When passion doesn’t pay

Regular members of my readership club will note a drop-off in post frequency, and I apologize for that. I have been distracted by…dare I say it?

Life.

As if Little Miss and her PMS isn’t enough, we have been wrestling with the Captain’s behavior, which looks like it will now be handled by partial hospitalization over the summer, with strict attention to behavioral issues. Dr. Do-Be-Do has also begun exhibiting angry outbursts and lackadaisical behavior toward assignments and teachers that is very unlike him and somewhat frustrating; these, hopefully, will be the subject of work at his therapeutic camp for which I’ve finally completed the intake. 

Add to this an overhaul of four rooms of our house, including a complete ceiling replacement in the 30 foot by 20 foot kitchen and the bathroom flooring, the decor switching from warm-colored Moroccan grotto to stark cream and cherrywood Victorian/steampunk. With a hint of Firefly, as we add some Chinese touches, including a fabulous Chinese cabinet I drove to Asheville to retrieve this weekend, with Little Miss as my co-pilot.

My secretary has essentially vanished into her other job; I’ve seriously got to consider replacing her, but the thought process has been too painful. I’ve muddled through on my own, and the Cabana Boy, bless him, has put me on the volunteer list to take interns from his business school, at least to tide me over.

My passion has been with none of these things. My passion has been in The Elf Queen  and her forthcoming series of novels and their promotion and writing. My passion has been in the month-long spree of daily contact with writers and editors that was CoyoteCon. My passion has been in associating with an editor at a romance press who loves my work, though I haven’t sent her anything that exactly fits her line–she’s now assigned me a novel to write for a special series, and I’m fleshing out a story for that.

My passion has found me five editors in the last thirty days who have requested to see full manuscripts of mine, and are reviewing them as we speak.

My checkbook, however, is reminding me that somewhere along the line, all of these things are extraneous to the business of paying for our lives. So the stack of bills here must be attended to.

With any luck, we’ll be back to passion soon. Stay tuned…

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As promised, a new page

Since I’m apparently going to be a “real” writer, it’s time to unveil my new writer’s site, entitled “The Growing Works of Barbara Mountjoy.” I know I said I thought it would find a home at WordPress, but I couldn’t find a template that worked for me there. So please stop by and check it out!

The contract on the novel is on its way to me, but the publisher and I have already had extensive conversation about the very real possibility of a series to follow this novel, complete with potential plots and details. The artist is available to work this summer on the project, so perhaps some six months from now we will all be able to hold a copy of “The Elf Queen” in our hot little hands. I know I can’t wait.

Stay tuned for further good words! If you’re a writer feeling like your day will never come (like I did last week), I urge you to hang in there and keep trying. The success is even sweeter after the struggle. I promise.

Monday might be my new favorite day!

This morning I sit down to my computer and open my email to find this:

BARBARA:  We have read your manuscript, TAKE ME ALIVE, and would very much like to contract it.

There are a few minor point-of-view (POV) issues, but those will be easy to
address.  In fact, I have already marked and edited most of them, as I read
the manuscript myself over the last few days.  The original reader was
delighted by the book, as was I.  In fact, I just stayed up all night finishing the last few chapters. <smile>

Before we go any further, though, I need to know if you would be amenable to re-naming the book THE ELF QUEEN?  Or do you have another idea for the
title? I believe THE ELF QUEEN puts a stronger fantasy spin on the book and is (possible spoilers eliminated here) What do you think?  <fingers crossed>

The manuscript is in such good shape, that it will not take the editor long
to get it ready for production.  That means it is “possible” that we might
be able to release it by this fall, if you would like that.  The only reason
I hesitate to say for sure is that I have to get cover art commissioned, and
I never know what the artists will say about their schedules (especially
over the summer) until I ask.

Therefore, if you are willing to change the title, I can draw up a contract
and have it in the mail to you in just a couple of days…

So….everyone who thinks I’m just a little bit thrilled, raise their hands.  Yeah, I thought so.

Details to follow. Stay tuned, my friends.

And then there was more…

I discovered this week that I have been merrily sending people off to look at my author’s website–and it’s not there.

*collective gasp*

Well. Surely I have to remedy that situation.

Therefore, please stay tuned over the next few weeks when I hope to unveil a new WordPress page, one I’ll be able to keep updated myself, as I never did know how to access the old HTML one. I will have a couple of interactive stories, one from a collection I made called “A Life in the Day,” a series of moments that changed people’s lives, and the other featuring a fictional Pittsburgh lawyer I’ve written about several times named Suzanne Taylor. Also a list of what’s available out in the world of my writing, and a lot of fun tidbits.

I hope it will be interactive for readers and writers and we will all come together and share great things. The leaves are coming out, flowers are blooming, and we’re all going to blossom into creativity!

Writers aren’t old dogs

Learning is about more than simply acquiring new knowledge and insights; it is also crucial to unlearn old knowledge that has outlived its relevance. Thus, forgetting is probably at least as important as learning.

–Gary Ryan Blair ( Mind Munchies: A Delicious Assortment of Brain Snacks!)

I spent the weekend at Context 22, a science fiction/horror/fantasy conference in Columbus, Ohio this weekend, but not to watch the old animated cartoons of Star Trek, discuss the future of filk, or to dress up like my favorite serial killer. I went to forget–and then learn again– how to write.

Since I’ve learned about the Master’s Program in Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University, I’ve been dying to go. At my level of ability, after publishing for 35 years, I really get the most from a professional level course. The faculty in the program are highly respected, and you can even commute for mini-sessions on campus and work independently the rest of the time. Heaven.

But in the meantime, a Pennwriters member of the Seton Hill faculty, Timon Esaias, sent a memo to the group, pointing out that many of the faculty would be giving significant two- and three-hour writing workshops at this Context conference, similar educational information without the university price tag.

Believe me, I’m there.

So this weekend I learned about maintaining narrative tension from Lawrence Connolly, who one reviewer has compared to Tarantino;  joined a discussion about the new Young Adult market, what’s in (sex and violence), what’s out (Pollyanna stories) and what’s controversial (everything!) from Ellen Klages, who talked about writing historical fiction and read from her book The Green Glass Sea (which I can’t wait to read); got about the best 15 minutes of hard advice about writing and rewriting fiction I’ve ever heard from Tim Waggoner; and soaked in three hours on point of view from “Norbert and the System” author Tim Esaias.

We left with sheets of references, recommendations and notebooks full of hope. For less than $200. Wow.

Of course, the icing for me was a one-on-one session with Juno Books editor Paula Guran, who critiqued a manuscript I started in NaNoWriMo–her suggestions were fabulous and resonated in my heart of hearts. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to hear what she had to say, but then for her to take the time to inquire about what else I had written that might be appropriate for her line, as well as what I was currently writing (which isn’t a Juno-type book, but she had great insight there too!)–I was floored. In a good way.

She has yet to look at my paranormal manuscript which I’ve submitted to Juno under their regular guidelines; she said she wanted to get through the conference first, and she vets her full manuscripts a little differently.  So, I’ll firmly believe that no news on this may be good news. Stand by for updates.

So I forgot some, and I learned some, and I’m considering some. And Little Miss got an hour in the hot tub, so she’s happy. What else can you ask?

Nirvana: different strokes for different folks

The end of the week spelled happiness for our household, but in such a variety of ways:

  • The Captain got to stare at cartoons for a whole morning when I was in court and couldn’t monitor.
  • The Cabana Boy continued work on a freelance project for another law office in town, creating an office computer network from the bare walls up.
  • Ditto Boy got his yearly fix of cotton candy and the Ride-a-Rama at this week’s county fair.
  • Little Miss got five rides on the carousel.
Heaven in 360 degrees

Heaven in 360 degrees

Seriously, for a child with sensory integration issues, not only does it spin, it goes up and down, and goes fast and forward at the same time? Her face just radiates bliss.

Me? I guess my part is tonight, when I have a face to face meeting with an editor who’s reviewing my latest manuscript. She’s already done a wonderful critique of another piece of my writing in connection with a workshop, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Something for everyone. What else can you ask?

This week I have a guest blog over at Imperfect Women . I certainly qualify–c’mon down and see what else these ladies have to offer!

Thinking outside the traditional writer’s box

There’s a big debate going on over at Pennwriters right now between those who have been published traditionally and those who aren’t about which writers “should” do.

The old guard insists that if you want to write novels you must get them to one of the five big houses, get the publicity machine and promotion. Of course this means you have to get an agent. If you’re a writer who has tried to do either, chances are 99 times out of a hundred, it’s just not happening.

The old guard then cites the urban legends of authors who just kept sending out until sure as heck, that 101st letter did it. And maybe they did. More power to them.

Over the last year, I’ve been reading a lot about the state of publishing, and indeed about the world of communication in general. Time Magazine did a whole series of articles about publication in the digital age, and their conclusion is that the traditional routes are no longer exclusive.

Lev Grossman’s article says that “Publishers Weekly (PW) predicts that 2009 will be ‘the worst year for publishing in decades.’ A lot of headlines and blogs to the contrary, publishing isn’t dying. But it is evolving, and so radically that we may hardly recognize it when it’s done.”

But at the same time, newspapers are closing their doors, magazine and book publishers alike laying off staff, and paying markets, in the way we have always thought about them, are drying up.

Also at the same time, the whole concept of access to the masses has changed. Once upon a time, you needed to be cherished by Harlequin or Doubleday to even have your book see the light of day, unless you wanted to type out versions on your old Royal typewriter, one at a time, to circulate them. The Internet has changed that game.

Now authors have options. They can self-publish through Lulu.com or iUniverse, or epublishers which pay a royalty for books available digitally, or in print books.

Writers don’t need the fancy publicity tour, either. Authors like CJ Lyons and Christina Katz, aka Writer Mama, do  tours online by guest blogging in as many places as they can. Cost? Your time. The Internet has millions of outlets to reach the people who want your work.

Many professional artists are choosing non-traditional routes to promote work they want to do, and it’s starting to make headlines. Musician Jill Sobule found the traditional music business wasn’t working for her–and didn’t get money in her hands– so her latest album was funded entirely by donations from fans, and giveaways.  Screenwriters like Joss Whedon are thinking outside the box with projects like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, which first appeared on the Internet for free, but only afterward started collecting revenues.

Communication venues like Twitter bring the celebrity even closer to fans.  Time this week has a story about celebrity Tweeting that shows how Shaquille O’Neal, Levar Burton and John Hodgman all use Twitter to connect  directly with regular people. Email and forums bring artists directly to their public, for the kind of one-on-one connection that sells readers, just as it sold Barack Obama to the American people at election time.

So we can all dream about that blockbuster sale, movie rights and New York Times listing right out of the gate. We can even work at it around busy lives of work, parenting and other distractions for 40 years. Maybe some of us will get it.

But in the meantime, don’t you have something to say? Maybe instead we should be out there exploring the new digital publishing world, meeting our readers, and sharing what we have to offer.