Adventures with Words – July 2023

Adventures with Words – July 2023

Today, as I wrap up this month’s newsletter, it is cooler than it has been since the beginning of the month, which I don’t mind. I am a hot weather wimp and have a much better time when the hot days come in short runs bracketed by cooler weeks. The only drawback to this kind of weather is that I am even more tempted to get outside which often interferes with writing work.

Alright, so what’s been happening in the past month? Here we go….

Ko-Fi vs. Patreon

Patreon and Ko-Fi are platforms used by people to raise money, mostly for creative projects. They differ from other fundraising methods in that they are ongoing rather than for a limited time. They also differ in that contributors can receive exclusive access materials, special perks and other incentives as long as they are contributing. 

I’ve had a Patreon account for a while, mostly to follow some of my favorite writers, but also with the idea that I’d use it to promote and partially finance my work eventually. I recently joined Ko-Fi to both support a podcast and to consider it as my supportive platform of the future. What Ko-Fi has going for it is that they don’t take a cut of the funds you receive, they only charge for credit card fees. Patreon takes 5-12% of what you receive, plus credit card fees. Patreon requires content uploads each month, with different benefits for multiple tiers and only offers subscriptions. Ko-Fi allows for one time contributions as well as subscriptions and creators can add new content at their own pace, plus other features that Patreon lacks.  I’m leaning toward building up a Ko-Fi presence.  If you have opinions on either of these platforms, or know of something else entirely that works for you or creators you support, please let me know.

Elephant Ears Status Update

I’ve received feedback from 4 readers so far and the manuscript evaluation from editor Jenny Bartoy. I’m happy to report that nothing in any of the feedback suggests a major reorganization or change in approach is warranted. What I’m hearing is “We like this story and we love your characters and it’s good”. The work going forward is all about making it even better. This is just where I wanted to be at this point. I’m already playing with new scenes to add, and additions that will tighten the story as a whole. I have really enjoyed the ideas my readers have and the impromptu brainstorming sessions with them as we consider different ways to enhance the story.

On the topic of writing business, I’m also working on different ways to pitch the story. The latest version starts like this:

When the owner of the town’s amusement park is found dead under the wooden roller coaster, no one questions the police’s conclusion that WW Fairview’s death was an unfortunate accident. No one except 17 y.o. Erika Temple (they/them), who has plenty of questions. When the police don’t act on the evidence Erika presents, they decide to investigate WW’s death on their own.

This is not what Erika had planned for the summer before their senior year of high school, but WW wasn’t just the owner of the amusement park that had been a fixture of Erika’s whole life. He was kind and encouraging and gave Erika a job where they could pursue their passion for art. They wouldn’t be able to live with themself if they let WW’s killer evade justice.

Enlisting their new bestie, Larry, Erika finds clues that lead to more questions than answers. Not to mention clues about questions Erika wasn’t even asking.  Even though Erika knew finding WW’s killer wouldn’t be as easy as TV shows and mystery novels make it look, they weren’t prepared to end up at dead-end after dead-end. When Larry begins to cultivate other friendships, Erika wonders if they should give up and get on with life, but the need to vindicate themself and find justice for WW wins out.  … 

There are different versions of summaries and pitches that I’ll need to write In the course of getting an agent and making it to publication.  The one I just shared is for the query letters I’ll send to prospective agents. This summary should be hooky, but also complete – no holding back on spoilers.  Eventually, I’ll need to write a synopsis which is a very detailed multi-page description of the action from start to finish. This is for publishers.  And also, there are the short descriptions used to hook readers and not give too much away.  Oh, and I can’t forget messages to be emailed to other writers asking for blurbs about my book. That is a lot of writing that has nothing to do with writing the novel. 

All of this can be tedious and exhausting, and I may occasionally need your encouragement. Thanks in advance.

Navigating My TBR Stacks

Judging by social media posts, I know I’m not alone in having a long to-be-read list. And I’m probably not alone in having books that have been on that list for more than 10 years. I am guilty of being easily wooed by new and shiny books and neglecting these elders.  Honestly, I considered just giving them away, and then I reacquainted myself with them and decided to try catching up. One social media post presented an ingenious idea for selecting which book to read next – this person had wrapped their books in brown paper, given them numbers and placed the numbers in a container.  When they were ready to choose their next book, they picked a number and unwrapped the book indicated.  There was no way I was gonna wrap all those books up, but I could use a part of that strategy.  I wrote all the names on slips of paper and put the slips into two sandwich bags – one fiction, one nonfiction. 

How’s it working for me?  The first book I pulled was Life of Pi, which I realized I’d already read. So I pulled another slip. That was for Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice. I dutifully pulled it off the shelf and began reading.  I read a chunk of the beginning pages and realized that my typical fair of recently written fiction, especially YA fiction, had spoiled me. I don’t have a lot of patience for long-winded narrators who take a lot of time to get to the action. And Lestat the Vampire is practically a synonym for ‘long-winded narrator’.  And that’s why I decided I didn’t need to read that book after all. I pulled another slip. This one has a one word title, 13 letters long, gracing the cover of a book almost 1000 pages long. 

And that is why I’m now reading a book that could easily double as a self-defense device – Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.

Finding an Agent: a Hero’s Journey

Alongside the work of revising my novel, I’m beginning to lay the groundwork for acquiring a literary agent.  What I want, what I really, really want is an agent who is queer and/or trans and is super excited about YA and adult fiction by and about LGBTQ+ characters. I want a literary partner who will get into the trenches and help me create the best work possible and get it to the most people possible. I started with some searches I hoped would bring me queer/trans agents and was only partly successful. I did find many who were interested in repping YA LGBTQ+ fiction and I started making a list of them. Soon, I was looking at their agency pages and looking through all of the agents, trying to guess who would be the best one to query. A pattern emerged – at most agencies, you have more established agents along with some up and coming agents. The established agents might be accepting queries, but mostly for adult focused works or genres I’m not working within. Looking at the younger/newer agents yielded a list of possibilities interested in queer, trans, YA, speculative, etc. books, and who are also accepting queries. These are the agents still growing their rosters.  These are the agents I’m focusing on first. They have the resources of the agency, plus hunger and drive.

There are a lot of literary agencies. A lot. I’ve got more than a dozen agents on my list now, and I still have agencies to discover and search. I’m starting to see this process as a hero’s journey of its own – a new writer sets out to explore the world and find an agent who will help them find the treasure of a publishing contract. The world is sparkly with possibilities in the early part of the story, until the adventurer starts to run into adversity. Adversity invites thought and reconsideration, doubts may arise. The intrepid writer must overcome these challenges and continue their journey into the unknown of queries, rejections, more doubt, rewriting queries, finding more agents to send them to, etc. etc. Will the writer find an agent who embraces their work? Or will the writer decide they have to self-publish instead? I know what would happen if I were writing this story; I don’t know what will happen in real life.

Socially Hacked 

As most of you know, I fell victim to a social engineering hack and lost control of my Facebook account. I’ve posted some information about it and what to look for in avoiding my fate to my Instagram account – if you’d like specifics, email me and I’ll send you some screenshots and explanations. The hacker is still using my account (and countless others) to phish for more victims. Facebook hasn’t done anything despite my numerous requests/complaints and a bunch of my friends reporting the account hacked/stolen.

I’m still considering my options with regard to Facebook because it doesn’t look like I’ll regain control of that account again. I actually have created a little stub of a new account and I could take the time to build it up, and also, everytime I open that app, I feel angry and bitter. Building up a new account doesn’t recover the 14 years of history I had on the old account. Facebook, like most social media apps, doesn’t see me or you as the customer and maybe that’s why they don’t offer us customer service. The advertisers are the customer, the people who give FB money are the prime concern. I wonder how that will work for them when the entire user base are hacked accounts trying to hack each other.

And that is why I am focusing on my Instagram account (@CKCombs_Author), this newsletter and my writing projects.  

Nonbinary Chosen as Book Club Book

I belong to the Inclusion Team at my job and one of the things we do is facilitate a book club. Our first book was Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work by Ruchika Tulshyan. This is an amazing book with practical approaches to transforming the culture and processes at work. For our second book, we’ve chosen Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity, which includes a short memoir piece I wrote.  I’m honored the group chose to learn about gender and identity not just because it’s a space of importance to me – the intersection of racism and transphobia/homophobia is littered with broken bodies and broken lives. I am feeling some kind of way about everyone reading my piece because of the vulnerability inherent in having people you know read and discuss elements of your life. And also, vulnerability is a big part of our work and I’m here for it. 

Other Creative Projects

And finally, before I sign off, I wanted to share that I am also working on stories that are not part of Elephant Ears. There is a short piece I wrote and workshopped with my writing partners about people living in a world controlled by an all-knowing algorithm. Anything they attempt to do online is either allowed or prohibited by the algorithm according to an accumulation of information about each person and the stated mandate to ‘Assist users in living their best lives’.

With that kind of goal, what could possibly go wrong?

Another idea, in the early stages of hatching, is a story about a person who hates their life until a doppelganger begins to replace them in it. Complex feelings arise as their replacement clearly enjoys substituting for them and, worse, their partner, kids and everyone they know are happier with the replacement than they were with the original.

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy the rest of the month, and whatever weather comes your way. As always, if you have ideas or comments you’d like to share, email me or contact me on Instagram.

Thank you for your support, CK

Making Contact

Here’s where you can find me online:

Leave a Reply