who knows where it is now.

Short stories for school? Always got an “A” but, well, for now, it’s the same problem. Not published and let’s face it, teachers aren’t looking for bestsellers and if I submitted those primary and junior high school works of art now, I’d be laughed out of town and still unpublished!

They don’t want to hear that I always had to add extra postage to mail letters to family and friends because it was impossible for me to not tell the events in our lives as a story, and not just a fact-based letter. (Thank the Maker for emails! Still long but now free to send.)
My philosophy has always been if a story is worth telling, it’s worth telling well.

My mom’s nine-page eulogy? No, although it was ‘self-published’ by my dad and the booklet was presented, along with a memorial fund, to a seminary in Alberta.

When I wrote, it wasn’t for fame or a desire to be famous. I wrote for my own pleasure and the pleasure of the recipients. When I got my first computer (a business version of a Commodore 64) I made pictures with my Christmas letters using DOS commands. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask your grandparents. My first masterpiece was a letter in the shape of a Christmas tree (a good way to limit the letter since I have admitted that I tend toward chatty missives!) I also had a Canada Flag shaped letter, the words filling in the red bars and central Maple Leaf. Try doing that today . . . never mind. It’s easy today. Just use a template. Suffice it to say I had to write out the commands, kind of like HTML, but more intense! It took me a lot of practice and self-teaching to master but it made it easy for me to learn HTML later!

Commodore Business (1984)

Commodore Business (1984)

Even when I penned (aka tapped it out on a keyboard) my first novel, it was completely cathartic and definitely not for others to see. The story of my life, starting in the third grade. Around chapter 14, when I caught up with the present day, and my life was completely unresolved, the story became a work of fiction. I went back through it, added, changed and made up events and conversations, created an even viler villain, and ended it with a completely fantastic and unrealistic ending. It was a great teaching piece. And I discovered that I loved writing fiction.

But they aren’t looking for that kind of writing credentials and of those they seek, I have none.

They are also looking for social media presence. Blog popularity: How many subscribers or followers do you have? How engaged are they?

My inner hermit screams.

I am not a social butterfly! I don’t post my everyday activities. My Facebook Author page has stuff on it not even related to my works because I have no news, no book signings, no sage wisdom or advice for other writers, no excerpts because my best excerpts would be complete spoilers!
Why isn’t my Facebook page more popular?
Because I am not published yet! The only thing I am an expert on at this stage is being the unknown author of an unpublished best seller!
And don’t even get me started about Twitter. What am I going to say in 149 characters including spaces? Short and sweet? Never heard of it! (See previous admission of being talkative even in my writing.)
Tried it tweeting daily diary and journal entries from Ana and Caleb to garner some interest. Even that was hard with 149 characters, but I persevered. No spoilers, of course, but no one ever commented. No one even noticed when I stopped posting them. Those who do follow me on Twitter, with a very few exceptions, do so only in the hopes I follow them and boost their massive numbers!

Blogging is more fun than tweeting, to me, at least, but it not the same as writing a compelling story which keeps the reader turning pages and gets them crying and staying up late to read just ‘one more chapter.’ Blogging doesn’t make you fall in love with or hate a figment of my imagination; it doesn’t kill off characters and make you cry. Okay, some blogs make you cry, but it’s almost always for a different type of reason.

I fail to understand how my ability (or rather lack of ability) to rack up high numbers of followers (on Facebook or this blog or on Twitter for a book which no one has heard of because it isn’t published) relates to my ability to turn out some freakishly awesome stories with characters that are fleshed out to the Nth degree! (Thank you, beta readers, for your truthful and uplifting comments and criticisms which allow me to state that as a simple fact.)

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get Facebook followers for my Author page and I’ve cried a lot of virtual tears over ‘no one ever reads or subscribes or shares or comments on my posts.’ (** If you are reading this, I don’t know you’ve seen it unless you post some feedback. **)

So Please Read. Comment. Share. Like. Don’t stop doing this . . .

The Crystal Box

The Crystal Box

And going forward . . .

Recently, I’ve been in communication with a company (referred by my editor) who takes your book proposal and presents it on their website to attract not only publishers but readers who would like to pre-order the book! I’m almost ready to submit my proposal for their approval. I’m really excited to do this. Preparing the proposal application is way more detailed than I thought it would be so I’m having to gather information which I didn’t have already, such as providing the STATISTICS on why I think my intended audience (new adult, i.e. those just entering adulthood, and older) is, in fact, my audience.

Stay tuned!! Be assured that I’ll be posting about it if they accept my proposal.

Would you be interested in pre-ordering a copy of my book?

Please comment yes or no and the reason for your answer.

This will help me know how to proceed as I need to be able to answer this question: “Are you confident in your book idea and being able to presell 250 copies?”

I say YES!

Am I right?

 

They said I need to go somewhere . . .

I work for an airline, booking flights and helping our guests as they join tens of thousands more guests trekking back and forth across North and Central America every single day.

I hear all about the beautiful weather, the bad weather, the flawless flights and the flawed flights. The beaches and the mountains, cloudless days and star-studded nights. Meeting new friends and rekindling old friendships. You name it, I’ve heard it.

So now, I have eleven days off work. The world is at my fingertips. “Where are you going to go?” my coworkers asked on my last day. After all, the first thing most people who work in the travel industry do when they have a good chunk of time off, is take a trip SOMEWHERE. At the end of March, Calgary still has six weeks of possible, and probable, snow. Cancun, Hawaii, Aruba, St. Maartens. These places do not expect snow.

Yes, it would be fun to take in some of the sights, to dangle my feet in an ocean. But at the destination of each of those flights, there are hotels, restaurants, tours, souvenirs. All these things take money. And money is the last thing I need to be spending frivolously. I looked into the possibilities. If I did go ‘somewhere,’ it would have to be a one day trip (no hotels.) What did I want to do when I got there? That’s easy. Pull out the computer and write. Edit. Rewrite. Find an agent.

So I compromised. I dug through photos of great times past, and came up with the perfect solution.

Budget Beach, AB

Budget Beach, Alberta

The beach scene in the background is Laguna Beach, CA, taken in 1993 on my first trip to Southern California. The trees are in Los Angeles somewhere near City Hall from a 1997 trip, my third trip to Disneyland. The wine glass (yes, it lights up) is from a daughter’s fantastic one-week-to-plan-it backyard wedding in 2007 although the drink pictured was new which my granddaughter enjoyed after I took the picture (I don’t like raspberry ginger ale but it looked nice in the glass with a dash of orange juice and a strawberry. I couldn’t find my little drink umbrellas!) The sand is from our stash on the porch that we use on the icy sidewalks, just to remind me what I’m “missing,” not that we have ice on the sidewalks right now but it’s a symbolic thing. I considered sprinkling sand on my bedroom floor so I could squish my toes in it, but common sense and my daughter both said no. Those are, however, my toes, which you can see have had a virtual pedicure to go with the virtual manicured thumb. To complete my basement beach experience, my space heater blows a nice warm breeze over me while a tranquil nature CD produces the ambience of waves breaking on a beach with seagulls screeching on the wind.

I can even ‘go to the spa’ because my office chair has a massage function.

And now, without spending a dime, I can play on my computer and end up in the same wonderful (albeit imaginary) worlds I would be in if I were, in fact, on a real life beach, without the sun glare on my screen and the worry of salt and sand getting into the ports. Knowing me, though, I probably wouldn’t have even left the air-conditioned and secluded hotel room!

What can I say? I write fiction . . . I make up my own worlds!

Share some of your favorite vacation memories so I can pretend I’m sitting on the beach with you, enjoying a wonderful conversation with a friend!

Cheers!

Pilgrimage to Flagstaff Part 3

Reluctantly I cleared my head of the initial shock of walking in the footsteps of Caleb and Ana and left the McDonalds and Starbuck area.

Without a map, I followed Milton and the Historic Route 66 signs toward my next goal, Crystal Magic, the bookstore I’d only seen from my stalking mode and fell in love with the name! It’s right on the corner of the street I was on and San Francisco Street.

Sacred Rites and Crystal Magic

Turning at at the lights, I grinned like the Cheshire Cat because I was about to go into that shop as soon I parked. I pulled into an empty spot across the narrow San Francisco Street (I’d always thought it was wider! I obviously don’t know how to tell these things about Google street view) and discovered I had parked right in front of a new age store called Sacred Rites, the perfect companion store in the scene where my characters mention shopping for incense and ritual drums.

my souvenir saguaro

I didn’t take a picture, as traffic was quite heavy and there were too many people (I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy) but I did get a little souvenir.

I then drove down the street on which I had assigned to Ana and her grandmother, recognized it as if I had walked that street hundreds of times as Ana had done. Very surreal. I knew that road.

A few turns later, and I was on the campus of Northern Arizona University. I just drove, experiencing something I had never known existed there. The campus is on some pretty hilly ground. So the hills really surprised me and explained the number of kids on skateboards. I found the Walkup Dome, where Louie the Lumberjack stands proudly.

Campus Shuttle

In the parking lot there, I discovered something else that Ana most likely used but never once told me about. There are shuttles that go around the campus. Ana seems to like walking everywhere, but I’m sure in the middle of Flagstaff’s winter snows, she probably used them. They might never be mentioned, but then again, they may crop up time or two.

I parked in a parkade that isn’t on any of the maps (it’s new, but it was finished in time to have been there.)

First stop as I explore the campus on foot . . . the bookstore around the corner. I immersed myself in all things university and Lumberjacks and bought a souvenir. Then “just follow the walkway around to the other side of that building” and I was at the Food Court in Union Hall. I had totally gotten it wrong. Well, not totally, but I never realized it faced east. In my mind, it had faced west. That’s important. Also, no revolving doors. Oops. No parking lot in the immediate vicinity, all important facts. Inside, I bought a muffin and sat at a table Ana may well have been sitting at when Caleb spotted her and made his bold move to meet her. I closed my eyes and listened. This was something I had never been able to stalk. Yes, I could go to any food court and listen, but this was the food court and the sounds they would have heard. I was a little disappointed that Caleb didn’t make an appearance.

Sadly, I left the food court but cheered up as I made my way to the library. The Cline Library is in Scene One, Chapter One. It’s hard to imagine the layout of a real place unless someone else has taken a picture of exactly what you need to see and posted it online for all to see. The Cline Library is such a place. A lot of pictures, but none that tie them together. The key spot where Caleb first saw Ana was completely wrong in the story. I have it now. It is believable now. I had to charge my phone so I had a great reason to just sit at a table and take it all in. More sounds (I had envisioned a quiet library – how outdated am I?) and a distinct lack of books. Computers everywhere, study pods, group tables. Wow.

Cline Library

 

So much more conducive to three guys studying together, making jokes, being a little louder than quiet, and then passing the reading room, and noticing a girl studying alone in that quiet area. I am now complete.

 

Unfortunately, the sun was quickly falling toward the San Francisco Peaks and I had a two hour drive back to Phoenix. I grabbed some dinner to go, and headed south.

Flagstaff Sunset

Not far out of town, I pulled over at a rest area/view point to take in my second Arizona sunset.

Absolutely phenomenal.

 

The next day, in Phoenix, Pat and I went on a tour which included Cosanti and Taliesin, both architectural wonders in completely different ways. I was able to grab a few tidbits about architects (Caleb is such a creature) and strange looking structures, perfect for inspiration on other worlds.

My poor sister also discovered first hand the truth behind this warning sign . . .warning-novelist_at_work

I plan on going back. As I mentioned in Part 1 of my trip diaries, I am in love. Not with someone, or some thing. Just in love and it’s calling me back to Arizona.

 

Pilgrimage to Flagstaff Part 2

Pat had already gone to her classes the next morning when I got up. As I dressed, I got nervous. Today was the day I was going to be entering a world which, up to that point, had been to me an imaginary world.

They gave me a pamphlet about Sedona anyway, in case I got there.

They gave me a pamphlet about Sedona anyway, in case I got there.

 

The car rental company dropped the car off at the hotel, and the concierge and bell captain gave me some touristy pamphlets and a state map. “You must see Sedona,” they both agreed. “But on the way back,” Manny, the bell captain, added. “It’s more scenic that way.” Knowing I wouldn’t have time for a side trip, I told them I’d try.

 

 

This is where the Arizona Coyotes play HOCKEY.

This is where the Arizona Coyotes play HOCKEY.

 

First on my agenda, a quick trip to the far western edge of civilization in neighboring Glendale to grab a quick shot of the Arizona Coyotes’ hockey arena for the hockey fans in the family.

 

 

So tall and majestic, the saguaro can only be found in the Sonoran desert.

So tall and majestic, the saguaro can only be found in the Sonoran desert

After an easy entrance onto the bypass next to the arena, I headed out for I-17, which goes through the northern edge of the beautiful Sonoran Desert, full of cacti varieties ranging from the squat barrel cactus to the majestic saguaros, along with many other unknown types (to this author, at least) of strange trees and bushes, all inspiration for alien flora on my desert-ish planets.

 

Having memorized the basic how-to-get-to-the-arena-from-the-hotel route (go north then turn left on Northern and go straight on until the end of the world and the bypass is right there), I was well out of town when I discovered I’d left my map of Flagstaff, marked with all the points I wanted to see, back in my hotel room.
Oh well, I can always get a map when I get there.

Steep grades all along the way.

Steep grades all along the way.

 

Along the road heading north, signs declare every 1000 ft rise in elevation. Phoenix is nearly 1100 ft above sea level. Flagstaff, only 140 miles away, is 7000 ft, taking us abruptly through three distinct climatic zones. That makes for some pretty steep grades all along the way. You go up, then down, but never as far down as you had gone up, then repeat as you cross yet another range of mountains. Along one particularly long unbroken stretch, something like 18 miles of going uphill, and of course, downhill coming back, the Highway Department has posted signs along the way, mostly for truckers, saying things like “Only 11 miles to go!”

Prickly Pear cactus and Mesquite trees in Sonora Desert

Prickly Pear cactus and Mesquite trees in Sonora Desert

 

The ubiquitous saguaro suddenly disappears at around 3000 ft, although there were still other varieties of cacti and other desert flora, such as mesquite trees and flowering brambly bushes.

 

 

And suddenly it was autumn.

And suddenly it was autumn.

 

At 4000 ft, I followed the road around a bend and it became autumn, complete with golden deciduous trees, then at 5000 ft, tall long needle pines (a type of ponderosa pine) and much cooler temperatures.

 

 

 

Cyber stalking is nothing compared to seeing the real thing.

Cyber stalking is nothing compared to seeing the real thing.

Then, before I was emotionally prepared, before I realized that I’d put nearly 140 miles behind me, I rounded a corner and saw Devil’s Chair mountain looming in the distance.
Devil’s Chair mountain is north of Flagstaff. Before I could even read the fast approaching green highway signs, I knew I was there.
Between me and that mountain lay Flagstaff, Arizona.

 

Following the highway into town and keeping on the main road, I saw the Golden Arches. THE Golden Arches where Caleb and Ana had their first ‘non-date,’ where she flirted with the spoon from his sundae and where he lost his heart.
I didn’t need a map. After all, I’d lived in that town for years.

Two doors north of McDs, I saw the Starbucks where Caleb saw—oops, almost spoiled it there! But it’s monumental to the story and for some reason I had to go there first. Okay, I admit it. I’m hooked and was in need of a hot drink by then!

Kasey & Alicia, coolest baristas around!

Kasey & Alicia, coolest baristas around!

I drove straight to Starbucks and went inside.
I stood there for a moment.
I’ve stepped into the reality of my imagination, half expecting to see Caleb and Ana sitting at a table.
A friendly barista greeted me, asking what I would like. I smiled and told her, “I’ve travelled from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to stand right here in this very Starbucks.” She probably thought I was nuts. Then I laughed and explained briefly about my mission.

Personalized Starbucks Cup from Milton Street in Flagstaff

Personalized Starbucks Cups from Milton Street in Flagstaff

I asked if they had any mugs with Flagstaff on them. No, they didn’t. Personally, I think that every Starbucks should have mugs with their city names on them. Or at least the state / province. Oh well, I found a great mug from there anyway. She took my order, then took a second cup and wrote Flagstaff Starbucks on Milton, with my name on it and handed it to me.
The mug I bought has white words on the white cup. It says:
“Fresh brewed inspiration for the day ahead.”
Perfect for me!

 

Caleb wasn't around to eat his sundae so I did!

Caleb wasn’t around to eat his sundae so I did!

On to the McDonalds.
Chronologically, Caleb and Ana went there first, but I wasn’t trying to actually relive the story. But, yes, I ordered a sundae because the scene centers around the sundae.
I sat in a booth near the back, where he sat with Ana, each learning about the other, trying so hard not to let down their guards, and failing miserably.
And so I sat there, drinking in the atmosphere, hearing the sounds they heard, seeing what they saw, feeling the hardness of the booth seat under me but imagining the soft emotions as the scene played through in my imagination, and I slowly ate Caleb’s sundae.

It was truly magical.

Just like Hollywood, I’m breaking this adventure into multiple parts.
Part 3 will reveal more discoveries I made about myself and my characters while immersing myself in their world.

Where Does the Time Go?

I don’t know how Doctor Who does it. How does he manage life on multiple timelines when I find it hard to mange just one?

Right. He manages it by doing what he has to get done, then he can time travel back and it seems like no time has passed, yet he has accomplished so much!

I need one of these. . .
Click for ACTION Shot

 

 

I need a Tardis. Don’t we all?

 

 

 

I’ve been so inundated by my new job with WestJet Airlines, learning and learning, and then learning some more, that it just seems like I never have a chance to blog. I think about it but then Life comes up. Work, hockey, dance, work. Repeat. Mostly the work part. I haven’t even had time to FLY anywhere!

I’ve been writing query letters, making sure they meet the specific requirements given by the intended recipients.  Praying that maybe this time, just maybe…

In the meantime, while waiting to hear back from the agency, I’m going through the manuscripts. Polishing it up. Hopefully leaving little for a proof editor to correct. Looking for overuse of the word “of” or “as” or “which” and rewriting to avoid using them if possible. Correctly using (spaces, no spaces,) the ellipsis. Watching for Point of View and making sure it remains constant throughout the section. Completely re-writing the plot and major action in the second half of the first book, while leaving the basic story untouched, then going through the following stories to make sure all references to that original action are updated. And making sure I’m spelling names the same way all the way through, and keeping spelling consistent, i.e. using American English vs British (and Canadian) version when my Canadian computer so desperately wants to be British. It’s a challenge in itself! Every time I spell color, my spellchecker questions it and wants to change it to ‘colour’, except in WordPress, which is American and just changed my colour back to color. Just a moment while I got back and insert the ‘u’ again. Silly computers.

(By the way, I was reading through to make sure what I wrote spontaneously made sense, and found the word ‘of’ at least five times where a better phrase could be used, and I changed it.)

I took an hour or so off to visit a friend in the hospital last Sunday. Walking from my car to the building, I passed the bike racks. I was compelled to take the picture. I must share what I saw. You wouldn’t believe me if I just told you what I saw. I would love to hear from you what you think is happening here!

I have no words for this.

I have no words for this.

 

I had a theory but it really doesn’t work with the fact that we just had snow two days before this picture was taken.

What do you think?

 

 

 

Why I Chose to Write Science Fiction

sometimes I dream of living in another star system like this

Because this is what I see when I star gaze during the day.

Yes, I did enhance the picture a little, but not a lot.

But consider this. That is what writers do. They take real life and work a little magic to make it a little more interesting, enticing, enchanting, while leaving it real, believable.

The truth is there, the sundog was real, the clouds really were in the shape of Saturn’s rings but with a little imagination…

Picture yourself living in the Earth colony on a planet in star system a thousand light years from Sol, accessible only by portal travel. Your home planet twirls and dances through the dusty lanes and rings of your star, a yellow dwarf similar to Sol. The planet lying within your orbit is cloud covered, like Sol’s own Venus. Even in its current last quarter phase, its perpetual canopy of clouds reflects the light of your sun, sending brilliant polychromatic rays through space.

You live in the northern half of your planet, which is currently in the middle of what would be a twelve year winter, if one were using Earth reckoning. Yet, you find yourself looking up from the dirty frozen ground beneath your feet to behold the beauty stretching out in the heavens above you, and even though the splendid rays from your cosmic neighbor warm nothing but the cockles of your heart, the awesome beauty of the universe inspires you and you know that you can survive until the thawing times.

Beautiful snowy days 2013Until such visions no longer inspire me, I will continue to write with the conviction that one day, our kind will travel the stars.