Happy 4th of July!

Here in the good ol’ US of A, we’re celebrating Independence Day. But for my international readers (allowing for time zone differences), it’s still the fourth of July, right?

So Happy 4th!

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On the Inside…

Parts of the last few days have given me the urge to raise my hands over my head and whoop as I fly down the highway with the top down.

And, although I do have long hair appropriate for flying in the breeze, you will not find me engaging in such activity for a number of reasons:

  1. I am the designated driver and a big fan of at least one hand on the wheel.
  2. Putting the top down on my Hyundai Sonata can only be achieved by violent and permanent methods.
  3. It’s 97 freaking degrees today and humid beyond belief.

So, you will not see me out there. But, on the inside, I’ll be whooping it up in the wind. 😉

Another Mystery Solved!

My husband, affectionately known around these parts as “Mr. Kiddoc,” has baffled me for years.

He can make things disappear without a trace. Give him a set of keys or a remote control or a scrap of paper with a phone number on it and– in under a minute– it will be gone. He won’t even need to leave his chair.

Many times I’ve marveled at his ability to lose things. He can be holding his wallet one minute and asking for help finding it the next. And he has a bad leg… it’s not like he can speed in and out of my line of sight.

I’ve often told him the CIA should hire him to make things disappear.

Well, recently it happened again. He was sitting in the family room. I handed him the phone and a refrigerator magnet with the phone number of our local pizza joint so he could order our dinner. I then returned to the kitchen. Mr. Kiddoc never moved from the sofa. I could see the top of his head through our pass through.

And yet, by the time he hung up the phone, the magnet was missing.

We dug deep into the sofa cushions, but no dice. The magnet was gone.

A few hours later, I stumbled across it. About 15 feet away from where he was sitting, on the hearth of our fireplace.

I should add that the magnet is shaped like a slice of pizza and therefore disinclined to roll.

My BFF and I finally put it together. There is only one possible explanation.

My husband can create wormholes.

They are, evidently, quite weak, allowing only the transfer of small objects a few feet in any direction. But perhaps now that he knows, he’ll be able to hone his skills.

We can only hope he will use his powers for good. *snort*

Always a Silver Lining… The Upside of the Great Pager Swap Fiasco

If you read my last post, you might think the Great Pager Swap 2009 was all hassle and no payoff. But you’d be mistaken.

I have an unpredictable schedule that can keep me away from a computer for big chunks of time. I also have in-laws with dial-up whom we visit frequently.

Like every other author seeking representation, I don’t want to miss a reply from an agent when I can’t get online. So I set up an email filter that forwards messages with “Query” or “The Edge of Memory” in the subject to my text pager.

This works great, overall, but it did backfire on me once.

An email reply on my full manuscript was forwarded to my pager from an agent who’d requested my full after reading my partial. My pager displayed the beginning of the message:

From: Awesome Agent

Re: Requested Full Manuscript of The Edge of Memory

Dear Heather,

Thank you so much for letting me review The Edge of Memory. I’m really intrigued by the premise and definitely think it has appeal in today’s market

<snip>

As you’ve probably guessed, I thought this might be good news, but the next sentence (which didn’t make it onto my pager display) started with “However.”  When I finally made it back online, I was crushed.

It turned out to be a great response nonetheless, since her feedback gave me a Eureka moment that made my manuscript much stronger. But I could have done without the false hopes.

Well, my new pager displays more than twice as much text as the old one did. And I doubt any agent will beat around the bush that long before lobbing a “However” or an “Unfortunately” at me.

So, you see… there is a reason for everything. Even for the Great Pager Swap Fiasco.

Today, In a Nutshell… or Pages and Pages

Today has been an uberwacky sort of day. Here’s a little rundown of the highlights:

  1. Woke up. Late. (cuz I was up late coughing. It’s the end of a stinky virus)
  2. Scuzzled around like a madwoman and lead-footed it to work.
  3. Arrived to big banner announcing that the hospital is switching pager service providers, which means the stinging sensation deep in the ample belly of the gluteus maximus muscle will reach 10 out of 10 on the pain scale. Seriously… the task: every single pager used by every single person in the hospital needs to be collected and deactivated, and every single person must be issued a new pager, which must be programmed and updated in the paging system. All the while, making sure that everyone can be reached by SOME pager, since this is, you know, a hospital and sometimes sick people need stuff. As you might guess, this changeover is a recipe for disaster.
  4. Contemplated this process which made me cough until my head hurt.
  5. Entered the physician lounge, where lines were short, so I paged the doc I was about to take over for and suggested she come down to swap out her pager.
  6. Swapped out my pager and was given a shiny new one as they swiftly pulled the battery out of my old one, ripped the label off, and chucked it into a large box. I was told my long-range number had changed and would now be the hospital area code and pager prefix followed by “1123”
  7. Exclaimed, “I get the Fibonacci pager”
  8. Endured blank looks from pager swapper chicks.
  9. Marveled at my own geekiness.
  10. Was sent to another “station” to get my pager activated.
  11. Was told I was activated, received a test page, and congratulated myself on escaping the Great Pager Swap with minimal casualties.
  12. Flagged down the other doc when she arrived to switch out her pager. Bear in mind, she’d been working for over 24 hours. She gave the Pager Swapper Princesses the pediatric admit pager by mistake. (The pediatric admit pager is carried by the senior resident most of the time, but when the residents are unavailable because of lecture or rounds or whatever, we cover for pediatric admissions to the hospital.)
  13. Watched her eyes widen to improbable size when she realized her mistake, by which time the pediatric admit pager was de-batteried, stripped of all labels and chucked into the Big Box o’Pagers with no identifying marks.
  14. Assumed a cheery tone as I said, “No problem! All the pagers need to be swapped out anyway. So let’s just switch your old pager for a new peds admit pager.”
  15. Felt a steely burn as the Page Swapper Princess narrowed her eyes. “We can’t do that here. We can only accept physician pagers. All the other pagers are being swapped in a room in the basement.”
  16. Pointed out she had, in fact,  already accepted a non-physician pager. She was not swayed.
  17. Dragged the post-call doc into the basement (since pediatric hospitalists do not leave a fallen comrade on the field), on a quest for a room neither of us had ever heard of called “The Four Seasons”
  18. Exhausted practically every hallway and was preparing to check for Narnia-wardrobe type closets when we finally found the appropriate room.
  19. Explained the situation approximately 19 times and then waited while the Pager Swapper Queen and a swarm of drones attempted to sort out the pager perplexity.
  20. Finally got upstairs to our office about an hour behind schedule, where we ran into our education director with an interview candidate. He was glad to bump into us and informed us we couldn’t be paged. As in, AT ALL.
  21. Checked the system and, indeed, no pager listed.
  22. Called the operator for help. She tried to send me on another pilgrimage to the Pager Swapper Queen, but when I protested, she told me to hold on. After a few minutes of muffled murmurs, she came back on the line. “We did something,” she said. “Try it again.”
  23. Laughed until I coughed and then coughed until my head hurt.
  24. Practically fainted when Lo and behold and gloryosky, the pager worked.

In fact, it’s been going off merrily ever since.

So, um… Yay?

U Got the Look: Novel Marketing and Prom Ensembles

Well, Prom season is upon us. You may wonder what the heck that has to do with marketing a novel. Well, I’ll tell you.

But first, I’d like to introduce this into evidence:

That’s me (with my sister) on my way to the prom circa 1992.

Now, if you’re like me, after looking at this picture, you’re rubbing your stinging nose with one hand while wiping the coffee off your laptop with the other. Which is hard to do when you’re shaking with laughter. I mean that is really quite the look, right?  Check out the asymmetric hair-do and the “floating pearl” necklace. Not to mention the white iridescent tights. And when you’re uberpale, the best look is almost always baby pink patterned satin over white tulle, natch.

Here’s the thing:

At the time, I thought I looked awesome. Other people thought I looked awesome, too. I overheard my date’s younger sister whining that her brother must have bribed me or something cuz OMG, she’s actually pretty!

Unfortunately, I believe writing is a bit like fashion. I finished the first draft of The Edge of Memory in 7 weeks. I did a quick grammar edit, and then shipped the manuscript off to a bevy of test readers for feedback, while I took a month away “for perspective.” (yeah, right.)

Over the next several months, I completed several major edits. I then decided I was done tinkering and ready to seek representation. I read the blogging agents mantras of “Don’t Query Before You’re Ready” and “Write a Great Book” and felt confident. I loved my manuscript. I didn’t think it was perfect, of course, but I thought I’d reached the point where I needed professional feedback to progress further.

I was both right and wrong.

Since that first stopping point (when my book was titled “Still Haunted”), I’ve done at least six more rounds of editing. And each time I finish a round of edits, I cringe to look at the previous drafts. Just like that prom picture, I look at those versions and wonder, “what the heck I was thinking?”

In February, an agent who had requested a partial and then my full manuscript pointed out a plot detail that bothered her. She gave me a eureka moment and I subsequently rewrote several scenes. I am very pleased with the resulting manuscript, and have not edited again since (which, of course, shatters my previous record of approximately nine minutes between edits). I think this time I finally have reached the most polished version I can produce.

Naturally, I wish I had known that I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was when I first began querying. But then, I’m not sure I would have reached this place without the submission process. Certainly, I might never have had the eureka moment without that agent’s input.

The take-home point here is that I’m glad I’ve never been a Query Player (much as I’ve tried). If I had queried a zillion agents when I first thought my manuscript was ready, I’d have burned all my bridges.

But since I’ve only queried a few agents at a time, I’ve got a chance to show my best work. And I’m grateful for that.

When Query Met Sadly: Can Agents and Aspiring Authors Really Be Friends?

This something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, in the wake of Agentfail fallout regarding agents making themselves (as people, not just as agents) accessible online.

Because in the course of “establishing an online presence,” I’ve encountered quite a few agents who are funny and fabulous. People whom I enjoy interacting with as much as any of my online contacts (or, as Mr. Kiddoc calls them, my imaginary friends).

But it gets a bit tricksy sometimes. If any of my other online contacts posted they were having a bad day, I wouldn’t hesitate to try to cheer them up. I would use tongue-in-cheek humor without reservation. But when it’s an agent-type person, I worry I’ll seem insincere. I wouldn’t need a motive, ulterior or otherwise, to do these things. But I can’t deny that I do have a motive, shading my every action with personal gain.

It’s almost a consolation prize to have received rejections from a couple of these agenty peeps. Of course, I am disappointed not to be working with them, but at least I don’t feel cloying if I tell them when they crack me up or post something particularly helpful.

And all of this musing reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, which I now present for you with a few minor word substitutions:

Query Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Agent: Why not?
Query Burns: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that aspiring authors and agents can’t be friends because the representation part always gets in the way.
Sally Agent: That’s not true. I have a number of aspiring author friends and there is no representation involved.
Query Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Agent: Yes I do.
Query Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Agent: Yes I do.
Query Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Agent: You’re saying I’m representing these authors without my knowledge?
Query Burns: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to be represented by you.
Sally Agent: They do not.
Query Burns: Do too.
Sally Agent: They do not.
Query Burns: Do too.
Sally Agent: How do you know?
Query Burns: Because no author can be friends with an agent that reps his or her genre. He always wants to be represented by her.
Sally Agent: So, you’re saying that an author can be friends with a agent who doesn’t?
Query Burns: No. You pretty much want to sign with them too.
Sally Agent: What if THEY don’t want to represent YOU?
Query Burns: Doesn’t matter because the representation thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.

But, Twittering/Blogging Agents, I like you for your minds, I swear.

Here’s to friendship anyway!