Tag Archives: writing

Q & A with Amanda Zieba

Amanda ZiebaThis week I’m honored to interview the amazing author Amanda Zieba whose YA sci-fi novel, Breaking the Surface, is followed by the sequel, Bridging the Tides, which will be released on Tuesday May 12.

Q. Welcome Amanda! In the first book, Breaking the Surface, readers are introduced to an underwater world where scientists are working to discover a safe product to cleanse the ocean from the pollution caused by humans. Book two, Bridging the Tides, focuses on how the teens and the adults solve the problems caused by the PE-328 release. How much scientific research did you invest in this series?

A. As a reader one of my favorite genres is historical fiction because not only can I enjoy a fantastic adventure, but I also learn something while I am reading. As both a teacher and an author, I wanted my readers to have a similar experience, learning interesting facts while they enjoy my story. When I began writing Breaking the Surface I did do a lot of research. The series was inspired by a documentary entitled: Deep Sea (a film by: Howard Hall). In this movie, the narrators describe the incredible landscapes and creatures of our oceans. The images instantly sparked ideas in my creative mind, but it was the statement that “there is more uncharted territory in the oceans on here Earth than in all of outer space” that really stuck with me. I was shocked! How could we know less about our own planet than we do about places millions of light years away? This question was the first in an avalanche of musings that carried me to the internet, National Geographic magazines, the library and multiple re-viewings of Deep Sea. As I wrote the story, I tried very hard to be as factual as possible, keeping the animal characteristics/ocean details/scientific realities as true as possible. By the time I got to Bridging the Tides, I knew what I needed to know and therefore was able to write it much more quickly. I did occasionally need to look up a thing or two like: what is the fastest fish in the ocean and what are the specific anatomic qualities of a starfish? I hope readers like discovering these little fact snippets sprinkled throughout the story.

Q. For those who have not read book one, how difficult will it be for readers to follow Bridging the Tides?

A. Bridging the Tides picks up right where Breaking the Surface left off. If you start with Bridging the Tides, oodles of important background information including the explanation of the major conflict will be lost to you, leaving you with a mind full of questions. Funny story, my grammatical editor for Bridging the Tides had not read the Breaking the Surface and as she read, she marked up the page with all these questions about the plot. I felt horrible that I put her through pages and pages of a poor reading experience because she had no idea what was going on! So yes, if you have not read Breaking the Surface, definitely start there first!

Q. What made you decide to end Breaking the Surface with a cliffhanger?

A. I had a lot of frustrated readers when they got to the end of Breaking the Surface and found the problem unresolved. I purposely left the characters hanging to create suspense and a strong desire to read the second book. But don’t worry, I won’ torture you the same way again. Bridging the Tides ends with a solid resolution, hopefully leaving readers satisfied. I do not have plans to write another book in this series, but if I should ever decide to return to the underwater world of the ARK, I feel I left left room for more stories down there.

Q. It took you seven years to start this series. How long did it take to write Bridging the Tides? Does it get easier to write once a series has been started? Or are there unexpected challenges readers don’t know about that you’d like to share?

A. From start to finish Bridging the Tides took 8 months, which is infinitely faster than it took me to write the first book. I started it in November 2014 as my first attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write 50,000 words in one month). I didn’t reach the goal of 50,000 words, but I had a pretty good start (24,000). In addition to being a writer, I am also a mom, wife and full time middle school teacher. It is tricky to balance all of the loves of my life, but thanks to my very supportive husband who works hard to carve out time for me to write, I was able to complete this novel. I write on Wednesdays after school for 2-3 hours (Writing Wednesdays!), after my sons go to bed and on the weekends. I am not a plotter. I write the most vivid scenes dancing around in my mind first and then afterward go back and link them together. I tried to write this book chronologically. I got to chapter 17 before I gave up and went back to my haphazard all over the place writing process. The further I got into the story, the faster the words came. Some of the plot elements required a lot of think time, but once I had those figured out, it got easier.

Q. How has teaching middle school students influenced your writing?

A. Teaching middle school has been a great blessing for my writing. It makes me strongly believe in the benefits of not majoring in writing while in college or taking it up as your first career. In the middle school setting I am constantly surrounded by living breathing middle grade protagonists. I hear their dialogue, view their clothing styles, witness their heartbreaks, listen to their preferences… all on a daily basis. I also am acutely aware of what they select to read. This is a wealth of information that I would be missing out on, if I were not a teacher. I do my best to use this information to inform my writing style, inspire my character dialogue, and ultimately craft a story I know my students would enjoy. I also see the number of students uninterested in reading. I take it upon myself to hook them into great books every day at school, and at home, write ones that will hopefully do the same.

Q. What particular challenges do you face writing in the dystopian genre?

A. I’m not sure I would consider my novels dystopian. I feel like the environmental problems my characters face and try to solve are problems we have today. I’m sure there are people out there in our world trying to solve the problem of water pollution and oceanic habitat destruction, but just maybe not in the ways that I have described in my books. A message that I would like readers (especially middle grade and YA readers) to take away from the Surface Series is that even though there are problems in the world, there are ways to solve them. Additionally, I would like them to learn that they, even at a young age, can be a part of the solution. Finally, I hope to have communicated the importance of the bonds of family and friendship. No matter what happens in the world, no matter who you meet and no matter where you go, it is the way you treat those around you that matters.

Q. What is your next writing project?

A. My next writing project is a middle grade series about geocaching. Geocaching is a worldwide outdoor treasure hunt. Using handheld GPS receivers my main characters, twins Sam and Molly Ross, go on adventures around the US, hunting for geocaches and the treasures they hold inside. Geocaching is a great sport that combines technology, the outdoors and physical activity. I hope to add a love of reading to the recipe and come up with a hit. While I have self-published all of my books up to this point, I am planning to go the traditional publishing route with this series. I have begun working with a professional editor and this summer I will be rewriting my first draft according to the recommendations he has made.

Q. Where do you see yourself five years from now as an author?

A. In five years I hope to be writing full time. My very specific plan includes leaving my teaching career in 3 years when my youngest son goes to Kindergarten and my family is no longer burdened by the massive investment of daycare expenses. At that point in time I will have been writing professionally for 6 years. I will have 6 self-published titles (3 in the Orphan Train Riders Series, 2 in the Surface Series, and one picture book: Pauly Wants to Doodle All the Day- due out in summer 2015). In addition to the funds I make from these books, I hope to supplement my author income by doing school author visits, educational material sales via TeachersPayTeachers.com and other freelance jobs. Of course I hope to be writing more books as well. I have several book ideas circulating in my brain right now ranging from a YA medieval time period fantasy, and two clean romance novels for adults. All I need is the time to get them down on paper.

For more information about Amanda Zieba or her books, visit her on Facebook.

On the Midnight Shuttle

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Moonlit Fields of Desire by Angela Turpin

We met at the Los Angeles airport after our flight was canceled because of a mechanical failure. You asked me, “Will they ship my luggage to my home?” I shrugged, having not traveled much in my lifetime, not much at all, except for business, which was why I was here, waiting for the next flight to Santa Rosa.

I didn’t pay any more attention to you. I was too busy waiting for my boss to return with her bottled water. I wanted to board the plane and head home. It was after ten o’clock, past my bed time, and the veggie sandwich I had eaten an hour ago was not enough to settle my nerves about whether or not I would be home in the morning to help my husband take our children to their respective schools.

After the plane landed in San Francisco, you found me once again waiting for the midnight shuttle to take us home. When you wouldn’t stop talking, I finally reached out, introduced myself, and shook your hand. I noticed your closely clipped hair that made you look almost bald, the tweed Fred Astaire hat in your hand, and the button down shirt and khaki slacks that made you look like you had stepped out of a 1950’s photo. You kept on talking and talking, and your enthusiasm buoyed me. I lost track of how cold the San Franciscan air was and how dark and lonely it felt beneath the awning. You were like a bouncing fluorescent ball of energy illuminating the darkness. Your talk was so absorbing, witty, and entertaining that I forgot about how my husband did not call to say he loved me, how my daughter only cared about how I had yet again missed her birthday, and how my co-worker friend thought my photo text with the abbreviated message, “Wish you were here,” was for my husband, not him.

My boss stood on the sidewalk behind us smoking a cigarette. I pointed to a man standing on the curb holding a sign with someone’s name written in black marker. “That will be me later this year when I go on a cross country book tour,” I said.

You glanced behind us at the man with the sign and nodded. “How many books have you written?”

“Too many to count,” I said, “but this will be the fifth I’ve published.” I bit my lower lip and tears welled up in my eyes as I wondered if my family would miss me or would they dread the day I returned.

You tossed the tweed hat back and forth between your hands and said, “I followed a girlfriend to college and picked whatever major seemed grown up at the time just to be with her, but when I discovered color—how blue or orange can make someone buy something—I discovered the my true calling.” You clasped your hat gently with the fingers of one hand and gazed at me with your hazel eyes. “Sometimes you have to follow a path that will care for your health and spirit.”

I glanced away and shivered. You must have thought I was cold because you offered me your jacket. I shook my head and said, “It’s my soul that’s freezing.”

You frowned and pulled me close. I rested my cheek against your shoulder and noticed my boss across the street staring at us. I shifted, trying to pull away, but you held me closer and whispered, “How can you be with someone who limits your potential? Who doesn’t want you to succeed? It might have been fine when you’re twenty, but it’s not okay when you’re forty. You need respect and recognition. You deserve to be with someone who understands that.”

“All I ever wanted was happiness,” I whispered back.

You released me. “Are you happy?”

I glanced away, afraid to answer.

You waved your hat like a magic wand, cutting through the night, bringing clarity to the situation. “When my wife and I contemplated getting a divorce last year, she said it was because she couldn’t live with a man who was too soft with his children. I told her I would rather be unmarried and alone than to create so much tension with my son that he would never open up to me. If that means I’m not hard on him, then I’m willing to end the marriage. I cannot live with someone who cannot accept me as I am.” Our eyes met. “When are you going to stop hiding that light inside of you?”

“I’m not hiding it,” I said.

You stopped talking. Your fingers splayed to catch the brittle night. “You’re such a liar.”

I laughed.

When the shuttle arrived, we sat next to each other and continued to chat until the bus driver said, “Hush. People are trying to sleep.” You tilted your head close to mine, and our heads touched. “Let’s whisper,” you said.

It was after midnight. “We should be sleeping,” I said. “We both have to be at work by eight.”

You whispered, “But I could talk to you all night.”

I smiled. “And I could listen to you all night.”

You said, “You are a good listener.”

We touched noses and continued talking.

I felt your voice vibrating against my skin. I felt your energy infiltrating me with new life. I felt your words filling me up, making me full.

“I have plenty of friends who say they’re writers,” you said, “but I’ve never seen anything they’ve written.”

“It’s a tough business,” I said.

“That doesn’t matter.” You wrapped your arm around my shoulder, tugging me closer. I placed my head against your shoulder and felt safe and warm and loved and understood. You said, “You’ve published five books.”

“I only sell one book for every five hundred hits on my website,” I said.

“That’s good.” Your voice uplifted me. “The average conversion rate is one to two percent.”

I was too tired to try to calculate the mathematical formula to verify if you were correct. “I won’t feel so bad anymore,” I said, although I knew deep down I would continue to compare myself to my friends, many of whom had books for sale in the Hudson Bookstore at the airport terminal at LAX.

You held me closer and whispered, “You’re a star.”

I smiled against your shirt, too uncomfortable for words.

Later, as the shuttle drifted through San Francisco, our words grew sparser, our breaths grew longer, and our eyelids grew heavier until we parted into dreams.

When the bus driver jolted us awake, we parted like plastic peeling away from skin, reluctantly and hesitatingly, a film of body heat clinging to us like memory. You said, “I enjoyed our conversation.”

We stepped out into the night, and while I waited for my boss to disembark to drive me home, you pulled me into your arms and said, “Even if we never see each other again, I will always look into the heavens and think of you because you are a star.”

I felt my throat tighten and tears well up against the surface of my eyes. “This night reminds me of the movie Before Sunrise,” I said.

You chuckled, stepping back and holding me with your hands on my shoulders. “No, it’s more like Clerks.”

I shook my head. “It was more like destiny.”

You smiled and nodded, donning your hat and walking away to the long term parking lot, leaving me alone.

Weeks have passed since that night. And whenever I am alone after midnight I think of you and wonder if you still think I am a star.

Believe and Achieve

2015 Believe

Sometimes when we are stuck in our careers or our life, we need help.

Last year, after a frustrating summer, I fell into a slump. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life. At this late stage of the game, I had thought I would be a stay-at-home wife and mother who wrote and published books to supplement my husband’s income. My life was very different. I was a full-time professional with a husband who primarily took care of the children while managing his computer business. I had little time to be a wife and a mother. I had even less time for writing and painting. Often I had no time at all.

In October, I sought the help of a local psychic, Jan Kucker. She read my energy and said, “Your guides are turning away from the past and facing the future. Your life is going to dramatically change.”

My life didn’t change instantaneously. Jan had given me homework to do. I was to start believing I was worthy of receiving all the good things I was so willing to give to others. I had to start accepting the gifts the universe wanted to give me. The first step was to believe I deserved to receive!

Believing was something I reserved for others. I believed in God, my husband, my children, even my staff members. But I never stopped to consider whether or not I believed in myself.

I had been in a habit of doing: writing, rewriting, querying, and submitting story after story. Doing is one thing. Believing is another. I had to create a habit of believing.

Like a good student, I started on my homework. Jan was right. Once I started believing, I started achieving. Two weeks later, my manuscript won the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest!

You can spend your entire life focused on the work you have to do. But if you do not believe you are worth the fruits of your labor, your efforts will be lost.

You have to believe to achieve. Yes, doing the work is half the journey but you won’t finish the journey if you don’t believe you can.

Look in the mirror and say, “I am worthy of receiving,” then go out into the world with your arms wide open and let good things come to you.

Writing for Fun to Free the Soul

Child Praying

Writing a Letter

 

 

 

 

 

Writing is my spiritual practice. Some people pray. Others meditate. I write.

I’ve written enough over the years that I literally have filing cabinets lined up along one side of the garage full of the writing I’ve done for fun, not profit, for me, not others, for the joy of writing in and of itself.

This is writing no one else will ever see.

Some of the poems are prayers. Some are conversations with God. Some are letters to the person I was or wanted to be. All of it was written from the depths of my soul, from that deep yearning to connect with something larger than me. The best writing from those pieces aren’t polished and published; they’re full of insight and revelations and truths.

Some of my favorite authors are spiritual writers—not writers who write about the topic of spirituality, but writers who use their writing to explore their spirituality and as a result of that exploration create wonderful published works.

When I was in college, I had the pleasure of hearing Natalie Goldberg speak about the writing life. For her, writing was an extension of the Zen practice of meditation. She sat and moved her hand across the page, letting the words flow out of her. It was no different than sitting meditation in which she sat and let the thoughts dissolve around her or walking meditation in which each step she took brought her closer to God.

When I was at the Vermont Studio Center, I had the privilege of writing with and learning from Melanie Rae Thon. Melanie’s writing practice consisted of asking questions and answering them through writing. Whether it was questions you asked yourself or your characters, the answers revealed themselves through the words that poured forth. Those answers could become solutions to real life problems or the conflicts and resolutions to published stories or novels.

When I realized the best writing I admired came from the spiritual practice of writing, I changed the way I approached the page. There was the writing I did for work and the writing I did for fun. Over the years, however, I lost sight of how the two intertwined: that the best writing I’ve done is also the best writing I’ve published which is also the best writing that has come from delving deep into my soul through my spiritual practice.

When writing became a job—something to produce for a profit—and stopped becoming a journey to find a way back to God—my spiritual practice—I saw the profits drop and my soul start to die.

Sure, I had the spiritual writing I did for fun on the side, but it was no longer essential like eating and sleeping. It had become a hobby, not a lifestyle.

It was only when I received an e-mail from the new editor of a national publication who discovered my writing through one of my spiritual pieces published when I was much younger that I woke up and realized a fundamental truth: the writing that answers the questions of the soul is also the writing most people want to read. It’s looking the hard questions in the eye and answering truthfully, whether through an article, an essay, a novel, a poem, or a short story, that brings the reader and the writer together in a timeless journey of discovery of the purpose and meaning of life.

Modern life may be different than medieval life, but the life of the spirit remains unchanged. That’s why we still read the classics—the truth does not change.

Writing for fun, for discovery, for the soul is the deepest, truest writing that you’ll ever do.

It doesn’t matter if it ends up the cover story of a national magazine or in the filing cabinet in the garage. What matters is the writing is done with the same loving practice as the everyday self-care tasks of caring for the body. For writing is one way of caring for the soul.


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Chase the Concept: Writing Backwards

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Yes, my blog has been bare. I took a two month hiatus to draft a contemporary Christian romance. That’s what the genre is…but that’s not how the story came about.

It started on one of my runs. A woman was complaining, saying it was all her mother’s fault she was a romance addict because her mother named her Juliet. She swore she was a star-crossed lover before she was born.

But just because I had a character didn’t mean I had a story. I had realized with my last two thrillers that concept is more important than story. High concept – a series of events that happens to a particular person with a particular result – must appeal to the masses, not a handful of people. That’s why I resisted writing anything about Juliet until much, much later.

I needed a series of events that happened to a particular person with a particular result that appealed to many people.

I needed a concept.

Backwards writing. That’s what I was learning how to do. I would sell a concept then write the story.

I sat down and wrote a one line pitch. Then a one page summary.

I sent out queries based on a book I had not yet written to see if it was worth writing.

Now I’m pedaling backward fast…churning out a novel and editing the first sample pages so literary agents can judge whether or not they think I should finish it.

It’s an experiment in backwards writing…but since forward writing hasn’t paid off, it’s worth the risk, isn’t it?


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Clarify the Concept

This is a follow-up to my October 2013 post Resilience.

“We like your writing, but we don’t like your concept. . .”

After receiving a dozen rejection letters from literary agents all stating the same thing, I started to wonder: what do they mean by “concept” and why don’t they like mine?

Concept is NOT what a story is about. It is a specific thing that happens to a specific person that must be specifically solved.

My query letters all stated situations, ideas, and plot points. As a result, my query ended up reading like an episodic adventure, which is why I kept getting those rejection letters.

I needed to rewrite my query to focus on the concept, to tell the dramatic core of the story and leave everything else out.

The problem was I didn’t know how to describe a novel in which multiple storylines overlapped. I only knew that if I left the query as it was, I would continue to get rejection letters.

I put the query aside and started focusing on other things: art, exercise, prayer, and family. I played a lot of hockey on the XBox and watched more movies of the books I wanted to read. I followed the advice of successful authors who suggested I read developmental studies on how to build a story from a concept and how to transform a weak query into a stronger one.

But, most importantly, I let go of all expectations.

Months later, I woke up hearing a voice. The person was reading from a piece of paper. It was my concept turned into a story. I leapt out of bed and sat down and transcribed the words until tears brimmed in my eyes.

I had my pitch!

Sometimes when we give up, we are really giving in to the universe and allowing our dreams to manifest. By turning away from my problems and enjoying the abundance of life and giving thanks for the wonderful opportunities I have been given to grow, I allowed my prayers to be answered.

Now the true test: will a literary agent like my revised concept enough to request the full manuscript?

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3 Reasons to Write for Free

Should professional authors write for free?

From Tim Kreider’s well-thought out New York Times article “Slaves of the Internet, Unite!” to the profanity-laden rants of best selling novelists offended by the request, which I won’t link to here, the question sparks a lively debate fueled by a variety of responses that leave even the most prolific authors speechless.

I understand the reasoning on both sides of the debate. I hate when writers agree to write gratis only to sue for payment later (see “An Unnecessary Lawsuit”). I also hate when professional organizations and highly successful authors swear to never give away a piece of work because it will destabilize writing as a viable career. After all, other professionals, from lawyers to contractors, work pro bono under certain circumstances.

I’ve been writing professionally since 1985 and I’ve given away as much writing as I’ve sold.

Here are the top three reasons why I’ve written for free:

Advertising

In a world where more books are published than there are people to read them, advertising is a key element to boosting sales.

Unless you are a known author with a wide following, you can’t expect a new book to instantly result in a spike in sales. You have to let people know about your book long before it hits the bookstores.

Writing for free to promote your upcoming release is similar to paying for an ad on Goodreads or the New York Times Book Review. For those authors without a publicity budget, writing free articles on your book’s topic is cheaper than paying for a well placed ad in the same publication because it only costs your time. Additionally, it gives readers a chance to sample your work.

Most authors who advise against writing for exposure have enough devoted fans to guaranty a steady stream of income. Therefore, they can either rely on their fame to sell books or can afford a publicist who will do the job for them.

Charity

Whether it’s the school fundraiser or finding a cure for autism, I have donated my writing. I don’t ask for a tax write-off, although I’ve received them from larger organizations. If my writing can generate funds for a good cause, I’m willing to do it for free.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a poetry booth where people pay $10 for a customized poem. Other times it’s autographing copies of books that will be auctioned off at a charity ball.

Either way, the satisfaction I receive from being of service is enough payment for me.

Special Interests

A lot of times I will research and write articles on speculation because a topic interests me. One such article focused on healing for women who had undergone an abortion. When every paying publication rejected my article, I queried a local publication that paid in copies.

Three weeks after the article appeared, I received a message through the publisher from a woman who had written a letter.

“I read your article and I’ve decided to return to the Church after 20 years,” the woman wrote. “I had an abortion 20 years ago and have never felt the same. I mean, I’m lucky, I have two healthy boys who are now teenagers, but still, I haven’t stopped thinking of the first child, and sometimes I have felt so alone, like I was the only woman who regretted having an abortion, even though it’s what I wanted at the time.”

I kept that letter. It’s a reminder of the greater reason why I write. Helping to transform someone’s life is the most precious payment I could ever receive.



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Move Beyond Despair

Rain in Australian Rainforest Cairns, Australia

“Action is the antidote to despair.”
–Joan Baez

Rejection is an inevitable part of the publishing business. Not every literary agent, editor, or publishing house is going to share your vision for your story. Even those who want to shepherd you may find they cannot connect with your story in a way that will bring it to its fullest potential. They may lack the same passion as you do for your project and decide to pass.

After facing several rounds of rejection, you may start to doubt your story and yourself as a writer. When the clouds of “no’s” start piling up in your sky, it’s only natural to expect a little despondent rain. Just remember: do not get soaked.

My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh. I’ve traveled to see his original paintings, read all his letters to his brother, Theo, and studied about his art and life. My fascination is measured equally with repulsion: no matter how much I admire his artwork and his passion for God and the common people, it does not overshadow the fact that Van Gogh was basically a failure, living off his brother’s charity, selling only one painting during his lifetime, and ending his own life with his last words being, “This sadness will last forever.”

When I first became acquainted with Van Gogh, I thought I could outsmart the darkness by denying I was an artist and embracing a practical, mathematical, and scientific way of life. That failure led me back to where I began: as a child fascinated equally by both the light and the darkness, success and failure, hope and despair.

Over the years, I’ve learned the duality exists as two sides of the coin. You cannot have acceptance without rejection. You cannot have success without failure. You cannot have joy without despair. The key, however, is to find a balance.

When the rainfall of rejection starts pounding on the rooftop of my thoughts, I take action. I resist the impulse to let the sadness tug me deep into the undertow of negative thoughts that can easily spiral out of control and sink me deep into desolation. I engage in activities that bring hope, light, and joy into my life, whether that be creating something new, spending time with loved ones, or reading a good book.

Not every creative act finds a home. Not every invention is patented and sold. Not every cure for every disease is discovered. That doesn’t mean we stop trying to create, invent or cure. We do not let despair paralyze us with inaction. We take a break to gather strength, recalibrate our instruments, and step forward toward hope.

The rainfall of rejection eventually dissipates like any other storm. The secret is to engage in pleasurable activities and indulge in positive thoughts to prevent from drowning in misery, for no sadness will last forever.



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The Quest for an Agent

Man holding a note that reads 'call me'
Searching for an agent is like dating.

I start by letting friends and family members know I am ready. My book is finished. It needs to be sold, and who better to sell it than an agent with a great reputation, preferably one who works with a writing friend. It’s a lot like scoring a date with your best friend’s brother. You know the family, get along with them well, and your future sister-in-law already feels like family. It would just be making it all official.

Of course, the chances of it working out beyond the first date are infinitesimally small.

The number of writing friends who have an agent who represents adult fiction dwindles considerably once I factor in the genre: suspense, thriller, crime, and mainstream. Those are the genres in which I feel the book fits. Trying to convince my friend’s agent who represents romance that my manuscript would be perfect for her would be a lot like trying to convince my friend’s brother who is gay that dating me would be a match made in heaven.

Once I exhaust the friends and family route, I determine to strike out on my own to meet The One. That’s a lot like being in the right place at the right time and saying the right thing to get the right response. I hang out where agents hang out: writer’s conferences, book expos, national and local writer’s groups, and publishing conferences. To mitigate the cost, I apply for grants and scholarships and chances to win an all expense paid for trip and an exclusive one-on-one meeting with the agent of my choice by writing a contest-winning essay or story. Hundreds of thousands of other writers also apply for the same chance to win. After paying the entry fee and waiting several months, I discover the winner is another lucky writer, not me. Since I have too many home and auto repairs to cover the entrance fee into the conference, not to mention travel, lodging, and meals, I proceed to Step 3 of my quest: Internet dating.

After all, I’ve heard so many stories of others finding true love through Match.com. Why can’t I find a literary agent through one of the online match making companies that bring writers and agents together? I fill out the online questionnaire, opt for the four week no cost special, and upload the first 100 pages of my manuscript into the database. Several times a day I check my mail, hoping someone read my partial manuscript and wants to see the rest of the novel. Whenever a new agent joins, I make sure I “wink” at them if they represent the genre in which I write. Sometimes they wink back and a dialogue begins about my book. Most of the time, however, they don’t. A few request the full manuscript, promising to get back to me within six to eight weeks with a response. Many, however, decide to pass.

Although I’ve abandoned my search for an agent many times over the years, I am hopeful this time I will find The One. It took three years before my husband finally asked me out on a date. Hopefully, it will take less time to find the perfect agent.


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Q & A: Behind the Scenes

I’ve decided to take this opportunity to respond to the many questions I’ve been asked since my last post.

Why did you write a crime novel?

It wasn’t my intention. I wrote another novel with the same characters in 2005, but I wasn’t happy with it. When a reader suggested I start a new story where this one left off, I began the second book. It opens with a Native American medicine man chasing his ex-lover across the country to recover money embezzled from the tribe. That one crime led to many others, and the book was born.

Is this the first book in a series?

Again, this wasn’t my intention. If readers respond favorably to it and the characters have more to say, then who knows? Right now, it’s a standalone book.

What writers inspire you?

John Burdett is my favorite crime writer. I love the way he incorporates spirituality into his novels through the character of Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, and how he delves into another culture seamlessly. I strive to do that with this novel.

What’s the book about?

When the spiritual energy surrounding Chief Hank Hidden Hawk’s sudden death suggests foul play, Medicine Man Wayne Walking Stick must unearth a 20 year old grievance before the next victim is murdered.

When can we read it?

As soon as it is published.


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