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Archive for December, 2011

Inspiration – what an elusive creature.  Where does it come from?  Can one even define it?  For me there are several versions of it.  First there is the inspiration that gives birth to the initial idea for a story or a novel.  It can be such a small thing.

Let me give you an example.  I am currently working on a novel called The Seed. This is how simply an idea can emerge.  I was sitting down.  It was summer or early autumn and I was barefoot.  I felt a foreign object on the bottom of my foot.  I knocked it off.  It was a small melon seed.  I picked it up and looked at it.  I was amazed at how small it was – but so packed with potential.  This got me contemplating the power of seeds and before long that led to the creation of a new political thriller.  Can’t give the details just yet, but it sure was a surprise how such a small object could to lead to such a big idea.

Another way inspiration hits me is with a word or a phrase that resonates and before long a story is forming.  One instance is when I heard the phrase – dangling participles.  It had funny erotic overtones, and I was delighted with the short story that eventually came from that brief phrase.

At other times I might start with the image of a character, or a simple situation that will develop and grow when I am not looking.  By the time I sit down to write, it is like the character or idea is sparkley with all kinds details just exploding to be told.

This brings up the interesting subject of the unconscious.  Often times – actually most times – when I am writing I have no idea where I am going or how I am going to get there, but I just write.  Words and sentences just seem to flow and lead me forward.  It is like the character or situation is whispering in my ear leading me along.  Can’t tell you how much I enjoy that process.  I guess you could almost call it a form of channeling.  When I have finally completed the writing and am in the editing phase I am amazed sometimes at what I have written.  Where did that come from?  I have no idea how those words formed and flowed onto my page.

And fortunately, I have never suffered from writer’s block.  (see me knocking on many wood surfaces.)  Somehow I have established a strong connection with my unconscious and it continues to function well for me.

To sum up I would have to say that inspiration is both a mystery and a journey of discovery.  It cannot be coaxed or commanded.  It is like observing a wild animal.  If one is still, and patient, and open it might just come to you.

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Okay, so you have written your first novel, epic, non-fiction masterpiece – now what?  How do you get it out there, shared, published and read?  That’s a very big question and not easy to answer.  Again I am not here to pontificate on how it should be done only how I have gone about it from a very personal point of view.

I figured first I would need to get an agent, right?  We have all read about the powerful agents who know everyone in the publishing world and just need to pick up a phone and arrange the million dollar deal.  Well good luck with that.  In the good old days one sent out one’s query letter by USPS soliciting a resonse from an agent willing to read your manuscript.  Well those days are gone too.  We live in a paperless world when it comes to queries, and most are done through the internet now.  There are two pretty good sites that help you locate an agent in your field.  The first is www.agentquery.com.  You will want to use the full search feature to narrow  your search to find agents who are looking for your kind of materials.  The other site is www.querytracker.net.  You will need to register with that site and again do a selected search to find the agents you want to contact.  This site lets you record your queries and track them as well.  Good feature.

The next important thing to do is write your Query letter.  This is how you introduce yourself and your project.  It has a very specific format.  AgentQuery has some good suggestions on how to do that.  Just click on the link at the top of the page to read their suggestions.  I spent weeks writing and rewriting my query letter, refining and refining it until it was as susinct as possible.  It has served me well as my publisher used it to craft my back cover and press releases.

When that is all ready it is time to send it out.  By now you should have found the agents you want to send your query letter to.  It is mostly done electronically these days.  You can submit your query letter to your prospective agents by email.  Be sure to read each agent’s website as they have different ways they want you to submit to them.  Some want only the query letter, some also want the first five pages, or first chapter, or 50 pages, or whatever.  Be sure you send them want they want.

Then you wait…and wait…and wait.  It is a very good idea to keep track of who you send your letters to and how they respond.  Some will respond quickly.  Some not at all.  Most will not be interested in looking at your manuscript.  Be forewarned most agents say that fiction is not being published much these days.  The big dude publishers seem to be interested mostly in non-fiction, self-help books from already established authorities in their fields.

To be totally honest, I have not been able to find an agent yet.  And with the way the publishing world is going these days not sure I need one except to help find a movie deal.  I will go into why more later when I talk about the new developments in publishing in a later post.

I know I have not exhaused this subject by any means.  If you have any questions please feel free to ask and I will answer if I can.

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I know, I know, this looks like another blog of shameless self-promotion.  And it is – up to a point.  I want to introduce myself and what I am up to and then after I have shamed myself by introducing my new book I promise to provide more meaty content in the future – all about the life of a writer and how the process works for me – I can’t speak for others, naturally.  For example, how to get published, how unlikely it is to find an agent, how to keep sharp by writing short stories, and how the writing process works for me.  And, of course, I will want to hear from all of you in response to my ravings.

But for now let me please introduce myself.  I am Jon McDonald and I have a humorous novel that has just been published by Brighton Publishing.  (It is coming out first as an e-book with the printed version arriving later.  The process has all changed out there in publishingland.)

The e-book is available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and smashwords.com.  The nice thing about Smashwords is that one can read up to 20% of the book free, but by then you will hopefully be so hooked on the thrill of it all that you will just have to buy it for the absurdly low price of only $5.99.  (No I have never been a used car salesman.)

And just to tease you ever more here is a brief description:

Battles never cease and sparks fly when Sonora and Connye—the two Grand Divas of the Santa Fe Social Scene—strategize to best each other in a no-holds-barred look at adventures in social one-upsmanship.

Who says there are no longer civil wars in America? Santa Fe, New Mexico is the epicenter of epic battles fought between the two Queens of the local social scene. Told through a series of episodic tales, this satirical novel lurches back and forth between stories of the two Divas; tracing the rise and fall in the fortunes of Sonora and Connye, as they try to outdo each other and reign as Queen. But the battles are played out in the most civil of terms. Dinner parties, social events, and outside journeys to Puerto Vallarta, New Orleans, and New York carry the action through southwest style political intrigue; the search for buried treasure; battles to control visiting royalty; a Hollywood movie premiere, and the colorful exploits of an additional cast of sexually complex, supporting characters.

But it’s not all Champagne and acid. There are also many touching moments. Lost children reunited with a missing parent. Unexpected generosity. The care of aging parents. The gratitude of a good friend for help in starting a new business. And a nativity scene mysteriously appearing in Sonora’s back yard on Christmas Day. Finally, the climax comes when a new competitor arrives on the scene: Amanda Beor-Bink, a world-class fashion designer, who actively conspires, using her celebrity and money, to claim the crown of ‘Queen of Santa Fe’ for herself.  Sonora & Connye, constant competitors up until then, unite to try and oust this New York City interloper who dares to challenge their social supremacy.  But will they succeed?

Ok, enough, already.  But I promise more later.

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