To Con Or Not To Con…That Is My Current Dilema

Dragon*Con 2011 takes downtown Atlanta by Stormtrooper every Labor Day weekend. This is its 25th year.  I’ve never attended.  I’ve never even watched the infamous and flamboyant costume parade down Peachtree Street.

According to the official website, Dragon*Con is “the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!”

Woo hoo! I want to go.  I do.  I think.  Well, actually, I’m afraid to go. 

Maybe it will be fun.  Maybe it will be supernaturally bizarre and uncomfortable.

I might get the opportunity to meet Carrie Fisher.  More likely, I will spend $50 (plus Marta fare) to walk around the fringe for a few hours and feel like an outlander blocked off from the bright shining center of the universe.

This is why I’m a CLOSET Star Wars geek.  For most of my life (over 30 years!) I have been simultaneously attracted and repelled by this type of phenomena.  That’s why I generally avoid Cons.  (Well, that and the fact that I have never, ever felt comfortable enough in my own skin to flaunt it in a metal Leia-as-slave-girl bikini.)

My one and only Con-type experience took place in Northern California about 5 years ago.  I lived within 5 minutes of the hotel.  A friend offered me a free two-day pass if I agreed to work at her vendor booth for one of the days.  My registration packet included a half-page instructional diagram entitled How to Bathe (Soap Not Optional).  Even better, the other half of the page featured a tongue-only-partly-in-cheek essay on the importance of bathing prior to climbing into the hotel’s hot tub.  The essay went into excruciating pseudo-scientific detail explaining why it was just a wee bit inconsiderate to pollute public waters, even chlorinated public waters, with weeks of your personal bodily funk.

And yet, by the smell of things and by the looks of the hotel hot tub by Sunday afternoon, many of the attendees ignored that section of the program materials.

Now I don’t want to give anyone the impression that ALL sci-fi, fantasy, comic, gaming con-types have personal hygiene issues.  No, no.  And seriously, a little funky smell doesn’t really scare me.  I lived, worked and dated in the Silicon Valley for over eight years (home of the highest percentage of six-figure-paycheck-earning adults with Asperger’s Syndrome in the universe).

[Holy lazy grammar Batman!…I am using too many words-strung-together-with-dashes in this post.]

Anyway, the other big event this weekend (at least big on my personal list of high priorities) is the Decatur Book Festival.  Now this event is much more my scene.  Authors, writers, and all things literary surrounded by a sea of readers.  So, of course, I volunteered to work the Atlanta Writers Club booth from 3-5 on Saturday.

But there is a Marta train station directly beneath the Decatur Book Festival that can whisk me over to Dragon*Con for a few hours.  Hmmmm….

Are you asking, Why not go to one event one day and the other event the next day? 

Yeah…..because the Snake Whisperer I agreed to marry absolutely has to go hiking with me up in the mountains this weekend and I have not even started to pack for my move to the new house and there’s still about a million things to do to fix up the new house and I am grossly behind on the new novel and I may need to bring home some work from the office this weekend in preparation for transitioning to a new position and oh good grief is it almost midnight already?

So seriously, any advice?  Should I spend my $50+ dollars to check out all the Star Wars stuff over at Dragon*Con?  Or save my money but miss yet another year of the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe because I am a way-too-old-to-be-this-afraid-of-my-own-freak-factor type of loser?

Messy Me

Wow.  I’m a mess.  Still in the process of moving.  This is going to take much longer then previously expected.

Do you remember that whole no cleaning issue at the new house?  It goes much deeper than I previously thought.  And I’m not going to say any more about that right now.

Let’s have a little escapist fun:

To Tell Or Not To Tell

In response to my earlier post about secrets, my friend Teresa Franklin-Kern created a key. I think it is hysterical.

Also, in relation to my secret, it’s not really a secret any longer.  One of my friends posted something on my Facebook page so the word is out.  (Note to self:  when I want to keep good news a secret, I should probably tell the people with whom I share said secret that it is confidential information.)

My big news (drum roll please)….I got engaged on August 7.

More big news:  We rented a house together.  It’s an incredible place.  4 bedrooms, 2-1/2 bathrooms (with a whirlpool tub in the master) on 5 acres of land bordered by Lake Lanier on one side & Corps of Engineer property on the other.

We are in the process of moving him into the house and I’ll be moving next month.  I hate moving.  And I’ve actually agreed to marry someone who hates moving more than I hate moving.  Worse, he is terrible at moving.  And he owns more stuff than any single human being should ever own.  Guess who gets to be the organizer.  Me.  Did I mention I hate, loathe and despise moving?

Know what I hate even more than moving?  Cleaning.  Guess what.  Our landlady (a sweet but rather ditzy person who lived there for twenty years and needed to move suddenly because her husband got a job in Florida) moved out without cleaning.  Seriously, I don’t think the oven has ever been cleaned since the place was built.  UGH!!  But it will all be worth it.  It will.  I swear.

Sooooooo…that brings me to another point.  Remember that post about creating a writing room?  That project is on hold.  However, this house we’re moving into has a much, much nicer writing room waiting for me to get creative.  Once I get the kitchen clean (which we worked on all day yesterday and still isn’t done).  I will eventually post pictures of the new and improved writing room.  Stay tuned.

The Great Literary Agent Hunt – 2011

Let me start by saying that I have submissions out to 3 amazing agents.  If I get “the call” from any one of those agents, I will jump up and down and scream YES! like a freshman cheerleader invited to senior prom by the all-star quarterback she’s been dreaming about all year. (That is, once I hang up the phone and can no longer horrify the poor agent with my unmitigated glee.)

I really, really hope that happens.  I do.

But…all of the experts seem to agree that this publishing process is a numbers game.  Sort of like dating.  You’ve got to circulate and keep an open mind.  Do not hang all of your hopes on a small “dream team” of literary agents.  Even with the best possible manuscript polished to near perfection and the world’s most intriguing query letter, even then, it’s still a numbers game. And I need to step up my game.

This week’s challenge:  Every day for 7 days, identify at least one literary agent who seems like a good match for my manuscript, figure out the necessary submission guidelines for electronic submissions (I like to keep it green) and send a query.

Why all the work?  If it’s a numbers game, why don’t I just submit to every single agent in that big, thick Guide to Literary Agents that’s sitting on my desk?

You see, the truly committed novelist in search of the right agent needs to search and search and search again.  Then take all the data from those initial searches and dig into some research, then more research and then maybe research even more.  It takes time.  Lots and lots of time.  Why?  Because today’s savvy novelist is expected to target the best possible agents for what s/he has actually written.  Common sense, right?  Yes.

However, there are hundreds of literary agents in this country.  And I don’t care what anyone says, it is NOT easy to find the agents who (1) are open to new, unpublished authors, (2) make it easy to find all the authors/novels they’ve represented, and (3) have successfully sold manuscripts that are anything like my manuscript.

Seriously, it frustrates me to no end when “helpful” people tell writers in search of literary agents to “Just look in Writer’s Market” or “Check the acknowledgments in comparable books” or “Search the agent’s names in Amazon.”  Yeah, yeah.  I know all that.  I do all of that.  It’s still a VERY time-consuming process.  Plus, many of those agents who represent the “superstars” of your favorite genre are no longer looking for new clients.

Also, keep in mind that while I am working very diligently to present myself as a professional, respectful type of person to every agent I query, those same agents are receiving electronic floods of queries every day from hundreds of hopeful writers who have not even reviewed a basic “Query 101” tutorial.

I just found a Tweet by a literary agent (Nerktwin) that says “Got query directing me to a website: ‘I simply cannot take the time daily to spend writing agents and publishers.'”

Really?!?!  Imagine if a job seeker sent something like that to a potential employer.  “Too busy to create a resume or cover letter.  See my link.”

If I were a truly gifted tech entrepreneur, I would develop a site like eHarmony aimed at matching writers with agents (and vice versa).  You know, base it on the “deeper levels of compatibility” that eHarmony’s commercials are always blathering on about.  There’s no way it would be perfect.  Trust me, eHarmony’s process certainly isn’t as perfect as they like to pretend.  (Not that I’d know anything about that on a first-hand basis….ahem.)  Still, I have to imagine there is a better, more efficient way for authors and agents to connect.

That said, this is not a rant.  I am not complaining.  Well, maybe I am complaining a wee little bit, but not too much.  This process may be time-consuming, but it can also be quite fun.

I’m not just a writer.  I’m a reader.  And there are soooooo many interesting books that have been published in the past few years that I have not read.  Doing this agent research leads me to many new authors.  Reading about those authors leads me to books that I suddenly NEED to read.  With my handy, dandy eReader at my side–zap, zip, boom!  Hello exciting new book in my queue.

Anyone lamenting the eBook revolution simply must not understand how easy it has become to make impulse book purchases.  Any time of the day or night!

Just a few years ago, I was keeping a small notebook in my purse with this loooooong list of books and/or authors I’d heard about or read about and wanted to remember to check out once I actually made it to a book store.  I would build up this list, then walk into a bookstore–either a large independent or one of the “big box” Goliaths–only to discover that most of the books on my list were not on the shelves.  I would have to special order and pick it up next Tuesday.  Or call around to other book stores to see if they had the book and would reserve a copy for me.  Or I could just browse around and find other books to buy (not an arduous task).  Here’s the thing–I didn’t end up buying 50- 75% of those books on my list.

Now….Zap, Zip, Boom!  New book!!!!  I want it.  I get it.  Easy as that.

In the long run, I am hoping the ultimate reward for all of this research will be the right connection with the perfect agent for my manuscript.  In the short-term, I am rewarding myself with LOTS of new reading material.

Oh, and even more fun for free…book trailers!  In today’s publishing world, just about every new fiction novel has a book trailer.  Some of them are works of art.

This is my favorite book trailer from today’s agent search:

Seriously, isn’t that amazing?!  That’s what you get when a debut author is published by Disney/Hyperion.  (By the way, that trailer is not new.  Katie Alender has a 2nd book out and a new book trailer out there. I like the first one better.)

So, today’s query has been submitted.  Am now going to sit here and imagine the perfect book trailer for Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away….

8/14/11 UPDATE:  I just found this agent’s blog showing the number of queries and pages she reads.  Holy mind boggle Batman!  Is it any wonder many agents stop accepting queries after a few years/successful sales?  For anyone who grumbles and groans about how unfair the agents are, how unfair the query process can be….read that post!  I think she perfectly illustrates the agent’s side of the query equation.

Busy Week, Lazy Writer

Lots of good stuff going on. Too much to process/post this week.  So I’m going to get by with a little help from my friends…

First, for my Humane Society/pet-loving/currently-rescue-dog-fostering friends, this is one of the funniest posts EVER from one of my favoritest authors:

Joshilyn Jackson

Second, please concentrate all your healing thoughts toward this sister blogger’s sister:

Stephanie Austin – Unvaulted

Listen to me.  Do not feel sorry or sad.  Feel hopeful for her of go away!!!

Now seriously, check out this post, the 11th paragraph that starts “At Staples…”  Is that not the most perfect, specific-and-yet-universal scene you’ve ever read?

Third, Steve Sansweet wrote back and he absolutely is the decentest, quirkiest, friendliest sort of guy ever!  Thank the Maker!!!  I love it when my super heroes talk back!!!

And Steve reminded me that any readers who love Star Wars and need to find a great book for the younger readers on their gift list would love The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

Fourth, I will be writing a whole post dedicated to Sally Apokedak very soon.  Sally is amazing and she writes a gorgeous blog for other YA writers.  Sally has helped me understand many things that my Blogging 101 class never truly explained. Basically, I’m a failure at most measures of successful blogging, but that’s OK.  At least I’m still blogging.

And (BLESS her heart) Sally always reads my blog and always posts comments that encourage me.  She is (to me) what true Christians should be.  And this praise comes from a “There are many doors to heaven” and “More spiritual than religious”  type of girl.

Lastly…I HAS A SECRET!!!  It’s not a writerly, publishing secret.  It’s a magical, bubbly secret.  I’ll share it soon.  I just want to hold it close to my heart and savor it for a week or two.

Here’s my question…

Have you ever had exciting news that you wanted to keep it to yourself for a while?  For no better reason than you just want to keep it to yourself for a while?  Yes?

Could that be the basis for a novel?  A short story?  A screenplay?  A flash fiction?  A painting?  Hmmmmmm…

Writers, artists & designers out there…Share if you dare!!

70’s Flashback – Pete Rose Sings (and other bad ideas)

I stumbled across this painful commercial while looking for something else:    (PS – Kiss my grits!  Isn’t that Mel from Alice?)

Yikes!  That little masterpiece got me thinking about other sports superstars who made some pretty terrible commercials in the 70’s.

Like, why the [bleep] is Willie Mays in this Tab commercial?

Joe Namath getting “creamed” by a singing Farrah Fawcett was pretty cringe-worthy:

Where did you go Joe DiMaggio?  Oh look, you’re signing rebate checks for Mr. Coffee:

So…which one is the worst example of 70’s advertising?  Or did I miss some examples that are even more horrifying?

Who’s Afraid of Stephen Sansweet?

Me.  I’ve been trying to work up the courage to contact him for the past ten days.  I’m going to do it.  Before I go to bed tonight.  I am.

Who is this guy?  He’s the former Director of Content Management and Head of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm.  He’s also the author of several non-fiction Star Wars books (two of which I own) and the owner of the world’s largest private collection of Star Wars items.

Check it out:

OK, I’m being silly.  He seems like a decent, quirky, friendly sort of guy…doesn’t he?  Yeah!  Which is why I promised myself I would send him a quick email to introduce myself, tell him a little bit about my novel and ask for a little marketing advice.  Just a friendly little email.  The worst that can happen is he’ll ignore me.  Right?  Ugh.

Networking.  Bleh.  Hate it.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me A New Hope

First, let’s unleash a little Star Wars geek fun.  Take a moment to enjoy the winner of the 2011 George Lucas selects Star Wars Fan Movie award: Star Wars:  Unlimited Power

Love it!!!

Next, let’s enjoy the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens (starring my beloved Harrison Ford):

Wanna love it.  Haven’t seen it yet.  Maybe it’s wonderful?  Please, someone tell me if it’s worth seeing.

Lastly, what does all this have to do with my blog?

Well, I’m not sure.  I guess I’m just looking for something to look forward to.  Looking for inspiration…or, at the very least, a little pleasant distraction.

I sense a presence like a disturbance in the Force.  It has nothing to do with Hollywood. Or the recession. Or even Washington D.C. politics. (I have been avoiding the doomsday countdown clocks and commentary for weeks, but did hear we have finally reached a compromise.)  Even if you are not a Star Wars geek, take a moment.  Don’t you feel it?  Something just feels off.

I wish I could tie everything I’m trying to say together neatly in a bow.  I can’t.  And yet, there is a deep and meaningful connection between what was happening in the early 1970’s (pre-Star Wars) and what is happening right now.

Instead of trying to do the analysis, let me introduce the first part of Empire of Dreams:

When describing America in the early 70’s, to commentary says, “Americans felt deeply mired in the present.”  That is a terrible and oddly beautiful statement.

Do you feel deeply mired in the present?