Category Archives: Publishing

A Single Spark

I set a goal of writing every day with the help of "The Writers Devotional" by Amy Peters. First week in, and I skipped Thursday and Friday. I'm not off to a good start.

However, after reading Friday's focus on biography and Saturday's focus on what books to read, they tie together well enough to combine them into a single entry.

Why do you write? Is it to entertain with a great story, to improve a person's life with a self-help book, or perhaps encourage people to improve their life through fiction?

Another question (and if you don't write for others), what's the one book that changed you the most?

Friday's biography focused on George Orwell who wrote Animal Farm and 1984.

Aside, and a bit of useless trivia: George Orwell came up with the title 1984 not necessarily because he was prescient, but merely switched the year of when he wrote it in 1948.

His books serve as cautionary tales when governments run amok that still today have a wide readership. They are nearly timeless, and show that power will always corrupt no matter how we try to guard against it — and always will at the expense of entire populations.

Friday's focus on what book to read was "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson. It was about the dangers of the insecticide DDT. Because of her book, the chemical was banned.

Neither author expected to see how large of an impact their words would have. Unfortunately for Orwell, he never saw how much of an impact. To quote Carson, "It would be unrealistic to believe that one book could bring about a complete change."

Yet that's what so many writers want, and need. Writing is daring to pour our heart and soul on the page. It is an act of bravery to let others read our writing, because doing so we risk people stomping our soul into slippery red goo when it's rejected.

My first novel I wrote out of discontent. Not like Orwell with his overarching fear of where society is headed, or the more immediate dangers of scientific or technological advancements like Carson. My frustration stemmed from science fiction leaving out — or being outright hostile to — the existence of God, and Christian fiction focused almost solely on romance with little to no fantasy and science fiction.

I'm still having problems finding an agent/publisher for that novel, because the Christian publishing market is still slow to accept science fiction of my variety, and most of the mainstream science fiction market doesn't want anything to do with religion. Because of that, I'm more focused on finding an agent for my mainstream science fiction novel.

I'm not out of options, though. I can still self-publish my first novel, but I'm not as yet willing to put in the work (and money) required for it to succeed. I'm lazy that way. Does that mean I don't believe in my story as much as Orwell or Carson? That's a good question that will require some serious thought.

More questions that need answering: How much do I want my words to impact my readers, and how important is that to me? What — if anything — am I willing to sacrifice to see it through?

"In a time of universal deceit—telling the truth is a revolutionary act." — George Orwell.

"Great storms announce themselves with a single breeze, and a single random spark can ignite the fires of rebellion." – Bishop from the movie Ladyhawke

When The Little Voice Speaks . . .

Listen.

Ignore the one that yells.

One of my favorite scriptures is when Elijah ran to the wilderness to escape from Jezebel’s death threat after God had destroyed 500 of Baal’s prophets.

His own faith had taken a strong hit, and he wanted to die, for he felt as though he had failed the Israelites, and because people sought to kill him anyway.

And [the Lord] said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13

Almost a year ago now, an agent I spoke to at the ACFW conference wanted me to send the first three chapters of my novels (three of them). After a few months, I heard nothing back. Six months later, still nothing.

Many have suggested that if you don’t hear back within a certain amount of time (unless their submission guidelines say different), it’s appropriate to email said client to verify they received your submission.

After six months I thought, “Perhaps I should send the agent an email.”

But that little voice I learned to trust a long time ago told me not to. So I didn’t. Every few weeks or so, I once again asked myself if I should. Again, the voice said no.

I figured it was God’s way of telling me to forget about it.

I received this email a few hours ago:

Andra,

As we are coming up on conference season, I wanted to thank you so much for allowing me the time to read, research and consider your proposal. Unfortunately, at this time I’m going to pass on offering representation. The concept is strong and I like your writing, but I feel I am not the best agent to take this product forward into the marketplace.

I wish you all the luck on your journey to be published!

When I saw who the email came from, I admit my heart thudded a few times. For five seconds I gleefully entertained the idea that said agent agreed to represent my books.

As you can see, not this time. I still liked the email, though, especially the first half of the last sentence. I responded thusly:

Thank you so much for the response and comments. It’s always nice to hear positive (and negative for that matter) feedback on my writing, so I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

All the best to you and yours.

So was that “still small voice” God’s way of telling me to wait? I think so. Sure it resulted in news I didn’t necessarily want, but at the same time, it’s teaching me patience, and to trust that God’s timing isn’t the same as mine. The fact the agent liked both my concept and my writing gives me a boost of confidence I sorely need. Perhaps that was the point.

I’m Not Tellin’, and You Can’t Make Me

I’ve decided that I’m not going to share when I’ve submitted my short stories to a publication, or when I’ve submitted query letters to literary agents.

For the simple fact, every time I do, it ends up rejected. See, that’s the real problem. It’s not because I haven’t found the right editor or agent, or that my writing is total crap. Nope. It’s that I’m telling you. In short, by sharing with you everything about my so-called publication journey story (read ocassional nightmare), I’m actually jinxing myself. Seems logical, don’t you think? Scientific, even.

From now on, mum’s the word.

Just remember that in the last few days, I may or may not have submitted a query letter and sample pages to an agent or two, and I may or may not have sent a short story or two to a magazine. Or two.

That’s not to say I won’t share the aftermath of each rejection or acceptance. Of course I will. I’m just hoping with this new strategy, I’ll see more acceptances, and as such, prove my theory.

Yeah, I’m not holding my breath, either.

*Sigh* Rejected Again

I just received this little email:

Andra,

Thank you for offering your story to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

We’re sorry to tell you that we will not be using it; you are free to submit it elsewhere.

That makes Rejection Number Two for my story “Ashella’s Heart.”

At this point, I don’t know if I have the energy to find another magazine to submit it to. Sure, I have access to significant lists of magazines that accept stories like mine, but the problem comes with the necessity of reading a copy or two of each one to find out if it’s really a good fit, or not. That takes a lot of time. Sure, I could submit it to every science fiction/fantasy magazine out there without reading any of it, but that seems too . . . impersonal, I guess. Not quite the word I’m looking for, but I’m not motivated enough to find it.

So, yeah, I’m feeling a little maudlin about the whole thing.

Part of it is due to spending the last three days looking for agents for my sci-fi novel. I found over a dozen that look promising, and that’s a good thing. Better to have too many choices than not enough. All I need to do is structure and personalize my query letter and synopsis according to each one’s submission requirements – starting with the agents that I like best and work my way down from there.

The good news is, I at least I didn’t have to wait until my birthday to find out the magazine thought my story sucked (kidding a bit there. My story didn’t necessarily suck. Most likely they’re looking for something different).

I just wish I could better predict what magazine/publisher/agent will fit with what I write. It’s so damned unpredictable in that the only way to discover it is to send it out there to be rejected. I’d like to think I have a thick enough skin, but on days like today – apparently – it’s not thick enough.

The Self-Torture Continues . . .

Attempt number two in seeing my short story published.

This time I will have to wait three whole months before I hear anything back.

Interestingly, that’ll be around my birthday. Will I end up with a surprise birthday present, or perhaps a reason to quit celebrating my birthday should I receive bad news?

I wish I could say more about this, but, really, what else is there?

Should I apologize for writing such a short entry, or congratulate myself for succeeding in not wasting your precious time?

Either way, I hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Word of advice, though. Go outside! Play! Turn off the TV and all other electronic devices! Avoid politics at all costs!

Your brain will thank you for keeping it sane.

Yay! I’m Rejected!

One more rejection letter to add to the growing pile:

Dear Andra,

Thank you for submitting “Ashella’s Heart” to Apex Magazine. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it’s a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Sincerely,

Lesley Conner
Managing Editor
Apex Magazine.

I’m a bit disappointed, but it is what it is. All it means is I need to find another magazine to submit to. I have one in mind, but I want to read a few more issues to make sure it’s a good fit (according to moi). Although this particular magazine says it takes both fantasy and science fiction, most of the stories included in the few issues I’ve read so far have been science fiction. I don’t want to waste time submitting to a magazine that’ll reject it out of hand because I didn’t get the genre right.

EDIT: Have you ever responded to a publisher/editor/agent and thought the moment after you sent it, “Oh crap! Did I spell their name right?”

I had that moment of panic after I responded thanking the editor for their time and consideration. Thankfully, I did spell it right *wipes sweat off brow, and takes a deep breath to slow down heartrate*.

Twenty-Two Days

That’s the average response time to short stories submitted to a magazine that publishes fantasy, science fiction and horror. I’ve read three issues so far, and think my short story that won 2nd place in last year’s Writers Digest competition would make a good fit.

We’ll see.

In approximately 22 days.

The worst part about the whole process of submitting articles and short stories is hitting that awful “submit” button (or dropping that proposal or query letter into the mailbox). Once I do, there’s no turning back. No more chances to edit out any mistakes, make any other changes to the plot, grammar, setting, characters . . . nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It’s like sending a child away to school, or discovering it’s time he left the house to create a life of his own. My story is now out of my hands, out of my control. It’s my heart and my mind on display, and I can’t help but think, “Now I get to find out if the editors of this magazine thinks the story is good, or if it’s crap.”

Not submitting it is always easy, because in my dreams, my stories always find a place. They receive nothing but accolades.

But it’s not real, and reality can suck sometimes. I’m like most writers in that I often prefer my fantasies. In my fantasy worlds, I am in control. Submitting stories and articles for others to judge is purposefully relinquishing that control, and my opinions and biases are shown to either be spot on, or completely spot off.

It’s a terrifying thing to step out of my made-up world and take a chance that in reality, everything I created is nothing like I believed and hoped it was.

That said, in case my story is rejected by this magazine, it doesn’t make my story crap. It simply means they didn’t find it a good fit for them. There are other magazines out there, and in fact, I have another in mind (I went back and forth for a few days trying to decide which to try first. It boiled down to response time. The one I submitted to is a bit quicker). Like many others, neither magazine takes simultaneous submissions, so I have to submit it one at a time.

Time will tell.

I’ll keep you apprised.