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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Putting the First Book Out...A New Step Forward!

Here we are, just a day or two from 2013, and in the wake of the End of the World As We Know It (yeah, right), Yule, Xmas, and whatever else, I find myself at the crossroads.  Time to make a step I was not ready to make, until now.

It's been brought home to me that I have spent an awful long time regaling fellow bloggers, blurkers and the rest about my alleged exploits in writing.  My Facebook posts often go on about my edits of this, and my writing of that.

It's time to set one of those projects free.

I am going to test the waters of electronic publishing next year, via Amazon.com, Kindle and whatever those other devices are people use to "e-read."

My aim is to release my fiction novel, "Parasite Girls" through this medium.  It's time to get some of my work out there, make a name for myself and see what people think of it.

I have decided not to put out (at least not yet, mind) any of my YA Fiction/Anime type stuff.  There are some reasons for this:  first of all, my agent at Sullivan-Maxx is contracted to push the first book of the "Sweet Dreams Series."  I'm not sure putting out similar work is a good idea, because I'm afraid that will detract from the SDS.  It might be seen as a knock-off, or wrongly perceived.

I also wanted to put "Parasite Girls" out because I can actually write in a different genre, and I need to show I can do different stuff.

Another reason, and this may either cause me to do some rewriting, or make changes I'm not certain about:  song lyrics that are not my own weave their way through a lot of the work.  Under Fair Use, you can get some leeway, but...out of respect for copyrighted works, you need permission.

That permission can take a very long time; you have to do it properly, because I know I'd be pissed off if somebody quoted my song lyrics in a book, and I didn't at least get a footnote that states it's mine.

A legal expert has told me the best way is to request formal permission, if you really need them.  If not, either eliminate the lyrics or write your own.

One interesting interpretation, and you might not have known this.  I sure didn't:  if suppose, you have a character speak a line from a song (he used "I Saw Her Standing There" from the Beatles), that is not enough to infringe on Lennon/McCartney (or Michael Jackson's decsendants, urgh), in terms of the copyright.

If the character sang those lyrics?  Then it's infringement.

Stephen King wrote out lyrics from CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" in "The Shining," but gave a footnote and proper credit.  Easy to do; but again, permission required.  That's part of the dilemma.

"Parasite Girls" has very little of other people's stuff, so not a lot to worry about.  I have applied for a couple of permissions; if I get them, fine.  If not, no big deal.

I appreciate the insights given me by Don Chase and Dori Hartley, regarding e-publishing.  I still have a lot to walk through to get there.

This is as much a job as it was the editing.  Writing is not a job to me, but the rest of it is.

I'm telling you this, because as another friend of mine pointed out, I'll be editing until the day I die and SDS might never go up.  I still believe it will, but yeah, I'm not getting any younger.

I want to do this; the world has changed, and I have had to disabuse myself of the notion that an actual book-in-hand is the greatest thing.  It could be, sure; but if not, the next best thing is the future.

I read somewhere 21% of the world's books are read by Kindles, Nooks and whatever those other things are.  I don't own one, clearly; but I suppose I will get one.

Andrei Codrescu (I don't know how to spell his last name) is a writer and commentator on NPR now and again.  He sounds like a curmudgeonly old Eastern European guy (I think he is from Romania, but I do not know); he recently talked about how he got one of those things, and had something like 40 books on it.  He said what it let him do was indulge his love of books and reading without killing his back!

The number is gonna go up, in terms of that readership.  It might even save reading, when you think about it.  I felt behind the times when vinyl gave way to tapes and CD's; I still love the compact disc, but now I've finally started to realize the future is in audio downloads and stuff like that.  The book and record stores will soon be things of the past.

That is sad, really.  It is the way of our times, though.

So back to this:  "Parasite Girls" will take some time, and it is just a beginning.  I have another fiction novel of the type that I might also do, but that will come later.

This one?  Well, I think it's good as a story goes; I've tried to touch on different things that have hit me over the years.

What's the plot?  Well, w/o giving it all away...we follow a photo-journalist named Aidan; he has traveled the world in search of its stories but yet never really seen that world at all.  He lands in Japan, at the apartment of an old friend, seeking refuge in the wake of a terrorist attack, and the resulting intrigue has soured him on the business and life in general.

Aidan discovers what past he has in common with the old friend runs deeper than the things he saw in college.  That past again becomes present in the form of her family, and an old love.

Her two best friends are studies all their own:  one battles mental illness, and the other is the "Parasite Girl" herself.  

What does Aidan find out about himself?  Can he reconcile his own past, and remake himself?  Will he be able to help his friends, as they each struggle with their own issues?  What decisions does each one make?

This could be an interesting film, when you think about it.  It's not a romantic comedy, not at all.  Drama, yeah...I hope I convey it well enough.

Anyway, it is a beginning...while we are at it, I will be doing some remaking of things.  My website eventually will rise from the ashes, and as I've mentioned I may well move my blog either to there or to another site.  

Either way, I'm taking a step on a new road, as a wise man once said.  I have to do it; at the very least, it is not a failure but a learning experience.  At best, I'll be closer to what I really want.

Thanks for reading; I hope you can support what I do.  Enjoy 2013; it's gonna be a better one for us all, I hope.

Peace, Out.






Thursday, December 20, 2012

"If this were the last night of the world..."...and How to Find a Literary Agent!

Well, I am going to to all out here in these final hours before "The End of the World as We Know It," yeah, right and I'm going to give you a long-winded and Pepsi Throwback/Goya Decaf induced frenzy that has become the past several days.

As per the usual, my iTunes will chime in with its offerings...just finished the lovely first movement of Joe Jackson's "Symphony."  Right straight into Nick Moss & the Flip Top's "You Got to Lose."  

So first of all, the initial part of my title for this blog is taken from Bruce Cockburn's wonderful "Last Night of the World."  I suggest you find it and give it a listen.  It's really a beautiful song.

Tomorrow night is the Winter Solstice; Yule for those in my dual tradition.  For many more it is the end of the world, or rather they'll wake up in the morning and go, "Hey, wha'happened?" or whatever it is they'll do.

I could go on forever about these loons, but I won't.  They are not worth my time.

Anyway...December 21st for me shall be spent with good friends, many of whom I've not seen in too long.  So if indeed it is the last night of the world Friday night, I shall be amongst friends.

So what has been going on of late...well, I have been furiously working to finish a long-overdue edit of Volume 3 of the "Sweet Dreams Series," subtitled, "Tougher than the Rest."  The first two of the series are now as ready as they will ever be; the third, I don't know yet.  I need to read over the mad pace I set for myself this week.

Writing is never really finished; I have been advised by friends to not refine anymore, but you know, it's something that is different for each individual.  I am one who feels these stories are my children, and while I can't say how they're going to do in the world, I have to give them my best so they can be their best.

"Little Wing," from Axis: Bold as Love.  Jimi figures in a tiny little way in Book 3, or SDS-3 as I call it.  Kinda nice.

This leads to a question from a new friend.  I have joined this writer's community, through my new Google+ account:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/107534692606148129223

This is on the science of writing, and I think I'll meet some interesting folks who are as passionate about this business as I am.

Anyway, one of the fellows here asked me about my literary agent, and how I acquired her.

"Innocent Moon," Will Ackerman.  From Hendrix to gorgeous new age guitar...hmmm...love iTunes...for shuffle, anyway.

So you know, I am repped by Jeanie Loiacono of the Sullivan-Maxx agency, and have been for the past three years.  Jeanie has been kicking open doors, but no hits as of yet.  Bites, yes...but this is more about acquiring that agent, that person who can open those doors for you.

I am no expert, but I will tell you how I did it.  It was by working it like a job, and having a bit of luck.

How you find an agent is exactly how you find a job, in my experience:  you have to be ready to sell yourself, via the resume, or in the agent's case, a manuscript.

Whatever you have...make sure it's ready NOW.  Make 100% sure that what you have to offer is ready RIGHT FUCKING NOW.  You can go back and edit later, but you need to have it NOW.

"It's Time to Play," Alvin Lee...from a very good CD, "Saguitar."

There are conventional ways to find an agent, and there are books to help:

1.  Writer's Market.  This is one of the holy books of the trade, but there are others.  WM has one specially for literary agents.  So that's 2.

3.  Dustbooks publises a guide to Independent Publishers and Small Presses.  Just as it says.

1 & 3 are necessary!  2 if you want to go in-depth.

Figure out your genre(s), target audience, etc.  Then go hunting.

Read these books...mark them up, dog-ear the pages, highlight them, and keep a list (Word file or whatever) of everything about the presses and agents that are worth going after.  Everything...names, addresses, numbers, faxes, websites, web addresses...all of it.  You will need this, and it stays in your mind.

Do NOT waste the time of publishers (and YOUR TIME) by submitting to those that don't want your stuff.  If they say, "No this" or "No that," they mean it.

You will find plenty of places to send to.

"Into Brooklyn," by Innocence Mission...different.

Okay...next!  We go into Cyberspace.  

Check for websites, but...I will tell you right now:  keep a sharp eye out for sleazy, fly by night publishers and agents who want your money.

DO NOT GIVE ANYONE ANY MONEY, FOR ANYTHING, EVER.  NO reputable agency takes a reader's fee.  NOT ONE OF THEM.  YOU are NOT responsible for their costs.  THEY ARE TO GET PAID ONLY WHEN YOU GET PAID.

"I Kill Children," Dead Kennedys.  Love these segues.

There are several websites out there, in which forums are available to check out publishers and agents that might not list in WM or Dustbooks.  They all don't.  

AbsoluteWrite.com is a site I strongly suggest you join.  Look around, make contacts, and you will learn quite a bit.  I surely did.

"Sunday Papers," live version by Joe Jackson...with all that's in iTunes, they do repeat artists.

Okay...you often hear about "Vanity Presses."  These are companies that charge you money to print your books.  Createspace is one, Xlibris is another.  Avoid them.

If you want to self-publish, be prepared to know that you will be in charge of everything, from the editing (unless you hire an independent one) to your own marketing and promotion.  I have friends who have self-published in various ways, and they can tell you...don't quit your day job.

I don't have the money to invest thousands of dollars into this, only to get a cover that was not what I wanted, pages that fall out, typeface that is unreadable, and nothing anyone would buy just on the aesthetic displeasure you get.  Also, I've seen too many people sitting alone in bookstores with their horribly produced books stacked there, and smiling, hoping someone comes and buys their books.

There's so much more you need.  If you can get the help, then accept it.

Next up...the Internet is a great place to find reputable, decent and professional literary agents.  You can check them out through numerous ways, thanks to the 'net, so these can be vetted pretty fast.

Here's another...Twitter.

I have found not only a ton of bookstores, but publishers this way!  The big and the small, they all Tweet.

"Little by Little," by James House.  Great song; I generally despise nearly all the country music produced since 1991, but this one from '94 was alright.

Now...do you know who you are going to send to?  Have you got your target list, one you will add to as time goes by?  What do they want?  A query letter?  The first chapter?  Do they want email, or snail mail?  

Do it the way they want it!  Or you get nowhere; or at least a fast trip to the slush pile.

The Query Letter is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to write, up there with a cover letter for a job.  Yes, this is a job, and I shall remind you now of this.  This really is a job, or your job.

No more than one page; clear, concise, no flowery bullshit.  That's all.  They'll want to know the word length (75-thousand is average for a novel), but few more or less is not a terrible deal.  

Get to the heart of it in just a few words (clearly, less than mine here!).

Keep track of every letter or email you send; date your master list, keep your receipts, all of it.

"Strange Brew," BBC session by Cream.  Nice...

Budget out your time; if you are still writing, good!  Time for writing, time for finding, time for sending, time for updating the lists.

Do what works for you, but keep in mind you're looking for a job here.  

So how long did this take?  I literally spent four months, nearly every day doing these very things I told you about.  I got lucky; damned lucky.

A small agency in Georgia, Sullivan-Maxx took me on.  My agent loves the "Sweet Dreams Series," she gets it.  Sometimes all you need is one believer, beyond your circle of friends.  

Do not quit, and do not get discouraged.  Can't stress it enough; this is a lot of work, it don't happen overnight.  If you wish to go the traditional route this hard work really will be worth it.  You will get somewhere.

Meanwhile, keep writing; keep refining, keep thinking about what you have dreamed of and get it ready.  It will happen...it's not a question of "IF," it is a question of "WHEN."

"I Feel So Good," Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Pinetop Perkins...legends doing great music...

Now, I do not mean to denigrate anyone who chooses the self-publishing way, such as through Amazon.com or however you do it.  Make sure it is what you want; I honestly do not have the tools within me to do every single thing.  I do not know a lot of that, but I also know I have to keep learning as the time goes on.

Do what you feel is right, for you.  I wish you well on the journey...and for those who do, a Joyous Yule.

Peace.

Friday, December 7, 2012

December...and How I Could Not Stop for Death...& Other Stuff

Well, it has been some time since I have been here.  I am going to have to go backwards, but in a very short time, so forgive my issues with typos and horrid grammar.

I last blogged around the time of Samhain...and so jump to now.  Because I fucking can.

Magic Sam's "My Love Will Never Die" is playing through my brain on iTunes...okay, here's what happened yesterday.  I noted this on Facebook, and I've got some interesting reactions.

I saw DEATH yesterday.

I was traveling to Washington for the first time in over three years.  I exited 495 and got off at the Kensington/Chevy Chase exit in MD.  With  me so far?

Moderate traffic, midday, nothing serious.  I round the bend for the turn in the road, and there IT was.

Death.

In the median, right by the intersection.  I drove past It to the light.

I say IT, because I don't know the sex of that creature.

But all in black, hood, cloak, the whole damn thing.  A smaller figure than I imagined.

Instead of a sickle, It was leaning on a crutch.

I saw It.  I know what I saw.  I kept driving.

I wondered...did I really just see that?  Did anyone else see that?

"Designated Fool," the Artist Formerly Known as Terrence Trent D'Arby...haven't heard this in years.

I was reminded of my friend Mary Sue Twohy's beautiful vocal rendering of the Emily Dickinson poem...but it just didn't fit the moment.  Too sunny a day, I guess.

Well...that weirdness aside, I navigated my way into the District to WTOP Radio.  Dropped in on my old XM Traffic boss Jim Battagliese, who now runs Traffic and Sports there.  Got to see an old building with a very active and somewhat up to date newsroom.  

A real fucking newsroom, right down to the day's newspapers all lying about the copy table.  I was also reunited with my old friend Amy Freedman and Bob Immler; great to see these folks again.  It was from the high point of my radio career; I had a dream job at a dream place...and of course you know who and what managed to fuck that all up.

But I digress.

"Shadow of the Whip," Harry Manx.  Interesting, folk-like stuff.  Reminds me of Ray Wylie Hubbard w/o the growl.

Talked about the old days, what 'TOP is up to, the competition from WNEW, which really is not.  Radio talk, and talk of writing.

Jim is the author of Stuck in Traffic, which you will find on Kindle.  A film that just read like a movie in the earlier draft.  Names were changed to protect the guilty.

This was partly to see if there is any work left in the world down there. The radio business is a dying art, unless my predicted (yeah) implosion of at least two gigantic bloated companies occurs.  

I have my usual jobbing about going on, and I'll get to that in a sec.  My main reason to go to DC was to head for the Phone Booth (aka, Verizon Center) to see the Hershey Bears and Norfolk Admirals play an AHL showcase matchup.

I am the primary radio producer for the Bears this season, my third of working with them.  I got a nosebleed ticket; sadly, Scott Stuccio could not get me access to the press box, but that's cool.  

Navigating DC traffic is insane.  The streets are on weird angles, one way is always the way you don't want to go, etc.

But, I did miss the city, and once you park the car (and remember Metro really works).

"Rastaman Live Up" by Bob Marley just passed in a flash, and it's "Come Hell or High Water" by Everything But the Girl.  I love Tracey Thorn's voice.

Okay, the Phone Booth is a small arena, but there is no bad seat in the place.  Prices for stuff...now you know why salaries are so high, or is it the other way 'round.  

NINE BUCKS FOR A BEER?  I don't drink, but really.

I have to work today, so I left after the 2nd period.  Good game.  On my way through the city, I passed the Sirius/XM building (formerly the National Geographic one); the lights were on but I wonder if anyone's still home.

I was left to reflect on my nearly five years there; it was a great time of my life, and the ride back through the city and the way home I took so many times was something to remember.

I still don't think my career is done.  

"When I'm 64?"  Love the Beatles, but not this song.

"I Go Crazy," Buddy Guy.  Better.

So anyway, I wonder if my encounter with Death means something.  Is it the death of my livelihood; my career?

Now I have had all of two job interviews with that place in Illinois, which did not pan out.

I had a short talk with the manager of a station...get ready...wait for it...THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS.

Yep.  KSDP Radio, 830 on your AM dial, in Sand Point.  They are doing a pilot project.  Six months.

It would be an interesting experience; but I've not heard back.

I have another i'view on Monday.  Wish me luck.

I still love this business, but it leads me to my writing, and what I want to do.

I have finished "Time the Healer," the latest draft.  Cut nearly 50 pages off the longwinded missive about growing up, violence, bullying, hatred and the ability to find a way to forgive others even at their worst.

Not that I have done that completely, mind.

"Bad Influence," Robert Cray Band.  Nice.

Now, I've done a needed edit of "Sweet Dreams:  Searching for Roy Buchanan."  After two years, a fresh look has resulted in a tighter story, with an added element to a scene.  Much better.

SDS-2 has been edited, but I need to again.  The real work on a re-examination and rewrite of the series is needed, really needed.

As I told Jim, this is what I have to do.  This is my therapy; this is my touchstone to sanity, or what little of it remains.

I came out of a not-good depression in November.  I turned 47 on the 1st; again my thanks to my family and friends for the more than 200 greetings I got on Facebook.  Really nice.

The interactions with people in DC reminded me of what I miss, and what I cannot find in PA.  Something is missing; a human element is not here anymore.

I have to get out of here.  If I stay, it is only for work, and I will adjust.

Oh...we may be getting the band back together.

Ahltyrra likely will not reform under that name.  I got to see my co-founder Beth for the first time in over a year, plus most of the family last week.  They're doing alright, and I was very glad to be around them.

Beth has decided the band is not for her.  That said, the Dharma Fools are a go for a meetup this month.  We will see who is game, and what we might do.

"Dime Story Mystery," Lou Reed.  Another death song.

Well, that's that for now.  Off to work.