So I did this signing in Wisconsin …

On a trip to visit family in the Midwest, my wife suggested setting up a signing at her sister-in-law’s drugstore that also sells some books. So on June 14, I did. The store ordered some books and I set up a table with free bookmarks and trading cards.

Got several customers, including one (1) Actual Child.

  

L. Poster for signing (address added later)  R. Table setup, with free bookmarks and Roger Mantis baseball cards

 

   

L. Okay, it’s not a bookstore, but it’s a good start.  R. Customers. Ben Gavin, in the black shirt, helped me set it all up.

    

The swag. A bookmark and a Roger Mantis baseball card.

 

Zorya is out on submission again. Also, I Aten’t Dead.

My last post was over a year ago. I’m not proud of it.

I have been dithering with self-publishing my third book, Zorya. That last post long ago involved the leap of faith needed to purchase the expensive stock image I wanted in order to build a cover image on my own.

I did make that purchase some time later (at least it’s deductable), and I did do some work on a cover. Mostly I procrastinated. My biggest obstacle to self-publishing, other than cover art, is marketing. It’s the thing I’ve seen most self-published authors stumble over, and I am no exception.

This past March, I attended the 2018 SCBWI Golden Gate Conference, which gives attendees the opportunity to submit to agents and publishers also in attendance. They pay special attention to submissions from attendees, and the opportunity was too good to miss.

So I sent several Zorya submissions out after the conference, the latest this evening (she didn’t want to see submissions until after the middle of July.) I have gotten one rejection so far. Some response times are as long as six months (not uncommon with submissions directly to publishers).

So. Here I am.

In other updates, the conventional publication of my second book, Roger Mantis, is proceeding, although the publication date was postponed twice. I’m still okay with the process, even the editing, but it’s an education.

“Pitch Madness”

Now and then someone holds a contest where you submit a pitch, and if you get far enough in the ranks, real agents will take a look at it. Here’s one of them, and I entered it (entries are closed now).

Rules vary, but all of these contests involve severe word limits, which is a challenge to a windy writer like me but very good practice. Some contests ask for 140-character Twitter pitches! This one had a 35-word pitch and a 250-word excerpt (you could extend the excerpt to the end of a sentence).

I entered Roger Mantis and Zorya. A lot of entrants are posting their pitches on their blogs now, so I will too.

Pitch, Roger Mantis: Roger McGillicutty, 12, wakes up one Saturday morning and finds out he’s turned into a five-foot praying mantis. And with school on Monday, and his baseball team playing their biggest rival next week!

Excerpt: As young Roger McGillicutty awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

Aw, geeze! he thought.

There was no mistake about it. The drapes in Roger’s bedroom were closed, but the Saturday morning sun was shining brightly outside and the drapes glowed, illuminating the whole room.

Roger stared at his hands, which had been replaced by vicious yellowish claws at the end of spiked, emerald-green arms. Clumsily, he kicked off the covers using a lot more legs than he used to have, and looked down at himself. It was worse than he thought. He was lying on his back. Below his shoulders his middle was a narrow, hard, green cylinder leading down to where four long, spindly jointed legs wiggled aimlessly toward the ceiling. The legs were green too, except the ends, which were more yellowish.

Past his legs was a long, narrow, greenish-yellow wormy-looking thing that was apparently his butt. Roger remembered that this was called an “abdomen” on an insect, and his narrow middle part was called a “thorax.” That was all he could remember right now from that insect chapter last month in his hated seventh-grade biology class. Well, at least “abdomen” was a better word than “butt.” As he looked at his…abdomen, it squirmed and bent as though that end of him was waking up separately.

“Eww! Gross!” he said involuntarily. His own voice startled him. It was a little buzzy, like his art teacher Mrs. Clancy, who talked through her nose.

______________________________

Pitch, Zorya: 17-year-old Zorya sneaks interested looks across her high-school classroom at David, the strange new boy, the only one in the school who can go out in the daytime…

Excerpt:

My name’s Zorya. Mother says I’m named after Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the Evening Star. That’s sort of cool.

There were fifteen of us in my classroom that fall—the entire high school senior class population of the Northern California Enclave. And then there was David. Named after David, I guess.

He wasn’t one of us. He was one of them.

I propped an arm on my desk and casually leaned my head on my hand, turning my face a bit to the right. That way, I could look at him without…looking like I was looking at him. Up at the front of the room Madame Stefonia was writing something on the whiteboard, so she probably wouldn’t notice right away that I wasn’t paying attention.

The moonlamps were turned up high so David could see well enough to read and write. Their eyes are really bad—I don’t think they can even see colors at night. On the other hand, I could see him just fine. Unlike me, he was watching the teacher and busily taking notes.

He was blonde, which in a room full of black hair made him stick out like a snowball on an asphalt road. He was almost a year older than me, almost a foot taller, and even skinnier. His eyes were dark brown, which was as weird around here as the blonde hair. His voice had a twinge of accent, Texas I think, and my God, the tan. It was only the third week of school, and he hadn’t been here long enough to start losing it.

______________________________

I have a third book that’s self-published, so it’s not eligible for a contest like this, but for editing practice I generated a pitch for it anyway:

Pitch, Castle Falcon: Two modern children exploring their ancient and mysterious castle home discover frightening secrets about their father’s history, along with strange creatures and dark forces that could be unleashed onto the world.

Excerpt:

Once upon a time, there was an immense castle crouched near the base of a range of low, heavily-wooded mountains.

This was no elegant fairy-tale castle with flag-topped towers spiking into the sky. It was vast and sprawling, with massive turreted outer walls built of gigantic blocks of roughly-hewn stone, black with the patina of centuries and crusted with moss and lichens. Within those walls the castle’s grounds were covered with mansions, halls, outbuildings and scattered ruins, laid out in a maze with no pattern or architectural consistency. Inside these buildings were hundreds of rooms of all shapes and sizes. There were dark catacombs, airy parlors, hidden chambers, attics, quiet cloisters and expansive courtyards open to the sky. There were corridors and passages beyond counting, soaring stone buttresses, and worn slate roofs with brooding and broken gargoyles perched on their edges.

Two children had lived in this castle all their lives, and they loved their ancient home even more than they loved video games.

Katie Falcon and her brother Zach simply called it “the Castle.” In nearby Monte Vista, an isolated small town in the American Northwest, people called it “Castle Falcon” when they were talking to tourists but sometimes called it “The Wizard’s Place” when they were quietly talking to each other.

It was the first really warm day of spring. Katie, who was almost fourteen and eager to be sixteen, had kicked off her tennis shoes and was curled up in a nest of pillows on the cushioned platform of the big bay window in her room.

Roger Mantis “placeholder” cover

My wife (my best beta reader) is going to be proofing my second book, Roger Mantis, after I added new chapters. Now she’s gone all high-tech and everything and wants to proof it in Kindle format on her IPod. My Kindle InDesign plug-in gets crabby if you don’t include a cover image in the output so I whipped one up in Photoshop. The background is the school baseball field in my home town.

Roger Mantis placeholder cover

Yeah, it’s an obvious Photoshop.  I didn’t want to pay for the mesh model to do a decent 3D rendering of Roger, and I haven’t figured out how to “rig” a figure in 3DS Max anyway.

Yeah, it’s a Minnesota Twins cap. I don’t have a photo for the fictional “Highland Falls Falcons.”

And yeah, the cars in the background aren’t from 1977, either (my eagle-eyed wife spotted that instantly in my first printout).

Geeze, it’s just a dang placeholder cover, okay?