Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A beginning

Seven moments of terror
Seven internal screams
Seven query letters emailed off into the ether
Two confirmation emails received
Many weeks and months of waiting ahead

Moonfall is off on submission!!!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Losing my head

That moment you realize you've been so focused on getting your queries ready that you haven't researched, visited, or interviewed any elementary schools for your prospective kindergartener... and enrollment deadlines are looming.

And it doesn't help that schedules are reduced and wacky because of the upcoming holidays.  I'm going to have to get this ball rolling next week!

But I can't!  He isn't ready!  He's just my little baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah right, Mom

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We're Off to See the Agent...

Just a note to say that hunting for literary agents is taking MUCH longer than I had anticipated it would.  My rookie status in the publishing industry wasn't clear to me until just a few weeks ago.  I created a l-o-o-o-n-g list of agents from Agent Query, and then began ranking them in order of preference.  After getting about 8 that I felt really good about, I thought that I would send out my first wave and then keep building the list while I waited.  (Technically I found 10, but I want to save two of them for round 2, in case my query is universally crappy and I decide to re-work it.  If, on the other hand, fate smiles at me and I get several requests in round 1, I'll send it quickly off to the remaining 2 agents in the hopes that they'll join the game.)

With list in hand, I thought it would be relatively quick work of personalizing query letters and sending everything off.

Not.  So.  Fast.

As I began personalizing, I did quite a bit more reading (and I didn't shirk this to begin with) and learned what signs of success and red flags to watch for.  More digging and research was required on each agent.  I've already found that one of them has a questionably small level of sales and has a potential conflict of interest.  It's not an outright scam by any means, but I'm planning to email Writer Beware to see if they have any dirt.  Even if it turns out to be fine, I will probably bump them toward the bottom of the list pending more verified sales to big publishers.

Having not bothered to do industry research in favor of using my limited time to actually finish the novel, I now have a lot to learn in a short time.  I'm glad I'm doing all this, even though I'd hoped to get wave 1 out already.  Still, it's still frustrating to think of how little I'm getting done.  I'm also sweating the query letter, even though I think it's pretty polished, but...

Breathe, writer.  Just breathe.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Synopsis Writing - An Exercise in Brevity

Lately, I've been working hard on preparing Moonfall for submission which has included, among other things, writing the synopsis.  I've never written a synopsis before, so I scoured the internet looking for advice.  It's amazing how many different suggested tactics and lengths there are out on the web, including one site that made writing a synopsis sound like writing a term paper on my novel.  Bleach!  I finally decided to start by writing a no-holds-barred synopsis, chapter by chapter, in order to get all the main points down on paper.  By the time I was halfway through, I was already condensing chapters and plot points, grouping things together and deciding what to omit.  Signs that I was already learning what I was doing.

That first, barfing-on-the-page draft clocked in at 2,756 words.  Now, I'm fully aware that my writing is puffy in first drafts, and this was no exception.  After editing, I got it down to 2,234 words, which was about seven pages, double-spaced.

I'd already learned, during my excessive researching of synopsis writing, that a lot of places will want things shorter than that.  Much shorter.  The thought of getting it under 1,000 words made me want to cry, but instead I decided to approach it incrementally.  I figured that different agents would ask for different lengths, if they specified length at all, so it wouldn't hurt to have three different synopses in my arsenal that I could whip out as the situation warranted.

So I made some edits, removing the most obvious elements and condensing things down.  That mid-length draft came in at 1,567 words.

So far, so good.  My next goal was to get a third draft at 1,000 words or under, but I started running into trouble.  After around 1,200 words, I found that I had to cut things that felt essential to the plot.  So I decided that instead of three synopses, I'd have four.  The 1,190 word draft was the shortest I'd use by choice, and the shortest draft, painfully edited to 986 words, would be used only when an agent specifically requested something that short.

The interesting thing, though, is that after painstakingly summarizing my 99,000 word novel into 986 words, I realized there were nonessential things still in my longer synopses.  I decided to go back and work on them again.  The results surprised me.

The longest synopsis I edited down from 2,234 words to 1,845
The mid-length synopsis went from 1,567 to 1,372
The shorter synopsis went from 1,190 to 1,181

I meant to write this post a few weeks ago and didn't get around to it, so I have a little distance from my synopses now.  In penning this post, I went back and read them all again.  I still don't like the 986 word query--it feels rushed, though it isn't as horrible as I remember it being.  It tells a complete story, it just doesn't feel like it does my novel as much justice as I'd like.  To my surprise, my favorite versions are the 1,181 and 1,372 word drafts.  Being more concise than the longest one, I think they pack a greater punch.

The moral of the story is that writing the synopsis helped me to strengthen my writing all the way across the board.  It was still an arduous, nineteen-day process from start to finish, and I can't say I really enjoyed doing it, but I think it was a useful exercise.

Have you written a synopsis, or many synopses?  What did you think about the process?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

That's a wrap, folks!

I just have this to say:

I'M DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's right, I finished my final readthru of Moonfall today, and it is complete so far as I can make it.  Whoo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll be spending the next week (at least) working out a synopsis and query, not to mention doing all the market research I've completely neglected to do until now.  And soon it will be out under the eyes of agents, who will hopefully recognize its brilliance and offer to represent me immediately!

Some useless numbers, since I just noticed that word has these stats:

  • words:  98,921
  • pages: 173 (Times New Roman, single spaced)
  • Total editing time (for draft 4, the final draft): 4113 minutes.  That's 68.55 hours.  I've been working on this final draft for the last 53 days, which means an average of 1.3 hours per day--which I suppose might be accurate.  I wonder if they count total open time, or just active writing time?
  • first draft created: July 20, 2010.  That was 1,158 days ago, minus 92 for maternity leave is 1,066 days.  Of course, there were a lot of days when I let this chill to work on other projects.  But regardless, I've been working on this monstrosity for just over three years!

Here's a word cloud of the novel:
I want a Monster House "Done Stamp" to place on this thing.  Woot!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kal'El's crafts!!

Zaxxon started preschool this week, which gave me uninterrupted time with Kal'El for a few hours each morning.  On the first day, Kal'El missed his brother, but after that he was fine, and I really began to enjoy our time together.  Zaxxon went to preschool three mornings per week last year, but this year it's all five mornings, and Kal'El is older and capable of doing much more.  Zaxxon is also very overpowering right now, so it's hard to get much of a chance to interact just with Kal'El.  Having Zaxxon occupied elsewhere is really giving me a chance to focus on my second-born, and to give him the attention and interaction he was otherwise lacking.

Zaxxon was about Kal'El's age when I first started doing crafts with him, so I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to get started with Kal'El.  We're arbitrarily starting through the alphabet when it comes to our themes, but we'll focus a lot on holidays as we come to them, and we'll follow Kal'El's interest.

On our first day of crafting, we started with an apple tree.  I prefabbed the tree and apples, and just had Kal'El place them on the tree.

I started out by adding the glue myself, but after about three apples he wanted to do the glue, so I let him.

He said he wanted to draw after we were done, so I pulled out some big paper and handed over the crayons.  He scribbled a bit, but mostly he wanted me to trace his hand over and over.

After it was all over, we went for a bike ride.  He's really doing quite well on his balance bike, and picks his feet up to coast for short distances.  He travels between 3-3.5 mph until he gets tired, and can go between 1-2 miles before getting there.  I'm hoping to build his endurance more on these rides with just him, because I'm always walking a fine line between letting him go as long as he wants, but having to go at two-year-old speed, and putting him in the trailer so Zaxxon can go faster on his pedal bike.

Due to other conflicts, Kal'El and I only got one other crafting day during Zaxxon's first week.  We continued with letter "A" items, making an alligator out of the letter "A."

 Chomp chomp!
I love this pic

Next I rubberbanded bubble wrap around a cup, gave him a dish of green paint, and tried to get him to "stamp" scales on an alligator.

He mostly just swirled it around, but he still loved doing it.

(Btw, does anyone know if children's tempura paint can contain formaldehyde?  Because it smelled like it did.  I haven't used this paint much, so it surprised me.)

Kal'El really enjoyed all these activities.  Week one of crafts was a success!

Tot School

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Summer Stat Check

Hi, is anybody still reading?  Here's the breakdown of my summer, since I haven't been doing the monthly stat checks

  • Between June and August, I wrote every day (that's 92 days)
  • I finished editing 3 stories for submission, wrote the first draft of 1 new story, did edits on one of my kids' books and sent it to Beta readers, did final edits on a screenplay hubby and I wrote together, did some worldbuilding for a new novel, and edited the heck out of my current novel, Moonfall.
  • I am now doing a final readthru (out loud) of Moonfall, which I see to be the last step before it's ready for query!
  • Submissions.... yeah, maybe 5?  I've been very lax in this department this year.  Not having duotrope regularly available has messed up my system, and I haven't figured out a way to make it work yet.
  • Rejections... haven't really been keeping track.  I haven't even printed some rejection letters yet, since I'm not resubbing at the moment.  Maybe 8-10?
  • Acceptances... I wish.  But then, not much is still out there to be accepted, since I'm slacking
  • I have 15 stories ready for slush pile circulation, but not all are out right now
  • I made 8 blog posts
  • I took no days off

I had a very productive summer when it comes to progress on my writing.  June and July, in particular, were whirlwinds where I jumped from one project to another.  So many things just needed polishing that I really felt like I was making a lot of progress.  I reached a reasonable stopping point on other projects and then plunged back into the novel, analyzing the reader comments and strengthening the story.  It's almost time to submit, and I'm both excited and scared.  Scared, because I've never queried agents before, and it's time to jump in with both feet.  Excited because hey, I might actually land an agent and get published in the foreseeable future.  I'm liking this feeling.  It'll be weird to start over from square one, and work on new, rough, unpolished stuff again after so long focusing on my recent projects.  It'll be exciting.

I intend to finish up Moonfall, then (provided I get reader comments back) polish up my picture book manuscript, and get queries written for both.  While doing market research and all that, I intend to either a) revisit my most-recently-written story, b) work on another picture book idea I recently came up with, or c) start the new novel.  It'll be some combination of the three, I'm just not sure in what order.

Happy writing!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A few more crafts from Zaxxon

Zaxxon has expressed a lot more interest in coloring books lately, perhaps because he's honed the ability to stay within the lines better.  To that end, I purchased a couple of activity books from the dollar section for him.  This one shows him how to color by number (or symbol, or outline.)

I helped Zaxxon create a superhero logo for himself (for a project I'm hoping to do for his birthday,) and doing so inspired him to create an entire superhero costume for himself.

He's got the emblem on his chest, a cape on his back, and a cowl sort of thing over his shoulders.

This is a mural of the Batcave that has replaced the map of where Mickey lives on his wall

Zaxxon and Dada are working on a picture book together, one that they are meticulously writing and illustrating.  It's cute to see them working on it.

Zaxxon and I also worked on a book together.  We took our copy of "Goodnight Zoo" to the real zoo, snapped pictures of the animals in the book, pasted it onto paper, and wrote our own words.  Then I bound it using a needle and thread, because I thought it would work better (at least without bending the paper) than a stapler.

Preschool starts next week!  I have ambitious plans to do craft projects with Kal'El while Zaxxon is gone, although I've only got one prepped as of this writing.  We'll see how--and frequently--it goes!

Tot School

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Return of the Sensory Bin

Our sensory bin has been sitting with St. Patrick's Day stuff inside, just wasting space behind the chair.  Every now and then Kal'El wants to play with it, but he hasn't been very good about keeping the items inside it lately, so I haven't been too keen.  But with my renewed interest in doing kid crafts, I decided to fill it up with something new.

A few months back, when I'd been hoping to do monthly, or at least seasonal, bins, I purchased two packets of water beads (or water gems, or aqua gems.)

The time seemed ripe, so while Kal'El was napping, I had Zaxxon help me remove the old items and hydrate the water beads.

He's not the most obedient child these days, but he did a very good job of following directions on this project, and he refrained from splashing or spilling the water.

These things are strangely mesmerizing, and very pretty, even when still tiny

He had to wait a long time--the beads took 4-6 hours to hydrate, and by the time he might have played with them, we were off at his final t-ball practice of the summer, so he had to wait until the next day before he could play with what he had created.

It took about 30 seconds of having the bin on the table before I realized that the boys were not going to follow the "don't knock the beads out of the bin" rule.  Kal'El proved my point by sticking his hand all the way in and rapidly waving it back and forth, sending them all over the table and floor.

At that point I put the lid back on, made them pick up the scattered beads, and then moved the whole operation to the bathtub.

Since they were inside another enclosed space, they went nuts dumping the beads all over.  (I love the way they iridesce by the flash when spread out thin in the tub.)

They also stood inside the bin, and laughed at the way the beads felt on their toes.

They absolutely loved this!

Another day of play.

Unfortunately, these didn't last too long.  They're already slimy-feeling on the outside, and I will probably only pull them out once more before tossing them (after our trash service resumes, we switched companies and foolishly gave ourselves a couple-week break in service, oops.)
I can't say I'm too keen on using water beads again as a sensory bin filler.  They're a ton of fun, but I wasn't prepared for this level of breakage.  There were scraps and fragments of beads everywhere when it was time to clean up--helped along, I'm sure, by their standing in the bin.  I didn't want to just wash the stuff down the tub drain since the package said they can clog drains, so I had to scoop most of it out and toss in the trash.  Also, the round, wet, slippery, squishy nature of the beads means it's really easy to send them shooting across the room, and they're hard to pick up.  Lastly, they go a bit nuts with them, quickly forgetting rules about where they're supposed to stay, so it's not a safe bin to turn my back on for even a short time.  So while they're fun (and strangely mesmerizing, I could run my hands through them for hours) I probably won't get them very often.  But despite that, we all enjoyed this short-lived bin!

Tot School

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Resume - The Movie!

I know this blog's audience is pretty small these days, but regardless I wanted to share my husband's resume--because it's done as a movie trailer!  Please watch this action-packed clip, like it on you tube, and most importantly, share it, because you never know if you know someone who could use his services.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Counting down to preschool

I have felt a resurgence in crafting and kid projects in the last few weeks.  Not only have I done a few projects to get Zaxxon ready for preschool, and just some fun stuff to do in general, but I've found myself making plans for Kal'El once Zaxxon is out of the house for a few hours every morning.  I've already done some prep work for the first few crafts I'll do with Kal'El alone, and I'm looking forward to it.  Zaxxon was right around Kal'El's age when I started crafting with him, and Kal'El always wants to join in when Zaxxon initiates a project, so he's definitely ready.  I'm excited!

But first, we have to follow along with Zaxxon for a bit longer.

Zaxxon is off to pre-K this year, which will be five mornings a week.  He only barely misses the cutoff to start kindergarten (by three weeks) but I think the extra year of preschool will work wonders for his social skills.

Just like last summer, I helped prepare Zaxxon for the start of preschool by making a visual calendar.

We drew a school bus, which Zaxxon decorated and cut out.

Then we made a paper chain, with one link for every day remaining before the start of preschool.  This time around, Zaxxon didn't need any help with the scissors.

He did ask for help with the stapler, and I think he was losing interest by that point.

But we had to finish the chain, because only once it was done could we tear off a link for the first day!

He is now tearing off a link every morning, so he can watch the chain get shorter and know when preschool is coming!

Tot School
Soon to be tot school with my little tot!