Sloan M Coll



A mailbox is a fearsome thing. Standing alone at the road's edge, blood red arm raised in defiant salute, it takes more than it gives. Much more. Its gaping maw sucks in each new batch of crisply printed fine paper offerings which carry the hope that their professional appearance will garner favorable responses. Does it mischievously transform what it receives? Does it, out of some fit of anger in retribution for not receiving the honor it is due, change requests into rejections? Were they not placed inside the receptacle with proper reverence? Was the metal handle slammed too harshly? Oftentimes I think it must be so. I suppose I am lucky in the location of my mailbox - it is suspended (although the gallows like configuration of the support may well be cause for upset anyhow), safe from the mighty, cavernous jaws of erratically scooping snowplows; safe too, from being considered any worthy amusement for those who delight in playing mailbox hockey. After all, keeping it free of snowstorm related damage and adolescent attitudes is an act of consideration to the box's sensibilities. Perhaps that is why springtime always brings the kinder, gentler, almost apologetic sort of rejections into its confines, almost as a concession to the appearance of new buds and green grass. I light a candle, look out the window, and pray for the long awaited victory heralded by the lowering of the red flag.  I am a writer - the mailbox is my god.


As I prepare my second-started-and-completed novel for epublication, I have been thinking of one of the hardest obstacles I have faced since I began writing fiction....

Dancing with the Genre Monster

I am sure I am like the bazillion other neophyte authors, scribbling down everything that comes popping out of my head (unfortunately not fully grown from the forehead of Zeus), needing concentration to get it out and onto paper in some semblance of coherence, only discovering what it is and where it is going as it comes out and takes form.

Then comes redoing, revising, rewriting ad nauseum, until it gets to the point where I realize all those ultra obvious, extraneous things I've been taking out only seemed so because I've read and reread the damn thing so often, it's become inconceivable to me that every new word isn't horribly predictable. So, back in they go, some of them, probably most of them, hopefully with better phrasing, smoother expression, spell checked and grammatically correct. Finally, it's all tucked up in clean, white sheets of 24 pound paper and it's time to get really brave - or stupid - depending on whether I can really write and if anyone would really want to read it.

I decide to send it out.

To other people, strangers called Literary Agents.

To read, and comment upon. 

Scary stuff.

Gathering information on agents, publishers, magazines, and submission guidelines is a piece of cake - that's what the internet, libraries and bookstores are for. It is time consuming, true, which can be a downside if I am also holding down an outside job in the interest of paying bills, eating, and maybe even having a life outside the printed page - but it can be done with a little patience.


Then comes the hard part - the mighty Query Letter - in which I am to state the Genre in which I have written.


At first, that seems pretty simple as well. I check the web and find lists of all possible genres, which is quite the education: Mystery, Horror, Science Fiction, Bodice Ripper (very, very identifiable) as are Erotica, Porn, Action & Adventure, Western and Crime. But - Mainstream? Contemporary? Commercial? Does anyone really sit down and say, 'let's see, what can I think of to write that will have mass market appeal and make me a whole truckload of money'? Then, there is Literary - now whose ego wouldn't have them writing the next great American novel? How is Literary differentiated from Mainstream - and from whose perspective? Not knowing any other authors up close and personal, I have no idea if anyone really starts out deciding what form their brain is going to pick to tell the story. Mine certainly didn't; it just started babbling and pumping out the words and I started getting it down as fast as my little Pelikan could move.  At first, I didn't even know I had to name my genre - I just figured some kind soul would tell me what it was I had written. It didn't help much either that my characters often have the inconvenient habit of taking off in a totally unexpected direction without waiting for me to catch up.

Of course every Agency seems to have long lists of which ones they are and are not interested in hearing about, as well as whether they will entertain any contact from new authors unless accompanied by a recommendation or referral - heaven forfend I should pick the wrong one and risk insulting the entire industry, or even worse have my submission tossed aside because I broke the rules and colored outside the lines.  Gasp.

I can usually toss aside all the obvious genre misfits automatically, but since I do not have time to read every little thing currently on the market because I'm too busy trying to write one, it can be more than a little difficult to put a peg in that one. So, it's back to reading and rereading and rewriting, this time for a potential audience, except that halfway through the mess I realize what utter crap that is.  I write what comes out the way it comes out. Period. Polishing, editing, revising and perfecting what it is in the first place is where I concentrate my efforts; not trying to make it into something it isn't takes a great deal of attention, but makes for the most gratifying result.  And if it's a few thousand words longer than the prospective agent has listed as the limit s/he wishes to be bothered with, well, so be it.

And if no one wants it the way it is?  Well, that's OK too, disappointing, but still OK.

Sometimes you get the monster, sometimes the monster gets you.

                                                                                            SMC 4/28/2K11


About my 'Itch'

As much as I enjoy vampire fics by several authors, every time I would be enjoying one, there would also be this little voice in my head saying "How about....." or "What would happen if they.....".  It was really quite distracting, particularly since I had never imagined myself writing in that particular genre. But, having finally learned from the experience of creating other written works that the only way to still the voice is to take up the pen and answer the questions it was asking, I decided to decided to do just that.  In many regards the answers that came with the ink were not at all what I had expected them to be, which is the never ending delight of creating characters and watching them play.

....and a little bit regarding 'Sins'

'Sins' seemed to be an entirely appropriate name for a novel that is an exploration of the sort of sins people commit, their results, ramifications and interactions with the sins of others.  It began as simply a bedtime fantasy, my own private little soap opera,  to ponder and expand as I would lie awake, waiting for sleep to come.  As always, it was that pesky little voice, suggesting what it would do with stereotypical villains, heroes and star crossed lovers all wrapped up in the ever present incredible coincidences and improbable circumstances, with a few slightly steamy intimate encounters, encompassing love, death, betrayal, revenge, horrible fear and indescribable happiness, that seemed to want to never end as they came pouring out onto the paper.   Even now as I begin to prepare it for my next foray into the world of self publication (although the final form is still somewhat up in the air) little bits and pieces are creeping in, making it better....seems my little voice is never satisfied.

SMC 5/11/2K11