Matthew displayed he was handy yesterday. Two out of three of our bathrooms had ailing plumbing. The flapper chain thingy in one of the bowls had broken, and the flush handle thingy on the other had cracked apart and would no longer do its job. And to top everything off, the light switch in our master bath had been possessed by some evil spirit that got its jollies from flickering the lights off and on at random intervals.
My intrepid hubby went to Home Depot, picked out the correct replacement parts, and installed them all by himself! (Well, I held the flashlight and was in charge of tool acquisition.) So now we don't need to call either an electrician or a plumber! I'm so proud of Matthew.
And in Cool Happenings Out of the Blue, we got an email from an NPR reporter who was doing a story on Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos (where Matthew and I honeymooned). Apparently it's closing down and auctioning off all its fixtures and stuff. She'd come across my write-up on our experience and wanted to do a phone interview with us. So we emailed her back, and she called us shortly afterward. Interview happened, story slated for Friday's Market Place. Neat! I spoke little, as this triggered my speaking in front of people phobia, but Matthew was great. I hope they got a few good sound bytes from us. Going to tune into NPR's Market Place on Friday for sure!
Sent out eight queries to agents yesterday (yes, mroctober, one of those was to bgliterary). I think I figured out why this whole query/agent thing is freaking me out. With queries especially, agents gauge whether or not you get bumped up the slush to the next tier of consideration solely on the basis of an introduction letter--not the first page of a manuscript, not even the first paragraph. The letter.
I'm pretty confident about my prose. I can tell when something really sings, and when something really sucks. Can't always get the sucking bits to sing, and certainly can't coax forth much more than a warble most days, but I trust myself to know. Not so with queries. Totally new ground there. I mean, I've read fiction for most of my life and I know what I like and what works. I haven't read very many query letters. What's a masterful query? What's the equivalent of the Eye of Argon?
Also, I'm fine with having a story judged by its merits, but I'm freaked out by the idea of having me and the future of my writing career evaluated solely on the caliber of my introductory letter. Glah.
To top off my anxiety, I received a rejection from Surreal yesterday. It was a nice one, as they went; they invited me to submit again, but I'm not in a good headspace for rejction right now.
However, in the taketh and giveth front, arkhamrefugee contacted me about a paying writing gig. It's always sweet to get solicited.
Words: 700 - The Chinese fairy tale continues apace. 'Bout halfway, and I'm pleased with how it's turning out.
Club 100 For Writers
I think you feel about query letters the way I do about a novel synopsis. It's what the editors read to decide if the novel is worth looking at, and they always give me agony. "If I could have summed up the book in 3 ##@# pages I'd have written a bloody short story!" Still, you do what you gotta.
I prefer 3-page summaries over query letters. At least you get two more pages. But I'd still much rather get evaluated on the quality of my prose, rather than my ability to summarize well or sell myself and my novel in a cover letter. Gleep.
"By the way, what's your middle-grade book about?"
In a nutshell: It's a Chinese afterlife story of redemption and compassion. The protag is Shao, a forgotten soul in Huang-chuan, city of the Chinese afterlife, where the earthly, yin halves of souls reside. He yearns for the beautiful forests and indigo sky of Mount Tai overhead where the spiritual, yang halves of departed souls dwell. He is given another chance at life, but not, to his surprise, as a boy, but instead as a badger.
Yep, the synopsis sucks all the life out the thing, dammit.
Is that related to the reincarnation beliefs of, I don't know, certianly Hinduism, and I think Buddhism as well, where people go to the Bardo when they die, and are judged, and get reincarnated into a higher or lower station depending on how they lived their life?
In that scheme, though, I think going from human to animal would definitely be considered a demotion, a sign of having lived poorly, and I don't get the impression you mean it that way. You might want to bear in mind that that is what it would mean in the traditional reincarnation belief system, and that people of this tradition might infer things you did not intend about your character (though Hinduism and Buddhism were both originally Indian, of course, and maybe in the Chinese tradition the implications are different; I don't know much about Chinese folklore).
Or perhaps he's becomming a badger spirit, or some sort of supernatural nature guardian or deity, which would then not seem like a demotion at all...
Or maybe he actually did do something bad that he has to make up for, perhaps having to do with a badger, or he had a special affinity for badgers in life, and becomming one gives him a chance to redeem himself (as you mention redemption)...?
I'm interested in the possibilities of the story, for sure. Also, have you read The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson? It follows a group of characters who reincarnate several times so that we see many periods in a millenium of alternate history from their perspectives. Each time they die, they go to the Bardo, and talk about the progress they made or failed to make in their lives this time around, and sometimes even struggle to understand or break or out-wit the rules of the afterlife. It's pretty good.
Buddhism yes, although not so much on the reincarnation theme. The whole wheel of rebirth isn't really a focal issue in my book, although I did extensive research on Buddhism, Chinese afterlife mythology, and related Chinese cultural issues. Not to mention spending many hours poring over Eurasian badger resources.
Handy people are so handy. While I am able to repair and fix quite a few things, it's taken me most of my life to realize that, while I'm usually able to invision how things should be fixed, I lack the ability to actually fix things. In most cases the things I fix end up being broken more badly.
I am currently on the Great Agent Hunt as well. From what I've gathered so far, query letters should be written like marketing copy. Not so much "this is what happens" as "this is why everyone will love this book".
It is completely different from writing fiction, and it's not an easy switch for someone who's shy. Hang in there.
I would normally insert a rant here about how most people are too stupid to discern the beauty of a narrative from a straightforward description of the story, but I'm having a good day, and you need encouragement.
I've watched rather awful writers sign multi-book deals with big publishing companies because they were good at selling their work. Think what you could do with actual talent and marketing acumen. You can do it!