Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Guest Today is Will Matlack, Solstice Publishing Author, with a "Beef" About Captain Kidd's Treasure Map

I’d like to find Captain Kidd’s treasure. Really I would. Having a couple million dollars, or I guess it would be gold doubloons, could really make my life as a writer much easier. Not that I have a hard life, mind you, in fact I have a very wonderful life. I get to stay at home and write. Whole books, even. If I actually had a few million dollars’ worth of gold I wouldn’t move. I love my house. I wouldn’t buy big dogs because I love my two cats, and they would object. I wouldn’t do much of anything different except pour the big pile of gold in the middle of my garage and then sit on it and gloat. Yes, I would keep the garage door down so none of my neighbors could see me.
So, how do you find Captain Kidd’s treasure? According to some very credible historians whom I saw on TV the other night, the Captain had buried two treasures, one of which was found and the other of which is still missing. These guys knew what they were talking about. Once again they were on TV. You don’t get on TV if you don’t know what you are talking about. Well, sometimes you do. Actually, there are a lot of guys on TV who don’t know what they are talking about, but they mostly give relationship advice to desperate audience members or try to sell you stuff for your skin. But, anyway, these guys that I saw on a TV show that wasn’t giving relationship advice said the first thing to do is get an authentic treasure map.
This is actually the easy part. There are lots of authentic Captain Kidd treasure maps all over the Internet. Yes, I know they are all copies or reproductions of the actual map that was found in an old wooden box that CK used to own, but they’re just as good as the original. You can find the treasure following one of them because they are copies of the original one, which is probably in some museum somewhere, so you can check it out for yourself if you want.
I got one of these, and I’m not going to tell you how much I paid for it, but it was a reasonable amount considering it leads to a big pile of gold. However, once my map came in the mail, I found I had two basic problems with it. First, it shows all these little routes I have to take. You know what I’m talking about. “Start at a rock. Go ten paces to a stump. Turn to the west and go two hundred paces to a sink hole, and on and on.”
What I’m saying is that all that walking, and the turning and the pacing, and the stumps, and the sink holes. Oy. It’s too much. Just put a little X on the spot and give me two, just two, coordinates – something like “forty degrees to that little clump of rock to the north and thirty degrees to that cave to the south that looks like a guy yawning if the light is right.” You can find any spot on earth with just two coordinates like that. Just make sure that whatever you are pointing to has some sort of a chance to still be there two or three hundred years from when you made the map. That rules out sand dunes, trees, wadded up pieces of paper, feathers from some bird. Things like that. Okay?
Alright, now for my second beef about the Captain’s little map. It’s his penmanship. Oh, I know, back in the seventeenth century we were all totally into writing with the fancy curlicues, the loops, the obsessive underlining, but hey. Nobody can read that stuff. We certainly can’t read anything the Captain wrote because it wasn’t enough for him to just be fancy. He had to be illegible. On all his authentic maps that you can find on the Internet, not on one can you read the name of the island or its longitude and latitude. They’re just little squiggles. Like the Captain went spastic for a second just when he was writing down the TWO MOST IMPORTANT PIECES OF INFORMATION.
What a jerk.  So, we actually don’t know where the island is. The place where the Captain supposedly buried a bunch of gold. We only know it’s somewhere in the China Sea. That you can read on the map.
Some guy actually thought he had it figured out. The location of the island, that is. He found an island in the China Sea that looked just like the one our fearless Captain drew on the little scrap of paper which is the treasure map. Now bear in mind that the Captain’s drawing of the island makes it look a lot like a baked potato, so we don’t really know if the island looked like that at all. You know, given the Captain’s horrible penmanship.
So, anyway, this guy found an island in the China Sea that looked like a baked potato, and he decided to go there, follow all the little routes from stump to rock to…whatever. There was a big problem, though. Baked Potato Island was in Vietnamese territory, so the guy had to write the Vietnamese government for permission to visit the island and do a little digging. Well, it’ll probably come as no surprise to you that the government responded with a no. Specifically their note said something like, “No visiting, walking around or digging allowed on Baked Potato Island.”
This was not a guy who would take no for an answer, even from the very scary Vietnamese government. So, he got a little boat, recruited a gullible friend and went to Baked Potato Island anyway.
Okay, so now they’re on the forbidden island. They landed right around dark, took out their flashlights and had a good look at the map. They figured what with all the confusing routes the map was going to make them take that they should wait until morning, and there was the problem. If the map had just directed them to the spot without all the running around, they might have gone there, dug up the gold and been on their way before morning. As it turned out, they were awakened by very stern members of the Vietnamese army, and were taken to a jail somewhere instead of to the gold. And they didn’t even get breakfast.
So the Vietnamese kept them for a long, long time, making them stay in little prison cells with bugs and stuff, gave them bad food and asked them the same questions every day. Evidently the Vietnamese officials had never heard of a Captain Kidd, didn’t believe that there was gold buried on Baked Potato Island and were convinced that these two were on some sort of mission with the CIA.
The good news for them was that the guy’s companion had written a letter to his brother telling him where they were headed. After a long time the brother managed to get both of them released. They were scruffy looking, had long, bushy beards with lots of lice. No surprise that neither of them had plans to return to Baked Potato Island.
I’m sure as hell not planning to go there, I can assure you of that. Am I done with treasure hunting? Not completely. There’s a story going around that CK also buried gold somewhere on Long Island. And that’s in New York, a much more civilized place to look for treasure. Now, I just need to get me a map.
Contact Will at matlackpr@att.net
View his new novel,  Noir Town here.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Jessica Tornese is My Guest This Weekend--Fascinating Journeys Through Time

Those who know me are very aware that I'm fascinated with time travel and reincarnation--I've written two time travel novels and have studied the concept through Einstein's theory of relativity, but like most of us, I can't quite grasp it--it's so otherworldly, yet it's actual science!

Jessica is a fellow Solstice Publishing author. My paranormal ghost romance, A NECESSARY END, was released last month with Solstice. Take a look at Jessica's trilogy here, and see if she can't transport you through time.

Following the excerpts is an interview with Jessica and her links.

Linked Through Time - the first of the Linked trilogy       
Lost Through Time - the second in the series

Coming this Summer—Destroyed Through Time

the exciting conclusion to the Linked series!
Steering carefully into the gravel drive of the Rapid River parking lot, I swore under my breath as the bike’s rear wheel slid on loose gravel. Trying to right the bike too quickly, I ended up swerving sharply to the left and crashing into the brush at the side of the gravel lot. Flying over the handlebars, I landed in a patch of overgrown weeds, my knee striking a rock hidden in the ground. Pain radiated from my knee, paralyzing me for a moment. I lay sprawled face first in the grass, breathing in the smell of earth and dry grass, cursing myself and everything on the planet.
Emotions overwhelmed my frazzled, fragile mind and I let loose with a string of profanities that would have definitely earned me a whipping. Rubbing my throbbing knee, I groaned.
Lightning flashed and the breeze picked up as if on cue, sending the cattails above my head into an agitated dance.
With great effort, I stood and flexed my leg. I could feel the slightest trickle of blood dripping a warm path down my shin. Perfect, I grimaced. Can anything else possibly go wrong tonight?
My vision had adjusted slightly to the moonless night, but I still had to partly feel my way to the place Travis and I spent the evening. Pushing through the brush, I couldn’t help but sense that uneasy, creepy feeling that comes from wandering in the dark, as though eyes watched you and monster hands waited to grab at your feet. My heart pounded loudly in my ears, the tingling creep of fear working its way from my head down through my limbs. I forced myself to keep my eyes forward, ignoring the nagging feeling that someone or something watched me from the shadows of the rocky shore.
Limbs of the interlocking pines poked and prodded my bare arms as I threaded my way through the trees. The pounding of the rapids had increased with the coming of the storm; the wind tossed the water upon the rocks, sending spray high into the air.
When I broke through the tree line, I stood mesmerized by the awesome power of the roaring water. It looked as if the rapids were fighting to break free of their rocky channel, its watery fingers washing over the rocks, reaching far down the wall, only to withdraw and try again.
Above the churning waters, a simple two-lane bridge hung defiantly in the air, its thick concrete arches planted firmly around the dangerous rocks. Suddenly, a semi loaded with logs thundered across the bridge overhead; its headlights lighting up the darkness for a matter of seconds. I used the momentary help to break my gaze from the water and search the outer banks for my sweater.
A flicker of movement amidst the trees caught my line of sight, and I focused in on a ring of pines to my right; the very place Travis and I had been a few hours earlier.
“Travis?” I called out hopefully, thinking he had remembered to retrieve my sweater.
* * * * * * *
I felt the exact moment my heart stopped beating in my chest.
“Where’s Mary?” I said, trying to keep the alarm from rising in my voice. The group looked around, stunned.
Vivie handed Gracie to James. “She was just here. I swear it.”
Frantic, we strained to see across the wagon bridge into Spooner. The brilliant blond tresses of Mary’s head were nowhere to be seen.
Ruth spoke up. “That man took her to the depot.”
I stared hard at Ruth, trying to process the words, but not understanding. “What man?” I said, confused. There were dozens of people crossing the bridge rushing in all directions. Like ants on a collapsing anthill, the twin towns were alive with chaos, the people coming and going with what looked like little purpose. “What man?” I said again, the panic seizing my voice and pushing it another octave higher. I grasped Ruth’s arms in a painful, panicked grip.
Ruth shrank away, afraid I might lash out. “I don’t know. I was watching John. Aunt Vivie told me to watch John.” Her eyes welled with tears. “I had John,” she insisted again, afraid of taking the blame.
“What did the man look like? What was he doing?” I demanded.
“He was that man from the backyard. The big man who touched Mary’s hair. I heard him say he could help her run faster. For her to take his hand.”
Sickness heaved inside and I clenched my jaw.
“You were getting sick over the bridge,” Ruth accused. “You weren’t helping at all! Mary couldn’t keep up and she was crying!”
Vivie reached out and gripped my shoulders. Without saying a word, we stared hard into each other’s eyes, the truth of the situation passing between us as though we were speaking aloud. McGraw had bided his time, watched us from afar and waited for a weak moment. He couldn’t possibly know the danger he faced. Was it a ploy? Would he really take Mary? Or was he just trying to get me alone to give chase and play his twisted game of revenge?
“I’ll go,” Vivie said, the sacrifice evident in the firm line of her mouth. “You can’t fall for his trap, Kate. He won’t do anything to me.”
“No,” I argued. “Too dangerous. If something happens to you, then Gran will never be born, and then, neither will I.”
Q&A with Jessica Tornese
The question that is always asked—what inspired you to write Linked Through Time, and Lost Through Time?
I grew up with a large family. My Dad was one of eleven children, so I have endless tales of cousins and extended family. My Dad’s stories always stuck with me because he grew up with nothing. Absolutely nothing! He did not have indoor plumbing until high school- in Northern Minnesota! I admire him and wanted to keep his stories alive. A lot of what happens to Kate in “Linked” are true events from my dad’s childhood. Lost Through Time mentions a disaster that actually occurred in my home town in 1910. I guess I just really like to keep the stories of our ancestors from dying out. They were true, hard core Americans fighting just to make a living.
 Your take on time travel is unique did you do any research to help you form the idea?
I love the idea of using something that had to do with the region. Of course, northern lights are not often seen as brilliantly as in Alaska or Canada, but they are amazing and kind of mysterious, so I thought they could be a believable reason!
What challenges have you overcome in having such a unique take on time travel?
As with any book, I had to keep going back and forth to remember my rules and events to make things happen. Since I change the rules in the second book, I had to really sketch out why and how Kate could travel differently than other characters.
You create a very realistic picture of farm life in the 1960’s—did you do research? If not, how did you create such a realistic picture without research?
I actually lived on the farm I am describing. For a few short months, I had to live with my grandparents in the very house my Dad grew up in . They were still doing the same chores and living the same kind of lifestyle- except with indoor plumbing of course! The chores were endless and I absolutely hate haying!
Who is your favorite character and why?
I love Kate. She reminds me of myself. I was the snotty city girl that was taken out of the city and moved to a small northern MN town when I was fifteen. I thought my life was over! I learned a lot about myself as a person and learned how to work outside. I appreciate my Dad more, and am so glad to have been raised closer to his family. I love Kate’s growth and life lessons about boys. There are good boyfriends out there and bad…definitely something we have to learn!
In book one you create sympathy for the character of Sarah, but in book two she’s quite evil. Was making a character that was originally likeable into a bad character hard?
Yes. It was actually my husband’s idea to make a villain. He basically said that the story will go nowhere without a villain, so we decided Sarah had the most to be angry and vengeful for! Once I started, it was really fun to write the villain part because I never get to act that way. It was a peek into the dark side 
Kate matures a lot through book one, did you always plan this, or did she mature as you wrote the novel?
Kate was really a mirror of myself. I think I wanted to show that from day one- how she can go from a judgmental teenager focusing on her own needs, to learning about serving others. I think everyone makes this same transition at some point in their lives; it’s just a question of when.
In Linked Through Time keeping track of so many brothers and sisters was hard for Sarah, how did you do it as an author?
I literally took my Dad’s family and just changed the names! He had 6 brothers and 5 sisters, and I just kept picturing them in my mind.
In Linked Through Time who was your favorite brother or sister?
Probably a tie between Dean and Rodney. I identify with both of their personalities. My Dad had a little of each, so I brought out his tough military side in Rodney and his protective side in Dean.
How did you evolve the story of Linked Through Time into Lost Through Time?
I didn’t want Kate’s story to be over. I knew I wanted to write about Baudette’s historic fire, so once I decided to bring Sarah back into the picture it all fell into place. I love history and am trying to decide how to connect with the final chapter in Kate’s and Sarah’s life in book three.
We saw a very little bit of Travis’ son—will we see more of him?
T.J. will make an appearance in book three. I think we will see a bit more develop with him. I want Kate’s story to have something good in it for her. Though it is a little Jerry Springer, I think Kate deserves a good man and some closure in all the chaos she lives in.
What is the name of the next book in the trilogy?
As of right now, Destroyed In Time, recommended to me by another Solstice author, Michael Thal.
Is there a release date set?
Not yet. I am still in the early stages of defining the book. I have to be really careful on how I end this book.
When did you start writing?
I didn’t really start writing books until a few years ago, but I have always loved writing and reading. They go hand in hand, I think.
As an author, what is your biggest challenge and how do you overcome it?
Finding time to write. I have three kids and it is a constant tornado in the house. I try to take some time once a week to nail down some outline ideas.
You are with an independent publisher, Solstice Publishing, how did you find them?
I submitted my work based on a newsletter I received called Children’s Writer. They give contact names and emails and it just happened to work out that Nik Morton liked the manuscript.
What do you like best about being with a smaller press?
I like the camaraderie with the other authors. We have a daily interaction on line. Mostly we use it for questions or support, but it’s nice to have others in the same boat as yourself.
What is the biggest challenge of being with a smaller press?
Marketing. There just isn’t enough time or money to get the word out. It has to be done over time, mostly own your own doing. But Solstice is trying hard to work with everyone and do what they can with their resources. I was just voted Solstice’s Author of the Year, so that was very exciting and proof that I do have fans out there that love the books.
For budding authors out there, how much say do you think you have in the final product, from cover to the insides, to the marketing?
Depending on the publisher, you can have a lot of say in your product. I wouldn’t let someone change my work completely, especially if it was something I didn’t believe in. Stay true to your style and someone will come along that likes it!
Other than writing, what are some things that you love to do?
I love volleyball and camping, and outdoor things in general. I love, love, love to read! A good book on the beach is my heaven!
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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I'm Hosting Lois Winston “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”

Hi All, I'm hosting Lois Winston today, who writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack.

Lois writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma here and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Twitter.

Look out below: Lois took the time to answer questions about her writing, her muse, and Lois!

Do you outline your books or wing it?  Describe your process.

I write a barebones paragraph that gives an indication of Point A and Point B. How I get from one to the other is the winging it part. However, before I begin writing, I need to come up with a first sentence that will hook readers. Until I come up with that first sentence, I stare at a blinking cursor.

 How do you decide on setting?

All of my books are set in places familiar to me. I don’t want to have to invent a town, then try to remember from chapter to chapter or book to book where everything is located. I also find that readers love books that take place in locations they know.

 Has your muse always known what genre you would write and be published in?

 Definitely not. I started out writing very emotional romantic suspense. Then I tried my hand at chick lit and romantic comedy. One day my agent was speaking with an editor who was looking for a crafting mystery series. My agent felt with my background (I’ve worked for years as a designer in the consumer crafts industry,) I’d be the perfect person to write such a series. Prior to that, I’d never given mystery writing a thought. But the rest, as they say, is history. 

What is your favorite part of writing? 

Having people tell me how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books. 

What is your least favorite part of writing? 

The writing! Writing is hard work. There are days when I’ll struggle to write a single page I’m satisfied with, but I can’t imagine not writing. 

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of editing.  How about you? 

I edit as I write. I have to be happy with a scene or chapter before I can progress to the next scene or chapter.  

How much research was involved in writing your book?  How did you go about it?

Each book differs. I get many of my plot ideas from my own experiences, others from news stories. I keep a loose-leaf binder of newspaper clippings that I read through whenever I’m stuck for an idea. Depending on the plot I come up with, I might have to do further research. This can involve reading more on the subject, speaking with experts, or traveling to a particular location.  

What’s the strangest thing you have ever done in the name of research? 

In Lost in Manhattan, one of my romantic suspense novels written under my Emma Carlyle pen name, I corresponded with the author of The Anarchist’s Cookbook because I needed to know if the type of bomb I wanted in the story was feasible. Luckily, this was prior to 9/11, or I’d probably be answering the questions for this interview from a prison cell! 

What inspired your latest release? 

Two years ago my publisher came up with the idea of releasing e-book novelettes in-between the full-length books in their authors’ series. I believe I was the only author who followed through, writing Crewel Intentions. When I decided to leave the publishing house, I hadn’t yet signed the contract for Crewel Intentions, so I published it myself, branding the book as an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery. The response from readers was so overwhelmingly positive that I wrote a second novelette, Mosaic Mayhem. Patchwork Peril, my latest release, is the third novelette in the series.  

After rescuing her elderly neighbor Rosalie’s quilts from a rainstorm, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack discovers Rosalie unconscious at the bottom of her basement stairs. Rosalie’s estranged niece Jane flies east to care for her during her recovery, but Rosalie suspects Jane’s motives are less than altruistic, going so far as to accuse Jane of trying to kill her. Is Rosalie’s paranoia a result of her head injury, or is there something more to her accusations? And can Anastasia uncover the truth before it’s too late? 

Because many readers kept asking when the novelettes would be in print, I recently bundled the three together into a trade paperback: Crafty Crimes, a Trio of Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries.

Can you tell us about your road to publication? 

It was the original long and winding road. For nearly ten years I received rejection letters that praised my writing but passed on my books for all sorts of non-writing quality reasons. I had the worst luck; I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. On several occasions I was on the verge of getting an offer when either the editor left the publishing house or the line folded.  

E-books, print, or both?  Any preferences?  Why? 

Both but moving more and more toward being totally e-book. I never thought I’d enjoy reading e-books, but because I can make the type larger, I don’t have nearly as much eyestrain as when I read print books. 

How much of you is in the books you write?  In what ways? 

Anastasia and I have a lot in common. Like her, I’m a suburban working mom who raised two sons. We both went to art school. I worked as an editor for two craft book publishers and designed for many magazines. Her communist mother-in-law is based on my communist mother-in-law. However, my husband is still very much alive and not a closet gambler. I’ve also never discovered a dead body in my office and hope I never will! 

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life? 

I never considered writing a novel. I hadn’t even written any fiction since Freshman Comp in college. Then one day a story popped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. I finally decided to write it down to get it out of my system. The next thing I knew, I’d written a 50,000-word romance that spanned thirty-five years. I had no idea how unpublishable such a book was, but I learned fast! However, I realized that I enjoyed writing. So I set about learning how to write right. Along the way I’d sometimes haul out that unpublishable book and tinker with it because I loved the characters too much to exile them to a life cavorting with the dust bunnies under my bed. Several years and countless rewrites later the book morphed into an 85,000-word romantic suspense that takes place over a few months. That book, Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, became the second book I sold. 

Do you have a view in your writing space?  What does your space look like? 

My desk is situated in front of a window that looks out into my front yard. A few feet from the edge of the house there’s a mock plum tree with a birdhouse. Every year a couple of wrens move in to start a family. I have no idea if it’s the same mama and papa wren each year, but it’s fascinating to watch them care for their babies, especially when they’re teaching them how to fly. And it’s certainly more interesting than staring at that blinking cursor! 

Tell us about your hero or heroine.  Give us one of his/her strengths and one of his/her weaknesses. 

In the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, Anastasia is a typical suburban working mom with a husband, two teenage sons, and a job she loves as the crafts editor at a women’s magazine—until her husband drops dead at a roulette table in Las Vegas. She thought he was at a sales meeting in Harrisburg, PA. That’s when she learns he loved Lady Luck a lot more than he loved her. She’s left with a mountain of debt, a loan shark demanding $50,000, and her semi-invalid communist mother-in-law as a permanent houseguest.  

Anastasia is forced to move her studio to her dingy basement and rent out the apartment above her garage to photojournalist Zack Barnes, who may or may not also be a spy. He denies it; she doesn’t buy his denial. And Zack looks like his DNA cavorted in the same gene pool as that of George Clooney, Pierce Brosnan, and Antonio Banderas. Talk about temptation!

Each book in the series finds Anastasia looking for ways to earn extra money to pay down her inherited debt. Unfortunately, dead bodies keep getting in her way. And when she’s not dealing with dead bodies, she’s fighting her growing attraction to the guy living above her garage. 

As for strengths and weaknesses, I think Anastasia’s main strength is being able to face adversity and find a way to overcome it. Her weakness is the inability to say no to anyone who needs help. The poor woman doesn’t have a moment to herself and too often finds her generous nature getting her into dire situations.

Zack is a problem solver, but he also might be the world’s best liar.  

You’re having a party.  What character from your book do you hope attends?  Why?  What character do you hope doesn’t attend?  Why? 

I’d certainly love to have Anastasia and Zack at my party, although wherever Anastasia goes, murder follows. So maybe I need to rethink that. I definitely wouldn’t want Anastasia’s mother-in-law Lucille showing up. Lucille is the character readers love to hate. 

What do you read?  Do you read different genres when you’re writing versus not writing? 

I’m a very eclectic reader. It really depends on my mood. I love books that make me laugh—romantic comedies, humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, chick lit—basically, the genres I write, but I also enjoy historical novels like those of Ariana Franklin.  

What’s your favorite film of all times? 

Shakespeare in Love   

Favorite book? 

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin 

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be? 

I wish I could sing. Unfortunately, I’ve got a tin ear and can’t carry a tune to save my life. Years ago when I was singing along to the radio in the car, my two-year-old covered his ears and said, “Mommy, please don’t sing. You’re hurting my ears.” 

What might we be surprised to know about you? 

I wanted to be an astronaut. Unfortunately, NASA wasn’t interested in someone vertically challenged and prone to motion sickness. 

What music “soothes your soul”?  

My go-to piece of music when I’m stressed, upset, sad, angry or experiencing any type of negative emotion is George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” The moment I hear those opening clarinet notes, it’s like a huge psychic calming breath. 

Do you listen to music as you write?
I generally prefer to write in silence. When I have music playing, I tend to concentrate too much on the music and not enough on my writing. The music becomes a distraction. 

Lois's latest release is Patchwork Peril


Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Guest William Matlack Gives Sound Advice--NEVER GIVE UP!

William Matlack is a fellow Solstice Publishing author. New novelists, heed his words of wisdom!

Surviving Rejections – Ten key factors that will keep you sane while submitting your novel
by W.H. Matlack

Hooray! You’ve finished drafting and editing your first novel. It’s been a stressful, uncertain, but immensely rewarding process. Looking back, it seems that the hard work is finally over, and surely agents will climb all over themselves for the privilege of taking your beautiful words to eagerly awaiting publishers. Certainly in a couple of days, or weeks at the most, a nice, fat contract from an important New York agent will show up in your email. Perhaps a month or so after you sign that contract, your new agent will call you with the good news that your book has been sold to a major publisher, and guess what? A major motion picture studio wants to make a feature film based on it, starring you in the lead, of course!

No, I’m not trying to make fun of new novelists. In fact, right after I finished my first novel, most of those same thoughts rattled around in my head. I remember a website I visited that gave advice to new authors for finding agents. It even had a section titled, “Things to do when you visit New York.” I imagined myself getting off the elevator at my new agent’s office and being happily escorted by an exuberant young assistant-to-the-assistant agent into a large conference room filled with all the many people who would eagerly help make my new book a best seller. They would all rise and give me a standing ovation.

I would be offered coffee, handed a plate full of expensive croissants, introduced to everyone as their most exciting new author since Hemingway. We would sign a generous (to me) contract and then all go have lunch at Tavern on the Green. It would be a beautiful New York day, and everyone would recognize me as “that author.”

No, I didn’t actually believe it would happen like that, although…some authors have come close to it. Take John Grogan’s Marley and Me. I saw him speak at the UCLA Book Fair. He said he got up every morning at five and wrote until it was time to go to work. He didn’t talk about the difficulties he had with his initial submission process, but being a working journalist helped his credibility…a lot. Very soon, the book was sold and became a New York Times best seller. It changed Grogan’s whole life. The book was made into a hit movie, and Grogan was thrust into the mega-spotlight of highly successful authors.

Bad dog makes good novel

For a more realistic contrast to Grogan, look at JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It took her seven years to finish the first novel in the series. During that time she had to suffer the death of her mother, divorce from her first husband and poverty. However, she believed in her work, and when finally published it became the best-selling series in history.

Keep at it

So, what will the submission process be like for you? Most likely you will receive hundreds of rejections over what could amount to months or even years. Just think of it. Hundreds of agents and publishers will all tell you one thing over and over, “your work just doesn’t make the grade.” How will you keep your self confidence, not to mention sanity, during this grueling process? Well, below are ten guidelines that will help armor you for the coming, negative onslaught.

Believe in your work

Is your novel good? Will other people who don’t know you want to read it? Why? What will draw them in and keep them interested? You need to take a very objective look at what you’ve done. It’s a hard thing to do, but absolutely necessary. Consider joining a critique group or giving it to a few friends to read. When you have objectively concluded that you’re product is both good and competitive with what else is out there in your genre, don’t let anyone shake that conclusion. Ever!

Believe in yourself

You’re an author now. It doesn’t matter how successful (in terms of sales or reviews) your book is. You’ve done something that most people just talk about doing. And it was hard, exciting, rewarding…it was art. You’re an artist, and no one can ever take that away from you. Even if no one else ever reads your work. Think of Emily Dickinson. Alone in her room writing, writing, writing. Fewer than a dozen of her poems were published during her lifetime, but she was a writer, a major poet, and a great artist. You’re a writer, too. No, actually more than that. You’re an author. A novelist. Even Emily wasn’t a novelist.

Not a novelist

Edit until you are sick of it

Editing your work is like polishing a beautiful car. It eliminates annoying little imperfections that are distracting to a reader. Good editing makes your work shine. Don’t forget to do word reduction and delete repeated words or phrases. Bad grammar, missing words and other little mistakes can cause both agents and publishers to reject your work outright, and probably with a snotty flair. The best way to do this is to put your work down for a couple of weeks, and then carefully read it through three or four times. Yes, you’ll get sick of it, but remember, “Wax on wax off” makes us and our stories stronger. Have someone read it as your first-line editor. It’s very difficult to find your own typos.

Develop a submission plan

Submitting is a lot like fishing in a big lake. You need to plan. First, whom are you targeting? Agents? Publishers? Both? Personally, I think targeting agents is very difficult for a first-time writer. They get hundreds of submissions each week, and if you are an unpublished writer you are likely to get tossed into the rejection pile with just a cursory glance at your pitch. (We’ll cover the pitch letter below). The only people who seem to successfully beat this rap are those with some degree of fame. Take Marcia Clark for example. She gained fame as an LA prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson case. Sure, she lost the case, but so what? She got a great deal of on-screen time during that trial, so when she decided to leave law and become a mystery novelist, getting signed was no problem. In interviews she says she’d rather be known as an author than as a failed prosecutor. She’s got three books out now, and they are pretty good, so maybe that will happen someday.

Not a prosecutor. A Novelist

 I think, and it’s only my opinion, it’s better to look for small, independent publishers who will work directly with authors. It’s a faster track to publishing because the agent is cut out of the process. Agents can take months or sometimes years trying to sell books to publishers, and they never take first-time authors out to lunch at Tavern on the Green. When your book is available on Amazon, does it really matter if the publisher is a well-known New York publisher?

Make sure you have the right bait

You’ve proven yourself as a writer, now you have to prove that you can write a pitch that promotes your novel. The pitch is all important because it’s likely to be the only thing that gets read. If they like it, they’ll ask you to send them the first three chapters, or maybe the first ten pages. That’s called a “partial” request. Next comes a manuscript request (the whole book). You can still get either of those rejected, but it means you’ve passed a barrier with at least one agent or publisher.

Getting the additional requests is the true measure of how successful your pitch letter is. It’s the bait on the line, and even a partial or manuscript rejection is okay. It means the fish are biting.

There are several good websites that offer a lot of help drafting pitch letters. Take a look at several of them before beginning your draft.

Know where the fish are biting

Do a little research to find agents or publishers who are buying work similar to yours. A very good website for finding agents (and some publishers) is Querytracker.com. They list about 1,800 agents and 193 publishers. The program allows you to sort for agents or publishers based on their genre. From the resulting report, you’ll be able to research all of them individually. The report will tell you what kinds of quires they accept such as email or regular mail. You’ll also see statistics on how many inquiries they receive and what percentage they ask for additional submissions.

Each time you send them a query, you punch a little button that adds your query to the database. Using the program continuously updates it with data. There are a couple other sites like this one, too, so shop around a bit.

Emphasize your ability and willingness to market your work

Sadly, neither publishers nor agents will do much of the marketing of your book. Your ability to market your “product” is almost as important to them as your ability to write it. All the good “how to write a pitch” sites will tell you to make sure to make a compelling argument for this in your initial letter.

Be prepared to be rejected

Oh, you’re going to get rejected, baby, and you’ve got to develop a thick skin. Just be aware that it happens to every first-time novelist. For example, I sent out 139 pitches to agents for my first novel. Over a nine-month period, every one came back as a rejection with the same verbiage, “Your story is crap, and no one will ever, ever publish it. Take up plumbing or drywall instead of writing.” Well, that’s the way I read them, anyway.

I was getting ready to self-publish (a perfectly viable alternative). In fact, I had just gotten off the phone with a person who was going to help me format for Amazon, when a new email flashed on my screen. I said to my wife, “I’m not even going to open it. The last thing I need is another rejection.” She said, “Open it. You never know.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a contract. My wife is always right.

Cool and Refreshing
$50 per glass
The bottom line is: all you need is one. It’s just like selling a house or a $50 glass of lemonade from a little stand on the sidewalk. All you need is one, and they’re out there somewhere, but if you never try to reach them, you never will.




All you need is one sale

Everyone goes through it

Except for those fortunate authors who are already famous, everyone goes through the same thing. I don’t know what the percent of success to failure is, but bookstores and places like Amazon are full of books – ebooks, paperbacks, hardbacks, there are thousands of them. And almost every one of those authors went through the same process. The difference between them and the invisible ones who gave up? That’s right. They didn’t give up.

Start writing the next one

So, here’s what happened with my second novel. I was about half way into my submission process when I thought, “OK, you all don’t like that one. I’ll just write a second one. Maybe you’ll like it better.” The benefit of this thinking is that I had a follow up novel a few months after the first one. Remember. Writing is what you do. Just keep doing it.

Who is W.H. Matlack?

He is a prolific writer of novels, short stories, graphic stories and terse letters to city officials who are trying their best to totally screw up his town. His latest novel for Solstice Horizons is titled, Noir Town and is available at: http://amzn.to/1jwSMgq