#PitDark results

I had only one solid response to my #PitDark pitches, but the process was NOT a loss. Writing those pitches made me think about a bunch of things, got me connections to a lot of new authors who write horror and dark things, and introduced me to a world I had pretty much avoided.

Just to re-cap: #PitDark is a spinoff of the larger #PItMad twitter pitching event that focus’ on dark lit. The trick is to pitch your finished work in the 140 characters allowed on Twitter to agents and publishers who will be searching for that hash tag. If you get liked (a heart on twitter now) then they want you to submit your work to them. This makes it a solicited work instead of an unsolicited, which many publishers won’t even look at.

I had over a dozen pitches to choose from, and in a last mad rush wrote a few more! I was nervous all out of proportion and fussed about everything. My first pitch of the day got a like, and I was ever so happy, then the rest of the day (at work) I was fretting and nervous and trying to check it on my phone. I got no more likes, which bummed me out. So, in true me form, I ignored writing this till now. I didn’t even know if I WANTED a traditional publisher, but I had saved what I thought were my best pitches for the peak times, and got nothing. Early bird gets the worm?

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So… what good came out of all this fretting and pitch writing? The obvious one is that now I have a bunch of pitches I can use when someone asks that horrifying question: “Oh, you wrote a book. What’s it about?” They don’t want a synopsis; they want a pitch!
The pitch writing itself is a process of distilling your book down to its most basic elements, then making them as interesting as possible. Not an easy task! But well worth the effort. It made me this about what the book is really about, under the action, under the plot twists, under the character interactions, under what happens in the book, is what the STORY is really about.

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So, what is Tabeth: Opening Eternity really about? A girl, in a horrifying situation, that she can’t escape from, trying to keep her humanity (soul even?) intact. And what was the pitch that caught my one single eye?

 

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It sets the scene with “gritty city” tells you it has violence “fresh blood” introduces the character, Tabeth, and tells you she’s maybe not human “claws her way” shows you she has a darkness problem “out of the dark” and gets you thinking about “what humanity really is”, and why this violent monster might know better than you.

I still don’t think it was my best pitch, but it caught this publisher’s eye, and that is the main point of pitches. Some of the other ones that were noticed and liked by non-publishers/agents are in the images below.

 

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“But none of those say what you boiled your story down to!” you might be saying, and you’re right, they don’t come right out and say that. If someone came up and ask you to read their story about a vampire who is trying to keep her humanity while still kill, would you grab it? Or yawn and say, “That’s nice, not today”. Now this of a publisher/agent who gets hundreds, even thousands of those “READ MY BOOK” requests… I will end this post with some of my fav. links that I used writing these, they explain better than I can some of the techniques I used to come up with these. The point is:

Even though I only got one like, and will most likely self-publish, I learned a lot from doing this!

 

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During this process, and while the event was going on, I found several new authors to follow and befriend. And they are all lovers of the dark! Networking is invaluable for any writer who is trying to do more than throwing something online for the fun of it. Not only do they offer inspiration and advice, but they help you market, even if they don’t like your book. Reading how they do it, and applying that to your own efforts can really make a difference. (Or at least I hope it will when I get to that stage!)

 

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Several years ago, I considered traditional publishing vs. self-publishing and decided I would rather go the self-pub. route. So, this effort introduced me to the inner world of traditional publishing with indie/new authors. It is very much like the inner world of self-pubs, only with the added wait times and stress over query letters and rejections. A lot of us overlap, and I already have friends in both worlds (with a few published in both!) but this was different than talking about plot with them, this was diving in head first and swimming about in the muddy waters with them. It was a real eye-opener, and even though the idea of them helping me polish up my book, even more, is tempting, I think I will stick with my self-pub plan.

So PitDark wasn’t a loss, but it wasn’t a grand slam either. No rock star today… sigh… maybe tomorrow!

photo credit: Denis Hébert
Dufresne et place Dufresne 2 via photopin (license)

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PitDark Event!

Tomorrow is the #Pitdark pitch event over at twitter! I’m nervous and excited and STILL don’t know which of the over 20 pitches I’m going to use!!! lol So if you want to follow along check out my twitter page Maria Rich @MyMindmr, if you already follow, then fair warning, I have one pitch/ hour planned!

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What is this thing you speak of? Well, the idea is to pitch your story in the 140 characters that twitter allows (plus hashtags). The event gets as many publishers and agents as it can to check out these hashtags during this time. If they are interested they “like” it, and you are no longer submitting an “unsolicited” manuscript, as they asked for it. This puts you on the top of their slush pile. Which doesn’t guarantee anything, but makes it a lot easier for them to notice you. The one I’m doing is specifically for dark lit.

NOTE: if you check them out, please do NOT like the pitches! Feel free to comment on the ones you like, though.

What is this thing you are pitching? Well, the main project I’ve been working on is Tabeth: Opening Eternity. Book one is pretty much done (I’m constantly tweaking it though), and it’s about a vampire, definitely horror, with some * Warning: violence and gore * splashed in for good measure. So I thought I would give this pitching a try. Maybe some major publisher will love it and say, “WOW! I love it! Send me the whole thing!” and I will get a major deal and be an overnight success, Best Seller, NYT, FAMOUS!!! (rock star, remember? hehe)

I figure even if I get nothing out of this publishing wise, it has made me think up all these pitches, wich are basically taglines/blurbs, and I had to really boil the story down to get them, so I pretty much know what should be in my synopsis now. Which I still haven’t typed out… and still don’t want too… sigh.

So check out my twitter feed on the 20th, or just wait for my next post where I’m going to talk about which pitches did the best. And which ones got crickets.

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Why editing is so important. My response to the latest Immerse or Die report.

I love reading the Immerse or Die reports by Dave Higgins. They are very good for teaching a writer what not to do, and it the case of the books that make it, what you should do. Here is the latest Immerse of Die report, and my response to it.

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I am a poet first, novelist second, and I learned to use capitals, spaces, lines, and stanzas to emphasise meaning in my poetry. While writing my novel, I tried hard not to do that, yet when I got back my novel from the editor, I had a BUNCH of capitals marked out. (see what I did there?) Such devices are acceptable in poetry, and casual writing, but not in published fiction. Without an editor, even though I went through the whole thing looking for these caps, I would have had a bunch in there. This is just one example of what an editor catches.

 

Substantive editing, as opposed to just copy edits, catches missing plot points, inconsistencies, tenses (a big one for me) and what seemed to have happened in this book: lack of emotional connection, passive voice, and telling instead of showing. My editor was huge in helping me keep my three main points of view in line and killing off the random POVs that crept in without me even noticing them. She pointed out places where I needed more character development and where I should add something to get the plot from point A to point B. She told me “Hey, this part right here is really good…. but… it just doesn’t work here. Maybe we can find a part later where you can use this great bit.”

 

Unless your significant other, friend, mother, long lost school friend is a professional editor or at least an English teacher who is also able to be brutally honest with your baby, then you need to hire an editor for your book. Beta readers help, but the 4 beta readers I had before editing didn’t catch a fraction of what my editor did! If you want your work to be the best it can if you want to improve your writing by leaps and bounds, then hiring an editor who does substantive editing is worth all the pain suffering and money it entails.

My editor Trish Jackson

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Chapter Magic!

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I sent my novel (Tabeth: Opening Eternity B1) back to my wonderful editor +Trish Jackson for its second round of edits this week. While I wait for her to fix my fixes I thought it would be a good time to go over the chapter titles. For those of you who write novels, how do you choose your chapter titles? And how important do you think they are? For those of you who read novels, do you pay attention to the chapter titles? And if so how important (fun?) do you think they are?

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I am reminded of how I loved the chapters in Dragon Lance, not only were they great titles: Winged sleep. Smoke in the east. Dark memories. But the line drawings made them more than just “here’s another chapter”. They made them almost an art form in and of themselves. Harry Potter did the drawings too, but I don’t remember the titles at all.

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My favorite chapter title so far in Book 1 is “Two Crazies and an Ax” which is a line of dialogue. Most of the rest are one word descriptions like “Awake, Choice, Oak, and Rage”. My goal this weekend it to get some eye catching, interesting chapter titles. Or at least better than “Sun”. What are your favorite chapter titles and in what books?

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National Poetry Month #2

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In honor of NPM I found this poem in my files that I feel is both a good poem, and a good story. Short as it is, I could see this one at the beginning of a book/short story.  It doesn’t fit in with Tabeth though, sadly. Maybe I should write one for Tabeth? Hmmmmm.

A Moment

Darkness glimpsed behind eyes of fear
innocence betrays to the inner, soulless peer

Beauty’s cast in despair’s cold grip
chills of pleasure tear through – to slip

From her limpid countenance
into my inflamed body’s trance

Then to her lips I give my heat
gladly to yield to her every beat

Till gradually paced her away
leaving ME to fade and prey

Fear behind my eyes of hate
Legacy of endless hunger to sate.

12/4/98

Maria Rich

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National Poetry Month

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In honor of National Poetry Month I am going to post some of my poems. Nothing new really, just some I think are pretty good from my archives. Let me know what you think!

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damply drips the sun

winding its way down

through drops of shifted light

trying vainly to reach earth

most of its heat spent

plops to the ground, with

sodden despair

 

hazing my eyes

like death’s laid claim

but hasn’t quite put out the lights

dark shadows turn

from monsters into cars

as they emerge

every breath

a small drowning

wading through the fog

 

12-30-04 Maria Rich

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Sending My Baby Out to the Slaughter

#Tabeth

Today I sent my novel, Tabeth: Opening Eternity, out to an editor. I feel like I sent my baby out to the Slaughter house. WHAT DID I DO! She wasn’t ready! She should have been gone over at least five more times! How could I DO such a thing?? How could I be so cruel? Why didn’t I wait? SHES BARELY STANDING ON HER OWN!!!!

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Truth is, I know Tabeth will be far better off for the slicing and dicing she will receive. The real reason for my mild panic attack is the fact that another human being, one that is knowledgeable and educated in both the technical side of writing, and the organic pleasure a work of fiction is meant to bring to the reader, is actually about to …. READ IT.

OMG! SEAL IT BACK UP!!!!!!

As long as it’s Top Secret, nobody can kill the fantasy right? Yet I remind myself that the Dream is to share this with the world. The Dream is to have people read it and somehow open their eyes to alternate possibilities Maybe even learn something of themselves. Those are the truly good books right? Entertaining, engrossing, and touch your soul in some way that makes it impossible for you to ever forget it. THAT is the Dream right? (I nod to myself, yes this is the DREAM.)

To get my baby to that grand point, I know I must shove it in the Slaughter House door. Even if it comes back looking like this:

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I must welcome the red ink and not so flattering comments. I must chew, then swallow, the suggestions so generously given.  I must then pull the raw, red-hot metal out of the forge and beat my poor baby into something at least resembling the sword I Dream her to be! And when that day comes, when I see a sword instead of a raw lump in the shape of a sword, then I will thrust her back out into a Killing Field full of copy editors, beta readers, and finally….. GASP! readers. Most likely with another whiny post bemoaning my loss as I chew all my fingernails off.

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Special shout out to my Editor: Trish Jackson youselfpublish.com

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Women in Horror Month!

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I only yesterday found out that this is a thing! February is the Women in Horror month!! How did I not know this? So I thought I had better get in on this thing, as I am both a woman and a writer of horror.

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Traditionally, women have had a hard time in the horror genre. It is dominated by Kings and other manly things like that, but there are some spectacular notables in the genre. Off the top of my head I get the Dark Lady herself: Anne Rice, whose vampire novels still top the genre lists. Shirley Jackson, author of “The Haunting of Hill House” is another top selling author who excels and creeping people out. And of course the Mother of all Women in Horror: Mary Shelley, who defied the stigma and the times to write “Frankenstein” in 1818.

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Of the newer writers of horror, I am sadly in the dark. Searching for more of my gender in this genre I find unfamiliar names, some of which have been around a while! I guess I’ve never really sought out horror specifically written by women before. Is that my bad? Or is it that I truly don’t care what gender the writer is? Personally, while I totally want to support my fellow females, and feel we really do rate equal standing in the genre, I don’t think anyone should purchase a book based on what sex, race, creed, or nationality the author is. They should buy the book based on whether they like what the book’s about.

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That being said, I have found a few female horror writers that I want to check out. Looking around the #WiHM7 page, these authors have stood out for me, and I will be checking out their books.

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Maquel A. Jacob has a short story collection “Welcome Despair” published, and a sci-fi horror (she says like Event Horizon… OMG!) and vampire novel in the works. I feel she is my kinda peep because she often gets her ideas from dreams, just like me! She is also not afraid of gore, and likes aliens, demons and vampires. Totally keeping my eye on this girl! http://horrortree.com/women-in-horror-month-special-interview-with-maquel-a-jacob/

 

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E. A. Black has written a lot of short horror stories that have appeared in collections like “Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad”, which gives me chills from the title alone. The excerpt they give from Infection that appears in “Teeming Terrors”, is both enthralling and creepy. I’m a ‘bug’ person, owning tarantulas that I call ‘my babies’, and I was chewing my nails while wanting to read the rest of the story! https://ninadarc.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/women-in-horror-month-2016-featured-author-e-a-black-elizabethablack-wihm7/

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Carrie Ryan author of “The Forest of Hands and Teeth”, which is not only a teen dystopian, but also a zombie book. I have read “Hare Moon: An Original Forest of Hands and Teeth Story” and I like it. Now I have to read the rest of them! My husband, who is on a Zombie kick, found the set and recommended I take a look. A New York Times Best Seller, she takes Zombies out of the corny, testosterone zone and into creative creep! http://www.carrieryan.com/fht/

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While I would one day love to be compared with these great horror writing chickas, right now I will be fan girling the girls! I invite you to do the same, and if you have a female horror writer that you feel needs a heads up, DO TELL!

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impostor syndrome

As my page “Projects of the Procrastinator” shows, I have a teensy problem with putting off today, what could just as easily be put off tomorrow. Procrastinating has been a part of me for a loooooong time. I’m not sure why…. and often have tried to put my finger on the cause, to little success.

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I went to this article, Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators, with the thought that I would get a few amusing examples of famous authors who are also procrastinators. Allowing me to bemoan my fate and commiserate with some greats. I did not think I would get an AhHa! moment, then I read this:

“… they seem to be paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.”

And instead of rising to the challenge of proving themselves wrong, they shut themselves down. The article calls it “self-handicapping”, and it is totally what I do to myself. The article goes on to explain why we do this to ourselves:

“The fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you ‘really’ are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome.”

Why impostor you might ask? I, and apparently many other people who are procrastinators, imagine myself to be a great writer (or whatever). A poet who touches souls. I master wordsmith who raises human awareness with every chapter.

When I publish this book… I get reality.

I will be unmasked, my true self revealed, my true talent laid bare. And if you know anything at all about me, it is that I don’t like revealing myself. When I publish this book I will have to face reality, both the real and the imagined reality my very imaginative mind can come up with.

I will have to face all the opinions of people; real and imagined, and all the thoughts of people; real and imagined, and all the words, reviews, and comments of relatives; both real and imagined.

So when I sit down to write, this all combines in my head and I think… Do I really want to write today? I so don’t have the energy to fight through all that… I deserve a break right? I really wana watch a movie, or catch up on a TV show, or read that book, or play my video game, or…. I don’t HAVE to write today… it’s my day off right? I did all this house work I can sit down for a few hours!

And I talk myself out of it, and I feel relief, but I also feel guilt. Because I know it’s an excuse, and I know it’s all in my own head, and I’m doing it AGAIN. But the fear of losing that fantasy is worse than the guilt and shame of never really trying to make it a reality. So I handicap myself, and I’ve been doing it for most of my life.

I started on this road to publishing a novel because 911 made me realize we only get one shot at this life and that shot can end at any moment. I decided to take the plunge and do it despite this bloody fear, and its things like this article that smack me back into focus.

I MUST KEEP GOING.

I must push on. I have to sit down and type out what is in my head and then put it out there for the world to judge. Even if it hurts, even if it crushes that fantasy. Because NOT doing it is the same as jumping out of a burning building… maybe you can pretend you’re flying on the way down, but you’re not really flying, you’re just falling on your face.

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Redemption’s Power

Episode 5

(Read Episode 1: HERE)

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Cages

Three days later Chad was standing with Ms. Wick at the front gate of the Prison. He was to play a newly caught ‘bad boy’ while Ms. Wick played an ‘official person’. Shawn’s talent for illusions made Ms. Wick look like the woman on the ID card, while Wicked Green worked her talent to get the guard to do everything she said. Mitzy and Shawn were disguised as Chad’s guards under more illusions. Mechal was in place to provide the distraction. Chad felt a little worthless here; all he was doing was providing a body. Maybe he could be more useful when they got inside.

The guard let them pass, one big bad guy flanked by two guards (one a little short) and an official type woman. When they entered the big square building, Chad immediately felt like he was walking into detention at school. It was a beautiful day outside, but inside it was cold, sterile, and just plain ugly. Ms. Wick walked briskly up to the desk; her heals clicking on the tile floor and rapped on the desk to get the receptionist’s attention.

“You will open the doors to C block now.” she ordered the older lady with the pinched facebehind the desk. The lady looked like she was going to denying the order, but a second more of Wicked Green’s golden glare crumbled her will into dust.

“Yes of course.” she said simply and pushed some buttons behind the counter.

Ms. Wick ushered them beyond the first set of doors then told Shawn to drop the illusions and took Mitzy’s hand. They took off down the barren corridor as an explosion went off on the other side of the prison.

“Woopie!” Called Mitzy, “It worked!” The Guild rescued Mitzy from a military base where they were trying to make her into a new weapons manufacturer. Mitzy can infuse liquids with a unique compound that is very unstable. Most of her experiments went boom at the least opportune time. Chad could understand her joy when one actually worked as intended.

“Mechal always gets to have the most fun.” said Shawn sulkily.

“We aren’t out of here yet Shawn.” said Ms. Wick, her voice taunt with anxiety.

They broke into a run as screams echoed down the halls and another explosion shook the building. One more turn and they were there, but they had one more locked door to get through, and one more security desk.

“Chad” said Ms Wick as they rounded the corner, “ram it, we don’t have time for niceties.”

Chad saw what she meant, four security guards and several other staff stood around the desk. There was no way Ms. Wick could get them all with her talent, she had to have eye contact. Chad sped up, getting ahead of the others and bellowed a warning to the people in front of the door. He hardly felt the metal doors ripping out of their frames, but it did jolt him for a second and spin him about a little. By the time he got his forward momentum under control, the others had gotten through without much trouble.

“Did you see that big guy!?” asked Shawn as he ran up to Chad, “I totally scared those guys into running for it!”

“He made it look like a whole herd of Chad’s was charging them!” said Mitzy with a grin, “It was actually pretty smart!”

“Well played, yet we still have not acquired our target.” said Ms. Wick, bringing them back to the task at hand. Chad wasn’t sure he liked Shawn using his image to scare those people, but he was glad they had gotten through ok.

Ms. Wick stopped in front of a cell door, checked a number on her clip board, and then nodded. “This is it, we don’t have a key, Chad would you do the honors please?”

Chad nodded back and grabbed the door, digging in his fingers around the door frame. When he had a good grip he simply pulled strait out; it popped like a cork.

Ms. Wick walked into the room and said, “Come with me if you want to be free.”

For the first time Chad thought about the girl, how would she react to someone ripping out her door and asking her that? Overcome with curiosity, Chad peeked his head around the door he was still holding. What he saw was a girl with long black hair, and eyes that gripped his heart. While the room was stark white and sterile; her eyes where alive. Like a horse that had been worked near to death but still, stubbornly, tries to keep going, she looked tired and drawn out, but still ready for a fight.

Shawn pushed his head out of the way so he could see better, it was just the sort of annoying thing Shawn did on a daily basis, and Chad was sick of it. He put the door down and pushed Shawn back. Of course Shawn went flying, but Chad wasn’t out of control, he knew from long practice that Shawn would just have a few bruises. Chad heard hysterical giggling coming from inside the room, and looked back in. The girl was nearly on the floor she was laughing so hard, had she seen what he had done?

Mitzy popped in under Chad’s head and took in the scene. “Thought you said she wasn’t really nuts?”

“Well,” Ms. Wick said, a bit perplexed, “She’s not thought to be totally nuts.”

Chad thought she looked even more alive now that her eyes were full of laughter. The girl tried to control herself and answer Ms. Wick.

“No… I’m only… only half crazy!” she said and broke down laughing again. In that moment Chad thought she looked beautiful, greasy hair and white medical gown included. The girl, Cassandra, he reminded himself, stepped forward and took Ms. Wick’s outstretched hand. Now if only they could get out in one piece.

© Maria Rich 2016

(Read Episode 6: HERE) Coming soon

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