Book Contract! Plus: Stories, and a New Website

Recently, I signed a contract with Harvard Square Editions for my first novel, Hot Season. To say that I’m excited would be an understatement.

I’m thrilled. Stoked. Absolutely flippin’ twitterpated.

But in recent weeks, I’ve discovered an unfortunate fact: because I’m publishing my book with a small press, there’s no money for things like a book tour, a book publicist, or a book launch.

And as I contemplated the inanity of going into debt to promote a book that’s unlikely to repay that investment, it occurred to me that if I’m going to establish a career, I’m going to need more than a book anyway—I’m going to need real relationships with readers over the long term.

That’s why, in honor of the thirty years I’ve been writing fiction (really—since I was eight years old!), I’m going to be releasing one original short story each month exclusively to my subscribers, for as little as $1/month, through a crowdfunding platform for artists called Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/susandefreitas.

If you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance it’s because you subscribed to this blog.

Maybe you did that because you know me. Maybe you did it because you came across something I wrote on the web and thought, “There’s a voice I’d like to hear more from.”

Whatever your reason, I can honestly say that, as an emerging writer, it has meant SO MUCH to know that someone, anyone, is listening. Writing is such an incredibly solitary pursuit, with such a long apprenticeship period, and there are times when blogging can feel like shouting into the abyss.

So, first of all, thank you.

Now, I’d like to ask for your support as I move forward.

One dollar a month isn’t so much on your end—I’ll bet you lost more to your couch this month—but it will go a long way toward helping me fund my book tour, hire a publicist, and generally launch my debut novel in a way that gives it a fighting chance.

You can follow the link below and pledge $1/month (or more, if you feel so moved) as one of my patrons. The website bills your credit or debit card on the first of the month, and on the second, my latest short story arrives in your inbox.

Here’s the link: https://www.patreon.com/susandefreitas

The short stories you’ll receive will range from realist to speculative, which means that some of them take place in the real world, and some of them take place in a version of the world that’s slightly askew; they’ll all clock in between 2,000 and 5,000 words, which means you’ll always be able to read them in ten minutes to a half hour; and they’ll be accessible in both a text and audio format.

You can find out about some of the inspirations and influences behind these stories on the Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/susandefreitas

As ever, your support means everything. Please feel free to share this campaign with anyone who enjoys short fiction.

Thanks!

Susan

PS. I’ve also got a spanky new author website! Check it out: http://susandefreitas.com, and subscribe to my mailing list if you’d like to stay posted on the novel, upcoming events, and all things SD related.

George R. R. Martin, Anne Groell, and Me: Norwescon 38

games-of-thrones-emma-watson

This will totally be me at Norwescon. Except, I won’t be Emma Watson.

The time has come, friends, for the pilgrimage to Seattle for Norwescon! This fantasy and sci fi con is a veritable mecca of NW geekdom, with a strong literary focus, and I had so much fun there last year I nearly peed myself. (Well, not really, but you get the idea.)

This year’s guests of honor include the one and only George R.R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame, as well as his editor at Del Rey, Anne Groell.

I’m psyched to meet George, of course, and have my picture taken in the Iron Throne. But perhaps even more so to meet one of the women with a hand in some of the biggest, baddest, best sci fi and fantasy out there (Groell has also edited sci fi/fantasy legend Connie Willis), and an acclaimed author herself.

That is, if I don’t clench up in utter geek-worship. o_O

If you want to make sure you run into me, here’s my schedule for the weekend:

Thu:

Practice Your Pitch
Thu 8:00pm-9:00pm – Cascade 10
Kevin Scott (M), Susan DeFreitas, Frog Jones, Tricia Narwani

Fri:
Writers Workshop Round Robin: John Demboski, David Benedict, Heather Roulo
Fri 10:00am-12:00pm – Baker
Christopher Bodan (M), Kurt Cagle, Susan DeFreitas, Frances Pauli

The Hero’s Journey
Fri 2:00pm-3:00pm – Cascade 9
Steven Barnes (M), GregRobin Smith, Susan DeFreitas, Leslie Howle, Dean Wells

Revising From Feedback
Fri 4:00pm-5:00pm – Evergreen 3&4
Dean Wells (M), Susan DeFreitas, Rhiannon Held, Jack Skillingstead, Tim McDaniel, Renee Stern, Anne Groell

Sat:
Reading: Susan DeFreitas
Sat 10:00am-10:30am – Cascade 1
Susan DeFreitas (M)

First Page Idol
Sat 3:00pm-4:00pm – Cascade 9
Phoebe Kitanidis (M), Susan DeFreitas, Kate Jonez, Cat Rambo, Tod McCoy, Patrick Swenson

Forms of Plot Structure
Sat 4:00pm-5:00pm – Cascade 9
Steven Barnes (M), Gregory A. Wilson, Susan DeFreitas, Matt Youngmark, Mike Selinker

Character Arc, Plot Arc, Story
Sat 5:00pm-6:00pm – Evergreen 1&2
Nina Post (M), Randy Henderson, Craig English, Nancy Kress, Alex C. Renwick, Susan DeFreitas

Also, if you’re there as a panelist, perhaps I’ll see you at one of these panelist-only events (your secret decoder ring should reveal the locations):

Writers’ Workshop Social –Sat between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Art Show Reception – Thursday – 8pm-10pm
Small Press Social – Thursday – 9pm-Midnight
Spotlight Publisher Party – Friday – 9pm-Midnight
Seattle Social – Saturday – 9pm-Midnight
As a final thought:

The Talent Myth

talent-agentRecently, Ryan Boudinot published an article in Seattle’s The Stranger entitled “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.” I know I’m not alone in feeling like this article made me want to breathe fire.

I know I am not alone, in part, because Chuck Wendig–novelist, screenwriter, game designer, and one of the wittiest people on Twitter–has said everything I wanted to say to the author of this article, everything that has been stewing on the back burner of my brain since first it found its way into my newsfeed.

Whether or not you have an MFA, I recommend reading both of these articles. They say a lot about the many difficulties writers face in bringing their work into the world. These are also some of the same difficulties faced by artists in any medium, particularly in regards to what I think of as the Talent Myth: the idea that you either have it or you don’t.

For the record, I work with beginning writers all the time. Some of their work is nothing short of atrocious at first. But they get better. Book by book, project by project, I’ve seen it again and again–they find their groove, tune in their frequency, and gain the skills. They publish, traditionally or otherwise; people read what they write and are better for it.

Writing is hard. No question. But I absolutely and categorically reject the notion that writing or any other art form should only belong to the people who do it best. What would the world be without the neighborhood blues band that gets you out on the dance floor and lifts the weight of the week? Without the local painter who has rendered the exact mood of a certain place and time that you both know and love? Without community theater and dance performances and choirs?

Sure, aim high–aim as high as you want. But do not mistake a lack of “success” for failure. Arts and culture are the soul of humanity, and they belong to all of us.

Also, just for the record, I’m sure I was never one of those five “real deal” MFA students who changed my teachers’ lives. I just think I had something to say and didn’t know how to say it yet.

Speaking of speaking, I’ll be a featured reader on Wednesday, March 11th, at the Alberta Street American Legion Post as part of the Legion Readers Series. The theme is “Space,” and we’ll be celebrating both the birthday of Douglas Adams and the life of Leonard Nimoy. How awesome is that? =)

Those of you local to PDX, I hope to see you there.

More info:

https://www.facebook.com/events/932889556735060

P.S. As of this week, I’m beginning the process of revising my literary novel Hot Season along the lines suggested by a publisher–one I’m excited to work with. I’ll keep you posted!

Submit Yourself: What I Learned in 30 Days of Fiction Submissions

200152714-001Over the past month or so I made it my goal to submit fiction to thirty presses and publications. Now that it’s behind me, I feel as if I may have gained some insights worth sharing.

1. Getting Published Takes Time

And I don’t mean that writing takes time, though it does. Nor do I mean that the publishing process takes time, though that certainly does as well. I’m talking about the thing that makes publication possible: submitting.

Getting my short stories and linked story collection out to a total of thirty appropriate publishers took me close to eighty hours over the last month or so. This included researching markets, reading sample stories and back-cover blurbs, researching successful query letters and synopses, writing my own queries and synopses, snipping stray hairs on my manuscripts here and there, printing out the work, and purchasing mailing supplies–as well as, yes, actually dropping submissions in the mail and uploading them to Submittable.

2. Getting Published Is a Numbers Game

I thought I knew this before I started, but I realize now that I haven’t exactly been acting in accordance with that knowledge. My goal, before starting what I’ve come to think of as NaNoSubMo, was to have ten pieces under consideration at all times. Not a bad goal, but I’m beginning to see that it’s not necessarily that my work isn’t ready for the more competitive markets (see below)–it’s that the publishing game is many orders of magnitude bigger than the one I’ve been playing.

From here on out, I’m going to do my best to observe Ben Percy‘s advice to submit to three more places for every rejection I receive. And why not? These stories (and this collection) are not doing any good just sitting here on my hard drive.

3. You’re Better Than You Think You Are

This does not apply to writers who have not slogged countless hours through countless drafts. This does not apply to writers who’ve managed to remain 100 percent secure in the belief in their own genius. This does not apply to beginning writers in general.

But if you’ve put a stupid amount of time into writing, rewriting, and learning the craft, consider submitting to journals you think are above your level, especially if you’re a woman. For some reason, I think many male writers have a better grasp of this, maybe because men are so often expected to make the first move in relationships. You might think someone is out of your league, and sure, maybe they are–but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

This month I received a rejection from Granta magazine letting me know that they read my story with interest and enjoyment, and though they ultimately decided it wasn’t right for their pages, they hoped I’d keep them in mind for future projects. The same story was summarily rejected from the Southern Indiana Review with a form rejection. The second rejection, as you can imagine, meant a lot less to me in light of the first.

Not only will I continue to send this story out to competitive markets, I’ll keep sending work to Granta until they tell me to go home. Because while I’ll continue to improve every day of my life as a writer, it feels as if I’ve passed a certain threshold. What remains is a numbers game.

4. Small Presses Respond to Submissions More Quickly Than Journals

These types of submissions are different critters, of course–but after years and years of submitting short stories, poems, and essays to literary journals, I expected to wait months to hear back from the first press I submitted my collection to. Not so. I received my first book rejection a mere week after submitting, my first full manuscript request within two.

Maybe small presses have fewer submissions. Or more staff. Or more paid staff. Or interns. Or something. No doubt there are smart publishing people who understand why this is, but I am not one of them.

Suffice to say, if you send out to a small press that requests a query, sample pages, or a sample chapter, make sure the rest of the book is ready to roll–you may receive a full manuscript request quicker than you’d think.

5. There Are People Who Publish the Type of Thing You Write

If your project isn’t on the map of the Big Five publishing landscape, don’t despair: the small presses are awash in weirdness. And by weirdness, I mean all the stuff that New York does not regularly publish.

In my research on small presses, I found houses that publish short story collections (by people who aren’t famous), linked story collections, novellas, hybrid forms, and experimental poetry, as well as those focused on work by people of color, LGBT writers, and writers from (or writing about) particular regions. There are also publishers focused on work that is socially and environmentally engaged, cross-cultural, countercultural, cross-genre, you name it.

I found this to be a huge relief, as I’d kind of bought into the idea that it would be quite difficult to find a publisher for the sort of book I’d written. Granted, I do not yet have a contract in hand, but the response I’ve received so far has opened my eyes to how diverse the publishing landscape really is. I’m increasingly confident that there’s a place for my book within it.

Here are some resources that have proven invaluable to me over the past month in submitting that may be useful to you as well. Consider it an early Christmas gift. =)

Database of Small Presses and Publishers (Poets & Writers): http://www.pw.org/small_presses

Examples of Successful Query Letters (Writers Digest): http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

The Complete Guide to Query Letters That Get Manuscript Requests (Jane Friedman): http://janefriedman.com/2014/04/11/query-letters/

How to Format a Synopsis (The Editors Blog): http://theeditorsblog.net/2012/07/15/clear-the-dread-from-the-dreaded-synopsis/

Are you actively involved in the process of submitting? If so, please share your thoughts and experiences–I’d love to hear from you.

Throw Yourself a Party!

tiny partyFriends, something extraordinary has happened: I’ve received a royalty check. Not for $10. Not for $20. But for $30 whole dollars. And it’s all because of all you folks who purchased my fiction chapbook Pyrophitic.

Thirty bucks may not seem like a whole lot to my younger self, who dreamed of literary fame and fortune (such dreams being an occupational hazard of nearly anyone who writes). But I’m reminded of what Pauls Toutonghi, a writer I admire, told me at a recent reading: Virginia Woolf threw herself a party for selling as many copies as his NYC publisher considered his latest book a bust for. I told him that “throw yourself a party” is basically my literary M.O. these days.

And why not? In today’s publishing climate, victories of virtually any type are hard-won in the extreme.

So, yeah–I threw myself a party for publishing a 30-page chapbook. Now I’m throwing myself a (virtual) party for having amassed $30 in royalties. And you know what? You’re invited. In fact, you’re the reason there’s a party in the first place.

And if you’ve got some tiny hardwon victory to celebrate, consider throwing yourself a party too.  I’d like nothing better than to party with you. =)

Here’s a round up of fresh publications and appearances I have coming up:

  • The first story in my novel-in-stories Hot Season is featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Weber: The Contemporary West. “The Circus on 2nd Street” appears alongside some truly excellent poetry, prose, and art, including an interview with Pam Houston. It’s available for $10 as a back issue under the Rate Information tab.
  • The story that finishes Hot Season, “Dead Man’s Revival” has been accepted for publication in the debut issue of Milkfist, a print and online magazine “dedicated to showcasing the abscessed underbelly of literature, poetry, art, and nonfiction” (so, you know, my work fits right in). The piece will appear in their roughly 100-page perfect-bound print journal (and in ebook form) in the spring of 2015. More on this later.
  • A literary sci fi story of mine, “Love Potion #369” (which some of you read an excerpt from on PDXX) has been accepted for publication by the Clackamas Literary Review. I’ll let you know when this becomes available.
  • I’ll be the featured writer in Conversations with Writers on Monday, November 24 from 7:00-8:40 PM at the Hillsboro Main Branch library on Brookwood (Hillsboro, OR). I’ll be performing poetry by Emily Dickinson and Pablo Neruda as was all some of my own. I’ll also be talking about the many pleasures and benefits of memorizing poetry (your own and that of other poets) in the digital age.
  • It is with the greatest of glee I announce today that I will once again be an attending professional at Norwescon, the Northwest’s premier gathering of sci fi and fantasy geeks. Lemme know if you want me to say hey to George R. R. Martin and Boris Vallejo, yo!

Now as ever, thanks for partying with me.

Publication Day Surprise! (Heart Attack Edition)

bookcoverbetterIt’s pub day for your first book. It’s a small book, but important to you–there was a point at which you’d given this project up for dead, but lo and behold, here it is, with an ISBN number and everything. That’s when you realize, with horror, that there’s a typo in your book. In the title.

Correction: the entire title is a typo.

Oh, and this is important: you’re a professional editor.

Did your gut drop even just a little whilst reading that, dear one? Because mine certainly did, yesterday, when I found myself in this situation exactly. My fiction chapbook, Pyrophitic, had finally gone on sale online, and on a whim, I googled the title.

When I originally searched for this rather unusual word–which refers to plants that require fire to germinate–I found page after page of scientific papers and books cited with both pyrophyte and pyrophite. I’d decided on the latter. But this time around, Google revealed page after page of nothing more than one guy’s Instagram posts and asked me, in bold, at the top of the page, if I meant pyrophyte.

I emailed the publisher in panic. Sadly, she told me, there really wasn’t anything she could do.

I am normally a person who accepts my own mistakes as part of the educational, not to mention creative, process. I am also sort of a congenital Pollyanna (just ask my husband). But yesterday, I journeyed far and deep in the valley of darkness, friends. And here is what I decided, ultimately: this will not be the last book I publish. It is, in fact, only one part of my first novel, and this novel is only the first of many. Someday, I’d look back at this and laugh. So I might as well just go ahead and laugh right now.

Then, just for the hell of it, I googled pyrophite on a different browser. This time, I got my original results: page after page of respectable scientific folks using the same spelling I’d chosen. WTH?

Recently, one of my friends who’s into astrology circulated a link that indicated there’d be some strong influence this month from Pluto, the cosmic trickster. You will make a fool of yourself, the astrologer predicted, but in a way that actually shows you something important.

I’m big enough on magical thinking to believe that cosmic forces may be at work here. And big enough on human psychology to realize that making a fool of yourself probably aways shows you something important.

At this same time, I’m really, really glad that I didn’t just publish a book with a typo for a title. =)

Here are the links! Pyrophitic runs $2.99 for the ebook (it’s free if you’ve got that whole Kindle Unlimited thing) and $8.99 for the print edition.

Ebook:

http://www.amazon.com/Pyrophitic-Afternoon-Shorts-Book-2-ebook/dp/B00MCU21SU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407434023&sr=8-1&keywords=pyrophitic

Print book:

http://www.booknook-eljpublications.com/store/p17/Pyrophitic.html

(You can also get the print book from Amazon, but this one is the better deal.)

And to every one of you who has accompanied me on this journey, who accompanies me still, and who cares enough to purchase this little book–thank you, thank you, thank you.

Oh, and while we’re at it, thanks for helping me pick the cover image! I’ve had nothing but compliments so far. =)

Blurbing the Chappie

When I returned from AWP this spring, there was good news in my inbox: my longish short story “Pyrophytic” had been accepted by ELJ Publications. Yay! This tale of love, lust, and monkeywrenching gone awry in a radical college town has long been close to my heart, and now it would be coming out as an ebook via their Afternoon Shorts series.

I suppose I didn’t realize that it would also be coming out as a print book, though–so I was a bit stunned when the gracious Ariana Den Bleyker of ELJ contacted me recently for artwork and a back-cover blurb.

That’s right, a blurb for a short story.

What was there for me but to hit up my mentors from grad school? One was too busy in a very real way–she has a small child, teaches full time, and is currently heading up a search committee at her university. One was too busy in a “I’ll-be-busy-until-next-year-because-I’m-working-on-my-novel” sort of way. And the third? Well, bless his heart. David Long wrote back to say, hey, I’m busy this week at this grad school residency, but I’ll blurb your story upon my return. Oh, and tell me again–what is it, exactly?

It’s a book, I told him. A very little book, but a book. My first. =)

In the meantime, I’ve got a couple ideas for cover art. Which one do you prefer, dear reader? Please let me know in your comments!

Option 1:

In this story, students tend to get around on bikes. I thought this image might speak to the that, as well as the comedy-of-errors that comprises the romance.

stock-illustration-17230209-bike-path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Option 2:

In this story, the main character, Rell, is studying pyrophytic plants–those that require fire to germinate. She’s also recovering from having had her heart broken. I though this image might speak to that.

stock-photo-vintage-grass-plant-on-summer-morning-sunrise-142728217