Archive for JA Konrath

Eric Hoffer finalist

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2010 by Trina

I received this e-mail this morning. I’m sure you can hear my YIPEE wherever you are.

Dear Hoffer Award Entrant:

Congratulations. Your story has been selected as a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Prose Award. This is a very small group of stories from among thousands of submissions. The final round of judging will unfold during the spring, culminating with the announcement of the Hoffer Short List during late summer and the release of the winners in early fall. . .

I had forgotten about this contest. I submitted my story GOOD GAME in May, 2009, to be considered for the Hoffer Award and then received the following e-mail in July of 2009.

The editors would like to inform you that your story has passed the first round of editorial review. Less than 20% of the stories make it this far. Congratulations. The review process is long and thorough. By the end, we will have an entire year’s worth of selected submissions to consider for the prize and anthology. You will hear back from us between May and July about the next level of judging. . .

I had thought I was out of the running. I assumed that because I wasn’t notified last July that the story didn’t make the final cut. Fortunately GOOD GAME has not been accepted elsewhere. I think it is my best work to date and I am honored to be in the final cut. But, even though the story is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award, it has been rejected by 18 different magazines.

To quote JA Konrath, “There’s a word for a writer who never gives up…published.”

It is sometimes difficult to keep writing and submitting without getting discouraged, but days like today give me the steam to keep rolling. It also substantiates my decision to resign from my day job. After four years of developing tests for Measurement Inc., Tuesday is my last day. I realized that developing tests was draining my energy and keeping me from my fiction writing. I have had a new novel in progress for more than a year–it is not even half finished. I have a sketchy draft finished and several random chapters filled in, but I sometimes go for more than a month without working on my fiction. I had to make a change. I will still work as a contractor for MI, but I can set my own hours, can work from home, and the biggie: I won’t have to travel.

Okay, back to laying out pages for Pig in a Poke. I have about half of them done. We’re set to go live on May 1. So exciting!

More on the creation of GOOD GAME:

In August, 2008 I wrote the GOOD GAME during a severe drought . From a former blog: “Good Game” is the story that I’m most proud of. It is about a chess player who is paralyzed and sinking into depression, who is visited by his dead father. I wrote the first draft in my spare time before and after work, and on the weekend. Originally, it was to be a piece about a woman with a personality disorder who suffered from drug dependence. This is completely different from the end result. One afternoon while doing chores around the house, I decided she should be paralyzed. I decided to change the gender of the main character to a man to reach the readers who play chess, predominately men, as previously posted.

JA Konrath

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , on September 16, 2008 by Trina

I am honored that JA (Joe) Konrath has linked WORLDS THAT NEVER WERE to his blog: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. There he posts interesting and useful information for fellow writers. Althought the title suggests it is for newbies, I think there is something there for both new and experienced writers. His latest post, Casting Your Net, is about how to take advantage of Internet relationships formed from social networking through blogs, websites and billboards. I learn something every time I read A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and am happy to be included in the blogs Konrath reads.

As previously posted, I also love Konrath’s books. In terms of humor, JA Konrath is the king. I discovered his detective series with star Lt. Jack (Jacqueline) Daniels after reading one of his short stories in a thriller anthology edited by James Patterson. I bought WHISKY SOUR, read it, and then bought the next three books. I laughed my way through all four books, one right after another. I didn’t want to stop to sleep, eat or work. Konrath’s is the only series I read straight through like that. He doesn’t skimp on the details. One killer drove nails into the bones of his victims, one peeled off the victim’s skin, all while the victims were alive. One scene that sticks in my memory is when one of the killers put razor blades into candy bars. The resulting scene after a detective bit into the razor blade was both graphic and humorous. The humor lightens the story and works with the graphic scenes in this series. I’ve just read his latest, FUZZY NAVEL and can’t wait for the next one.

It is obvious that I learn from Konrath’s blog by the number of my posts where I’ve quoted him:
A Good Thrill
Stories Aren’t Buckshot
Write. Edit. Polish–Submit
Milestones

In other news, I have only 25 pages left to edit in my young adult novel–as yet unnamed. It was to be titled KATHARINE TAYLOR AND THE MAGIC QUILT, but I didn’t want it to sound so Harry Potterish, so I was going to call it HIGH TREASON. Harry doesn’t think that is a fun title for young adults, so I’m thinking about it. Whatever it is titled, I should finish this week! I intend to celebrate most heartily. Tip a glass of wine, beer–or whatever you are imbibing–for me.

Stories aren’t buckshot

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , on March 12, 2008 by Trina

Don’t shoot. The shotgun approach to story submission is not effective. A few days after posting about living with rejection, I ran across JA Konrath’s post about using short stories to promote novels–I am enjoying Konrath’s humorous thriller series featuring Jack Daniel’s, a female detective. I discovered his novels after reading one of his stories in the Thriller anthology edited by James Patterson.

Unlike Konrath, I am not trying to promote a book with my stories, I have yet to finish my YA novel, but I think Konrath’s advice is good for anyone trying to get short fiction published.

WRITE FOR THE INTENDED MARKET.

Would you spend hours making a key without having a lock it can open? No. But many authors write whatever the hell they want to write and then erroneously believe there will be a market begging to publish it. That usually isn’t the case.

Magazines, anthologies, and websites all have specific demographics. They want specific stories to please these demographics. It’s much easier to write for a market than write according to your whim and then try to find a market that will buy it.

When you have found a market, read it. Don’t guess what you think the editors will like. Discover what the editors like by reading stories they’ve already published.

Also, it makes good sense to write stories about the characters who are in your novels. The closer the tie in, the more likely you are to sell a book if someone likes the story.

Got it? Good. And if it stifles your muse, remind yourself that writing is a job.

This is the best advice I’ve read lately. I had been writing stories about whatever I wanted and then hoping to find markets for them. This sometimes works, but it is a struggle to find just the right match. Hence, the 136 rejection letters.

Konrath also listed the pros and cons of various markets including: magazines, anthologies, limited editions, and new markets. I found this very helpful. I had not before considered, for example, that the majority of readers I may reach with magazines will only read my work during the month the magazine is fresh, whereas anthologies may stay in print for years and the Internet is eternal.

I’ll be taking a break from writing and submitting to visit my Mom in Missouri this weekend. I can’t wait.

Write. Edit. Polish—Submit

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2008 by Trina

My young adult novel, THE MAGIC QUILT, is still in progress. The end. I have not yet written those two little words that would see her finished. Regardless, I am happy with my recent writing progress. Except for Christmas and New Year’s Day, I wrote for several hours on each of the twelve days that I was off from my day job (December 21 – January 2). I polished my way through chapter 13, of the 24 chapters in THE MAGIC QUILT. Because of the trickle down effect from the later chapters, the first half of the book needed a lot of rewriting. Fixing minor plot flaws, correcting some point of view issues and deciding which minor characters need bigger and smaller roles took up most of my editing time. The ending chapters will not need as much work.

In the original version of THE MAGIC QUILT, Katharine traveled to several places and time periods, both in the past and future. Minor characters from those places, including Jamestown, Virginia, visited Katharine in the present. As a result, Pocahontas was in several scenes. I had decided to remove her character from the novel, including a middle chapter where she had a central role. I thought the chapter slowed down the plot and didn’t add anything. The women in my writing critique group felt differently, that the chapter is needed to both lighten the novel and show another side of Katharine’s character.

So, I decided to let my thoughts on the novel percolate in the background for awhile, and I did some organizing. Looking though my computer files, I was shocked to discover that I have written 19 stories, of which only 3 are published! Yikes. I had neglected these stories, some for several years. Why? Short attention span. I hate editing, polishing and submitting. I love the thrill of first draft writing: getting to know the characters, discovering where the story goes. After that the story and the characters get cold to me. This is why my YA novel is not finished.

Looking back over my older writing, I discovered something else. I have really grown as a writer. I recognize some novice mistakes in my older work, like POV issues–I couldn’t seem to find the MC’s voice, plot holes and leaps, telling instead of showing, needless description, repetition, dialogue tag problems, and tense changes. In fact, some of my older stories are real stinkers. Back when I wrote them, thinking they were awesome works of art, I sent each to friends and family. I apologize for that—I should have sent a clothespin with each story. I even submitted some of these stinkers for publication. Many stunk as much as the bad story JA Konrath wrote to illustrate newbie mistakes. Not surprisingly, I accumulated many rejections

So, over my 12 days of Christmas, I polished three stories, submitted two to a contest and one to a periodical. In so doing, I cut 1,450 unnecessary words from Stand-in Santa, a whopping 40% reduction in the story. Eh gads. Similarly, I cut almost 400 words from Project Golem, a futuristic story about WWIV. I apologize to anyone who read the earlier versions of these stories.

I’ve got a lot more work to do. My new edict for 2008 is: Write. Edit. Polish—Submit. With this in mind, here are my New Year’s Resolutions.

1. I will finish THE MAGIC QUILT
2. I will choose my next book length project and begin working on it
3. I will research the market and agencies representing YA historical fiction/fantasy and search for an agent
4. I will always have at least three stories—YA or adult—(and one article idea) on submission, while working on a fourth
5. I will finish every story I start
6. I will submit every story I finish
7. I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to and read them
8. I will read the Newberry winners and finalists from the last two years to grow in my YA writing
9. I will continue to blog – the process improves my writing
10. I will update my website after reviewing other YA writer sites
11. I will attend at least one writer’s conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers
12. I will refuse to get discouraged, even in the face of daunting odds. I love to write and my imagination contains stories that only I can tell. For now, that is my reward. I will not dwell on the fact that I have written drafts of three novels – not finished any, penned over 175,000 words. Although I have earned 135 rejections, I have sold only one story and one essay. I received nada in the way of monitary compensation for the rest of my publications.

I am a better writer than I was when I received all those rejections. To illustrate the point, here is the original opening from “Her Sister’s Ghost,” written in 2002:

Ashleigh Richards stepped into the rear of a small commuter plane and walked past an attractive man, with long, wavy, black hair and sunglasses, who was seated in the last row of the plane. She glanced at him as she passed him; an intense look indicating her attraction for him, which she noticed was reciprocated. She immediately cleared him from her thoughts as she walked toward the front of the plane. She was relieved that seat 4D was a window seat; she would be able to look out the window and think. She stowed her black cashmere coat and carry on bag in the overhead compartment. Ashleigh had her driver’s license and $200 cash in her jeans pocket. Her Gateway, Solo 1200 notebook Ashleigh kept with her. The laptop computer barely fit under the seat in front of her and Ashleigh didn’t have room for her feet with the computer there. One of the drawbacks of being tall is there is never enough legroom. Ashleigh knew that even a shorter person would have trouble compacting themselves into the small seating area of the Express Jet.

I am embarrassed to admit that I submitted this story for publication. The one long opening paragraph screams novice: telling instead of showing, needless description, repetition … Who would want to read more?

The new opening, while still not pefect, is much stronger:

The police would find him, dead in her house. It didn’t matter that he had deserved to die.

Ashleigh Adams shoved her crutches into the back seat of her Cavalier, wincing in pain as she lowered herself carefully into the driver’s seat. She accelerated down the long driveway, tires spitting gravel. As she entered the onramp to the highway, she was already traveling at over eighty miles per hour, speeding to get away from the fear that caused her hands to tremble on the steering wheel.

“Ashleigh, I had to kill him. He gave me no choice,” Erica said.

Sighing, Ashleigh turned toward her sister.

Erica was gone. The passenger seat empty. Ashleigh was left only with the image of Erica standing over her husband, holding the .45 with two steady hands. A bullet hole between his sightless eyes.

New Year’s Resolutions Part 3

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , on December 23, 2007 by Trina

I’d like to close 2007 with part of JA Konrath’s New Year’s Resolutions Part 3:

Newbie Writer Resolutions
I will start/finish the damn book

I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth

I will attend at least one writer’s conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers

I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to

I will join a critique group. If one doesn’t exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library

I will finish every story I start

I will listen to criticism

I will create/update my website

I will master the query process and find an agent

I’ll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something

I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing–and I’m a lot more talented than that guy … Read entire post.

I especially like the last. It gives me hope.

Have a wonderful holiday and I’ll be blogging again in the New Year.