A writer who loves fantasy, avoids reality, and who knows the value of hanging a death skull outside my door to ward off uninvited visitors.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Ultimate "How-Is-This-Legal" Pill

You know, about a month ago (give or take), my hubby showed me a commercial that left me utterly stunned. When he first started playing it (it was during a recorded show), my mind sort of wandered as a beautiful butterfly made its way across my t.v screen, as though lulling me into a sort of daze-like state. But, at hearing the words "without remembering it", I immediately snapped out of it and asked my hubby to "Play it again, Sam", only not so much a Bogart way, but in more of an "excuse me, WHAT" way.

And so, he did. And I almost fell over; though I'm not sure whether it was shock or laughter that threw me for a loop.

I won't name the drug here, but the commercial features a woman trying to fall asleep as a butterfly flies around pulling boxing ring ropes down, and when you see it, you'll think of me.

I's a sleeping pill, prescribed to those with trouble falling and/or staying asleep. I don't know how many of you actually listen to the fast-talking portions of prescription drug commercials (or read the tiny print on screen), but I do, and it's clear the makers of this "magic" pill took their account to the right advertising agency, which in turn, came up with the only way to seduce an unsuspecting consumer into "talking to their doctor to find out if it's right for them." They distract the potential victims from hearing the side effects by showing them said butterfly fluttering about as soothing music plays in the background.

See, with the promise of "much-needed sleep" comes the warning that some people have reported making and eating food, talking on the phone, having sex, sleep-walking, and finally, the ubber exciting, ever-memorable act of SLEEP-DRIVING, and having no memory of it the next day.

And we're back to "EXCUSE ME, WHAT????"

How is it possible that a drug like this is on the market? How did this ever get past the FDA? I mean, the website and the commercials even go as far as "explaining" that they have no idea how the drug works, but that it's thought to affect the brain a certain way in order to help you fall asleep. Oh, and I forgot to mention another thing (don't know how it escaped me, this little nugget of gold): apparently, if you have a history of depression, suicide MAY occur, as it also produces abnormal thoughts and behavior, such as aggressiveness, confusion, hallucinations, and the aforementioned possibility of taking your own life, as well as other side effects.

The other day, I was watching Gene Simmons: Family Jewels, and Shannon Tweed couldn't sleep b/c Gene was snoring, so for weeks she'd been taking a sleeping pill. All the while, she noticed she'd been gaining weight, and the kids had been leaving an unusual amount of food laying around at night. So she checked her security footage, and found that she'd been eating and cooking in her sleep, with no memory of any of it. Clearly they bleeped out the name of the pill she was on, but is anyone seriously doubting which one she was on?

I'm sorry, but I think I'd rather take my chances with falling asleep naturally (however difficult), over taking a drug that "may or may not" make me want to kill myself. With my luck, my attempt would fail anyway, leaving me to eat the fridge. But hey, in reaching for that proverbial silver lining, at least I wouldn't remember any of it in the morning...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And the author writes

One of my favorite quotes on writing, haunting though it may be (at least to me) refers to how--from an author's standpoint--books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.

Back in 2003, when I started working on my middle grade fantasy series, DAVID THORNE, I couldn't have disagreed more; I insisted I could never be that writer who abandons her work before feeling it was just the way I wanted it. I later came to truly understand the full meaning of that quote...that we as authors must learn when to walk away and move on to another story, lest we find ourselves at the end of our lives, with the knowledge that we wrote "a book", instead of many.

In the time since I first started David Thorne, I've shaken hands with a slew of new characters and written my fair share of synopsis' for their stories; stories that, in time, I'm determined to write, one way or another.

But first I wanted to focus on David Thorne, my great teacher. And in my years-long dance with the big D, Ive rewritten this book several times and edited it about a million; not to mention all the times I've thought about doing it again every time I was struck with little changes that would undoubtedly make it all the better as an opening book in the series. I mean, considering the world I created for him to discover, I couldn't very well just say, "Welcome to Elder City, David. Enjoy." No, I had to show him all the wonders this magical city had to offer; and I did. And all the while, that little author on my shoulder kept reminding me to keep my eye on the road ahead and know when it was time to walk away, if only temporarily.

Therefore, I have decided to shelve David Thorne for now. It's not dead, I assure you. It's just that I've come to realize that it's simply not the right time for it to get out. I've been rejected more than I'd like to admit (I'm not strong enough to confess such a horrid number), be it because of poorly written query letters or perhaps just bad timing with agents I've queried; apparently, you have to catch agents on a certain day and time when they happen to be in the mood for the kind of books you write...not my words, btw; I read that somewhere.

That said, this author has no ill feelings towards those agents who've turned it down (and I do mean turned "it" down, not me....it's not usually personal when agents make such decisions about authors they don't know). Part of me is glad David Thorne is taking a rest. Sure, it's a strong story, gritty, edgy, strong characters and dialogue, as well as action, mystery and humor (clearly I'm not at all biased here), but, it was my first novel (sort of my second, in reality), and it was my greatest experience in the art of learning to write and learning to breathe life into the passion that has driven me since I was a kid.

It was also my hubby who was my greatest teacher. Never have I met someone as creative and intelligent, and so freakin' good at this, it's frightening! He's always been there to catch flaws in the story, conflicts, weak points, and areas that could use some touch-ups. He IS my writing group, and I honestly can't thank him enough. I know when he reads this, he'll blush and smile...so Honey, thank you.

The point is, writing that book was a major learning experience, so I have no regrets about it not having found a home yet; and I say yet, because I intend to try and bring this book out one day. Through David Thorne, I learned more than I ever imagined possible, and if someone had told me I would feel this way after all this time, and all my hard work, and all my efforts to grab the attention of an agent (two have requested partials, btw), I never would have believed them.

But here I am. Ready to move onto something new. The new series I'm working on will be a YA paranormal trilogy about a 16 year old girl named Max. Interestingly enough, both agents who requested partials on DT suggested I try first person narrative, but seeing as I how I'm not about to start from scratch with a book I took so many years getting the way I wanted it to be, I've decided to do this new series from the POV of Max. She's a feisty, sarcastic heroine that I can't wait to bring to life.

So there it is...the latest on the writing in this author's life. I'll post a sample when I'm ready. In the meantime, to all struggling authors out there, I say, keep pushing on, for perseverance is our greatest gift, and on the back of our hard work, our personal success will be our great reward.

Peace out. Now get back to work!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Honest Truth....My Querying Nightmare

I just read through a great blog over at Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing. It's the blog of author, Tawna Fenske. Her latest post about Writing Regrets was amazing. It got me thinking about my own path as a writer.

I've read a lot of blogs by authors who, understandably, choose not to make public, their road to success, or should I say, the bumpy path of rejection that led them there. As I said, I understand. Being as public as we are now-a-days, what with blogs and social networking, it's really hard to expose our weaknesses and our self-doubt, much less, our failures along the way. It's a vulnerable position not many people ever want to put themselves in.

But you see, I think it's actually so brave for anyone to do this, and it helps so many in the same position.

Tawna's blog post about writing regrets was so helpful. It really made me stop and look at myself in the deepest possible way a writer can.

See, here's the skinny: I started writing THORNE (a middle-grade, urban fantasy...the first in a series), and believe me when I say this book went through some changes along the way; initially, it was a lot longer, until I discovered it was too long for MG, and so, I thought about it for a couple of weeks, and decided to take a chapter out of the book, and write an entirely new book around it; it became the first in my series, and what was left of the original became book 2, and it worked out amazingly-well.

Ever since then, I've revised it numerous times; recently, I virtually rewrote it in order to tighten it up. I love the end result. So I started sending out queries again. I definitely have my "favorites" list of agents, and a couple still haven't replied yet (according to the websites, they do).

That said, one agent requested a partial, and later rejected it saying that, although she loves the way I write and the story concept was great, she simply wasn't drawn into the 12-yr old protagonist's life enough to offer representation. She suggested I rewrite the book in first-person; she's actually the second agent to make that suggestion. So it makes me wonder if I made the right choice when I first wrote the book.

I've always loved first-person narratives. I love how it allows me to dive into the minds of the characters like no other format can. So, I started trying to rewrite the first book as a narrative from David's POV. It's coming out great, but something in my guy keeps gnawing at me: Could this actually work in first-person? It just doesn't seem to have the same haunting quality as the original, and I'm afraid if I try to bring out the haunting nature of David's inner demons and anger about his situation, it might come off as "woe-is-me". Just the same, I'm going to post part of what I've written in first-person and part of the original; I'd love to get your thoughts on which works best.

QUERIES: I just don't know what else to do. I can't begin to tell you how many websites I've read on queries, agents, agencies, publishers, writing, and all things authory. On the wings of my dream to see my work out there, I've studied more than I even did in school, and that's saying a lot. And yet, every time I query agents, I do it with what I believe to be a new and improved letter, and still, the rejections keep pouring in. Ever since I started this process back in 2004, I've received probably...and here's the part where I leave myself vulnerable to ridicule and speculation...more rejections than I care to count; all based on different letters and different versions of the book's first chapter.

The worst part is, I was almost there once. See, back in 2007, I was approached by a publisher who'd been following my blogs on Myspace, and asked that I send them a partial. Desperate as I was to see my book out there, I pishawed the writer on my should who warned me that publishers don't do this. In the end, they loved it, and asked for more. Then I was told they wanted to publish the book.

Two editors there both commented (apparently) that my book had some of the best dialogue they'd ever read. And that was just the beginning. Sadly, in 2008, a week before the book was to come out, the publisher folded due to the recession, and I was thrust back onto the querying road once again.

I just wish for what every author wishes: the elusive "yes". Until then, I'll keep writing, pushing, and dreaming of the day when that happens.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Please tell me why.....

I would love for someone to tell me why certain people prefer to back into a parking spot, rather than just parking like everyone else. Why is that? I mean, there I am pulling into the parking lot of my local market, and as always, there's a line of cars waiting on this person who had to pull in and pull out, pull back in and pull back out, over and over until that person was satisfied that they were nestled nicely in the spot they would have been settled in half an hour ago had they just pulled in, head-first.

Truly, what are these people trying to accomplish here? The ability to just drive straight out when they're done shopping? Come on. What's the difference? One way, you take a moment to pull and a moment to pull out; the other way, it takes an eon in shopper's-time to back into a spot for the simplicity of pulling straight out. It's not only ridiculous, it's bordering on suggestive....and not in the good way either, but in the, "Are you done yet?" way, and that's never a good thing, is it?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Agent pet peeves, from the author's side of the fence, PART 1

Okay so, this is going to be a short blog series on literary agents.

Agents. You gotta love em'. They work hard for their clients, they're dedicated, and if you're lucky enough to find the right one, the relationship can be life-long and prosperous. Hopefully not in the Vulcan sense, but more in the cuddly and oh-so-friendly, "I love my agent, and my agent loves me," sense.

That said, this author has a few pet peeves regarding agents, which I have little doubt most authors seeking an agent share to the core. So, let's get started, shall we?

THOSE AGENTS WHO DON'T REPLY: I understand why agents can't respond to all queries. I truly get it. They're busy with their own clients as it is; and what self-respecting author would want their agent more vested in acquiring new clients, than working with the ones they already have. What I don't get is why so many don't take a moment of their time to add a tiny bit of much-needed information to their websites about how long we should wait before realizing agents we've queried (who fall into this no-reply pit) are not interested. I mean, come on. Really? If I were an agent, I would return the respect I ask for. The easiest way to do this is to simply add the following bit of disclosure to the submission guidelines: Unfortunately, do to the volume of submissions we receive, it is not possible to reply to all queries. Therefore, if you have not heard back from us within (so and so) weeks, please assume we are passing on the project.

Now how hard was that? I'm not an agent, and I did it in, what...five seconds?

Ah, but you see, this only works if agents actually take it one teensy step further, by setting up an automated response to acknowledge that queries have been received on their end. Truly, one is useless without the other. If the website claims no response after a certain period of time, then what good does it do us if we don't even know for sure that our emailed submission was ever received? You know, there is this occurrence called "LOST IN TRANSIT". You see, with all the spam filters we're forced to activate to keep out those unscrupulous spiders who prey on our inboxes like savage soul-sucking vampires, when dealing with email, things sometimes get tossed around like unwitting passengers on a chicken-bus riding along on a dirt path-like road in some third-world country that has yet to discover the benefits of gravel.

So, for any agents who might come upon this blog, please, consider the amount of time and hope that goes into researching you and your fellow agents in order to weed out the one that will hopefully find our novels good and loving homes. Consider it from this side of the fence, where we, authors with aspirations of seeing our work out there, stand with our faces pressed to the proverbial glass, desperate to get our foot in the door of a world in which our dreams are rooted. All we ask is that you pass along a little more information.....

Closing Question....I'd like to now hear from those reading this blog. Have you ever submitted to an agent that didn't respond or indicate (in any way on their website) how long you'd have to wait to assume it's a no, and also, did you receive an automated reply to acknowledge your email had been received?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chapter 1 (Half) - THORNE



Thorne Manor would now stand abandoned if not for twelve year old David Thorne, the only person living there. He threw a glance back at the house and shuttered; since he could remember, it had always seemed more a monster by the woods than a mansion; a phantom reminder that he was—and would always be—what the former servants called a freak: the boy who couldn’t come anywhere near electricity.

Perched high on the oldest tree in the backyard, he stared out at the world he would never be a part of. The smell of rain carried on the cool summer breeze that blew across his face as he lifted his crystal-blue eyes to the sky over Haven Creek, New York; the clouds were rolling in quickly, announcing the coming of a dark storm.

Knowing the pain it would bring with it, David’s heart began to drum in his ears. Then a flash of white exploded into the sky off in the distance, followed closely by another that broke through the stars, as though warning him to get back.

His eyes drifted from the house, to the sleepy little town, to the sky, shoulders slumping. With a wring of his hands, he let out a huff, then grabbed the sock full of berries he’d collected in the afternoon and shoved it between his teeth; the sock was old, but for the past month, it had played its part well in his survival.

He climbed down to the leafy ground and ran, trying not to think about the long, shadow-filled corridors and empty rooms that awaited him. But what he tried hardest to put out of his mind were the strange things he’d been seeing and hearing as of late; things he was certain any psychiatrist would have had him committed for even talking about.

David raced towards the window he’d left open at the back of the house; anything to avoid having to walk through the front door, as the echo of it closing was too cruel a reminder that the place was dead. The thunder roared behind him when he was about twenty feet from the window. Startled, he tripped over a soft spot in the over-grown grass and fell to the ground, face-first. He rolled over, sat up, and rubbed his ankle. As he made to stand, a rustle of leaves drew his attention forward.

There, not ten paces away, appeared—for the second time in the last few days—a figure in a black cloak, sitting on a red sofa, staring down at, what looked like a photo.

“Not again,” muttered David, closing his eyes. When he reopened them, both the sofa and the figure sitting on it were gone.

The storm screamed out again, bringing David back to the danger at hand. He leaped up and ran to the house, glancing over his shoulder every few seconds. Without missing a beat, he dove through the window. A cold blast of air rushed past him the instant his feet touched the marble floor. He looked back at the yard where the figure had appeared. It was still gone.

He whipped around at every creak and scrape that sang out of the darkness as he tip-toed into the living room. It was hard to ignore the few remaining pieces of furniture that sat shrouded in dusty sheets. But still, he forced himself to try, as images of things hiding under there just waiting to pounce, fueled his imagination in ways he hated more than the house itself.

Making his way to the once-grand staircase, he came upon the painting-sized mirror that the former servants had failed to cover when they left. Just as he passed by it, he caught a glimpse of the strangely-dressed people he’d seen earlier.

David stopped dead and jerked back to the mirror. The people were still there in the reflection, following the luggage that floated ahead of them as they hurried through, what looked like, a train station. In the blink of an eye, however, they were gone, replaced by a reflection David took no interest in: his own.

He was about to turn away when a long and loud whistle suddenly echoed behind him. He spun around and then back to the mirror just as a cobalt-blue and silver train flew from one end of the reflection to the other, and then vanished.

“That’s it!” he said, backing away.

He sprinted up the stairs, recalling, with each step he took, all the nights he’d spent watching from behind the banister, eyes cast towards the cobweb-covered front door, wondering if at least one of the servants ever thought about the boy they had left to fend for himself within the echo-filled halls of a house big enough to fit several others.

When he reached the second floor landing, a row of small, cobalt-blue flames appeared along each of the walls in the corridor that led to his bedroom. David froze, his eyes lingering on the flickering flames, which floated as though suspended over invisible torches. Then the voices came, flooding the corridor with whispers that blended into a hum he couldn’t make out. And then the kitten’s meow wafted out from under his door.

Suddenly, the light from the blue flames grew brighter, the voices louder, the kitten’s meows more persistent.

Feeling as though his head would explode, David ran to his room. When he grabbed the doorknob, the blue flames died away and the whispers fell silent, as did the kitten. Standing in the darkened corridor, he sighed with relief. And then he heard a man behind him say, “I need to know,” in a voice so sad, David felt a sense of great loss wash over him.

He turned back slowly, but there was no one there, so he opened the door and nudged it inward. Just as he crossed the threshold, a scraping sound whispered out of the darkness, like something being dragged across the wood floor, followed by the shrill scream of a woman and the agonizing wails of a baby in pain.

Heart racing, David sped into the room. He slammed the door, locked it with a frantic hand, and threw his back to it. He pressed an ear to the wood, and although nothing but silence answered back, the feeling that something was wrong hung over him.

“Get a grip. There’s nothing out there. Nothing’s wrong. It’s just me in my room, like every other night,” he said after several minutes. With a deep breath, he peeled himself off the door and kicked off his shoes.

He lit the half-burnt candle that sat atop the fireplace mantle, sickened by the fact that it was the last candle in his supply…a tidbit he discovered upon his visit to the Blizzard Room early that morning. It was the second discovery he’d made in the blizzard room that terrified him; the first was a month ago, when he realized that the can of beans he’d grabbed was the last bit of food left. Since then, he’s been relying on the berries he scrounged in the woods behind the house.

He’d been telling himself for some time now that he had to be more conservative with the candles, but without them, the dark would have taken over; the very notion was something he couldn’t bring himself to face. So, ignoring his better judgment, he had continued to light them anyway, knowing the darkness would eventually win.
And now it was upon him…the night he’d been dreading for the past nine months.

The candle sprang to life, flickering softly, giving the room an amber glow that did little to ease the sense that something was coming for him.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Welcome to C. L. Freire 2.0

Okay so, I know it's been a long time since I blogged, but I'm back now and here to stay. Those of you who read my ranting blogs over at MySpace might notice that while I may still rant about the world around me, I'll also be blogging about my life as a writer.

So here's the skinny on what's been going on lately:

I've been hard at work looking for an agent, so aside from the everyday in's and out's, a lot of my time's been spent doing homework, so to speak, on the business of publishing, agents, and the industry as it stands today.

I've also been working on another book. This one will be a YA urban fantasy, as told from a sixteen year old girl named Max, short for Maxine (but don't ever call her that, because she's never once thanked anyone for naming her after a crazy old aunt who Max never even met).

As for the DAVID THORNE series...though the first book is complete and the second is nearly there as well, I'm moving on to Max's story until an agent decides to give Thorne a read-through. As I'm not one for always coloring inside the lines, I'm going to post a sample chapter here, and a detailed synopsis, just because it's my blog and I want to.

As to the Writers Together website, I've chosen to shut it down. I know it was immensely popular, and I thank those who visited it and emailed me; the site, according to my reports, has had over 30k hits. It is simply too much for one person to keep up. I started it in order to help promote authors, and I was honored to be able to feature and interview such best-selling authors as Jonathan Maberry (a great guy, btw) and Cynthia Leitich Smith (who, herself has an amazing website over at Cynsations), and Jordan Dane (a fabulous author and sweet person), among others. But, alas, the time has come to say good-bye. Sorry for the cliche, but, there it is.

Anyway, I hope you stop by often. Bring some coffee and kick up your heels. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.