Sunday, July 29, 2007

The people have spoken

I rarely comply to memes, but when Ken Houghton asked me for "Eight Random Things," I thought listing eight sentences from my novel would be short, fun and entertaining. So I did it.

Someone named "Brent" read that entry and left this comment:

There is no way that in a _readable_ novel of any length that this is a random sampling.

Brent baby? Your sentence structure sucks. Okay, that's enough about you. Let's talk about me.

Despite encouragement from my writer's group (Maureen McHugh was certain it would be a bestseller), pitching my book was really effing tough. But very early on, I received an unusual letter from a slush reader at a New York agency I had queried.

"I really just want you to know that your piece is unbelievably worthwhile, no matter what those elitist agencies tell you. From writer to writer, I think that you will affect my own style, my own way of presenting characters. Thank you for such a great reading experience."

As you can see, she wrote quite a bit more.

That letter, with all its heart and honesty, kept me going down Rejection Road. If this reader (who was not my mom or friend or even an acquaintance) loved my book so much, surely it had a larger audience that was entitled to read it as well. I plowed forward and eventually got an agent. She came very close to placing the book with one of the big houses time and time again. When she ran out of energy, I was on my own. I queried small publishers. One artsy indie house (MacAdam Cage) also got my hopes way up, only to shoot them down. Here's that story (have Kleenex ready):

(More sad writing chronicles available here.)

But I did eventually place my book. Since it was not with a big house, there were no glittering reviews in glossy magazines, no New York raves, no Oprah nods. But we live in democratic times. Anyone can publish anything online. And quite a few people posted about "Harvey & Eck." Here is an incomplete list of them and what they said:

Phil Plait, who also wrote me and said that he thought "it was *really* good" and never had I been so thrilled by a couple of asterisks.

Doug Hoffman.

A smart man in a fool's hat.

Dean Cochrane.

A cute chick.

A man named Garrett, who wrote more posts about the book than I could count.

A mama.

Josh Williams.

A psychic.

Hal Perry.

A flamingo.

And some comments Vince Parker left in the comment section of this silly post.

"I hope this is an appropriate enough place to intrude upon you my personal thoughts, but I am compelled to disclose to you that I read "Harvey & Eck" from beginning to end with the same eagerness and enthusiasm as your characters must have. And I saw within my self, both Eck and the Hub--and Harvey too. I must admit, that as I read, I remained skeptical that the next pages would not satisfy me. And even as I approached the conclusion, I told myself I would have to mentally re-write the ending to meet my needs. I dare say, I even found myself fearing the neglect of a certain significant object. One I won’t give away out of courtesy for others who have not read your novel yet. But I was wrong on all accounts--and gleefully so.

After I finished the novel, I noticed the words “Women’s Fiction” on the back cover for the first time. But to me, this was a brilliant work of “Men’s Fiction” in more ways than one. A smashing read. A novel that I would feel dignified to have accompany me into any coffee shop despite it’s—how shall I say this?—less conventional cover. Smashing, indeed!"

Other people called and emailed me. They loved the book. They were moved by the book. They read it again and again. They passed it around to friends. They bought copies as gifts. They asked me questions.

Now to get you started on your way to an actual review, Brent baby, here's a sample of "Harvey & Eck:"

Here's a longer one.

You can order it at any major bookstore, or it's available on Amazon for about $12.

In the unlikely event you'd like a signed copy, send me $20 and I'll send you one, I might even include a surprise or two*.

Erin O'Brien
P. O. Box 470167
Broadview Heights, OH 44147

*to anyone else who wants a signed copy, you can pretty much count on the surprises.


Jim Winter said...

I do, in fact, have HARVERY & ECK on the stack. However, I also have a book to review for JANUARY first. But for you, babe, Ms. Rowling got shunted to the audio route. (I did the first six Potters on audio, so why change up now.)

Philip said...

Isn't that odd! In general, like Patrick Henry, I only have one asterisk.

Dan said...

Oh, just friggin' wonderful. Now it looks like I have to send yet another woman money.

Oh well... Expect some mail. I may even lick the envelope twice just because I'm a filthy, filthy man.

sxKitten said...

For anyone sitting on the fence, H&E is definitely a worthwhile investment of both your time and money. Don't be cheap - spring for the signed copy.The extras alone are worth the price of admission (Erin - thanks for the lovely lizard, which lives on my keychain and reminds me of you every time I leave the house).

Ken Houghton said...

She gave you a talking lizard?

Well, I certainly thought it was short, fun, and entertaining. Enough that I hassled the NYPL again (so far to no avail).

(Bookmarks mailing address for when the three months's pay currently due actually comes in.)

EBEZP said...

I have to say I haven't finished it yet, am I really bad or just busy?
Please can I be bad, this time?

I wish you wouldn't do this all the time until I've finished it!!

Dean said...

I, too, wonder at the 'Women's Fiction' label. It was written by a woman, it's about emotions and stuff and nobody gets killed or even knifed or beat up a little and no cars crash, but is this really 'women's' fiction?

I say no. This is fiction for anyone with a brain and a heart. This is people fiction.

Erin O'Brien said...

Hey you guys, I've got a limited internet situation for a couple of days. Thanks for your comments (And I sure hope there's not too many broads in front of me in Dan's queue.)

I am here, somewhere, floating in the ether ...

Dan said...

Don't worry, O'Brien. I'm budgeting wisely. And, if I juggle some things around between the myriad of dependents, my illegitimate 20-year-old Cambodian child in San Francisco will just have to go without food this month.

Don't feel bad, though. It's not like he's not used to it. Plus, his mother's porn career has really taken off since she added "strung-out crack addict" to her repertoire of O-faces. I see a bright future for the both of them.

Anonymous said...

finally caught up in the archives -- was sent here by The Bad Astronomer. What a fantastic blog you have going here, Ms E. Who'da thunk such a literary and imaginative mind lived at the other end of the state?


Dan said...

Zandermann? You seem to be implying that Ohio has an end. Ohio never ends. It just keeps going around and around and around until anyone trapped in its swirling, unending vortex either dies or hurls up their Skyline chili and gets thrown off the ride.

Doug said...

Yeah, I didn't think of H&E as chick lit, either. Lit lit. Or . . . isn't there something called "contemporary fiction"?

But what I really want to know is, what are you working on currently?

Anonymous said...

Dan: only neophytes ever hurl Skyline