Standing in the shower thinking.

and the water is so fucking hot.

But I had an idea, an epiphany, a golden ray of light, a big ass light bulb go off over my head.

The biggest obstacle my manuscript faces is its length. Period, end of story. No agent, or publisher wants to see any new manuscript over 100,000 words. Midnight in Vegas (working title until I come up with something else.) is 124,000 words. I have tried hacking on it, I got it down to 110k but I hated what it did to the story and I had continuity issues to work out. Some stuff didn’t make sense anymore because the chapter that led up to them was now on the cutting room floor.

But the bottom line is you really, really, really have to get lucky to publish over 100k on your first book. I didn’t believe this until I went to BEA last year and every agent I pitch to flinched when I told them that it was 124k. They can sell it over 100k but it is a lot of work, and would you sign somebody if you knew they were going to be a lot of work?



That is established over 100k is bad. BUT I am at 124k. What to do. The solution until now was to keep pushing it. Like I said you have to get really lucky, but like I said you have to get lucky to publish anyway so I am only adding a “really” to the lucky, so lets put that in poker terms. I need a Royal Flush instead of a Four of a Kind to win. Easy peasy right? Wrong. But what choice do I have. None until this morning. 

My shower solution: break it into two books. Ha! You say then you would have two 60k books and a novel should be 80-100k. Not to fear I actually will break off just part four and end the book with Abby’s escape giving book 1 a nice 87,000 words. Perfect Novel length. I also will go back and add some to her escape to give it that nice climatic finish feel so I might end up around 90k which is good.

Then I get to go back to Part 4 and turn Ziggurat into its own novel! This is awesome for me because I had to rush the ending because I knew I was over the magic 100k  mark and had to get the book finished. I can turn part 4 into a whole novel no problem there is sooooo much stuff I had to leave out.

So I am happy this morning, but I would like to hear from those of you who have read the book and hear what you think.



Published in: on April 23, 2010 at 8:32 am  Comments (3)  

Professional Edit

This is what a manuscript looks like after a professional editor gets through with it.

 Pitts edits visible

I met Jami Carpenter at the Las Vegas Writers Convention and sent her these first few pages of my manuscript. Keep in mind this is after I have gone over the work, over and over again. I don’t know if it means I am a bad writer or if she is a good editor. I have to tell you she is pretty awesome so maybe I am not that bad.

If you are interested in an editor she can be found at I highly recommend her.

New Title

My prospective agent doesn’t like my title “Midnight in Vegas”!

She doesn’t like that I put Vegas in the title. She doesn’t like name dropping cities like Vegas, New Orleans, or New York.

I need a new title. I am open to suggestions, if anybody has any ideas please post them up. Any idea you have would be great.



Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 9:50 am  Comments (2)  

Dear Lucky Agent Contest

I am submitting Midnight in Vegas to the Dear Lucky Agent Contest posted on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog. The contest features an agent judge who looks at your first 150-200 words. The winner gets a free critique by the judge-agent (and hopefully a request for more, although that isn’t guaranteed). I think it is a very exciting and cool idea for a contest.

Wish me luck.



Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm  Comments (2)  

Smashwords and Authonomy

I am always thinking of publishing Midnight in Vegas on various eBook websites like Smashwords or Authonomy. The only reason I haven’t done it is that I worry that it might hurt my chances of being published by conventional publishers. I have read that some publishers like to see an author has published on these sites and is already marketing the book and others don’t like it and will actually refuse to publish a book that already is in eBook format. They don’t want the competition.

So here I am on the fence.

What to do?

Personally I like the idea of publishing on Smashwords. People can download the book on a bunch of formats and read it on Stanza (an App for iPhones, iPods and eventually iPads), Kindles, PC’s or Blackberries. Another benefit is you can set the price for your work on Smashwords. I can actually make money on the book. But I hate the idea of some “real” publisher not buying my book because it is on there.

I still don’t know.

So I thought I would put up a poll. What do you think I should do?

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Comments Off on Smashwords and Authonomy  
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Actors and Actresses Contest

One of my favorite games is to cast the characters in my favorite books.

It is fun to pick actors and actresses for each character, but I hadn’t ever thought to play the game with my book. My cousin Jen just finished reading my book and I asked her to critique it. In her critique she cast my characters. I was both thrilled and shocked by this. Why hadn’t I thought about doing that? I should have, I do it with pretty much every book I read.

Needless to say, I played the game myself and came up with my own cast. Unfortunately my list was corrupted by Jen’s list, she nailed a few characters dead on, they wouldn’t have been the choices I made but they were far better than the ones I would have picked. I was also shocked by her interpretations of other characters.

All in all I thought her assessment was awesome and helpful. It is great inside information to see how a reader perceives the characters.

So this is what I would like to do.

I am going to have my first blog contest.

If you have read my book I would like to know what actors you would cast in the roles of the major characters.

The prize: The person who does the best job casting my book will receive a $25.00 Border’s gift certificate and a special shout out in the acknowledgments section of my book if it ever gets published.

What if I haven’t read it? You ask.

Not to worry I will give the contest a one month time limit and give anyone who emails me at a copy of my book for the duration of the contest.

That being said: Here is the first entry. All other entries must be posted as comments.

Jen Apodaca’s cast:

Charles DeCroix- Forest Whitaker

Jeff Heaven- Justin Timberlake

Clarissa- Malin Akerman (from Watchmen)

Nic- John Bon Jovi

Abby- Chloe Sevigney (the blonde wife from Big Love)

Lawrence- Ron Pearlman

Tymon- Jack Palance

Scratch- Michael Sheen (From the Underworld movies)

Chance- Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus from Lost)

I would ask that you try to be creative and not repeat any unless that is the one you would have picked anyway. Repeats will lose you points so try to post yours up as quickly as possible.

Contest ends on March 10th

When it is over I’ll post up my cast.

Game on.

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 12:06 pm  Comments (1)  

Ready to Submit

Here is a run down of my life since Saturday.

Saturday- Recieve request for manuscript. Happy dance. Call family and friends. More happy dancing.

Sunday- Printed manuscript. bought red pencil and a starbucks (which I intend to write off if I get published.) Selected Warren Zevon on the iPhone, hit shuffle then play. Started reading manuscript to make sure it was totally ready for submission. Read until 10:00 pm

Monday- Went to work, came home read until 10:00 pm

Tuesday- Went to work, came home and finished reading. Started converting red pencil marks into digital form. Worked until 9:00 pm…passed out.

Wednesday- Finished correcting manuscript. Wrote new synopsis (Agent wanted a shorter one.) Re-wrote Bio. Reformated everything to agent’s very detailed specificatitions. Composed email to send it. Paused.

I am not sending it until tomorrow morning.

Giving myself a good night’s sleep and fresh eyes to look at the synopsis and bio one more time before I send it off.

Put Warren Zevon on the iPhone, select Keep Me in Your Heart, hit play.

Good Night.


ps New bio is on the about lystra page if you want to read it.

The scene in my head

Jennifer Jackson tossed her third Starbucks into the trash as she got into the elevator. Her hands were barely shaking anymore as she hit the button for her floor. Today is the day she thought grimly, the elevator lurching into motion made her jump a little. She had stopped taking query letters until January 15, 2010 and today was that day. She was sure when she got into her office the InBox would be full of hopeful letters sent by desperate fools. Her job was to sift through the muck and pull out the nuggets of talent and skill then process the raw ore into fine pieces of jewelry for the world to observe and enjoy. The only problem was that the nuggets were rarer than gold.

The elevator dinged and Jennifer jumped, she took a Red Bull from her purse and popped the top, she still wasn’t ready. Guzzling the can she walked into the front office of the Donald Maass Literary agency. Donald was there waiting for her. He was always the first one in the office.

“Well, it’s begun.” He smiled and handed her a coffee.

Jennifer took a deep drink before responding. “How bad is it?”

“Hundreds, maybe thousands, I lost count.”

Jennifer made a face. “Really?”

“Afraid so.” Donald took the now empty coffee cup from Jennifer’s trembling hands and replaced it with a fresh one.

“Anything good?” She asked hopefully.

“Actually, yes, the first one you received. I liked it. You should read it.”

“The first one Donald?”

“Sent at the stroke of midnight, and the funny thing is I’ve met the author.”


“At BEA last year. You know I usually don’t remember specific people from the thousands I meet at conventions each year, but I liked this guy. He came off really smart and funny too. I am happy to see he got his synopsis done. Of course I only talked to him for about five seconds but hey, some people stand out.”

“Well, I’ll have to read that one first.” Jennifer smiled. Perhaps today wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

I sent Jennifer Jackson a query last night at midnight her time. I hope reality matches what is going on in my head. I might be pushing it with Donald Maass remembering me, but who knows.



Sending Out Queries

I am sending out queries for Midnight In Vegas. I am trying to find the best matches for my book. I have been using my Writer’s Market book in conjuction with and have come up with a good system.

I have already gone through my Writer’s Market book with a highlighter and bookmarks and identified all the potential markets I might query. I then added them to the MyMarkets section of it has a handy tool you can use to track your submissions.

Then I find the website for the market I want to query and read all I can about the agents that work there. There is a great deal of information posted online. There is more than the simple lists of what they are interested in or not interested in. After reading about the agents I determine if they would still be interested in my work. I am surprised to find out how many this eliminates. You might think that eliminating agents is a bad thing but it isn’t. I don’t want to waste time submitting my work to someone who is predispositioned against it (or waste their time either, I wish more authors did this it would probably help the query process immensely.) Instead, I am sending my work to people who express interest in the type of book I have written (and are thereby less likely to reject it.) I am also looking for people who have similar business/writing philosophies to mine. I see an agent as a business partner. It is important to find somebody I think I can work with. I hope to have a lasting relationship with this person. A business relationship is often like a marriage, I don’t want to get stuck in a bad one.

After I have read the bios and selected an agent I carefully read their submission guidelines. Since I am being selective it is important to make sure that I send my work in the proper format. Every agent and agency wants something different. I don’t know if this is part of a test to see if writers are doing their homework or just the personal idiosyncrasies of the people writing the guidelines. Whichever it is (I suspect it may be a little of both) I carefully tailor my submission to match the given requirements. I don’t want my work thrown out because I sent in 5 pages instead of 10.

I am shocked by how time consuming this is. I thought that once I was ready to send out my query it would quick; just a matter of changing the names on the top of the letter and firing it out. This is definitely not the case. I suppose that in desperation you could do that, (I can even write a macro in Word that would do it for me) but I won’t. I think that part of the slush pile problem is too many people are doing that. My hope is that the time and care I put into this process now will pay dividends later.



Novel Synopsis


I am done with my synopsis and in slightly less time than it took to write the whole novel. It was a daunting task for me, full of mental hurdles to overcome.

I really struggled with this one. I have mercilessly deleted pages upon pages of failed attempts. I killed them slow too, using the backspace to wipe them out letter by disappointing letter, no CTRL+A delete for those bastards. 

I know a lot of my problem was the pressure I put into the synopsis. I thought that if this was the only thing the publisher or agent read, I wanted it to be perfect. That is a lot a pressure, enough pressure to make a guy just go play with the kids instead of sitting down and working. 

The other issue I had was the fact that I actually have two separate story lines going simultaneously through the book. That made it hard for me to write a linear synopsis as I was constantly jumping between the story lines. I have to thank Chuck Sambuchino and his Guide to Literary Agents blog for the solution for that problem. He started posting up sample synopsis he found on Wikipedia for movies. This helped immensely. I looked up movies that were plotted similarly to my book and came up with a good way to write my synopsis. Standing on the shoulders of giants, it’s the only way to see the world. 

So now that I am done with my synopsis I am going to start querying again. This time I’ll be ready with a synopsis in hand when they ask for it.