Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two Graduated at the Same Time

I just have to share like any proud mom. (Smile) I had not one, but two children graduate this month. My son graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. He just landed a job working at the zoo in New Orleans. He'll be working with primates, which was his hope. My daughter graduated from our local high school, fourteenth in her class no less. She will be attending the same college my son did his four years at.

One part of my life is over now. (My daughter was the baby.)

That's okay. The next part might be even more fun. My son will be married a year next week, so maybe in a couple of years it'll be time for grandbabies. (Smile)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Recipe for Mailing a Complete Manuscript

Almost all big publishers and agents ask that completes not be sent in a box or bound. That means for a newer writer figuring out a good way to send a complete, printed manuscript that’s often three hundred plus pages, is enough to bring on nightmares and a case of the cold sweats.

It’s not that hard to do though, and still end up with a nice, crisp manuscript when it reaches New York—or where ever it’s heading.

Needed Ingredients:
Printed complete manuscript (include query, synopsis, ect…)
Two large Tyvek priority envelopes
Two large rubber bands
One page-size piece of cardboard
One medium point permanent marker and/or labels of your choice
One post office

Even a thick manuscript fits nicely in one of those large priority envelopes that you can get free from the post office. A great support for that thick stack of printed pages is a simple piece of cardboard. When you order more than one book or move at a time from Amazon, they come with the perfect size piece of loose cardboard enclosed in the box. I save mine every time I get anything with that cardboard page-size piece precut in it. If you don’t have any, you can cut a page-size piece of cardboard off of any kind-of-thick brown cardboard box you happened to have around.

Before you put your finished baby inside that big priority envelope, stack the pages nice and neat on your piece of cardboard. Next, place one big rubber band length ways around your stack, and one more width ways around it—make sure they fit well, but not tight. (Don’t forget to add your cover page, query, synopsis, and anything else you were asked to include, on top of the manuscript pages before you put the rubber bands around them.) Slip an SASP (Self addressed stamped postcard) under one of the rubber bands on the top page, so it stays in place and won’t be over looked. This can be used to let your know the agent or publisher has received your manuscript.

* (I like to skip adding that SASP and just pay an extra fifty cents to the postal clerk to have a Delivery Conformation slip attached to the outside of the package instead. No one has to sign for it, so it's not a problem for the agent or editor. It's not really any extra money if you think about what you'd pay for a postcard and the stamp for it. You can use the tracking number from the Delivery Conformation slip to see that the package made it.)

Address one priority envelope to the agent or publisher, and the other one to yourself—after you pay for and attach the postage, this will become your SASE. Put your prepared manuscript into the correct envelope, but don’t seal it. (If this work is requested, make sure you write the word requested on the outside of the envelope and enclose a copy of the request letter on top of the manuscript. If the request came over the phone, through e-mail, or after a meeting, make sure you mention how, when, and where in the query.) Fold your large SASE and place it inside the first one.

Now head to the post office. Once there, ask them what it will cost to mail your envelope. After they weight it, take your SASE out and tell them you need the same postage on both envelopes so the pages inside can be returned to you if needed. Place the SASE in with your complete manuscript, seal up the envelope addressed to the agent or publisher, don't forget Delivery Conformation slip if you are using it instead of a SASP, pay the postal worker and hand that baby over.

*(Some publishers are willing to destroy the MS if you don't want it returned. If you are okay with that, and the publisher or agent is too, just add a note giving them the okay and a business size SASE for them to send you a letter about the MS. I have gotten a rejected complete back with edits from the editor written on it to help me, but that isn't the norm. The choice is up to you if you want the pages back or just the letter.)*

The hard part comes at this point. You have to trust that manuscript with these strangers and turn around and leave it. Worse of all, you have to go home, go on with your life, and wait and wait and WAIT.

By the way, the best thing you can do while you wait—which could be for months and months—is to get to work on that next story.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mother’s Day Reminder

Nope, I’m not reminding you that tomorrow is Mother’s Day -- though it is if anyone reading this hasn’t got their mom a gift yet, or given them a hug and an I love you —maybe cleaned the house or cooked a meal. Yes, those do really mean just as much to a mom as a gift. (Smile)

I got a special gift today, a great big one. I went to my son’s college and watched him take that long walk to the stage to get his BA in Biology, after four years of hard work. I was so proud to be sitting there watching him, but I didn’t really think about how lucky, how blessed I was to watch him take that walk. There was one name called, and instead of the young lady walking up on the stage, her mother went in her place. The daughter had recently died so her mother accepted her diploma. When they placed it in the mother’s hand, she paused and held it up toward the sky, as if saying, see baby, you got it. She cried all the way back to her seat, and left a short time later.

My heart broke for her. I can only guess at how hard it was for her to sit there for the long while waiting for her daughter’s turn, watching all of those young people take that walk that her daughter never had the chance to take.

I was, am, so proud of my son, but more than that, I was blessed that he was there, and that I was there, and that we got to share that moment together. It felt so wonderful when he received his diploma and in those fleeting seconds as he walked from the stage, his gaze tuned to the section where he knew I was sitting, and searched me out. The way he smiled, the way he waved that green diploma holder at me, time just stood still for a moment, and I saw him as a baby, saw him taking his first steps, saw him dressed for his first day of school, heading out for his first date, driving away for his first day of college, and finally, today, watching the result of all of those years. I was there with him and got to watch those steps, and he’s still here to take more.

In a few days I’ll be sharing another milestone, this one with my daughter as she does the walk at our local high school to get a diploma of her own. (Smile) I’ll be double blessed during one short week.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Keeping Up With Characters

I have a number of important characters in a couple of stories that are going to cross back and forth -- some not so important ones who will too. It can get really hard to keep up with all of the names, not to mention the hair colors, eye colors, cars they drive, jobs, and all of the rest. I’ve used a storyboard for a long time, but it was across the room and hard to put every thing on.

So…I decided to try something new, and it’s working out great.

I save pictures from sale papers and magazines, or even sometimes print some up from a website. I use those pictures to find my characters. When a picture yells out a character’s name to me, I glue it to a sheet of paper, write the character’s name on the top of the page, and then other needed details at the bottom or down the side, like eye color, height, weight, hair color, character traits, ect… on another sheet I can do a whole character chart if I like, on another I can write a little of the history or such of this character. On another sheet I can glue a picture of his home, his car, his pet, something that is special to him, ect…

I slip each page into a thin plastic sheet protector, then put them in a notebook. I can flip through at will, move order as I like, add anything new, and never have to worry about keeping up with all of those characters’ information again. If in chapter one of my story Uncle Charles has a bald spot, clear blue eyes, drops g’s on the end of words, walks with a limp, and has a brown and white dog named Puddles, I know Uncle Charles will still be the same in chapter twenty or book number two, and so will Puddles.

Sure saves me a lot of back tracking and trying to remember. (Smile)