The New York Pitch Conference–One Week Later

Oct 1, 2019 by

The New York Pitch Conference–One Week Later

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New York Pitch Conference–Fall 2019

Sep 26, 2019 by

New York Pitch Conference–Fall 2019

From Sept 19-22, last Thursday to Sunday now, I took part in the New York Pitch Conference, the creation of mastermind Michael Neff. As luck would have it, too, I found myself in Group B, with many fellow writers–most of them focusing on sci-fi and fantasy–and all of us under the tutorship of the sometimes critical, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes hysterical, but always knowledgable, caring, and in particular, focused on what is going to sell in the publishing industry and what will not.

The conference itself was well organized, with three groups separated into three rooms. One group was led by Paula Munier and focused on writing mysteries. Susan Breen led Group A and focused on memoir and women’s fiction.

We only gathered together once to hear a presentation from the funny and strategic thinker, Amy Collins. She presented a plan, Becoming a Successful Author, that is eye-opening about the demands on every author in this modern market of publishing. And we were thinking getting an agent was difficult.

Acquisition editors from some of the major publishing houses were brought in beginning on the 20th after Michael Neff guided each of us in sharpening our pitches on the 19th. The sharpening continued after each pitch based on the feedback received from each editor. By the time we were pitching on Sunday, our pitches were well-honed. Based on interests of the editors, some received requests for more, others did not. We all returned home with the need to do more revising. (That is nothing to be upset about. Revising is about 99 percent of writing a book. It is not at all like they portray in the movies where one sits down at a typewriter or computer and you see them starting and then finishing and it’s ready for publication.)

The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club Pitch

“Kirk Egerton is resentful when he sneaks from his house in the middle of an Upper Michigan blizzard because five of his friends are missing. They all live on an air force base where bombers are armed with nuclear weapons and sit on alert ready for the call to attack the Soviet Union in December 1977, whether it is snowing or not. But while Kirk knows the others should be at the tree house they built during the summer months that year, no one knows a Russian spy has captured the five when they found his hut while trying to get home in the storm.”

The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club Pitch Improvements

We made some important decisions about my present project. It’s something of a square peg. The industry prefers round holes. But at the suggestion of Brendan Deneen, we are now using the comp of the movie The Goonies to pitch my book.

But that’s not all.

I’m now saying the book is “a mixture of the movie The Goonies and a modern-day Tom Sawyer living in an atmosphere of the 1970s.”

At Brendan’s suggestion and with the reinforcement of the responses that followed from others, I’m now also including some of the “cool stuff” that happens in the meat of the book.

“To build the fort one of the guys overcame what he thought were the threat of killer bees. Another swears he sees Bigfoot when he steps away from their camp the first night they spend the night out in the woods. As four trained Scouts, they fail to notice until it’s too late that they’ve sat down in poison ivy. Rather than risking treatment at the base hospital, one of them persuades the rest that using skunk oil will relieve the itch. This leads to them building a trap and….

“For initiation one walks alone at night through a cemetery, that is a former Indian burial ground. Another climbs the base water tower at 10 p.m. and play Reveille after Taps. For the final initiation, they all climb into a cave behind the tall rock face in the Little Laughing White Fish Falls lagoon and the entry collapses.”

The Closing Questions

“At the end, Kirk must rescue the others from the top of the rock face, known as the Devil’s Ledge, by climbing the face of the rock. The spy intends to force the five off the top and let them plunge to their deaths. Kirk engages the spy with a combat knife when the Russian has a pistol. Is he able to rescue the others and keep them from getting killed? How have the events of the year affected Kirk and shaped him for this one moment that will matter the rest of his life?”

I ask some good closing questions. They are designed to get an agent to ask for more, not to give away the whole story.

What I Learned

I’ve been to a number of writing conferences and spent three years in the Southern Methodist University Writer’s Path Program. There is some variance in how to do a few things, but the rules for how to pitch, what New York editors and agents are looking for, those things are pretty much set in stone. There is some fluctuation, but not much. There are so many queries sent to agents each week, their screeners, and the agents themselves are looking for the slightest anything they can find to say no to passing on your book.

Neff said he’s even seen screeners even highlighting lines of queries in email in boxes and randomly highlighting them and then hitting delete just so they could get to a manageable number of queries to read in a week. Not fair, no, but there is nothing can be done about it, and one will never know if that brought a pass or if they read your pitch and did not like it.

The proverbial “they” say there is a difference between a writer who got published and one who did not. The one who got published ignored the umpteen rejections and kept querying.

One of my mentors once told me that until I got into the 130-rejections range I really had not tried to query anyway. I’m almost half way there and I have to tell you, my pitch has changed considerably, my book has been revised about five times since then, and the writing is much stronger.

The New York Pitch Conference

I recommend this conference to well-seasoned writers who have a book that’s in its fourth or fifth draft. If you take a first draft or second draft to pitch, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. While your idea may be exciting to the editors and coaches you’ll work with, your book will not be ready for the scrutiny that will follow and in a couple of years their passions will likely have moved on to something else. Writing a book takes time. A novel does. Remember the Ernest Hemingway quote, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

I shared my first draft of Voodoo Hill with my family and a few friends. I’m embarrassed now that I did. I wish I could sneak into their homes and get them all back and burn them, but most likely they’ve all thrown them out already anyhow. That is what should have happened to that copy. The next year when I made a 10-CD audio recording of the next draft, ugh, I shudder to the think about it.

This latest draft I feel is pretty sound, but I felt the same way about the others and I know they weren’t ready for human consumption either.

Go slow. Be deliberate. Let your words simmer. Finish a revision and then put the book away and forget about it for a month or two. Maybe even six months. Then come back to it. The words will still be there. So will the publishing industry. And the trends will change. Maybe square holes will be the thing soon. I sure as hell hope so….

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Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” Video’s 13s and 7s

Jun 17, 2019 by

Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” Video’s 13s and 7s

Monday morning. It’s release day of Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” video with her in it and it is loaded with easter eggs of her favorite number 13 and the number of her album Lover, lucky number seven.

So here we go.  Right off.

13 elements and dice that add up to 13.

In the second screen with the 13 elements, the cat, the rollers, the lipstick, the red dice, (the ones in the container mostly equal six) but the ones in front total to 13.) So there’s two 13s right there.

Then Taylor complains about the time being 7 a.m. (reference to 7th album) and looks at her watch where the one is a 13.

Then she’s headed out to the pool in here bling sun glasses. And yes, across the top they have sparkles across them. And just how many stars or what ever are there?

Why 13 of course.

How many else should there be?

Let’s skip forward to the part where TS comes walking down Main Street of her trailer city. She’s walking with the guy, pumps and all and she’s got blue hair and that Mr. T starter kit necklace with that big bold 13 in gold.

Now of course the protestors how many might there be? I’ll answer such a rhetorical question on my own. Somewhere between the number 12 and 14.

This keeps going. We get to the sun bathers in front of the trailer, of which TS is one, this time in a yellow swimsuit, an she’s sunning in front of the 13 protestors.

This time, however, she’s sitting in a group of seven, (album “Lover” number) and telling them to cool down.

But

the

most

excellent 13 possibly of all time, and you have to be looking for this one, comes from the symbolic Taylor and Katy Perry make up where Katy is dressed as a hamburger, and Taylor is a bunch of fries.

And how many fries are there?

Yep. There are seven in the front.

There are six in the back.

There are 13 french fries.

Count them yourself.

Taylor Swift’s 13 French Fries

 

 

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Fleabag Season 2–Phoebe Waller-Bridge At Her Best

May 17, 2019 by

Fleabag Season 2–Phoebe Waller-Bridge At Her Best

May 17, 3 p.m. in the afternoon and I’ve already devoured the six-episode season 2 of Fleabag on Amazon Prime and am in awe of the work of Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer and actor. 

She announces early in episode 1 that this is a love story, leaving one to think that the first episode is a love story, but really, all six episodes become an over-arching love story with little ones sandwiched masterfully in between.

Yes, I know, Phoebe and the show isn’t known for the best language or kid-friendly situations. That’s a given. If you could get past that and get to the heart of the story in Season 1 you saw how Fleabag, Phoebe’s character, was dealing with a surprise trauma she was running from until it was thrown in her face in the last episode as a major reveal.

Season 2 picks up 371 days, 19 hours and 26 minutes  later and Fleabag says she’s changed. Her old self wasn’t getting her anywhere, so she’s decided to make a change. And then we go through six episodes of her trying to do just that.

There is much more heart in Season 2 than one would ever have anticipated. The writing is masterful. The last episode where Andrew Scott talks about love is written from the heart.

The new and guest stars Andrew Scott from Sherlock fame as Jim Moriarty, Fiona Shaw from Killing Eve playing a counselor, and Kristin Scott Thomas, help enliven the series (the English call a season a “series”).  

One often hopes that a second season will be as good as the first. I’ve been disappointed in the second season of Killing Eve. After episode one even, I could tell Phoebe’s role in writing had been cut way way back. As the season has dragged on, it’s become almost a different show than season 1. Night and day to me. It’s still a good show, but the Zing that was there with Phoebe’s writing is NOT there.

With the second season of Fleabag, I have no problem in arguing that Phoebe’s mantra in how she writes with “Panic, panic, and hope,” is more than evident. It was brought to life in every page she produced in the script for these six episodes. The greatest regret I have is that there were only six shows in this season and now I’ve seen them all already.

That’s not to say I won’t see them several times but….

Will there be a Season 3? Sian Clifford, who plays Fleabag’s fictional sister, recently said no. The way Phoebe walks away from camera and waves at the end of the last episode, that kind of seals it, too. Even the way the last episode is laid out, Fleabag S2 ends in a good place. It is wrapped up nicely, shall we say.

But not to worry. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s career is on its way up. She is a masterful writer, she’s young, and funny, and she’s going places. And that’s the best part of everything about her. As a budding but older person writing, I’d do most anything to spend an hour of time listening to Phoebe talk about her theories. She says if she could ask anyone 73 questions, she’d ask Rasputin. So I have two 500-page books at my side in my TBR pile to figure out what the questions and then the answers might be. And I keep going back into my Work in Progress and asking myself, how would Phoebe turn this on its head? That sort of thinking is shaking up my short in a way I could not have anticipated, and hopefully one my future agent, and then future readers would not have either. As you’ll see from the 73 questions, “Panic, panic, and hope.”

Not only that, the beautiful quote she lives by, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect,” by Anais Nin.  Phoebe has cut it to “We write to taste life twice.” When you watch season 2, anyone who has ever been in love, or fallen out of love, or searched for love and not ever felt they’ve found it, well, you’ll feel like you’ve tasted life twice. And that is what makes Phoebe Waller-Bridge one of the best writers out there acting and writing today.

 

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I Want to Dump Twitter and Facebook, But Can’t

Apr 24, 2019 by

I Want to Dump Twitter and Facebook, But Can’t

As a conservative minded person, I have about reached the end of my patience with the necessity and value of social media, in particular Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Those are the only platforms I use with any regularity, and I have curbed my time on them way back over the past year, two years, even three as the noise, hate and intolerance tolerance has become more and more hypocritical.

Why do I remain on Twitter with my 16,700 followers? For one I worked hard to build my following. I have spent the preponderance of my time the last four years connecting with authors and writers working to get published, who have been published, etc. I desired to learn about the industry by also following literary agents I fancied and wanted to learn about before I pitched them my projects. For agents this helped, too, because I could see the more vocal ones about their far-left ideology, ideas I don’t support on a bad day, so how could I possibly have them fronting my book(s) when they see the world 180° opposite of me. I also saw how many I was interested in, too, also had book projects of their own and while on Facebook they spend 90 percent of their time pitching their own book, so if they did agree to rep mine, when the hell, I wondered, would they find time to talk about mine or their other writers?!

I will admit I did this some myself, but I came across another group of writers on Twitter, the kind seeking attaboys daily. “Hey guys! I wrote 5 million words to day on my WOP! Aren’t I wonderful?!? Please validate me, tell me how wonderful I am, Please, Please, PLEASE, someone #amwriting) The please, please, please part is implied, but it is there none the less.

Having written three unique manuscripts now and being in the middle of revision four of the second WOP, I can say without worry that begging for attention on Twitter about how many words you put in order that day doesn’t really mean a damned thing. Do they all advance your story? Do they make sense? Are they germane to your story or did you just throw them in there so you could say at the end of the day you had written 5 million words in one day?

To me, I’ve come to understand there is far more value if I get even one paragraph revised in a day’s time and found sound words, brought to life the passage’s heart, and fought for every single word in each paragraph. Only then have I accomplished something far better than a blitzkrieg to stoke letters onto a page.

Yet if you did a search under #amwriting or #writingcommunity today, you’re certain to find such posts, followed by an “Can I get an Amen?!”

DFWCon and Facebook

The DFW writing conference is coming up in June. They have a special group for registrants and members of the local organization. It’s based in Facebook. This group is helpful from April to the latter part of June.

The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club

My book two is about five missing teens during a blizzard in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, December 1977. They live on an Air Force base and were staying at their treehouse until they attempting to get home in the gale-wind snow. But instead they get lost in the storm and find the shack of a Russian spy who has been tracking the alert forces of B-52, KC-135s, and F-106s on base and reporting this intel to the USSR via shortwave radio. There is a Facebook  B-52 group, an I Survived KI Sawyer AFB group, and Fans of SAC group. I have culled these for nostalgia purposes but also to get research to plug in easter eggs that I’ve forgotten since my childhood.

Facebook is also good for seeing photos of family and friends I’ve not seen in many years, even decades.

But even then, it has proven as volatile as the vacuous and malicious anger and hate that is synonymous with the preponderance of the common Twitter user.

This past weekend, two sports organizations bowed to ridiculous pressure to cover up and then remove Kate Smith’s statue from having sung God Bless America because of some situation back in the 1930s.

Say one word in opposition to this on Facebook or Twitter and an avalanche of hate, words like bigotry, and anything else will be thrown at you.

Say you’ve read the Mueller report finding of no collusion, no exoneration of obstruction, (apparently James Comey is the only legal expert who can do that) and you are told to shut up. The anger and madness that CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, Rep. Adam Shitf from California, and Jerry Nadler have promised was there, along with John Brennan and James Clapper spent almost day-in-day out telling us was thee has flopped. But those named about refuse to accept that.

I don’t watch TV news anymore and haven’t paid a dollar a day for 20-sheets of newsprint in almost $10 years when 20-pages of nothing went to a $1 a day. And then paywalls came about and why would I pay money for news organizations that are in cahoots with the Democrats?

I think somewhere in my archives I wrote about what would happen when citizen journalism became the thing. There is no such thing as news reporters any longer. Reporters take sides now adays. They don’t hide it either. Maybe I should go sit and audit some journalism classes around DFW to see exactly what’s being taught and what isn’t. But it seems that more and more reporters are relying on news sourcing from Twitter.

Even Fox News, where one of the producers has a hard on to bury Taylor Swift, she can release a new song, or make a statement, endorsement, post something on Instagram, and Fox will pull Twitter posts from people with 25 followers, which means they have as much influence as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s cows farting do on climate change, and they headline the story, “Taylor Swift Fans Aren’t Happy with XXXXX.”

In the beginning, Twitter was a pleasant place to hang out. I remember when Sully landed on the Hudson and it took 20-30 minutes for the networks to get helicopters and anchors in place to go on air. Meanwhile the world could watch on Twitter as things were happening and from up close as people streamed their rescue.

When AG William Barr held his news conference last week to explain the Mueller report before its release, I watched the event from Twitter. Don’t waste my money on cable anymore. Wifi and an Apple TV with Apps is all I need.

So admittedly, Twitter and Facebook have their uses for me. I need them, but only in small quantities. Twitter has run rampant with outrageously stupid left-wingers. Dan Rather was talking about following the Rule of Law the other night and a crowd of lefties were chiming in right behind him about the need for impeachment for not having committed a crime. Not that a damned one of them understand what’s coming down the pike as far as the real investigation into the spying on the Trump campaign by members of the Big Five; American allies, at the behest of the American IC community that President Trump has been scolded for not believing.

When that door is opened by General Barr, maybe so many loonie left heads will pop and mental homes will fill to capacity and those who have sent nasty gram after nasty gram on Twitter these past many years will finally be given a set of Crayons to draw pictures.

In the meantime, for the most part, Twitter and Facebook have become liberal wastelands of anger, hate, and deceit. I am so close to closing my accounts and shielding myself further from the stupid that is so prevalent in that medium. So very close.

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The Book of Dust

Feb 7, 2019 by

I read Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage:  last week and was told going in that there were things about the book that are not as good as his previous trilogy, but I’d seen a recommendation for this book regardless and had decided to give it a read.

To start with, Pullman’s fantasy work is not something I would normally read. It still is not.

The Book of Dust

Reading about Malcom and his daemon Asta was curious I will admit. The first few pages did, I must confess, however, draw me right in. But I have to say, from a writer’s stand point, at one point I began to wonder how burdensome the daemons must have felt–having to write about another character for every character–because in this version of the world, everyone living must have a daemon very, very near them and if they don’t, it’s supposed to be pretty draining.

My friend Tom at Interabang Books in Dallas said this book didn’t sell like publishers hoped it would. Not in comparison to the previous Dark Materials trilogy. Again, I’ve not ready anything else by Pullman, but I can say where I felt there were a few weaknesses in this story. I do not mean to be critical of Pullman. He’s published, I’m not, so there’s that. He also invested a lot of time to create, as have I, so I respect his work from that standpoint. This isn’t easy so anyone who gets their work on paper, heck, even into a computer from start to finish has made quite an accomplishment, so I refuse anymore to tear something to shreds. (Here are some thoughts that confused me, or I thought could have been stronger, how’s that?)

One happens when the baby Lyra is taken away by the Holy police to a nunnery that is supposed to be heavily guarded and damned near impossible for anyone to get in or out of. Malcom, Alice and their daemons float up to the place in their boat, find a drain with a metal cover, lift it, Malcolm and his daemon Asta float in, get past the second drain, waltz up a hall way, get stopped once, claim to have wet the bed, get sent to where they were going, lie down in an empty bed, wait for the head priest and nun to come in and argue about the baby, leave while the nurse in the room is snoring, and then sneak out with the baby unseen. What was supposed to have been impossible was done without any resistance whatsoever. Mkay.

There is a deluge in England and Malcom’s boat floats from Oxford to London, sometimes being able to float down specific streets, etc. That just seemed like too far a leap for me.

Then the book just leaves one sort of hanging with a whole bunch of characters. Yes, this is going to obviously be a trilogy, but there’s so much non-closure for so many of the secondary characters. They’re literally just left floating in the flood. I was always led to believe that even for a trilogy, you tied everything off, mostly, and didn’t leave things floating, pardon the pun.

I read the book from Sunday to a Wednesday. It’s 438 pages and all in all, it wasn’t a bad read. It wasn’t ridiculously hard to understand like Good Morning, Midnight or something like that, which the local book club has been reading. Talk about a nutty book…..

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