Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sales Agent

A few weeks have gone by since my first novel was published. At first I had no idea of what to expect or how these things work; I was kind of expecting that adds would appear in magazines right away, there'd be critics posting its opinion in a few media and if I was really lucky, maybe doing an interview or a signing of books... you know what I mean: SELLING MY BOOK.

Well, as things work out, it is a lot slower than I thought. The adds that have been already paid are supposed to appear printed in march, a few copies will be send soon to specific targets like critics, news, magazines and small libraries; and a possible, and I repeat POSSIBLE signing of books might happen some time in august... a whole six months after the book's being available in libraries...

BTW, did I forget to tell you I live in Canada and my editor in Ohio??? Yeah, that's right. Now I'm confronted with a situation in which I have to find the time to learn how to promote a book on my own and learn the ropes not only of a writer, but as my own agent here in Montreal. All these of course, when like everybody else, the one thing I have not is TIME. Anyway, there's agencies that are dedicated to this but the other thing I don't have is money; and then, here I am looking through several newspapers trying to figure out who should I call and how should I let them know about my novel. Trust me, it'd be a daunting task for the ablest and I'm the kind of person who is unable to sell water in the desert. What more can I say but: HELP! Anyone out there that could lend me a hand or that has any ideas as to where to go or who to call, I'll be forever in your debt.

I hope little by little word of mouth will mount up as more people in the real world gets in contact with the book; and as my Publishing House grows, it will bring more exposition to the novel. With a bit of luck I'll get out of this not with a bestseller, but with a decent-seller and a lot more knowledge. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 11, 2011


When I tell people I'm a writer there's one question that sooner or later will get out of their mouths and that's: "Where do you get your inspiration?" This has to be the most common question a writer gets and I bet at some point it must turn pretty tiresome. Most writers have a "scripted" answer that they'll regurgitate at parties or interviews but in my case, having very few works to my name, sometimes the question really sends me into thinking for an honest answer.

Case in point, the other day a guy not only asked me the famous question but also added something to the effect of: "I guess you're always thinking of horrible things and expecting things to go bad; killing people in your mind or seeing ghost everywhere, don't you? Always surrounded by darkness"

WOW. I was flabbergasted. It's true that I write about awful things but that's not what's popping into my mind when I'm talking to a friend; it's not like I'm thinking -Wouldn't it be great if her head exploded right now?- C'mon people! So where do I get my ideas??

Well, I like to think that like most adults I ponder things and think about the worst case scenario. Kids in general, but primarily teens will decide to do things without much thinking about consequences; that things can go wrong and cause some life-altering events is not ingrained in their minds. Adults, on the other hand will always think about this, or at least they're supposed to do.

If a friend is telling me about this stupid thing she did when she was younger, I will think about those consequences and throw into the mix something that scares me. I think that what makes a story scary is the human possibilities; is thinking it can happen to us, is throwing through the window every safety net our society provides us and look for the chaos that ensues; the common things are our blanky and where they're pulled off our hands, it sends us into panic. It's for these reasons that I always develop the human aspect of a story, the characters, their motivations, what scares them; and only when that is established and the basic story is enough to give me the creeps, will I think of a supernatural turn of events and add it to the plot.

The supernatural event is the easiest part because it lurks everywhere. Who doesn't love a great ghost story? There are THOUSANDS of sites dedicated to spread the word about "real" haunted places, haunted people, ghost pictures; and if that's not enough every other person out there knows a story, personal or otherwise. I, myself, have my own experiences, most of them product of a young scary feverish mind but there are a couple that even to this day baffle me. So there you go, not at a lost for inspiration in this area but also not the easiest to find an original twist; which sends us back to what I call the "Human Aspect".

A ghost story is a ghost story and most of them are formulaic; it's very rare to find a different one. Think about "The Shining"; it's pretty much the story of a haunted hotel with ghost terrorizing the leading characters... not that we haven't seen that before. Now, think about the backstory, how the alcoholic father is fighting his personal demons of frustration (he's unable to write a new novel) and shame (for being an alcoholic and for breaking his son's arm in a fit); how the son and the mother create this little world of their own in the aftermath of surviving the abuse of a sick and cruel father and husband... it sounds a lot better, right? It's the human side of the characters and how we relate to them that drives the story and when you add ghosts you think -Gee, what other horrible thing will they have to go through!-

There it is, in a nutshell, how I conceive my stories. It is always based in what frightens me and if at least once in the process of writing it I get a nightmare, I know I'm in the right path.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Writer's block?

So, after all that talking I finally got to work on my latest story: a short horror story called (so far) "Feast Day" based on an anecdote a couple of friends had on Italy. When I first began working on it a month ago or so it all felt very organic; you know, the process of adapting the story and researching for a supernatural twist that was ingrained in italian folklore, of which I know nothing. It wasn't at all hard and after an evening or two of reading everything that came my way I found the perfect place and set of customs to use as a base for the tale; I even wrote a few paragraphs... great!

Along came french mid-terms and Christmas; out the door went every chance to move forward the work. I didn't worry much, trusting that the rough of the work was already done and I had a pretty clear idea of where I wanted the story to go. Winter-break, finally! The best was having the kids in school since that would give me more time to finish my work.  Monday came and I sent my girls to school, hurried up with my chores and sat in front of my laptop only to realize my mind was blank. All those ideas I had were still there, of course, but I couldn't find the right words if my life depended on it. Damn! With GREAT effort I managed to write some 700 wds, shameful...

Tuesday I had to take the kids to gym practice in the evening so I woke up early and sat at my 'desk' without bothering about cleaning the house. After thinking a lot and struggling with the kind of line suited the story best, I managed to reconnect with my characters; yay! Around 1500 wds, good...

Wednesday represented another struggle, it took me like three hours to find the story again. Thursday was even worse... kid's gym, again. So here I am, friday, my last day of vacation and 3400 wds of not so decent prose. I don't think this is technically "writer's block" but sure as hell feels like it. I don't know why I've had such a hard time connecting with the characters and I don't know if it will turn out to be a good story but I feel like I have to stick to my guns and finish it; to see it through and maybe when getting to the second draft I'll have a better sense of what to do with it.

Somewhere I remember I read something to the effect that if you leave a draft untouched for a month, the story is dead and you'll never be able to retake it; maybe they were right. Cross your fingers for me and I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So Funny I Had to Share It

As I was wasting my time looking for inspiration through the internet, I came across this letter and could do nothing but laugh. Although I'm not certain of its origins, it claims to be written by an actual Procter and Gamble costumer, as well as being PC Magazine's 2007 editors' choice for best webmail-award-winning letter. Whatever the truth, I decided to share it with you. Laugh and have a happy day my friends!

Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your 'Always' maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core or Dri-Weave absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.
Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from 'the curse'? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my time of the month is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call 'an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.' Isn't the human body amazing?
As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customer's monthly visits from 'Aunt Flo'. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the viole nt urge to shove her boyfriend's testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey's Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy!
The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants... Which brings me to the reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: 'Have a Happy Period.'
Are you f------ kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness - actual smiling, laughing happiness, is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak, there will never be anything 'happy' about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreen's armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory.
For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like 'Put down the Hammer' or 'Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong', or are you just picking on us?
Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullshit. And that's a promise I will keep. 
Always. . .
Wendi Aarons
Austin , T X