Lunatic Mistress

This is not a real bar and is actually an author site.

On Oil-Filled Space Heaters

It's been cold lately. 

Oh, I suppose it's all relative; for example, the weather here is an Unmentionable, comparable to the likes of Valdemort, when speaking to my East Coast Friends...though I suppose in this case I'm not afraid of one of the Unforgivable Curses, and instead... the pity.

"Oh, honey.  it's 37 degrees over there?  Well, we just had a blizzard and sleet and it was raining muskrats and also the kids had a day off from school because insert random apocalyptic event here.  You Californians are too cute!"

And if I mentioned that to my friends in Hawaii they'd be zipping up their parkas just thinking about it.

But I digress.  Today's blog topic is about procrastination.  

I've received a lot of writing advice over the years, and by far the most common, and the most irritating to hear is, "write a little something every day".  Irritating because you know. Obviously you won't get your project finished if you don't work on it.  DUH.   It's like someone standing next to you at the train stop pointing at the sky and saying, "it's blue", (DUH) when what you really want to know is, What type of cloud is that?  Is it actually Karl?  Strange that that murder of crows just flew across the sky.  Is that a sign? When's the train coming, because this person just randomly told me the sky was blue and I want to sit far, far away from him on this train.

These are my thoughts as an example.  You probably won't have the same thoughts, nor would some random person speak to you in this manner.  Best to gauge the situation and move away from said person if you're not comfortable, by the way.  Be safe and aware!

But yes.  That Advice.  So you see that piece of advice is incomplete, because it should actually go like this: "Write every day.  DO NOT STRESS if it's only a sentence, a word, or an idea, you are NO LESS OF A PERSON for not having written enter insanely large number here pages today because you are working on your project! AND DON'T EXPECT IT TO BE PERFECT!  It will not be, so there. That's what future edits are for."

I'm still trying to follow this advice, every day.  It's rough going, because there are days where my mind will come up with any little excuse to avoid imperfect writing, like cleaning the house, or OH that new recipe in the latest Bake From Scratch magazine I've been meaning to try, or that paint drying on the wall is so fascinating or... Squirrel!

Or fingers being too cold to write.

37 degrees, my East Coast Friends. 

It sure feels cold to me.

I live in an old, drafty house, and we are saving money by not turning on the central heat because well, it's expensive.  And ineffective.

But my mind has a point about the cold fingers.  So I'm waiting for my oil-filled space heater to come in the mail, and in the meantime I'm getting to work early to write, because there's central heating there.  Yesterday I wrote a full three paragraphs and it was glorious.

Perhaps, sometime in the future, I'll go deeper into perfection and how your mind will never think it exists in your writing, and so you have to distract it with things, otherwise you're working on that same project for years.  It's wasteful, and your mind has a habit of making you feel discouraged and ready to throw in the towel.

But this is a blog post about procrastination and cold fingers.  So we'll save that for another day, hopefully when my oil-filled space heater arrives.


On Soundtracks - and Ursula K. Le Guin

On occasion, I see song listings in the back (almost forgotten) sections of novels I read, usually what the author was listening to while immersed in their creative flow.  And I admit as a reader, I usually gloss over this.  As a writer, of course I have songs that capture the mood of my character, scene, or even the dialogue, but I assume there's a disparity between what I get out of my Work in Progress (hereafter called WIP for the sake of convenience) and what the reader gets out of it...

Let me explain.

Last year (this is me, so you should expect random tangents that end up not-so-random.  This is your final warning.  TURN BACK NOW), it would be safe to say that my musical childhood died.  I listened to Wham in middle school (Whatever happened to Andrew Ridgeley, anyway?), David Bowie in high school (fueled by Labyrinth, of course, but my favorite Bowie phase was when he teamed up with Brian Eno), and I got into Prince late - in college.  Towards the end of 2017 I maniacally scoured the obituaries for any other names - one or both of the Johns from They might Be Giants, Sting, et al - thankkfully all still alive - and I breathed a sigh of relief when the year was over.  

And then... Ursula K. Le Guin last week.

Social media posts abound mourning her passing, and I won't go into depth about the box of tissues that was sacrificed as I re-watched her speech at the 2014 National Book Awards.  But The Wizard of Earthsea was the first book I found in the adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy section at the bookstore (there was no YA sci-fi/fantasy section back then, and I happened upon Anne McCaffrey, Tamora Pierce, Diane Duane, Jane Yolen, and Madeline L'Engle purely by chance in our school library), so it holds a special place in my heart - the ADULT section!!  Like a grown-up!!!

There was, of course, no soundtrack listing in the appendix, just a map, a story, and a glossary.  When I first read it - I read it in a day, earning a stern reprimand from my math teacher when I fell asleep in her class for lack of proper rest the night before  - it was me and my flashlight, under the covers, reading until the sun came up.  No music at all - the prose was enough.  I read it again, two days ago, and as an experiment put on some Austin Wintory in the background, just loud enough to not be obtrusive.  I was just as immersed in the story as the last time I'd read it a few years ago, but when I got up to take a break (thanks, Fitbit for the reminder), the music lingered where the end of the chapter left off.  I'm going to make the bold claim that Wintory is our generation's Nobuo Uematsu, but it's also safe to say that Le Guin wasn't listening to his work when she wrote the first book in the Earthsea Cycle since he wasn't even born yet.

So my opinionated and highly irrational stance on soundtracks at the end of books is this: if a novel is good enough to read again, I'll have my own music in the background during the re-read, because in most cases I'm not really "listening" to it.  The experience an author has writing his/her novel and what the reader gets out of the same work can't possibly be the same, because the human experience varies from person to person.

And from a purely practical standpoint: I'm listening to an awful lot of old-school Chicago and Ed Sheeran for my current WIP, and my last project was written to Pink's entire music catalog.  I wouldn't want force any of that on any unsuspecting souls. It's best to leave it for this blog, for folks who seek it out, I think.

And for Ms. Le Guin, just this: Perhaps, one day, when she's taking a break from exploring new worlds wherever she is now, she could answer my call for a muse, or, more likely, she'd come down and slap me across the head, maybe knock the writer's block out.

Wouldn't that be something?

Welcome to the Jungle

The Query Jungle, that is.


My name is Iris, and this is my blog.  I write things, mainly Urban Fantasy novels, and various lengths of my completed first project are floating out there in Agent Query-Land while I work on my current one, OH and I also work a paying job that indirectly relates to selling published things for other people (please don't ask me about that, it usually makes the frown lines deepen on my forehead and I'm trying not to encourage them).

I hope to make this blog a platform for what drives my creative process...though I promise not to have *too many* blog posts that are basically variations of "Nrrrghh the writing gods are being mean to me today" or "Ima sit down and write - SQUIRREL", so if you see one please do make a comment to the effect of "Sit down and write you ninny"; I'd really appreciate it.

If you happened upon this page Googling "query" or somesuch (which I doubt, but one must always be prepared) I'd hate to disappoint, so let me tell you where I am in this process.  If you happened upon this page by accident would you mind going to the "menu" page and telling me if you like any of those beverages I created while I was procrastinating before you leave?  Thank you very much.

But I digress.  

I tell people querying agents is like trying on bras and jeans at the same time in front of a three-way full body mirror while checking out Tinder.  And they usually gasp and say, "That sounds horrible!" and I usually shrug and say, "But necessary." 

Let me explain.

I've been querying my first project off and on for three years.  There were three massive rewrites and edits in between, so I resubmitted a couple of times.  When "on" the first time, I'd say I queried about 100 agents, got 30 partials, and 5 fulls, and ultimately no takers for the fulls.  People tell me that's good.  The first couple of rejections were the worst, I mean serious Anne Shirley "Depths of Despair" form letters, in the sense that I was still treating my first project as a beautiful, perfectly formed child, offended when someone had something negative to say about it.  I learned, with my first thoughtful, non-form rejection letter, that the form ones were useless - the agents who told me what I needed to fix were the good ones, that helped me fix things.  Those were few and far between, and who could blame them?  These pour souls get Thousands of blind submissions.  I can't even imagine the terror of the slush, and I don't think I'd ever want to.

So I learned to appreciate the personalized rejections.  At last!  Something concrete to fix! This was when I fixed everything, ran it through a very good writer's group and a writing coach, and came through with a completely changed creature.

And then I put it on the shelf for a year. Helpful or not, the rejections wear on you.  The three-way mirror, you see.  You see the imperfections, the warts, the wrinkles, and sometimes it's not healthy, analyzing all of that.

And I started a new project.  3, actually, but only one kept annoyingly waking me up in the middle of the night so that's the one I've stuck with.

So a couple of months ago I went to a networking mixer and met an agent; she agreed to take a look at my first project.  TL;DR : it was another rejection, but one I'd never had before.  Actually, I had had a couple of them before, but I didn't realize it until I'd read her email.  It was the most positive rejection letter I'd ever seen and a third breed of rejection letter: "this project isn't for me".  And that's where the Tinder comes in.

It's so easy for both of us to swipe left, with their project lists and your query letter.  And every once in a while you get to the coffee stage, and you think, "Wow, this person is SO GREAT... but not for me".  And so I've passed the point of thinking, "there's no one out there for me" and have evolved to "there's definitely an agent out there for me", because let's be honest, if they don't believe in your project(s) with all of their heart, neither of you are going to make money, and that's really the crux of the matter. 

Rent.  Food. Shelter.  Freedom from an extra part-time job.  Because new bras and jeans are necessary every once in a while.

Here's to swiping right.