Follow My Book Blog Friday

Now for the Follow Fun!

Q. It’s circle time. Time for us to open up and share. Can you tell us FIVE quirky habits or things about you? We all have them…

J.J.’ Quirky Habits:

1. I read on my iPhone… While my perfectly good Kindle is sitting in arm’s reach. My last three books were read entirely on my phone. I read at the airport, in the car, at the grocery store, on my couch. It drives my husband crazy.

2. I refuse to know how much I weigh. When I go to the doctor’s and am *forced* to get one the scale, I close my eyes or turn around backward. Why ruin a perfectly good day with that information?

3. I’m an obsessive cleaner even though I hate it. I clean my house every weekend, top to bottom, and complain the whole time. (Ask my husband. He will confirm.) I have no idea why I do this.

4. I iron everything. Including jeans. Call it a fear of the inevitable wrinkle.

5. When I’m nervous, upset, bored, or just being me, I pull out my eyelashes. It’s the number one habit I can’t seem to break and actually has some long clinical name I can’t pronounce or spell.

Happy Friday!
J.J. Bonds

Weekend Love

Snapple Real Fact #687: The average cat can jump five times as high as its tail is long.

(Big deal. I have a dog that can run backwards and one that can catch a treat off of her nose! Sorry, cat lovers. Ours will always be a dog house!)

Everyone loves the weekend, right? Probably you don’t care why I love it so much, but here goes anway!

1. Freedom: No day-job work (usually).
2. Friday Night Ritual: Me, my husband, pizza and Netflix. (I know. Pretty sexy. Don’t hate.)
3. Blogging: Finding the time to post on my site and catching up on my favs!
4. Reading: This weekend I read Kiersten White’s debut novel Paranormalcy. L-O-V-E-D it!
5. Writing: Unlimited time to work on my manuscript and rework potential problem areas.

So last week I did a little whining about my rejection letters. In my ongoing quest for full disclosure, I have to admit that I did have one agent take a hard look at my manuscript. Talk about highs and lows! Anyway, said agent elected to pass based on the first 3 chapters. I was beyond disappointed. I almost cried. But I put on my big girl pants and reminded myself that it’s the name of the game. There’s no crying in baseball and there sure as hell isn’t room for tears in the publishing industry. I’ve been told over and over that it’s a cutthroat business.

And I thought I was ready. I work in a pretty tough business today. I’ve had my ideas stolen, been lied to, stepped on, and stabbed in the back. Trust me. Skin gets thicker. But this feels more personal somehow. I guess because they’re my own words and no matter how dedicated I’ve been to my day job and no matter how much pride I take in my work, it’s just not as near and dear to my heart as this manuscript. For me it symbolizes the fruition of a lifelong dream and the opportunity to do something I really love.

Here’s the upshot of last weeks rejection: I got the message loud and clear. The opening of my MS needed more punch. I certainly don’t want to land in the ‘did not finish’ pile and I want the reader to want more. So I spent the weekend reworking the intro and I feel good about it. Yeah, I wish I’d figured it out sooner, but there’s no value in second guessing the past. What’s done is done. Time to learn a little something and move on.

J.J. Bonds

Humble Pie, Sour Grapes, and the Bitter Taste of Rejection

Snapple Real Fact #883: Butterflies taste with their hind feet.
(Okay, so apparently rejection could taste worse; it could be infused with the taste of feet).
Today’s topic: The dreaded rejection letter. I got my first rejection letter (Okay, more than one, but who’s counting really?). I can’t say it’s a warm and fuzzy first, but it’s a first nonetheless, and one that I hope will bring me closer to my dream of being a published author.
I won’t lie. Rejection stings. Maybe more than a little. But it’s part of the process and I knew that going into it. I knew that publishing was extremely competitive (especially in the explosive YA genre) and that the odds were far from in my favor.  I knew that I was going to have to knock on a lot of doors and aggressively work to find people who believe in my work as much as I do.
In fact, the first rejection was kind of a relief; something I was expecting and just had to get through. After that, it was all downhill. Now I’m a little afraid of my email, although I haven’t stopped checking it compulsively. I just get a little more nervous each time I hit the refresh button on my inbox.
So, here I sit, a little dejected, posting my disappointment for the world to read although sharing openly like this is definitely not first nature for me. My real first instinct is to hide that which could be embarrassing or show weakness. But I want this blog to be genuine, so here’s to honesty!
I will say that each literary agent who has elected to pass on my work has been very polite and professional.  Knowing the volume of queries they receive, I truly am appreciative of the responses, even the ones that say ‘no, thanks’. At least I know where I stand. If the first twenty say no, I’ll find twenty more.
Despite this week’s disappointment, I still have faith. I certainly haven’t given up on myself or my dream. After all, I never expected overnight success.
I guess it could be worse. I could be one of these guys (or gals): http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com.
Seriously. I laughed so hard I cried when I found this site. My husband came running up the stairs to make sure I was okay. I now follow this blog for a good laugh and a reality check.
The best advice I can give myself and others?
Keep chasing the dream. No matter how elusive it might seem today.

Must Love/Hate Queries

Snapple Real Fact #878: Only male fireflies can fly.
(At first I was a little indignant at Mother Nature’s slight against the female of the species, but then I remembered chasing fireflies as a kid. Only the ones flying in the field got captured and placed in jelly jars… or worse!)
This week’s rant is all about query letters. What’s a query letter? Perhaps you’re better off not knowing, but since you’re probably still reading, I’ll keep writing. A query letter is a one pager designed to pique the interest of a literary agent who (if the stars align in your favor) will champion your book with established publishing houses.
It sounds so easy, right? After all, I’ve already written 300+ pages and finished my first novel. What’s another page?
Well, that one page was more difficult to write than any page in the actual manuscript. Maybe more difficult than writing all of the pages. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging to condense 300 pages into 1, but that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was the pressure. The knowledge that this 1 page was bound for a harried agent who probably reads thousands of query letters a month (and likely rejects 99. 9% of them). Oh, and did I mention that I was going to query the agents who represent some of my favorite authors?
Yep, that’s PRESSURE. Three paragraphs designed to make them say ‘I want more’; three paragraphs to make an impression.
Needless to say, I agonized over the query for hours on end. I agonized over it for days, actually. I changed words, bugged my proofreaders, and chugged Snapple all the while doing my best to ignore Sabot, my seemingly attention starved cock-a-poo.  The end result? One very numb butt (I really need to get cushions for my dining room chairs) and one edgy query.
I don’t know what the odds are of gaining literary representation. Probably 1:1,000,000. Probably I have a better chance of hitting the Mega Millions, but you only live once. So I’ve sent out twenty query letters and now the really hard part starts: waiting.
I’m not very good at waiting. Ask anyone who knows me. I’ve been checking my email like a crazy person since I hit send on the last email. It’s actually getting a little compulsive. My husband says this is a good exercise in patience and actually had the audacity to suggest that I limit myself to checking email once per day. (Yes, I know. It sounds like I’m married to a complete stranger… because there’s no way I possess that kind of self-control).
So, this is me (crazy/impatient) with my fingers crossed hoping that a little bit of talent and a little bit of luck will take my journey to the next level!
J.J. Bonds

Books, Books, Books

Snapple Real Fact #912: Meteorologists claim they’re right 85% of the time.

(Am I the only one who has a hard time believing this? The crazy weather this week has me seriously doubting the accuracy of this stat. Maybe I too can claim to be right 85% of the time!)
Anyway, I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter with friends and family!  I had the opportunity to sneak away for a few days of much needed R&R with the Atlanta family and have been doing a lot of editing and reading (both of which have kept me from blogging). I’ve reached what I’ll call the ‘final’ version of my manuscript, but find myself with many questions (or maybe it’s really just self-doubt). Is my story good enough? Are the characters well developed? Should I make another pass at it? I guess the reality is that I may never know for sure since opinion is subjective and it’s difficult to really pinpoint what makes one book a success over another.
However, I’m really lucky to have a couple of very vocal beta readers for whom I’m grateful (although sometimes I secretly wish they were a little harder on my work). It’s difficult not to read professionally published books and compare. Every now and then I come across a passage that I wish I’d written. You know the kind. The ones with amazing imagery that yank you head over heels into the story. Or the ones that leave you depressed. Not because the story line is sad but because they’re over.
I’ve also been reading a lot of independent books lately which are self-published. It’s been both inspiring and eye opening. First and foremost, I commend each of the authors who’ve had the courage to self-publish, making their work available to the masses when traditional publishing houses have opted to pass. Not only do I find the stories refreshing, the price points are right ($0.99-$2.99).
Never read an indie author? You should. They’re everywhere. There are a lot of good stories out there that I would have otherwise missed. They’re easier to find than you might think (check out my links). Indie books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, you-name-it. Yeah, there’s some crap, but that’s where the reviews come in handy. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the organization and depth of some of the books.
In fact, I just read Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble, a paranormal romance, by H.P. Mallory. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the most discerning reader, but I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. Good plot, fluid story line, no WTF moments. All in all, a good read. Yes, it’s light and fluffy, but I wouldn’t expect anything different from PNR.
I found the book on GoodReads.com. If you’re an avid reader, I highly recommend checking out the website. Frankly, I wish I’d found it sooner. It’s a great place to find new authors, new releases, and to just generally talk books. I’m a little shy about chatting on-line, but love having the ability to get reviews for books from trusted sources. Especially books I’d never find on the shelves of the evil-empire (or other big box stores) in the face of diminishing bookstores.
Read anything good lately? Leave a message below. I’m always looking for new series and authors!
Last, but not least, I want to thank everyone for the editor recommendations. I appreciate the help and will likely be pursuing a few of these options in the coming weeks.
J.J. Bonds

Calling All Editors

Snapple Real Fact #830: The average human dream lasts only 2 to 3 seconds.
(Found under the lid of my Snapple Papaya Mango Tea – Inspired by India and The Amazing Race)
Let’s hope my dream lasts a little longer than average!
So what’s the deal with the Snapple Real Fact? I drink a lot of tea. I mean a lot. I’m not that picky either: sweetened, unsweetened, peach, black with lemon, raspberry, white blueberry, infused with pomegranate, Long Island. You name it, I probably drink it. Lately I’ve been on a Snapple bender so I thought it would be fun (and maybe even educational) to start each post with that days Snapple Real Fact.
Now back to business. I put the finishing touches on my manuscript today and am ready to move into the next stage of production: editing. Turns out, editors don’t come cheap. My first quote came in at $1,700. Yikes! I knew it was going to be pricey, but I wasn’t quite prepared for that number. (Good thing I was at happy hour when that one came in. It helped take the sting off a little bit!)
My dilemma is twofold:
1.       Should I invest that kind of money in an editor at this point?
2.       How do I know I’m getting my money’s worth?
I believe in my work. It’s good and would definitely be classified as commercial. I’ve gone through the manuscript three times to scrub it for grammatical and syntax errors and all that good stuff. Unfortunately, I’m also a realist who’s at least marginally self-aware. I’m comma happy. What I need most is a grammar guru.
I’m confident I could find cheaper editors, but how do I know if they’re really any good until it’s too late? They’ve all got piles of testimonials on their websites, but frankly most of them don’t instill a lot of confidence in me.
Here’s the deal… I’d love to be able to go cheaper, but I’m sure it’s a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. I’m going to keep searching for the time being.  If you know anyone who’s got an English background or experience with copy editing (and who might be looking for some freelance work), feel free to drop me a line.

J.J. Bonds

Thirty Sucks

That’s what my friends and coworkers told me. So did the lollipop, the mints, the mug and the banner that were so lovingly showered upon me. Good times, right? I was optimistic though. Thirty was going to be life changing. I was sure of it. I was sorry to see my twenties go (I figured I could kiss goodbye the days of getting carded at the door and dancing on the tables), but I was going to go gracefully into real adulthood.
Why not? Thirty is the new twenty after all. And the things that came along with my 30th birthday: completion of my MBA (Woo-Hoo! No more term papers!), a new job with a leading international retailer (dream job?), and a New Year’s Eve wedding shared with all my favorite people (PARTY!).
Sounds good, huh? Idyllic even. I know, I know. Probably I shouldn’t complain. But here’s the thing: It all sounds really great, but I was never happy. Ever. The pressure, the politics, the never ending stream of work that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. These are the things that sucked the life from me on a daily basis.
“Life’s too short to be doing something you hate.” A direct quote from a co-worker of mine. Naturally, I was skeptical. Easy to make such a bold statement when you’re sitting on an entry level salary and don’t have a mortgage and a pile of student loans. So I didn’t think this Millennial view of the world applied to me. Hell, I’m Gen X all the way. Besides, I’m head to toe practical. Always have been. (See paragraph two if you’re not sure: safe degree, steady job, minimal risk.)
The people I was really jealous of? My own friends.  (Yes, I am appropriately embarrassed to admit this little tidbit, but nobody’s perfect, right?) In this age of social media, I was being bombarded daily with a stream of updates from friends who were staying home to raise kids and pursue the things they really enjoyed: cooking, photography, sports, volunteerism. What could I talk about? Excelling at a job I hate? No thanks. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m envious, but I applaud them for choosing to be happy and for doing what they love. I just didn’t have the courage to take that kind of leap myself.
Not until recently anyway. Why the sudden change of heart? My father was diagnosed with Stage Four Adenocarcinoma lung cancer. (My dad’s a fighter and I am confident he’ll beat it. He’s attacking his treatment just like he attacks life. I should be so lucky to have his courage. ) It’s cliché, but his diagnosis was a wakeup call. I want to do something I love. (Who doesn’t?) And I’m going for it.
So that’s what this blog is about: chasing the dream.
I invite you to follow my journey and share this link with anyone you think might also enjoy the ride.

JJ Bonds