Offers, Rejections, and Other Distractions

Well, my agent put a “closing date” on reads for my second book. That closing date was today at high noon. I was slightly shocked to learn that no offers came in before the deadline, but I’m even more intrigued by what happens now.

Two or three quick rejections popped in today. Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s who we didn’t hear from that was intriguing. The editor I had spoken to last month never got back to us. Last I knew he was giving my book to other people in his office to read and give feedback on. My agent tells me that the last he knew, that editor had taken my book to his editorial director…so far neither of us knows the outcome of that endeavor.

So, my agent is trying to get back in touch with him to see what happened. He’s also inquiring about another editor who had shown interest earlier on and told us to come back to him if any revisions were in order. There’s still a small chance that either of those editors will bite on the book under the premise of revising and refreshing. And they’re both with “Big 6” publishers, so that’s something.

The other avenue that’s more interesting to me is kind of a shock. My literary agency has an LA office and they’re evidently keen on trying to sell the film rights to my book before it ever even becomes a book. It’s kind of the backwards way of doing this business thing and it means less money at the beginning, but it’s still pretty damn cool. Shopping the film rights would only require a tweak to the ending of the book, which is less involved than the rewrites I had jawed about with the other editor.

Possibilities still abound.

As far as the third book goes, I’m over 20,000 words now and nearing 100 pages. I sat down to write for the first time in three weeks (vacation, parenting, videogames, etc.) and was able to punch out another five pages. Scheduled to put pencil to paper again today.

Fingers crossed…

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Building a Brand

I accidentally logged into my LiveJournal page yesterday. Didn’t even know that place still existed. My last post over there was on May 15, 2009 and I was unemployed and entering screenplay competitions. Seems like a lifetime ago. Also: makes me feel not quite as bad about neglecting this blog for over two months.

So, quick update: rewrites to Irish were finished before Xmas. After my agent gave a thumbs-up, our first “advance” submissions went out nearly three weeks ago to two specific editors. Just got my first rejection today…nothing but nice things to say about my writing style (compared me to Chuck Palahniuk) and the theme of the book, it just wasn’t quite there for him. He expressed interest in reading whatever else I produce though. That’s something.

Still have fingers crossed for the other early reader…he works for my all-time favorite publisher.

In the meantime, I’ll be putting pen to paper in another week or two on the third book. Spent a day earlier this week “on location” in the tiny village I plan to spotlight, just taking notes and soaking up the vibe of the town. Characters are forming, plotlines are beginning to knot themselves together, it’s almost GO time.

Other than that…wife…3 kids…trying to refi the house…going to Disney World soon…two good friends were diagnosed with cancer…my school’s basketball team is poised to take over the world…I let my subscription to SAVEUR lapse…uh…tacos for dinner tonight?

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I mentioned it last time, though neither of the people reading this seemed to notice, that my Tumblr is now active. I try to update daily (except weekends and holidays) with photos and quotes and tidbits that influence me or inspire me in some way. Think of it as a subconscious personality index.

And my Twitter is still going, though I’m not as quippy as I used to be.

And there’s this blog.

And my Facebook page if you know me in somewhat real life.

Basically, you can find me on all the major platforms under the moniker of deadbeatJONES.

That’s what we used to call synergy in the ad biz.

I think.

It’s been a long time, and I used to drink A LOT, so…

Blah Blah Blah Rewrites

I’m on to Round Two of rewrites for Sleep Suits Irish.

My agent really likes the book, but I needed to expand on some of the characters and give them more situations to screw up. I added 70 pages in the first round of rewrites and it looks like I’ll be adding maybe 20 more in this round. More importantly, I’m simplifying dialogue and adding more description.

Hoping to have it all wrapped up by the end of 2012 so we can start shilling this one to publishers in the new year.

I’m sure that means nothing to anyone outside of the six or seven people who have actually read the book, so I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that I’ve finally activated the Tumblr page that I created three or more years ago.

If you’d like to see some of the stuff that inspires me, some of the research I’m doing, or if you just like to stare at things on the internet, hop on over to deadbeatJONES.tumblr.com.

 

Book Peddling Update #2

I promised you a photo last time, so here it is:

I’ll explain in a minute.

First, I want to let you know that Disco has hit a “dead phase,” meaning that all of the editors my agent thought would be immediately interested in it have passed. The other editors still have the book and have been nudged by phone calls and/or e-mails to no avail. We’ll just have to wait it out now.

BUT, on the plus side, my agent finished reading Irish last weekend and seems very enthused by it. Said it has a strong story. Said he knows editors who are looking for “guy books” like this. Said it compared favorably to Chuck Palahniuk’s work.

And he also said I need to add another 20,000 words to it.

Eep.

So, I’ve got a list of changes/rewrites/suggestions taped to the inside back cover of the Irish notebook. Need to brainstorm some scenes and rearrange some stuff. I also need to strip out some dialogue and replace it with more descriptive prose. I seem to write for movies instead of books. Not sure if that’s a weakness or a strength, honestly. I think I’ve mentioned before that I tend to think in terms of soundtracks and casting when I’m coming up with plot ideas and scene structure. For instance, if there were a silent prologue to Disco, it would be the opening strains of “Game Show Host” by Doomtree. The first car crash scene in Irish takes place with The Faint’s “Posed to Death” ramping up in the background. Irish’s best friend is Mos Def, his brother is Jared Leto, and his love interest is Michele Monaghan.

Oh, and that picture up there? That’s the waitress at a truck stop diner who inspires the main character of Spinner Rack to shake his boring life and have an adventure. Sadly (or happily), that story has to wait a bit longer while I revamp Irish. My agent wants to talk again next week, so I’m thinking this is probably a priority for him now.

Book Peddling Update #1

The process so far: My agent sent my first manuscript out to an editor, as an exclusive “first look,” and then he submitted it to 7 or 8 other editors. That first editor eventually turned it down, calling it a “near miss,” but graciously said that I am “an imaginative writer.”

After that, we got 4 or 5 more passes…all without comment. In the meantime, for every rejection, my agent seemed to throw 1 or 2 more submissions into the wind. Gotta keep the plates spinning.

Then, on the eve of my recent vacation, my agent e-mails and asks if I’ll be around the following week to possibly jump on a conference call. Seems that one of the editors is quite taken with the book. He’s passing it around his office for what the industry calls “second reads.” He’s asking my agent about “comps” (other books that have been recently published that may have the same audience).

And then…nothing.

I e-mail my agent halfway through my vacation and learn that this editor has now passed as well. Evidently, I’m a “strong writer,” but the book is “a bit too niche.”

Now here’s where my ears perk up. Going into this process, I was well aware that my book was unique. There isn’t a lot being written about wandering chefs in a post-apocalyptic future trying to stop a snack food company from commandeering the nation’s food supply. I mean, it’s pretty obvious. And I told my agent as much. He assured me that this is a good thing. The book is easily explained. The logline (that one sentence description I just scrawled out) is solid.

However, when no one is able to find any comps, the publishing world panics. How can we sell this book if we don’t know in advance who’s going to buy it? When I worked in advertising, “new” was a pretty strong selling point. Technology updates constantly. Red is the new black. Status envy drives sales. Concepts are king. But when it comes to reading? No one wants a challenge. They want the same. They want comforting resonance where they don’t really have to pay attention to the words themselves or how they’re delivered. That’s why back-of-book blurbs always mention other authors who have blazed the trails before us, from Hemingway to Faulkner, from Crichton to King.

Some people out there say “Why don’t you just self-publish if you believe in the work so much?” And I could. Anyone could. That’s kinda why I don’t want to do it (not to mention the fact that I have a contract with my agent). I want to do it the traditional way because it’s more difficult, because it’s more of a challenge and an accomplishment, and because it’s probably more lucrative since I’m not the most social guy in the world (real life or on the internet).

Yeah…I have something to prove…to…somebody, I guess.

So, I promised updates. From what I can piece together so far, Disco has been rejected by 5 or 6 editors (including two close calls) and is still being read by 7 or 8 others. Meanwhile, my agent is on vacation this week and has promised to start reading Irish. Interestingly enough, Irish is a much broader story, more modern, more identifiable. And I’m fairly confident that comps for it will be easy to point out.

It could be that I end up selling my first book by first selling my second book. Meanwhile, I’ll start writing the third one in a week or two. I stumbled across a photo that blew open the plot for me and everything started falling into place, but more about that next time…

So What’s Next?

Sleep Suits Irish was finished in exactly 10 weeks. I’ve currently got a different friend giving it the once over, expanding my team of “reviewers” as I get more confident with my talents.

All the revisions were made to Disco Freeman: Post-Apocalyptic Chef and I sent the updated manuscript to my agent. All in all, I ended up chopping a total of 18 pages from the book. I combined stray dialogue bits, ripped out some heavy-handed exposition, and made sure the narrator stayed neutral throughout.

I have lunch scheduled with my agent in less than two weeks. I’m hoping he’ll be in selling mode by then. Be nice to hear his gameplan. Maybe I can even get him to acknowledge that I’ve written another book too. After lunch, I’ve got a night to myself in Manhattan. Drinks will be imbibed.

I know I said my next project would be Penny Black Spinner Rack. Or the love story thing. Or the book my son wants me to write for him. However, I think those might take a backseat a little while longer. I’m really excited to assemble a collection of short stories. To tell the truth, the normal structure of a novel is not my strong point. While I brag about my personal physical stamina, my creative stamina (and attention span) is severely lacking. I’d rather perfect a series of vignettes and character studies than try to push out another novel right now.

I have a handful of story ideas already. I may even grab a few items from the glory days of this blog and rewrite them as longer fiction. Should be fun to go through my notebooks and try to come up with some sort of esoteric title that encompasses all the strange ideas.

In other news, I got an odd e-mail from some stranger with piss-poor English skills telling me to take my avatar photo off the blog. Didn’t claim the photo was his, but insisted that I was breaking the law. I don’t even remember where I found the thing, it’s been so long. With that in mind, maybe a blog re-design is in the cards for the weekend…a new banner, a new photo, maybe a new color scheme and page theme.

After all that’s done, perhaps the blog will go back to its pop culture roots. There’s a whole new slew of reality dating shows that I can make fun of now. And I’m sure all eight of you are bored with my writing updates. Not the most thrilling way to spend your workday downtime, huh?

Book #2, Part Thirteen

The homestretch.

I’m two typed pages away from 50,000 words. I’m two chapters, or about 25 pages, away from finishing this book completely.

And the second round of self-doubt has crept in.

I was supposed to start writing the “big finale” two days ago and I just keep putting it off. Has the tension built up enough? Have all the dangling threads been woven together? Are the characters still interesting? Does anyone care what happens? Does this big scene make enough sense, is it believable enough to carry the end of the book? Is my entire plot based too much on coincidence?

These are the things that keep me up at night.

I was out drinking with a friend on Monday, basically pitching him ideas for my next books, and he seemed genuinely interested. We talked about short stories and genre fiction. I got a bit of a buzz going…not so much from the alcohol as from the idea of actually writing for a living, of putting together a body of work that I could be proud of, that I could look back on and say “Yes, I did that.”

I think part of what’s holding me back from finishing this book is the thought of having to drag out the first book again and slog through some thick edits. I’m meeting my agent four weeks from tomorrow. I need to have that book done so I can talk to him about the next one, so we can talk about selling these monsters.

This may be my last post for a while. Such is the life of an author.