Thursday, December 30, 2010

Progress on Katrina Novel

So, in a quick nutshell, a big time agent is interested in a thriller that takes place during Katrina that I am currently writing. My problem had been getting a cop that had gone through it, so I could be accurate. The NOPD has been dragging their heals in getting me a source.

But, to hell with waiting. What I’ve found is better. I found someone (not a cop) that has accounts of the days before and after Katrina that is pure gold (from a writer’s perspective). I don’t want to glorify that horrible experience or make light having lost the home I grew up in in the flood, but his stories are incredible.

What I’m excited about is this fictional story that is taking shape during the flood. It’s basically about a crime that is being covered up by Katrina and the protagonist takes a heart wrenching, soul-searching journey in trying to solve this crime. I’m not half way done and yet, I’m eager to read the end result (and I’m the writer).

I just sent off the first 100 pages to this agent and I’m waiting for her response. If she poo-poo’s it, I’ll be very disappointed, but I won’t give up. I know deep down that this book is meant for big things.

I don’t want to give my source’s name or occupation just yet. I’m conversing with him with questions via email and hopefully, I’ll get to meet him soon.

So, being a couple of days before New Year’s, I hope everyone has a happy and safe one.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My First Published Novel Drawing Near

I recently received my edited manuscript from Medallion Press to accept or decline changes. For the most part, I trust the editing and they did a lot of polishing - about 8000 words worth. Some of it was large chunks of sex and other things not pertaining to the story, but what I still considered an entertaining part of the read.

Oh, well. I'm not going to argue fluff right now. I have visions of this ebook taking off by word of mouth and eventually, at some point, if I want extraneous information to remain in my manuscript because I think its interesting or fun, I'll fight for it. It's funny how many avid readers don't have the problems that real editors do with content.

Anyway, I'm happy to have changed what they wanted because they were right in most cases and I've learned a lot about excessive words, repeating words, and point of view. Writing this next book, I can see so many of these mistakes and am able to correct them now. This is the Katrina book I blogged about earlier. I have lots of new on that, which I will post soon.

It's Christmas Eve and busy. I'm editing UNHINGED, I'm writing TOXIC CITY, I'm wrapping gifts and reading numerous hard covers for a contest I agreed to judge for 'Best New Hardcover' for the International Thriller Writers. It's a fun, busy time.

To all my fans (ha ha) have a great (insert religious holiday belief)!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Katrina Novel?

To write about Katrina or not, that is the question.

Over the past few months, it seems I'm as close to getting an agent as I ever was before. Before the Katrina idea, I had a very prominent agent read a different manuscript and even though she rejected it, she had me call her to talk about why. It basically boiled down to the subject matter and not being unique enough to sell. I was disappointed, yet inspired. She gave me the name of another agent that might like the manuscript and I jumped on it (but have yet to hear back).

When we talked on the phone, she told me if I could come up with a detective thriller that happened during the Katrina tragedy, she could sell it, or try to. I came up with an outline of a story and she approved, so I started writing it.

Now, there are things to consider. What if she doesn't want it? Will anyone else want it? If it was to get published, will too much time have passed for people to want to read it? Will my fellow New Orleanians want to read it? A friend of mine who lost her house and moved away said she would NOT read it because she lived it. Is it worth the time and effort when I have other projects I'm neglecting?

I have another agent who requested my full manuscript, but said she wouldn't read until after December. And I recently got two rejections from agent that told me they loved the writing but it wasn't for them. THAT is progress in a writer's world of seeking representation.

For the time being, I will continue to write my story because honestly, I am loving it. I just found a great source; a cop who was there for the rescues. I'm surprised at how well my fictional story is fitting in with the Katrina events. I am going to make this more than just a novel. This is going to be a love letter to New Orleans. This is going to show the NOPD as heroes. I want this to be sad, thought provoking and inspirational.

I think I might've bitten off more than I can chew.

If anyone that lived through Katrina wants to respond with any of their experiences, I would surely want to listen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Backspace Conference

It was an amazing New York trip. I'd like to thank my New Orleans connection for the free accommodations and general hostess-ness.

From losing a piece of my molar on a delicious bagel to having the best fried chicken a Korean restaurant could ever produce, I had a great time. Oh, wait - I went there to snag an agent or at least learn a few things.

What did I learn and in the order I learned them?
1. NY cab drivers can navigate within an atom's length of other cars as well as pedestrian's knees.
2. There's a slight price difference in food.
3. The hotel doormen are trained by Navy Seals.
4. The Backspace agents were informative, brutal, nice, sincere and brutal.
5. I needed brutality.
6. The most well-hidden restaurants are the most crowded.
7. Don't walk slow.
8. Don't sleep on an air mattress with a leak.
9. With a hangover.
10. The fellow writers at the conference are the best (you know who you are).
11. All Indian food is not hot nor gives you the runs (Whew).
12. Bagels can crack teeth (it wasn't the bagel's fault).
13. There are black squirrels - yes, there are.
14. Baby's can projectile vomit (but missed me - whew).
15. It was all worth it.

I plan to fix some things and query my other projects to a few of the agents I met and I will let my many readers know who said what and was the most brutal.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coming Back Stronger by Drew Brees

I just read Coming Back Stronger by Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. It might appear that I’m a bit biased since I am a die-hard Saints fan, but in reality, it makes me a tougher critic because I would be very disheartened by a lack-luster attempt at an autobiography.

By age thirteen, I proclaimed myself an atheist, then a few years later agnostic, but now, I’m back to atheism. I had always told my friends that if God is who they say, then he/she won’t mind as long as I live a good and moral life. If there is a God, he/she will tell me, ‘hell, you lived at a higher standard than those who chose to represent me.’

Drew Brees is very devoted to God and it is reinforced throughout the book and that is not an issue with me. It’s perfect for New Orleans as most of its residents were raised Catlick. Religion is an argument that you cannot win, but can only respect. What Brees triumphed over is an inspiration in itself, but there were certain parts of the book when he talked about New Orleans and the people and the detestation that I had to stop reading because of my tears.

It doesn’t take much for me to become emotional about my home town and what they went through (I live in Chicago now, but I was involved in my family’s plight) and I have the same appreciation for the team that the current locals do. I teared up when they got into the Superbowl and when they won it.

Brees maps out his rocky road to success with all the speed bumps along the way. I loved the details of his draft and his injuries and his dealings with Miami. He was an underdog and fought through where many would have given up. This book has just enough football, mixed with a perfect portion of inspiration and he gives a lot of credit to his faith and God. Like I said, I don’t mind that. He says God, I say good.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Creative Process

A lot of people have asked me how I find the ideas for my novels and the process that gets me to a full length book. It has to be different for every writer, but in my case, I take several factors into account.

First, know what you like and what excites you, because if you lose interest half way through, you're done. I like to think of an overall concept or the big picture and if I think it is interesting, then I break it down into an idea - a specific idea. Then, I need a beginning, middle and climax.

If I can get that far, then a main character has to be developed. Who is this going to happen to. He or she has to be likable and has to have flaws. They need a personal life and they need conflict. If a reader doesn't care about your character then they don't care what happens to them. I make a list, create some names and make some general points of personality and looks.

Create the outline. Like I said, you need the start, middle and end. From there, I interject moments, situations and plot specific points that need to happen to reach the conclusion. This is the hard part because you don't want any boring, non-related paragraphs that the reader will want to skim over. It might be fine to do for a fully developed story at first, but I tend to weed them out in the final editing.

Plus, the outline is usually trash half way into the book. Things change. My characters start making decisions for themselves and I can't help it. Once your characters are developed, they will write themselves and then your story will start taking a tangent, but its very important that if you slice, you curve back to the main thread of your story.

If you find you have a rough draft of your novel at the ready. Try this, go into the first few chapters and find a spot where you can start the novel and cut out the original beginning. Most times, my introductory beginnings can be assimilated into the following chapters and if I find a place where intrigue or action starts, then that's where you want to be in chapter one, line one.

Finally, edit - edit - edit. Every few months, go back and read it as if you had bought the book and edit. And finally, this was very unexpected; with every one of my novels, I've found that X-factor idea, that glue or uniting concept that had been missing long after I thought the book was finished. It's like a light goes on and then after incorporating that, I feel I've finally finished.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting fat? P90X

A little over a month ago, I weighed myself at 200lbs, which is 20lbs over my normal weight. Since I refuse to buy pants larger than a 34 waist, I decided to get back to working out.

I’m in my 40’s now, but back when I was in my twenties and early thirties, I was a gym rat, going about 6 days a week to weight train. Nothing bulky, just staying lean and in good shape.

After I moved to Chicago, I stopped working out because of all the times I had to stop and start for various reasons. So, here I am, needing to do something. A friend suggested P90X and I started doing the DVDs. Now, I eat relatively healthy, but I’m not following their strict diet or maintaining their schedule, but so far, I’ve lost almost 20lbs and my pants are loose again.

It’s a great workout, but you need at least an hour a day to do it. I found the only time I can do it with a clear mind and uninterrupted is to get up an hour earlier every morning and force myself. You do what it takes or it just doesn’t get done. All I’m doing is replacing sleep with a workout, so I’m not loosing any of my daily routines.

Besides the normal cardio and weight training, there is also a jump training DVD, a martial arts type routine and YOGA, which I’ve come to like a lot. I recommend it highly and just remember, after 90 days or when you complete the schedule, you can maintain with a normal workout of about a half hour a day as long as you eat like a normal human – or a normal human in the 1950’s.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ahead of publishing schedule!

I just received word from Medallion Press that my ebook pub date is being moved up to May 2011 instead of December 2011. That means I have less than a year to market and promote UNHINGED into being the most downloaded ebook ever!

Is it wrong to dream?

Writers use their imagination, so I can easily fantasize about word of mouth and the demand being so high for UNHINGED that it eventually goes to print and then becomes a movie. It reads as a movie.

In case you don’t know what UNHINGED is about, it’s about a New Orleans detective chasing down a serial killer that is murdering women from his past. One twist is that they find out who the killer is rather early and the other twist is that FBI is sabotaging the investigation because they don’t want this killer to be caught.

Anyway, the plans for its release has now changed and I have to get a move on. First thing? By an ebook reader.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Agent Search

When I first started sending query letters out to literary agents years and years ago, I really didn’t know how to write them and I thought that quantity would be better than quality, so I had received many, many rejections and wasted so much postage.

These days, I still don’t believe that I write the perfect query letter, but I hand pick the agents and I customize the query to that agent after doing sufficient research. Have I landed one, yet? No. But I have received personal feedback from some of them and that can be very valuable also.

Case in point – I’ve had Pam Ahearn on my radar for some time now. I queried her early on and then years later apologized for that attempt and tried again. Ms. Ahearn has responded most recently with a letter telling what she liked and didn’t like about the first 75 pages of a detective thriller. Although it was a rejection, she gave me the inspiration to change some things that I’ve been scared to up to this point and low and behold, the book is better. The flow is better and the action is better and she will welcome a re-submit.

Building the relationship is what will get me an agent. Letting them know that I will always be around and that I am willing to work with them and change things up. I have to think that way, or I may as well quit.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Literary Speed Bumps

Okay, so I'm still getting published in ebook format, but not print - unless my sales are awesome and they chance their mind. In the meantime, I need an agent to try to sell my books to other publishers for me and the first step in doing something positive towards that goal was taken away from me this week.

I was accepted and paid in advance to go the PEN TO PRESS RETREAT in New Orleans, my hometown, where a small group of writers would get instruction on how to pitch to agents and editors from established well known authors and at the end of the retreat, we would get to pitch to these agents face to face.

I knew this was the way to go as the "query letter" is just so - so blah and generic and "one in a million" that they receive and reject.

The CEO of Medallion Press, the publisher that is supporting my upcoming ebook is a keynote speaker, so I was going to meet her. I was going to visit family and friends and my birthday falls on the Saturday of the last day of the retreat. New Orleans, my birthday, Saturday night - are you kidding! Anticipating this trip was probably the first time I had been this excited about anything since my wedding ten years ago.

Then, it happened, but I don't want to speak about it. If you remember when Lennon was shot, it was because the shooter wanted to be famous, so it came to be that the shooter's name was never to be spoken (although everyone still knows his name). I want to treat this situation like that. The person that screwed me will never be spoken of publicly.

But, you get the drift. I was screwed over and had to cancel my plans a week before I was to leave. Compared to some, I have no right to bitch as I lead a pretty good life, but even so, everyone has to deal with disappointment and those like me, the "bright side" people, will go on and continue to smile. As for the pessimists? I can't speak for them, as I don't know how that feels.

I will find another conference to attend and as for this retreat? There's always next year!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ebooks verses printed paperbacks

Bad news?

In my journey to be published it has come to my attention that my publishing company has been making some major changes, which not all authors are happy about, but I will only speak of my situation.

My publisher is cutting out mass-market paperbacks and gearing to make a huge dent in the ebook industry. I’ll admit, I’m disappointed that my book will not be traditionally printed, but after talking with my publisher, I’m very excited about where ebooks are headed and since it is my first novel, I’m still happy to have a publisher. Whether I become a success with my publisher or not, I still believe it’s a great stepping-stone.

It was also fun to talk about new marketing strategies for ebooks and what avenues have been taken and the one that haven’t. This is my first opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it. I can’t poo-poo what I don’t know or haven’t experienced, right?

With the all of the digital reading devices out and those to come out, more and more people will accept the convenience of having all their books in one place, to take wherever they want. Each generation will view ebooks as the more widely accepted medium and print on demand technology will make it easy to get a paperback if you really wanted one.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Open Mic - part 2

Besides pushing the religious envelope or being dirty or gross for a laugh, I wanted my open mic to be clever comedy, so the following was my attempt of that. Through all of this, it was hard to gauge what was really funny as most of the audience was other open mic comics and they were very supportive. Here we go...

Dental Advancements

Talk about overkill.
There’s a razor with five blades called Fusion. Five blades!

Here’s the deal with Fusion. After the fourth blade scraps away your cheek, the fifth blade gets the plaque off your teeth. Fusion has to be short for trans-fusion. Fuck that, I’ll shave over the same spot twice with my twin blade.

Speaking of teeth. The British have a reputation for horrible teeth. But that reputation can be traced back to Stonehenge. Historians think it was a calendar, but it was actually a monument to their gum line. Each stone was a rotting tooth. It was an open mouth built into the “FACE” of the earth in order to yell up to the gods, “WE NEED BETTER DENTAL CARE!”

My apologies to the British.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Open Mic Jokes - Part 1

I went through the Second City program, both improv and writing and had a blast. Once a week, you're in a group that trying to be funny and make each other laugh. It's a great stress reliever. Then, afterwards, you meet up at one of the bars and drink and be funny. I would recommend this for anyone looking to have fun, or just has a fear of public speaking. And of course, during this time that I was immersed in comedy, I decided to give stand up a shot at an open mic, because I want a life with no regrets - or at least with many experiences.

This is a taste of my routine, which I will probably follow up with more. While you read this, try to imagine a comedian delivering this with that comedic enthusiasm and timing.

What if Jesus owned a present day drug store with his disciples?

They’d get paid with bread, putting a slice or two away into a 401K.

Mother Mary would be pushing the early pregnancy tests on the virgins ‘cause you just never know.

Plus, Dateline would be nosing around wondering how they sell so much wine without ever getting a delivery.

Judas would end up being fired him for stealing money from the register.

And Jesus would have a little joke every time he saw Moses coming. He would turn off the electronic doors so they wouldn’t part for him.

Thank you, folks - I'll be blogging all week.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

World's Fair Adventure

Someone brought up the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans the other day and it reminded me of a little adventure my best friend and I had. We were seventeen at the time and decided to take the bus to the fair, see if we couldn’t get drunk, and then take the bus home.

Luck was with us as we had gotten ourselves into one of the bars (actually, at that time, you didn’t need much luck to be under age and get into a bar) and got pretty lit up. When the time came to leave, we staggered to our bus stop, which drove us all the way down Elysian Fields and let us off at the campus of UNO where we thought we were getting transferred, but the bus route ended and there were no other buses running. It was midnight.


Those of you from New Orleans will understand this trek, but I will try to explain it fully. There was no way we were calling our folks, not that we had cell phones, so we decided to hike it. We walked from the campus of UNO along Leon C. Simon until we hit the Sea Brook bridge, which was about two miles.

Remember that we were loaded.

We came down off the bridge and got onto the levee that overlooked Hayne (Haynes) Boulevard on the right and Lake Pontchartrain on the left and walked about a mile before having to sit down and there we nodded off in the grass. I remember my friend shaking me to get up so we could keep going. Plus, this was the East, which was predominately black and a fairly high crime area, but we grew up there, so we thought nothing of it. But in the back of our minds, we knew two skinny white kids were easy targets.

The next mile my friend finds a joint that ended up in his pocket some time during the night and we thought it a good idea to light it up and smoke it in order to get rid of the evidence. Whether it helped or not, I have no idea, but we made the four miles down Hayne to my street and the two blocks up to get to my house and passed out in my room at about 3 a.m. I don't know if we woke my parents or not 'cause it was a small house, but they were cool, so it didn't matter.

I have never been so tired in all my life.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Never assume anything.

To any aspiring writers out there, don’t think that if you get your first novel published that your next one will, also. I didn’t assume, but in the back of my head, I kind of expected it would. But no, my next novel was rejected and now I’m trying to land an agent on the merits of my first novel getting published, but it seems like I’m starting from square one again.

I figure that now is the time to get all the help I can, so I’ve decided to go on my first conference, or retreat, as it is called. The Pen To Press Retreat in New Orleans – -. I’ve read Deborah LeBlanc and liked her stuff, being from Louisiana, too, and she’s put this together, so I get to meet her. I hear it’s intimate, one on one, and a great learning experience. Plus, you get to pitch to a few agents and editors and I’m from New Orleans, so it should be great.

Writing the synopsis and query letters are my biggest weaknesses. I have two books that I feel are ready to go and two that might need minor work, so I’m locked and loaded. If anything, this will give me experience if I need to go to ThrillerFest in New York next year to pitch to agents out there. I hear good things about that, too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Too much of a good story

Here’s another example of how the press, particularly sports journalists, can ruin a good thing.

I am from New Orleans and a life-long, die-hard Saints fan and have endured all the hardships that went along with it. This year, the magical year, was marred by the over-coverage and over-documented Katrina tragedy.

Hell, there was a drinking game made up for the Saints coverage.

Of course, the New Orleans fans love affair with the team is a feel good story along with turning to our beloved Saints while holding on to hope that New Orleans is going to return to its original state, little by little, year by year. And this year was inspirational and uplifting.

But having the rest of the world with no ties to New Orleans listen to the analysts and journalists talk about it over and over could make the most sympathetic person roll their eyes. I get it.

I can only hope that you can tune out the sportscaster and hold on to the story, because in truth, it is a good one.