Friday, November 30, 2012

Through The Outhouse Window Video Blog - Episode #7

Let's talk about agents.  Literary agents, that is.

In this 7th episode of the video blog called Through The Outhouse Window, I discuss just that, as well as my quest to researching my own agent.


Happenings In The Outhouse 30-Nov-2012 / Ye Olde Agent Search



And more agents.

That's what my life has been like since completing Beholder's Eye.  I'm having fun too.

My approach this time around is different than any other time I've done the "ol' agent search."  How?  Let me share a little--I don't want to give too much away at this point, because much of it is still experimental on my part.

First of all, let's get this out right away.  Being a literary agent is not a 9-5 job.  I follow quite a number of agents on Facebook and Twitter, and many are tweeting about their work late into the evening.  It irks me when I hear other people grumble about their job, and that they can't wait for five o'clock to roll around because "they're outta here!"  Being an agent (or even a book editor, for that matter) is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  They get bombarded with queries and sample manuscript chapters, forever searching for that one gem they can polish up to try sell to a publisher.

That involves a lot of reading.

And they love it.

My "ol' agent search" involved pouring through the latest Guide to Literary Agents and Writer's Digest, and writing down any agents that was interested in the genre I was trying to publish.  I would give an extra star if they were looking for new/unpublished authors as well as a quick turnaround time and electronic submissions--believe it or not, even as of a few years ago, most agents wanted queries mailed to them with an SASE.

Nowadays, times have changed.  With social media through Facebook and Twitter (for two examples), one can find out what books they're recommending or looking for or even news about the publishing industry in general.

I'll keep everyone updated in my quest . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pseudonyms - reasons why you don't (or may not) need to

Two days ago, I posted on the reasons why you should have a pseudonym.  Now let's talk about why you may not need one.

"But, Mark, my readers will get confused if I start writing in other genres."

Hogwash!  Readers are not stupid, and may even like it when their favorite author writes in another genre.  I just got done reading the latest John Grisham legal thriller (The Racketeer), and I have to say that it was a lot better than many of legal thrillers he's been publishing over the past few years.  But here's the funny part: my favorite books by Grisham are not the legal thrillers (okay, maybe a little bit) but the stories that outside the genre: Skipping Christmas, A Painted House, and Bleachers.  The same goes with Stephen King.  My favorites from him are The Green Mile and On Writing.

This seems to be the main reason why publishers want authors to write under a pseudonym.  Dean Koontz wrote several stories under a pseudonym, and has since becoming a mega-bestseller republished those books under his own name.

"Okay, Mark, I get it.  But I'm not Stephen King or Rowling or Koontz.  I'm just (insert your name here) from (insert place of residence)."

You make a valid point.  However, all of the writers you named above started as a nobody.  They, through sheer dogged determination, churned out books that connected with people en mass.  You can do this to.  Just sit your ass in the chair and write.  That's all they do.

Here's my final argument for why you don't need (or may not need) a pseudonym.  Why do you really think you need to?  Years ago, I wrote several of my novels under a pseudonym--name to be withheld at this time--but then came to the realization that I may not have to, and if a publisher forced me to do so in order to publish a book, then I'll consider it.  For now, I write under my own name.

I want to repeat this again: readers are NOT stupid.  They may also appreciate it when you do branch out into other genres.  Let me leave you with this final thought (okay, I said this above, but now I'm serious): who is Elvis Presley?  He's the King of Rock and Roll!  But did he sing just rock and roll?  No.  The reason he was--and still is--considered the King was because he branched out into so many other musical genres, including hymnals and folk, that he captured the lovers of those musical tastes and drew them back in to his rock and roll.

Elvis was a master.

Follow what the masters have done.

And remember: readers are NOT stupid.  They just may not be able to find you if you happen to write under a pseudonym in another genre, and you could've expanded their reading tastes.  Not long ago, I read a collection of science fiction/western short stories by Alan Dean Foster.  I'm not a reader of westerns, but after that I may branch out my reading tastes to include the likes of Zane Grey and Louis Lamour.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pseudonyms - reasons why you should or may have to

You are a man who strives to write romance.

Or erotica.

Or you are a woman who has an itching to write thrillers or horror.

Let's say you've written multiple fantasy novels and now wants to branch out into horror or thriller novels.

Your name could be boring.

Or simple.

Or too generic.

Or too difficult to spell or pronounce.

You don't want your readers confused when you suddenly write in another genre.

You've written nonfiction, have even won awards for your work, and now want to write genre fiction (i.e. John Sandford).

Or you could do the old Stephen King/Richard Bachman experiment where you're convinced that people buy your books solely due to your name and not on the quality of writing.

All of these, and countless more, are reasons for you to write under a pseudonym.  The choice is yours.  If you do, you're in the company of grand writers such as Mark Twain.

What are some other reasons you could think of to write under a pseydonym?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 23-Nov-2012/ Working through Thanksgiving

For those living in the United States, yesterday was the Thanksgiving holiday.  Did that mean I didn't get any writing done?  Perish the thought--in fact, this week, I'm currently putting three short stories that I wrote before, roughly a year ago, from my notebook to the computer.

Yes, I wrote them long-hand.  Handwritten, even.  It's still a viable form of writing, if one does not have a computer or iPad or other electronic device to write on--or you find writing on a tablet tedious, like yours truly.

I'm also doing the literary agent search.  I've narrowed the list down some, and I'll start tackling it within the next few weeks.  I still want to research the ones I've identified, search for them on Facebook or Twitter or even on their own blogs, to see if they'd be a good fit.

This week I also got a stroke of luck.  Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson and successful author, blogger, and podcaster, answered one of my questions on this week's podcast, which was an open-question session.  I asked him about whether or not his latest book Platform had any chapters regarding fiction writing and I also asked him on whether or not fiction writers needed for an online presence.  It was interesting to hear his answer, which can be shortened up with a simple: "Yes."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pseudonyms - the great debate

"Why can't I have a great name like John Grisham or J. K. Rowling?  Oh, hell, a name like Joe Montana or Tiger Woods or Clint Eastwood has got to be the key to success!"

I'm not quoting any such individual with this statement, but I've heard it plenty of times: if only I had a great name, I'd be successful.


Or, you may have heard the story about the writer who writes in one genre and when it comes time for him/her to publish in another genre, the publisher asks them for a pseudonym--AKA a pen name.

Next week, I'll debate the pros and cons to pseudonyms.  At one time, I even had a pseudonym that I wrote under, and an agent called it "contrived."  After much internal debate, I decided to just write under my own name, with middle initials included.

Need an example of someone who writes in multiple genres under his own name?  Check out Dan Simmons.  He writes in fantasy, non-fiction, noir crime, science fiction, horror, etc.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Free reading material

I have two new links of FREE reading material.

First are the opening five chapters to my thriller novel BEHOLDER'S EYE

Second is a short story titled "Salute."  This short story was submitted this last summer to a local contest--local, meaning somewhere within the northwestern Minnesota.  I didn't win, which I was fine with.  All I wanted was to try.  Anyway, I cleaned it up a little more and have decided to put it out here on my blog.


Down to the home stretch - how are your goals for 2012?

For 2012, I had a total of 11 separate goals.  And of those goals, I've accomplished a solid 5 so far.

What are they?  Sorry, my goals are something I keep to myself, although you may guess one of them: finish editing Beholder's Eye.  Yes, I can mark that one off the list.  To publish it was another one.  Even though I didn't accomplish that one doesn't mean I'm a failure.  On the contrary, I've accomplished much.

Now with the holiday season looming ahead and the rest of the head coming at us like a freight train, how are your 2012 goals shaping up?  Don't kick yourself for not getting to all of them.  In fact, if you did accomplish them, you either didn't have as many goals as you should have or your goals weren't audacious enough.

Think big for 2013.

What if one of your goals is to publish your novel and all you did was write the first draft and get to a second editing round?  I think that's a huge accomplishment even for tackling such a goal.

Dust off your list of 2012 goals.  Let's take these last one and a half months and work to achieve something.  You can do it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 16-Nov-2012 / Agent searching

The literary agent search is on.  I've been going through my new 2013 Guide to Literary Agents, which I picked up for my Kindle, and I have to say this first off: having the Kindle version is so much easier than what I used to do with the physical copy.  I've scoured through the listings and have highlighted/bookmarked the ones who represent the thriller fiction genre.

My first plan with the agent search is to narrow the list down to roughly 10 solid ones who also appeal to new writers or ones that somehow connected with me in their listing.  I'm following a number of them on Twitter and Facebook.

What else is going on?  For Beholder's Eye, I have the first five chapters available for your viewing pleasure on this site.  Just go along the side and you'll see a link for it.

I have a few short stories I'm going to work on as well, and those will be up for viewing shortly.

For those doing NaNoWriMo, congratulations for even entering the frey.  November is roughly half-way done.  You can do it.  Believe in yourself that it can be done.  Don't give excuses for why it can't be done.  Give yourself permission to dream and to accomplish something.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Arm yourself against criticism

I thought I was ready.  But it turns out I wasn't.  What am I talking about?  Handling criticism.

It's funny too because a few weeks ago Joel Osteen covered this very same topic on one of his broadcasts.  Joel talked about handling criticism like slicking yourself up with oil and letting the negativity slide right off.

This past week at my full-time job, we had to come up with a clever team name to go along with a contest one of our vendors was planning.  I wracked my brain to come up with something clever yet creative.  Oddly enough, I couldn't think of something--I only had a few hours to do this, so it's possible the pressure of coming up with something at the last minute may have got to me.  Anyway, I asked some of my colleagues for ideas.  They had a few, but the ones they came up with were inappropriate.  So, I used one of the other suggestions tossed around by one.  They meant it as a joke.  I did not.

I ran with that particular team name.

Afterwards, I heard some awful grumbling amongst them, and one even called it "Gay."  Note: the name was not in any way associated with homosexuality and the comment was simply derogatory.  I was very upset.  I let it get under my skin.

Instead, I should've taken Joel's advice and let the comments slide right off.  In the end, that's what I did.  I didn't care what comments were said and even used the team name to "rally the troops" even more boldly to the cause.

The more successful one becomes, the more criticism you'll be asked to handle.  Take a look at the latest election and not wonder how either candidate can handle about half of the country not believing or rallying to your own message.

Get a tough skin for criticism early on.  You're gonna need it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What I Listen To - Reading And Writing Podcast

Early on in my pursuit to find as many fiction writing podcasts as I could fit on my MP3 player (no iPod or other Apple toy for this boy . . . yet), one podcast that always seemed to be within others' top 5 is the Reading and Writing Podcast, hosted by Jeff Rutherford.  And I rightfully agree!

Jeff currently has 89 episodes, and in the beginning has interviewed many thriller writers but has branched out to interview fantasy authors like Peter Orullian and Kevin J. Anderson, and screenwriter Nick Santora.  As well as several others.

Jeff has interviewed many of the greats in fiction writing, from:

Lee Child

Saladin Ahmed

Tobias Buckell

Kevin J. Anderson

Christopher Farnsworth

Jonathan Maberry

Jeff's interviews typically delve into how the author got published, what they're currently reading, and even what their writing style entails.  They may be short but they're definitely not short on information regarding these authors.

Be sure to include the Reading and Writing Podcast into your recommended listening podcasts.  You will not be disappointed--there's a reason it's on so many top 5 lists!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 09-Nov-2012 / Novel Complete!

Chapters 58-61 of Beholder's Eye are DONE!

The afterward, even, is also complete!

Does that mean my work is done, and that I can sit and be lazy?  Not on your life.  I've only just begun--hmm, sounds like the lyrics to a 70's song.

What's next for me is to work on chapter 1, to make sure it's polished to perfection, and then . . . well, I have a list of projects I want to do and I just have to sit down and decide what I want to do next.  A top project is the literary agent search--yes, I've decided to take that route vs. the self-publishing route.

For those of you out there doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), keep going.  Life is a marathon.  Don't be discouraged if you're not hitting your daily goals.  Even if you don't do it this year, keep writing and by the time NaNoWriMo comes next year, you'll be ready.  If you are hitting your goals, congratulations!  A job well done for all.

A few weeks ago, I let everyone know I had two new blogs added to my arsenal.  As I believed they were redundant, as they'd be stumbling over the same subject matter, I changed the Minneapolis VCU blog to:

Gillsley, MN - a fictional town I created with a few of my first novels, and a town where I will return to shortly.

The other one is the Twin Cities Crime Blogger where all material on that series will reside.

Nothing is really posted yet on these sites, but in due time they will.  Please be patient with me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Election is Over. Get On With Your Life.

Last night was the 2012 Presidental election here in the United States.

Did your candidate win?

Chances are, somebody's candidate did, whether it be Obama for another four years or Romney for a first term.

Now that this is done, I must say this: get on with your life.

I've tried hard to keep the political discussions on this blog to a minimum as well as neutral--I'm a middle-of-the-road guy, a I-vote-for-the-person-not-the-party person, even though I do lean towards one side--I'm just not sharing which side.

This blog is geared towards writing and the business of writing, so that's what I'm going to continue to do.  I want to share my experiences and knowledge about writing, in the hopes that it'll help someone else get them closer to their own publishing success.

As I've said before, your life's success has very little to do with who is sitting in the White House.  If your candidate won, get over it.  If they lost, get over it.

Your life is waiting.  Create the future you were meant to have.  Do it now.  What are you waiting for?

Monday, November 5, 2012

When Should I Start Planning For Next Year?

If you've already asked yourself this question, you're a step ahead of most other people.

I'd say it's okay to start planning now for the next year.  These goals to accomplish don't have to be written in stone, but it's a good idea to start brainstorming some ideas.  There are about seven areas in your life where, in order to have a more fullfilling life, these accomplishments should be under.  They are:








Start brainstorming ideas on what you'd like to accomplish.  Even if you feel it's a huge goal that you'll never be able to finish, write it down anyway.  When you get closer to the next year, choose which goals you'd like to accomplish.

And don't be afraid to think big.  Because it's the big things that make a difference in this world.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 02-Nov-2012 / Solar Flares?

Last weekend, my wife told me I should write a blog post about solar flares.

"But that's not what my blog is about, solar flares and such," I said to her.  "I write about . . . well, writing."

"I know.  But you should though."

Okay, here it is:

Yes, I know that's the Wikipedia link, but that's the best I can come up with.  Solar flares seem to have an aura surrounding themselves, and have even been linked to the end of the world in December 2012.  They do cause some interference, as they blast out huge amounts of energy at once.  Here's a video too, which can explain some of the solar flare phenomenon.

Now, on to Beholder's Eye.

By early next week, this book will be done with its final edit.  Chapters 58-61 are nearing completion, as well as the Afterward.  I've made tremendous progress, and on next week's Happenings In The Outhouse, I'm confident I'll scream, "I'm done!"

But not quite.

I recently read an article in the Writer's Digest's "Guide to Literary Agents" blog which touched on the importance of first chapters--or, rather, the first chapter.  The article is titled "7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter"   Needless to say, I'm going to scan through the first chapter again to see how it holds up.  At a quick glance, it's fairly good.

I just want to make it better.