my mountain

So what if you have a day job?

I fell in love with the Black Stallion when I was ten years old. Loyal to The Black, I refused to read about any other horse, even as I consumed any and all non-equestrian books to cross my path. I read constantly, voraciously -- at home, in school, while walking down the street. I was nearly hit by a bus during a climactic scene in Johnny Tremain.

My small town's library was a dragon's hoard of treasure. I would get nine or ten books at once and, unable to decide which to read first, would spread two or three on my lap and read a few pages from each in turn. I smuggled books to read under my desk during math class. I never did learn the multiplication tables above ten, but I finished Where A Red Fern Grows in two days flat.

The only place I couldn't read was in a bus or car. Cursed by an overly excitable inner ear, I was forced to stare out the window and tell myself stories in my head. Eventually I started telling these stories to my friends. Then I began writing them down.

Writing, like reading, was an escape. It was fun, challenging, exciting, occasionally frustrating, frequently hard work. I loved it, but I never saw it as a career. My parents were both liberal arts majors, and after seeing how that worked out, I decided to go into physics. But I never lost my love of reading and writing fiction.

Through sheer stubbornness and a refusal to give up I achieved first my bachelor's degree, and then my master's degree in medical physics. I earned an "A" in honors calculus by writing a short story about Smith's Theorem.

By my senior year, however, the struggle to keep up with my science classes had all but obliterated writing from my life. I still read whenever I could, but my creative output was diverted into my physics and engineering assignments. As a grad student, I wrote code in a basement cubicle, a world removed from The Black running free on his deserted island.

I didn't write again until I was out of school and in my first job. Working late one night, I picked up a pen in a fit of boredom and started jotting words on scrap paper. It was like activating a muscle that has lain dormant for a long time. I could feel the creative neurons firing up in my brain.

I shared those first, fitful stories online, and soon I'd gathered a following of fellow word-lovers, geeks like me who can't stop writing even when it's hard, even when the demands of work and school and family mean you have to get up an hour early to write before your day job, or stay up late after everyone else has gone to bed, struggling to find the perfect word to craft a sentence when your eyes are too tired to see straight. You get up that hour early, you stay up late, because you have to. It's hard, and sometimes it's frustrating, but there's a part of you that will not let it go.

Even when you have a responsible day job, your passions will out.

Sweet Momma

Defying the stereotype: Proof that you CAN be both a geek and a complete technophobe

So I'm trying to figure this whole blog thing out.  After years of extreme dilettantism I need to get my rear in gear.  I'm going to be pitching my novel to publishers this August, and it's no longer enough to have a book, not even if it's a good book.  No, you must have an entire marketing platform, and for some reason, Valar know why, it must include a blog.

I managed to get a WordPress url awhile back, which has sat gathering digital dust ever since. Last week I spent several hours trying to post to it, with the result that I've now changed all my passwords and still not managed to dent the smooth white carapace of the page.

I'm forced to conclude that I'm a techno boob.  I can calibrate a linear accelerator to within 0.5 mm accuracy, but I can't manage a website to save my life.

There's a reason the Elves are my favorite Tolkien characters, and their total lack of technology is at least part of it.  That, plus, you know, their total level of HAWTness.  I mean, look at that picture on my user tag.  Guh!

How much longer until the next Hobbit movie?
Bilbo Baggins

Calling all Chicago Ringers

I'm going to be in Chicago next week, Sun 1/6 through Sat evening 1/12.  I'm already planning to meet up with a couple of fellow LOTR fans on the Wednesday evening, 1/9.  If anyone else out there wants to join us, I'd love to meet you.


I was going to post about seeing the new Hobbit movie last night, but given today's tragedy in Connecticut I think it's better to wait.

My heart goes out to every person who lost a loved one -- a child, a parent, a spouse, a friend -- and I can only pray that you can find some healing in the love and support of those around you.

G-d willing, one day we as a nation will come together and put an end to this continual cycle of senseless, horrific gun violence.  Before another child dies.

2 hours, 59 minutes and counting

In less than three hours I'll be at the Hobbit Premiere!  My delight is only slightly marred by the fact that if I lived in New York I'd have seen it a week ago.  But then I'd have to be a New Yorker, and live in New York City, so never mind.  They might get the movie first, but the Pacific Northwest is where the real Elves are.

Oh, I cannot WAIT to go back to Middle-earth.  I just hope I can finish this Avengers fic I started before the muses sweep me back to Mirkwood.

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Willamette Writers' Conference

So I went to two conferences back-to-back this week.  The first one was for work.  It was in North Carolina, I flew there on Sunday (while fasting -- it was Tisha B'Av), stayed for four days, attended a couple of board meetings, met with a lot of vendors selling expensive equipment, and tried to stay awake during the clinical physics sessions.  The second was here in Portland.  I flew home late Thursday night, checked into the Sheraton hotel near the airport, and I've spent the last three days hobnobbing with agents, editors, and other aspiring and professional writers.

Guess which one I'm going to tell you about.

I LOVE this conference.  I've spent the last three days talking to people, and only once have I ever even mentioned my day job.  None of us want to talk about our day jobs.  We have to talk about those all the time at parties and things, and none of us care.  We're talking about writing -- our passion -- and we're with other people who understand and care and want to know what we're writing and how we're trying to sell it.  This is AWESOME!  I stayed up until almost midnight last night chatting with a group of people I met in the hotel bar -- I actually approached them and sat down with them, people I didn't know, because I didn't want to go back to my hotel room.  For anyone who knows me, this is huge.  I am not an extrovert.  I am as far from an extrovert as it is possible to be.  But here I feel safe, because this are my tribe.

Here -- I pitched to two people on Friday and got very positive responses from both.  The literary agent asked for 3 chapters of my manuscript -- she was excited by the idea, but wants to make sure it isn't too similar to another book she sold last year.  The other person was Tricia Narwani, the chief editor of Del Rey Books, which is Random House's fantasy imprint.  I've been wanting to query her for six months, but she doesn't accept unsolicited queries.  Well, here I got to pitch to her face to face, and she asked for the full manuscript!  Now I have two agents and an editor who want my manuscript, and I'm going to conference sessions and thinking about how I can possibly cut the word count down so they'll take it seriously.

AND -- last night at the awards banquet they gave a lifetime achievement award to Dean Wesley Smith and his wife, who are a massively prolific pair of Sci Fi authors.  I went up and talked to them afterward, and told them how much I'd enjoyed their books.  They were incredibly friendly and invited me to take one of their writing workshops, and offered encouragement for my own writing.  So now I have a contact with a successful published author, and maybe in the future I can ask him for a blurb for my book cover.

This is awesome!
Bilbo Baggins

To Agent or Not to Agent?

So I had an agent read the partial manuscript, and she loves it and wants to read the whole thing.  Yay!  The problem is, she says the word count is too long.  She wants me to cut 50,000 words or else split the novel into two books.

This is a problem.  I can't think of a good place to split it -- everything in the book works together toward the ending.  There are a couple of chapters which I could conceivably cut, but they serve so well to establish Malachi's character, and they introduce the police detective, who plays a small but not insignificant role in several other scenes.  If I cut him out, we lose Rena's only real ally in the book.

The alternative, of course, is to say no to this agent and keep going along the path toward self-publishing.  There are arguments for and against that, mostly having to do with the prestige of being a "real" author vetted by a publishing company.  The profit share is far less, and the work of promoting the book still rests pretty much with the author.

Sigh.  What to do?

And, as an aside, I do realize that I am INCREDIBLY lucky to have gotten even this far with an agent, even though there is every possibility that even if I do cut it down she might read the complete manuscript and decide that it isn't the project for her after all.  I wish every writer out there were blessed with problems like this.

I have tweeted. I am a tweeter.

So I wrote a book.  THE GLOAMING is an actual, publishable, original novel, and it'll be available on Amazon in November. In the meanwhile, you can follow my chief character, Malachi Blackwell, on twitter. Scientist, artist, musician, genius, and vampire: you can find him at vampire_in_PDX. But be careful. He bites.
Bilbo Baggins

The score so far

So as of today I've sent out four queries and had two rejections.  The trick, I think, is to just keep sending queries so that I always have one in the queue, one "could be yes" to offset the "definitely no."

FYI, if anyone out there is querying agents, there's a fantastic resource to help you know what works and what doesn't.  Check out Query Shark for some really excellent examples of how to revise your query letter.

Here's the one I'm using now -- you can see it's improved a lot from my first draft.  I've also written a synopsis, but I don't know why agents want one.  It's boring.  I don't want to read it, and it's MY book.  I can't imagine why anyone else would want to.  I'm concentrating on agents who'll look at a query letter and first chapters of the book for now.

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