Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The End of my DAW Journey

Dear Mr. Stampfel,

In June of 2009, I submitted my science fiction novel, The Influence, to you for publication consideration. Just two short months later, I received word that you'd pushed my novel through the first stage. Every six months, I've sent follow-up letters and for each one, you've graciously taken time out of your schedule to respond.

It has now been two years since that first letter came to me. In that two years, I have written and published several short stories and I have written two other novels. My latest novel, a fantasy entitled Future Past, has caught the eye of another publisher and I'm in the process of doing their suggested edits in hopes that they will decide to take my work on.

I've been very patient with DAW because I love DAW Books and because I always have something going with my writing. With that being said, I feel like I've been patient long enough.

There was something that you found intriguing enough about The Influence to pass it on and it is my hope that you will give it another look. Even though I admit that I've learned quite a bit in the last two years and that The Influence could probably use another brushing, the story is unique and interesting enough to warrant further consideration.

I find that I can no longer offer you exclusive review after August 31 and will submit to other publishers. If you are interested (or whoever does the next reading), please let me know before the end of August. My contact information is at the end of this letter. If not, I feel it is time to move on. I love DAW but I love the story too much to continue to let it sit with no hint of when I might get some sort of answer.

Thank you so much for your attention. I hope to hear from you soon.


Pamela Caves
Facebook has this thing where they show "On this Day in (year)".  If you're on Facebook, you've likely see this.  On this day in 2009, my status update was:
OMG! I got a letter from DAW (imprint of Penguin USA - Major publishing house in New York) that said my novel made it through the first reading! Not exactly an acceptance but it's not a rejection! Yippee!
I remember the excitement I felt that day.  I cried happy tears.  Finally, all my hard work and persistence meant something.  DAW recognized me and it felt incredibly good.  For almost a year, I kept that letter on my refrigerator so I could read it often. 

Eventually, though, it came down and is now stuck in one of my writing files somewhere.  When DAW said they were backlogged, I expected 9 months, a year at the most.  One year went by, then a year and a half.  Then last month I really had to ask myself if I was willing to sacrifice my dignity for a chance to work with a publisher as popular as DAW.

The Influence is very important to me.  It is a story that touches on the stereotypes of the South, a story about a religion's bad points while bringing out its good points.  It's a story about a girl who loves her sister so deeply, she goes to impossible lengths to protect her, even if she doesn't feel that her sister is entirely good.  I've been working on it for almost a decade.  It is a part of me as much as my arm.  It was hard to sit for so long without any word of how or why there was such a long wait and especially hard not to have any clue when I might expect a response.

As great as DAW is, and I mean no disrespect as I write this, I felt that I was being brushed off because without an agent, it was acceptable to treat me in such a way.  I'm a patient person and I realize in this biz, things often move slow.  However, telling writers to submit with exclusivity but then make them sit and wait for over two years to find out if they even have a shot is not very courteous or fair to those they've said passed the first reading.

Today is the last day of August and I haven't received a response on the above letter. I sent it near the end of last month so there has been plenty of time.  I've received responses to my follow-ups quicker than this.  To be honest, I really didn't expect to hear anything.  In two years if they hadn't decided whether they wanted my work or not, I don't suspect that they would pull out all the stops to tell me now.

It's sad that it's over.  For two years, I've clung onto that hope that I would get a phone call, email, or letter telling me that I'd passed the second reading.  It was a fun daydream, though.

Someone asked me awhile back if it was worth it.  I told them to wait until it was all over for my answer.  Even though it didn't turn out in my favor, I'm going to say that this experience was absolutely worth it.  Strange answer, I know, but I have learned so much in the last two years that had it not been for the first letter from DAW, I might not have learned anything.  I am so thankful for that.  It has and will continue to enable me to hone my skills.

What's next for The Influence?

I'm setting it aside for now.  I'm working on the first draft of Barrier, a sci-fi short fiction series that I plan on pitching to Fiction Lake.  Then I'm doing a complete rework of Future Past, my most recent fantasy novel, for resubmission to Hadley Rille.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Writers have to deal with bullies, too.

The "Terribly" Wrong Way to Make an Impression

It's a fact that human beings are going to make mistakes.  It's also a fact that, with the current trend in online content demand, the writing and publishing needs to be fairly quick.  This does leave more room for mistakes than would normally be in printed material.  Most people know this and aren't quick to judge.  As long as a piece isn't riddled with mistakes and is readable, it is not a big deal.  In fact, I'm sure someone can find something wrong with much of what I write online because I am quick about it.  I have to be.  I wouldn't make money if I poured (that was for you, MP!) myself over my work for hours on end and I'm sure it's that way for most content writers.

The extremists (or "grammar Nazi's") bother my sense of ethics.  You know, those people who love to point out a misspelling or a comma in the wrong spot in the comment section of an article.  These are the people who blame the downfall of society on improper grammar.  Puleeeze.  It's likely the downfall of society can be attributed to people who have no tolerance for others.  These are the people who are so egotistical they have to point out the mistakes of others in an attempt to make themselves feel superior.  Isn't that what bullies do? 

And the award for most arrogant blog goes to...

A fellow writer brought to my attention a site called Terribly Write. The blog is informative and it's very obvious the chik knows what she's talking about but the entire website is classless for the very reasons I stated above.  She has taken "grammar Nazi" to a whole new level.  She insults writers and entire websites because "they deserve it".

And most of these errors are so minor that it all ends up just looking petty.  I mean, really?  Putting up a post because of an "s" instead of a "b".  Are you kidding me?  It's obvious it was a typo, which I'm sure is something she's immune to.  And that's most of what the blog is; nitpicky crap.  (And it's BS. Get it? Hardy har har.)

I've always said that if the error is an obvious one, feel free to private message me and I will edit it if I can.  I'm human.  I'm not going to catch everything.  It is completely tacky to call an error out publicly.  There's just no excuse for being an ass.  Again, that's bullying behavior.

It hurts my soul to see people be so thoughtless and even worse that she thinks it is completely okay.  But wait!  It gets worse!  Her site has it's own errors. I can spot three without even scrolling to the middle of the page.

Seeing her cruelty, it makes me wonder if she's not just a jaded writer that was long ago passed up for some gig by someone she thought she was better than.  She goes after Yahoo! a lot which is also suspect.  Who knows?  Whatever it is, you have to really have some deep issues to want to scour the internet (or Yahoo! as the case may seem) for errors, most of which are relatively minor.

I guess this bothers me not only because I'm a writer but because she could do so much more with that website then the gutter she has made it into. She's obviously knowledgeable.  It's just sad she has to use her powers for evil instead of good.

It takes so much more than good grammar to be a writer.  But good writers and editors already know that. :)

Peace and kindness toward others,


Writing is easy, right?

Writing a novel isn't as easy as just writing a novel. I'm not deliberately trying to type in some foreign code but that's often how the writing world is, a big code that we have to decipher. The writing, they say, is the easy part.

But is it really?

I started Future Past early last year. I finished the second draft a year later and I have a publisher that is interested. But this interest hinges on what will be my final draft.

I've already done a rough comb through. In doing so, I've learned how to trim the fat, so to speak. I've knocked a substantial bit of the word count off. I was worried about how the publisher would view a 73k fantasy novel and my suspicions were confirmed. It just isn't a high enough word count. While the editor did say that a story is only as long as what it takes to tell it, hearing the word "100k" told me that there is something missing in my story. I have since figured out what it was so now I just need to figure out a way to get it to work without losing the key points of the story.

So the novel that I thought was finished has barely begun. But I'm so in love with this story that there will be no giving up on it, no matter how tough it gets. My main character has been through enough already. :)

My biggest problem lies in that I'm terrified. I've been handed so many rejection slips over the last decade or so that when something good comes along, I automatically become skeptical. When I find that the good news is really good news, my hopes waver on the edge of a precipice. My heart is out there and each time the good news turns sour, my emotions plummet to the bottom. I'm not writing this to gain sympathy or for a "woe is me" kick. It's just that I'm sure there are many, many others writers who know exactly how this feels. Sometimes we just want to give up. Like a boxer who has been beaten so badly and who is so exhausted all he wants to do is forfeit... yeah, we feel that way sometimes. Yet we keep going back in to get pounded in the head some more.

I've put Future Past on hold for a few weeks while I work on the beginning of my science fiction series, Barrier. Once the first draft of that story is completed, I'm going to dig into Future Past with fresh eyes and make it work. I'm trying not to be scared. I believe I might have enough determination in me to combat the apprehension I feel.

Let's get it done.

Peace and strength of mind,


Monday, August 22, 2011

Money. Yum-Yum.

I'm money hungry. Or maybe I'm just hungry. Oh, hell, at this point, I'm too confused.

This post was prompted by Facebook post by Random House about classic authors who were librarians. I made a comment that if a book store paid enough, I'd love to work in one. This prompted another person (another writer, I presume) to scoff at people who were restricted by the confines of monetary gain; that if you love something enough, you'll do it regardless of pay. Well, here. You check out the thread.

Essentially, I'm a realist. I'm also a mom. You can't tell a mom to "scale it back". Kids are just too damn expensive.

Sure, I'm of the mindset that if you love to write, you will continue to do so regardless of how much you are getting paid. Writing is something you can do anytime, anywhere. Writing is most of what I do in volunteering my spare time. A JOB job, like working for your livelihood type of job isn't something that one can dismiss as being materialistic, especially when you have a family to feed.  I hardly think working in a bookstore qualifies as something that can be "volunteered".

I guess according to some people, I just don't have that "writer" mindset of living in rags and scraping by on pork n' beans. My art should be my entire existence and I should be wrapped inside of it in a cocoon until my wings sprout forth and set me free. 

Yeah, I'm not sure where that metaphor came from either.

I'm not going to apologize for not fitting the role of the stereotypical, getting-ready-to-stick-my-head-in-the-oven writer. As with everything else in life, I'm simply me and that's all I can be.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go dye my hair black, chop it all off, and spike it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm one of those silly, crying parents.

My son started kindergarten this week and as a first timer, I was pretty nervous. How is he going to act? Is he going to fight with the other kids as much as he fights with his brother? Will the world's pickiest eater eat lunchroom food (which is already unappealing) or will I resort to packing a ham and cheese sandwich for him every day?

The reason I am a full time writer now is because of my kids. I left business management behind to pursue my dreams. Since I was a kid, I've never wanted anything more than to be a writer. I couldn't very well tell my children to pursue their dreams when I hadn't done so myself. So now I have this incredible 5 year-old that is about to start his student career; he's about to leave me for 8 hours a day. I won't be there if another kid hurts his feelings, I won't be there if he gets a scraped knee. I won't be able to help him if he has a problem

Up until this week, I always thought it was silly for parents to cry when their little one goes off to school for the first time. Now I'm the silly parent.

I now have to place my faith in God above that He'll watch over my son. I'll be placing my faith in what I hear is a really good teacher. I have to place my faith in that I've taught my son the lessons that I've needed to teach him in order to reach his full potential in school. He's not going to be perfect; I don't expect him to be. In fact, I expect him to pull his fair share of tickets in an attempt to show everyone who's boss.

But I do know that he's a fantastic child and I couldn't have asked for a better son. He can count very well past 20 and can even count by 10's to 100. While he's good with numbers, his letters need work. And his handwriting is horrid, much like his father's. :) But this will improve with time. And he's so knowledge hungry that it often drives me crazy! Questions like, "What's in outer space?", "What's inside the brain/nose/ears/stomach?", "How do birds fly?" and a million trillion other questions sprout forth from his mouth on a daily basis. I can only hope that enthusiasm doesn't get lost along the way of institutionalized education.

His first day went just fine.  All he could say about it was that he ate break at the picnic tables.  I said, "Did you make any new friends?" 


"What are their names?"  

He said, "I don't know."  

Then as he was going to sleep (I write in the boys' room while they are falling asleep), he sat upright and said, "Momma! Mrs. Machen has two turtles in her room! Do you want to see them?" I told him he could show them to me when I took him to school Thursday.

So he likes school and I've realized that this phase of our lives is so much different then I thought it would be.  Everything has changed.  He's not my little baby who depends on me for everything anymore.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go cry in private for just a little while.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Moving Day!

Hi, Peeps!  After a couple of years blogging on Weebly's platform at my website, I've decided to start blogging on Blogger again.  I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders with this decision.  Weebly is great but their blogging platform makes me feel like I'm in a box.  Here, people can push the little "follower" thingy to the left, I can create feeds and rolls, and add gadgets on a whim.  I've been freed!  I just wish I'd done this a long time ago.

So look for my first post here this week and thanks for walking over to my new blogging home!

Peace and house warming,