Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Dog Days of Writing

By now, I expected to be in the midst of a book signing tour, answering tough and insightful questions about my novel, smiling through the pain of writer's cramp.  Instead, I'm having an Ernest Hemingway moment, knocking back my favorite go to beverage, a rum & coke with lemon.

My novel is done and yet, each literary agent rejection or no response sends me back into tweaking mode. those rejections sting at first but I look at them as merely a test of conviction and perseverance. I think what I've written is good and worthy of print. It's sort of like dating. You just have to find the right agent and hope you make a good enough impression that your feelings are returned.

The one good feeling you can return to time after time is that you've actually finished a novel. No small feat by any measure. Doing so often means you've neglected your family and friends for a period of time. The disappointment comes when you have nothing to show for your hard work. My wife, sensing my frustration of not securing an agent yet, remarked: "Not as easy as you'd thought it be,eh?"


That was not me slapping my wife, but instead reality going upside my head for anticipating success quickly. I've been a journalist for 28 years so I know how to write, interpret facts and deliver a story. Convincing an agent of that is as college football analyst Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend." My novel, Operation Sandstorm, is a spy thriller and I've come to realize a majority of agents are hesitant to take on a first-time novelist in that genre because publishers are concerned about taking the risk of getting enough books sold to cover their cost.

Now, if I wanted to write a book that fit into the YA (young adult) crowd, which is highly popular now, I'd probably peak an agent's interest. Or, if you have a vampire detective investigating killer werewolves with a shape shifting assassin on the loose, you're as good as gold.

Those topics don't work for me. I grew up on spy thrillers. I started reading Ian Fleming long before it was age appropriate for me to do so. I transitioned into a series of escapism novels perfect for a budding teenager known as Nick Carter: Killmaster. Thank goodness for EBay because I tracked down a number of the titles and they're now part of my library.

Because of my profession, I've had the unique and wonderful opportunity to meet and interview writers in the thriller or mystery genre that I respect and enjoy reading. An inspirational moment came years ago when I lived in St. Thomas of the United States Virgin Islands. Robert Ludlum, my favorite author at the time, was vacationing on the island. He was informed that I wanted to interview him and he agreed. He invited me over and we sat out on the terrace overlooking the ocean for a couple of hours as he let me explore his mind. A cherished moment made more special by the personal note he sent me weeks after, expressing his delight over the interview. I still have that letter tucked away in one of his books.

So when I chat with the contemporaries; Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Sara Paretsky, and so forth, I long to join the club. My favorite book of all time is The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. I went overboard in thanking him for writing such a masterpiece when I interviewed him but I'm not alone in that assessment as Tom Clancy agreed when the topic came up in conversation.

If you've written anything that hasn't sold yet or haven't found someone to represent your work, I'm sure you've had the experience of going to the bookstore and thumbing through the pages of those who've entered the kingdom. You're often left with that feeling of 'This person is published and I can't get a nibble! What the hell!' But, don't give up!

I'd love to sit around and chat some more, but there's tweaking to be done and a few more agents to target. Somebody out there has got to like me!