Friday, October 17, 2014

A Matter of Queries and Representation

What a week and a half it's been!

I apologize in advance for any meandering, poor spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors you may find in this post. I don't sleep well on a normal day (what is a normal day anyway?). The past 10 days my abilities to ward off restful sleep have been exceptional. This is a superpower you do NOT want.

Before I get into my big news (and it's big, let me tell you, it's BIG), let me give you a bit of background.

I don't query randomly. Every single agent that I've ever queried is someone that I genuinely think would be a great fit for both my writing and, more importantly, me. That's of course all based on the limited information I can gather by Googling, reading interviews, stalking on Twitter, and chatting them up.

There are a LOT of fantastic agents out there, of all stripes (and spots, and paisley, and I suppose houndstooth...).

That said, everything has to click in both directions. I have enough rejections from those same agents citing "wonderful writing/world building/characters/other words describing stories" but they just didn't "make the connection" (or some variant thereof) to wallpaper my office and some surrounding surfaces.

They came fast and fairly consistently at first. I'd query, and then receive a rejection the next day or week.

I went back and rewrote my base query letter (I tweaked it a little for every agent). Responses went from generic forms to personalized responses (not all of them, but some). I even had a few requests for partial submissions.

Following that path I continue to tweak and tinker my query, all the while continuing to get further input on CROW'S BLOOD from my awesome Alpha/Beta Readers (including my wonderful wife, who put up with so MANY drafts) and Critique Partners (Colten,
Rachel, and Clare) and worked to make it better.

I entered CROW'S BLOOD in contests. You know the best part about contests? The community and support that comes out of them. They're a fixed point. Everyone entering is (in theory) at the same point of their writing process and/or career as you are. They know what you're going through, they're doing it too.

Renee Ahdieh chose to mentor me in Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars. With her helpful pokes and prods I polished CROW'S BLOOD even further. Trimming out a few scenes that were so necessary in my head (I'd done so much world building to support them!) that weren't actually needed in the book. She's also a master at spotting my Shatner Commas and teaching me to identify them as well (I've removed 3 from this paragraph alone).

Last week I got wind of an agent I really liked reading my full... MY FULL!!! Excitement warred with dread. What if he didn't like it? What if I didn't stick the landing? I wanted to scream (politely) "If you find anything drastic, I'll fix it!". But I didn't. Because I am a professional! (stop laughing!)

I waited, and slept poorly, and waited.

Thursday was a normal day (there's that "normal" word again). Things teetered on the edge of going oh-so-perfectly and/or blowing up spectacularly at my day job. I was packing up to go home when my phone sounded the "email in the writing mailbox" notification (it doesn't say that, but it is distinctive).

It was an Offer of Representation! He wanted to have "The Call".

I hyperventilated for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life. I had an offer! From an agent!!! I remember thinking "Ok I need to get my head on straight before I reply so I don't come off as a complete idiot..." I barely remember the drive home.

After dinner (I have no idea what, or if, I ate) I painstakingly crafted my reply. It took me 35 minutes to write and edit that email.

"I'd love to chat." (I'm paraphrasing, but that was about the level of awesome I was functioning at). We scheduled for the next morning.

The call was awesome. I acted like a complete noob while trying to be all professional and cool. The agent in question handled the situation like I was a sane and perfectly functioning adult.

He answered all of my questions and asked a few of his own (which I think/hope I answered).  I let him know I had some other Fulls out and needed a week to get those settled before I signed (because it's the right thing to do), which he was completely cool with. We ended the call, and I sat there, stunned, for a good 30 minutes before reaching out to the other agents with my full.

Here we are, a week after that call. I've badgered several agents with questions and clarifications, and I've communicated and settled everything with each and every agent that had my full, a partial, or even a query. I won't go into details on all of that here, they're not the point.

Today, I'm proud/pleased/excited to say:

I am now represented by Leon Husock of the L. Perkins Agency!

P.S. Leon said to save some of my celebratory antics for when we sell CROW'S BLOOD.
To which I say:
Leon, this is nothing. When that happens, the world won't know what hit it!

I'm going to sleep now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The 777 Blog Hop

In what can only be described as cold-brewed wanton and impish revenge for calling him out in my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Colten Hibbs has tagged me in the 777 Blog Hop.

Those who have been tagged have to open their current work-in-progress (WIP), and go to the 7th line of the 7th page and post the next 7 lines.

My current work in progress is a Sci-Fi Noir Detective story I'm affectionately giving the working title "Sci-Fi Noir Detective Story". It's on it's Zero-Draft.

If you're unfamiliar with that term Zero-Draft, it's the very first, very rough draft that's written at the beginning of any project. It'll be full of holes, notes, dead ends, incomplete arcs, crappy repetitive language, eye-bleedingly-bad punctuation and prose, and worst of all... stilted dialog!

After spinning my wheels on some of the characterization and motivation (which will all change by the end of the Zero-Draft), I'm about ~6,500 words ( ~26 pages) into actual writing, and about 1/10th of the way through my outline.

I'm a sparse writer, beginning with a skeletal framework and layering description on top of it, so my manuscripts tend to remain relatively spare through several revisions. Luckily, the 7 lines that this Blog Hop highlights aren't affected much.

Without further ado:

 The speaker, Kats wasn’t sure whether she was Cross or Cork, let out a long breath. “Out of the ordinary? That’s Incidental territory. Those bastards wouldn’t know ordinary if it landed on their dinner table. 
The Nature’s Path, or Incidentals as their detractors called them, were a decades old movement that denied the benefits of genetic enhancement and error correction. They’d swelled in numbers for the first twenty years or so, then levelled off at around four percent of the population. Very few Incidentals ever held jobs higher than bottom rung maintenance positions. 
Despite their relatively similar social status, Tankers like Kats were as far removed from the Nature’s Path as it was possible to be.
Anything in that passage is subject to change, in whole or in part. I may even remove it from my manuscript with fire and brimstone at any time of my choosing.

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Refuse to Aspire Any Longer

Time for an untimely blog post (because that's what I do lately when I'm in the throes of writing). This will hopefully be a short one (or not, depends on whether or not I get wind-baggy. The fact that this is the second parentheses in as many sentences does not bode well for that).

I've unceremoniously obliterated the word "Aspiring" from this blog's title. I've had enough. I refuse to "aspire" to be a writer any more. I've spent the better part of 4 years... that's right...
FOUR... 
YEARS...
..."aspiring" to be a writer.

I've written a longer-than-novel length work. Re-written it from the ground up with a new main character and a tighter plot. Revised that 6 times and pared it down. Polished it. Had it Critiqued. Re-polished it. Queried it. Received a mountain of rejections. Received more than a few requests for more pages. I've even sent out a few full manuscripts when they were requested. I've received rejections on those.

More than that, I've written other stuff. I have outlines and "voice/character" vignettes written for four more books. I've written 45,000 words on one of them and 16,000 words on another. All while "aspiring" to be a writer.


Well, I quit. I'm done. No more. This "aspiring writer" thing is for chumps and I'm not going to play that game. I'm taking that ball and going home.

 I have better things to do with my time.


Like being an actual writer. Lets get down to the point of the matter. I haven't been "aspiring" to be a writer since that first time I wrote "the end" (all in lower case, just like that) at the end of a ~140,000 word manuscript. It didn't have to be that long (it's now ~91,000 words), but it was. And I made it start to finish (not necessarily in that order).

So it's time I got honest, not just with you, fair readers (few as you are, you're important enough to be honest with), but also to myself. I'm not "aspiring" to be a writer any more. That's not a label I can hide behind whenever someone doesn't take my writing seriously. Playing off it as some sort of self-effacing joke.

It doesn't matter that I'm not published (yet!). It doesn't matter that I don't have an agent (yet!).

I take my writing very seriously. This is not a hobby for me (and it's fine if it is for other people). I will continue down this path, working to improve my craft.

I am a writer. I don't have time to aspire.

- Alex

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Circus Won't Have Me (I Can't Juggle).

Ahem! So it's July. My last entry was in May. Glad to see I'm keeping on top of this blog thing!
The good news about the delay between posts is that I've been writing, and I've learned something.

There are writers out there who can write multiple stories at the same time, and there are those who can't. At present I firmly reside in the realm of Nope! Can't do it! I've tried and it's been an ongoing disaster that I've only recently started to dig myself out of.

Now, when I say "write" I do mean exactly that. I have no trouble writing one story and revising or outlining another. But if I try to actually write two stories at once? Catastrophe! Disaster! Calamity! Cataclysm! Armageddon! You get the picture. We're talking problems of the Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Steve Buscemi together on a rocket ship proportions.

I've been writing an Alt History/Fantasy since October of last year. I continued working on it, albeit at a slower pace, through Pitch Madness, without a hitch. I discussed where things started to get out of hand in April. Since that time I've actually been writing fairly consistently at least 300 words a day, 5 days a week. Not a great pace, but the habit is back, and that's great.

I've had a few incredible story ideas sneak up on me, as they tend to, while I got my groove back. That's great right? Awesome story ideas that just keep coming? What's there to complain about? Well, Writer's Block has never been a worry for me. I doubt I'll ever have a shortage of ideas. I worry more about a shortage of time. If they keep coming I may never have enough time to write them all in the manner they deserve.

So, those incredible story ideas. Yeah. I couldn't wait. I dug into one pretty heavily (a sci-fi, a genre I love and have wanted to sink my teeth into), and it consumed me. I wrote a barebones outline, then dug into a few test scenes and character spots. I really love the feel and scope of it. I was really rolling with it, at least until I hit the first plot hole in the outline.

I can handle that just fine normally by digging in and getting my hands dirty in the muck. But I had another story sitting around 40K words in that I could just jump over to and work on right? Lots of writers do it! It couldn't be that hard... What's the worst that could happen?

Well. I can tell you what the worst that could happen was: I'd lost the feel of the Alt History/Fantasy and couldn't keep the headspace required for the sci-fi and a new cast of vastly different characters. I hit a hard wall and lost momentum on TWO stories.

 It was a long slow road to sort myself out. I went back to the beginning of the story and worked through what I'd written from the start. Performing a mini-revision on a third of a story isn't something I ever wanted to do (especially considering the mental anguish dwelling on my early drafts causes me), but it was exactly what I needed.

So, for the time being I'm writing exclusively on the Alt History/Fantasy and only jotting outline notes on anything else.

I know writing multiple stories at once is certainly possible, and I might be able to do it someday. I'm nowhere near there yet.

Lesson learned.

- Alex

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Writer's Voice 2014

The inimitable Brenda Drake is running another contest called The Writer's VoiceI entered the Rafflecopter. I sang to it. And I got selected.

Without further ado, here's my entry:

Query

Dear Writer's Voice,

Ren is the best thief in the walled realm of Lenmar. Which is no small feat when everyone from the queen to the lowliest peasant has some level of magical ability—everyone except Ren, that is.

Instead, Ren has the rare ability to identify the kind of magic wielded by others. Given his chosen profession, this should be a boon . . . especially since everything worth stealing is protected by spells and bindings. 

Yet, he’d trade it in a heartbeat to be normal.

When one of the realm’s most powerful noblewomen is murdered in ritualistic fashion and no trace of the killer’s magic can be found, Ren becomes the prime suspect. Hunted by magic-eating Inquisitors and the Captain of the Royal Guard, Ren’s life becomes one of flight and fear in a battle to prove his innocence.

If Ren wants to clear his name and protect the people he cares about, he’ll have to catch the real killer. To do that, he needs to pull one more high-stakes heist—
And steal the proof he needs from the very people who want to catch him.

Complete at 90,000 words, CROW’S BLOOD is a Fantasy Thriller in the vein of Robin Hood. With dementors. It is a standalone with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,

Alex Pierce


First 250 Words

A sharp crack echoed in the silence. Ren winced. Without special tools or a talent for Fire to heat the lead around the pane, breaking in this way couldn't be done quietly. He had neither, and that much heat might set off the binding sigils and raise the alarm. Besides, it seemed louder than it actually was. He'd tested.

He lifted the segment of colored glass and settled it to one side, leaving a gap a scene depicting the Goddess and her four Scions holding the Adversary at bay. No hordes of guards or swarms of librarians boiled out of the hole. So far, so good.

A shaft of the Other's pale moonlight lit a small circle on the intricate mosaic near the center of the floor far below. 

To Ren, it said something about the Praetorian Order. They lavishly decorated their inner sanctum—where select few ever went—while leaving their public libraries grim and barren. Stealing from them was less than they deserved.

He had a job to do. 

The silken black rope uncoiled into the opening with a whisper. Ren swept his satchel so it hung behind him and sprung into the gap, dropping along the rope's length. 

He ignored the butterflies in his stomach and their vain attempt at flapping to slow his descent. Catching the rope at the last possible moment, Ren guided it with his hands and wrapped his legs around it, halting his free-fall.

Righting himself, Ren touched down into the silence with a flourish and a bow.




Sunday, April 27, 2014

I Suck at Writing: A Confession

I suck at writing. I don't mean my prose, or my descriptions, or my characterizations (though I'm sure to be lacking in a number of those areas).

I mean in my work ethic.

I haven't written a single word of real writing in ~8 weeks.

There are all sorts of excuses I could line up, between my day-job workload, to travelling, to any number of things. None of them are truly valid to the writer in me. I've had all those things going on before and I soldiered through and got the words down.  Hell, some of my most productive times have been when my day-job was demanding 12-16 hours of my life per day.

So what have I done? Well, let's see. I've read a BUNCH of books. I sort of caught up on some of the TV I've recorded. I've seen a few movies in theatres (and really enjoyed them). I've kicked some ass at The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. And I've spent far too much money on Skylanders.

Writing related? I've cycled out a few more queries on CROW'S BLOOD. Tracked through and kept up with the blogs of all the writers I know and love. And I've re-worked the outline for my historical fantasy about six times.

Six times may seem like I've been keeping busy, but really I haven't. Not busy enough anyway. I could be doing a lot more... you know... writing.

I've been doing some much-unneeded self-examination on what exactly my problem is. Turns out it's pretty simple:

I suck at writing. This time I am talking about the prose, descriptions, and characterizations.

I worked on CROW'S BLOOD for a LONG time. I finished the first draft in November of 2011! Never mind that I completely threw that draft and story away and re-worked the entire novel from the ground up. That's more than 2 years ago!!!

It's been that long since I really dug in and worked on something new. The sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of every draft as the story and prose got tighter is gone, and the distance from that first clunky and painful draft is vast.

When I look at what I've written lately (and by lately I mean before I got into my writing funk), all I can see is the warts and garbage and things that make me want to set it on fire and walk away. It's no wonder I've re-outlined the thing so many times. Outlines are safe. I can write a REALLY cool outline. Point form mind-maps don't have to be pretty.

I've forgotten that it's OK to suck, especially on your first draft. No one has everything worked out. No one has the perfect words for every sentence. No one really knows where the commas are supposed to go!

I suck at writing. But I desperately need to remember and keep reminding myself that it's OK to suck. I'm going to keep doing it, updating my word-counts here on my blog so you can all keep score (and I can keep myself accountable).

I need to push on and get through the first draft. That first, clunky, broken, full of holes draft. I need to finish the story. I need to tie up all the loose ends. And I really need to achieve that awesome sense of finishing something.

You know why?

I'm really good at revision.

- Alex

P.S. Have any of you ever hit that wall? Let me know how you got past it in the comments.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Harvester by Rachel Russel: Blog Tour Interview



As part of the Harvester Blog Tour I've had the pleasure of interviewing the wonderful Rachel Russel. Rachel Russell is published by Entranced Publishing.

Alex: What inspired you to write Harvester?
Rachel: A whole lot of little things added up to inspire HARVESTER. I have a complete obsession with Sidhe faeries and human magic-users. I started thinking about ways our world would be different if a secret mage civilization existed belowground. I also took inspiration from the lore of the Gaelic people and even Shakespear’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Really, it’s hard to pinpoint anything too much. My inspiration for books usually amounts to a melting pot full of various ideas, images, songs, drawings, and so on forth.

A: Catalina sounds like an interesting protagonist. Describe her in 5 words:
R: Headstrong, passionate, short-tempered, loyal, and compassionate.

A: Should we expect more books in the Harvester setting and story?
R: Maybe. I have a tentative idea for Book 2 and Book 3. I’m considering having Book 2 be told from Catalina’s best friend’s POV. Her name is Una and it’d pick up right where Book 1 left off. I don’t have any solid plans at the moment, though.

A: Describe your writing process, are you an architect or a pantser?
R: I’m an architect all the way, baby. My writing process involves me writing out a story outline, then breaking that down chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene. I fill out index cards for each scene and put them in order on a corkboard. Only once I have everything plotted out do I begin writing.

A: Tell us about your favourite writing space. Do you have/need a specific place or are you a kitchen table/coffee shop/subway/nightclub/situation room kind of writer?
R: My specific writing nook is basically anywhere in my house with my laptop. If I had to choose a most common writing area, it’d probably be my bedroom where it’s the quietest.

A: You work in the writing/books industry, can you tell us what you do?
R: I work as the Submissions Coordinator for Month9Books, and also as an Editorial Assistant. As the Submissions Coordinator, I handle sending out titles to submissions interns, gathering up their reader reports, compiling a weekly report of all submissions received for that week, and in general keeping house tidy with sending manuscripts along to the proper editor or filing folder. As an Editorial Assistant, I mainly just do copy edits, proofreading, and light formatting of manuscripts.

A: Has it helped or hindered your journey? How?
R: It has definitely helped. I see a ton of submissions on a weekly basis and know what’s trending, what publishers are looking for, and what editors are excited about or sick of.

A: What’s next for you as a writer?
R: I’m going to keep working on other novels and hopefully be ready to query literary agents with something new and awesome later this year.

A: What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?
R: Triple chocolate. I’m a firm believer that chocolate ice cream must also have bits of chocolate brownie in it. It’s the one true way to eat ice cream.

A: If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
R: To take my time and realize that publishing isn’t a race. Everyone’s path to publication is different and that’s all right.


A: Thank you for doing this interview!
R: Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Alex!  


This blog tour runs from 17th March 2014 until 30th March 2014.

You can add Harvester to your to-read list on Goodreads.

You can find more about Harvester on the Entranced Publishing Website.


About the Author
Rachel is a YA author who likes dirty martinis and pickles on her pizza. Her stories tend to be either @RachelxRussell), or playing make-believe with her two daughters.
horror or fantasy, or a strange amalgamation of both genres. She works at Month9Books, LLC as both the Submissions Coordinator and an Editorial Assistant. When not reading or writing, Rachel is marathoning anime, becoming one with Twitter (

You can find and contact Rachel here:
Website. Facebook. Twitter. Goodreads.


There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Harvester.
Here's what you can win:

- One white leather infinity bracelet
- One e-copy of Harvester

Enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win.
Rafflecopter giveaway