"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Are You Done Yet?-OR-Why I Don't Read Queries

Carnival of Cryptids
is currently available on Amazon for $2.99.
All proceeds benefit the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
I've upset more than one writer lately with the statement, "I don't read queries." Therefore, I thought I would explain my position. First, I should explain my own definition of what a query is and my own definition of what my job is.

Traditionally, a writer will complete the first five chapters, or a full outline, of a novel. They will send it, along with their resume or bibliography and a query letter, to literary agents and/or publishers. That's where it sits until it is (maybe) read by an agent or an acquisitions editor. If the reader decides the idea has merit and may be sales worthy, it begins the slow trek through the meat grinder that is the traditional publishing industry.

Far too often for my taste, I am mistaken for that type of editor. One who will tell you whether your manuscript is worth writing before you even write it. Far from it. I actually edit your work. I aid you in taking it from a polished manuscript to a finished novel. Therefore, I have no interest in seeing a query asking me whether it's worth finishing. If you are unsure whether your work is worth finishing, the answer is a very loud, "NO." If you are iffy or unsure about any of your writing, you are not ready to be an author. You need to man-up and grow a thick skin. Own your work and stick to it. Learn how to take criticism for what it is: one person's opinion; and then learn whether to change based on that criticism or press forward in the direction you've already chosen.

THAT, my friends, is when a writer is ready for my type of editing.

Still, I receive incomplete, timid, queries from writers who may or may not know they aren't ready yet. They want validation. They want someone to tell them that they're good enough before they finish writing their novel because they don't want to waste all that time writing it only to find out it sucks.

If you're that needy that you must be told you don't suck before you've even shown what you are capable of, then the answer is clear: you suck.

Now I've never read your manuscript or partial manuscript, but if you don't believe in yourself, then me telling you that you don't suck is not going to do you any good. Here's the scenario:
A writer sent me his first two chapters last May. He told me his intent was to get started with his editing some time in July or early August. Based on his sample and word count, I quoted him a price and made sure I would have time to work his piece when he sent it. I also followed up a few weeks later only to find out he hadn't written a word since he contacted me initially. My "validation" had made him so nervous he couldn't write. He was afraid that he couldn't live up to the praise I'd given him.
It could have gone the opposite as well. I could have hated it and told him so and he might never have written again just because one person disliked his style or didn't think he had what it takes to be a writer. Well, maybe that first manuscript doesn't have a ton of merit, but you learn from it, and you hone your craft, and you write a second manuscript, and a third, and you still don't edit or publish any of them because you know in your heart you're not ready. But that fourth manuscript ... that's the gem. Having someone else tell you the first one is terrible and then not writing anything after that without even trying is the biggest disservice you can do yourself and you are definitely not cut out to be a writer because you don't have the stick-to-it necessary to get you or your writing anywhere. Here's another one: 
A writer contacted me in late September. She wanted to know my rates and whether I was available. I told her the earliest I'd be able to take in a manuscript from her was possibly November. I suggested she take a look at my website and send me the information I needed and I would get back to her. She said she wasn't ready yet but she'd already made up her mind about wanting to work with me and would contact me when she was. Meanwhile, I could find her work on Amazon. Then nothing. [I'll stop the story here to tell you that I don't check out a writer's work on Amazon. I want to see a sample of what we'll be working on, not what you've already edited and published.] 
She contacted me again some time in November and asked if I was ready for her. Huh? I told her she needed to send me the information I asked for and make sure her manuscript was ready and maybe I'd be able to fit her into my schedule after the Holidays if I thought we could work together, but I wasn't making any guarantees until I'd seen her work. She said she'd be in touch soon, when she was ready. 
Around mid-January she contacted me again. She told me she was putting the final touches on the piece she wanted me to edit and was I available? Again I asked for the information on my website and explained that I was crazy busy and maybe could squeeze in a first edit around the 7th of February because another author I work with regularly was running behind. She told me to "pencil her in." I explained that only a select few authors with whom I work get "penciled in," and that's only because I know their work so well that I can often squeeze in their edits in mere hours rather than days. I explained (three times before she finally got it) that I still hadn't seen her work and would NOT give her an estimate until I had done so, and I needed to know that her manuscript was DONE before I would even look at a sample. 
She told me she would get me all the information and finish within the next day or so. 
As it turned out, I found myself overbooked by my regular clients by the 7th of February. I was also pretty ill and still struggling to keep ahead of the pace (a losing battle--I finally had to force myself to take some time off). Meanwhile, we are now nearing the end of February and I still don't have her sample, her information, or a finished manuscript from her.
Now you may argue that if I had "penciled her in" I would not have ended up overbooked, but I know full well that it's my nature to accept more work than I have time for, so I always make sure I can finish by an author's target date even if I can't finish by mine. So when I say I'm overbooked, it means I can't finish a project by the day I want to finish, not necessarily by the day it's due. I currently have one project that's truly behind (from my end -- I have plenty of projects behind from the writers with whom I work, but that's the business), and the author knows why, and he and I are working together.

So, if you are a writer, and I have ever insulted you by telling you I don't read queries, or to take a look at my website, perhaps you should check out my website and find out what it is I actually do.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Everything but the . . .

We all know I've been playing around a lot with recipes from Pinterest lately. And I'm having a blast doing it. The only problem is that I can be so busy Sunday through Wednesday that I forget (or cant find time) to post my results on the blog as I promised you all I would. So I've decided to stop beating myself up over it and just accept the fact that other areas of my life are more important. Accomplishing other tasks that actually earn me money must take precedence right now.

That said, rather than struggle and whine about having not enough time, I shall promise you this: I will continue my Wednesday posts sporadically as I find time to put them up. This way I can focus on making sure I'm consistent with the posts that are most important to me. Those, of course would be the Sunday mornings that have cultivated a loyal following.

Some of you may find it ironic, then, that today's post not only came about because of the Wednesday Pinterest series, but also that it's an original recipe. (Perhaps I should have put it up on Friday and split the difference?)

The recipes that inspired this one also inspired a favorite way to consume granola in general, which I shall reveal when I finally give them their space on the blog. Enough blathering, here's the recipe:

Kitchen Sink Granola

5c rolled oats
1T cinnamon
1T pumpkin spice (no, I didn't make my own, but I will eventually)
1/2c white sugar or your favorite measures-like-sugar substitute
1/2t salt
1t baking powder

1c canned pumpkin puree (freeze the rest in a small container; you'll use it eventually)
2/3c unsweetened applesauce
1/4c honey

1c walnuts (no need to toast them first)
1/2c sunflower kernels

1c craisins
1c raisins

1c white chocolate chips

Dump all dry ingredients (the first group) into a 6-quart or larger crock pot and combine (I use a wire whisk.)
Mix wet ingredients (the second group) in a separate bowl
Add wet ingredients to dry and stir (with a spoon) to combine thoroughly
Set crock pot to high and, if desired, timer to 4 hours -- vent lid with a chopstick or wooden spoon
As granola cooks, stir every half hour
After 2 hours, add next group of ingredients (if you tweak the recipe and add other seeds or nuts, you will want to add them now)
After 3 hours, add last group of ingredients (if you choose to add other dried fruits, now is the time to do so)
From here, you will want to stir more frequently and/or change the heat setting to low (total cook time is about 4 hours.)

Your granola is done when it's a warm brown color and fairly dry in texture.
It will dry and begin to really crisp as it cools.
I allow it to cool in the crock pot and continue to stir every half hour or so.
Once cool, add white chocolate chips, transfer to an airtight container, and use within about 2 weeks.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that although the name seems obvious, the mix-ins were chosen at random. They happened to be yummy stuff I had in the pantry/fridge/freezer. I had to stop myself from adding m&m's because I knew I was more likely to consume this for breakfast than for any other meal. And we all know peanut m&m's are not for breakfast.

My advice regarding mix-ins: Yes, I chose to use an excessive amount of mix-ins, but notice I was careful not to exceed 5 cups, the amount of oats.

I'm actually still playing with this one and haven't found a final combination I really love. That said, I also forgot to take pictures before devouring the last of it. Instead, enjoy the pic below of the snowstorm that closed schools in Oklahoma City for up to two days in some areas. (Amateurs.)

Happy Crock Potting!

It snowed all day, near blizzard conditions at times, and it was gone within 24 hours.
But it was nice to have a taste of home.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

And Now for Something a Bit Different

We all know that I enjoy inviting authors with whom I've worked to take over my blog for just about any reason, including plugging their latest literary creations. So when Eisah, author of Flute of the Wind Queen contacted me to request a bit of publicity, how could I say no? However, this time around, we're not plugging a book, we're plugging a children's charity. I'll let Eisah tell you more:
More children lose their lives to cancer than any other disease. Over 80% of children diagnosed with cancer these days will survive because of cancer research; but even then most will suffer from lifelong health problems because of the treatments. That's why the St. Baldrick's Foundation is raising money to continue cancer research for children. The St. Baldrick's Foundation is the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.

As we all know, one of the common side effects of treatment is hair loss. That's why the St. Baldrick's Foundation hosts events where people voluntarily shave their heads in support.
In addition to that, Locks of Love can use hair that is 10" or longer to create wigs for children suffering from illnesses.

People who want to show support can look up an event near them on the website. It's possible to volunteer to have your head shaved or help with the shaving.
People who don't want to do either of those can still show support by making a donation.

I will be having my head shaved on March 20, 2013, and I strongly encourage anyone with any money to spare to make a donation. Any small amount will help, even $1, so please help out!

Thank you for your time.

Eisah's Flute of the Wind Queen is currently available on Amazon.com

Sunday, February 3, 2013


If you're a faithful follower of this blog, you already know plenty about the Kindle All-Stars and our (insane) project from 2011 that brought together 32 authors from 7 countries in one anthology. Our goal was simple: raise some money for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by releasing the compilation entitled Resistance Front.

Shortly after RF's release, my partner in literary mischief, Bernard Schaffer, and I announced our intent to do it again, this time with a cryptozoology-themed collection. This time, on a much smaller scale. We ended up with seven short stories, one of them a pseudo-teleplay, and a narrative interlude, written by Bernard, that ties them all together.

Now, I told everyone a year ago I had no intent of writing anything for the book. Cryptids aren't my thing. Maybe if we had chosen a vampire theme, or pirates, or even just another genre-bender, I might have dug a short story out of my hat. But terrestrial monsters lurking in our jungles, and forests, and oceans? Not exactly my forte. I enjoyed playing stage manager for this one.

Still, Bernard convinced me to throw a few words together and see what came of it. So I did. More because, as I said to him later, "I didn't want to be the only kid without a crayon." However, after reading the finished manuscript and then the essay I had written, B and I both decided my piece just didn't mesh with the rest, so I decided to bow out after all.

What does that have to do with anything? You ask. Well, I thought you'd all like to see what didn't make the cut:

Now available on Amazon.com.
All proceeds will benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Cover design by Tony Healey and Keri Knutson.

Medusa …

Lamia …

Was she the snake in the Garden of Eden? Or was she simply a myth created and morphed by the popular religion of the day? Reason would support the latter. Atheists will tell you reason would insist the Garden of Eden is its own myth. But my intent is not to debate religion versus reason. My intent is to get you to consider the impossible as possible.

For centuries, sailors and landlubbers alike spoke of mermaids and sirens whose hypnotic tunes lured sea captains to meet their doom. Beautiful voices raised in song convinced grown men to set course toward them. What other explanation could there be for otherwise intelligent men to sail so close to shore that they crashed their ships’ wooden hulls on shallow reefs? Surely they weren’t afraid of falling off the ends of the earth by traveling too far out to sea.

Countless sailors returned home with stories of sea monsters like the Kraken and giant squids that prevented safe passage across the oceans. Ah yes, monsters! A reasonable explanation for crews setting sail, never to be heard from again. Hurricanes be damned. But wait … haven’t scientists found carcasses and taken photographs of giant squids? Cross that one off our list. That one is no longer a myth.

And what of Nessie, and Ogopogo, and Ishi? Are they real? Are they, as so many scientists have theorized, plesiosaurs that became trapped in deep lakes as waters receded from the last ice age? Survivors from a long forgotten era? A pre-human era? We know that Loch Ness, Lake Okanagan, even Lake Michigan cover depths and areas vast enough to support a few dinosaurs, so why not?

Consider the coelacanth, thought to be extinct, headed for cryptid status due to “sightings,” removed from that list several decades ago. Why? Because live specimens were not only sighted, but documented in the 1930s. Two species. Turned out some survived after all. How many other species of fish remain undiscovered because we have yet to engineer a manned vessel that can safely travel to the depths at which they thrive?

For decades, explorers in Central and South America searched for Chupacabra. This goat-killing, blood-sucking, dog-like creature that terrorized farmers and their livestock in search of its next meal. Weren’t Chupacabra carcasses discovered back in 2010? Well, not really but a reasonable explanation for the mythos was found.

Bigfoot, Yeti, Skunk Ape – call it what you will – is it only a matter of time before specimens are in our zoos rather than our imaginations? Will we yet find a man-ape traipsing through some remote jungle, or along a forest path, or on the far side of a mountain? Surely not every photo, not every sighting, is the result of a hoax.

As we travel to Mars in search of signs of life long extinct … as we look to the heavens and theorize how life began on earth … let us continue to explore this third rock we call home …

Happy Hunting!