Thursday, July 31, 2008

Galt Niederhoffer's The Romantics

Awhile back I posted about a book I'd received under fairly-mysterious circumstances. I finished it a couple nights ago, and have to sing its praises.

The Romantics is a novel about a group of friends who, several years after college, reunite for the wedding of two of its members. In the years gone by, eight have paired off into couples, including the bride and groom. Only Laura, the protagonist, remains single... but she has a past with and is still in love with the groom.

BUH Buh buh...

This book is all at once a look into the dynamics of friendship, class differences, and the way love can shape - or ruin - a life. Torn emotions? Front and center. Cynicism? Present. Suspense? Check.

Galt Niederhoffer's prose and cadence, while so rich and flowy they're almost distracting, push the story along. Her words have combined to create an apt and smooth narrative, full of sentences that speak beyond the mere terms presented. So much lies behind Niederhoffer's words; she has way of telling you so much, with what seems like such little effort. An example:

"Conceptually, boys coveted Lila, but it was Laura they wanted to possess."

In addition to the quality of writing within, the plot is fast-moving and thought-invoking. I highly recommend this book!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

For The Sake Of Brevity

What I'm feeling today, in no particular order:

Motherhood is insurmountable.

Writing is fulfilling.

Migraine-free days are underrated.

Friendship is necessary.

Love, no matter its context, is a blessing.

God is omnipotent.

Humility is key.

Rejection is inevitable.

11 rejections, 13 out

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reader Roll Call!

I'd like to attempt, once again, to get a run-down of those who may regularly read my blog. Of course I'm familiar with those who comment often, but I'd like to know how many are here otherwise. Who's out there lurking? Braya? Robyn H? Mommy? Curious mind wants to know.

So leave me a note. It can be as simple as a "Yo." And you can even categorize yourself as anonymous, though I'd appreciate some hint as to your identity (like "I once called your daughter a pickle. In writing." Oh yes, you know who you are). Or, if you're a new reader, or one who's never commented before, do tell me your name and how you found me. Curious mind wants to know. Oh. Did I already say that?

10 rejections, 14 out

Monday, July 28, 2008

Current Count

I sent my new and improved query letter to seven agents today. I really hope this revised version gets some positive responses! I'll keep you posted.

9 rejections, 15 out

P.S. I do this running tally mostly for my own benefit. And as long as no one minds (or perhaps even if they do) I'll continue. ;)

Why Do You Write?

Something draws each of us to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), regardless of the outcome. What's your driving force? Where does it come from?

For me, writing is more than the potential it holds. Yes, it is exciting that I could one day look back and see I've made a name for myself, but that's not why I write. I write because I love the process of finding the right words.

Sitting down with an idea, with a few snippets of text floating around in my head, is awesome. Watching it evolve, coming upon the perfect word or phrase and fitting it all together, is incredible.

What about you?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Query Hell: Good For The Soul

I sucked it up yesterday and posted my query in the Show Your Work [and thus get feedback] Thread over at AW. (If you've missed the link for AW in past posts, you can find it listed in Important Sites over yonder. -->) The concept of putting yourself out there for constructive criticism like this is lovingly referred to around the boards as Query Hell. A lot of members who offer suggestions for improvements don't sugar coat them. They can, sometimes, rip your stuff to shreds. And then they tell you how to make it better.

So since yesterday, and because of the feedback I've gotten, I've made amazing improvements to my query. Comments are still coming in, so likely I'll continue tweaking, but I'm very pleased with my results. I'm eager to send out the next batch and see if it gains any interest!

One thing I've realized through this process is that I won't agree with everyone's critique. Some are right on, giving me tips for things I'd never thought about. They really know their stuff - they've been through it themselves - and sincerely strive to help make another's query better. Other times, what's suggested doesn't seem quite right. This is why I have to weigh my options, and pick and choose those of the suggestions that work best for me, for my voice.

But wow, what a learning experience! It's thickening my skin (which can only help with all those rejections, really) and helping me learn to think in new ways, about how to get my points across better (it's been my habit with this query to use passive statements), and make it all come together smoothly.

Here's hoping it makes a difference!

PS. If you're checking out my blog for the first time, and you're not familiar with what a query is, see this previous post for an explanation. And thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Like Shoes

Wow, thanks for the birthday greetings, everyone! Littlest had a blast, and it was a great and blessed evening.

And thanks for enjoying the brownies with me. *burp* Oh! Excuse me.


I had kind of suspected, and have decided for sure, that finding the right agent is like finding the right pair of shoes: If it's gonna work out, it's gotta be the right fit. Another rejection tells me I haven't yet found my match. But I know I can't get upset over just one. Many more possibilities, just like in the seemingly-endless shoe department at my favorite store, are waiting to be approached. Maybe tried on for size.

Yesterday my thoughts wandered to those people you hear about (I know they're out there) who get partial request after partial request from agents. What does it mean, exactly? Obviously, they've done something right with their query letter. They've pitched their book just so, had that necessary hook, grabbing the attention of one professional after another. But I have to ask, how often does the manuscript (ms) live up to the expectation? What if the writer has sailed through the query stage because short, summarizing blurbs are their specialty, but when it comes to the full length of their novel, they've failed? On average, how many agents give time to those books seeming so promising, but so quickly kick it out the door because it just wasn't good enough?

I'm not judging, by the way. Just curious.

Conversely, how often is it that a query gets little or no attention, regardless of the story that lies behind it? What if it's a diamond in the rough, to use the old cliche? The diamond is the ms; the rough is the query.

My book is good. I know it is. (And if saying that makes me sound presumptious, then presume I'll have to do.) So is it that my query's bad? Am I one whose query just doesn't cut it, so no agent gets far enough to see what qualities my ms may hold? If so, I need to reassess. My friend, Wendy, who also lives this writing life, suggested I post my query on AW (the writers' forum site) for critiques. As much as I've avoided it before (though I did get feedback from 5 fellow writers whose thoughts I value, including Wendy herself), it may be time. If I'm missing that one crucial element (or dozens) and have included a no-no (or dozens), I really should correct it all.

As for the most recent rejection, received day-before-yesterday from the agent's assistant, it was generic. "Dear Author... Thanks for ... the opportunity... not the right agents for your work..." EXCEPT THAT "...we wish you success with your work... keep writing... [and] we strongly urge you to keep submitting elsewhere, as you might already have a bestseller in your hands." (bolding is mine for empasis)

What?! Oh my holy canoli. Did you read that like I did?

Okay. I know that, given the generic nature of the rest of the e-mail, it's not a statement I should plan my world around. It could simply be their way of boosting a writer's - any coherent writer's, for that matter - morale and esteem. But then again, why would they say such a thing? Create false hope? And they wouldn't do that with every Jane (or Janna, as it were) who comes a long. Would they?

Either way, I'll take it for what it may be worth. I'll hold on to that little glimmer and keep searching. 'Cuz someday I'll find the perfect pair of shoes. Er, agent.

8 rejections; 9 out

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And Another

I was going to post about my current reading habits (dull, I know), but just found a rejection waiting in my inbox. It was from an agent in the batch I sent out last night, so at least she was on the ball. And it was kind.

I'm not bummed. Not really. Okay, well kind of. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm letting discouragement get the best of me. I just wouldn't mind getting a partial request soon. (That means the agent would request part of my manuscript to read and stew over.) Just to know somebody's interested, and that my query is good enough to catch somebody's attention.


7 rejections; 10 out

Monday, July 21, 2008

A New Count

I've sent 6 new queries out over the course of the day.

6 rejections; 11 out

For All The Queries I've Sent Before

I'm back! I had a fantabulous time. Now I settle into life once again, ready for my youngest's third birthday in two days, and the one month left before kindergarten begins...

Meanwhile, my agent search is still in full swing.

This morning I got to thinking about my method for storing the details of my search. And it seems to be working well. One thing I do is make a list, with good old-fashioned pen and notebook, of all outgoing queries. I jot simple notes with the date sent and to whom it went. In addition, I've created two new folders for my e-mail account. "Queries Out" holds all those I've sent off, and so far my responses have been shifted into the "Rejections" folder. It's proven a good way to keep them categorized, and at easy access. So far I've only had one snail-mail attempt, and I sent myself an e-mail with the agency/agent info and date, so I could file it, as well. (It made the journey to Rejection.)

For those who have done the query thing, how did you manage your information? If you're nearing readiness for querying, how will you do it? And then, of course, I can't forget those of you who are non-writers: What good organizational tips can you give?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Drumroll, Please...

Okay, really, that's an unfair post title. I know it's nowhere near as exciting for my readers as it is for me that I'm about to explode with joy over my roadtrip.

(How's that for a run-on?)

I'll be leaving in a few hours, and I'll not have internet access for the duration of the weekend. Well... in all actuality, I could hop on my friend's computer, but I'll be using the next few days as a break from everything, my online endeavors included.

Although, I will be taking Sally along. Just in case I get some downtime and inspiration strikes for Novel 2. A writer must always have the means with which to write, no?

Hope you all have a great weekend, and I'll post again next week.

Man, I'm so excited. A round of Starbucks on me!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Random Tidbits

*I joined Facebook. Huzzah! And I'm addicted to Scrabulous (AKA Scrabble), which you can play online with your friends. Double huzzah!

*I've eaten entirely too many chocolate chip cookies this week. Oh, and that new Special K Chocolatey Delight. Mmm, that stuff's goooood.

*Our house remodel is progressing well this week! The contractor, in addition to spending a good chunk of our equity loan on materials, has succeeded at banging around and blaring distracting music. *sigh* But it's all okay, because I know how fabulous the end result will be. :)

*I'm in chapter 2 of Novel 2, though I haven't touched it since over the weekend.

*I've still got 6 rejections under my belt and 5 queries out. I've had some welcome distractions this week but, as of today, have begun thinking it's time to ready the next batch of agents for submission.

*This coming weekend holds lots of excitement for me. A girlfriend and I will be taking a roadtrip, to visit another girlfriend who's expecting her first baby. We're going to get pedicures (my first ever!), eat, see movies, eat, hopefully shop, gab and gossip, and eat. How awesome is it going to be? Flippin' awesome!

Hope everyone has a swell day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In My Dreams

Last night I dreamed of an agent. She had no name; at least, not one I can remember. She contacted me via phone, offering advice for my book. And then BOOM! she showed up at my house, ready to represent me. She was warm and friendly and, despite having misinterpreted my book for Young Adult in genre (whereas it's more like Mainstream or Women's Fiction), she rocked.

I woke up perplexed. And excited. My interaction with her in the dream felt tangible, and I hope someday I see it happen for real. Even if it's not with my "dream" agent.

Har har. Get it?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why Isn't There A Lit Agent In The Family?

We've got a wide range of careers represented by our family, both immediate and extended: Nurses, Air Force, electricians, Wal-Mart associates, a private investigator, a plastic surgeon, computer programmers, teachers, musicians, a police officer, an airline employee, a government contractor, and jacks of all trades, etc.

But not a single one in the literary field. No one to help me get my foot in the door.

I was even willing to throw the family's annual cheesecake contest. As a judge this year, I'd have chosen Crazy Uncle Jeb's Mussels and Sprouts Cake* for winner, if he'd had an in with an agency. But I couldn't find any relative, even the most distant, who could help me.

Which, I guess, is okay. In the end, reaching my goal of publication all on my own will make the reward that much sweeter. Right?

*We have no Crazy Uncle Jeb. And I wouldn't have voted for a mussels and sprouts cheesecake. Ucky!

ETA: New count, as of two minutes ago: 6 rejections, 5 queries out

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Bunko Babes - A Book Review

The cover of the book, by Leah Starr Baker, made me think I'd get a light, perhaps fluffy, read. With the main character's chatty (though oftentimes cliched) voice, I did. And there was more...

What I thought might turn out to be overwhelming - both because of Bunko, which I've never played nor seen played, and the initial introduction of eight characters just for playing said Bunko - ended up being relatable and uncomplicated...

The reader's initiation into Bunko connects us with a group of women: Women who lead typical lives on the surface but have, like most, underlying cause for concern. From life as a seriously over-stressed mom to the demands of an active soldier's wife, from marriage issues to worry over health concerns, it's all there.

Everything is seen from the perspective of Becca, the main character, who the reader follows through many ups and downs of her own. Though she can, at times, seem melodramatic and pampered, she's just an average, Christian woman who draws strength from Above, from her family, and from those special friends she plays games with. Those three elements are what get her through the most trying times of her life, as the reader tags along for the bumpy ride.

To view more, please visit Blog Stop Book Tours.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Give The Guy A Hug

Or baked goods. He really, really likes baked goods.

Here's Hubby, in his all-supportive, advice-giving glory. Coincidentally, if you paste this cropped photo to the one of me over yonder ----> you'd have the original, as it was taken at one of his brothers' weddings. (Actually, I lie. They're from two very similar shots taken within minutes of each other... And no, you've not been drinking too much, Hubby really is blurry. In the picture, not real life.)

And back to a more typical post...

Good Advice

While bustling around getting ready for church this morning, I was bubbling to my husband about my excitement over the new novel. Chapter one (which I started writing last night) has unfolded in my mind, I told him, and with the larger shape of the plot hovering, too, I can't hold in my eagerness.

And then doubt started creeping in...

What if I'm getting carried away?

What if it doesn't work out like I hope?

What if Novel 1 isn't as good as I think it is, I never find representation, and all my work is for naught?

And that's when my husband said, "Just keep writing."

Indeed. Who know he was so smart?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just A Hint

So I'd given a little thought (minimal, really) to Novel #2, but when several people suggested I begin work on it while querying Novel #1, the loose premise I'd brainstormed started to take on a bigger form.

...Today I slipped from the quiet house before anyone in my family was awake. I went to breakfast by myself, and enjoyed driving around in search of garage sales. I relished the time to myself but, even more, the time it gave me to think. Plot points and details brewed, and I'm really excited about this idea that's begun building and building.

Here it is, in a not-yet-perfected nutshell (creating "The Blurb" is one of the hardest parts for me) :

A man's world is turned upside-down when his wife reveals well-hidden secrets. But while she exhibits behavior that would end most relationships, he tries to uphold his marriage vows and Christian values, hoping for the day she'll see the error of her ways and return to the life they once had. But how far will his wife's behaviors lead her, and how much will he put up with? What will happen when a new woman, one who's everything his wife is not, enters the picture? How will he choose the path his life should take?

What do you think?

Friday, July 11, 2008

This Just In

Rejection number 5, from one of my top picks, no less.

5 rejections; 5 out

ETA: Holy cow, I just realized this was my 100th post! Wish I'd had more exciting news for it.

And Another...

Number 4 came today, but behold this...

"Hi Janna,

Thank you for your query, which I read with interest. Unfortunately, I am not the right agent for all of your work. However, do not despair as I am sure another agent will feel quite differently.

Thank you for considering me. I wish you all the best of luck with writing.

[Agent 4]"

How you like them apples? It gives me reassurance and hope!

Rock on, nice agents. Rock on.

4 rejections; 6 out

ETA: I did remove the modification and character identification options for this blog, but have re-added comment modification. I like being alerted to new comments, otherwise I might overlook them entirely.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thanks! ...and brownies

You guys are all so great. I can't tell you how much your support and encouragement mean to me.


And, I feel it's only fair that I mention (since several have offered their baking services):

Here in twenty minutes or so, I'll be pulling a fresh, hot batch of brownies (a handful of chocolate chips were tossed in for good measure) from the oven.

My spoon is poised...

Bring on the rejections! Because as discouraging as each one is, they make me stronger. And they get me that much closer to the agent who'll say "Yes!"

I promise not to swallow every rejection with a helping of fudge brownies. That could cause problems...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rejection #3

...just came via e-mail. This agent, at least, said she enjoyed reading my submission (huzzah!), it was just that they don't want to pursue it at this time. She said to keep them in mind for future queries!

3 rejections; 6 out + 1 today = 7

A Break From The "Serious"

With 9 queries out, I'm taking a break. I don't want to get too many sent out and exhaust my agent search this early, so I've got to force myself to think about other things.

Yeah, right.

Got any suggestions?

In the meantime, the latest installment of my column came yesterday. It's a smaller, local publication, so there's no link to give, but I'll post it here. Should be good for a distracting laugh (at my expense). From Every Mom's Column in The Buzz, Summer 2008 edition.


I think I might quite possibly be the clumsiest person ever. Sometimes I know the origination of and reason for an injury, but often times I find surprise bumps or bruises and wonder, “How’d that get there?” I’ve rammed into open doors (car and cabinet), smooshed fingers (and not just my own), fallen on the steps (going up and going down), and done other silly things… like land face-down on the floor because a teeny—but sneaky—swatch of carpet tripped me up. It’s a wonder—a big wonder—I’ve never broken a bone. I’d knock on wood here, this second, but likely I’d wind up hurt.

What got me thinking on this was an MRI I had recently. MRI, in my case, stands for Motherhood-Related Injury. It’s an injury I’ve sustained merely because I’m a mother. A clutzy mother. And it directly (or indirectly) relates to a kid (or not).

The night was seemingly moonless and pitch black, filled with slumbering quiet. I was fast asleep, perhaps dreaming of iced mochas or the clearance rack at Target, when my heart jolted me awake.

“Mommy! MOMMY!”

It was my toddler, crying hysterically from the top of the stairs. Panicked from my bed, I hastily grabbed my glasses from the nightstand. Throwing them up my nose, I rounded the bed, aiming to breeze through the family room to the stairs. But in my groggy—and I can’t stress this enough: clumsy—state, I cut the corner a smidge too closely. Just there, where the wall extends adjacent to my door, housing a built-in bookshelf, I met the flat, solid expanse with a great, loud force.


My body bounced backward and my glasses sprung from their perch, landing—surely broken, I thought—off in the distance. My hands found my poor nose as I bellered into the night, “I think I broke my nose!”

My husband, none too concerned with yet another of my self-inflictions, snuffled a bit and rolled over. Grumbling and hurt, I righted myself, retrieved my glasses (still intact!) and continued—ever so slowly—to the stairs.

In the few seconds between my collision and the journey upstairs, wouldn’t you know it, my daughter calmed herself. So I tucked her back into bed and made my way to the closest mirror. Just what I’d suspected: My nose had had a good battering. I doctored it up, hoping to keep any swelling or discoloration at bay. And as it turned out, by morning time I had very little to show for my midnight accident. Just a small boo-boo with some tender, very faint bruising. It was hardly anything to wink at, and I couldn’t get compassion from anyone.

Which, in all actuality, was just as well. I’d rather keep such incidences quiet, since they’re so embarrassing. So you’re sworn to secrecy. Share the details of this MRI with no one. It’s just between you and me…


ETA: Refreshing Yahoo every three minutes to check my inbox for query responses isn't a productive way to spend my time, is it?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

In Less Than Five Minutes

I sent another query out today, this time to a well-respected agent I've become familiar with through this here Bloggerland. Drawing on his advice and thinking I had nothing to lose, I prepped my info and sent it off.

Imagine my surprise when, in less than five minutes, I had a response waiting in my inbox. My palms grew sweaty, my heart paced quickly. And I opened the e-mail to find a very nice, very personal, rejection. Ouch. It took a few minutes to sink in; I was reeling from his lightning-speed reply.

But, even given my disappointment, I'm ever-grateful for his kind words. And I do respect what he had to say.

So, though interest didn't come from him, I'll keep moving forward.

Current count:

2 rejections; 1 I'll contact you within 3 weeks if I'm interested; 7 out

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Boost For My Bub

I learned yesterday, much to my excitement, that my cousin Josh has found his way to Blogger. Having gone through a lot the last few years and ready to talk about it, he's begun a deep and moving new blog, Let's Think A Little Deeper. Check it out, if you will, and show some newbie support. Within his posts you'll find truth, wisdom and humor, all from a swell guy whose understanding of what it's all about is worth sharing.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Merry Weekend

Independence Day has never been a favorite holiday of mine, and I'm not one who, I'm sorry to admit, thinks on its historical symbolism a great deal. But still, the gathering of family and friends, good food and amazing fireworks make for a super day.

The lake where we live always has day-long activities, concluded with a full fireworks show, the Saturday closest to the holiday. To coordinate with the fun we invite family and friends up for time together and fun on the water.

This year was especially cool, and yesterday couldn't have been more perfect. The weather was cooler and breezy - incredible for a midwest July - and I relished kicking back with dear ones near. I let go of all my writing-related stresses, and just existed, plain and simple.

But you wanna know the single coolest aspect? Sitting out on the lake in the dark, a sea of boats around ours as we watched fireworks explode. It was a poignant moment for me because not-so-long ago I wrote about that very thing...

My novel, the one I'm querying, ends on the Fourth of July, with lake celebrations much like ours. And, the very last chapter, the very last page, ends with a proposal under the fireworks. I'd drawn on my own experiences to write about the water, the sounds, the colors, and to watch it play out again was indescribable.

Someday. Someday it'll be in print, and you all can read it. Then you can share the experience with me.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I got my first rejection today. I know, already. I was shocked the response came in less than a week; not-so-shocked it was a BIG FAT NO, since it was from an agent I queried before I had my things spit-polished.

I know. I'm bad. And I kicked myself, really beat myself up, for allowing such a thing to happen. I'd finished my query and synopsis with such confidence, I shot them off to a couple agents before having them critiqued. I regretted it the next day, of course. And I let it be a lesson learned.

So anyway, I cringed when she said--very, very nicely, I might add--that she has to be very selective with who she chooses to represent. And she's not right for my book. My first thought was But that query sucked! Now she thinks I suck! If only she knew I changed it all, made it better...

But there's no turning back. My chance with her is past. And that's okay, because I know I've got better footing now. And there are more agents out there.


The count has begun.

1 rejection: 5 out

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How It Works

I know most of my readers are writers, but for those who aren't, here's where I'm at...

I've polished my manuscript until it shines. I've written my query letter (the letter asking agents to consider reading, and then representing, my book) and synopsis (a comprehensive summary of the book), rehashing and revising until my mind is fuzzy. I've researched agents and the best way to get my foot in the door, to be given even half a chance.

Some literary agents get at least a thousand queries a month. Mine will be added to their piles.

I've submitted my query (with synopsis) to 6 agents so far, all of them in New York City. It will likely take weeks, maybe even months*, before they read just that much, at which point they'll decide if they're interested in looking at any portion of the manuscript.

Should one (or more) choose to read my entire book, that could again take weeks to months. If they'd agree to take me on as a client and represent me, they'd begin their job of trying to sell my book to a publisher. Yet again we're looking at months and, if a publishing house actually bought my book, it could be a couple years before it went to press. *exhales* So, after the year I spent writing the book, and the 3 months editing, my journey has only just begun.

Did you catch all those IFs?

Some writers query upwards of a hundred agents, and I still have many, many more to consider, even if one I've already contacted should like to represent me.

In the meantime... I'm corraling thoughts for novel 2...

*Especially since the later summer months are slowest in the literary world, what with conventions and vacations and such.