Waiting Is Boring, I Think I’ll Start a Business: Little Voices Publishing

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Unsurprisingly, sending queries to agents is a long, drawn out process.  First, the agents you find in your genre have to be accepting queries and submissions.  You find the magic window, and send whatever combo platter that particular agent is looking for–one wants a #3, the next just wants a letter a la carte, the next wants the whole thing translated into Esperanto.  Then….you wait.  If you’re doing it according to industry guidelines, you don’t have it out to 100 agents at once, just a handful.  You get those responses or wait for a reasonable amount of time…and then you send some more.

The Tiny Giant hasn’t been out to many people so far, and I’ll let that run its course.  You have to.  Traditional publishing is still the best scenario–they have resources, you have ideas, they can help you get the best version of your ideas to the most people.

That doesn’t mean I sit around waiting for six months, though.  In the event that I don’t connect with just the right agent at the right time for magic to commence, I’ll pay a professional editor and self-publish The Tiny Giant under my brand spanking new publishing imprint: Little Voices Publishing.  Self-publishing is in many ways indistinguishable to the consumer now–you can set it up on Amazon, it can be an e-book, it’s print-on-demand and shipped directly with their free Prime shipping.  The days of buying 100 copies from Vanity Press® and trying to hawk them at the Grange Hall are behind us.  If you build your small business, and someone wants to come buy you out later…well, that’s fine too.

The cost of having this little business is not small.  I have applied for all of the licenses and permits, and I’ll have a pile of additional paperwork to do at the end of the year.  I’m still up in the air with City Hall about an environmental impact study they said I had to do if I wanted a business license.  I think City Hall is going to rule that I don’t need a business license at all, since I don’t really produce anything.  (I would be insulted, but that’s the easiest option and saves me $45.)  Then there’s the time involved.  There’s a website (http://www.littlevoicespublishing.com) and a Facebook page I’m building and updating.  I might even get some ding-dang paper business cards done.  None of this is writing stories–it is a J-O-B.

All of that infrastructure is nearly ready.  Then I’ll just let it sit there and…..ha ha ha, no, I won’t.  That would be fine if I had no other ideas, but lack of ideas has never been my issue.  In March, Little Voices Publishing will launch the first book in the Moodrangles series, Sally the Sad Shape.  This pause…it’s an opportunity, and I would be a fool not to use it.  Written by me and illustrated by Steve Ogden (Magnificatz), Sally the Sad Shape is a charming story about a mood that we all experience.  The Moodrangles series intends to honor the complex emotional lives of children with humor and empathy.  I’ll update here with more details when it’s available.  Until then…I have some more website stuff to put up, and those business cards to design, and copy to write for the Amazon page, and, and, and.  It’s real, it’s fun, and it’s turning out to be really fun.

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Shaming Our Mothers

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When my son plays by himself, I shamelessly eavesdrop on the running commentary.  It’s often funny and charming, and it gives me a window into what the quirky little guy is thinking or feeling that day.  Once, with his little plastic animals, I overheard one animal tell another this:

“Now you have to go home and see what your parents think of your bad choices.”

This was said with more than a hint of satisfaction.  Naughty Critter was definitely in for it, and Sensible Critter was enjoying it.

No matter how old we get, that still resonates.  If you have (or had) any kind of relationship with your parents, you care what they think about your choices.  You want them to be proud of the work that you’re doing.  You want to take your mom to the Oscars and watch her enjoy How You Turned Out.  It’s normal and loving to want your parents marveling at your good choices.  (For ease, I’m going to shorten “parents” to “mom” here, but it could be either or both.)

But…. what if your art pulls you in a direction that you think your mom isn’t going to like?  Writing books for children is in this way an easier choice—nothing controversial, few opportunities to use f#%*, nothing to ruin Thanksgiving.1  I have several books for children in the works, and it’s nice to know that my mom will be able to read these without feeling like she needs to have a “talk” with me.  Writing for adults, about adults, gets a lot trickier.

When I’m not writing for children, I’m writing psychological horror stories.  If I’m being honest, they are better work.  The dark humor and complexity of these stories is something I’ve worked hard at, and it shows off the best of what I can presently do as a writer.  And…that’s the problem.  Aside from issues of readership, where people have trouble separating different types of work, how do I tell my mom I’m going to publish a story collection called “Bitches and Dead People”?2  Will she get the vapors or will it be Tuesday?  It’s probably somewhere in the middle, but here’s some things to think about.

Your mom is not actually a satellite of you.  We spend our whole lives thinking of our mothers in terms of how they relate to us.  The child’s narcissism in relation to his parents never really goes away.  Because of that, we forget that our moms had (and still have) lives that do not revolve around us.  She was probably reading The Clan of the Cave Bear series and enjoying those sexy, sexy Ayla/Jondalar scenes while you were at elementary school.  She might have even snuck a peek into that “50 Shades” book.  She probably enjoys other things we are completely unaware of, like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.  Let your mom be a fully formed, three-dimensional person in your mind for a few minutes and see that you don’t necessarily know much about her.  There are big chunks that aren’t filled in.  Don’t presume that there aren’t.

Moms have a past and they have made their own bad choices that they don’t share with us.  Let’s be really clear, we do not want them to share this unless it is an extremely important teachable moment.  That is all I’m going to say about that.  Just no.

You can’t parent your characters into behaving as your parents would expect them to.  My mom has opined that curse words are the refuge of the lazy.  When I am writing humor, or an opinion piece like this, I think that’s probably mostly correct.  If I work a little harder, I can come up with something just as funny or precise or better.  When I’m writing fictional dialogue or inner monologue, though…well.  My characters did not have the benefit of this wisdom.  They are Flawed, and it shows.  If I sat with my Flawed people and fretted, “Oh, my, what will people think of the naughty language, oh dear,” my Flawed people would also be Unbelievable.  I can’t parent my characters and chronicle their true selves at the same time.  They are gloriously broken and that’s what makes them interesting.

Censoring yourself because of what you think someone might think is proactively timid.  I don’t know what my mom and dad are going to say to me when and if they read my work for adults.  They don’t have to read it—my mom doesn’t like horror stories anyway, so maybe she won’t read any of it, or I’ll just print out the ones that aren’t especially scary for her.  That’s her choice, though.  Maybe she’ll tell me that she thinks they’re terrible and belong in the trash can.  That wouldn’t be nice, but it would also be disrespectful for me to presume that I know what’s good for her.  This is where we have to be adults, two of them, and say, “You might not like this, but I hope you can appreciate it.”

As a last thought, I called this little thing “Shaming Our Mothers” for a reason.  Most of us would rather not, and we spend energy trying not to be an embarrassment to the people who love us.  Maybe, though, we don’t know what that means in the one place where it’s meaningful.  Let your mom be a real person for a minute, and then give her the chance to decide whether she’s shocked and disappointed in your bad choices for herself.  It might be surprising for you both.


1 Hey, I’m not saying it’s impossible.  Maybe your character has three heads and Aunt Linda is part of that “One Head” movement, and she decides to create a fuss over the turkey and the stabbings commence.  It’s just a lot less likely.

2 Hi, Mom!  Guess what?

Introducing: The Tiny Giant

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Okay, fortune cookie.  I did.

Here’s an elevator pitch for The Tiny Giant, the novel I’ve been working on for nearly three years.

The Tiny Giant follows the adventures of a very small giant and a suburban boy with a big imagination, brought together to explore a hidden landscape of magical beasts and threats in a struggle to right a centuries old injustice.

Boiling the 70,000 word novel down into 40 words is an exercise in beating one sentence to death, but I’m getting close.  The Tiny Giant is a suburban fantasy, a novel set in familiar surroundings for many of us.  The lush green Pacific Northwest provides a beautiful, albeit damp, backdrop.  Imagine waking up one morning to find that you’ve been brought into a world you never knew existed, just because you planted a seed on a whim?

Dan, one of our two protagonists, is a 12-year-old boy with a fairly normal life until he meets Zeeble, the 18″ tall giant in his garden.  Everything goes a bit sideways from there.  The woods behind Dan’s house are not what they seem, and a world Dan never suspected brings him new wonders and dangerous enemies.  Exploring themes of loyalty, justice, and making up for the mistakes of the past, Zeeble must overcome centuries of inaction to do the only right thing.

As for me, I’m preparing the cover letter and other materials to submit to agents and publishers.  I’m working out what the second novel for these characters looks like, and I’m excited to start writing it.  The working title is The Unnatural Giant, and after writing about 150,000 words in total to get the first book ready for its close-up, I suspect I’ll be a little better at it this time.

I’ve had that fortune from a long-forgotten restaurant for about 10 years.  I’ve spent three years working and reworking The Tiny Giant.  I have never been more nervous about being a novelist than I am right this minute, on the verge of rejection or acceptance.  And we step off the high dive and …. see what happens.

How could anyone not write a novel set in these woods?

How could anyone not write a novel set in these woods?

On School Days, We Write

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I finished rewriting The Tiny Giant at the beginning of August. I let it sit for three weeks to redistribute the juices before I read it.  Honestly, I was scared to tears of it.  Here’s why:  I worked really hard for six months rewriting it, and maybe it wasn’t any better.

That rewrite was the most painful writing I’ve ever done.  The new book is about 10,000 words shorter, but more than that, it’s almost unrecognizable.  A different, better writer did this version.  I learned so much writing 150,000 words over the last two and a half years.  A lot of those words didn’t survive, and some of them are different stories, but they were all critical to getting here.

Two weeks ago, I finally read the new manuscript.  You know what?  It’s good.  I have a handful of things I’d like to change, but it’s nothing like that half-in, half-out thing I did right before it, the in-between the First Reader draft and here.  I’m all in, and it shows.

What did I actually DO differently?  I gave myself permission to write whatever needed to be written, even though it’s aimed at a YA audience.  I will probably go and scrub the one time I wrote “FFS” in the dialogue–that was just a placeholder–but moving the intensity up gave it higher stakes.  I practiced writing in different formats, short stories and etc…  This cut my rambling descriptions down naturally, gave me better economy and impact.  I made myself uncomfortable.  I took chances, and I wrote from a highwire instead of a comfy nursery glider.

The kids are in school now, and I have longer blocks of time to edit and fix the little things.  I need a coherent synopsis and a cover letter to send out.  End of September?  You betcha.  I’m excited to get there.  That doesn’t mean I’m not procrastinating… like writing a blog post about it…but I’ll get there.

No One Reads My Blog on Sunday

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I don’t have anything to say today.
It’s Sunday, and no one is reading.
But if I want to check my box,
Some sort of poem I’ll be needing.

Ahem…here goes:

There once was a middling poet,
Who didn’t know when to stow it.
She tortured poor August,
‘Til downward she boggest.
Barrel bottom? She ventured below it.

Limericks are the last lazy refuge
Of a poet in complete desperation.
That said, I worked twenty whole minutes on that–
A masterwork of self-deprecation.

Note: I have something I think is better that I’m saving for tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone else thinks it’s better. *snort*

They Can’t All Be Winners

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Where do I get them?
Well, my ideas are pests.
They bother me all the time
Yelling, “Look at me, I’m the best!”

I can’t drive, run, or walk
Without finding one on the ground.
They try to play it like coincidence,
But I know they follow me around.

Like too many children,
I can’t give them all attention.
The best ones get my blood and tears.
The others? Honorable Mention.

Everyone creating something (unless it’s fan art/fiction) will get asked at some point, “How did you come up with that? Where do you get ideas?” I can’t tell you where mine come from exactly, but it’s critical for me to let my mind wander, to notice details, and to go outside, away from all the things and screens and small, loud people. You might see a guy riding a bike anywhere. Look closely, and you’ll see that he’s carrying his stuff in a Crown Royal bag dangling off the handlebars. Now you have a story.

Shiny

 

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When I first wrote that thing,
The shiny hurt my eyes.
It was fresh and grand and new
And SO, SO great, you guys!

I wanted to put it out there
And blind the whole damn world,
But restraint finally prevailed
And I left that banner furled.

As it sat, it tarnished,
At first just spots of rust.
Then it sprouted grayish spots
And its luster turned to dust.

I couldn’t see myself reflected
In that thing’s surface anymore.
Looking at my former pride, I
Wondered what I wrote it for.

Maybe I could save this thing!
I grabbed a cloth and paste.
I scrubbed until my fingers hurt
Repenting what I wrote in haste.

After too much time, it gleamed again
Reclaimed its place in the arena.
It wasn’t shiny, but it had depth.
That’s not rust now, that’s patina.

Note: I decided that in August, I’m going to post a poem every day, or as close to it as I can get. Since I haven’t written any of them yet but the above, which I wrote today while my son was kicking me (he’s 7 and does Taekwondo, but this was just him snuggling when he played video games), it should be interesting. Get ready for my not-so-august August. The Tiny Giant is coming along nicely, the big wrassling match ended with me on top, and my shoulders are no longer scrunched up around my ears. Time to play with the words some, since I no longer have to teach them a lesson.