Posts Tagged ‘friends’


It’s been said that it takes more than one person to write a novel, and that is the absolute truth. Beautiful Monster was of course, written by two folks, me and Mimi A. Williams, but what I’m referring to is all the people along the way who have made the book possible and who supported this project. With Beautiful Monster having just been released, it’s hard not to think about the journey, and more importantly, the people who helped make it happen.

I’ve worked very hard for the past several years to make this happen, and now that it’s here, I realize just how many people were a part of it. Since there’s only enough allotted room in any given novel to acknowledge a handful of people, I am writing this now as a way of (hopefully) including everyone who helped this dream become a reality, and to let all of you know that you mattered in making this real.

Thank you to:

Heather ~ for your unending support, your great management skills, your hard work, and the genuine respect you have for mine.

Mimi A. Williams ~ my co-author, for teaching me everything I know about this game, and for staying up with me till the middle of the night on numerous occasions to make sure we got it right. Thank you for creating such wonderful characters who worked so well with my own. Thank you for believing in me enough to put so much of your time and energy into me. None of this would be possible without you. We did it.

Mom ~ for reading Beautiful Monster (and loving it) even though I told you not to.

Kim Johnson ~ for reading, and for telling me when I’d found my voice.

Dawne Dominique ~ for the kindness, the great interview, and the amazing cover art.

Erin Lale ~ for delivering such good news.

Sherrie Hill ~ for being the first person we met when we arrived. Thank you for your style, your charm, your belief in me, and your friendship. Thank you also for handing out the postcards and spreading the word.

Kim Richards ~ for slipping in that ‘yes’ amid the endless sea of ‘no’s.

Tom Brown ~ for reading, for running, and for spurring me on in both.

Lori Clark ~ for the friendship, the interview, and the book review.

Tamara Thorne ~ for the great blurb, the great friendship, and for being a hero who doesn’t disappoint.

David Hansen ~ for being around after all these years, and for showing me New Orleans, and always knowing who I was.

Todd Tapper ~ for your great sense of humor about what you do, and for the invaluable information you gave us. You didn’t bat an eye, no matter how silly (or morbid) the question.

Sally Franklin Christie ~ for your great marketing.

Karina Fabian ~ for your kindness, support, and for trying to help me get into the chat room.

Roberta Antunez ~ for your keen eye, your hard work, and your support.

Everyone at Damnation Books ~ for your great support, and for seeing something in us.

The Fiend ~ for surprising me with your existence and taking Beautiful Monster to a better place.

****

Also, I would like to give thanks to some people for their genuine support and enthusiasm, and for the inspiration and guidance they’ve given me.

Thank you to:

Holly Malcom ~ for being an amazing reader with an editorial eye that could put the best the shame.

Dayle Sant ~ for your support and your knowledge of the English language.

Marlene Anderson ~ for loving The White Room, and wanting more.

Becky Herron ~ for actually reading me… and encouraging me.

Joe Ostler ~ for sharing the passion and the good times.

Pam MacDonald ~ for your investment into our futures.

Annie Valenzuela ~ for your excitement and your encouragement. You have always had the crown, Annie… and you always will! Your enthusiasm has motivated me in wonderful ways. Thank you.

Linda L. Bennett ~ for your unwavering loyalty to me. Thank you for always reading my blog and for leaving me such kind comments.

Care Patton ~ for always telling me to dream, and for introducing me to Kim Williams-Justesen. You’ve pointed me in a lot of directions over the years… and they’ve all been right.

Bradley “Awesome” Newsome ~ for being a great reader and a great guy. Thank you for being the first person who called me your favorite author.

Elizabeth Hamre ~ for finding me, and for reading The Vagina Monologues to me when we ran out of things to talk about. You were there in the beginning of all this. I’ll always remember our talks.

Eva M. Lietz ~ for spreading the word.

Arin MacDonald ~ for showing me New York City through your eyes, and introducing me to even more strange novels, both of which have inspired me greatly.

The folks at Candle Bay (especially Juicy Lucy and Poison Ivy) ~ for giving me an interesting place to stay. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be immortalized. You all gave me some great new ideas.

Anthony Berge ~ for saying I should go for it many, many years before I actually did. You’re a muse.

Tim Campbell ~ for your great art, and for always telling me I could and should do this.

Doug and Sonya Malcom ~ for your constant encouragement, and your help along the way.

Debbie Rocco ~ for all the years of unrestrained imagination, and for wanting to read my books.

Sheryl Thornblad ~ for your support… and for introducing me to the “underground,” where so many of my ideas have come from.

Jamie Thompson ~ for reading my stuff back in the day, when I really, really sucked at it; and because you’ve always been the best personal assistant ever.

Brad Sant ~ for unwittingly giving me “Winter.”

My family ~ for being so supportive. I sincerely appreciate all of your excitement and enthusiasm. All of you have been great readers, brainstorming buddies, and awesome supporters.

All of the great authors who have supported me, encouraged me, and allowed me entrance into your worlds and your minds. You are the ones who made me want to do this in the first place. You are my heroes.

All the players ~ for teaching me beforehand to keep my hands to myself, my feet on the ground, and my eyes on the road.

****

Beautiful Monster is now available in eBook format at: http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-ebook/dp/B00948Q0DK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1346686182&sr=8-3&keywords=Jared+S.+Anderson#_ and at: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727742. It will be available in paperback in a few weeks!

 

Advertisements

With just one month till the release of Beautiful Monster, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, mostly about how all of this came to be. It still feels like a dream to me, and I still expect to wake up any minute. And if it’s real, I’m waiting for something to somehow go wrong. I’ve been anticipating some kind of terrible news for some time now, but so far, things seem to be on track, and the novel is still set to be released on September 1st, one month from now.

There are a lot of things I anticipated when the day came that I finally got a book published… and there are some things I did not anticipate. First on this list of surprises is the speed at which this whole process has moved. I didn’t give much thought to the new age of e-books, and therefore, I figured once I found a publisher, it’d be a good few years before I’d be able to see and hold my own book. As it is now though, the book is set to  be released in both hardcopy and e-book versions in about three months after having been accepted.

I didn’t expect to get a publisher before I got an agent. While I queried just about every agent on (and a few off) the American Continent for The White Room, I did things differently for Beautiful Monster. Because of Monster’s violent and graphic nature, I never expected it to get picked up at all. My co-author and I queried 27 small to mid-sized publishing presses for Monster as opposed to the 157 literary agents I queried for The White Room. My feeling was that The White Room was simply more commercial, and therefore would have a much easier time selling. That hasn’t turned out to be the case at all.

I didn’t expect to be so worried about who might read this book. As I mentioned before, Beautiful Monster is laden with violence, sex, and drug use. And I didn’t skimp on any of the details… nor did I use gentle language to convey these acts. I suppose that because I never expected the novel to find a home, I was much more liberal with my own twisted-ness, but now that it’s going to be a real book, I’m a little bit mortified. Not ashamed… but I do cringe a little whenever someone in my family or someone I know (who isn’t a lover of horror stories) asks me about the book.

I didn’t expect so much support, and the person who surprised me the most was my mother. Not because she isn’t supportive, but because I know that if my own son had written this book, I’d probably be a bit concerned about what the neighbors might think. When the contract was signed, I called my mom (who had read – and actually somehow enjoyed the book) and had a little talk with her in hopes of preparing her for the possible negative side-effects of the situation. I told her that people whom we may not necessarily want to read this book might read it, and there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to stop them. I told her I would very likely be harshly criticized and that a lot of people, even people we love, may not exactly appreciate the wicked and vulgar nature of this story. After prattling off my list of possible unpleasant scenarios, she said, “So what? If they don’t like it, they don’t have to read it. I’m proud of you anyway.” That made my day.

I didn’t expect to make so many new and wonderful friends. Since this book has been picked up, I’ve made the acquaintances of so many other writers, many of whom were my heroes back in the days when I used to read for the sheer enjoyment of it while dreaming that I could one day do this thing. These other writers know exactly where I’m at, and they have all been absolutely wonderful about talking to me, giving me good advice, and letting me know what it was like for them.

Most of all, I didn’t expect that I’d so quickly feel that it was time for the next step. As beginning writers, we all live our lives in terms of, “one day, when I finally get published…” and I didn’t expect that when I finally did, I’d be worried about the next book just a week or two after. The sparkle fades fast, and soon you’re left with the feeling of “So… now what?” … So now, as best as I can guess, I just keep writing the next one. I knew I’d never be content having written only one book (or even just two or three for that matter), but I guess I thought I’d at least take some time off mentally to figuratively roll around nude in my newfound glory. But I never really did. I just started worrying about the next story.

One month to blast off… and here’s what I know: there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… but as soon as you find it, you just see another rainbow to chase.

 


I’ve always believed that the most important thing a writer can do is read. By reading, we not only see what’s out there that works, and what’s out there that doesn’t, but also, reading has a way of jostling the imagination, and sparking new ideas in even the most unexpected places. Unfortunately, once you’ve learned the technicalities of writing, it’s hard to forget them while you’re trying to read for pleasure. On every page it seems, there lurks some glaring type of technical issue such as misplaced modifiers, too much exposition, fragmented sentences, and overused adverbs. Another common problem (apparently) is the over use of commas, but I don’t seem to notice those (this is probably due to the fact that of all the rules of writing in existence, comma use is the one that I struggle with the most.)

I’ve always been an avid reader, and after I began to learn the rules of writing, I found myself unable to read without  being critical. There are times this education comes in handy, such as when I’m reading actively, setting out on purpose to read something critically. But when it comes to reading for joy, it’s a real buzz kill.

My first approach to regaining the former pleasure I’d always been able to find in reading was to practice turning that part of my mind off. It didn’t work. I’m ashamed to admit that because of this, I probably only read half a dozen novels in 2011. I believe that if I want to get any better at my work, I need to read, so I’ve decided that I need to change my approach.

A few months ago, me and my friend Tom began our own little “book club” where we take turns choosing novels that we want to read. We’ve done several books now, and with the exception of one, I’ve managed to not only get through, but genuinely enjoy, all of them. I will continue doing this because I don’t ever want to become stagnant in my own writing, or closed-minded to the writing of others. With each book I read, I’m coming to understand more and more clearly that what was formerly stumping me is really just a simple concoction of pros and cons. Although I may find a lot of things wrong with a story, I am also finding a lot of things right. For every line I scoff at, I find another one with mind-blowing beauty.

Reading these days takes a little more patience, but I have yet to throw a book down, call it “bad,” and tell everyone how much it sucks despite the fact that I didn’t finish it. I’d be doing myself no favors by closing my mind this way – not to mention this kind of literary snobbery doesn’t look good on anyone. However, I also believe I should be a little more selective about what I read, because as important as reading may be, it’s still second to writing, and if I am doing enough of that, I probably shouldn’t invest a whole lot of time into something I probably won’t learn anything from.

I can not un-learn the things I’ve learned over the past few years, and I’m glad for that, but most of all, I’m glad that I’m coming to understand that when it comes to reading, nothing has changed except how I choose to approach it. These days, I need to approach reading with an open mind as well as a willingness to accept that not everyone follows all the rules all the time, not even me… and that is okay.


I live my life these days according to an ongoing list of weekly to-do‘s that I design every Sunday night; each day of the upcoming week containing a set of challenging-yet-reasonable objectives that I cross off the list as they are accomplished. I’ve found that otherwise, my life loses direction and time passes by until one day I wake up and wonder what happened to the last week, month, year, etc. I’ve lost enough time this way to take my little to-do list very seriously at this point in my life.

It’s taken many years of soul-searching to pin down my real priorities and learn that I need to focus on those and let go of the little time-wasters that hinder me. This is, for me, the only effective way I’ve found to live. Future-based goal setting is great, but the trouble I have with that is the excuse I will invariably make: “I have plenty of time.” I’ve learned that I’m the kind of person who needs to not only set goals for the future, but also smaller goals that I need to do today which will ultimately lead me to the accomplishment of the bigger goals.

There are two kinds of goals on my list: those things that need to be done daily: exercise, eat right, read, write, make some kind of spiritual contact and go to work (on work days). Then there are the things that are more sporadic: meet with my critique group, clean the house, write a blog, query a few literary agents, meet with friends, etc. In both cases of the daily and the more intermittent to-do‘s, it becomes mind-numbingly monotonous after a while, and eventually you reach a point when you feel like you just can’t do it anymore.

I suppose that all of us reaches a kind of breaking point at one time or another, no matter what path we’ve chosen – and today, I hit a big one. I have the day off work, which means my to-do list is going to be extra long. I woke up and looked at the list, thinking I was ready to tackle the day. But when I saw “query five agents” at the top of the list, my heart plummeted, my spirit sank, and for the first time, I considered putting a big black X on the page and going back to bed.

Instead, I made some coffee, played with the dogs and argued with myself in silence. It’s been several weeks since I queried any agents and I know the rules: do not “query-bomb” (meaning don’t contact every agent under the sun in one blow – they know each other, they talk with each other, and they don’t like it when authors clearly don’t even know who they’re querying.) I know the rules, I respect the rules and I play by the rules.  The point is, it’s been several weeks since I queried anyone, and today it needed to be done. So in the end, I lost the argument with myself and sat down to query some agents.

Here’s what querying agents means for me: first, I need to block out a good hour or two (sometimes more) of my day. Second, I need to locate the agent, (which can be terribly tedious in and  of itself) then research what genres they accept, what kind of writers they’re looking for, and find out if they accept e-mail submissions, snail mail only, or both. Then I need to learn as much as I can about the agent and what he or she represents, and contact them according to their personal guidelines, which varies from agent to agent. Some want just a query letter. Others want a query letter with a synopsis. Some want a query letter, a synopsis and a specific amount of sample writing. Some want all of this, plus a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. Some want all of this in the body of an e-mail (if they accept e-mail submissions). Others want sample chapters as an attachment. Some want you to include not only your bio and platform, but your marketing strategy plans as well. Needless to say, every agent has different guidelines – and that’s okay. The point is that this can be a very challenging process for authors, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s just part of my job. But there comes a point in which you just can’t help but feel exhausted by it all, and that’s where I am today.

I queried the five agents today over the course of about two hours. I followed all of their rules and was a professional through and through. But I was less than enthused about doing it. Counting the five I queried today, I have been through this process 135 times. Of the 135 agents I have queried, one asked to see my entire manuscript, and three asked to see the first five or six chapters. That means 131 literary agents have looked my query letter over and passed without asking to see any of my actual writing. And here’s the best part: this is not only normal, it’s expected. Statistically, I have a good seven to nine more years of this before someone takes an interest in my work. Every writer I’ve ever talked to went through this part of the process too, and they all tell me the same thing: “It’s not personal. Just keep writing.” So I do. And I do so with an unshakable determination to get better and better at my craft.

But… today… I’m creatively bankrupt and void of all inspiration.

As The White Room treks the globe, accumulating endless rejections, my other manuscript, Gallery of Dolls, is several thousand miles away being revised and polished by Kim Williams-Justesen, co-author of the novel. Also, I am at the beginning of chapter five of Alejandro (working title). The plan is to have Gallery ready for submission by the end of January 2012, and Alejandro ready by May of the same year. Under normal circumstances, thinking of the future of these books (and the ones that have yet to be written) gives me a shot of optimism and boosts my spirits. But today… just for today… I’m going to allow myself to dread my future as a writer. I’m going to accept where I am rather than fawning over where I wish I were.  Today, I wish that I wanted something simpler. Today, I wish that all I wanted from life was to get a good job, have a couple kids and settle into the comfort of a nine to five job. Today… I wish I was someone else because I know without a doubt that I will never be happy with any of those things. Today… I surrender.

But tomorrow is another day and I won’t give up on it. I never wanted a simple life. I never expected this to be easy. I had the luxury of walking into this business with my eyes wide open. As Kim told me over a year ago, “writing the book is the easy part.” And she was right. There isn’t much room for pity and there are no shortcuts. Nothing worth having ever comes easy and despite the rejections, I’ve had some wonderful experiences. I’ve met many of my heroes. I’ve had agents tell me some wonderful things and point me in some good directions. And above all, I’ve been able to do what I love: write… and I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of help along the way.

No, I won’t give up. The people who love me wouldn’t let me and more importantly, I would never forgive myself if I did. I’ve worked too hard for this and I’ve spent too much time to justify walking away. But more than all of that, I don’t want to give up. Today is a bad day and that’s okay… but overall, this is what makes me happy, despite all the heartache along the way.

I started this blog to document my adventures in the world of writing. I’ve always told the truth but I’ve never really said much about the strains and pains of this business because I never wanted to discourage anyone. But to maintain the dignity of my blog’s overall purpose, I can’t really forfeit the darker side, either. The truth is that being a writer has a hell of a lot more to do with sitting down, writing and maintaining a smile while the world tells you you’re not good enough than anything else. It has more to do with working than playing. It’s about getting good at your craft and playing the game. It’s about accepting that there are no shortcuts and loving the process in its entirety, despite its flaws. It’s about understanding that the dream is always preceded by the nightmare. Your job is to write and let the business of getting published take care of itself. In the interim, hold tight to the little things that happen along the way which propel you in a forward direction and prove to you that your path is true.

In New Orleans this summer, I spent some time with my best friend from childhood. He said something that I hold onto. He said, “You’re a writer. You’ve always been a writer and one day you’ll be published. You always had a way of setting your mind to something and getting it. You will get this too.”

And I will. But not today… and that’s okay.


 

Of the various steps a writer should take before handing his or her query letter or manuscript over to an agent or publishing house, probably the most important one is getting raw, honest feedback from a few trusted readers. These lucky folks are called Alpha and Beta readers.

An Alpha (Alpha meaning first) reader is the first person who gets to see your work. This person has the responsibility of stopping you from further embarrassment before anyone else gets to see it. The Alpha reader should therefore, in my opinion, be your strongest critic. This person must be wholly comfortable telling you what sucks about your manuscript and what doesn’t. An education in English and Grammar is also a plus.

In my case, my Alpha reader is Kim William-Justesen, author of My Brother the Dog, The Hey! Ranger series, and co-author of Love and Loathing. Kim acquired her MFA (Masters of Fine Arts in Writing) from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2003. Not to mention, she has been circulating throughout the literary world for a good number of years, so she kind of knows her stuff – and, as it should be, she is probably harder on me than anyone else.

Kim is really the only person who gets to see my work in its most unpolished and unrefined state. However, knowing that she will be reading it, I work hard to keep it clean and neat, and to follow the rules of writing fiction, which automatically puts me in better shape. A typical page that’s been critiqued by Kim usually comes back to me with plenty of issues. Unnecessary words are called into question, 90% of all adverbs are slashed, question marks indicate a characters inconsistent voice or behavior, and of course, misspellings, grammar issues, and improper English is marked. Not to leave out issues with paragraph breaks, timing, dialogue, too much exposition, tense shifts and logic flaws. The point is, at first sight, the returned pages are often intimidating and discouraging but this is probably the most important part of the process.

After the necessary changes are made, my wife Heather is next in line. Heather isn’t really an Alpha or a Beta reader really, but (even though I am her husband), she is honest with me. Heather has a keen eye for small details that often get overlooked by me (little things like a murder scene in which the victim falls the opposite direction he should have after having been struck by a pissed she-vampire!) This is Heather’s strength and it has come in handy many times.

After Heather, my manuscripts go to a few trusted friends. Some of them are writers and some of them are not… but all of them are avid readers who know why something does or doesn’t work. These are my Beta readers.

Beta readers are, in some ways, the most important of all, because they are not looking for grammar and spelling issues. They are literally sitting down with your book and reading it front to back, and giving an opinion of the overall feel of the story. And it’s amazing sometimes what a Beta reader might catch. For example, it was my sister who caught a major discrepancy in time while reading The White Room. Speaking of sisters, family will often want to read your work, and that is good. But keep in mind that often times, they are not going to be as forthright with you as someone who is unrelated to you. That being said, I have received quite a lot of good feedback from family and close friends. Still, for purposes of critique, I rely more heavily on people who didn’t change my diapers and see me through that nasty adolescent stage!

Having Beta readers is fun too, because you get to revisit your story with a new eyes, so to speak. Right now, my friends Tom and Sherrie are in possession of The White Room. Tom is freaking out about the spider in Gretchen’s hair (a scene I’d pretty much forgotten about) and I am cracking up because I can’t wait to see how he acts when he gets to the other spider scene (insert evil laugh here).

After a manuscript has been through several hands, professional and unprofessional alike, a writer can now submit his or her manuscript to an agent, editor, or publisher without fear of being rejected due to sloppy errors and lazy plot holes. Now, when you receive your rejection letter (and you will), you will have the confidence to continue submitting, knowing that no matter what anyone else says, your story is a good, strong one… and one day, the right person will see that.