We just found a gold mine at the library. They're getting some great movies in on DVD, and it's so nice to be able to just check one out, have it for a week, and not pay a cent. One of the most recent ones we borrowed was Kenneth Branagh's movie adaptation of Shakespeare's "As You Like It." It was fun and colorful, and also did double-duty as part of a school assignment for my younger daughter. What's not to like? I'd say that right now, free entertainment is just as we like it.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Here's wishing everyone a happy, safe and peaceful holiday.
Money's tight for lots of people this year, and it's a beans and rice winter for us as well. But all the things that really matter are here. Sitting here on this Christmas eve, I have plenty to be thankful for. My family is here, and we have food, warmth, shelter, and transportation. Anything more than that is just icing, and too much icing isn't so great anyway.
Blessings to you and yours.
Posted by KHurley at 9:11 PM
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I must say, this is the first time I've stayed up late for writing--and not written a word of my own other than this blog. Tonight I stayed up to help my older daughter, who was determined to finish a story for her school assignment and wanted her writer mom's input. It's the most excited I've ever seen her about writing, and this time it was her fingers on the keyboard in front of my computer, not mine. She worked for hours...and she can write. I know I sound like a proud mom, but color me guilty. I didn't even have to do anything, really. Her story has a teenager's voice--but a well-spoken teenager with an education. She's witty, bright, and informed. Her characters' dialog reads well, and her description isn't bad. She writes like a person who reads, which is perhaps the highest complement I can give her. I was impressed.
She used to not like writing, but somewhere along the line, something changed. Earlier tonight I was amazed to watch her discover what it was like to fall into the flow of a story and exclaim "I know!" whenever she suddenly knew what would happen next. For the first time, maybe, I got to watch the magic happen. So I watched, and I watched....ZZZZZ.
Yep. I almost fell asleep in my chair. I know, I know. But watching someone write isn't nearly as fun as writing yourself. Tonight, I was just the support crew and morale person. Not even co-pilot--she really didn't need one, other than when she'd suddenly pop up with a question. I'm just very proud of her; she rocked it. At this point, she's got the basics down cold. The rest is all practice, practice, practice. She seems to have made a great start.
Now if I can just cure her of separating independent clauses with a comma....
Posted by KHurley at 2:19 AM
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Argh! I went to see Mama Mia last night. It's that musical they made into a movie with Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep. Anyway, I hadn't listened to much Abba since the 80's, (on actual vinyl records, no less!) Now I can't get the Abba songs out of my head. Guess that's what I get, going to see that kind of a movie. Mama Mia, here I go again. Honey, Honey, how you thrill me. Waterloo...couldn't escape if I wanted to. Urk! Get...out...of my....head!
Posted by KHurley at 4:31 PM
I really hate synopses. The synopsis is supposed to be a summary of the entire novel, and that's fine, but I have a problem getting it short enough. I originally had a six-page synopsis for Ninth Wave, and then managed to crunch it down to five pages for a contest. Now I'm trying to take the five pages and edit it down to three or fewer. For me, that's a tough order. It's hard to decide which plot details to leave in and which to take out. "Hit the highlights," they tell me. I'm trying to aim for the inciting incident, crisis point and climax of the story, but I know I also need to leave in enough of the rest of the plotline that those things will make sense. In my ideal world, no writer would have to write his or her own synopsis. Someone else would summarize it instead. I did the next best thing; took the five-page version to the Moxie last Sunday and got them to point out what they thought were the "highlights". Val's amazing...via her suggestions, I was able to get it whittled down to just under four pages, but it still needs a little more trimming. So with this last editing run, the book got a touch longer and the synopsis got a touch shorter. We'll see how it goes.
I'm trying to decide whether to change the name of the book yet again. It started out as "Beyond the Pale," changed to "From the Ninth Wave" to reflect the storyline, and has at this point been shortened to "Ninth Wave." However, even though it ties heavily into the storyline, it may fall flat as an urban fantasy title becuase a lot of people won't know without reading the book just what the ninth wave means. So I'm toying with several other possible titles. At the moment, one is standing out over the others and may just end up being a better draw for readers, so I'll probably ask Bob about it before we start to submit the revised manuscript.
Posted by KHurley at 4:55 AM
Monday, November 24, 2008
Orycon is over for another year, and it was a lot of fun. My daughter enjoyed herself, found the classes she chose to be well worth the effort, and in general comported herself in a very responsible and mature manner. This was our first trip out of town together, just the two of us. Before, I've either gone alone or with a friend, or the whole family. It was nice to spend that time with my older girl and see what she thought of things and hear about her ideas and impressions. I found her to be a relaxing travel companion, as she didn't argue about anything, wasn't high maintenance, and was way more help than hindrance. I love Portland, but we still got lost twice--once in finding the hotel, and once in finding our way out of town. It was all those ramps and bridges...and MapQuest's bad driving directions. I've come to the conclusion that I really need a GPS unit.
In talking to my daughter on the way home, though, I had an epiphany about why I love to travel. When I'm home, I'm always on duty, and there's always something else I "should" be doing. If I'm sleeping in after a night's writing, I "should" be awake doing housework or teaching the kids. If I'm awake at night working on a book, I "should" be sleeping. If I'm helping the kids with schoolwork, I "should" be working on a book or doing housework or errands, and if I'm running errands, I "should" be at home helping the kids with schoolwork. It's hard to organize time well enough that at any given time, I'm not neglecting one thing in favor of another (though I may actually be doing better at organization lately....) But when I'm traveling--when I'm in a plane or in a car, I am, like the fae, in a liminal place--a between place--and I like it. It's a place where I don't have to do anything but the traveling. Especially if I'm driving, I can't do any of those other things that usually clamor for my attention, so there's no pressure. I never realized before just how mentally freeing that is, but it's true. During the time getting from here to there, I'm free to let go and just be. Who'd have thought a long strip of blacktop could be such a magical place?
Posted by KHurley at 2:26 AM
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Soon the older daughter and I will be heading off to Orycon, the science fiction/fantasy convention held annually in--you guessed it--Oregon. My teenager made a special request to go to a conference with me, and since conferences are prohibitively expensive, we decided on a convention instead. There are still classes--writing-related, industry-related, and fan-related, so she should be able to find plenty of things to experience while we're there. The coolest part for me is that she wants to see what things are like in mom's world. I'll get to see it through her eyes, in a sense. I'm sure the fact that she knows she might see aliens, fae and werewolves in the hallways is also part of the inducement.
I just finished my Ninth Wave rewrite. Now we'll see what happens.
Posted by KHurley at 1:59 AM
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Are we there yet? Seriously, I think so. I am within three chapters of the end of my latest revision to Ninth Wave, and I'm taking it to the Moxie meeting tomorrow. Ultimately, if they only get to skim the rest, it'll be okay, since the lady who critiqued it for me is going to review it again also. She emailed me edits with page numbers and everything, and that has been very helpful. Her insight is amazing.
Friday night I was still struggling with a tricky dilemma, trying to figure out how to rewrite a part where the logic of a decision my heroine made was under question. Basically, the request was, "show us more of why she made this decision." At first, I wasn't sure I could show it in any more detail than I had already done, but when push came to shove, I had to find the answer. I brainstormed it and got to a certain point, rewrote the chapter in question to the point where my logic left off, and then got stuck briefly. I slept on it, let it percolate...and was still stuck. I was at the point where I needed the rest of the answer, and had no idea how to logic it out, so I just...appealed to the muse, I guess. I decided to trust the process and not think too hard, and just see what happened. And, like the magic it is, the answer came as I was writing. It just flowed from somewhere, through my subconscious and out through my fingers, and when it was done, the logic was good. It made sense. It held together. And it not only deepened a point of conflict that my agent had wanted deepened before, but it also cast new light on an important relationship in the book, not to mention my heroine and her past and motivations.
Sometimes you can't mug the muse. Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want, and then trust that it will be there when you need it. The subconscious is a powerful problem solver, and our subjective experiences add up to more than the sum of their parts. That's where the real magic starts.
Posted by KHurley at 2:57 AM
Friday, November 14, 2008
The new Mercedes Thompson comic book, that is. It's a new story by Patricia Briggs, put out by Dabel Brothers in comic book form, dealing with the character Mercy Thompson at the time when she first moved to the Tri-Cities. I just picked up issue one of the four-issue series tonight, and I love it. The only thing I hated was when I hit the end and there was no second issue available yet.
How cool would that be, to have your own characters come out in a comic book?
Posted by KHurley at 12:12 AM
Monday, November 10, 2008
Okay, the day after the hafla, I didn't end up lying around with the hot pad or ice packs or anything even remotely like that. I was a little sore in places, but nothing major, and nothing out of the ordinary. I guess I'm in better shape than I thought. Whoohoo.
Now I'm off to take the younger daughter to her dance class, and from there I'll go to my favorite haunt with the laptop and do some more revisions. I finished revising Chapter Ten last night, and since I split Chapter Three earlier, there are now a total of 21 chapters in the book, which leaves me only 11 more chapters to edit. Not bad.
The younger one actually got a decent amount of schoolwork done today on her own. One of her assignments involved making dinner for the family, so we started a soup in the crock pot, which helps us all out with the "who's going to cook" issue.
The older daughter took it upon herself to do internet research to determine the latest news on the whole melamine/candy issue, so we now know which of the suspect Halloween treats we can let them eat and which ones we can't.
Looks like everyone in the family is making some kind of progress.
Posted by KHurley at 5:03 PM
Sunday, November 09, 2008
The fall bellydance hafla (dance party) is going on this weekend. Earlier Saturday morning I went to my usual bellydance fusion class for an hour and a half, then had an hour for lunch, then took a two-hour workshop at the hafla, then danced my solo in the evening show, then danced in three other group dances, which my daughter also participated in.... The teenager fell asleep in the car on the way home, but I have the feeling it'll be me who's sore tomorrow. I've never danced so many hours in one day in my entire life. At least I got compliments on my solo--I'll remember them when I'm holed up in bed or the recliner with a hotpad for my knees, back and feet.
There were some fantastic dancers present, and the turnout to celebrate my teacher's 30th year in the industry was wonderful. Many of the performers honored her, and some of us participated in a very large secret group dance choreographed of beginner moves that she taught all of us in her classes over the years. She was very surprised and touched by it.
Now I'm going to hit the hay. Due to the hafla and preparations for it, I did no writing either Friday or Saturday, but tomorrow it's back at it with a vengeance. I'm about halfway through the revisions, and I've actually hit most of the points mentioned in the critique, so it may actually go faster from here on out. The only snag has been that both the kids' computers died within a week of each other, and since they use a correspondance school, I've been having to let them use my computer most of the day for their schoolwork. The huz resurrected my older laptop and fixed its issues, so that gives one kid a laptop and one kid my PC. So that leaves me with my newer laptop and no office to work in for the time being. Once I've dragged myself out of bed tomorrow (or later today, actually), I'll probably end up at the office away from home--a bookstore or coffee shop. Hey, it worked for J.K. Rowling.
Posted by KHurley at 12:59 AM
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I've already voted. I filled out an absentee ballot this year and sent it in by mail, so I will not have to stand in the voting lines. Last year I stood in line for several hours, and it wreaked havoc on my neck and shoulders. So this year, the Huz and I saved ourselves the hassle and got the deed done ahead of time. I'm so glad.
The only line I'm going to stand in tomorrow (or today, considering it's the wee hours, and so technically it's already Tuesday, even if I still think of it as Monday night) is the cashier's line at the Barnes and Noble, to buy the latest book by one of the authors I like. I may even go to a movie.
Book-wise, I'm working through some more edits. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of the amazing lady I mentioned in a previous post, and the agreement of my fantastic agent Bob, I'm getting a chance at another work-through of the original Brenna book before marketing efforts continue. If I can fix the things the lady noted, I should have an even stronger book.
So...what happened? Why did we wind things back? Put simply, the aforementioned lady saw some very specific issues that the rest of us did not, and thanks to her sharp editing skills, we were finally able to pin down what might have been tripping the book up--and tripping Brenna up. Sometimes all it takes is just one person to say something in just the right way, and previously unidentifiable issues become clear. I've been working on edits per her comments for the last week or so and was able to get some major progress done tonight. Once I have worked over the things she discovered, things should be looking pretty good.
Many thanks to the amazingly gracious and talented lady. You rock.
Posted by KHurley at 1:40 AM
Friday, October 31, 2008
Or Samhain, or whatever you prefer to call it. Here are my best wishes for your safety and well-being tonight and on into the future. Where we are, it looks like it's going to be a nice evening--warm enough and reasonably good weather for the trick-or-treating--but there's so much more to this holiday than meets the eye. It's a time for many cultures to honor their ancestors and those loved ones who have passed on. And as it was once the Celtic new year, it also represents both an ending and a beginning. This year, it seems particularly apt.
Samhain is the time of year during which my book takes place, so I'm thinking of Brenna fondly tonight. It would be perfect if by this time next year, I have a book in my hands. But for tonight...all is very well indeed.
Posted by KHurley at 3:23 PM
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Some people are very good at writing believable characters, while others are better at plotting. And even when a person can create good characters, sometimes he has an easier time creating characters of one sex than the other. I know some people who do great female characters and have a bit of a challenge with male characters. I'm just the opposite. For some reason, my male characters are fine, while the females often need quite a bit of revision. It isn't really the secondary female characters, either--it's usually the main characters I have trouble conveying properly. I may know what makes them tick, but somehow I don't always get into their heads enough in the right places to show the reader what the MC is thinking or feeling. Recently a wonderful lady pointed out to me that this generally tends to happen when my female protagonist is in a scene with another character. If she's alone, we're in her head and know what's going on, but when someone else enters the scene, we sometimes lose the internal dialog that would give us the clue as to what she's actually feeling. I'm so glad she pointed this out to me; I wasn't aware that this is what was happening. Now that I know what to watch for, I can fix it.
I was trying to figure out why I have this difficulty, and I think I may have an answer. I think that I've read so much about the concept of "Mary Sues" that I hold back a little when writing a female main character. A "Mary Sue" is thought to be wish fulfillment on the author's part--when the author creates a character who is in essence the author herself, only prettier, smarter, more confident...too darn close to perfect. Subconsciously, I think I worry that if I put too much of me into my character or put myself too far into her shoes, then she could end up being a Mary Sue. So when it comes down to the writing of that character, what happens is the exact opposite: I don't give the character enough of my strengths, don't go far enough into her head, etc. In essence, she becomes an anti-Mary Sue. Then there's the other half of the problem: the concern about "telling" vs. "showing". I've always tried to show by the character's body posture, physical reactions, etc. what she's feeling or going through. Apparently, in my quest to show, not tell, I've still not shown enough--or maybe just a tiny bit of telling is actually warranted. So the combination of these things that I hold back on is enough to cause a disconnect between some of my readers and my main character. I know that a writer can't please everyone all of the time, and different readers will form completely different ideas about the same piece of writing, but since I've identified that these things can be a problem for my MC, I need to watch out for them.
I went back into some stuff I'd already written and played with one of my MC's a bit to see what I could do if I made some changes along the lines I mentioned above. Where before I have to admit I was a little frustrated and in fact felt a slight disconnect from my own character at times, after I made the changes I found myself thinking, "You go, girl!", wanting to cheer my MC on and feeling proud of her when she showed backbone in the right places and for the right reasons. Girl power, not Mary Sue power. That's what we need.
Posted by KHurley at 3:14 PM
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Some time ago, I mentioned that Mike Briggs had asked to use an article I wrote on how to find an agent. That article is now up on Patricia Briggs' website. The link is here. Hope some people find it helpful! I'll post the same link under "Writing Resources" in my sidebar to make it easier to find the article after this post has been archived.
Posted by KHurley at 11:36 PM
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I've almost finished chapter five of the new book. It's going pretty well, considering I don't have every little detail of the book plotted out yet. I have the broad strokes, yes. I know where we're going with this one, what's at stake, mostly who's who and who does what to whom. There are some scenes missing yet on the journey from beginning to end.
I'd never heard of the term "pantser" before until a friend who's a member of RWA explained it. A pantser is a person who writes by the seat of his or her pants--no detailed outline for the plot conjured up beforehand. Organic might be another way to describe it. And then a plotter is, well...self explanatory. Outlines are detailed and fleshed out and the story is all planned beforehand.
With the last two epic fantasy books, I carefully plotted out each scene on 3 by 5 cards before writing it. The first one, I wrote without an outline. With the first Brenna book, I also plotted it out on scene cards beforehand. This second book is often getting its scenes written in detail before I even make a scene card for it. On the other hand, I have a lot of specific scenes plotted already. I don't seem to be either a full-fledged pantser or a truly consistent plotter, though I do plot scenes ahead of time as much as I can. I guess that makes me a pantserplotter.
Posted by KHurley at 3:51 AM
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Okay, we had a post on doubt, and I haven't posted in a while, so maybe it's time to post on doubt's opposite, faith. I know some people come to this blog deliberately, and some stumble on here while looking up something else that just happened to hit certain key words like hummer or Superman. But here's the thing. This isn't just a blog about an endless wait for publication. It isn't just a blog about one writer's struggle for validation in a tough, crowded field with relatively few spots open for new talent. It isn't even just a blog about how in the world a person writes books and tries to build a career from scratch while dealing with life and motherhood. It's all of those things and more, but ultimately, this is a blog about faith. It's about keeping on when the going gets tough. It's about not giving up. It's about believing, no matter how long it takes or how hard it seems, that I've got something worth saying and worth reading. And most of all, it's about making dreams into reality.
So let's try a little experiment. Everyone who reads this blog and knows what it's like to want something so bad you can just about taste it and touch it, do this visualization with me, if you will. Lend just a little of your energy to making this dream come true. You never know. Magic could happen.
Imagine you're holding a paperback novel. It's the same size as all standard mass-market paperbacks. Its cover is smooth under your fingers, and it smells like ink and new paper--that irresistible brand-new book scent that is the reason some of us don't care for e-book readers. The author's name is Kathy Hurley, and the title reads either "From the Ninth Wave" or maybe just "Ninth Wave." The story is set in Ireland, so the cover artwork gives that feel. It could take just about any style or form, but however it's done, there's a raven or crow somewhere in the picture. Think about this book being real--something you can find on the fantasy shelves not terribly far from Huff or Hunt. Imagine that it comes out next October, close to Halloween. See it in your hands, and believe it'll soon be yours. Believe it'll soon be ours. This is a prayer, a visualization, an affirmation. Sometimes if people believe in something hard enough, it becomes real. They say that's what faith can do, and I believe in faith.
Posted by KHurley at 1:56 AM
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
This week, one of my friends was having some doubts about her book, mostly based on a negative review from a test reader. She emailed, needing a pep talk. I think we succeeded on that score, but it got me thinking about unpublished writers, doubt, and self-sabotage.
It's not easy to get a novel published. First, you have to actually write the thing, which is a major undertaking in itself. Anyone who has written one or more complete novels should be very proud of himself; it isn't simple, and it represents a huge amount of time and effort--not to mention faith. Then, most writers face the hurdle of finding an agent, which is also a huge undertaking and can take years to do. Anyone who's completed a novel and been accepted by a reputable agent should celebrate that accomplishment; good, experienced agents don't accept writers whose work isn't worthy of publication. But even after you have an agent, there's still the last major pre-publication hurdle: finding a home for the book. That can also take years, especially in today's market. Plenty of now-bestselling authors struggled for many years to accomplish these things. I remember reading somewhere that on average, it can take about ten years from the first novel to publication, no matter how good the writer is to begin with. So delays and setbacks would seem to be more the norm for an unpublished writer than the exception.
There are those charmed ones whose first novel lands on the right desk at the right time and poof, they're published. I'd have loved to be one of those. But the first Brenna book isn't my first novel; it's my seventh. I started seriously working at getting published in 1997, a year after my younger daughter was born, and at that time I had already written three novels. I think I attended my first writers' conference in 1998 and started regularly submitting manuscripts that year, so that makes this year 10 since I got serious about being a career writer. I've done the work and put in the time.
Do I doubt that my current novel is worthy of publication? No. Absolutely not. The last three were also worthy of it. If they weren't, I wouldn't have an agent--especially an agent who used to be a highly-placed editor. Does that mean I have no doubts about my work at all? No. Of course I have doubts. I've been represented for five of those ten years and still have no publishing contract. Granted, it was mostly due to business decisions on the part of the potential publishers, and a few business decisions on my part as well. I was told that many publishers liked the first Oantra novel, but couldn't find a spot for it in their lists, which pretty much meant that the second and third Oantra novels were doomed as well. Instead of scrapping the second and third books, I made the decision to continue writing the trilogy even though the first one hadn't been picked up yet, instead of switching to a new premise or a new genre. I don't regret that decision; completing the series was a major accomplishment, and I'm proud of having done so. However, as a consequence, I now have a great epic fantasy trilogy, but no contract. I can't blame the publishers for making the decisions they thought best at the time, however much I might want to. I hit the high fantasy market at a time when it was at an ebb, unfortunately, and then I didn't switch niches until last year. That's really what accounts for the ten year delay. I'm disappointed in that outcome, but on the other hand, I learned a lot of craft in the ten years, which is always a good thing.
That brings us to the period from March 2006 to April 2008. In that time, I wrote the first Brenna book and also worked on the third book of the Oantra trilogy. I only turned in the final edits of the Brenna book in April of this year, so it hasn't been out in the market for all that long yet. Six months. That's not much time, in the grand scheme of publishing. But I'd be lying if I said that a small part of me isn't a little gun-shy about this process, after spending so long working on the Oantra books and not getting them published. What unpublished writer doesn't wonder whether they've got the right book out there this time, whether the publishers will like it, whether they'll care that it's written in third person and not first, whether it's different enough to stand out in an increasingly crowded market, and so on? With all those uncertainties, it would be easy to let self-doubt sabotage the whole thing. But all the books on abundance and living your dreams say that you can't allow doubt to stop you--that the thing you focus on is the thing you get more of. So I have to see this book as a tangible thing. I can't afford to doubt that it will be published, which is why I usually refer to it as a book and not a manuscript. They say the people who are published now are the ones who never gave up. I have to believe that, too. It makes sense that the surest way to fail is to stop trying and give in to doubt, which I truly believe is my worst enemy, and probably the worst enemy of many other people as well.
Posted by KHurley at 5:41 AM
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Today was a busy day, and it's not over yet. First thing, my older daughter and I went to the farmers' market to get the week's food, which we stowed in a cooler in my car. Then we had just enough time to drive to our fusion bellydance class. Then we grabbed lunch and headed downtown to attend the first screening of an independently produced documentary on bellydance called "Belly", by Boise bellydancer and costume designer Cecilia Rinn. Despite the film's small budget, it was a beautiful work that aptly celebrated what the dance means to women here in the U.S., and the many ways in which it empowers them.
I'll be spending the rest of the evening working on the new Brenna book. Still haven't gotten to the edits for Shifts, but that's probably good, as the time I let it sit will greatly help the revision process. Some shelf time after completing a novel is extremely helpful for gaining the perspective needed for editing--and I'm still at the point where I can afford to give it that shelf time. After I get a publisher's contract, I may not get to let manuscripts sit more than a few days after they're finished, unless I get the book done way before a deadline.
Posted by KHurley at 5:58 PM
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Idaho Spirit Seekers! No, really. Today was their first seminar, and it was a lot of fun and very informative. We got to see and touch ghost-hunting equipment, hear their various views from the skeptics to the psychics, and hear about why and how they do what they do. I met another writer there who has come to the spec-fic group a few times, and she actually went on an investigation tonight. I would have gone also, but was running on too few hours of sleep due to family obligations late last night, so I'll go during one of these next few months when they're doing one of their ongoing investigations. All told, today was a good piece of research for writing in the paranormal field, fiction or otherwise.
Posted by KHurley at 11:35 PM
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Our new local Spec-Fic writers' group has been meeting for several months now, and recently it was decided that we'd have someone offer a talk or presentation on a different topic every month so everyone could keep learning and progressing as we go along. It isn't a crit group--just a group of like-minded individuals who are all writing in the general categories of fantasy and sci-fi. Since I have an agent, they asked me to do a presentation on how to seek representation for an unpublished novel. Tonight was the night for that. It went smoothly and the information was well received.
I'm looking forward to whatever everyone else presents in this group; we have a diverse bunch of people here and I'm confident that everyone has something of value to offer.
Posted by KHurley at 11:32 PM
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tonight I had intended to stop off at the Barnes and Noble and work on the laptop, but I had a couple of errands to run first. When I stopped by a friend's house to drop off something I'd borrowed, she and I ended up talking for a couple of hours, and by then, Barnes and Noble was closed. I think the conversation was something we both needed, and I think it helped us both in different ways. I'm glad it happened, even though I didn't do the writing I intended. I've been aware lately of how much we as humans get trapped by the clock and by schedules. I know that to some extent, schedules are necessary, but on the other hand, they can serve to limit what we can accomplish, and they can also contribute to our becoming inflexible. Had I stuck to my planned schedule, I might have gotten a lot more writing done tonight. But I also wouldn't have had a chance to talk to a friend who needed a willing ear.
I've read some helpful books recently that said just proceeding with the confidence that you will manage to meet all your responsibilities and the necessary things will get done helps in overcoming a dependence on the clock. They said that one day soon, humans will realize that we've completely mistaken the very meaning of time. I hope that's true. Time is something I never seem to have enough of, and I'm constantly having to neglect one thing to accomplish another. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to stretch time so that everything gets done and stress and performance pressure becomes a distant memory?
Then there's the fact that sometimes just a little time spent at something is enough. I did manage to write for twenty minutes or so. I got one paragraph written and ate dinner at the same time. Not much writing progress...or was it? It might only have been one paragraph, but it was the paragraph that helped me figure out how the scene needed to end, and the one that set things up perfectly for my next writing session. Given the results, I'd say that even if it wasn't as much time as I'd planned, for tonight it was just enough time to make a difference.
Posted by KHurley at 2:40 AM
Thursday, September 04, 2008
The road to creative expression is a bumpy one, with plenty of healthy ups and downs and long flat spots in between. I believe the key is to navigate them the best way you can at the time, and if you make mistakes, pick up and keep moving forward. I've heard plenty of stories of discouragement and frustration from other writers, but the ones who made it to publication were always the ones who didn't give up, even when the going got rough. Recently, I was reading the blog of a writer who has been seriously ill. For a while, she wasn't even able to post. However, she's determined to get well. I wish her luck and I'm sure she'll succeed. In the meantime, her new book comes out this month.
I think sometimes people fall into the trap of treating a blog like a confessional. Sometimes no matter how hard you try to sound upbeat and optimistic, the slightest bit of discouragement can creep into the words and give people the wrong idea. Not all people interpret the same words in the same way, and that's an important thing to remember when blogging about your life. It's hard to strike exactly the right balance between communicating a small bit of frustration and giving people the wrong idea. Apparently, even though I thought I'd kept things upbeat, I somehow managed to give one person the idea that last year was not so great for me. Actually, it was fine. I've re-read the posts for that year, and the few negatives I did express included the interminable wait for publication, (that's nothing new), a few ongoing problems with the car, and a few frustrations with the homeschooling. Other than that, the posts were positive, and my year was positive. (After all, I did most of the revision on the first Brenna book last year, and that rocked!) Nevertheless, I must have somehow managed to convey a different impression, though try as I might, I can't see it. That's why I try not to go into deeply personal issues on the blog; even the lesser ones are too easy to misinterpret, as I've seen happen far too many times with a couple other writers' blogs. At a certain point, the only response is to shrug and move on. Everyone has a frustrating day sometimes, but there's always a tomorrow, and that might be great. It's all about balance.
Yesterday I had some bad luck with getting the kids to their piano class on time, and then I forgot my phone at home and had to go back for it, wasting gas. I had to go to the bank to stop payment on a check that I wrote to my credit card company and that the Post Office then lost in the mail. Not only did the credit card company charge me $39.00 for a late fee, but the bank charged me $10.00 to stop the payment. Now, if I only posted that much of what happened, anyone might think that I'd had a completely rotten and negative day. But there was more to the story.
The bank teller actually thanked me for the humorous way in which I complained about the fee; she said that she wished all her frustrated customers handled things the way I did. She said handling this problem with me made up for all the other frustrated customers who didn't put any kind of a positive spin on their bad experiences. The rest of the errands went smoothly. Then today I went to pick up a ring that I'd sent out for repair, and the store clerk told me that there was no charge on the bill for the repair. They gave me my ring good as new and sent me on my way. After that, I was able to stop off at the B&N with the laptop, and wrote 5 1/2 pages on the WIP. The important thing to remember about passing frustrations--whether you're a writer or a reader--is that they are usually just as temporary as everything else in life. If either you or your favorite writer seems to be in a slump, don't worry. Like the weather, it's bound to change. The universe has a way of balancing things out, given half a chance.
Posted by KHurley at 10:15 PM
Friday, August 29, 2008
I'm doing lots of research for the new plot right now. I've been reading books out of a huge to-be-read pile, mostly on esoteric subjects, but also on things like travel writing and guides to locations in Ireland, etc. I also picked out a car for my main character. Not for real, of course. But I looked through the car ads in an online Irish newspaper for Brenna's car, and found one that I think would be just the type she'd probably lease and drive. It's a blue Ford Focus--midrange, cute and practical. I should probably go drive one now, I suppose....
I've nearly finished Chapter 2 of the new book. I've done most of my work with the laptop in coffee shops, although this sometimes attracts a chatty person who apparently thinks that if you're a red-haired female working on your laptop in a coffee shop, then you must either be his personal confessor or you are sitting there specifically to answer his questions about yourself. I don't mean that this is just one person in particular--Heaven forbid. But every now and then, I encounter someone like this, which is 1. flattering, 2. slightly annoying, and 3. a little creepy. This doesn't happen as much when I work in a restaurant, but the restaurant is more expensive. The library would be better and usually quieter, but my schedule doesn't always permit that. Oh, well. I'll get the work done regardless.
Posted by KHurley at 12:38 PM
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I'm about to start taking bellydance fusion classes in September. Fusion is a progressive and heavily disciplined style that I love to watch, but I'm not sure what my learning curve might be. I've been taking regular bellydance classes for nearly two years now, and since my early 20's I've taken scattered classes that ranged from bellydance to ballet, jazz and Irish dance. I'll have to see how the fusion goes. I went shopping today and came out of the store with five bras I can cover with coins or otherwise decorate for belly dance. Normally, that would have come under the category of Really Expensive, but in this case, they were marked down quite a bit at one of the stores that carries seconds and discontinued styles. Hopefully, they'll do for what I need.
After the shopping, I realized it was already too late at night for me to get much done with the kids and their schoolwork at home, so I decided to stop off at a restaurant and get some food and writing time all in one go. It was late enough that not too many other people were still at the T.G.I. Friday's, so I was seated all by myself in a quiet section. One hour, a plate of salad and a page and a half of the new Brenna book later, I had to go home, as the restaurant was closing. But the plan worked. I love it when I can accomplish two goals at once, even if it does cost me sixteen dollars and change. I can't do it too often, though, or I'll go broke just trying to get some writing done.
Posted by KHurley at 1:08 AM
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Working at the library was a good idea--in theory. After a hectic week last week, we arrived at the library today ready to work. The older daughter had done her volunteer shift, and the younger one and I had run a couple of errands. We met at the library study area about a quarter after five. I then tried to get the kids set up working so I could commence writing. Predictably, the younger one needed some direction, and I found that she had not done any of her computer research this morning, and needed the internet in order to answer a couple of the questions for her Social Studies. So I had to let her use my laptop for a little while to get past one of the assignments. Working with her is very time-intensive. Then just as I was about to be able to write, I discovered that the older one had fallen asleep on top of the desk. I had to wake her and get her back to work, and then we had to go over all the ways she could complete her various unfinished Civics assignments using the internet instead of a newspaper, and that took up vast amounts of time. Finally, I let her have the laptop for a few minutes and went out to the truck to get a drink of water. When I came back, it was 7:20 and the library closes at 8:00. I opened my files for writing and the older girl came back after only 10 minutes on the library computer, saying the card had only let her have a half hour--which she had definitely not taken, according to the clock on my computer. I sent her back to try again and started to work on my WIP again. Then the Huz called to say the quiche was done, at least 20 minutes before the library was due to close, when I'd said we'd leave. So that's it. I give up. I wrote this blog at lightning speed and now I'm headed home, no more than one or two sentences to the good for this writing session.
Sigh. Sometimes the magic just doesn't happen.
Posted by KHurley at 6:34 PM
Monday, August 11, 2008
The Moxie have made a pact. Each of us is to get a minimum number of pages done each day and post the page number to our list. It's just a little something to make us accountable for our progress or lack of it. My personal quota is at least two pages a day, but preferably three. Yesterday I made my quota, finishing 3 3/4 pages (the last part of the last scene of Brigid's Forge, Chapter One). Blog posts do not count--only progress made on the current Work In Progress, or WIP.
Which means I need to stop blogging and playing with my new cell phone and get writing. Incidentally, the new phone is black and red and actually has a querty keyboard. So I can even use it to take notes or write a little if I get desperate when I'm out somewhere. I've been playing with it all evening, to get used to its features. Obviously, it's just a little too much fun, when I have my actual full-size computer and ergo keyboard right here in front of me. Enough playing. Must get to work....
Posted by KHurley at 11:01 PM
Saturday, August 09, 2008
This (Friday) evening our belly dance troupe performed at a water park in Meridian. We had a bit less than 30 minutes, and our show was divided in half by a belly flop competition for the swimmers. Predictably, we lost over half our audience when the competition ended. Oh, well. We performed up on a concrete platform in front of a decoration that looked like waves. Several feet below us was a pool, where our audience bobbed up and down on little inner-tube-like floaties as they watched our show. It struck me that when people go to a marine park to watch the dolphins or whales, the people are up on the concrete bleachers and the entertainment is in the water. In this case, the entertainment was up on the concrete and the audience was in the water. Weird.
Another first was seeing my last name plastered across someone's butt. Granted, it was the Hurley athletic clothing line, not my name specifically, but still--it made me look. It was also a first to perform belly dance in front of an audience who was more scantily clad than we were!
See what kind of trouble I get up to without a publisher's contract to fulfill? Clearly, something needs to be done about this.
Posted by KHurley at 2:36 AM
Thursday, August 07, 2008
With as many irons as I have in the fire, you'd think a few would have grown hot by now, but I'm still playing the waiting game. There are a couple manuscripts out to test readers, and I'm waiting for feedback on those. The agent article to be posted isn't up yet; the site's owners are swamped, so might not get to it for a while. No word yet on any possible publishing contracts. One seminar and one convention aren't to take place until September and November, respectively. So...I wait. I'm not so much patient as I am resigned.
While waiting, I've performed my first belly dance solo, constructed some much-needed costume pieces, worked with the kids on the ever-present homeschool, read some other people's books, critiqued stuff for friends, and done research for the new Brenna book. And I've nearly completed the first chapter of the new book; some of it hinges on that research, so I'm working on writing even when I'm reading. A little teaser: Some of the books I'm reading now for research are about ley lines, astral projection, the nature of energy, black holes, and paranormal occurrences in Ireland.
Posted by KHurley at 12:55 AM
Friday, August 01, 2008
I just finished reading Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead, whom I met at the PNWA conference. Briefly, the book is about a succubus named Georgina who has to take life energy from mortals in order to survive, but she isn't particularly happy about it, and it quite understandably wreaks havoc with her ability to love and be loved. What she'd really like is to be mortal again, but that just isn't in the cards right now. One of the few pleasures in her life is reading and escaping into stories, and where her favorite author, Seth Mortenson, is concerned, she's a total fangirl. When Seth moves to Seattle, Georgina is shocked and delighted, but then other immortals start stirring the pot...and all hell breaks loose.
This is a great read. It's written in first person, but Georgina is one of those characters who--in true succubus style--had me at hello, so the POV didn't matter to me. Richelle Mead's voice is fresh and compelling, her subject matter even more so. It's a delightful break from the usual vampires and werewolves, and gives a unique view into what life (or immortality) might be like from the "other" side of the tracks. Richelle did what a truly great author should do; she made me laugh, made me cry, and made me care. I'll be back for more.
Posted by KHurley at 4:33 PM
Monday, July 28, 2008
I think we've finally hit on a way to accomplish homeschool and my writing at the same time. Up to now, the problem has been that the kids don't accomplish much when I'm not standing over them, and they get distracted on their computers at home with all their fun internet activities, etc. But I've recently found that if we leave the house and go to the library, we get a lot more done. With the laptop, I can actually write while the kids are doing schoolwork, and since they can only have two hours on the library computers, at least the older one is moving faster on her work. The younger one will get there too, I think, as soon as she gets used to the idea of "work" time vs anything time. And the library has lots of little desks about the right height for a laptop, plus plenty of outlets for plugging in--so I should be able to be a little more productive too. I'm working on the new Brenna book while I'm waiting for crits to come in on the last Oantra book.
This weekend I found out that Idaho has a group of...hmm...ghost trackers, for want of a better term. Check them out at their website. In September, they're doing a seminar on ghost hunting, and I've already decided that this comes under the heading of necessary research for the Brenna books. Sounds like it'll be a blast, and there might even be a ghost hunt in the offing. Nothing like field research, huh?
Posted by KHurley at 5:26 PM
Sunday, July 20, 2008
This morning, I was supposed to fly home from Seattle to Boise. I say supposed to because I missed my flight. My late-checked bag--the reason I didn't make the flight--actually got onto the plane and arrived home before me. Obviously, the next time I travel, I will make sure to allow two whole hours at the airport before departure.
I'm not an anxious flyer. I am an anxious pre-flyer. What that means is that I'm not scared to get on the dang plane and fly, I'm just scared that I'll miss my flight and get stranded somewhere. Or...I was scared of that. I'm not anymore. I missed a flight just this morning, and yet both I and my bags made it home just fine. The bag was on the flight I missed, and I was on the following flight four hours later. One swipe of the credit card and I was confirmed for a new flight. Silly me...I knew that if you missed one airplane, you'd eventually be able to catch another one. But the details of what you do when this happens were what made me anxious. "Help, I'm stranded! Whatever shall I do?" (Let me explain here that I'm not that helpless, but I hadn't flown anywhere since before 9-11, and I've only flown once before by myself--a direct flight from Boise to Spokane clear back in the very early 90's. Now I have a much better idea of what to do, of course.) But literally, I was ready to collapse when I found that my plane had left without me. I must have looked like some kind of wreck, and I know I felt like one. I need a private jet, so it can't leave without me when I'm late!
Now that the hypothetical disaster has happened, I'm not so worried about it. I wouldn't like it to happen again, but...I can handle it if it does. Where was my personal assistant when I needed her? Oh, yeah, that would be me. I am so fired.
Posted by KHurley at 9:05 PM
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Okay, I'm blogging from the hotel after the awards banquet. While it was fun being a finalist and this is the farthest I've gotten in any contest, I did not make the top three. I don't know in which of the eight spots I placed exactly--only the first three are made known. But it doesn't really matter. It would have been great to hit one of the top spots, but as they kept telling all us finalists, this was a really tough contest, so just to be a finalist at all was a great achievement. PNWA is an old, prestigious conference, so I hope simply being one of the finalists for my category will give me a credit that potential publishers will find worthy of note.
As it happens, I was sitting in the hotel bar last night when an author in my genre invited me to join him and his two friends at his table. About halfway through the conversation, he suddenly revealed that the lady to my left was an editor--for my genre, or at least a related genre. You have to be careful at these conferences! You never know when you might be talking to an editor incognito while she's drinking a mojito. It was at least as good as the private party the winners are now having with the agents and editors. The universe has its ways of giving us what we need, as long as we're willing to keep making the effort. Plus, today I met at least four urban fantasy authors, so...like I say. As long as I make the contacts, it doesn't really matter whether I take home a fancy certificate.
I'm going to keep telling myself that for the rest of the evening...while I'm drinking champagne with one of my fellow non-winning finalists.
Posted by KHurley at 8:58 PM
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Okay, I think I've waited long enough now for the results to be in, and can safely reveal what's been going on with a certain writing contest I entered in February. I've entered the opening of the Brenna book, From the Ninth Wave, in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association contest. They got something like 28 pages including the synopsis. I hadn't entered a contest in years because I always lost, and I'd never even made it to finalist. It's hard when you're writing fantasy and your novel is up against all the thrillers and mysteries in a general "adult genre novel" category.
Note the past tense on that "I'd never", though. Last year, they broke everything out into actual genres, which helped a lot. Because of that change, I decided to take a chance this year. The big news is this: I am a finalist in the PNWA Fantasy/Sci-Fi genre novel category!
Tomorrow I'm flying up to Seattle to attend the contest and see what happens. I'm one of eight finalists. The top three winners will be announced on Saturday evening.
Posted by KHurley at 1:33 PM
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Finally. Someone has articulated her feelings (which perfectly match my own feelings) about writing sex scenes--the reasons to do so, the how-to's, what sex scenes should accomplish, etc. And she's said it better than I've ever managed to, so...here's the link to her blog and those posts. Enjoy.
Posted by KHurley at 3:39 AM
Friday, July 11, 2008
We went to see Hellboy 2 this afternoon. If anything, I liked it even better than the first one, not the least for the exploration of the fantasy beings. They used some of the same visual artistry as "Pan's Labyrinth," which made for a colorful and interesting depiction of the fae. They mangled the Celtic mythology quite a bit, but they made a visually stunning and exciting movie.
I will admit, I was disappointed in some of the outcome, but I liked that they at least began to explore some of the grey areas with regards to humans and their impact on the world. I can't really say a lot here without giving away major spoilers, but I can at least mention things that are in the movie blurbs and such. The idea behind this movie was: The fantastic (fae, otherworldly, elven, goblin, whatever) beings gave up control of this world long ago; what if they wanted it back? What, indeed?
There were things I liked very much about this movie, and things that made me shake my head. But as my crit partners are always telling me: this was someone else's story, not mine, and there's no rule that says people who play with the Celtic or other culture's mythos actually have to stick closely to it when they're using it as a jumping-off point for a story.
That said, however, I couldn't resist the compulsion to tell my kids some of the story of the relationships between the Sidhe and humans, as per Irish mythology. These are the hazards of being the children of a writer who likes to research the actual source material her stories are based on.
Posted by KHurley at 10:52 PM
Monday, July 07, 2008
The Moxie just had our annual retreat this past weekend. We didn't even go out of town, but instead booked ourselves into a suite at a local hotel.
We got off to a slow start, but had a lot of fun going out to lunch first and then painting pottery before checking into the hotel. We spent the afternoon working, then headed out to dinner. If we'd wanted to go even cheaper, we could have cooked in the suite; it had a tiny kitchen complete with pots and pans. But part of the fun of a retreat weekend is that it's a break, and to me, a break means not cooking. That night we worked and talked and ended up staying up extremely late. Nevertheless, we all blearily made our way to the breakfast buffet Sunday morning, where the hotel was actually serving (gasp!) real protein in the form of cheese omelets and sausage, instead of just a typical continental of 99% carbohydrates, 1% caffeine. Then it was off to the suite again to arrange for a late checkout and work until the last possible second before having to vacate the premises. From there, one of my crit partners went home, while I and the other partner went to our usual Moxie Java to work for another couple of hours before rolling off home.
One of my partners asked whether I'd actually accomplished more on the retreat than I would have at home. The answer is yes, although not by a huge margin. What was more important than vast amounts of progress on the prose was the camaraderie and the change of scene, which for me was like a mini vacation. I'd do it every three months if I could. And we're definitely going to have to do that pottery painting again. The only thing about the retreat that I'd change is that all three of us would have had comfy king-sized beds and no one would have slept on a sleeper sofa mattress, and we would have been able to go to the movies to ogle Robert Downey, Jr. I mean...a retreat weekend is all about inspiration, right? Nevertheless, what we did accomplish was great, although it ended far sooner than I would have liked. But then, I'm kind of die-hard that way.
I do get to go to PNWC in a week and a half, so I have more hotel vacation time ahead of me. It's all good.
Posted by KHurley at 11:33 PM
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
I'm finished with the last book of the trilogy. I can hardly believe it, but it's true. I just wrote the denouement for Shifts of Perception, which means that except for revisions, I've just finished the last book of the Oantran Triad. I spent nine years of my life writing a trilogy that, to date, remains unpublished.
But I wrote it. That's the main thing. I wrote an epic fantasy trilogy. BOO-RAH!
Posted by KHurley at 2:46 AM
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The first half of the final battle scene in Shifts works. So does the beginning of the new Brenna book. Now if the Moxie and I can just figure out how and where to stage our annual writing retreat for the 4th of July weekend, we'll be set for great things.
In the meantime, I've been extremely distracted by Stacia Kane's urban fantasy, Personal Demons. It didn't hurt that she wrote it in third person. It also didn't hurt that one of my favorite characters is a lot like Cole Turner in Charmed. Yep, way too distracting.
Posted by KHurley at 4:23 AM
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I finally figured out what's wrong with the final battle scene I've been trying to write. I started in the right place, but then it took a left turn and a couple of crucial things didn't happen. Aggravating as it might be with the next Moxie meeting taking place tomorrow, I have to go back to the place where the thing went wrong (or didn't, as the case might be) and re-do the scene from that point.
I don't have to lose much, as I hadn't gotten far from that point, but I do have to lose some. That's okay, though. I need closure on this book, and it's so close I can almost see the whites of its eyes. If I have to backtrack a little in order to move forward, that's what I'll do.
Posted by KHurley at 5:50 PM
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I couldn't help myself. I've been working on the crucial last scenes of Shifts of Perception, but the second Brenna book, Bridget's Forge, was too tempting to leave alone. So I worked over the first chapter I'd already written and came up with a different opening, based on some concepts I'd been studying from Les Edgerton's book, Hooked.
It's the typical next-book-in-a-series conundrum: how much backstory can you get away with so as to orient the reader to what's going on and how the character got to where she is right now--without going into so much backstory that the inciting incident is shoved off into Chapter Two? Fortunately, Mr. Edgerton covers all the prerequisites of a good opening chapter in his book. No matter what backstory you might need later, the inciting incident had better be as close to the beginning of the book as possible; given that, whether you're on book two or thirteen shouldn't really matter. A boring opening is a boring opening, full stop. And that's just what the reader will do if you can't hook them right away--stop. Exactly what you don't want to have happen. So I re-worked the opening I had and put the inciting incident much closer to the beginning of the book, and...we'll see.
So I've been working on a beginning and an ending. Two different books, two different worlds, on two sides of the timeline. It may look like a circle, but I think it qualifies as progress.
Posted by KHurley at 12:07 AM
Sunday, June 08, 2008
The Boise chapter of Parners in Crime put on the 2008 Murder in the Grove conference this weekend. It's a small conference, but a good one. This year, rather than a focus on Mystery as the primary subject, the theme was about Thrillers and the combination of Mystery and Thriller. There was a writers' class on Friday, and then various regular conference classes on Saturday. J.A. Jance attended and was the keynote speaker at lunch. She also spoke at the multi-author booksigning at the Boise Barnes and Noble on Friday evening.
Another year, another good local conference. You can always apply concepts from thrillers and mysteries to Urban Fantasy, so the classes are worthwhile. But it would be nice to attend a conference or convention that deals specifically with Fantasy. I may try to go to Orycon later this year in Portland Oregon; Orycon is a Sci-Fi and Fantasy Convention. While it isn't just for writers, it's always full of relevant classes, panels and readings, and I've always enjoyed it whenever I've gone.
I guess the best part of our local conference was the fact that I didn't have to be "on", and could just sit in classes and soak up whatever information I could while not stressing out or feeling like I had to stay high-energy and visible the whole time. One of the things I've appreciated over the past few years is not having to go pitch my manuscript to agents. If I haven't come to the end of the steeplechase, at least I'm over the first couple of hurdles.
Posted by KHurley at 1:51 AM
Monday, May 26, 2008
I'm still here, still waiting for news on the book. Right now I'm cleaning house, while our area is having a week of cooler temperatures--and by cooler I mean in the 70's rather than the upper 80's to low 90's. I've cleaned and organized a ton of stuff in our garage, and the house is undergoing a similar round of spring cleaning. It badly needed it, and I'm also thinking that having a better organized house, I might find I have less mental clutter as well. There's nothing that stops the flow of energy and ideas worse than a cluttered environment, which contributes to stress on levels you might not consciously realize. So...cleaning is the order of the day.
Book-wise, I'm within about three scenes of the end of Shifts of Perception. Yay! I might even have it done in time for Moxie this weekend. That would be great. And then it's on to the new Brenna book, plus playing with a few other new ideas I've had in the last week. So first I work, and then I...work? Somehow, the initial stages of writing a new book don't seem so much like work to me. It's more like play, and I can be as addicted to escaping into the new world I've created as some people are to computer games. Each new story is like a new, exciting, colorful computer game in my head, the events and characters mine to toy with....
No, I'm not plotting to take over the world. Not overtly, anyway.
Posted by KHurley at 4:55 PM
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Now that we've discussed the subject of whether or not a writer needs an agent, that brings us to the next logical question: How do you find the right one for you?
The agent article I wrote for Patty Briggs' site covers the basics of how to go about connecting with agents in the first place, and as soon as I have a link for that I'll post it here. No sense rewriting that whole article when we could just link to it. But I thought that for this blog, I'd take a moment to cover the question of how to determine which agent would be a good match for you.
The first thing you'll want to do when you start shopping for an agent is to look up a bio that tells what the agent represents. You can find agent bios in any good guide to literary agents, such as the Writers Digest "Guide to Literary Agents" for the current year. You should also be able to find this information online at places such as www.agentquery.com. The bio will state which types of books the agent is seeking, as well as which ones he isn't seeking. Often, the writers of books similar to yours will acknowledge their agents in the front of their books, so be sure to check the dedications and acknowledgments sections of these as well. Please, please don't send a query letter for a fantasy novel to an agent who only does literary or cookbooks--or literary cookbooks. Find out whether the agent represents the type of thing you write. If you don't do this simple bit of homework, you'll look like an amateur.
The next thing you'll want to do is search out your chosen agent's track record. You don't have to have a huge list of detail on every specific sale. You mainly need to know whether the agent is considered reputable in the industry. Does he have recorded, legitimate sales? Is she rated as a "recommended" agent? Perhaps one of the best resources to find out whether any given agent is reputable is the site known as "Preditors and Editors." (And yes, they really do spell predators with an "i". Nevertheless, it's good, solid information.)
Once you've established that the agent represents what you write and is reputable, you have other things to consider. For example, does the agent have to be based in New York? Can they really sell books from across the country? The answers here are no, and yes--with a couple of caveats. First of all, having a New York-based agent is fantastic. He or she is poised for easier access, from local phone calls to personal meetings and power lunches with editors. It may not be so easy for a non-local agent to get access. However, the good non-local agents will not let the distance be a barrier to good communication with a publisher. Again, this brings us to the individual agent's track record and sales. Do a little homework to find out whether a prospective non-local agent is reliably selling books for her other clients or not. If she's routinely getting sales, then you probably don't have much to worry about. If, on the other hand, she's just starting out, lives in an obscure place and has no track record, then you might want to be cautious and go for someone at least better known, if not local to NY.
A related concern: Is a brand new agent a good choice for you? Well, that depends. Where did your prospective agent work before she became a literary agent? Did she work in a larger agency and then branch off to hang her own shingle? That's not bad; she's got some experience--maybe a lot of experience. Was he in publishing in another capacity? Some editors decide at some point to go to the other side of the desk and become agents; mine did. Again, lots of contacts possible there, and a lot of experience. Now, if your prospective agent used to sell used cars or work as a waiter before becoming an agent, that doesn't automatically mean he'll make a bad literary agent; it just means that he won't necessarily have the same contacts and clout that a well established agent who has worked in the publishing industry already has. Believe me, when you're a new writer and can't sell books based on your name and track record alone, you'll want as many factors working in your favor as possible.
On that same note: a friend recently pointed out that a new writer shouldn't just take the first agent that offers to represent his novel--not unless that agent is well established and reputable. If you do sign with an agent who has no sales record and little experience, you may do your career more harm than good, unless that agent works for one of the big-name agencies and thus has more experienced agents behind her and a reputable agency name to help get her started off on the right foot. While new agents have to get experience somewhere in order to become established agents, they shouldn't have to do it at your expense, so consider your options carefully.
Speaking of your expense, here's one more consideration for the day: fee-charging agents vs. non-fee-charging agents. Yes, Virginia, some agents actually do charge fees up front. Some of them are even reputable--so please don't think that just because an agent charges a fee, he's automatically bad news. The old-school fee-charging agent would usually charge fees for photocopying and other expenses incurred in sending out submissions--an understandable practice, if you consider that the bulk of the return on his investment of time and effort could take years to arrive. That said, it's also true that nowadays the common wisdom for new writers is never sign with an agent who demands up-front fees to market your work. The way it's supposed to work today is that you sign with an agent who then markets and hopefully sells your work, and then after you have a publisher's contract, the agent collects the check, takes out his or her standard 15% (domestic), or roughly 20% (foreign) share of the advance, and sends the rest to you. The agent will also send out 1099 forms, so it should all go very smoothly. Bottom line: she gets paid when you get paid.
Scam artists: Plenty of writers have been scammed by agents who claimed to need a "reading fee" to cover expenses so they could market an author's work; but after the writers sent in the money, they ended up with no feedback, no publishing contract, and indeed, no representation. In many cases, the so-called agents hadn't even sent out the manuscript at all; they'd charged the author money and done nothing to earn it. These are the false agents who made the original legitimate fee-charging agents look bad. There are scam artists in any field, and publishing is no exception; don't be taken in by one. Check the aforementioned "Preditors and Editors" site to make sure the agent of your dreams is legit and not--like the Pooka of Irish legend--about to take you on a wild, scary ride and then dump you in the mud.
The strongest recommendation I can make is that if you get the chance, go to a writers' conference and meet agents in person. Make appointments with them and put your very best foot forward on what amounts to a literary speed date. It's the best way I've ever found to find out how well you click with a particular agent. I've spoken to some I'm very glad I didn't sign with; we'd have driven each other nuts inside the first six months. I've also spoken to some I admired very much and found articulate, confident and professional. Some very good agents attend conferences to meet new writers. In fact, at a writers' conference a few years ago, I met the man who became my agent and remains my agent today. It's like any job interview; you can meet and hire people via snail mail or over the internet, but if you can meet them in person, it makes a big difference. Another advantage of pitching to an agent at a conference is that it takes out the whole query letter process and skips you straight to the submission stage--always a good thing in the slow-grinding world of publishing.
That's all I have for today. Good hunting.
Posted by KHurley at 10:51 PM
I spent quite a long time last night reading on the Internet, trying to determine the standards--if there are any--by which POV "should" be determined for urban fantasy. What I concluded is that there technically isn't a standard, though most urban fantasy does seem to be written in first person. It isn't a rule handed down by publishers; it's just become so commonplace as to be the prevalent choice in UF.
One very kind individual explained that the possible main reason so much urban fantasy started being written in first person is that the books often come across like a detective story, where the detective is relating the story after the fact. Put like that, it makes since. Even the old TV show "Mike Hammer" was narrated--supposedly by the character, Hammer--in first person.
I find, though, that I prefer third person POV. Oddly enough, I find that first person distances me from the character rather than bringing me closer. I feel that third person done right can actually be more intimate than first person, since you don't always have the feeling that the character is sitting there talking to you, telling you after the fact about events you weren't part of. With third person, I feel more as though I'm there watching events unfold as they happen. With first or with third, the narrative is almost always in past tense, so really, the feeling of distance is a product of how well (or badly) the author managed to get me, the reader, inside the main character's head.
Any other opinions on the POV subject? Likes, dislikes, preferences? I'd especially appreciate any comment on POV as it relates to urban fantasy or paranormal fiction of any kind.
Posted by KHurley at 10:33 PM
Friday, May 09, 2008
The family and I went to see Iron Man tonight. Needless to say, we all enjoyed it, and I see why it's being so well received. Loved, loved, loved Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. I guess it's not hard to tell I like superhero movies, but even so, I thought this one in particular was just very well done.
Now that I've raved, I still have a scene to write for Shifts. I have a distinct feeling that I need to get this book done, pronto.
Posted by KHurley at 1:39 AM
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Of course, after I sent the agent article to the Briggs', I found typos, a repeated word and smart quotes mixed in with normal quotes. Grrr. This can sometimes be my M.O.--sending things in before they're perfectly polished--and I need to stop that! The good news is that if all goes well, they'll soon have my article up on the Hurog site.
For this blog, I promised to post a similar article on Finding the Right Agent. I still mean to get to that, but I'm so close to the end of Chapter 17 of Shifts right now that I think I'll write the last scene in that chapter first. Then I'll be only three chapters out from completing Shifts of Perception, which is fantastic. I'm already starting to get psyched for starting the next Brenna book, and there just might be the faintest beginnings of a completely new book germinating in the back of my mind. Only faint beginnings, mind. I won't know whether it's even worth pursuing until the literary seedlings start poking up into the sunlight--and even then it might be something far different than what I thought it was. It's like seeing a glimmer of light through the trees--you don't know what it really is, yet, until it either comes charging out at you or you follow it into the unknown and see where you end up. Sounds like being pixie-led, doesn't it? Inspiration is like that sometimes.
Posted by KHurley at 1:39 AM
Saturday, May 03, 2008
I finished the article on how to get an agent and got it sent off to the Briggs' via email. It may need tweaking, but otherwise it's done and a promise kept. It'll appear under my name on their website at some point. When it's up and there's a URL, I'll provide that. It was kind of fun, actually. It's amazing how much information needs to be in an article like that; I kept finding things that probably would have been great to include, but which I had to either cut short or just cut altogether. I'm glad I'm not writing a non-fiction how-to book; it would be hard to decide what goes in and what stays out.
Now all I need is to get Shifts finished, and I can start in on the next Brenna book.
Posted by KHurley at 11:06 PM
Monday, April 28, 2008
I had lunch and went shopping with a writer friend today--something I don't usually get to do. That was fun. While we had lunch, though, we talked about what makes a main character appealing to us. Oddly enough, I have an easier time writing my male characters than writing my female characters. I'm not sure why. But one thing I want to see in a protagonist of either sex is strength. Not perfection or even the illusion of perfection, but strength of character, inner fortitude, determination, and a strong sense of self. I'm not big on whiny characters, characters with huge chips on their shoulders, or self-absorbed, shallow characters. If I think a character is pathetic or any class of a wimp, I won't like her enough to care about her. I want to be able to admire my character, even while I'm watching what she's going through and feeling really glad not to be in her shoes. So why do I have trouble writing female characters who embody all the things I admire and who I'd be proud to have a conversation with? Sometimes, despite multiple rewrites, my heroines fail to win the sympathy of my crit group in the beginning of the book, and that could potentially be a fatal flaw. I can't afford fatal flaws--not at this stage of the game, and not ever from here on out.
Now, here's the confusing part. I'm drawn to strong characters, so in the opening of my second Brenna book, I had written her as coming across strong and confident, especially given the life-changing events of the first book. The main gripe one of my crit partners had was that Brenna seemed a little too flip, and not quite vulnerable enough. Granted, she's just been through quite a lot at the end of From the Ninth Wave, so she probably should be a little more vulnerable there than I'd portrayed her, but.... Now I need to go back and see whether I can strike a different balance--or perhaps see whether that opening even works at all. I thought it did, but maybe it didn't. I don't know.
I was still puzzling over it after I took my friend home, so I went to the bookstore and found a book on characters, and one specifically on hooking readers at the beginning of the book. Now it's study time, on top of the other research I was doing for the next Brenna book. If Brenna can't win friends and influence people, I'm sunk. On the other hand, I could just be overthinking things again. But either way, it can't hurt for me to brush up my opening gambits and character intros.
Note for any beginning writers: no matter how many years you work in this field, you never stop learning the craft. The moment you're convinced that you have no need to improve and you know it all is the moment you should throw away your keyboard. This is a craft that keeps shifting and evolving as times and tastes change, so no writer has an excuse to stagnate. And yet, these "new" techniques are as old as the very first fireside storytellers. It's all in continually learning--or perhaps rediscovering--the techniques that bring your worlds and characters to robust and compelling life.
Posted by KHurley at 11:50 PM
Friday, April 18, 2008
Sorry I haven't posted in a while. There hasn't been a lot to report on the writing front. It does look like I may have a chance to get an article published in a local magazine, though. I've only written a couple of non-fiction magazine type articles before, published in very small newsletters and unpaid except in copies. This article wouldn't be paid either, but it would be my name in print in a bigger magazine than the aforementioned newsletters. Credits will do fine...(waving hand in a persuasive, Jedi-like fashion.)
If I do the article--which at this stage is still up to me concerning whether I think I'll have enough interesting info to submit--it will be on our local farmers' markets. I'll be taking my own pictures, too. The first farmers' market of the season is this weekend, with the other two opening on each of the following subsequent weekends. So that makes it a three week project. We'll see how it goes; at this early date, there might be more artisans than food, and I really want to focus on the local food angle. So I might wait to submit it until the season gets a little later and there's more local produce available for sale. Still not sure exactly how I want to do this one, but since it's my own choice of assignment and subject, I can put it together however I want. If it's appropriate for the magazine, then it'll most likely get published, or so I've been told. I don't know how much an article of this nature will help me out there in urban fantasy fiction land, but a credit's a credit.
Mike Briggs has also asked me to revamp an informative post I made on Patty's forum, so that they can use said post on her main site. It'll be on the subject of queries and submissions to agents, right in line with an article I was already planning for this blog, so again serendipity strikes.
Payin' it forward, payin' it forward.... Any good vibes boomeranging back at me yet??? Just kidding--sort of.
Posted by KHurley at 2:36 AM
Thursday, April 03, 2008
I've been asked to do some articles on various topics of interest to new authors, so today I'll be addressing the dilemma most authors face at some time or another: whether representation is necessary, and why.
You've completed your manuscript, and now you aren't sure what to do next. Do you get an agent, or go straight for the publishers? Is an agent really necessary anyway? Can you or should you represent yourself?
Possible Pitfalls of Solo Navigation: The Moxie and I recently met a lady who has had several books published. At first blush, that sounded great. Good for her; congratulations were definitely in order. Or were they? She went on to tell us that she hadn't gotten much of an advance for her books, and she'd signed away quite a few rights she shouldn't have, leaving her with very limited royalties. She admitted she hadn't understood her contract--which gives me the notion that she probably didn't have an agent to navigate her safely through the Boilerplate Sea. If anyone's making money off her books, it's not the author.
Gated Community Access: Will publishers look at work from authors who don't have agents? Yes; some will. But many more will not, and openly state that their houses are not interested in seeing work from unrepresented authors. When there is a pile of unrepresented, unrequested submissions on the editor's desk, it's called the slush pile. It's the last thing that gets looked at (if at all) after all the requested, represented submissions have been read. Yes, there are lucky authors who have been discovered and published out of the slush pile. But from articles I've read and things I've heard editors say at writers' conferences, it's rare and has gotten even more so over the last fifteen years. You may need an agent to get your foot into the right door. It reminds me of that Harry Potter scene where he tries and tries to get the right winged key--without which he cannot pass through the door ahead. It might not be an easy key to nab, but once you have it, you can finally continue on. (Note: no agents are to be harmed in the pursuit of the winged key--if you recall, that key looked pretty beat up once Harry finally captured it.)
Contract Matters: You might have heard that editors go to writers' conferences and take pitches from aspiring authors. Yes, they do. I've talked to one or two in the dim and foggy past. I've even had one ask to see a manuscript. Did I get an editor to look at my work without an agent? Yes. Would I have known how to decipher the publishing contract had she offered me one? No, not really. I would have paid close attention to the language and tried my best, but...would I trust myself to negotiate the best deal? No. I'm a good businesswoman, but I'm not sure I'm good enough to gamble my writing career on my ability to understand all the possible issues and ramifications inherent in a legal contract. I could miss the fatal clause and end up like that poor woman with many books and little to no royalties. It's just not a risk I want to take. In fact, if I'd gotten a publishing contract at that time, I'd have immediately called an agent I'd met before and asked him if he'd handle the contract for me. Often, even when unpublished authors do manage to make it to the offer stage, publishers will then ask them to go and find an agent to negotiate the contract. It's just easier for all concerned. And the agent will also handle royalty issues and send out 1099 forms.
So, do you really need an agent? At the outset, technically, no. You can go through the process alone, with the right contacts and no small amount of luck and good planning. But somewhere along the line, you'll probably discover that you want or need an agent. There's a lot to be said for avoiding contract pitfalls, not to mention having a strong advocate for your book other than yourself--someone with a vested interest in getting you the best contract possible and seeing that you don't sell yourself short.
Best advice I can offer--go for the agent first, if you can. Agents can function like a sort of first screening for the editor. Chances are, if the manuscript was good enough to hook an agent, it's quite a cut above your average slush, and the publisher will be much more likely to take a serious look.
Upcoming Hot Topic: Finding the Right Agent
Posted by KHurley at 9:35 PM
Friday, March 28, 2008
This week I'm participating in a marathon on the writers' site called Forward Motion. The marathon is called--rather aptly--March Madness. Goals vary, but the first level requires a minimum of 1000 words a day for a 7000-word week total. So far, I have 3608 toward that goal...and I finished pruning all the roses today. Yay for me.
If that were all I currently needed to accomplish, I'd have it made, but life is never quite that simple. There's always more to do, more squeeky wheels that need to be oiled. Modern life is its own kind of marathon. Kind of makes a person wish for the days when things were simpler. Most people weren't driving thither and yon using up all the fossil fuel on the planet, people lived at a slower pace and went about their lives in a more mindful fashion, and just about anyone who actually found time to write could get published.
Now back to your regularly scheduled rat race....
Posted by KHurley at 4:02 AM
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I called my agent today and found out where Ninth Wave's been submitted. Let's just say...it's in good hands. All I can do at this point is wait, and let everyone do their jobs. And then we'll see.
In the meantime, I'm also nearly finished with Shifts--within five chapters, anyway. I had to write the current scene in two sessions because one half is a bittersweet romantic interlude and the next half is where the POV character's world falls apart as she faces her worst nightmare. The mood of the scene changes so completely that it wasn't possible for me to do both parts in the same writing session.
Posted by KHurley at 3:24 PM
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Okay, so the brave little tailor actually killed seven flies with one blow, but the concept's the same. I knocked off six pages during the wee hours last night and finished the entire first scene of Chapter 15. Then I paid for it by sleeping all day. It was worth it, though. Some scenes come in bits and pieces, fits and starts of maybe a hundred or so words each. Those, I have to go through later and groom to make sure they flow the way they should. But the ones I really love are the ones that just use me to get themselves written. I start writing, and the story flows through my fingers, and the next thing I know, it's two or three hours later and the scene is complete from beginning to end, in one seamless whole. It's the holy grail for writers--being "in flow." Time just seems to stop, and magic happens. This experience is what keeps me writing and give me the impetus to go on even through the fits-and-starts kinds of scenes--the promise that sooner or later, the muse will strike and there'll be a flow scene to balance things out.
Posted by KHurley at 6:09 PM
Thursday, March 06, 2008
The problem with some scenes is that sometimes even when you know what is supposed to happen, you don't exactly know how. I've arrived at one of the pivotal scenes in the book, and I'm not sure exactly how the pre-showdown showdown between my heroine and the villain plays out.
I know she has to surprise him, and then he has to surprise her in turn, causing an unexpected turn of events.... And if you're still reading this after that particularly non-informative bit of information, bless you. Even though this book has no contract on the table, I still can't get too spoilerific, just in case the situation changes later. But I can say that my heroine's run-in with the villain right here changes the course of several relationships between characters, and begins to set the scene for the final confrontation a few chapters later. So I need to do it right. It can't drag or have too long of a lead-in.
I just started watching Series 5 of Ballykissangel on DVD, so my mind really isn't in Oantra at the moment (which might be part of the problem with this scene.) My mind is in Ireland tonight. It's with my urban fantasy character Brenna and the possible plot for the new manuscript. And it's in New York also, wondering what's happening with the current manuscript and the publishers. Wondering whether I'll be taking my second trip to Ireland anytime soon, and whether it'll be for business or pleasure--or the perfect combination thereof.
Everything's just...poised...at that horrible "hurry up and wait" stage. It's not spring yet, but neither is it winter. My summer tomato seedlings are up, but they can't be planted outside yet or they'll freeze. My book hasn't got an offer I know about, but it's still in the early stages of being shopped around, while meanwhile I read about book after book being bought from other fantasy writers by some of the houses I hope will offer for mine. Everything's just up in the air, and...poised. Like a vulture on a cliff. (Thanks, Amergin.)
My epic fantasy character, Raena, and I are in the same boat right now. She's headed up a dark staircase, about to encounter the unknown. And I'm staring up another dark staircase--the ladder to publication that leads to a different type of unknown. I just hope that what awaits me is considerably more pleasant than what awaits Raena.
Posted by KHurley at 3:07 AM
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Last week was extremely busy, and this coming weekend is going to be even more so. Despite all the craziness--mostly involving the dentist, a Girl Scout Thinking Day costume, a belly dance performance and a contest submission--I did manage to get another scene written for Shifts last week. I'm going to work on the next scene a little tonight, though the cold I caught isn't helping matters.
I remember one time I was so miserable with a cold, I wrote a cold into the manuscript--infected one of my characters just for...I don't know...spite, maybe. But a cold doesn't fit into any part of the scene I'm writing now, so even if misery loves company, I won't have any this time around.
At least after this weekend, the kids' piano Festival will be over for another year, as will my younger daughter's Irish Dance recital. Maybe after this weekend, I can make up for some lost time--though as the contest submission was for a writers' contest, I can't exactly say that I made zero progress this last week-and-a-half.
Posted by KHurley at 12:09 AM
Thursday, February 21, 2008
You've probably heard the rule "kill your darlings." It doesn't mean that you have to nix every sentence that you find particularly grand and wonderful. While every writer may have a tendency to wax flowery and verbose now and then, not everything that comes out of those wild moments of inspiration is garbage. It's just that sometimes we love our work so very much that we lose the ability to see when something we wrote just isn't hitting the mark--or when it's hit the mark so hard that the mark has been obliterated.
I've thrown out pages before, and I'll do it again. It's just sad that the words on the page--or this blog, for that matter--represent minutes of my life that I'll never get back. I hate throwing out words because when I do that, I'm throwing away minutes, half-hours, hours of precious time. But when it's necessary to make the story better, it's necessary, full stop.
What brought this on? I'm about to kill a page. Not too much of a sacrifice; it could have been a whole scene or chapter. But I didn't get a lot of writing time today, and man, do I hate to throw it down the virtual shredder.
I started the scene in the wrong place, is all. Sometimes it's necessary to expend effort on something that later must be ditched. If it helps you find your starting point or better understand a character or situation, then it was worth the sacrifice. The paragraph or page or scene was a casualty of writing. But it's okay; revision is part of writing. Often, it's not the writing that's great, but the rewriting.
Posted by KHurley at 12:41 AM
Monday, February 18, 2008
Between what I wrote during the wee hours last night and the last couple of hours this afternoon, I've got almost eight pages for today. This last scene, which I wrote in two sessions, wrapped up one...no, two...of my plot threads, and comprised the end of Chapter 13--all twenty pages of it. I'm past the middle of the book, and now things are moving rapidly toward the climax. Literally. There's a big sex scene coming up in Chapter 15...but that's still about a week away. I'm averaging about a chapter per week lately, which is good. If I can keep up this pace and still get the kids through their schoolwork, the book should be finished by about May 1.
It's so good to be writing in the Ondine universe again, and so good to be nearly finished with my trilogy. No matter what happens, at least I'll have done that. An entire epic fantasy trilogy. Cool. At this stage, I'll celebrate whatever accomplishments I can.
Now I need to go run a few errands, while it's still daylight.
Posted by KHurley at 3:55 PM
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I got nearly five pages today, and during the afternoon, at that. Gary came home early from his work to take the kids to their piano class (it helps when you're one of the owners of the business) and so I was alone in a quiet house for a whole hour-and-a-half. I worked through the must-putter-online stage and into making actual pages before they got home, but most of the pages I got today actually came into being after the family had returned. About three-and-a half pages into the scene, Gary walked into the room with a big bouquet of roses. I wasn't quite done with my scene, but...no way was I going to yell at my husband when he had roses in his hands! He can interrupt me with tea, food, or flowers if he wants. It's the surest way not to get snapped at...approach the feral writer with caution, preferably bearing gifts. Well, the roses are not a standard day's fare--they're for Valentines' Day, but hey, it bears noting that I can be successfully bribed.
And then, of course, I do love the man. After sixteen years together, I'd better. So, all in all, a good day. The roses are beautiful. So are the five pages.
Posted by KHurley at 7:40 PM
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
A blog reader asked a good question the other day. Exactly how did I get myself into this mess, anyway? Okay, maybe mess wasn't the exact term used, but...basically, who the heck am I and how did I get into the writing gig?
Without going into my life history and boring everyone stiff, here's the short version. I started writing at about age five--short stories and such. Nothing all that stellar, but at least it established the habit of writing creatively. I wrote my first novel at the age of sixteen--a short, sweet little confection about unicorns, which shall forever remain in my closet--unless someone drags it out after my death just to see how bad it was. I messed with that for about eight more years, as I went through college and tried to have a "normal" career as a nurse. About the time I got burnt out on the nursing, I got married and decided to have a couple of kids. During that time frame I wrote another novel--another closet feature I'd be embarrassed to have anyone read nowadays. Good practice, though. I racked up lots of rejections from agents during that time--thank goodness. If anyone had actually picked up that turkey of a book, I'd be really worried about his or her judgment.
The real training ground began during the period from 1997 to about 2001, while my two kids were small. As soon as I could reliably leave them with their father for entire weekends without me, I started attending writers' conferences and pitching my third novel to agents. A few looked at it and I got a few encouraging compliments. No takers, though.
During this time I also got a few good comments (one was even from Marion Zimmer Bradley) on short stories I wrote and sent to the various fantasy magazines. But again, no sales. With MZB, I apparently missed it by a hair. I got the rejection letter that read, "This is a perfectly good story...unfortunately I have already purchased something similar...."
When I could not sell any of my short stories, I started a miniature book business, Pookatales Press, and sold the short stories in mini-book format for mini-book collectors and collectors of dollhouse miniatures. This didn't result in a large print run, as I hand-bound the volumes myself, but it did give me a way to be paid for my stories at last, and gave me experience in running my own small business.
My fourth novel was called Aspects of Illusion, and garnered some attention from an editor at Roc, who said if I revised it, she'd look at it again, or alternatively, she'd look at anything else I wrote. Now I was finally getting somewhere! I went to more conferences, took more classes, notably agent Don Maass's "Breakout Novel" classes, revised again, and finally hit the jackpot. The revised fourth novel gained the attention of Bob Mecoy during the fall of 2002. He became my agent and has stuck with me ever since, for which I am eternally grateful. Aspects of Illusion is the first of an epic fantasy trilogy. I have since written the middle book, called Shadows of Memory, and currently I'm halfway through the third book, Shifts of Perception. Unfortunately, all we've managed to get for these books are compliments partnered with regrets from publishers that they did not have a spot to offer us in the lineup. Epic fantasy has proven to be a hard sell, and these books are fairly lengthy, which no doubt doesn't help matters. First-time authors have a hard time publishing at lengths of more than 100,000 words. I am finishing the trilogy because I still believe in it, and because maybe at some point its day will finally come.
In 2006-2007, I wrote a new book in the urban fantasy genre, called From the Ninth Wave. This one is sleek and fast, and happens to be in a genre that is still hot and still doing well in the marketplace. In December of 2007, I completed the last revisions that Bob asked for, and by now it'll be going out to publishers. I'm at the wait and see stage with this one, so while I'm waiting to hear the initial feedback on it, I'm finishing the epic trilogy so it's done and out of the buffer. Next on the docket is to plot a second book in the urban fantasy world of my character, Brenna Callahan, so if someone picks up the first one, there'll be the possibility of more Brenna books in the future.
That's about it! No awards, no legitimate publications, no track record except that of hard work and stubborn, stubborn persistence. My entire career to date is riding on this new book--so any positive energy sent in its direction is greatly appreciated! In a few months, weeks, or days, we'll have a much better idea of just how much longer I'll be an unpublished writer. The one sure thing is that I'll be a writer for the rest of my life, and one day, my books will be on the shelves. Then I'll be out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Posted by KHurley at 7:49 PM