Tag Archives: M.J. Moores

92 Table of Contents

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The Driving Force – Editorial – by Ian Shires

 Dead Man’s Party – Jeff Marsick – by Louise Cochran-Mason

Aces and Eights – Frank Mula & Sal Brucculeri – by Steven Pennella

A Mystery Writer’s Mind – Nanci M. Pattenden – by M.J. Moores

A Written View – by Douglas Owen

Odds and Ends – Bob Moyer – by Ellen Fleischer

Walking the Path – Mark Koning – by Trisha Sugarek
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91 Short Story Submission

IM90-moores3Short Story Submissions: What Not to do When…

By M.J. Moores, Editor – Infinite Pathways Press

If you have any kind of track record for submitting short stories to journals, small presses, anthologies, or literary blogs, then you’ve probably received the impersonal “Thank you, but…” response—if you’ve received anything at all. Like me, when I started out, I’m sure you’ll want to know why.

  • Why wasn’t it selected?
  • Why didn’t I receive any feedback?
  • Why haven’t I heard back yet?

There are several myths and negative jujus floating around about the submission process. Regardless of how heavily your heart is sitting on your sleeve or how much you’ve bared your soul to the cold corporate world of publishing, we in the industry have our very own ‘What Not To—’ line up to help you navigate your way through the forest of whys:

Don’t Take it Personally

If you haven’t heard back from a given submission agent, don’t automatically rattle off an email asking about the status of your entry. First, double check to see how long their standard response time is; if it’s just past that date, give it another week. If it’s long past, then check to see if the company contacts non-winners/writers of rejected manuscripts. A lot of publishing companies who are running contests or providing open submissions deal with hundreds of stories and only have 65,000–95,000 words they can accept (on the high end). This means that sending a personal rejection, or none at all, is not a door slam—it’s like your mom trying to do the laundry, cook dinner, help your sister with homework, and make lunch for everyone in the family all at the same time. If she doesn’t tell you she loves you, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true—she’s just a little distracted right now.

Don’t Ignore the Rules

Every publication has its own set of rules or guidelines to follow. Just because you have a template set up for PUBLISHER ‘A’ doesn’t mean that PUBLISHER ‘B’ feels the same way. If you forget to add something to your query letter or package, or if you send along your bio even though it hasn’t been asked for, don’t be surprised if you get an immediate rejection. This will often happen when using an automated submission system, but it tends to happen via email, too. Your story might be the best we’ve ever read, but if we have to slog through a bunch of stuff we haven’t asked for, we’ll move on to the next story. Think about it: if you asked for a non-fat mocha latte, half-decaf with caramel drizzle, and your barista handed you a full-caf—you’d either demand another one or you’d leave and go somewhere else. Ditto with submitting stories.

Don’t Be Vague

If a publisher is looking for a specific word count, and would like an exact word count in your query letter, in the top left corner of your page with your contact info, and in the header on the right side of every page… then do it. And don’t send a manuscript that’s 3,050 words long when they’ve asked for max. 3,000 words. To you, those extra 50 words are no big deal. To a publisher, that means three things: 1) A book that’s supposed to be 65,000 words, holding eight different stories either expands exponentially in the word count or lessens the number (and thus the variety) of stories being offered; 2) Extra editing will need to go into fine-tuning the piece to meet requirements, equalling more time and effort spent on non-money-making organizational aspects; 3) It shows that you’re either absentminded or don’t care (and either personality trait is a potential red-flag in a business where time is money).

Don’t Retaliate

If you happen to get one of those automated rejection notices, or even a semi-personal one—where your name and story title is in the message, but everything else reeks of recycled bio-waste—take the above advice and “don’t take it personal.” You may feel jilted, or even angry, for any number of reasons (including finding out that someone with a similar story was chosen, or believing yours to be better than others picked), but don’t put those words in an email and send it to the publisher—don’t burn that bridge. There are always extenuating circumstances that you won’t be privy to, and two seconds of justification are not worth losing a potential future connection or resource.

Don’t Give Up

This goes hand-in-hand with Don’t Retaliate. Even if ‘no one’ is taking that one short story you keep submitting, don’t stop trying—with a new story, that is. If you absolutely love the one that isn’t getting traction, then hire a professional editor who specializes in short story writing and get their honest opinion. While that’s happening though, start writing another one (and another one). Whether you’re aiming to become an Olympic figure skater, a NASCAR driver, or a revered author, the same things hold true: don’t give up; keep practicing.


IM90-moores1The biggest thing to keep in mind is that publishers are not trying to make your life miserable; they’re actually trying to keep their lives from getting that way. They got into the business because of a love of words, stories, writing… the same reasons you did. They are giving writers like you this opportunity because they want to help—and like you, they want to be able to buy food from the grocery store and pay their bills, and that means sacrifice. Regardless of how many rejection slips you get, hold on to your dream and keep trying, keep learning your craft; you will get published.

Follow M.J at: http://mjmoores.com

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90 M.J. Moores Interview

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M.J. Moores Interview – “Getting it Right” – By Trisha Sugarek

This is one of more in-depth interviews that I have had the pleasure to do. M.J. delves into the writing process. Why we do it, what we are feeling, and what we experience when we write. I hope that the readers of Indyfest enjoy this one as much as I did.

IM: Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

MJ: My ‘dream’ work space would be in the midst of nature, somewhere where the bugs didn’t bite and the weather was extremely temperate, lol! However, my actual work space happens to be one of two places in my home: my office or my craft room. It all depends on how much juice my computer has at the time and how severely external forces work to distract me. 😉

IM90-moores1IM: Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write?

MJ: First, I do away with as many distractions as possible—and these tend to come mostly via the internet these days. I check my email accounts (all three of them), my social media, briefly snack on something crunchy (like flavored mini-rice cakes from Mr. Christie—cheesy tortilla when possible), then either review my notes for moving forward or dive into a list of feedback comments for a chapter revision.

IM: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MJ: Oh, this is fun! I used to play a version of this game with my drama students called ‘Liar, Liar’. The idea was to reveal two truths and one false piece of information about yourself to a partner to see if they could determine which one was the lie. They had up to three questions they could ask to try and catch their partner in the lie. As an example, I always said: 1) I have moved more than 14 times in my life; 2) I tried out for the very first Canadian Idol TV show; and 3) my shoe size is an 8. My shoe size is 7. 😉

IM: Do you have a set time each day to write, or do you write only when you are feeling creative?

MJ: Neither. If I only wrote when I felt creative, I’d never get anything accomplished. As a wife and mother, as well as a freelance editor, if I want any time for myself, I need to carve it out of each day with striking precision and extreme flexibility. I intentionally set aside one day (out of the seven we can legitimately claim happen on this earth) to focus solely on my own stories. I devote an hour to writing my Infinite Pathways blog two mornings a week and try to sneak in a third morning whenever possible for my author blog. Every single day of the week, I’m writing replies and keeping up with clients or PR items (such as guest blog posts or articles for online magazines to keep my name swimming around out there in the ether of the internet). It’s not a lot of time to write for myself, but I have to support my writing interests by doing these other things.

IM: What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

IM90-moores2MJ: Know your tendencies, identify why you gravitate toward those things, be fully aware of what you are doing and when you are doing it, let yourself do these things for a set amount of time, and then push all that crap aside and simply let yourself write.

Personally, I need to procrastinate. It’s during those times when I’m scrubbing the toilet or baking a bunch of muffins that my mind does its best work regarding plotting and discovering things about my characters, their problems, and the world they live in. If I don’t let myself get distracted by the mundane, I’m not productive. 😉

IM: Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MJ: My characters are born from plot ideas. I say to myself, “Who might this happen to?” or “Who does the conflict revolve around?” and then my imagination takes flight. Unintentionally, each of my main characters is a reflection of some aspect of my life. It might be something I always wished I could be/do or it might be some unresolved aspect of my past (or present!) that seeps its way into the story to inform the core nature of these characters.

IM: What inspires your story/stories?

MJ: Often dreams; although recently, they have manifested from conversations I’ve had. The plot for my SFF quartet The Chronicles of Xannia stemmed from not understanding why my now-husband-then-boyfriend was so troubled by the plausibility of Y2K. It was after a particularly emotional reveal on his part that I began wondering about the idea of ‘those who believe’ and ‘those who don’t’, and my wily and tenacious character Taya Fyce was born. For my unpublished urban fantasy quartet The White Raven, it was me fooling around with a book title generator on a fellow author’s website and following the prompt she left: write out the title and develop a blurb for the book as if it were real. I got ‘The Hollow Kiss’ for a crime/thriller and, since I write speculative fiction, I also had to add a fantasy flair for my own sanity. I whipped something up in a matter of minutes, commented as requested, and then had to live with my brain chasing down this idea for the next week without respite! My lead character, who becomes the White Raven, was born of that conjecture.

IM: Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MJ: I can, and yes it does happen often, but being a planner keeps me always on the periphery, where I can orchestrate and oversee. But that doesn’t mean I never surprise myself or that my character always listen to what I envision for them. 😉 I tend to ‘get lost’ most often in the intense moments, as I live them right along with the characters.

IM90-moores5IM: Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment?

MJ: I adore YA and certain types of NA or Adult fantasy that willingly take me on a journey. I have long admired the writings of Maria V. Snyder, but as of this past month, I have found a new, local author—Karina Sumner-Smith—whose books (characters and writing style) have lifted my heart and push me to better my writing so that I might affect my readers in a similar way.

IM: When did you begin to write seriously?

MJ: I first started looking for an agent for Time’s Tempest, book 1 in The Chronicles of Xannia, when I finished university and had time in my then-job (as an executive assistant) to polish this manuscript I’d been working on sporadically for the past five years. However, I got several rejection slips and decided to focus on other avenues of interest.

IM: How long after that were you published?

MJ: Nine years. I spent a lot of time working on my career and improving my craft. By 2009, I was a part of a great writers’ critique group and I started reworking my novel with them. Over the course of two years, I remained with that group until it disbanded, and then started my own group with a few of the interested members of the original group. That lasted another year, and then I joined two larger regional writers’ groups and began attending not only workshops, but writing conferences. Come 2012, I was trying to get a fledging freelance writing and editing business started (that was a year after my son was born and I was in desperate need of some “me” time). I hired a couple of substantive editors to give the manuscript another go over, integrated a lot of those suggestions, and then dove back into finding an agent with a much better understanding of the industry (although still not 100 percent). Just as I was seriously looking into self-publishing this series, a colleague from a small press in the UK mentioned that her publishing company was branching out into new genres and were now accepting manuscripts. I took a chance and sent her a copy of my magnum opus; she said yes. I’ve been officially published in print since 2014 (non-fic e-book since 2013).

IM: What makes a writer great?

MJ: Perseverance, a passion toward personal betterment, a willingness to keep learning, and above all, the ability to recognize good advice/feedback when you get it. 😉 If we can’t write believably and without error, we will lose our audience in a heartbeat!

IM: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

IM90-moores6MJ: Book 2 in The Chronicles of Xannia, Cadence of Consequences, took just over a year to write, but because I gave birth to my son in the intervening time, that was more realistically spread out over three years. Then, substantive editing and revisions took another four months before I could get a line and copy editor to check over things for me while I started on the logistics of cover design and interior formatting. Book 2 is now published one year after Book 1’s release. Book 3 will look much the same (without the birth of a child to spread one year into three), although I have been working on two novels at the same time and will be able to start querying agents for the new series just as Book 3, Rebel’s Rein/Rain, comes out. My goal is to work up to three novels a year. Seeing as I’m already publishing one e-book and one fiction book per year, this shouldn’t be too difficult—just need to find my stride!

IM: How have your life experiences influenced your writing/stories?

MJ: My life experiences are littered in large and small ways throughout all of my stories. The biggest impact usually has an emotional edge, but I’ll take something like the idea of being ostracized and magnify it 150 times in order to look at the big picture and emotional equivalency impact. Every main character (and many minor ones) has some aspect of my personality imprinted on them— it helps me love even the jerks and the ‘bad guys.’

IM: Have you written—or do you want to write in another genre?

IM90-moores7MJ: While I enjoy the overriding genre of speculative fiction best, I will write general fiction, as long as there is a strong inner and outer quest/journey. I’ve dabbled in historical fiction, short stories, contemporary New Adult, sci-fi, and fantasy. And in 90 percent of my writing, I find a way to include an element of romance—I’m a bit of a sucker for the innocent stuff.

IM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

MJ: If you’re a writer struggling to find representation, don’t lose sight of your goal. The road may be long, hard, and crazy-frustrating, but don’t let that get you down; don’t start cutting corners. If you have to yell at the wall and chuck a beloved object across the room, do it. Let yourself give up, but also give yourself permission to start over again with learned expectations.

If you’re a reader, keep trying indy works that aren’t free. The reason we charge for our wares is to attempt to make back some of the money that went into the publishing of our manuscript— and so many more of us are ‘doing it right’ these days, so keep trying; keep checking us out!

IM90-Zad1ONLINE FOLLOW THROUGH

M.J. Moores Website: http://mjmoores.com/

Also http://infinite-pathways.org/

Interviewer: Trisha Sugarek *** Writer at Play *** [email protected] *** www.writeratplay.com

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Slush Pile Salutations

What to consider when your rejection list is longer than your arm…

MJMoores-webBy M.J. Moores

Oh, the anything-but-glorious slush pile where unsolicited manuscripts go, when finding an agent to represent you is no longer an option (or one you were never fond of in the first place). Traditionally speaking, this is the metaphysical stack of electronic manuscripts publishing houses go to in the hopes of finding that ‘something special’ overlooked by the myriad of agents out there.

Now, there are plenty of “Do’s and Don’ts” lists and advice circulating the industry telling authors what they need to do to get noticed, and yet, you’d be surprised at just how many authors still get confused by the process. I think it’s time to show you exactly what the specialists mean. Here’s what I learned recently in an interview with DAOwen Publications.

Note: The following are actual excerpts from the introductions and final salutations of query letters submitted for consideration:

  1. Follow the Submission Guidelines

“P.S. I know that you did not request for the short list of characters, but I wanted you to see that the story doesn’t end with the first book, that it goes much further and with every step there is a new someone who makes this story blossom.”

“[My book] is published as an ebook only on Amazon. It doesn’t have an ISBN and is not available for print anywhere. […] I just wasn’t aware ebook publication factored into traditional publishing […]”

Hint: Find the guidelines, follow them exactly. One of the easiest and fastest ways to get rejected is by ignoring the submission instructions—and they’re not the same for all publishers.

  1. Know Who You’re Talking To

“Dear Agent, Thank you for taking into consideration my query […]”

“Dear Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications, I am forwarding a manuscript to you which is the full story of a book I wrote in 2006.”

“Hello, my legal name is Xxxxx Xxxx, the novel I wish to send you is over 170k words long […]”

 “Dear Editor, I am very pleased to be emailing you with this query for my 88,700 word novel […]”

Hint: If the guidelines don’t specifically tell you who to send your query letter to, then it’s time to do some research to show this publisher that you’re serious. Go to one or more of the following pages on the website in question: About, Staff, Contact Us (or something similar). Read over the profiles of the people working at that publishing house and determine who best to send your query letter to—sometimes you get lucky and find a title right by a name, e.g. Jane Doe, Submissions Editor.

  1. Don’t Get Personal

“I am not sure if this is relevant but I am a Buddhist, so I believe that luck give chances to everyone.”

“I am a self-employed homebody who shunned the academic world in order to care for my two children and fulfil a lifelong dream of becoming an author.”

“These are the only real setbacks I am experiencing at this time. So, if being paid means working extra hard, the reality is that it won’t happen that quickly due to the lack of available tools that I can use, and the fact that I have to “borrow” toilet paper from public restrooms in order to stay in my home for more than a few days with any level of comfort…”

Hint: You are writing a business letter, not explaining why you can or cannot do something. The only time it’s relevant to talk about yourself in a personal way is if it has direct bearing on the content of your book— i.e., if your book is about a runaway teen who gets pregnant, revealing that you’re basing your book on real-life experiences brings authenticity to your work, even if you write fiction.

  1. Don’t Make Demands (or Requests)

“Please let me know how you feel about this and how it might be improved, or who else may be interested in this type of story if you are not. Thank you.”

“I am only looking to sell the print rights to [my story] and will only agree to a contract that includes a reasonable advance.”

“170,000 words is the perfect length for an epic space opera standalone that crosses the genre barrier, wanting the reader to ‘stay with it for as long as the story can stretch’—if you’re in love with a book the last thing you want is to end too soon; that was my logic for not being satisfied with a novel of average length.”

Hint: Unless you are already a successful author (either traditionally or self-published), you should not be asking for or demanding anything of the prospective publisher. First time authors generally get royalty advances from large traditional publishing houses, and only if that publisher is absolutely certain they have a book that will sell to the masses. Be humble, be professional, and be aware of industry standards.

  1. Edit, Edit, Edit…

I am native Italian and that’s why you’ll find my English a little odd—in the novel the fact the main character is Italian hopefully justifies the ‘accent’ of the writing style.

“[…] I thought I would just make a quick point about the piece, as the repeated use of pronoun in the opening was actually a concerted stylistic choice which perhaps I didn’t really explain.”

“My fantasy novel consists of three parts, the first of which is now completed in the first book of the trilogy. I really hope for your positive reply as I am pretty sure that my generation would love to read this.”

Hint: If you don’t see something amiss in almost every example provided in this article (grammar, sentence structure, improper or irregular word usage, etc.), then you should consider hiring an editor to review not only your manuscript, but your query letter and synopsis too. Realize that you can have someone professionally proofread or copy edit your manuscript multiple times, but if what you really need is a substantive/content edit or a stylistic/line edit, then a dozen or more proofreaders will not help.

The owner and chief editor at DAOwen Publications, Mr. Douglas Owen, took time from his busy schedule to speak with me for one important reason: his belief that the term ‘Slush Pile’ reflects writing that no one wants when in fact, for small publishers especially, it should be more accurately termed the ‘Possibility Goldmine’. Owen’s advice is to carefully consider the above points before putting together your query package. If you give a publisher absolutely no reason to reject your submission, you will leave your manuscript to speak for itself.

 

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Learn more about our interviewer at: M.J. Moores

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