Posts Tagged ‘Charity MacCay’


Bad Query Day

on September 22, 2014 in Misc 8 Comments »

Well, that was embarrassing.

I pay my bills.  I pay all of them on time or early.  Really I do.  But my pal Alfonso who maintains the tech part of my blog was out of town and didn’t see the notice that the payment for keeping my blog up was due and you saw the result.  But he’s back home now and I’m back.

So now I can go ahead and tell you that last week was pretty rotten for me because…

That agent turned down my book.

reject letter

What a blow.  And after several months of waiting and that mix-up.  I mean, she read Charity MacCay and so did a second reader at her agency.  And then in a sweet email she praised my book and especially the lead character—and I mean she gushed about Charity’s story.  But in the end she felt sure that I would find another agent who could better represent it.

Crap. Crap crap crap.

I mean, I do realize that my novel blurs a couple genre borders, which can make some people in the business nervous.  And I don’t think that particular agent deals with humorous books or knows editors who do.  Charity is definitely a funny, irreverent book about America circa the Gilded Age.

newspaper

Sigh.  And crap.

But on the bright side, for once I didn’t wallow in self-pity or grief.  Instead I turned off my emotions and got business-like and spent my lunch hour sending out four more queries.

And that’s when an agent emailed me back and asked to see my complete manuscript for Charity!

That was the fastest request from an agent ever for me, and oh, how it made me feel better!  Then in the next couple days I got out still a couple more queries.  And this week I’ll get out more.

I hope all of you had a better week than I did, complete with books sales and agents and editors clamoring for your stories.  Got some good personal news for me?  I’d love to hear it.

Sigmund Freud once asked with frustration, “What do women want?”

beck squareAccording to book sales we want Fifty Shades of Grey.  (This SO doesn’t include me.)  In which a young woman signs a contract that forces her to do bad sexual stuff with a gorgeous billionaire who can buy her all the designer shoes she wants.  (And you thought Cinderella was a silly fairy tale.)

According to suspense writer Lee Child, mega seller among women, we want justice and / or revenge.  And also please a passing-through-town handsome hero who takes a middle-aged woman as a lover and sees her for how wonderful she is.

Oh wait, that’s also the plot for the gazillion-selling Bridges of Madison County.

Finally, there are literary bestsellers like The Help and The Invention of Wings.  In which women rebel against nasty conformists and do what’s right and make the mean lady eat shit pie.  Literally.

Then there’s my elderly religious mother who called me up when she finished reading my second Charity MacCay manuscript and exclaimed, “I’m so glad Charity shot that man!”

Gee, Mom, thanks.  Glad you like the deadly part.

See, what I’m exploring in last week’s post and today’s is how most women secretly want to be sorta bad in a glamorous, sexy, power-wielding way.  NOT a trashy Lindsey Lohan way.  We want bad with class.

Oh sure, we admire saintly ladies like Mother Theresa and Jane Goodall.  But try marketing a book with a heroine like that.  When Angelina Jolie played a noble heroine in the movie A Mighty Heart, it did little business, but her bad-girl kick-ass movies have been hits.

The fact is, most women—and most men too—want a woman in a story to have a dark side.  Like Kate Beckinsale in those vamp-in-leather flicks (see photo above).  This is why Scarlet O’Hara is the heroine of Gone With the Wind and NOT nice innocent Melanie.

So I figure that to be good at marketing my upcoming books I’ve gotta go bad.  Emphasize why Charity is NOT always a lady.

This is where fiction meets reality.

As you know, I’m in the final editing stages of Charity MacCay.  I got some work done on it this weekend but not as much as I’d like because…

a) I had so much other work and stuff to do (does that sound familiar to all of us?), and

b) my concentration was kinda whacked because of drugs.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what drugs.  There was the little pink pill the dental assistant gave me, the shots in the mouth that my dentist said would hurt a little but really HURT LIKE HELL!  And then there was the second little pink pill I asked for and quickly swallowed like it was manna from heaven.  The assistant told me its name but I don’t remember it.

This was Thursday morning, and my brain doesn’t recall a whole lot else.  There was the painful check I wrote out to the dentist three hours later.  And I know there had to be the hour-long drive home with my friend at the wheel ’cause legally I couldn’t operate heavy machinery.  My friend swears that during the hour I was was fun and funny.  While it’s satisfying to know I can be entertaining even while stoned out of my gourd, it’s also unnerving not to remember a word I said.  I slept the rest of the day, couldn’t sleep at all Saturday night, and only now am I feeling completely normal.

You know what?  Tomorrow I’m going to review the chapters I edited this weekend because maybe I only THOUGHT I was functioning like a normal writer.  For all I know I was really a blithering twit.

See, I keep having flashbacks (pun intended) of high school and college when friends would get high or tipsy and write poems and stories that they thought were really good.  But if a sober person like you read them you’d think, What is this crap?

So maybe it’s good that I DIDN’T get much editing done the last couple days.  You all know how tough editing your own work can be, and you have to be sharp as a razor while doing it.  Well, only now are those happy little pink pills out of my system.  Or at least I hope they are ’cause I’m writing this blog.

Have any of you ever had some weird medicated moments, especially of the literary kind?

Literary Mistress

on November 19, 2012 in Misc 10 Comments »

“When you take calls from women for the Chairman of the Board, make sure you never, ever confuse his mistress with his wife.”

Sounds like a line from a novel, doesn’t it? One of those trashy, dirty tomes we don’t like to admit we read.  But nope, I received this warning years ago on my first day of a temp job in the executive department of an oil company.

I never did meet that Chairman since he only flew in to Colorado from New York a couple times a year.  But the company still maintained a swank office for him, and in it was a framed photo of his mistress.  She was dark haired, pretty, and looked to be in her thirties.  He was around sixty.

Some time later I had another temp job at a bigger oil company, again working with the top execs.  I figured out pretty quickly that the CEO had either a mistress or the occasional, expensive call girl.  Why? Among the many reasons, he was barely on speaking terms with his wife.  One day she called me and asked to speak with her husband.  I told her he was in Canada and would be there for a week.  These two people lived in the same house.

Anyway, the reason I’m talking about mistresses isn’t just because the news outlets have gone gaga over the General Petraeus scandal, although I do appreciate the irony of his biography’s title, “All In” – written by his mistress.

No, the fact is, I’m just happy about how this latest sex-and-power scandal reassures me that I got a similar situation right in my novel, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar (that’s the manuscript I told you I’m editing).  It’s set in New York in 1867-1868, and Charity has dust-ups with several real-life people, including the notorious mistress of the robber baron Jim Fisk.  Fisk was married and lived in New York while his wife happily resided with a female companion in Boston.  Historians assume the wife and companion were lesbian lovers.

So much for the idea that people lived prim and proper lives back in the old days.

Now personally, I love how as a writer I sometimes don’t have to invent anything in order to tell a whopping story.

But on the downside, there are always the sad cases of people like Mrs. Petraeus, a woman who as a military wife moved the family 24 times in about as many years.  Who works like hell.  Who is no longer a hot, sexy young thing that can go on five-mile runs with her husband – the way his mistress can.  I wonder if Mrs P is ever tempted these days to shoot Mr. P?

That’s what happened to Fisk, in a roundabout way.  His mistress cheated on him with a more handsome, dashing man who in a jealous rage shot and killed Fisk.

How about you – is there anything in the news that you can put in a novel?  Funny how even science fiction or paranormal stories sometimes seem to predict a news story or scandal that’s just around the corner.

I now have a handy dandy weapon that I can use against marauding zombies and vampires.

In fact, it’s a lot like weapons you see in shows like Grimm or movies likeVan Helsing.

Okay, so that’s a double-decker special pistol crossbow.  It’s used for delivering two different arrows with two different poisons into monsters.  The one I got looks like this…

The reason I bought this before buying a real archery set is simply the price.  This small pistol crossbow was only about $35, and a few dozen arrows for it came to less than $10.  The REAL bow I want will be about $450.   That purchase simply can’t happen for a while, especially with my latest car repair expenses and the physical therapy I have to pay for until my insurance says the deductible has been met.  (I haven’t told you about my jacked left hip, have I?  I’ll leave that story for another posting.)

On the serious side, this pistol crossbow may look like a toy but it really is a weapon.  The bow I’ve used in archery is only a 15 pound pull, and the bow I’d like will be 20 pounds.  Yet this little crossbow has an 80 pound pull!  So I haven’t even been able to fire mine yet because I can’t get the cord into place.  The instructions recommend that two people string the thing:  one person bends the bow part while another person handles the cord.  My friend Rich has agreed to help me do this tomorrow night.  Then maybe I can practice target shooting in his back yard.  Unlike the assembling, firing this thing will be easy:  there’s a cocking mechanism and a safety latch.  But I’ll have to be very careful because the small dart-like arrows can go an inch deep into a telephone book.

Anyway, Layla would know how to use a weapon like this, and in fact she has a slightly larger crossbow with which she can fire anchored climbing ropes into high places.  So pistol crossbows are not just for vampire hunters.

And on the subject of writing…

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m editing the first of two historical novels, Charity MaCacy and the Almighty Dollar.  I’ve discovered that I’m really enjoying this final editing and polishing stage.  In fact, I’m enjoying it so much that I sometimes put it off because I feel guilty.  I mean, if I’m having fun then I can’t really be working.  Writing is tough.  Writing is challenging.  How can you be productive if you’re having a good time?

Okay, that sounds weird.  But in my defense, I think a lot of us have buried deep down inside us a nagging Puritan who tells us to work and sweat and suffer and strain.

But you know what?  It is so nice for a change not to be in pain for “my art.”  Suffering artists are SO overrated.  Besides, maybe if I’m having such a good time editing this novel, readers will have a good time reading it.

And that’s just what I want.

How’s your own writing going?  Very well, I hope.

There’s a traffic light camera I want to take out.  Take out as in smash it to smithereens.

It’s one of those automated cameras set up at busy crossroads that flashes a bright, distracting beam if you run a just-turning-red light.  Or as in my case, when you stop for the red light but not quite perfectly because your front tires are just over the white line.  Which is still considered a traffic violation so you get a $75 fine.

This is what happened to me a few months ago.  Ever since then, when I stop at that intersection I coldly study the two dark, evil-looking camera poles placed on two of the corners.  I assess how easy it would be to reach up to the bottom-most lights on them and with a hammer slam their glasses into tiny fragments.  Or spray-paint them into uselessness.  Or maybe stand across the street and shoot them out with an arrow (when my aim gets better and I can afford a good bow).  Of course I would only be able to do this in the middle of the night.  And I’d have to use gloves so that I don’t leave any fingerprints.

This may sound twisted, but nailing down the details of this fantasy makes me happy.

Remember when I talked in this blog about the noisy-as-hell neighbors across the street, the ones who had LOUD parties at all hours?  In that case too I fantasized about revenge-like vandalism.  Then those neighbors moved away.  Everyone in the neighborhood sang songs of joy.  Yet much as I too was relieved, I was also a little sad. I mean, I had wanted to DO something to those sleep wrecking party people.  Something admittedly childish but also aggressive and like nothing I’ve ever done.  Hell, I WANTED TO BREAK THE LAW!

That’s one of the problems with growing up as a Good Girl.  I did plenty of adventurous stuff, but I was always law-abiding. So what do I do as an adult?  I create characters like Layla Daltry or Charity MacCay, women who can’t be bothered with laws that stand in the way of what they want.

You know what?  I really, truly want to know what that’s like.  I even suspect that these small revenge fantasies I have are, in a way, baby steps I should take in order to move on to something much bigger and bolder.  Of course, if I go ahead and act on any of law-breaking fantasies I won’t be able to write about them here, which is kind of ironic.  But maybe that would be good for me.  No writing, just living.

I suspect a lot of you writers have your own secrets you’d like to live out.  Am I right?

Kick in the Gut

on September 4, 2012 in Misc 8 Comments »

Have you ever had a stranger rip apart one of your manuscripts?

That happened to me this last week and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut.

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I have two manuscripts I’m editing for self-publication: Charity Macay and the Almighty Dollar, and a sequel to it, Charity MacCay and Holy Relations.  They’re funny, rollicking tales set in New York and elsewhere in the late 1860’s.  I’m very proud of them, and after some effort I finally convinced a few friends and a family member to read them.  To be clear, these are people who, if they don’t like something, will absolutely tell me.  They’ll be kind and diplomatic, but they’ll give me their honest reactions and try to be helpful (“Maybe you can fix the story…”).

They all LOVED Charity MacCay.

Loved as in carrying the manuscripts back and forth to work, or staying up into the wee hours to read them, or calling me up or emailing a reaction as soon as he/she finished one.  They also marveled that they had never read anything quite like these two novels.  So I started feeling pretty confident.

But then one of these friends sent a manuscript to a friend back East; seems this woman is a successful freelance magazine editor.

Her reaction?  She delivered a kick right to my solar plexus.

After saying something about how the story kept her going, she proceeded to deliver a hatchet job.  How she just didn’t “get” this character Charity or why did Charity make such bad decisions, and she compared her unfavorably to Scarlet O’Hara, who doesn’t make such mistakes because she is “cold and calculating.”

Well, here’s a newsflash: CHARITY IS NOTHING LIKE SCARLET O’HARA! ON PURPOSE!

Also, I have too many minor characters (something no else thought), too much description (again, no one else had this impression), too much vernacular speech (gee, obviously I hadn’t done my homework after reading about 50+ non-fiction books on the period, including ones from the 1860’s that I could only access on microfilm).  Finally, she recommended that I read Edith Wharton in order to learn how to write description and dialogue.

OMG, I don’t write like Edith Wharton?  I have committed a literary crime!  By the way, Edith Wharton puts me to sleep.

My first reaction upon reading this woman’s email was to feel as if I’d been stabbed and left to bleed to death.  Then I broke down her points. There were, admittedly, a couple good ones about a couple scenes.  But the rest of her opinion was flat out insulting.  I didn’t write another Gone with the Wind?  I didn’t scribble an Edith Wharton tome?  NO SHIT SHERLOCK!

Ultimately, what this “professional’s” opinion did to me was remind me why I’m self-publishing.  Among other reasons, I would have to compare in a query letter my manuscripts to books that are already out there.  I must make sure they fit neatly into a specific genre.  I must have a “product” that a publisher’s marketing department would know how to sell.

But what if I’ve written something that can’t be easily pigeonholed?  What if I’ve created something that’s kind of – oh, I don’t know… original?

Since at this point I’m waxing sarcastic, I figure it’s time to sign off.  I’ll just end by adding that this experience has also made me even more sympathetic with my fellow writers who have had similar experiences at the hands of “professionals.”

I feel for you.