I can’t get over how similar Rick Riordan and I are.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple readings… some of them in editor Adam Pacther’s hometown of Arlington pretty well-attended, Waltham, the awesome Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster… others not so well attended. My favorite moment* was when we arrived at the Arlington Center for the Arts and one poor lady, who I don’t think intended to attend the reading, was seated in our room and bravely stuck it out while Adam and I read. Or the time I had a reading booked at my local, my hometown library, the Charlton Library (the library which banned Mark Twain’s “Eve’s Diary”… probably not for the pictures, as claimed, but probably for him being a bit full of himself) and my old boss from Ronnie’s Seafood showed up with one of his sons and… no one else. So we skipped the reading (sorry, Adam), and just chatted about what we’d all been up to.
My reading series as a young a**hole where I just showed up in parks and read from my dreadful roman à clef-in-progress God Coffee, I Miss You was similarly successful, hitting parks in Brooklyn, Seattle, and Los Angeles, with a grand total of none audience, but maybe that was to be expected.
So if some lucky agent wants to pick up Trip to the Quiet Room, this might be a great time to get in, as I’ve got loads of stories about how long the road to overnight success actually is. The book is an excellent beach read, because some of it takes place down in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where William Murphy is in hiding from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and ‘Jimmy’ is in hiding from Old Sturbridge Village and the proprietors of the Magic Funtime Butterfly Ranch are in hiding from the Internal Revenue Service
It could be your next Percy Jackson… ?
* By this, of course, I mean my least favorite moment, the moment when my stomach drops through my toes and leaks out onto the floor in a sad little stomach puddle.
Because precisely no one asked, I’m about to tell you the story of the odd little non-children’s story called The Little Red Publishing Hen. So grab a cup of tea and settle in, folks.
I woke up a few weekends ago to the urgent call of nature — I had the ghost of a story lodged in my brain and I couldn’t get it out without the aid of pen and paper.
I imagined the little red hen, sick of all that baking, settling in to write a novel. Since writing is a solitary (ish) pursuit, she was in good shape, given the help she got in her baking. But imagine she got to the road to publication part of the process — the agent hunt, the search for a home for her book, an audience, a market. It’s been something I’ve thought a lot about as I’ve researched agent after agent, looking for someone who would be a good fit for Trip to the Quiet Room — a story about an ex-pro hockey player, his family, his old teammate, post-concussion symptoms, Old Sturbridge Village, and a time machine, amongst other things. Surprisingly, there is not a single agent who lists all of those things in their manuscript wish list. So I’ve spent a good chunk of time over the last two years crafting query letters, synopses, query packages for all sorts of different requirements; I’ve hit up old and sometimes tenuous connections for potential leads; I’ve pored over every entry in the PublishersMarketplace email every morning for new candidates and then dove into that agent’s background, previous sales, Twitter feed, Linked In profile, everything available to try and make some sort of connection. Because, as it’s so prominently highlighted on one of my scoreboards, the biggest foe you have to struggle against is that great, empty, soul-sucking void of no response. You begin to doubt your own existence, after so many emails sent with not even the hint of a reply, not even an auto-reply!
So I imagined the little red hen running up against a familiar enemy, for her, and just getting on with it. She’d self-publish!
In order to tell the story of the little red hen I pictured a pretty vivid set of colors, and while the kids did an amazing job on Verano the Fish, I didn’t want to go with the hand-drawn look for this one, going for a more Minecraft-y look (which is handy, as well, since my artistic abilities are lacking). I sketched out a few chickens for proof-of-concept purposes, and found I liked the look. I market tested them on the kids, and they liked them, too. So before I knew it I was blocking out the book, breaking the story up into short, bite-sized chunks that would need some sort of art. The better part of the weekend mornings, some evenings, mornings throughout the next two weeks were spent artifying the whole thing and fleshing out the book in iBooks Author, which is where I did all the layout of the text and pictures.
During one of the reviews with the kids they highlighted a number of words they didn’t understand or thought might be improved, and we came up with the glossary, which is built into iBooks, so we chose the words they wanted defined and added those, as well as a single page glossary for the Kindle version.
I wasn’t 100% comfortable pitching this as a children’s book, since it’s more in the vein of the thinly veiled frustrations of a writer comparing himself to a fat red hen than a pleasant bedtime read. I didn’t want an unsuspecting novelist-in-progress downloading this book only to break down in tears as they attempted to read the story to their children as they lay them down to sleep. I also didn’t want unsuspecting children to grab this book from the digital shelf and miss the light sarcasm and think that publishing a New York Times best seller was as easy as the book makes it out to be (or does it?). I didn’t want chickens to get ahold of this book, either, Doreen Cronin-style, and wonder where their laptop and writing desk was. I agonized about this for all of fifteen to twenty minutes, and decided to slap a subtitle, “A Storybook for Writers and Their Children” on it and be done with it. That should clear up any and all confusion.
And then, as it says in the book, it was just a matter of pressing the ‘Publish’ button in iBooks Author.
Well, pressing the button, remembering that I needed to provide screenshots, a decent cover, find the typo I’d missed in a hundred or so re-readings, then do it all over again for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. And then do it all again with Barnes & Noble’s excellent NOOK Kids Book Builder, only to remember that the NOOK Kids Book Builder doesn’t generate a book that anyone can read!
Then it was simply a matter of not caring about Barnes & Noble enough to spend a lot more time debugging the problem, and so I sat back, grabbed my (now cold) cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, and watched the downloads pour in…. just like the little red publishing hen.
As you may know by now, Butterfly, a novel, my novel about an ex-enforcer trying (and failing) to live out his days peacefully, touches on a lot of the same emotions and reasoning that Prust goes through in his article.
Once the gloves fall off, everything else kind of fades away. You can’t hear the fans. You can’t hear the ref. It’s just silence. That’s the easy part. The tough part is the day leading up to the game when you know you’re going up against a tough guy. You can’t help but think about it all day, and you go through a roller coaster of emotions.
So many of them, from Brandon, with this article, to Shawn Thornton, to George Parros, so many of them are so eloquent and articulate about the task of fighting for a living, they approach their job with such discipline and forethought, that I think they’re fascinating characters to follow for a book-length journey. Here’s hoping an agent thinks the same.
I’ve been delinquent in updating lately because there’s not much to update. Per my author scoreboard, I’ve got a bloop single in the form of a request for a full manuscript from one agent, a few rejections, and a handful of un-responses, which are possibly worse than rejections, once they remain non-responses after eight weeks or so.
In the meantime I’m at work on the next novel, tentatively titled “Ozymandias,” but it’s all still notebooks and 5 a.m. wakeup calls on that front, which is hardly thrilling stuff.
So sit tight, have a cup of tea or two, and I’m sure I’ll have something good for you soon. After all, I still have to write up my meeting with David Mitchell, my visit from the Dalai Lama, a scuba diving excursion to Des Moines, and playing ping pong with Ghengis Khan’s great-great-great-great grand daughter’s best friend Timmy.
These are, yes it’s true, my current stats, with regards to queries sent out, responses I’ve received, and responses I haven’t received. I’m not quite sure how it works that I’m the one at bat but the Empty, Soul-Sucking Void of No Response is scoring all the runs, but this isn’t baseball, and there is crying in pitching to agents and publishers, so there you go.
All I’m aiming for is one run. Just one little run.
If I want a shot at the People’s Choice Award, I am told, I have until the end of July 14th (midnight GMT) to have as many people as possible down my story with the EtherBooks app (which is available for iPhones, iPads, and whatever devices run Android).
So I would really appreciate it if you would run out, buy an iPhone, download the EtherBooks app, log in, select the Discover tab on the bottom of the screen, tap All Genres for the genre list, and choose Competitions.
You can find Twisted Tales entries on the app by selecting Discover from the bottom menu, tapping All Genres for the genre list, and choosing Competitions. Then select Twisted Tales 2014, tap on the Entries tab. Maybe take a break and make yourself a cup of tea. Mutter about how you always go that step above and beyond for friends and you don’t know quite why you do it all the time.
Get back to your device (don’t leave it on the sink like that last time!) and scroll through the list of entries. Look for Saint Patrick’s Next Trick. Don’t touch *anything* else. Just keep scrolling. If it’s not there, try going back up to the top of the list. Pull down on the list (ignore my earlier comment about not touching anything else). The list may or may not have refreshed. Scroll down again and try and find Saint Patrick’s Next Trick. If it helps, imagine yourself on an exciting treasure hunt. Where the treasure is *reading* and *gold*! Well, metaphorical gold, in the form of reading, but still.
I don’t know how that helps you, because it just tells you to go download the app and then find the story, but maybe you can search for the story by name, “Saint Patrick’s Next Trick,” or by *my* name, “Matthew Hanlon.”
And if your spouse gets a little angry or upset that you went out and purchased a new phone or tablet just to vote for me with your download, send them my way and I’ll explain how they, too, need to rush out and get a new iDevice to vote for my story in the People’s Choice Award in the 2014 Twisted Tales competition.
Head to their website and their downloads page, which is linked above, or you can download the PDF directly from here (it’s around 9MB if that sort of thing means anything to you).
Besides my amazing story about, well, a man in my nostril, it’s got some fantastic writing. Personal faves were “How to Cut Open Your Unicorn” by Jacquelyn M. Stolos, “Terminal Velocity” by Linton Robinson, “What the Bison Feel” by Mark Rigney, and “Peter’s Glass” by Andrew Davis.
It’s about as free as you’re going to get, so go grab a copy for your favorite PDF reader (like iBooks on the Mac or iPad or phone) or ask a friend with an electronic device to download it and print it out for you, or tattoo it on their back so you can sit back, relax, and have a read.
I have only mentioned it briefly elsewhere, but now that I have the advance reader copy in my digital hand I suppose I can trust that they’re not lying to me and that they will actually publish the story. My short story, “The Man in My Nostril” will be published in Volume 2, Issue 2 of The Oddville Press (due out any day now).
It’s a story about babies, nasal rinses, little men, and cats and I’m 75% sure you’re going to love it.
Selected Shorts is one of my favorite ways to pass the time in the car. Their podcast is free on iTunes and has some amazing quality stories and readings of those stories. Their late host, Isaiah Sheffer was one of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard. When I’m writing short stories I often try and hear them read in his voice, because if it doesn’t sound good when he’s reading it it’s likely not going to sound good when a reader is reading it.
I have a few targets on my mental writing cork board, those stretch goals to hit someday, and one of them would be to get a short story of mine produced by Selected Shorts and read live, on stage, at Symphony Space in New York City. So here’s hoping…
P.S. By ‘wish me luck’ I do mean that, if you should see me wandering in your general vicinity today you should attempt to rub my belly, like some emaciated Buddha. And if I’m not in your general vicinity you should rub my belly *with your mind*.
It’s that wonderful time of year again, the Goodreads Choice Awards season!
This past year (according to the eligibility rules for the award, the year stretches from November, 2012 to November 2013 — this may be fallout from the Mayan Apocalypse) I’ve had two books… not quite published, let’s call them ‘released.’
The History of the Mayan BallLeague was the first, coming shortly before the Mayan Apocalypse, which happened and did a real number on book sales, as everyone on the planet perished.
Verano the Fishcame out in May, 2013 and is the lovely story of a little fish, his family, and a hapless fisherman. It’s written by me and illustrated by my family, which is good, because I couldn’t illustrate my way out of a paper bag.
Both books are a nice short length and, even better, both are *FREE*! Or at least they are on the platforms on which that sort of thing is allowed. Where I couldn’t make them free I made them as cheap as possible. I really, really wanted to make them more expensive in Belgium, because, well, they know what they did. But I didn’t.
So why am I writing you today, you ask?
So I would like to humbly beg that, if you enjoyed either of those books, you would vote for them in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2013.
If you haven’t read them yet, I would humbly beg that you go read the books on your iPad or Kindle or nook or whathaveyou. Read them in your browser, as you can download them both, for free, from Goodreads.com and then, if you like them, go vote for them.
Both of these books will require a little extra work on your part, and for that I apologize, profusely. You’ll need to write in the entries. Like so:
Same goes for The History of the Mayan Ball League.
And once you’ve done it, like the voting sticker you receive at the booth, you get a nice little pat on the back, social media-style:
So please, go vote for Verano the Fish and The History of the Mayan Ball League at the Goodreads Choice Awards 2013. I have just the thing to wear on the red carpet, and some sparkling acceptance speeches to give.
So for the last… well, a long time. In February, 2011, after finishing the first draft of a novel entitled “Rudyard Kipling’s Chair” which is still sitting in a desk drawer somewhere, unwieldy and cumbersome and full of far too many characters and subplots, I was taking a break. Like practicing crop rotation for the creative mind, I picked up another project that had been festering.
This project was tentatively titled “Butterfly,” and it began at 5:45am that morning.
“I work at the Magic Funtime Butterfly Ranch. I make dreams come true. Probably.”
It was the story of a man who is separated from his family and his friends, the story of their struggle to get back together, and the various paths people take to fulfill their desires.
And it still is. About three drafts later, I’m working on that final polishing draft. My first fifty pages have been handed over to my First Reader, who fled the country shortly after receiving them.
So that’s where I’ve been. And I’m still not technically allowed out. I mean, the first fifty pages out of, what, two hundred and fifty? More? Less, hopefully, after some judicious editing? That’s a lot of judicious editing to go, a lot of clean up, usually squeezed in in the wee hours of the morning.
But that’s where I’ve been, where I’m at, and I’m very excited to see it coming along, at long last.