BOOM! The first draft of The Closeout Kings is done!

I just typed “The End” on the first draft of C. Hoyt Caldwell’s next book, The Closeout Kings! And, it is such relief! This one has been hard because of the subject matter.  Trying to make a story about human trafficking enjoyable is as hard as it sounds.  Is it any good?  No.  Not at this stage.  This is the first draft.  First drafts are normally dreadful.  I have some rewriting to do, but the story officially has a beginning, middle, and END!

You’ll notice two things about this post. One, I called the book The Little Deputy and the Closeout Kings in a previous post.  The little deputy has been pulled from the title.  Not because she’s less important than the closeout kings, but because graphically I couldn’t pull off the long title when it came to designing a cover.  Plus, The Little Deputy and the Closeout Kings sounds a little like a children’s book.  It just doesn’t fit the genre.

The other thing that you’ll notice is that I’m talking about C. Hoyt Caldwell on my R.W. Ridley blog when in the past I said I wouldn’t unless something big happened.  Well, completing a first draft is big so there.  Stop judging me.  There’s a possibility that I may rescind that rule anyway.  I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I am leaning that way.

Now for the fun part.  I created a couple of cover options for this book, and posted them on Facebook.  I was stunned and pleased by the great response I got from my Facebook Friends.  They gave me some really good feedback and based on that I’m down to two possibilities.  Take a look and let me know which one you like better.  I’ve made them about the size they’d be on an online retailer’s website because that’s where about 99% of my sales come from.

Do you like cover A or cover B?

Do you like cover A or cover B?


The frustrating…. errr, I mean rewarding pursuit of the traditional publishing deal

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m suffering from author madness at the moment.

Before I explain the title of this post, let me stress that this is not a complaint. It’s merely an observation.

As some of you know (and many of you probably don’t care), my agent has been making a herculean effort to sell The Takers (and as much of the series as he can) to major publishers. He updates me whenever he hears back from a publisher with either rejections, or notes on how to improve the manuscript. I’ve declined to make some of the changes, but more times than not the suggestions do add elements to the story that I think make it better. I’m not stubborn or naive enough to believe I have all the answers, so I’m always excited to hear what people in the storytelling business have to say. My sole desire is to deliver a story that is as close to perfect as possible. Suggestions and criticisms from editors are going to help me do just that.

That’s not to say I don’t like The Takers as it is currently written. I do, and many of you have expressed to me that you like it, as well. I’ll never change the tone of the story. The suggestions so far have been to give a little more background information on Oz and Stevie’s relationship and, for God’s sake, get rid of the cliffhanger ending. I’m finding out that editors do not like cliffhangers. I love them, but I understand that’s a personal preference that many don’t share. I have no problem stepping outside of my head and making the ending a little more concrete… But just a little.

Here’s the frustrating part. These are two separate notes I got back from two different publishers.

Publisher A – Oz is completely unlikable. The reader can’t relate to him and therefore will never root for him.

Publisher B – Oz is too likable from the beginning. There’s no room for him to grow.

Do you see my dilemma? Both publishers are part of what’s known as The Big Six in the industry. They’ve managed to make a lot of money in a business that fails 70% of the time. They know what they are doing. So, either I have somehow managed to create a completely unlikable main character that is too likable, or one of them is wrong.  The problem I have is figuring out which one is off the mark.

This sounds like I’m complaining, and I guess on some level I am, but I do deeply appreciate the time both publishers spent reading and providing me with feedback.  If the two criticisms had been similiar, I’d be busy trying to correct the problem.  As it is, Oz will remain unlikable in a likable way.

Pardon me while I go slightly insane.

The Snookification of the Publishing Industry

Actual tweet from Snooki the author - “I have mind blowing news! I am officially reading my first bo! Lmao! Nicholas Sparks “dear John!” … I‛m proud of myself!”

Warning: This is a good old fashioned rant!

I hereby revoke those involved in the traditional publishing industry’s  right to look down your noses at self-published authors.  You can thank Simon & Schuster for finally crushing the beating heart of your self-perceived ironclad credibility.  You, my contracted friends, can now count Snooki Polizzi as one of your peers.   That’s Snooki of Jersey Shore fame, the bouncy big-haired queen of quotes like; “That’s why I don’t eat friggin’ lobster or anything like that.  Because they’re alive when you kill it.” And, “I think my crotch is sticking out.”

I’m not stupid.  I know why S&S thinks this is a good deal.  Snooki is a celebrity that has brand recognition, and celebrity memoirs do well among their fans, but this is not a memoir.  She’s been signed to publish a novel.  A novel!  Are you kidding me?  Not only is Snooki not a writer, she’s admitted to only reading two books, Twilight and Dear John.  Sadly, I guarantee that’s two more books than 90% of her fans have read.

Now, it’s doubtful that Snooki is actually going to write the book.  S&S will likely hire a ghost writer and stick Snooki’s name and chubby little face on the book, but the deal is a clear indication of what is wrong with the publishing industry.  Publishers are not interested in books.  They want authors… well, that’s not entirely accurate. They want names and faces that come with built-in media coverage, whether the individual can write or not is secondary to their purposes.  They want to sell books, and you can’t blame them. That’s how they keep the lights on, but the problem is they aren’t publicizing books.

Publishing companies are publicizing authors.  They’re treating the author as the product.  And again, I can understand that to a certain degree.  Stephen King is the product.  John Grisham is the product.  Cormac McCarthy is the product.  Philip Roth is the product. But, they’re products built around writing talent. Snooki is a product built around public drunkenness and disturbingly revealing outfits (seriously, doesn’t she have friends that are willing to say, “You’re wearing that in public?”), and somehow this merits a publishing deal with a major publishing company.  For some reason, S&S thinks that fans of Snooki will buy her book just because she has the ability to do a half dozen Gangsta Bull Shots.   There’s no doubt they’ll show up for her public appearances and buy books to throw away when they get home, but that’s it.  The book won’t even sell enough to cover the cost of publicity.

My plea to publishing companies is to start caring more about the material.  Start publishing books that will have a shelf-life longer than a carton of milk.  Make the story your priority. Give us memorable characters.  And please, please sign authors that don’t say things like, “Sympathetic. Word of the day… that’s a big word!”

Before you ask – Yes, I’m slightly bitter, but not because of what I’ve gone through.  I don’t mind being judged by my talent.  I am bitter because of what people like Snooki don’t have to go through.  There’s only so much money in the publishing industry, and when they waste it on crap like this, I get a little ranty.

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My Shirtless Author Photo

Thinking about doing my next author photo bare-chested!  If I’ve learned anything from this blog, it’s that people like shirtless stuff.  The question is what is more important to me, my dignity or my desire to give you male nipplage?  Ahhhh… morale dilemmas.

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Top This! The Worst Christopher Walken Impression Ever!

I’m in a mood today.  What mood?  One of those moods you can’t really describe, so I won’t even try.    Instead, allow me to pull out an old video in an attempt to totally humiliate myself.  First, some back story. I once had a job that required a lot of travel.  I spent hours in my car, and in those lonely hours, I became the world’s worst impressionist.  I actually developed a pathetic Jerry Seinfeld, a horrendous Woody Allen, and a ghastly Christopher Walken.   Not only that, for some odd reason that I can’t quite explain, I created a scenario where they were quarterbacks for a football team.  They’re down by 4 with time for just one more play.  As Walken says in the huddle, “A field goal won’t do!”

In the video below, I had this brilliant idea to pretend that Walken is my publisher, and he’s not happy with book sales.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my publisher, Christopher Walken.  BTW – If you’ve got any stones, you’ll post a video of your own Christopher Walken Impression.  C’mon you know you have one.  Everyone does.

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You’re all great, and I’m okay failing my way to the top!

I felt compelled to do a follow-up to my “Failing My Way to the Top” post.  Many of you expressed concern in emails, on Facebook, and in real life that I appeared to be depressed and contemplating giving up writing.  I appreciate your pats on the back and “hang in there’s.”  It is truly very touching to know that you care that much.  I am not, nor will I ever stop writing, or publishing for that matter.  Rereading the post, I could see how you might get that idea.  When I talked about not trying anymore, I was referring to my attempts to get one of the mainstream publishers to publish the Oz Chronicles or any of the other books I’ve written.

It doesn’t just entail my agent sending out queries and fielding questions about me, my books, and my platform.  I’ve received some pretty in-depth notes from publishers on changes they would like to see.   In the past year and a half, I believe I’ve done 4 pretty significant rewrites.  And I have nothing to show for it.  In addition, it has forced me to delay the release of Lost Days; Book Four of the Oz Chronicles.

So, am I depressed?  No.  Not in the least.  Am I frustrated?  Absolutely.  Am I ready to give up on mainstream publisher?  Nope.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t stop whining and moaning and venting.  I also write posts like “failing my way to the top,” in an effort to share my experience with other writers.  I want this blog to be somewhat of a teaching tool for those out there chasing the same dream I am.  I want them to know that it’s tough and maddening and confusing and worth every second of it.  For that reason, there will be times that my posts on this subject will be uncomfortably candid. I want them to see the warts and all.

And to my agent, don’t worry.  I’m still up for the rewrites and playing the game.  Don’t get nervous.  If it’s the last thing I do, I will get you your payday!

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Defining a Book – Lost Days

First things first.  I started a Lost Days group on Facebook.  You are invited to join.  I will be doing another drawing for a cool prize, and you will have to be part of the Facebook group to be eligible to win. 

Click here to join the Lost Days Facebook Group!

Click here to join the Lost Days Facebook Group!

Second things second (hey, it has just as much right to be a phrase as “First things first”). Part of selling a book is defining a book.  I think any writer will tell you that one of the worst things they have to do is write a synopsis of their book.  We authors have plots, sub-plots, main characters, secondary characters, etc., rolling around in our heads and there is a tendancy to want to include every shred of story in our short description.  It can’t be done.  It mustn’t be done.  I cheated this time around and got a professional editor/reviewer to write the description for me for Lost Days.  Here she blows:

While snooping in their Granddaddy Hank’s garage one afternoon, Hayley Wilkins’s little brother Grover discovers a decades-old newspaper clipping. It details the tragic death of their grandfather’s first wife when the car she was driving careened off an icy mountain road in Lake Roosevelt, Washington. Yet when her body was discovered, something was missing: her four-year-old son, Crew. Searchers could find no trace of the boy and gave him up for dead…until the toddler was discovered in the woods, alive and well, fourteen months later. 

Since then, everyone has considered Crew to be a bit “touched” in the head. Hayley thinks he’s downright crazy―and not in the fun way. And for a teenager trying to fit in, being related to such a nut isn’t doing her social life any favors. Nonetheless, she can’t help but be fascinated by her uncle and intrigued by the mystery of his past. How could a little boy survive for an entire year in the woods? Someone must have taken care of him, but who? The more time she spends with Crew, the more Hayley realizes he’s tormented by those long-lost days. Determined to ferret out the truth, she launches an investigation into the heart of a forty-year-old mystery. As she digs for clues, Hayley forms a tentative friendship with her crusty uncle and comes face-to-face with a legendary creature whose mere existence has long been the source of fevered debate. 

Led by a precocious young heroine and packed with quirky characters, family drama, and more than one very scary monster, Lost Days is an endearing and surprisingly relatable coming-of-age story about the strength of family. More importantly, this intriguing young-adult novel suggests that being different may not be so bad after all.

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The Digital Marketing Team at Macmillan clear up the mystery behind publishing a book today!

This is a follow up to my post, How Books Were Made Before Magic Digital Fairies Existed! The folks at Macmillan Publishing created a video of their own on how the process works today. You can file this under “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” This was posted on January 12, 2009, well after the publishing industry went under a bit of an upheaval. It’s good to see that the good people at Macmillan have such a great sense of humor. What’s the sense of doing something if you’re not having fun? By watching this video, you will discover a little known fact about writers. We do supplement our income by blogging. I can tell you that I have literally made dollars from this blog. And by “literally” I mean figuratively. And by “made” I mean spent.

BTW – Macmillan did write every third word of this blog post so I am not completely responsible for its content.

BTW2 – I lied when I claimed Macmillan wrote every third word of this blog. I have to go now. I’m off to make my World of Warcraft avatar.