Connecting the Virtual Dots


A lot has been popping with Freeborn. I’ll reiterate this from previous posts: I have not submitted a single query via the usual channels yet. In fact, I didn’t complete my last round of polishing until 1:30 this morning. A month ago, my plan was to complete the final edit, and then begin querying on my self-imposed deadline of 6/16/2012.

Alas, that plan was tweaked a bit by some amazing opportunities which sprang up between the tightly laid cobblestones of my proposed path to publication. If you walk away with nothing else from this blog post, then I ask you to consider the weight and importance of being active online and being involved with the personalities you meet there. The partials I have received have stemmed from those virtual relationships.

I received TWO partial requests for Freeborn yesterday.

  1. Via the YaLitChat YALitChat Pitch Slam2 Contest – A request for the first 50 pages from agent Tamar Rydzinski of Laura Dail Literary Agency.
  2. Via the Month9Books Facebook page – A request for the first 5 chapters from publisher Month 9 Books.  

I originally heard about the YaLitChat Pitch Slam2 contest from a Twitter friend. To trace that lineage back even further, she & I were both involved in the #WVTP contest. Afterwards, a group of us continued to message one another, connect via Facebook, and celebrate/share/whine about our writing endeavors. If this connection had not been made and sustained, the Tweet announcing Pitch Slam2 would have scrolled along, getting buried in the rolling feed. Because we had connected with one another, I took notice of the Tweet and followed up on the opportunity.

Here is the form the request took. [Pay attention to the name of the Moderator. You will be seeing it again shortly…]

 Reply by Georgia McBride 
Tamar would like to see your first 50 pages! Congratulations! Please email us at membership@yalitchat.org for submission instructions!

I’ll try to keep the circuitry of the Month 9 Books motherboard as sorted as possible. While on YALitChat, the ‘Chat’ window bleeped at me. I joined in a conversation with Brenda Drake and Georgia McBride. Brenda and I had originally connected through her Brenda Drake Writes blog months ago, and then we connected again as she served as hostess-with-the-mostest for the #WVTP contest. Georgia is the founder of the YALitChat site [along with a ton of other endeavors!] and we connected there. A week ago, she took the time to thank me for being active and helpful in the PS2 conversations on the site.

In the midst of discussing a concern I had regarding a specific element in my pitch, Brenda asked if I had pitched to Month 9 books. I scribbled the info on a post-it to investigate later and continued chatting. Later, I discovered that M9B is yet another of Georgia’s many endeavors–and Brenda’s publisher. At the time, I had no idea of either connection.

I found M9B’s website and started my research. First of all, I loved the publisher’s tagline: Speculative fiction for teens and tweens…where nothing is as it seems. As always when researching agents and publishers, I delved further. I checked out every aspect of the company including the basics, what they are looking for, current titles & authors, and quality of the book covers. What I found particularly interesting were the Publishers Marketplace announcements on the ‘News’ tab: 2 & 3-book deals, auctions, and an expanding staff roster.

With the confidence that M9B would make a perfect fit for Freeborn & its author, I followed a link to their Facebook Page and submitted my query. Within five minutes, I received this response in the form of a Comment:

Month9Books, LLC. I’ll bite. I’m looking for straight-up sci-fi. Please send first 5 chapters to submissions@month9books.com. Please polish and make sure the world-building is solid.

One more dot to throw in here to increase the connectivity a hundred-fold: Georgia is represented by the illustrious, aforementioned Tamar Rydzinski.

Is your mind scrambled? It took me a few takes to trace all the circuits.

So, what’s the point of this post? Other than the fact that I’m geeking out over a pair of requests on the same day?

Make and sustain meaningful online connections with others who share your passion.

Yeah, I know. It’s common sense and it has been said before. Maybe I have nothing to offer except a reiteration of the obvious. I’m totally okay with that, because I am seeing the importance of the simple truth being played out in my own experience. Don’t underestimate the power of seemingly ‘simple’ advice–and virtual relationships.

Forget the Zombie Apocalypse. Prepare for F-DAY!


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As writers, we write stuff. [Genius, I know!]

Sometimes that stuff hits a chord and resonates with a reader. I’m not talking about the “Oh, I really like that story” or “You should be a real writer” kind of resonance. I’m thinking of something a little deeper, a bit more personal–the kind of connection that happens when a story actually zings inside the reader.

There have been many instances of writers ‘foretelling’ the future. Sci-Fi is good for this. Authors like Isaac Asimov created fictional events, technology, and gadgetry which seemed far-fetched and ludicrous at the time. I remember [bits and pieces of] Fahrenheit 451 from High School. I can turn my head away from this laptop screen and see something in my very own home that seems eerily similar to Ray Bradbury’s wall TV concept. 

There have been a slew of zombie movies and books hitting the market for years now. [For the record, the campy 1950’s setting of the movie Fido is my all-time favorite.] Sometimes the zombies are really fast and nimble, other times they are slow and clunky (but still eat your face anyway). Apparently, In Miami, the Zombies prefer to dine au naturalle.

And so the Zombie Apocalypse Begins.

Do I really believe in a soon-coming day when Zombies will roam the land? Ummm, no. What I do believe is this: the story in that link is kinda creepy. Not because it has a coked-up killer in it, but because–one day–somebody’s book is going to get it right. We’re going to wake up and find that the world as we once knew it is gone.

It could be real-life (real-death?) zombies, an alien spacecraft hovering over Paris, animals with the ability to talk, some chap in S. America who suddenly reveals he can fly under his own volition, a near-earth asteroid scorching the ozone, or a little girl who can predict the lottery with 100% accuracy. And, chances are, someone will already have written a story about it before it ever happened.

My novel, Freeborn, has some of the basic sci-fi elements necessary to make it believable: technology that has evolved from where it is now to where it might be heading, socio-economic dynamics as they may look in the future if we remain on our current trek, realistic interactions between characters in a world based on these changes.

Thankfully (because I wouldn’t be much of a writer if it didn’t),  Freeborn also incorporates fresh concepts that have never been explored in the genre. Plenty of these are sprinkled throughout the narrative, but everything hinges on that one key hook which–to my knowledge–has never been explored in the same way in previous novels.

Clones have been done–yes. Infection by viruses has been done–no brainer. But, when the virus infecting the clones causes spontaneous pregnancies to occur–regardless of the clone’s sex–well, haven’t seen that one until I put it down on paper myself.

Once-fictional-now-real technology exists. Folks wrote about zombies and then some naked guy kept munching his victim’s face even though the cops shot him–over and over. I’m not saying dudes are going to start having spontaneous babies. I’m just saying: if it ever does happen, you heard it here first.

So how will you know what to do when you wake up as a victim of the spontaneous pregnancy apocalypse? What should you do when Freeborn Day (F-Day) becomes a reality?

You must begin by clicking “Like” on FREEBORN’s Facebook Page. Today!
Don’t wait until it’s too late!

And, once it’s published, you need to buy the book (of course!)

It’s the only way to be prepared when F-Day hits.

[You know, if it ever comes…]

Full Manuscript Request: FREEBORN


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Understatement: I’m excited about this.
Disclaimer: I am stretching this post out to include a Twitter-teach along the way.

Yesterday, I spent 6 hours monitoring a Twitter feed. Brendra Drake, along with a a couple other hosts, organized the Writer’s Voice Twitter Party. The full rules for the contest can be found here: http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

[I’m going to pop in the bracket explanations for those of you who are still working on your Twitter savvy. I know you’re out there. Don’t be embarrassed. I’ll help you. 😉 ]

The contest involved tweeting a pitch for a novel using the imposed 140 character limit.
[A Tweet is simply a post–similar to a Facebook update. If you don’t know what that is…oh my…]

The hashtag #WVTP was crucial to the contest to feed the tweets into the correct stream where agents would be lurking.
[A hashtag is simply a label. Hashtags serve as funnels to carry updates from anyone using them into a common folder. By searching for a hashtag, you can see the Tweets of others with similar interests.]

So, out of techie world, and back to the experience itself.

The timeframe for the contest was 12-6pm. Literary Agents trolled the stream during that window. Aspiring authors submitted their pitches in hope of having one of the agents ask to see the manuscript. Basically, it served as a way to get the idea of a book in front of many agents at once instead of sending tedious, individual query letters.

At noon, the #WVTP stream exploded as authors began submitting their pitches. It was insane. Trying to read each pitch was difficult because so many were flooding in. The screen kept scrolling as the new entries stacked on top of the previous ones. The hashtag was used so much in such a short amount of time that it began ‘trending’. [In other words, it became popular since so many Twitterers were using it.]

That’s when the steady influx of SPAM messages added to the melee: “enhance your penis size”, “can this be real”, “I can’t believe they let me post this”, “come see what everyone else is seeing”, “make 10k a week from home”. The nude avatars and constant posting of the SPAM started as a novelty, became an annoyance, and then pretty much made the pitch-reading impossible.

Enter: http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta. [Oh no, more brackets…TweetDeck is a secondary program that can be downloaded free. It serves as a dashboard for your personal Twitter feed and is outstanding for organizing tweets from users all over the world into easy-to-read columns. It’s like a digital filing system for all your Tweet interests.] TweetDeck contains a filtering function. With a few keystrokes, the file extensions for all the SPAMmers’ links could be weeded out of the feed. Voila! Back to only pitches and agent/host comments.

Then the fun began.

I pitched both FREEBORN and CAPRITARE when agents were present on the feed. No bites. So I started rewriting the tweet-pitches to focus on different aspects of each story. You know: put more hooks in the water, try different bait. My reworked pitches for FREEBORN took on many forms by zeroing in on different elements: Katia, Adam, their relationship, the Surgeon Generals, the clones, The Candystripers, the mission to overthrow the government, gender issues, the virus, spontaneous pregnancies, etc.

Still, no bites.

Then, fifteen minutes before the contest was to end, Agent John M Cusik http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/ pointed out he was looking for Young Adult novels. Now, the vast majority of the pitches were for YA. Only, we couldn’t spare the characters to include those two little letters. I reworked the pitch [again] and sent this one blazing into the feed:

YA The Surgeon Generals are liars. The lives squirming inside Katia and the other clones aren’t parasites. They’re bastard Freeborns. #WVTP

I waited. Then a Direct Message [not a mass Tweet, but a message sent directly from one user to another] popped up in its column on my TweetDeck. Here’s what it said:

Yo yo, send me that. #WVTP

Sweet! So, John and I chatted a few direct messages back and forth. Apparently, he didn’t know it was YA until that Tweet. Also, he noted that sometimes persistence is the key. It damn sure was!

I have already received my instructions on how to bypass the slush pile and send the full manuscript for FREEBORN directly to an agent who asked for it. This is a great opportunity. I have not even queried FREEBORN yet, so the Twitter Party was it’s first foray into the larger world of publishing professionals.

Understatement: I’m excited about this.

FREEBORN: Facebook Page


Just like his older brother before him, FREEBORN now has his own Facebook Page.

Stop by and give it a “Like”. It costs absolutely nothing, and you can watch the little tyke as he grows up and makes his way to market.

In the novel, the Infection is viral. It’s hard to imagine that a Facebook Page for an [as-of-yet] unpublished book could be as well—but hey—an author’s gotta have dreams ya know.

 

Excerpt: FREEBORN


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Movement ripped Katia out of her imaginings. A man in a baggy shirt passed her bench. Even though the day was cool, large patches of sweat darkened his armpits. He couldn’t hold his head still. He kept checking over his shoulder. Frightened. Infected.

“You see him, Katia?”

“Yeah. He’s got to be a mark.”

“I agree. You ready to snag him?”

“I am.”

“Be careful.”

Katia stood, leaning on her cane. She broke into a quick hobble to close the gap between them. The infected man glanced back at her. Picked up his pace. Forget the cane! Just get to him before he reaches the scanner.

Katia stood upright, and shifted her weight to take off in a sprint. Adam yelled in her head, “Katia, abort! Candystripers!”

A pair of figures flashed past her. They corralled the man an instant later. He tried to run, but one of the assassins landed a roundhouse kick to his gut, slamming the man to the concrete.

“Stay down, parasite!”

“Haha! Look at him. All infected and bleeding from the mouth.”

The man writhed on the cement. Clutching his belly. Gasping.

“Pl—please,” he begged between inhales. “Don’t k—kill me.”

“Katia! Get out of there!”

But she couldn’t move. She was transfixed. Had to watch. Stay within earshot.

The Candystripers circled the man.

“Let’s see,” said one of the assassins. “I’m gonna bet he’s…eight days infected.”

“No way!” said the other. “More than that. A lot more. I’m gonna go with fourteen days.”

“You’re hyped up on Ambrosia! No way he’s been hiding for that long.” He kicked the man in the ribs. “Have you, parasite?”

“I’ll bet you fifty debits. Whoever’s closest without going over: wins.”

“You got it, chump! Check him.”

The high-bidder pulled out a portable detector. The low-bidder lifted the man’s shirt with the toe of his shoe. His partner slammed the needle into the man’s stomach. A moan. A red light.

A holo-screen projected into the air. The high-bidder read off the stats. “Felix-2190. Crop 03. Infected. Sixteen days. Ha! I told you!”

“Lucky guess,” said the loser. He pointed his gun. Fired two quick shots. One to the man’s infected gut. One to his head.

“Adam?”

“Yeah?”

“I can’t wait until those assholes get infected.”

***