Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The First Nibble

Wife Jenny got the mail last Saturday afternoon and handed me an envelope from Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency out of California. I took it and walked away with indifference.
“Aren’t you opening it?” she asked.
“I guess – maybe later,” I answered.
“Well, what if it’s good news?” she said.
“Here, you open it if ya want,” I answered. “Connecticut just knocked me outta March Madness so I’m not feelin’ real lucky right now.”
I thought it was just another form letter from an uninterested agent informing me that they were either too overwhelmed with other book requests to even glance at my query letter, or that my subject matter wasn’t anything they’d be interested in. Same old, same old – like it’s been throughout the first 2 1/2 weeks of this push to publish.
“Hey, wait a second. This actually looks kinda good,” Jenny declared as she entered the living room where I was sitting in my own sulk.
She handed me the letter and lo, even though it indeed was a form letter, this one from Larsen-Pomada was much longer than any others I’ve received. It also started out much more light-hearted than the chilly responses I’ve gotten up to now. As my eyes scanned the page, I noticed about three-quarters down that a bulleted line had a checkmark by it:
“If you have completed your novel, please send Elizabeth Pomada the first 10 pages followed by a two-page synopsis, double-spaced in 14-point type, in the body of an email letter, not as an attachment to”
So a little bit of good news, but I honestly believe it’s probably just a precursor to frustration. Kind of like the saying, “Life’s a beach and then you drown.”
But who knows? I certainly don’t. I do know that last night I put together the first 10 pages of my book and a two-page synopsis, and emailed it all to Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Obit? Oh, My Gosh

Elizabeth Taylor passed away this week and I heard a strange writing-related story connected to her death.
The New York Times actually wrote her obituary 10 years ago and put in on file. Seems like that is common practice at many U.S. newspapers, to have staffers write the future obituaries of aging high-profile celebrities.
What makes the Taylor obit story even odder is that the guy who wrote it actually died himself in 2005.
Almost My Biggest Error Ever
My first paid writing job was at a newspaper, and only two weeks into my employment I was told to write obituaries. I had to compile one about a 19-year-old who gruesomely died while working on a wood chipper truck, when his protective glove got caught on a tree limb he was chipping. The razor sharp, fast-spinning blades of the chipper pulled his entire body through the machine. No need to expound on the goriness.
I had no idea who the guy was and put together a respectful obit, but was feeling rascally that day because the mood in the entire newsroom was caustically sarcastic and jovial. So I jokingly ended the obit by writing, “The family has not yet determined whether the body will be buried, cremated or mulched,” then sent it to my good-natured editor for her to marvel at my cleverness.
But she was actually out sick that day, so all copy for the next day's paper skipped about five steps and pushed right through to the print setters. Luckily, one of the print workers was scanning the paper prior to running the press and called me at home at 11 p.m., questioning the final sentence.
Thank goodness I was able to correct my foolishness. If that obit had published, I'd still be feeling bad to this day.
Pause for the Cause
My hope chest still has rusty keys with regard to acquiring an agent, but I'm not going to make my next major push until my website launches. So query letter mailings, e-mailings and all of their subsequent rejections are at a brief pause because I want future query letters to close with links to the Crazy Lucky Dead Facebook page, the Twitter account and website.
Once everything is in place, I will continue this whole process with the utmost delicacy – like a charging rhinoceros.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Paging Dr. Litwin

Good thing I'm mostly an optimist.
An old college chum called this past week and started light-heartedly razzing me about the book, saying I had no chance of ever getting it published because of the tough current market. After 10 minutes of his non-stop negativism, it kind of made me more determined to get it published – although I realize it's really out of my hands for the most part.
But I do know one thing: If I don't get this book published, this guy will never let me forget it. It'll be like breaking wind in an echo chamber – I'll never hear the end of it.
(I promised my wife this would be the only bathroom humor in my blogs from now on.)
Kevin Who?
How many Kevin Litwins can there be in the world? I mean, the last name of Litwin isn't like Smith or Jones or Jackson or Johnson.
Well, apparently there are a few Litwins out there as evidenced by my inability to register for my website domain name. A Kevin Litwin in Illinois registered the name in 2009, although try and access that site today and you'll come up empty. But he still has it registered.
A quick aside: I actually talked by phone a couple years ago to a Kevin Litwin after stumbling upon his name on the Internet. He was a doctor working at that time in Phoenix, so I called his office and left a message to call me back. He did. We chatted for 15 minutes about our lives and the different ways that Litwin gets mispronounced and misspelled. I told him that I once got a letter addressed to Kevin Litfinger, and he once got one addressed to Kevin Lesion.
Anyway, my upcoming website has been registered as and should be launched within the next week or two. Webmaster Jon Brooks suggested the name and I like it because it refers to 'books' plural. I plan on writing 7 or 11 books in my life, because those numbers rhyme with Kevin.
That might be weird reasoning and too lofty of a goal, but anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Kind of like the guy who says quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. He's done it dozens of times.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

One Hundred Plus

I didn't know if I would embrace this whole blog thing, but it's growing on me. Kind of like a colony of E. coli, but in a good way.
Today the blog allows me to thank all of you for being part of the 100-plus “likes” for Crazy Lucky Dead. I appreciate everyone clicking on the page, and a shout-out goes to Andrea, Betsy, Chandra, Chris, Cindy, Jane, Katie, Michael, Raven, Theresa and all others who posted the link on your own Facebook pages. Several “likes” were certainly generated that way.
Now to tie up some loose ends:
1)      A couple of you asked to see the complete list of people who “like” the page, but nobody seems to know how to do it. Marcus, a tech whiz where I work, then told me that the Facebook founder probably set up things so that the list is private – but you can see your friends who also signed up. I’m not even able to see the complete list, and it's my page!
2)      My website will be launched soon. Webmaster Jon Brooks is gathering home-page images in his head right now, and I sent him words and phrases corresponding to my book that he can work with. Gambling, despondency, desperation, murder – that’ll be the theme, I think.
3)      BTW: I can't use for my website domain name. Odd story about that – I’ll explain in my Wednesday Morning blog.
4)      The current agent rejection scoreboard is four via mail out of the 20 that I sent out, and four by e-mail out of eight. One e-mail rejection I received yesterday reads as follows:
“Your manuscript sounds interesting to say the least, but I'm afraid we are not the ones to represent it. We are a children's book author agency – young children.”
I guess gambling, despondency and murder aren’t cute enough for three-year-olds.
Okay, to improve my odds of agent acceptance, this morning I'll drive to the post office to mail five more query letters to New York. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make like a fetus and head out. Thanks again, 100 plus.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Likely Story

Like, like, like...whatever.
Over the last two days, I've said the word “like” more times than a Valley girl at a slumber party. Not only did I barely know what Facebook was when I got involved with this book project, but had no idea that people can click onto someone's Facebook site and “like” a page.
I would think a supposed genius like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg would have devised a better term than “like” a page, but I digress.
My niece and marketing manager, Andrea, has set a goal of 100 likes on the Crazy Lucky Dead page. Apparently, having 100 likes could impress an agent or publisher, and at least let them know that I'm out here swinging my bat.
Plus the fact that I'm blogging on Wednesday and Saturday mornings to Facebookers can't hurt either, as “liker” Bridget Brooks put it:
“You'll hear this a lot in publishing – connecting with your readers early and often is very attractive to a publisher.”
So the journey continues. BTW: The scoreboard currently reads:
·        20 query letters mailed to agents March 8 and 9, and no responses yet.
·        Eight query letters sent by e-mail to agents, with three refusals and 0 acceptances.
I guess I should be a bit discouraged with no agents interested yet, but I'm not going to be. I'm in this for a one-year haul. An old Southern adage says that if you don't wanna run with the big dogs, then stay on the porch.
I wanna run with the big dogs.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Removing the Dust Jacket

I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point of my writing career, but I can’t. I did it all myself.
Just joking as I try to pick up my spirits following my first two e-mail rejections from New York literary agents. It took me two years to write a book and only two days for agents to snub me, but at least one of them e-mailed a nice letter of doom:
“Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one “yes” to find the right match. Good luck. Nelson Literary Agency. New York, NY.”
Yes, people have told me that with newspapers shutting down left and right, many of those laid-off people are writing books – and the chances of a rookie punk author like me getting published today is like riding a bicycle in a NASCAR race. That’s why I was appreciative when a friend of mine sent me the line, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” And Natasha, my boss at Journal Communications in Nashville where my writing actually gets me paid, mentioned positively to me, “Hard fall, high bounce” as I was forlornly picking myself up after my initial agent rejection.
Anyway, on this first of my Saturday Morning/Wednesday Morning blogs, I indeed want to quickly thank a few people:
1)      I like to write but don’t like all the other stuff connected with this publishing endeavor, so thank you to my wife, Jenny, who pushed me to get this whole venture rolling. I would have left my manuscript on a shelf and just proceeded to my next book if it wasn’t for her.
2)      Thank you to my Dad who passed away less than a year ago and who was a better writer than I will ever be. He was a technical writer and speech writer for all the bigwigs at General Motors during the automaker’s heyday, and really had a flair for the written word. And thank you to Mom who has always been a stickler for English, and would correct my grammar whenever I misspoke while growing up.
3)      Thanks to my niece, Andrea, who is marketing this project. She is handling my Facebook page (what’s a Facebook, I ask?) and Twitter account. She’s just starting out with her own marketing company at age 26 and I really like her professionalism and energy.
4)      And thanks in advance to Jon Brooks, my upcoming web page designer who really does nice work. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Bill and Colleen Barstow, own a movie theater in Omaha – Aksarben Cinema – and Jon did their website. Impressive stuff.
Done. My first-ever blog. It was probably too long, but for future posts I’ll try to tighten it up. It won’t ever be tighter than my old high school gym shorts, but as Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” If that’s good enough for Bill Shakespeare, it’s good enough for me.