Archive for June, 2012

Publishing a book is scary

I have a few things in common with the main character in my series, Bernice Hordstrom. We’re both detrimentally stubborn. We both have a heavy dose of indignant self-righteousness. We’re both suckers for chest hair and a nice butt on our guys. But I instilled in Bernice a trait that is sorely lacking in myself, a big ol’ pile of moxie.

Fortunately, I have wonderful woman in my life who do have moxie, so I know what it looks like. It’s that apparent fearlessness that allows a person to feel confident and empowered. Boy, that must be nice.

You know what’s not nice? Living in a constant state of fear and self-doubt.

Never has that state become harder to leave than when I have to show my work to professionals. It’s getting to that point now. I’ve completed my third book, and now I’m trying to convince myself that I am good enough to query for a literary agent. All I have to do is just look at articles about it, and my first instinct is to hide like a hobbit.

It’s one of the reasons I self-published in the first place, that and I have a severe lack of patience (another thing Bernice and I share). Being a fictional author was not even something that I knew I wanted until just a few years ago. The idea of sending out my very first finished book (ever) to a literary agent was simply too intimating to bear.

So I made a promise to myself, and my husband, that when I completed Book 3 in the series, I would pursue the route of getting it published through a publishing house (verses self-publishing). That’s where I’m at now. Mentally, I’m shitting bricks.

Both the statistics and the expectations stagger me. An average literary agency receives THOUSANDS of query letters a year. Out of that gigantic tree of paper, they break out one teeny, tiny branch of 1%. Even if I am the lucky branch, I could sit languishing for months while the agent tries to market my series to publishers who are even more selective than they are. That means that the query letter and those sample pages better be damn near perfect.

By the way, this is not bitterness, this is cold reality. I’m from Northwestern Wisconsin. I come from the land where it’s perfectly possible to freeze to death in your sleep six months out of the year. That fact is less frightening to me than the daunting task of getting published.

I’ll keep you posted.

Road Trip

I will readily admit, I started the day out kinda crabby.

The tranny’s going on my truck, so I had to limp down to my parent’s house, thirty miles away, before borrowing my mom’s car to take my aunt to a special dentist appointment in the northern suburbs of the twin cities at noon. Round trip for that was 80 miles.

By 3pm I was back at my parent’s.  I scrounged up a can of ravioli for my brunch and borrowed Mom’s car again to drive to Hastings, MN for an appearance with a book club. The way there was 75 miles, half of it freeway. I hate freeways. Considering no-one else that I drove by looked thrilled, I’m guessing it’s a common hatred. Nevertheless, I was late, and freeways are ugly but quick.

Up to this point I was pretty oblivious to my surroundings. I blame the chunks of construction that I had to mire through during the course of the day.

Construction season in states above the 42nd latitude coincide with the growing season, when the ground’s not frozen solid. Instead of sprouting flowers and trees and crops, however, construction season sprouts cement medians, orange traffic barrels, and the nomadic tribe of construction workers, clad in yellow vests and armed with stop/slow signs and surly expressions (though who can blame them. Nasty work).

So after a very validating book club appearance (thanks for the support, ladies!), I was much happier going home.

Instead of taking the dreaded freeway back, I crossed the border and went into Prescott, WI. Just the three miles it took to get into town, I was quickly reminded of why I live here. The Upper Mississippi River Valley is a breath-taking piece of US real estate. The last hunk of glaciers that went through a couple hundred thousand years ago left behind an amazing sculpture of bluffs and valleys that vegetation happily filled in to form gorgeous green vistas and peek-a-boo views of the mighty river.

Like it’s sister city, Hastings, Prescott is a classic small town with a really cool bridge that welcomes folks in with its old-fashioned charm.

I took State Hwy 35 the rest of the way back up to Hudson, WI. That’s where the Mississippi moves into Minnesota and meets the St. Croix River. There the St. Croix  separates the two states for the next hundred miles north. In country was just as pretty. Little farms with grazing livestock were nestled around the bumpy hills topped with trees. In some spots the highway was actually cut through the hills, revealing thick layers of solid limestone.

It was like everything clicked. Suddenly the music got better on the radio. 8:30 on a beautiful June night, and I’m smiling at the scenery around me and wailing at the top of my lungs with the classic rock coming from the dash.

The way from Hudson to my home town was road-trip nostalgia. You drive the same back roads on and off for twenty years, your brain makes mental comparisons of the evolution going on around you. Your heart falls when you see that cool old farm has been replaced with Mcmansions. You can’t believe that weird little bar (aptly called “Corner Bar) on two barely discernible county roads is still alive and kicking.

It was very late by the time I hauled my road-weary ass home. I crawled in bed with the husband. I mumbled, “You know, we live in a beautiful place.”

“I know that,” he answered matter-of-factly. “I think that just about every day that I walk from the house to the office. Our town has flowers on the posts and all the pretty trees lining the streets. We’re really lucky.”

Yah, we are.

Minnesota, here I come.

Met with a very enthusiastic book club at the Hastings Library last night. What a great bunch! They were a hoot! It was well worth the trip. Now I just need to get more of these border events set up. Look out Twin Citians! The Hicks are comin’!