External Proof

In the top half of the last paragraph.

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Here’s an interview with Sandra Kasturi, co-publisher of ChiZine at Books on the Radio. Our attitudes on fiction and publishing are very simpatico which is rare. Even more rare; I just spelled simpatico right on the first try.

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I write like
Margaret Atwood

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I gave it all of Picking Up the Ghost to process. I’m not sure this will make me finally read The Blind Assassin or avoid it forever.

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Ah well.

From the 2009 San Diego Book Awards

But I did walk away with two marked up manuscripts and I’m sure they spotted plenty of typos for me to fix and feedback for me to consider. One point that really surprised me, all three judges felt that for a young adult manuscript Picking Up the Ghost was long with too many characters.

Really? Because when I was in 5th grade I read all 700+ pages of The Chronicles of Narnia, with at least twice as many characters, eight times as many protagonists and whole mythical nations for settings and I know I’m not the only one raced though it in less than two weeks and loved every moment.

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I send my congratulations to Nancy Klann whose manuscript Fate Carries Its Own Clock won for Best Unpublished Young Adult Novel a the San Diego Book Awards.

And, yes, that means that I did not. (grumble grumble grumble)

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They just posted the names of the finalists:
I’m up against Nancy Klann’s Fate Carries Its Own Clock and Randy Morrison’s Seven Moon Circus.

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External Validation

Picking Up the Ghost is a finalist in the San Diego Book Awards for Unpublished Young Adult Novel and I didn’t have to sleep with anyone this time. I just finished printing and proofing three copies of the 441 page manuscript. Counting 1323 pages was easier than I thought. And I learned something about MS Word; if you’re going to print a large document wait until the entire file is loaded into memory before giving the order to print. Trust me on this.

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In my queries a lot of agents want to know about me. “What is it about you that makes you uniquely qualified to write this book?”

Nothing. Picking Up the Ghost is about a poor, African-American kid dealing with ghosts and voodoo in a run down Midwest town. I’m a white, software engineer from San Diego who reads too many comics. But I wrote the book anyway, I used research and imagination.

But they want to be able to market fiction like they market celebrity biographies. Someone they can sell on the talk show circuit. Like James Frey, the Million Little Pieces guy.

Are good writers really that interesting when you put them on paper? Or even better, are financially successful writers interesting on paper? Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown. You know what else these people have in common? They’re not story material.

The only thing interesting about King was his cocaine addiction and that was after he’d hit the best seller list. J.K. Rowling’s life was a struggle but she kept that to herself even as the first Harry Potter book took off. She even kept her gender a secret at first. Meyer was a housewife with fantasies about 17 year old boys.

I’m not saying that these people aren’t interesting in conversation. In fact I’d love to talk to any one of them. I’m just saying their stories, the stories of their lives, like most of us, are pretty dull.

If my success as a writer is determined by how interesting my life has been then I’m doomed because I’ve been working as a software engineer on accounting software for the last five years. I have to believe that the agents are wrong. I’ve been rejected by over twenty of them so of course they’re wrong.

Or maybe I could fictionalize myself. It worked for Hunter S. Thompson, Baron Munchausen and Grant Morrison.

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The Five Stages of Querying Grief

I’m in stage three.

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Sigh…

The inside poop that’s got me down: sub-genre saturation. Picking Up the Ghost started as a manifesto that started as a list of things I didn’t like about Harry Potter. But inverted or not it’s too close to it’s inspiration. “…it’s the misfit teenager who is secretly communicating with a ghost … I’ve seen it all and I’m seeing it often.” Ouch.

Well I’ll keep pushing it as long as I can but I’m also resigning that I might have to get my second novel published before I can get an agent to take a real look at my first. In the meantime I’m going to try writing short fiction pieces. Experiment with forms of speculative fiction. Maybe I’ll get lucky and grab the attention of an agent. I’ve been fleshing out some ideas I had for Alejandro’s Ocean, the time travel game of Lexicon that petered out. And I might try to convert the first issue of Seize Him! into prose.

When life gives you discouraging inside poop, make poop juice.

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