Agents Update: Russ Smash!

The last few weeks proved a real test for me. I was very energetic, gearing up for another wave of query letters?including sending sample pages requested by a local agent?when my trust printer started getting wonky on me.

I got a message on the read-out that said the color ink cartridge was out and needed replacing. I looked at the message curiously, as the color cartridge was fairly new. Still, I replaced it. And yet the message was still the same. Not good.

So after doing some onlineThe last few weeks proved a real test for me. I was very energetic, gearing up for another wave of query letters?including sending sample pages requested by a local agent?when my trust printer started getting wonky on me.

I got a message on the read-out that said the color ink cartridge was out and needed replacing. I looked at the message curiously, as the color cartridge was fairly new. Still, I replaced it. And yet the message was still the same. Not good.

So after doing some online research, I found that I needed to clean the printer heads, which were likely filled with pools of ink gunk. I did as instructed, getting red, yellow and blue ink all over my hands and arms, and then started the printer back up. Same deal. No dice.

So I went back and did yet more research, and found a bunch of other people who all had the same problem. The reality was that my printer had simply crapped out. The ink heads were done. Toast. And when that happens, it just isn?t worth the money to replace them. It?s time to buy a new printer.

Normally I would have gotten really upset. At least two weeks had gone by without being able to print out letters and keep the momentum flowing on Finders Keepers?something I can directly influence?but I decided to take a more patient approach than I?ve had in the past when these kinds of problems arise, which is me getting angry and petty, yelling at a machine for not functioning properly when I decide that it should. After all, getting upset wasn?t going to magically fix the printer, although the thought did cross my mind to smash it with a hammer until the pages started flowing. But I allowed reason to lead the way, and simply stayed calm. Patient.

In total it took about three and half weeks until I had a new printer in place, but now that it?s up and running and working like a charm, I?m back at it. Over the last week I?ve sent out a dozen query letters?including those sample pages to the agent who requested them?and have several more to go.

And yet I have to admit that a part of me missed not throwing a little tantrum over the faulty machinery?for some reason, acting so petty sometimes makes me feel important; ego stroking, I suppose?and yet the other part of me felt really satisfied that I didn?t let those petty, immature impulses dictate my attitude or my actions.

It?s amazing how much my fate can be tied to a hunk of machinery like a printer, but this is how it goes. Sometimes the printer dies, sometimes the computer dies. It happens. It?ll happen again. It?s just that being a writer in this modern age has me so dependent on these electronic gadgets?gadgets that usually work well?that when they konk out, I get frustrated. But worse, I feel helpless, which is where I think the petty tantrums come from. It?s my lashing out at my lack of control. For the most part, I don?t have the technical expertise to fix these gadgets myself?and to get instant relief from my frustration. To a certain degree, I am at their mercy.

Technology can be wonderful. And sometimes not so much. But at least the flow of agents letters is finally back on track. The buzz is flowing on Finders Keepers, and I?m back in my rhythm, feeling good.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/09/06 06:51

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/10/16 05:43

New Comic-Con 2007 Photo Gallery!

At long last I’ve got a bunch of new photos up from the San Diego Comic-Con! So if you want to get some more flavor from the madness that was Comic-Con, go to the photos sections and check it out!

And big thanks goes out to Ray Bonn, for providing most of the new pics!

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/08/30 11:20

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/08/31 06:56At long last I’ve got a bunch of new photos up from the San Diego Comic-Con! So if you want to get some more flavor from the madness that was Comic-Con, go to the photos sections and check it out!

And big thanks goes out to Ray Bonn, for providing most of the new pics!

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/08/30 11:20

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/08/31 06:56

Tales of an Insomniac

My name is Russ Colchamiro and I?m an insomniac.

People have asked me why I get up at 5 a.m. every day to write, instead of writing at night when I get home from work. There are several reasons, but one is that I [i]can?t [/i]write at night. Not that I?m physically unable?I can actually sit at my desk and clack the keys?but if I do, I?m screwed for the night and the next day.

My battle with insomnia started when I was about three years old. It could have started even earlier, I really My name is Russ Colchamiro and I?m an insomniac.

People have asked me why I get up at 5 a.m. every day to write, instead of writing at night when I get home from work. There are several reasons, but one is that I [i]can?t [/i]write at night. Not that I?m physically unable?I can actually sit at my desk and clack the keys?but if I do, I?m screwed for the night and the next day.

My battle with insomnia started when I was about three years old. It could have started even earlier, I really can?t be sure, but I vividly remember not being able to sleep, even at that age. I have this one particular memory of me, in my little onesy pajamas, making forts on the floor with my little desk chair, well past midnight, and thinking that it was weird that I couldn?t sleep, but that it was a little bit fun to have the extra time to let my mind wander. But as time went on, the last thing I wanted was for my mind to wander at night. That?s when I need to sleep, and I can?t do that if my mind is churning a million miles an hour.

What I?ve learned through experience is that when I write at night, my mind really starts to rev because my mental juices are really flowing. About character development, about dialog. About plot twists and details. And what comes next, and what?s missing, and if people will like my book and when I?ll be finished and when I can start marketing it and if it will get good reviews and if I?ll make money, get on the talk shows, start my next book and the one after that, but also make time to get stuff done around the house and then I?m onto what happed at work and when I have to get up and if I have enough cat food and if not when to get it when to get it where to get it and …

You get my point.

Once my mind starts racing, I can?t stop it. It?s like riding a sled on an icy mountain going downhill?it just picks up speed and doesn?t stop until it finally crashes at the bottom.

So I?ve learned?the hard way?that I need to stop writing a minimum … a minimum … of three hours before I go to bed. Since I go to bed around 10 p.m., that means I have to be done writing by 7 p.m., which doesn?t leave me much time at night. Thus, I get up at 5 a.m. It?s only time during the work week when I can sit and write and not have it wreck my nights.

About three years ago I finally conquered my insomnia, and I plan to keep it that way. But like a recovering alcoholic, it?s easy to slip up, and I have to stay away from temptation. I?m almost always tempted when I get home at night to just write a little bit, just take a few notes, tweak some dialog … blog. Anything.

Why? Because I?m a writer. Because writing calls out to me. It?s who I am. Am I addicted to writing? I don?t know. Maybe. But since I?ll be writing for as long as there?s still breath in my body I needed to figure out some boundaries so that I can function. For me, that means no writing at night.

If you have insomnia, there?s a bunch of things that you can do as part of good sleep hygiene to help train your body to sleep when you?re in bed. The key, I think, is to limit your bed activities. Sleep and sex. And that?s it.

– No TV in bed

– No reading in bed

– No eating in bed

– No talking on the phone in bed

– No iPod in bed

– No laptop in bed

– No exercise 2 hours before bed

– No eating 2 hours before bed

– If you don?t fall asleep in 15 minutes, get up and do something else. When you?re tired, back in bed.

The reason is that you want to train you body?and your mind?that when you?re in actually in your bed, it?s time to go … to … sleep.

Trust me, I didn?t go from insomniac to solid sleeper in one night, but I did adjust over time and now my sleep is reasonably normal. This isn?t to say that I never have a bad night?s sleep. Sometimes I have several bad nights in a row, sometimes even a week. But when I?m not sleeping, it?s usually because I broke some of the rules.

Another big help occurs on those nights when I?m real anxious about the next day. When that happens, I usually get out of bed?regardless of what time it is?and make a list of the all the things I want to do tomorrow. I write them down, getting it all out of my mind. That way I?m not thinking about them in bed, keeping me up all hours. When I?ve gotten that out of the way, I can just lie back, relax and sleep.

For most people, sleep is no big deal. But for me?a writer?it?s a very big deal indeed.

Mad Men is Amazing

Liz and I have been watching the new series–Mad Men–on AMC, and I can say without hesitation that it is great. It looks and feels like it should be on HBO–in fact, HBO passed on it originally, and now admits that it probably made a mistake.

It’s about these advertising executives in 1960 who work on Madison Avenue–thus Mad Men–but it’s really about the social politics of life back then, when men drink and smoke all day in the office, have all the power, screw their secretaries and geneLiz and I have been watching the new series–Mad Men–on AMC, and I can say without hesitation that it is great. It looks and feels like it should be on HBO–in fact, HBO passed on it originally, and now admits that it probably made a mistake.

It’s about these advertising executives in 1960 who work on Madison Avenue–thus Mad Men–but it’s really about the social politics of life back then, when men drink and smoke all day in the office, have all the power, screw their secretaries and generally keep women in a state of total submission.

The lead character is Don Draper, a 40-ish executive who seems to have it all–great job, great wife and kids–but is hiding some inner turmoil and past that he doesn’t want anyone to know about. He’s got all of these secrets–most of which we don’t know about yet–and it just makes him so fascinating. The supporting characters are great, too, with lots of juicy little subplots. And it’s cheesy subplots, but many subtle moments that gives you a look into the window of these people who act like they know what they’re doing, but deep down don’t seem to have a clue.

It’s great TV. My top recommendation.

Superbad

Wow. I had no idea that Superbad would be that raunchy. Word for word Superbad might be the most foul-mouthed movie I’ve ever seen. It’s actually a little bit cringe-inducing.

It’s still hilarious and loads of fun, but whoa! I wasn’t execting that.

Worth the price of admission, but definitely the raunchiest of the Apatow movies–Knocked Up and Forty Year Old Vrigin.

They really pushed the envelope on this one …Wow. I had no idea that Superbad would be that raunchy. Word for word Superbad might be the most foul-mouthed movie I’ve ever seen. It’s actually a little bit cringe-inducing.

It’s still hilarious and loads of fun, but whoa! I wasn’t execting that.

Worth the price of admission, but definitely the raunchiest of the Apatow movies–Knocked Up and Forty Year Old Vrigin.

They really pushed the envelope on this one …

In Training for Book 2

As the buzz continues to build on Finders Keepers and as I get ever closer to landing an agent–and a book deal–I’m getting ready to start writing book No. 2.

And let me tell you, just the thought of it really has my juices flowing. I’m excited. And every day that goes by I get just a little more revved up, as I’ve got ideas galore. This baby’s gonna be fun …But there’s one little, itsy-bitsy obstacle standing in the way right now (other than I’m not quite ready; go time should be Oct 1)As the buzz continues to build on Finders Keepers and as I get ever closer to landing an agent–and a book deal–I’m getting ready to start writing book No. 2.

And let me tell you, just the thought of it really has my juices flowing. I’m excited. And every day that goes by I get just a little more revved up, as I’ve got ideas galore. This baby’s gonna be fun …But there’s one little, itsy-bitsy obstacle standing in the way right now (other than I’m not quite ready; go time should be Oct 1):

I’m not in shape.

Sounds weird to say it, even to me, but experience has taught me that to undertake such a massive project isn’t simply a matter of sitting down to write (although that’s a nice first step). I have to physically, emotionally and psychologically prepare myself to do it, as the next book will take me about a year to write, although hopefully less.

I kinda feel like Rocky in the first movie, when he signs on to fight Apollo. Rocky’s alarm goes off at 4 a.m. He’s groggy and miserable. It’s cold outside. He can barely get going, he struggles to complete his work out. But by the time the big fight comes … cue music–Bum bub-ba bum bub-ba bum bub-ba-bum …

And he’s in great shape, running down the streets, jumping over benches, doing on-armed push-ups and lifting crazy weights.

Well … I’m not saying I’ll be jogging through downtown Queens at 4 a.m., but I have to adjust my sleep and morning schedule to get ready to write for the next year.? By the time Oct. 1 rolls around, my schedule will something like this:

Monday, Wed., Friday (a.m.):

4:55 – alarms goes off

5:05 – shower

5:20 – get dressed, small breakfast

5:45 – feed cat

5:50 – open files, start writing

7:15 – go to work

8:30 – 10 pm – regular life stuff

10 (pm): go to sleep

Tuesday and Thursdays:

same as M, W, F, except I work out instead of writing

Saturday and Sunday?

7:00 – alarm goes off

7:30 – work out

9:00 – write (3 to 4 hours)

1 pm – 10 pm – regular life stuff

Which should amount to about 10-12 hours total writing time per week.

In all fairness, I don’t stick to this schedule every single day. Some days I’m just too tired to get up at 5 a.m. Sometimes, I’m sick, sometimes I’ve had a late night. Sometimes regular life just gets in the way. I estimate, however, that I stick to this routine about two-thirds of the time, which is pretty good, I think, all things considered.

Without this routine, I simply can’t get my writing done. I’m a chronic insomniac, so I can’t write at night (more on this later). Plus, after work is my down time, and the time I like to spend with my wife.

So I get up at 5 a.m. And when people first hear that, they tend to cringe. But here’s the thing. I find that many people get up at 6 a.m. So what’s one hour earlier? I go to bed at 10 p.m., which means that if I get right to sleep (sometimes yes, sometimes no), that’s 7 hours sleep. I’ll take it.

But it is a grind. Keeping this pace up over a long stretch isn’t easy. But for me, it’s worth it. And since I’m not at a place yet where I can write to pay the bills, I make the sacrifices to make what I love possible. Because my writing is so important to me, because I’m different without it.

At this point, I’m getting up at around 5:20 a.m. on a semi-regular basis during the week, and then "sleeping in" until about 7:30 a.m. on the weekends. So I’m not quite where I need to be, but I’ve got another month to go. And when October 1 rolls around, I’ll be in game shape. I’ll be ready.

And when that happens, look out.

I’ll be ready to roll.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/08/26 13:51

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/08/26 13:52

The 28th Street Moment

On my way to work today, riding the F train, I was reading [i]American Psycho[/i] by Bret Easton Ellis. I?m about a third of the way through, and at this point in the novel lead character Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale in the movie version) is getting particularly gruesome. He?s just done some very evil things to a homeless person, all between rants about the merits of the Genesis catalog of music and which restaurant is most trendy, and therefore worthwhile of his attentions.

AnOn my way to work today, riding the F train, I was reading [i]American Psycho[/i] by Bret Easton Ellis. I?m about a third of the way through, and at this point in the novel lead character Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale in the movie version) is getting particularly gruesome. He?s just done some very evil things to a homeless person, all between rants about the merits of the Genesis catalog of music and which restaurant is most trendy, and therefore worthwhile of his attentions.

And then a young guy came up to me on the subway, probably in his early 20s, asking if the train we were on would get him to 28th street. I assured him that it would, that he could get off at the 34th street stop at Herald Square, and then walk from there. He was very polite, and thanked me.

A few minutes later, when the train stopped and we both were getting up, he thanked me again. As before, he was polite and sincere. And when we exited onto the platform, he started walking toward the 35th street exit, so I let him know that he actually wanted to go the other way. He turned around, and thanked me yet again.

I know this wasn?t a monumental exchange, but it made me feel good. In just a very small way I made someone?s life just a tiny bit better. He got something out of it, and I got to feel good about myself for a minute. It didn?t solve any of my problems or give me a grand revelation, but it reminded me of the little joys we can get out of the smallest exchanges, and that a lot of little moments add up over time.

As my hero Zig Ziglar says, the world is ultimately changed by the small words and acts that accompany our daily interactions with others.

So this was my good deed for the day. It may have been small, but in it?s own way, it felt big.

Lucky Indeed

This weekend Liz and I were down in the Baltimore area visiting some long-time friends, who just hosted their 10th annual BBQ weekend.

On Saturday night, in the midst of a tale for another day, a bunch of us ran into some neighbors, who, before the night ended around 2 a.m., stumbled over into the backyard with us to knock back a few cold beers. These were college kids?21 and 22 years old?and they seemed just so young and fresh-faced, as most us are in our mid-30s, and some on the cusp of This weekend Liz and I were down in the Baltimore area visiting some long-time friends, who just hosted their 10th annual BBQ weekend.

On Saturday night, in the midst of a tale for another day, a bunch of us ran into some neighbors, who, before the night ended around 2 a.m., stumbled over into the backyard with us to knock back a few cold beers. These were college kids?21 and 22 years old?and they seemed just so young and fresh-faced, as most us are in our mid-30s, and some on the cusp of 40.

And one of the college dudes, in his drunkenness, said something that was simple yet significant. ?You guys are so lucky,? he said. ?You?ve know each other 15, maybe 20 years, and you?re still together, hanging out. Still friends. You?re so lucky.?

And he?s right.

While many people sort of drift in and out of our lives over the years, it is really comforting to know that I?m still friends today with the same core group that I started with almost 20 years ago. They?re a good, loyal bunch?just quality people?and I can?t put a premium on that. Some people are buddies, but these are friends. Real friends. And sometimes it?s easy to overlook–to take for granted–what?s always around, just assuming that it?ll always be there.

Because many friendships?most friendships?just don?t stand the test of time. And these have.

And while I?m definitely lucky in this regard, it isn?t all luck.

Indeed, there?s some randomness (or is it fate?) to who meet, but like with any relationship, we have to work at it. With good friends, we shouldn?t have to work too hard, or else what?s the point, but just because we were connected with someone once doesn?t therefore mean that will always be the case. We all change, and sometimes in ways that takes us in different directions.

And sometimes there are hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Sometimes we act like jackasses, reacting badly to life?s stresses, taking it out on the wrong person. Sometimes we feel slighted, but don?t always realize just how much we?re stung, and then it grows. And sometimes little things turn into really big things. It happens. In fact, hurt feelings and misunderstandings are unavoidable. They are part of friendships.

So how we handle the rough patches?if we?re willing to put in the effort when it is needed most?will go a long way to determining whether our friendships endure the decades.

The duration of our friendships are, at least in part, a testament to how we value and nurture them. Mostly, friendships should be fun and somewhat easy. But when they?re not, it?s a matter of hanging in there and being willing to be honest, open?and humble. To admit when we?re wrong; to accept apologies. Sometimes, to simply agree to disagree. And laugh about it together.

So that we can go on enjoying all the good times.

Friendships aren?t free, nor should they be. But the good ones … they?re just something that money can never buy.

So today?s blog is dedicated to Tom, Rich and Ron, who have been there all these years, and hoping that we’re still hanging out when we’re old and gray, still feeling lucky.

Reject O.J. and His Evil Book!

Now that the once-canceled O.J. Simpson book ?If I Did It? is going back into production, I am sickened and outraged.

O.J., of course, is a total scuzzbucket and deserves the very worst that can befall a man.

The publisher of this book is a complete scuzzbucket for allowing this drivel to see print.

O.J.?s agent is a complete scuzzbucket for representing such a scuzzbucket.

And anyone who buys this book is a scuzzbucket by association for endorsing the aforementioned scuzzbucNow that the once-canceled O.J. Simpson book ?If I Did It? is going back into production, I am sickened and outraged.

O.J., of course, is a total scuzzbucket and deserves the very worst that can befall a man.

The publisher of this book is a complete scuzzbucket for allowing this drivel to see print.

O.J.?s agent is a complete scuzzbucket for representing such a scuzzbucket.

And anyone who buys this book is a scuzzbucket by association for endorsing the aforementioned scuzzbuckets.

The fact that something so evil and putrid is getting financial and marketing support of any kind unveils the worst, most hideous side to human nature. Some people are going to be drawn to this book just to see how outrageous it is, but it is an utter monstrosity and I implore to you reject this book and anyone associated with its publication or dissemination with extreme prejudice.

Turn your backs and scorn those who support it in any way. This book is evil, and it is our duty to fight back that evil when it tries to infiltrate our lives.

I?m sorry if I?m sounding so preachy right now, but I?m nauseas to my core over this, and I hope you are too.

We?re better than this.

Way.

Better.

Do something good and positive by rejecting what is just so negative and bad.

We are better than this.

We are better than this …

The 1-Page Synopsis

One of the toughest parts of the query process?at least for me?has been coming up with a short synopsis for Finders Keepers. And the only reason I?ve been working on a short-synopsis is because certain agents ask for one.

On the surface, you think, okay, I?ll just give a fairly concise wrap-up of my book. But in writing a synopsis, it isn?t just a matter of boiling the book down to its core elements. It?s more complex and nuanced than that. You?ve got to write the synopsis so that?unto itsOne of the toughest parts of the query process?at least for me?has been coming up with a short synopsis for Finders Keepers. And the only reason I?ve been working on a short-synopsis is because certain agents ask for one.

On the surface, you think, okay, I?ll just give a fairly concise wrap-up of my book. But in writing a synopsis, it isn?t just a matter of boiling the book down to its core elements. It?s more complex and nuanced than that. You?ve got to write the synopsis so that?unto itself?it is an intriguing read. [i]And[/i] it has to capture the key points of your book [i]and[/i] it has to unfold in the same sequence as your book. [i]And [/i]it has to do so in such a fashion that whoever reads your synopsis can say, ?Okay. I totally get this book from beginning to end.?

In one page.

Needles to say, this has not been any easy process. Finders Keepers is a multi-character, multi-arc story with a big overarching tale. How do you boil that down to ONE FRIGGIN PAGE?

You find a way.

Now … some agents ask for a ?short? synopsis, some ask for a one-page synopsis, some ask for a 2-page synopsis while others ask for a 20-page synopsis. For the longest time the best I could do was boil it down to a three-page synopsis, which, to my way of thinking, seemed reasonable, since Finders Keepers is in three parts.

But an agent who recently requested that I send 40 pages of Finders Keepers also asked for a one-page synopsis, so my motivation has been in full swing to get the synopsis down pat. And I think I?ve done it. With some help from writing buddy Michael Wolfe, and Liz, I?m just about there. I?ve got the synopsis down to one page. When you?re only allowed a single page to describe and recount an entire book, every word counts.

If you ever want to try your hand at writing?or more disciplined writing?try writing a one-page synopsis of any long story. It?s a challenge, all right, but I can see its value. If you want someone to back your project, you want them to be able to soak it all in?quickly and easily. Thus the synopsis.

It hasn’t been easy, been it feels to good to get there.

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