April Showers 1921

I wrote about a new novel that came to me in a dream the other night (“Spinning Up”). One unmentioned aspect was the newly conceived novel’s cover. I saw it in the dream. The cover felt and looked so real and substantial to me that I was nonplussed. The title, April Showers 1921, was embossed gold letters on a silver cover. It seemed so real that I looked up the title to determine if that book already existed. Without surprise, I found songs, books, and short stories called April Showers, but none had the 1921 addition, and none featured silver and gold covers. I seem safe with it.

I’ve worked on April Showers 1921 some since dreaming about it, fleshing out characters, setting, and writing some scenes, but I didn’t throw myself into it. After two days of that, I wondered, why not? I realized that indecision caused by my greatest weakness, over-analysis, was paralyzing me once again.

It’s a familiar scenario. I overthink something. That drains my resources, and I stop making progress until I resolve what I’m overthinking.

Naturally, this paralysis is all founded on a writing issue, specifically — this time — finding an agent for the Incomplete States series. I think I’ve identified several potential agents. I narrowed my search to one lucky agent. I’ve written a synopsis and query letter. That’s where I stopped.

The Incomplete States series employs several styles. In terms of recent books, it reminds me of Cloud Atlas. My series science-fiction infused, but its mostly literary, except the first novel has a science-fiction military noir feel to it. Fantasy flares strong in another book, while yet another has the sensibility of historic fiction.

Yes, I enjoy genre B&B – bending and blending – whether I’m reading or writing it.

On a side note, the great and all-knowing Internet says, don’t mention any of the rest of the series when seeking representation and publication of the first book.

For grins, I hunted down the rejection records for successful writers. I’ve followed this path before, so it’s very familiar to me.

J.K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter series was rejected twelve times, you know. Dr. Suess was rejected twenty-seven times before he found a publisher willing to take a chance on his Cat in the Hat book. The author of  The Martian, Andy Weir, had given up on being published, but kept writing and self-published. When The Martian found success, publishers came running. Kathryn Stockett, The Help, was rejected over sixty times. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, had twenty-six rejections. Catch-22, Joseph Heller, twenty-two rejections. Twenty for William Goldberg, The Lord of the Flies. Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. Pretty amazing was that Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, experienced over one hundred rejections. After she self-published and had success, publishers came calling, and her novel was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore, who won an Oscar for her performance.

There was also Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, over five times, and Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, rejected one hundred twenty-one times.

Reading about these rejections is invigorating and inspiring. You gotta have hope, optimism, belief, and determination. You gotta keep writing for the love of writing.

Writing about my paralysis cleared matters up and broke the log jam. (I now have a featured image of logs floating through my mind.) I’m ready to submit. (Ha, ha, I love how that can have multiple meanings.) All they can do is say no, right?

The day is full of promise. I got my coffee. Time to submit, and then write and edit like crazy, at least one more time.

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Floofjection

Floofjection (floofinition) – a housepet’s dismissal or refusal of an offering or action.

In use: “The cat had a habit of floofjection whenever people attempted to stroke her silky black fur, raising a paw and gazing at them with an expression in her enormous green eyes that said, “No. Look, but don’t touch.””

Dream Magic

My theme music for yesterday was Seal’s ‘Crazy’. The recurring refrain, “Yeah, we’re never gonna survive, unless we get a little crazy,” became my dream’s theme music last night.

Literally.

Last night’s dreams was like a television series. I binged on an entire season. Each episode followed its own arc. Each featured ‘Crazy’ as music after the episode’s climax.

The dreams began with one in which, I thought, how funny, I’m not even in this dream. I was witnessing a convention. It was a packed, happy, energetic crowd. Displays were being set up. Demonstrations took place.

I drifted into one demonstration, making my first appearance in the dream. It was about hacking. Interesting and amusing. No, not just about hacking, my dream persona observed, but hacking magic.

I was with friends. Everyone was perplexed about what was being demonstrated. Suddenly, I grasped it; when three cubes could be aligned and turned into one color, magic took place.

Like the old computer game, Tetris.

Okay.

But more magic hacking was being demonstrated. Fascinated, I separated from my friends to pursue learning this magic. Each episode took me further from there and deeper into a quest. By the season’s end, I was alone at a black magic convention. Other people were present but I didn’t know any of them. I was broke, gaunt, dirty and unshaven, with long, disheveled hair and threadbare clothing.

The setting was a dark, wet and decrepit abandoned arena. Others seeking magic and energy were present. An intense scene, we all knew of each other but didn’t know one another. We wanted to help one another but were also leery of the others. But this is where my quest for more had taken me.

Needing rest, I slept on the second floor, sharing a urine stained mattress and Army blankets with a stranger, another man. Although younger, he seemed in worse condition than me, sleeping the entire time while I tossed and turned. I was specifically seeking…a magic manuscript.

Three times, I tried finding and acquiring it. The fourth time, I succeeded.

And then I lost it.

The others knew this and were sympathetic. There were suggestions the manuscript had been stolen.

With some detective work, I found it.

But I was running out of time. The convention was ending. I wanted to present the manuscript to the convention leaders. A bus would take me to them. I missed the bus once…twice…. The manuscript disappeared again. I found it again but missed the bus again, even though others had helped me.

By this point, I was almost a filthy, barefoot beggar. On a tip from another, I learned that the convention leaders were coming through on their way to leave. I could intercept them. The rest encouraged me to do that. Which I did, presenting my manuscript.

It was a big, black, fat, unwieldy document. The leader, a suave man who looked like a young Jon Favreau, glanced at it as he walked by. “It’s not what we’re looking for.”

Yet, this was the magic. I knew it was.

Defeated and out of time, I headed home. I was broke and exhausted. It was a hard journey.

My wife was in the bathroom, getting ready for a party behind closed, locked doors. I could hear her humming. Others began arriving to set up. They were bringing in food and cakes. All were people I knew during my life, friends from other eras.

They were in good spirits, which spread to me. I began cleaning myself up to join the party. At that point, I knew the season was over, but the series was not. More was to come.

Cue ‘Crazy’ and the show’s ending.

I awoke despondent and sat alone in the living room for a while, watching the day grow brighter and thinking about my dream. Clearly, I thought, this was about my writing efforts and my career. I was seeking the magic. I’d missed.

But, it wasn’t over. As ‘Crazy’ streamed through my head and I began my daily routines, I took some solace from the hope, it wasn’t over.

There are more seasons to come.

A Pick-Me-Up

It’s an odd expression, a pick-me-up. Slang, it’s an expression for anything that raises our spirits. It used to be that it was about tonics or drinks but it’s moved beyond that.

For me, a pick-me-up can be an inspirational story, its use today. While going through the inbox and surfing blogs last night, I encountered a 2016 article about famous rejections.

I love famous rejections. Like many struggling writers, I look for those tales of famous writers and novels being rejected only to find publication and vindication. This post featured five famous that I already knew. Still, it was fun reading and a nice pick-me-up. After those five, a list of fifty more famous, successful rejected novels was posted.

Need a pick-me-up for your writing day? Check out Michael David Wilson’s column, 5 Famous Bestsellers That were Rejected (And 50 More).

The Fuel

I’m mostly a self-driven vehicle, writing out of need to imagine and tell stories, and entertaining myself. Mostly, I energize via reading what I’ve written, editing and revising it and pressing on. Mostly, I write from practice and habit, walking to awaken the muse, giving her a mocha to encourage her engagement, and then shutting off everyone in me except the writer.

Mostly.

But that’s all about the writing side. The damn business side is depressing. The need for accepting rejection, considering advertising campaigns, hunting for copy-editors, beta readers, cover designers, publishing venues, publishers and agents are all depressing.

I’m not nuanced in demographics and specific costs structures, operating margins, etc., of the publishing industry, but I do understand that it’s an involved, expensive business on the traditional side, and it’s a crowded field in the self-publishing and digital publishing arenas. I understand on emotional, physical, intellectual and financial levels about the difficulties with finding representations, publishers, sales and readers.

That doesn’t make me feel any better.

I read fiction and non-fiction to study and absorb others’ ways with ideas, stories, characters, plots, words, settings, beginnings, middles and ends. I read them because I enjoy them. I want to be entertained and I want to escape.

But I read other writers ‘like me’ for true incentive about writing, dealing with rejection, and why it’s difficult to solve the writing, publishing, sales and marketing puzzles. Writers are my tribe; we write because we often feel we must, or we’re addicted to the dream or the process, or we’re using it to therapy to cope with who and what we seem to be.

Several families co-exist in that tribe. One family consists of the writers who have made it – King, Rowling, Chabon, Frantzen, Erdrich, Collins, Lee, Green – how many need be named? We each have our writing heroes.

My family is that other one, the family of writers who write each day, wonder how much writing is enough writing, publish short stories online, the writers who are struggling not to write, but to live and exist as a successfully published writer. I spent much time with their words and blogs online. I take comfort in our shared misery of struggling. It allows me to say, “See, it’s not just me. It’s not just Michael Seidel.”

And that’s a relief. I often think it is just Michael Seidel. I often feel like I’m right on the cusp of making a breakthrough and then the moment is gone. It’s exasperating and debilitating. Yet, I sense other writers live in that same zone by the words they write online.

From them, I get my fuel. Because sometimes, I want to stop. Sometimes the muse asks, “Excuse me, but are we wasting our time here?” Sometimes the internal writer agrees, “Yeah, shouldn’t we just go wash and wax the car and have a beer, or volunteer for some charities, or go find a job? Wouldn’t any one of those things be more productive than the daily rituals we follow?”

But my family of writers and I all answer, “No.” I can elaborate, “You’re not correctly measuring what it means to be productive, that being creative and imaginative is more worthwhile to me than those tasks you ask me to undertake instead.”

We know this. Commercial and critical success is a matter of validation and pride. It’s driven in part by family and friends asking us, “How is the book coming along? When will I be able to read it?” They do not understand the difficulties not just in writing, but in getting published and noticed, of making sales.

Usually, we don’t bother to explain the intricacies their question deserves. Nodding, we just tell them, “It’s coming along.”

Then we add the exchange to our fuel.

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