Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Venturing to the Edge

Most of my friends know I have a gang of cats. Many have seen pictures I've posted on this blog of my black cats, Dylan and Eddie-puss. But many don't know I have a third black cat, Potter.

Potter is the first to go into hiding whenever anyone visits and the last to come out of hiding. We call him the alarm cat—if Potter runs through the house and dives into a closet, we know that someone is in the driveway. Sometimes, Potter is a better warning than the security camera.

For years, the black cats were all inside cats. Last summer, Dylan made a mid-life career change and decided he wanted to become an outdoor cat. I started letting him out for brief periods. Camilla, one of the outside tabbies, took him on as her apprentice and no doubt explained some of the rules of outside living.

This year, Eddie-puss—who hadn't wanted to go outside since he arrived as a tiny thin kitten six years ago—figured that his pal Dylan must be onto something good. Eddie-puss decided he wanted out, too. So, my days are now spent letting the middle-aged black kitties in and out, and in and out, and—well, you get the idea. They aren't about to give up the inside-living perks of having a food bowl available at all hours, the convenience of a litterbox, actual furniture to nap on, etc. But they like being outside cats.

Potter has always been terrified of the outdoors. In his seven years here, he never asked to go out. The idea of actually going outside was too horrible for him to contemplate. Until a few weeks ago. I assume Dylan and Eddie-puss must have told Potter about the wonders of outdoors. Anyhow, neurotic Potter finally asked to go out.

I opened the door to the deck. He looked out, then put his front feet over the threshold.

He ventured out a few feet but quickly darted back in. Then he went a bit farther. After all, his pal Eddie-puss was watching. If Eddie-puss could do it. . . .

At first, he wasn't sure which way to go.

Eventually, he went to the edge of the deck, looked over, and saw what he'd been missing all these years. What he saw was a completely different world—more than he could deal with. He started back toward the open door.

Dylan was there to reassure Potter that he was safe.

Back inside, Potter looked out at Eddie-Puss. Should he risk going back out?

I took the above pictures two weeks ago. Since then, Potter has ventured out a few more times. This morning, he made it more than 20 feet from the door before he lost his nerve and scurried back in. So far, I've always left the door open for him.

In a way, I can identify with Potter and the other two cats who made mid-life career changes. I am also venturing into unknown territory. During the last seven years, I've self-published one book and used a print-on-demand publisher for four others. Now, I'm trying to venture beyond vanity publishing.

I want to see my newly completed middle-grade novel (tentatively titled Stuck) commercially published. This means I have to venture into unknown territory (for me, at least) and find an agent—not an easy task. But others have done it, so it must be doable. So, I've begun my journey.

Consequently, my book has now been officially rejected by three agents and one editor. I realize that four rejections isn’t many. From what I’ve heard from commercially published authors, I should expect about thirty rejections before my book is accepted. Since I only send out one or two queries at a time, acceptance could take some time.

I received a very polite rejection from an editor on Saturday, Oct. 4. Her comment:

"Some of the plot lines feel unnecessary and resolve too quickly and too easily, so I think the story would definitely benefit from carefully honing it down to its essential parts. I would suggest deciding which parts you feel are at the heart of Jacie's story, fleshing those parts out, and setting the other threads aside for another story."

Except the plot lines are all “at the heart” of Jacie’s story, are all seen from Jacie’s viewpoint, and are all interconnected. Resolution for Jacie, my eleven-year-old protagonist, doesn’t occur until near the end.

My horoscope for Sunday, Oct. 5, was this:

"Don't take no for an answer today, dear Virgo. Know what you believe in and stick with it. There is a distinct advantage in holding true to your inner nature. Don't let others throw you off course with their views of how things should be done. Be confident and don't worry about taking things over the top. There is no such thing as excess on a day like today."

Now I’m rethinking my novel. Do I need to change it? If so, how? I thought I’d woven the plot threads together nicely. If I pull one thread, all the others will unravel, the theme will suffer, I’d need to do major rewrites.

Last Sunday, I thought a prologue might be the way to go. Now, I don’t think so. I'm still reworking, still bouncing ideas around, still getting input from writer buddies.

But, I'm venturing past my previous boundaries. I can see over the edge.

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Blogger Amy Tate said...

Your cats are ADORABLE. Are they from the same litter? I have one like Potter. My Sabrina wanted to go out when she hit mid-life. But I had her declawed when I got married because she loved to sharpen her claws on Shannon's stereo speakers. One day, I accidentally left the dining room window open. She found it. I never knew she escaped...until three hours later. I was ironing in the living room and I saw her perched on the window sill. She was crying and shaking. Poor baby! Needless to say, she's never ventured outside again.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Becky Mushko said...

Not from the same litter. Petland was running a special on Dylan in June 2001. Potter was plucked off Rt. 40 in November 2001 by a Glade Hill friend I had previously given a couple of kittens to, so I owed her. A very tiny, scrawny, and hungry Eddie-puss appeared a year or so later when I was calling my outside cats. Most of my menagerie are off-road adoptions.

12:00 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

Too funny about the cats. I have no cats as I am allergic.

I want to urge you to keep at it with your book. Don't give up. If you get the same feedback from more than one editor then you might take it to heart but otherwise just keep sending it out! Good luck.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Becky Mushko said...

Actually, soon after I posted this blog entry, I checked my "official writer" email account and found a request for a full from the assistant of an agent that I queried ten days ago. This agent, who read my first two chapters, wants an exclusive for a month.

I just returned from the post office. Sending a full manuscript by snail mail is pricey. I hope it's worth it.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Amy Hanek said...

I think you either bend your novel into what this agent wants or you stick to your guns. Rewrites are part of the process. The genius is in knowing when to stop (something I always question myself). Only you will know where to draw that line.

Keep me posted on what this recent agent thinks. I will keep my fingers crossed for you.

I think I'd just be flattered the agents were reading my work and giving criticism.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Claudia Condiff said...

I find it interesting that your horoscope and Amy H. both used the word "stick", in regards to your novel "stuck." I would take that as a sign. Stick to your guns. Your book is really good.You will find an agent, and it will be published. Beleive it.Say it everyday.

8:19 PM  

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