#12Months12Books – May

Wow. It’s May. And it’s almost mid-May. That’s really something. The year is not stopping, but thankfully, neither am I. As part of this #12Months12Books, I’m just about ready for May’s release. But, this month is going to be a little different. Here’s why:

I haven’t been broadcasting this enough, but I am actively seeking representation for what will be my first full-scale novel. The book is called The Road to Mars and is a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic story taking place sometime in the latter half of the 21st century. Here’s some backstory: Earth has colonized Mars via some highly advanced A.I., designed by entrepreneurial developer, Marion Perriello. His machines have prepared the planet over several years and after they finish their preparations, people begin their journey to the red planet. Over time, Mars advances rather quickly; discovering new sources of energy before finally declaring its sovereignty from Earth. The Earth doesn’t appreciate this move and prepares to go to war and win back its first interstellar colony. However, it soon becomes clear that Mars is far beyond the Earth, demonstrating its power during a UN conference with invisible ships and other high-tech gadgetry.

The Earth is fearful, but Mars decides to send a messenger, one bearing a gift out of good will and an act of peace. Problem is, the “gift” goes awry and sets off what my story will be calling “The Dark Bomb”: a wave of energy that subsequently takes all of Earth’s artificial light away, leaving the planet in darkness and naturally, utter chaos (as if we didn’t have enough of that all ready). Worse yet, the Dark Bomb seems to have set loose horrible creatures everywhere – monsters which seem to appear to those who have more fear than others. Some can see them, others cannot. And wherever there is fear, clouds of dark energy appear, signaling that fear (or death) is close by.

The novel itself will pick up 40 years after the Dark Bomb’s onset. As one might imagine, the Earth is still picking up the pieces and Mars has all but abandoned mother Earth in the process. However, Mars hasn’t completely left Earth to its own devices. Feeling responsible for what has happened, Mars elects to send its Shepherds to Earth, Mars-born, Mars-bred superhumans designed for rescuing people from Earth. And bringing them to Mars.

One of my main characters, Dr. Darion Wallace, is after a said Shepherd. His obsession is shortly-lived when he finally meets one, but he won’t be the only one who does. And that’s all I’m giving away on that.

So what about May? Well, that’s where the above backstory comes in. I’ll be releasing a short story (a little over 5,000 words) that tells the beginnings of Mars’ colonization. And it will be on Kindle as my May story. Yes, I know it’s much shorter than the others I’ve done, and it doesn’t really constitute as a “book”, but I think it’s well-served considering all the writing I’ve been doing. Plus, I hate when people tell things in reverse, aka releasing prequels after the main story has finished. So if anyone ever asks, I can always say that the prequel was out before the main canon. So there.

Thanks again to all who have read (and are currently reading) what I’ve done so far this year. You’re more than just dollar donors; you’re my inspiration to stay persistent and passionate about what I am doing. So thank you again.

So…what’s next?

I’ve been fired up since I finished Spirit Run. Not because I’m really angry or because I’m disappointed with the story – no, not at all. I’m fired up for a plethora of other reasons. I’m experiencing some new activity in this writing gig and it’s a tad overwhelming. How so? And what does that look like? Well, thanks for asking….

There’s a realization I’m having and it’s about as good as it is bad. Over the past year, I’ve been amazingly fortunate to be a member of a local writer’s group – one that shares, critiques, and encourages one another’s work. That has been remarkably life-giving. For example, remember when you found yourself surrounded by people who spoke the same “language” as you? You could share, in a group, the same kinds of thoughts and aspirations that this other group of people had? That’s a great feeling.

So…that was good – wait, amazing.

But that was only the first step into a much larger universe. Once you get to a place where others share a similar vision, you will eventually find yourself limited by your own resources. In other words, the affirmation you needed has worn off and the need for more third-party support becomes increasingly relevant. You need a team of other highly skilled, highly proficient individuals who can further maximize the bigger vision. I wrote about having skill sets I wish I had a couple weeks ago. Well, that post is having extreme truth in my life. And it’s happening now.

As such, I’ve been trying to accumulate a team of the following individuals:
– Editors
– Illustrators
– Social Media Experts
– My fiance’ (which has already been established as part of the team but incredibly crucial all the same)

I’m still doing the agent search thing, but I’m not sitting on my butt, waiting around either. I’ve decided to take a little more initiative and put some feelers out to even more media realms. And the responses have been very good. The more knowledge I can assimilate, the better. And knowledge is what I need if I’m going to be anywhere near effective in this fast-paced, fast-moving environment. How do you create good techniques for editing and not create bad ones? What is proper pricing for digital imaging? What’s not proper? And so on and so forth. It will be an ongoing process, I’m sure; one that will not happen overnight. A reality that my generation has a hard time believing is true. And unfortunately, I have a hard time reminding myself of daily.

So…here’s to the next “I don’t know” turning into “I understand now.” Here’s hoping I can get there sooner than later.

Oh Agent, where art thou?

As the hunt for agent representation continues, I find myself on the short end of the stick. There’s plenty more growing pains to be had and this past week and a half was no exception. For starters, I decided to open my field of agents to include not only narrative, but pop culture, humor, young adult and essay. All of this within the confines of non-fiction. Why? Well, my manuscript covers each of those topics. And the amount of rejection letters I’ve been receiving haven’t exactly lifted my spirits. So why not broaden the scope and see what I find, right?

The first order of business was taking my inquires to agentquery.com. It’s the premier site for searching literary agents. Think of it as the Match.com for aspiring writers. You can scroll through hundreds of agent profiles, sorted by specialization, and as a bonus, you don’t have to look at some creepy picture that may or may not be the person in the profile (I would assume that any other Internet daters can relate).

So away I went. Searching, spelunking, looking, etc.

By expanding my criteria, I discovered several potentials who were interested in all 4 or 5 of my aforementioned list. So I wrote their names down, jotted some notes about their agency, and went to the agency website.

From there, it was a crapshoot. Let me explain: You are essentially trying to impress someone you’ve never met before; that’s first and foremost and can seem to be a little daunting. I’ve already gotten my feet so I feel less intimidated by the notion or the rejection that may follow but still, it’s tough trying to visualize just what you want to say via an email or a snail mail message. Do I boast about my writing prowess? How great the idea is? Or do I write a very formal, stuffy letter? Much of my research on the topic tells me to do two things:
1) Write with your personality and style that the book presents
2) Don’t get too casual (in other words, no “hey, what’s up?”)

Agents are professionals, after all. This is important to remember but easy to forget. Yes, you want to form a partnership that can assist you with your book idea, but you aren’t exchanging pleasantries at a house party either.

As I journeyed on, I found another interesting truth – not every agent is where he says he is. As it were, people can change jobs and positions rather regularly in this world, so be sure to follow through and check that the agent is still with the agency before you start crafting a letter. The yellow pages may say they’re with Super Great Literary Agents R Us, but if you try to contact them via their website, you discover that the agent has left the nest. Or found another place to land. And what’s more, if they’ve moved, then they may have changed their focus altogether too; no longer working on fantasy or fiction, but self-help books instead. Weird, right? Why yes, this was quite frustrating. The agent world is looking as fickle as a teenage girl, I thought.

Thankfully, not all agents were like this. I can’t speak for them all, of course. But wouldn’t you know it – there were plenty that fit the bill.

When this happened, I got discourage but I stuck to the original formula: find an agent by topic and then do the background check. When I found a few that were legit, I decided to dig even further. If there were indeed still at the same agency and still had the same interests as what I sought them out for, I decided to look at their past clients. This would seem like a very logical and natural thing to do next, but I can assure you that it was not. For after searching for a good hour, sifting through the muck, it’s rather easy to pass up this crucial step. Who have they represented in the past? What’s their track record look like? Are they established or not very established? And ultimately, which are you looking for? It might be a good idea to try and strike rapport with an agent who has less clients so you can have more hands-on attention. Once again, there’s no perfect candidate but it’s crucial to call upon these questions once you begin engaging a potential agent to represent you.

Additionally, I read interviews and blog posts that the agents wrote. One such agent, who will remain anonymous, gave a very engaging interview that was eye opening and insightful. He talked of the ebb and flow of the business, the need to be reactive to the market (what’s trending) and how to recognize a good idea when it comes to his table. A delicate thing to discern, but that’s what this is all about. Taking some chances, right? But still managing to not get caught up in those who may only have 15 minutes of success.

Reading what the agent writes is beneficial in that it allows you, the writer, to get a personal peek at what the agent is looking for. What’s their style? How are they communicating? And do they sound like someone you may want to pursue a relationship with? Tough to do, yes, but it’s one step closer to potentially building a partnership. And it’s one step closer than where you’d be if all you were doing was sending out generic letters with no sense of personalization.

And if it helps, develop a personal tracking system. I’m all about trying to keep my head on straight so I devised a small chart to keep my things in order. You don’t want to be sending out the same letter to the same person three months later so keep tabs on who you’ve been in contact with. I would suggest the following table:

Name of Agent / Agency / Criteria / Sent? / Response

Simple and effective. The first two columns are easy to fill out and you can track sent and response dates with little trouble, but try to focus on what the agent wants in a cover letter or sample too. For example, many agents only want a cover letter. Some want snail mail while some only want email. Others desire a page of your work to accompany the letter. The list goes on, but be sure to see what’s required before you make grand plans about creating the perfect “agent snare” for your book idea. And if you’re viewing it as a snare then you should probably reevaluate your methods for contacting an agent and start at square one again. Just saying.

But that’s where I’m at. It’s been a little more than 2 weeks into this quest and I’ve learned my fair share already. Are there are other methods for bettering one’s agent search? Yes, I’m sure there are (outside of driving to the front step of a building, camping out and outright stalking your person of interest), but those are things I’m looking forward to uncovering. In the meantime, back to it.