We’re Moving On Up…

Authonomy has a ranking system where other authors can back an unpublished book. The higher the novel climbs in the ranking, the more eyes look at it. If it makes it to–and stays in–the Top 5 for a while, it magically gets transported to an Editor’s Desk at Harper Collins.

Beginning as a brand-spanking-newbie two days ago, CAPRITARE: The Cycles Begin started at position 5,334. So far, it has inched up 233 notches, and is currently ranked 5,101.

Here’s to celebrating small achievements, and working our way to the top!

::: raises glass :::

Novel Feedback

Finally, I am getting feedback on my novel from virtual strangers. This means, they have no face-to-face connection to me, no reason to flatter or hold back their true assessment. These comments are from members of the CreateSpace & Authonomy communities.

“Lucas, great imagination!I feel transported to an intriguing mythical world, yet the kids are very much teens,as in real life. The end of the preview keeps you in suspense for what’s next.
The rating is actually 4 and a half stars (they don’t have 1/2 star here).
You have a well-written, enjoyable story that issure to delight many – young adults and adults.”
“I liked the concept thateach one has to solve a different puzzle; my personal favorite character wasNeelid. Found him funny yet cool. He supposedly solves his puzzle quickly, yeteveryone makes fun of him because of it. And he could not even get his shirtoff, which is even funnier. I was interested to find out more about it. I reallylike the concept. “
“Interesting story, even though thistype of fantasy is not my specialty… The imagery is wonderful. It begins in the storystraight away, which is great for first person POV (my personal favorite). Ireally like what you have so far and, even though it’s not my normal read, Idefinitely plan on coming back for more. Your creatures, in a sense, areequally intriguing! On my shelf to support some fine writing :)”

“The most original story I’ve read here. Very, very different. Part Lit Fic, part fantasy,part dreamworld. Imaginative, creative, greatdescriptions, and well written. I have no idea ifthis story will be popular here, but it is quality, and it is unique. Welldone. Recommended.”
It’s great to get this kind of feedback. Even though it is not from “professional” editors/agents, it is good to hear what the Everyday Reader thinks of my work.

ABNA Entry

My entry is in! With a mad scramble over the last month to hone my story to a presentable version, my first novel has been entered into the 2012 ABNA. There was a lot of excitement on the message boards as we awaited the starting gun on 1/23/12 at 12:01am EST.
With only a small issue with my “captcha” not showing up, the process went pretty smoothly. By 12:30am, I received my confirmation email.
Thank you for participating in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest!

We’ve received your entry, “Capritare: The Cycles Begin.”

Your unique ABNA ID is: XHF4QUTB

On February 24, Amazon will announce the round two entries at http://www.amazon.com/abna.

Good luck in the contest!

The Gender Genie

I should be revising my novel. The ABNA contest opens in less than a week. I did tweak my Pitch a bit, and will be editing as soon as this entry is posted.

Discussion threads can be so distracting! Just now, a post led me to Gender Genie which uses an algorithm to analyze a text and guesses the sex of the author. I pasted the first “Cycle” of my novel. Here are the results:

Words: 18431

Female Score: 21692
Male Score: 21345
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

Apparently, by a narrow margin, I write like a girl…

Novel Word Cloud

Wordle is an online tool that provides a visual representation of the frequency of words in a given text. I performed the old cut-and-paste of my novel to see what its cloud would look like. Wordle perfomred its tabulating and formatting functions to spit out this visual version of Capritare.

It is interesting to see my novel in this format. I have already begun the process of checking on some of these words to see why they loom so large in the cloud. Alot of “just” iterations have been exorcised! 

Excerpt from CAPRITARE [Cycle 1]

Alright. I feel like this passage is polished enough to post. Enjoy!

Narrowed eyes told me that others were already planning,strategizing. A six-pointer glared at me. I stared back.
Armidy lifted a large, white stone above his head. Hisarms bulged with the weight of it. The tips of his fifteen-point antlers stretchedhigher than his uplifted hands. I scanned for someone smaller than me–someone I could possibly force to touch the tree.

Armidy slammed down the stone. “Begin!”

Frenzy. There was the instant strain of muscle, bone,and roars. Scattering. My mind whirled. Run! My legs jerked. Catch. Don’t get caught. A tree. Hide. I slid, hit the ground. Lay low.
I could see struggles all around me: large groups wrestling, vying for one another, lone beasts skulking. Locked horns. Bucking hooves. Ferocious eyes. The rotting wetness of the mulch beneath me assaulted my nose. A pair of Yramidians thumped past me. An Esque, captive to their strength, struggled to break free. Her loud screeching echoed off the leaves.
Movement to my left—Neelid. Gasping. He hid with his back against a tree. I peeked out, then crawled to him.

“Cap. This is crazy! I got punched!” He lifted his shirt to reveal a red mark in the shape of a fist burning on his ribs.

“What should we do?” I asked. “Team up and try to get someone?”

“Who? The little ones have already been nabbed.” Neelid hunched lower. “You and I are probably the smallest ones left.”

“So what? We just lay low and wa—?”

I was rising. Jerked. Pressure on my chest. Heat.Tightening. Treetops whizzed overhead. Kick! Kick! I arched my back. Squirmed. Kicked—hard.

Bamm! The hardness of ground. I slowed my racing eyes. The six-pointer was already back up on his knees. His red eyes glowing. His face contorted into every shape of rage.
I leapt up and stumbled to Neelid. “We’ve got to fight him together!”
We stood side-by-side with our backs against a tree.Six lowered his head, cut his eyes up at us, and lunged. Two steps, three. Too quick to dodge.

Pain exploded in my side.

Six pulled back, sliding his antlers out of side. Hot blood ran. He took aim again. I closed my eyes to brace against the pain.

Clash. Clacking of five points on six. Antlers intertwined. A snap like the breaking of a twig. Neelid threw punches with a force beyond his small frame. Searing in my gut. Six scooped Neelid up, slammed him to the ground. Neelid kicked out his legs, knocking Six’s out from under him.

Darkness crept in at the edge of my thoughts.

Booming from afar, “We have our winners! Stop thegame.”

What game? My sight dimmed as Neelid untangledhimself from the six-pointer. White heat shaded with redness blazed at my side.A red vividness streamed out of me. Darkness eclipsed my world with black. Oblivion.


The Denial of a Sacrifice to the Slumber Gods

It’s 3:30 in the morning and I really should be in bed. But this writing thing, you see, is an addiction. I can be minding my own business and an idea will pop in my head. I’ll be filling up my gastank when a spark of a sentence I need to rewrite will ignite. (And I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you what a bad mix fueling and sparks can be…)

So, what keeps me up tonight? Nothing in particular. It started with a noise. Some random nighttime sound in the loft stirred me from my slumber, and in that realm between sleeping and waking, I started editing in my head. I can’t recall the first few thoughts, but eventually I ended up with a revision for one of the lines in my Pitch. I got up. Here I am.

I groggily sludged to the laptop to record the amazing change I needed to make before it had a chance to slip away. Otherwise, it would have drifted off into the Land of Forgetfulness. One night’s sleep can do that to you–wipe out the fantastic, phenomenal, groundbreaking thoughts that formed right before you nodded off. I am sure I have lost millions of top-tier ideas that way.

I got up two hours ago. So why am I still here? You know the routine. I started on that first project, then needed to tweak something else. Then, it happened. I clicked on that little blue “e” and the portal to that great devourer-of-time-better-spent-doing-something-else, the internet, sucked me in. I had to check my email, pay a visit to the Amazon Pitch Thread and read the recent gnawings over at Query Shark. I had to. I couldn’t help myself.

Fortunately, I am almost as addicted to sleep as I am to writing. So, with the final distraction of a late night blog posting completed, I’m off to sacrifice a few more amazing ideas to the slumber gods.

From Book Formatting to Metatron

On Friday night I participated in the second installment of The Book Loft Literati Prose & Poetry Extravaganza. This is a monthly open-mic of sorts dedicated to local authors, readers & listeners. The interesting thing about open forums such as this, is that they draw a very diverse group of people. There were over two dozen such characters at this last Extravaganza including: four authors who participated in NaNoWriMo, screenplay writers, poets, one fellow who read from a cheesy Elvis-merchandise mailer & an eccentric guy who shared with us the glories of Metatron.

It is always great to be surrounded by others who share your struggles, hope and dreams. These gatherings are perfect for inspiration, feedback and sheer entertainment value. I was inspired by a fellow NaNoWriMo participant to format my manuscript in a two-column rendition that mimics the actual printed page. Seeing the words in that manner helped me to visualize my random string of words as though they were an actual book. Then, once it was in that format, I discovered other structural changes I needed to make: section dividers, chapter headings, margin adjustments. I was quite surprised at how simply switching the look of the layout spurred me on to tweak other elements.

So, I delayed content editing to work on the structure. And that reworking has actually helped me to think of my manuscript from the reader’s point-of-view.

The editing continues. While the structural changes came as a welcomed distraction, I am resisting the urge to research and download photos of the all-powerful Metatron.

A Celebration of Rejection

As I ran through my morning routine, I thought through three possible ideas for today’s blog. I decided on a topic, but then checked my email to see if there might be fodder waiting there. There was–my first rejection lettter. Booooo! I mean–Yay!  

Dear Mr. Hargis:
Thank you very much for your query, which we have read with interest. Unfortunately, the project does not seem right for this agency, and we are sorry that we cannot offer to serve as your literary agent.
We also apologize for the form rejection.The sheer number of queries we receive prevents personalization in order for us to respond in a timely fashion.
We wish you all the best in finding more suitable representation, encourage you to query widely, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work.
The Stringer Literary Agency LLC
In 2000, I sent out appoximately 75 article and poetry queries which resulted in 5 paying acceptances. That’s a success ratio of 1:15. I have queried nine agents at this point. In my little self-coded system of stars & highlights denoting the “fit” of each agency for my novel, this one only received one star–uncircled. So, I am not disappointed. In fact, I am celebrating. 
Rejection letters only come if the groundwork of submission has been completed. Rejection letters are the proof that there is actually someone at the other end. The submission process is complicated–each agent or publisher requires a different set of information. The queries have to be catered to the specific recipient and it can take up to six months to receive a response. So, it’s nice to know that all that effort isn’t just evaporating into cyberspace.
There are still eight queries out there, and one of them is with an agent who received five stars–circled, underlined and highlighted. My goal is to get six more queries out this week so I can hit that magic number fifteen. It’s been good to me in the past. Perhaps, some morning a few weeks from now, I’ll be chewing on ideas while making coffee and decide to check my email first. Maybe there will be another cut-and-paste email for me to drop into a post–an Acceptance letter.
When that happens, I’m hoping it will be from the five-star agent. But, if I can celebrate a rejection from a one-star, I am sure I will be able to find it within me to celebrate any acceptance–even if the star isn’t circled. 
What a crock. Writers always say stuff like: “Well at least I heard something back.” OR “It was a rejction, but there was a personalized line from the agent in it.” Like that really makes the sting any more comfortable. Rejection sucks–whatever its shape or form. It makes me feel inferior, less than, and sometimes angry as hell. I probably should insert some silver lining here. You know, be happy and shit. I refuse. Not in the Invisible Ink. What I honestly, plainly want to say is: Rejection Sucks. Hard.

Dust in a Thrift Store

And my eyes were opened.

My online research of over three dozen publishers was very revealing. A few, of course, were outstanding. The quality of their books, cover art, clients & marketing stood out–in a good way. But for every top-tier company I came across, I also discovered ten gutter publishers.

There are a lot of small publishers out there. And I’m not saying that none of the smaller presses strive for excellence. There are a few whose quality seems to be equal to that of the larger ones. How else can they hope to grow up to be one of the big boys someday? Others, however, apparently have little–to no–criteria for what they print. Many produce a sub-par product that I would personally be ashamed to represent my name.

By checking out the websites I was able to sift the wheat from the chaff. I was amazed at some of the things I found. Many of the book synopses I read could have been written by middle-school students struggling to get a “C” in English. The result was wordy, fragmented summaries with horrible grammar. If the publisher didn’t even edit the synopsis, then how horrendous is the actual writing between the covers?

And then there are the covers themselves. My artistic sensibilities were assaulted with amateur designs, poorly-rendered images and oversized, over-ornate fonts. I had no trouble imagining the dust that would find a home on these books at the local Dollar Tree or thrift store. Perhaps the middle-school art students could have been commisioned instead of those from the remedial English class. Surely the final images would excel beyond some of the artwork chosen.

Some of the publishers’ sites even contained such phrases as:
“While you may have ideas about the design of your book, we are good at what we do. We have artists and designers who ensure each book meets our standards. We know what works.”


As an aspiring author, I can only think of three reasons to choose a publisher such as this: ignorance, laziness or utter desperation. I am rarely accused of the first two traits. And the third, well, I have a long way to go before the darkness of despair encompasses me to that extreme. I cannot imagine taking the child I have been grooming so meticulously and throwing him into the back alleys to forage for food. Daddy loves him too much. I would rather we find what we need some other way: begging, pleading, dancing for our supper. Maybe there is a bit of pride bracing up this opinion. But, hopefully, it is the healthy kind.