Thursday, May 21, 2015

Zen and the Art of Waiting for an Agent (or Editor)

Einstein was right: time isn't real. I know because I've fallen into the black hole between finishing my novel, The Renaissance Club, and waiting for an agent to offer to represent it. A seemingly endless span in which "Replies if interested" is the new "No, thanks."It's been two months and many queries. I'm growing anxious, which is not a help to a writer.

So what to do while waiting so impatiently? I've read many articles on this topic. Google it. But I have just one suggestions: Water a plant. Consider as you thoroughly and slowly wet the dry soil and wait for the water to soak in how long it took the plant to develop the buds that are now showing in late May, promising to open in bright splendor as soon as they have finished developing their full vigor. Consider how like a budding, hardy plant is your book. If you're like me, you've spent many years (six in my case) working on it. If you're like me, that included many revisions, one major plot game-change, and endless copy-editing passes. Consider how like pruning and feeding and watering every day for months that process is. And then tell yourself that this is only one day in the life of your book. One day of not hearing, not seeing a bud open yet, and that as surely as the sun will shine, you will get published.

Why do I say that I will get published? Because of my second suggestion: make a plan. The word "plant" contains the word "plan." Like plants, plans tend to grow stronger, bigger, and more durable, especially if committed to paper. For my book as soon as I hit the Wall of Impatience, I turned to doing something more fruitful. I made The Plan to Publish The Renaissance Club. It consists of tiered options that range from finding literary representation and going with a top publisher to self-publishing, preferably in a collective or hybrid publishing house. But the endpoint of The Plan is Publication.

I am assured of my goal. The waiting has become tolerable, the way I can wait for my twelve rosebushes and five phalaeopsis orchids to sprout buds and eventually give me glorious flowers. It's a certainty. That makes waiting easier. One other way to make it easier: read all about the industry and how to get into and survive in it. Here are a few interesting articles.

Why Self-Publishing Doesn't Work and How It Can 
How to Write or Not Write Plot
What Does a Good Development Editor Do?
Get Your Query Critiqued
How To Title Your Book - by Agent Rachelle Gardner
Social Metrics That Matter

And remember -- no matter what anyone tells you -- your pen is golden.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Time's Mysterious Flow: Poetry, Fiction, and Hummingbirds.

When you spend most of your life in midair, how do you travel through time differently than someone does when spending your time seated among a throng of thoughts?

Most of my days and nights are spent sitting and thinking. It must look like an odd life to a hummingbird. Like a sloth of some upright kind. But I think time moves faster for me than the hummingbird, who dives to the feeder and pokes a tongue into the sugar water while I pause, spinning in his blur of wings, both of us suspended in differing flows of time.

His life is short. Mine seems endless. Some of my mornings are arranged by a muse who is a conductor of time and coincidence. Who makes me turn my head at the moment the hummingbird swoops into view.

I'm thinking today of my brother's surgery, which is going on right now. I'm also thinking of how  each petal fell from the bouquets that filled the house a week ago for my birthday. I felt each one's soft thud on the table. I'm still feathered with good wishes, but the whir of anxiety rises. Time keeps us frozen in an illusion of separation, but only if we think of it as a forward progression. It may not be.

That's why time-travel interests me, and why I chose to set the story in my novel The Renaissance Club in sudden shifts in time, in the attendant meetings and connections that are possible if time flows in all directions at once.

We often meet in the etheric space of memory, those who are present to me and those who aren't.  Einstein's theory says time is an illusion. So do the Vedas and Buddhists. Poets, of course, already know about time's mysteriously directionless flow. We hover in our memories and sip the nectar of possibilities. We are always hovering. In my book, the main character must choose a century to remain static in. I, the author, never have to choose because there's always another book, poem, or way of looking at my own story.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Time-Travel Novels -- Who Hasn't Rocketed Back?

Because I've written a mainstream (not fantasy) novel involving time travel, I'm reading as many of them as I can find. Lo and behold, besides the obvious science fiction writers, it turns out that many literary and mainstream authors also have used the device of traveling through time, including: Marge Piercy, Stephen King, Erica Jong, Michael Crichton, Kurt Vonnegut, Anya Seton, Alan Lightman, and Chuck Palahniuk.

Time travel stories come in all shapes and sizes, from the predictable scifi to literary novels like The Time Traveller's Wife. Goodreads lists more than 1,000 under "Best Time Travel Fiction." Amazon has one for Time-Travel-Novels-Worth-Reading. They can be SciFi, literary, fantasy, magical realism, or unclassifiable. Kirkus Review has an intriguing list, Recent Novels that Use Time Travel to Great Effect. The Huffington Post's Top 10 Time-Travel Books is intriguing. And of course, the granddaddy of all contemporary time-travel novels, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, which to me reads more like historical fiction that was simply kicked off by a time trip and sustained by the tension of wondering if the main character can return to her own time.

And now I'm irrelevantly wondering why the hyphen in time-travel. After all, Time is a place to travel through like any other. You don't write European-travel guides, or California-travel books. Google makes hyphens irrelevant too, I noticed.