Thursday, July 27, 2006

Visit Pennsylvania

I've been listed by Visit Pennsylvania as a local expert. Come take a look!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

CALIFORNIA

... here I come.

I have scheduled some time off to visit my friends and family in California. I've also scheduled a few signings/talks during that time in NoCal and SoCal.

August 19, 3-5 p.m.: Borders, Monroeville, PA

August 31, 1-5 p.m.: Saratoga Public Library (near Santa Clara, CA) More info here.

September 7, 7-9 p.m.: Borders, Rolling Hills (near Los Angeles, CA)

September 9, 3-5 p.m.: Borders, Arcadia, CA

If you're in the area during these times, come and say hi!

Where are my books?

I got some IPPY Award stickers so I wanted to put them on my books at the stores. I went to my local Barnes & Noble and Borders this past weekend, but to my surprise, I couldn't find my book. Two stores were out, and there was one copy left at another. I was baffled. My initial thought was, oh crap, they returned all the copies already? Then I thought, wait, some of these are autographed, and they can't return altered/marked/signed books. So what's the deal here?

So I went to another store where the manager had told me specifically that they'd *never* return books, and I trusted her. They had 40 copies before my signing in May, and I sold about 10 and signed another 10. I asked the clerk if I could sign the stock, and she told me there were 12 left, 3 of those autographed. That means 18 must have been sold since my signing.

Could it be that people are actually buying my book off the shelves? Part of me wants to say, YES! But part of me is still skeptical -- they must have returned the copies. 18 doesn't sound like a large number, but for someone like me, an unknown author published by a small press, it's a great number, especially when only two months have passed.

It does drive home this point, though: Getting books on store shelves is crucial. The point of sale system really works. Potential customers can actually see, touch, smell, and read them before they make a purchase decision. They don't have to know about your book already. A good cover, jacket blurb, and the writing itself are the best tools to sell a book. Then, hopefully word of mouth would do the rest.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

On Submission...

Every piece of the submission puzzle tells the agent what she needs to know about the writer. Yes, the ultimate goal for the agent is to find the next great novel -- it's always the novel itself that is the bottom line. However, who's got time to read every manuscript that comes their way?

A query letter tells the agent if the writer is serious about his craft. Can he even write a decent business letter that interests her? Does he sound professional and easy to work with (and not a pompous azz)? Does he have credentials? Does he know what he is selling?

The synopsis tells the agent if the writer even knows what his story is about. Can he summarize his major plot points and characters with clarity in an easy-to-follow format? Can he write succinctly, or does he rely too much on vague adjectives, adverbs and poor verbs? Do I know what I need to know about the entire story arc, or am I left with even more questions?

The partial (3 chapters, 50 pages, whatever) tells the agent if the writer can indeed tell a story. Does he have a good writing style? Is his grammar good? Can he begin a novel? Is his prose any good? Am I turning the pages even though I have ten million other things to do and manuscripts to read? Do I want to find out what happens next when I'm done with the last page?

As writers, we can't trivialize any part of this process. If we want to get published, we need to learn and master these steps.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Switching gears?

OK, maybe I have stalled on my novel, but something strange happened recently. I am not having writer's block.

I have been writing short stories.

I have written and polished three short stories in the last month, and I am in the process of finishing another. I find myself liking this.

I've always preferred writing longer work, because I like to slowly build my worlds, develop my characters, and let the mystery unfold. However, there's something to say about the satisfaction of writing short fiction.

First, the reward comes sooner. I can usually finish a story in about a week. No more waiting for 18 months to type "THE END." It's gratifying.

Second, it's really amazing to see how I can take a single idea and turn it in to a complete story with a beginning, middle and ending; how I can use the least number of words to tell the most complex stories with interesting characters; how I can focus on a single plot thread without distracting myself by all the back stories and subplots; it prevents me from being emotionally tangled with my characters for too long.

Best of all, it keeps me writing. It keeps me coming up with ideas -- some are great for shorts, and some for longer fiction, and who knows? The shorts might turn into novels in the future. Most important, it keeps me writing. I am not wasting my breath waiting for something to happen, and that is liberating in an exciting way.

I still prefer writing longer work. There's no substitution for the immense relief and joy of finishing a manuscript that measures 400 pages and weigh five pounds. But between epics, small nuggets of adventure are a wonderful diversion.

Take my word for it.

Update

I have been "informed" that I must update this blog or die. I kind of like my petty little life, so I guess I have to do something.

Let's see... oh yeah, I've been trying to write something about the new Superman Returns movie. Not really a review, but about how blatantly Christian Superman is. I mean, good Lord, one has to be blind not to make the connection. Meanwhile, we all talk about how Narnia is a Christian allegory. Hello?


**** SPOILER ALERT ****

*** don't read on if you haven't seen the movie and you'd like to see it some day... ***



"To the People on Earth, I give you my only son..." Oh, c'mon!

"I hear everything..." Please.

"You said the world didn't need a savior, but every day I hear people asking for one..." Wow, revelation!

"God is someone who flies around in a cape and doesn't share his powers..." Interesting.

And when Superman falls back onto Earth, what is the shape that his body is making?....

Then he dies. Flatlined, actually.

Then he comes back to life again. Better yet, a female comes into the "room" and finds it empty. Superman has risen!


I am just surprised that the church hasn't promoted Superman Returns like they did with Narnia. An American icon + religious symbolism? This is wonderful stuff!