Welcome to my official website. Here you will find information about me and my books, along with upcoming news.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Writing Adventures: Part 5

This post was originally published on my blog, Delirious Documentations, on March 18, 2016.

Click here to read Part 4.

So much about the creation of books is collaboration--but sometimes that collaboration comes in different forms.

When you are writing a book, you may gain inspiration or support from other people. And then when you're publishing that book, you might get help from an agent, a publisher, editors, cover designers, and an entire marketing team. By deciding to self-publish, I am deciding to be all of these things at once--and yet I am not losing the collaboration. I have given the final draft to a few people to look over. I will probably not be designing the cover myself (at least not completely). I will make use of the consultants that are available from the company I have chosen to publish through to answer any of my questions. And while I will be the beginning of my marketing team, everyone that I speak to will in turn become part of that team.

The Internet can be extremely instrumental in getting word out. But in my case and in the case of this particular book, it seems that word of mouth will be more important. I already have people (either friends of mine or friends of my friends or simply people I/we've come across who have shown interest) who want to buy this book when it comes out. Perhaps there aren't a huge number of them. But once they get it and read it, they can share it with their circles. And the number will increase.

There is a certain enjoyment that comes when fiction takes place in a familiar place. There is a random horror movie from the seventies with William Shatner called Kingdom of the Spiders that was  kind of cool to watch just because it was filmed in central Arizona (I've talked to people who remember when they filmed it). And other than the novelty of it, there comes a point when you want some representation for the place you call home. This brings me to some of my goals for this book.

Most of the fiction that takes place in Arizona belongs to certain genres. Westerns. Border stories--or other stories that are generally concerned with race, ethnicity, and culture. Country stories. All of this is good. It's just that, as someone living in Arizona, these aren't the only things that occupy my mind: so many people live here now and live very "regular" lives here that I don't think Arizona stories need to be constrained by genre. I want my book to be an Arizona book that is not the traditional genre such a book would be considered.

So I want to attract readers who are interested in Arizona, who will want to read my descriptions of the natural landscapes in this state. But I also want to reach people who don't read Westerns or who don't feel like reading another Border story. I want the landscape to remain the setting and the subject perhaps but not the genre, not the theme. The landscape helps to carry the theme but it is not the theme itself: it is the symbol of the theme. The theme is such that it could have taken place in Iceland or France or China instead--but I chose this setting because I wanted the representation to go to this place that I love and that so many other people love, too.

There has been an awakening in Arizona, if I may borrow the phrase--or perhaps it has always been there and I am simply absorbing it more now. I go out to different cities and I see all of the art. The galleries, the paintings, the jewelry, the furniture, and yes, the books, too. So many people are inspired by this land. And I want to be part of that; I want to share in their inspiration and share mine with them--and with you.

Writing Adventures: Part 4

This post was originally published on my blog, Delirious Documentations, on February 16, 2016.

Click here to read Part 3.

It is possible that I have been foolish. Once I found that the literary agent route (in which your agent can approach larger publishers for you) wasn't for me, I turned to smaller publishers (those whom a writer can contact directly without needing to go through an agent). In fact, it was years ago that I put together a list of publishers that writers can contact directly about their books.

My book is set in Arizona, so I in many ways consider it and want it to be "an Arizona book." So I thought that the University of Arizona Press would be a good fit for me and my book. They represent a lot of regional books (both fiction and non-fiction) that sometimes are turned away from other publishers who consider their content too regionalized. And I thought, yes, that's exactly the case with my book: the people in New York can't quite see the need to risk whether or not people from different regions would be interested in it and yet people in Arizona are already interested in it (that is, people that I or my family have talked to about the book are interested in it).

So I followed their procedure for submitting a book proposal. And I appreciate that they got back to me in a timely manner and told me what I suppose I should have already realized: in fiction, they mainly only represent works by Latina/o and Native American writers. The funny thing (to me) is that I am Hispanic (I'm three quarters Mexican, born in California and raised in Arizona since I was eight); so if my last name didn't happen to come from my one quarter "white" side and if I had included a few lines of dialogue in Spanish, then my book probably could have fit in with the Camino del Sol series. (I do realize that this is a question of content not just ancestry and that my book is not at all concerned with racial culture and that's why it doesn't fit in--I'm just saying that it's funny how all the pieces fall sometimes.) So. Despite my wish for this to be "an Arizona book" and despite U of A Press's focus on the region, this just wasn't a match. (Let me add in here that I do still appreciate what they publish and they do publish some great books, so I am by no means saying anything against them.)

It just discouraged me again, especially after all the time I'd put into trying to get a literary agent beforehand. So I decided something. Instead of moving into my list of other publishers that I could approach directly, I decided to just go with Option 3: self-publishing. I thought to myself, maybe what I need is to be in control of everything and to be in direct contact with my readers myself (by this, I mean that if my book was going to be of most interest to Arizonans, then I could physically bring my book to them and tell them of its existence and therefore not need a publisher to market it for me).

It is possible that I decided for certain on self-publishing a tad too soon. Yet whether or not that is the case, I still think that this option will be a good fit for both my style and this particular book. I'll explain why next time.

Writing Adventures: Part 3

This post was originally published on my blog, Delirious Documentations, on January 16, 2016.

Click here to read Part 2.

I've always been grateful toward Kaleb Nation (author of Bran Hambric and Harken): he used to talk a lot about writing and publishing, giving inspiration toward other writers and describing how the whole process had worked out for him. I was in college around this time. So he was kind of like the motivational speaker I was hearing, the person saying that you can do what you want to do and you can make it work. So even though I was always reluctant to say that I wanted to be an author (because I've always been a writer), Kaleb helped me remember that if I wanted to, I could be.

And he also gave some practical advice. He pointed out agentquery.com, which has information about literary agents and about how you write and format query letters to them asking if they would like to represent your book. I would visit this book from time to time, reading different sections of it. And then when I had finished writing and editing my book, I started putting together a list of agents who might be interested in it and writing my query letter.

This was unbelievably difficult.

You know how, when you're in school, you adopt a certain writing tone for essays? One that isn't really yours, even though you're also graded on "voice?" That's how it was writing a query letter: it has to be professional and include certain information. Except the thing is, you have to adopt a certain tone while also demonstrating your specific writing voice as a sample of the tone you take in your book. And that's hard. You have to play by the rules while also trying to stand out, so to speak. Oh, yes, and you have to give each agent specific reasons why your book will appeal to them specifically.

I wrote one letter that I sent out to a few agents. Then I rewrote my letter and started sending out that one instead. And from this second letter I started getting some results: I started getting the occasional rejection. At first I thought, this is fine, they say that getting rejections is good because it means that they took the time to at least give you an answer (as opposed to not answering you at all, which happens quite a bit). And a few people asked to see either a full or a partial of the manuscript. But after a while, as months were passing, it was all starting to wear on me.

I started to feel like I was wasting my time, like no one that I was trying to reach out to would be interested in my book, anyway. So many of these agents want a book that has mainstream potential: my book, in theory, doesn't really. It's more localized, more specific; I know there is an audience for it, but not (in theory) a mainstream one. So trying to convince a busy literary agent in New York that my Arizona book is worth their time just wasn't working out. I had one rejection at least tell me that my book sounded too abstract for their agency; I was grateful that they were so specific.

Given the fiction that's generally considered abstract ("The Wasteland" or Endgame or even something like Mrs. Dalloway), I don't exactly like to use the term toward my book. Abstract also implies that it's difficult to understand; yet I find my book very straightforward and simple to understand in its almost blatant expression of them (blatant sounds like a negative word; I would look for another word, except that this one gets my point across so easily, you see). It doesn't have much of a plot, but does that really make it abstract? To agents and publishers apparently it does. (I've been toying with the phrase "poetic fiction" lately--how does that sound?)

So I came to realize that, unless there was something very wrong with my query letters, my book just wasn't what literary agents look for. And that's okay. If the problem was that my book didn't sound mainstream enough, then that was just fine with me: I did want to create a very specific type of book, so if only certain people (especially at first) found it interesting, I had no problem with that.

Next time: I approach smaller publishers that don't require literary agents.

Writing Adventures: Part 2

This post was originally published on my blog, Delirious Documentations, on December 15, 2015.

Click here to read Part 1.

After I graduated college, it was exciting to have more time to focus on this writing project of mine--but it also took some getting used to. Suddenly I was able to often spend hours at a time on a project that I had once added to with one tiny piece every couple months at a time. I needed focus now and I needed organization and I needed constant, renewable drive. Music helped some; I'll do a separate post with the book's playlist later, but for now I'll just say that Flyleaf's Memento Mori is so very in sync with this book.

By this point, my book was divided into twenty sections that were each in turn divided into three sections (one per each of the three narrators). Some of the sections, though, had as little as one sentence, while others were fully developed but were only a page or so long. So I developed a method of adding to it all. I went from beginning to end, sub-section to sub-section, and edited the parts I had already written while also adding a pre-determined length to each section.

I did this a few times, slowly adding length so that I could end up with a decent word count. Each time I would finish, I would realize I wasn't there yet and needed more: my book is based less on plot than on imagery, so I had to fill in and brush on details (and even a sprinkling of plot) to make it full. I kept going until I had reached a mild 71,000 words and enough coherency and cohesiveness and all that was left was another edit for grammar/typos and any final adjustments.

But let's back up a step to the strangest part. At about the period where I was able to spend more time on writing, I encountered a certain difficulty with the third narrator (who is the only present day narrator). She used to be a twenty-something. But I was beginning to feel like she was glaring at me, accusing me of not getting her story right; I was afraid to work on her sections because I didn't know what was wrong. And then it hit me. She wasn't in her twenties at all: she's middle-aged. And then some other pieces quickly adjusted to fit in with the different age and suddenly everything was smooth again, so swiftly. This, in turn, meant that I emphasized the youngness of the second narrator (whom I picture to be around sixteen or so) more than I had before (in a positive way, though). And the fact that the three narrators aren't the same age somehow became more cohesive than if they were all, say, in their twenties.

I spent a lot of time while I was working on this book hating it: I think that's just my style. In college, as soon as I would finish writing a paper, I would hate it but it would be too late. So I would turn it in and try and not think about it anymore; but when I got it back, I ended up with an A and realized my hate was unfounded. The hate, hopefully, just means that I can keep a critical eye and change what needs to be changed and make better what is okay but could be wonderful. So ultimately I came to create a novel that I thought made sense as a piece of writing, as something that could be talked about and written about.

Next up: trying to convince outside sources that this novel was worth publishing.

Writing Adventures: Part 1

This post was originally published on my blog, Delirious Documentations, on November 16, 2015.

I have a confession for you all: I'm a writer and not just of blog posts. It has come to my attention that I am crazy (or perhaps overly cautious is the word) for not making some of those blog posts about writing; or maybe the timing just wasn't quite right yet. But it is now. I'd like this new series to come at intervals, updating you on what I've been doing. But first I have to update you on what I have been doing up until now.

Way back during my senior year of high school I started to get this image (of a tree, that is) that I wanted to put down in writing and so I thought I would use it for a scholarship that involved writing a piece of short fiction. So I wrote out this little tableau and I edited it and I tried to get a whole theme and story into it. But as I worked, I realized that I was constraining the image too much by trying to stay within the (fairly short) word count required by the scholarship. So I decided to throw away the idea of using it for the scholarship and let it just grow as much as it wanted.

I worked a little bit on it during the rest of senior year. And then I graduated and went off to college and became a bit more busy. So I was never putting full time work into this piece of writing, but I would return to it now and then and add a scene or another image. I tried to put the date on most of what I wrote because I thought it might be interesting, later on, to see exactly when I wrote particular sections. I would handwrite everything, often on the blank backs of old papers that I didn't need anymore.

I started writing a second narrator and then decided that the two narrators could be put together. Then I added a third narrator. And it all kept growing, tiny piece by tiny piece.

Eventually I typed up all of what I had so far, printed it all (on four pages per sheet so as not to waste paper), and then cut out each individual section and started arranging everything in chronological order on the floor.

You see, I had heard writing advice; I'd heard that you don't need to write first drafts in chronological order. But I always thought that I was a chronological writer. That's how I used to write essays: I would picture the whole thing in my head before I wrote down even one word. But I found that I was writing this project differently, image by image. And the order that I got the images in wasn't necessarily chronological order, especially since I had settled on three narrators simultaneously telling three separate stories. So I ended up with lots of little pieces that needed order, and physically arranging them on the floor, though not a technique I'd expected from myself, turned out to be the best course to take.

Arranging them in order helped me see what pieces were missing, and I continued slowly adding to the project. And then I graduated college with a B.A. in English literature from ASU; I also attended their Barrett Honors College, where I did my senior thesis on three of Charlotte Bronte's novels. And so after graduation, I suddenly had the opportunity to spend much more time on this writing project of mine. That was back in 2013.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

It Is Time

I have spent so long first telling people the I was writing a book and then that I was planning to publish said book. Now at last that day is approaching, that day when this book goes public in print (maybe digital, too).

As yet, I don't have an exact date for you (it might be in May), but I will keep you posted when I find out more.

In the meantime, I'm starting work on this website (welcome, by the way). It's still in the early stages: I'm filling things in piece by piece. And there are a couple of things that won't go live until the book is out. If you've been to my blog (Delirious Documentations), you've already been seeing me talk about writing in a series of posts that I do there. From now on, I think I will be posting that series both there and here--so you'll soon see the posts I've already done added on here.

I can't wait to share more with you.