Monday, March 26, 2012

The Promised Lament- With a Twist

Last week I shared with you the anticipated announcement of the quarter finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Given that I’d made the second round, I had a chance to be one of two-hundred-fifty contestants who’d move on to the all important quarter final round. Last we talked, I promised you one of two things would happen this week. I’d either share my elation of advancement or the agony of dream crushing defeat. Okay, that’s a little overdramatic, but I’m a writer. Drama is part of what I do.

As you’ve no doubt guessed by the title of this blog, I didn’t make the next round. To be honest, I was disappointed but not surprised. Seeing as how I haven’t made it to the quarter finals in the last five years, I didn’t expect to make it this time. My ability to advance hinged on selected Amazon reviewers liking my novel. It seems the opinions had to be unanimous for that to happen. Unfortunately for me, I got two rather mixed reviews.

The first was a short review that proclaimed my story to be predictable. According to the reviewer, readers knew what would happen before it actually happened. Good would triumph over evil; a plot line the reviewer felt was overused. While I’m not at all bitter about this (okay, maybe just a little), that statement demonstrates the fallibility of the reviewers only being allowed to see no more than the first five thousand words of the story. Had they been granted access to the pitch we were required to submit, they would’ve seen this is an atypical story in which good and evil join forces to ensure each side maintains a proper balance. That aside, this reviewer did say I was a good writer and he could see me becoming a best seller with a different kind of story. I liked that!

The second reviewer, on the other hand, gave the sample a glowing review. She admitted she didn’t expect to be drawn in but was. She even took it a step further to say she could see the story appealing to adults and teens alike. This was my favorite review, for obvious reasons.

I didn’t move on, and I was admittedly down about it. I was also a little unhappy to see that only two reviewers determined my ability to do so. With as varied as readers’ tastes are, I would’ve liked to have seen a wider sample audience participate in the review process with a majority opinion being the deciding factor. As contestants, we’re offered a survey in which we can provide feedback on our contest experience and this will be incorporated into my feedback.

So, where’s the twist I promised you? The twist is this: the day after learning I didn’t advance in arguably one of my favorite writing contests, I received an email from another agent asking to see a partial of my newest young adult novel. This isn’t the same novel I entered in the contest. It’s the novel I wrote afterward. I now have two agents looking at the full manuscript and one agent reviewing a partial.

I may not have moved on the contest, but this dream is far from over. Just hang in there with me, and one of these days you’ll see my novels in print.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Here's to Hoping

For some time now, I’ve been jokingly referring to myself as an aspiring professional writer. Given that I do have some freelance credits to my name, I suppose it’s more accurate to say I’m an aspiring professional novelist and even more specifically an aspiring professional young adult novelist.

In the last few months, I’ve taken a number of steps to secure my status as a professional. I’ve aggressively searched for an agent and have also entered my work in a few contests in the hopes of gaining recognition. By this time tomorrow, I’ll know the outcome of the latter.

The results of the next round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards are due to be released tomorrow, and I’m hoping to see my name there. The field is being narrowed from one thousand to two-hundred-fifty. Significant about this is that those advancing will have excerpts of their novel posted on Amazon for customers to read and rate. This is a make or break portion of the contest. Those with higher ratings and more positive reviews demonstrate a high marketability and have a good chance of advancing to the final rounds.

Having entered this contest every year since its inception, it’s hard to be hopeful that I’ll advance, but for some reason I can’t help it this year. I’m more optimistic this year than I have been in years past. I suppose that could be because last year I didn’t even make it past the first round, but that’s only a small part of it. The novel is well edited. Though I’ve always tried to make sure the final product is polished, I inevitably miss one or two small things. Not this year. This year, it’s been through heavy editing by more than one pair of eyes who caught things I missed, which allowed me to correct them prior to entry. This novel, in my humble opinion of course, has high commercial appeal which I attribute to its controversial stance on good and evil. Finally, this novel has a large on line following of readers who’ve been clamoring to see it in print.

Taking a look at all of these factors as objectively as I can, it’s hard not to imagine it failing to advance in the contest. Only time will tell if my confidence is for not, but I will say this. Despite my high hopes, I’ve been wrong before. Just ask my teenage daughters!

Until tomorrow, here’s to hoping for the best. Oh, and don’t be surprised when next week’s blog is either a lament of my lack of advancement or a joyous celebration of making it through along with a plea to help me keep going.

Monday, March 12, 2012

There's Always Next Year

For those of you who don’t know, my birthday was last week. If you don’t know, don’t feel bad.  The older I get the less significance I place on the day. Don’t get me wrong, the presents are wonderful and always appreciated. And given my fondness for cake with butter cream icing (don’t even get me started on whipped cream), I’m always happy when I see birthday cake coming.

This year, when my family asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I had a difficult time coming up with anything. I have most everything I need, and there was nothing that came to mind when I thought about what I wanted, at least not anything they could give me.  When I finally came up with an idea for a box of paper, they thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. Anyone who’s a writer knows how much paper you go through in the editing process. Needless to say, I rolled out of bed on my birthday morning to find a brand new box that contained ten reams of paper. I am now the proud owner of five thousand sheets of printer paper, minus the two hundred seventy-one I used this weekend.

Of course, paper wasn’t the only thing I got. I received balloons and cards and candles from friends and family, and I get the pleasure of indulging in not one but two birthday lunches this year. One was yesterday with a family member, and this week the coworkers and I are going out to Yoshino’s where I plan to put away some Japanese food. Yummy!

Still, there is one thing I would’ve liked to have gotten; one thing no one I know has the power to give me. As soon as I told my husband I didn’t get the one thing I really wanted, he knew what it was. Having listened to me asking for this every birthday and Christmas for the past few years, he’s well versed on the subject. Even if you don’t know me personally but have been following this blog, you no doubt are aware of what I’m about to say.

For the record, the only thing I wanted and didn’t get for my birthday is an agent’s offer of representation from one of the two agents who currently has my latest young adult novel under review. It’s been only a few weeks since I submitted to one and almost two months that I submitted to the other. On this side of the fence, that feels like a long time, but in this industry it’s not unusual for busy agents to take several months to review a manuscript. I’ll tell you one thing though. The more days that pass, the harder it is not to get hopeful this is it. When you get rejected right away, you know where you stand. When it takes a while to hear back, you have some hope which can be both comforting and dangerous and a discussion best saved for another time.

As the title of this blog seems to suggest, there’s always next year to have my birthday wish fulfilled. Truthfully, I’d rather not have to wait that long. That’s another year, but again that’s not unheard of in this business, especially not when you consider how long I’ve already been at this.

So, I’ll go ahead and say it. I didn’t get the birthday present I really wanted, but maybe by this time next year it’ll be a moot point. Maybe I’ll have it by then and this will be a distant memory. If not, you can expect us to be having this exact same conversation this time next year!

Monday, March 5, 2012

SoThat's what RP Means!

Some time back I wrote about what I called the downfalls of fame. The gist of the post was that the ending of the final book of my trilogy met with largely unfavorable reactions. Readers didn’t like that I left the book open ended and they let me know it.

Up until that point, I’d received nothing but glowing reviews so this was my first encounter with what I called the down side of fame. While I recognized their right to express their opinions, I did feel a bit of a sting from how harsh some of them were. It was the kind of thing that made you think twice about whether or not you wanted to keep sharing your work and putting yourself out there.

This past week, something happened that renewed my faith in my ability and reminded me why I write. One of my readers contacted me to ask if I would be willing to allow her to create a RP based on the characters in my trilogy.  Being computer ignorant person that I am had no idea what RP meant. I was explained that RP stands for role play, and this fan wanted to create an entire on line role play devoted to my story and its characters.

Of course I gave her the thumbs up and I’ve been shaking my head in wonder since then. I can’t tell you what an ego boost it is to have created a story that would inspire someone to take the time to do that. And I’m here to tell you this fan has been in a lot of effort into making it a success. Not only that, but she’s been keeping me informed every step of the way.

Given how hard she’s working, I hope she doesn’t experience the disappointment of not having anyone interested in participating. You know, even if no one else wants to play, the fact that she felt so much love for the story that she wanted to find a way to keep it alive is something I will carry close to my heart for a long time. And those days when I’m inclined to complain about fans’ expectations I’ll remember this.

With all this talk I've done about the RP, I'm sure you want to check it out now. Go ahead if you dare: If not, at least you know what RP means now!