Author Archives: brimercer

About brimercer

Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Atraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90 Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats. URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

Three Months Later

Aftersight

Thee months ago, in my blog entry “Writing and Staying Fit Simultaneously,” I chronicled what amounts to a new year’s resolution to get up early, work out and write every morning before work. 

It’s one thing to declare victory after a week’s success, it’s another to maintain a new habit long-term. Now, three months later, I wanted to provide an update on my progress.

First the plan: Get up every morning at five o’clock, do a half-hour of P90X3, shower, get dressed, and write for sixty to ninety minutes before leaving for work.

How have I done? Since I began, I’ve lost fifteen pounds (five percent of my body fat) and have an accumulated total of 27,000 words on my latest novel.

That’s not to say that it’s all gone smoothly. During those three months, I spent some time in Italy, which naturally meant I wasn’t working out or writing (other than blogs) much while I was away. There was also coming home and getting used to the nine-hour time difference between Tuscany and Seattle. Then, just when I was getting back into the old routine, Daylight Saving Time struck.

I got up and worked out every day, though admittedly sometimes a lot later than I’d hoped. And every day, even if it was only for a few minutes, I worked on my novel after my shower. Even if I was only reading over and tweaking what I’d written the night before, I always added at least one new line. At least one.

There is something about that momentum, that sense that I’m touching my work every day, that continues to drive me forward. Even on those mornings when the manuscript has loomed large and intimidating, when I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get from point A to B, working and reworking my scenes has left my satisfied that I’m headed in the right direction.

I’m here to tell you that you can do it, too. Even if working out is not your thing, you can still carve out time to put fingers to keyboard. How hard would it be to go to bed a half-hour earlier and wake just a half-hour earlier for a quick writing session? Try it. It might not be as difficult as you think.

Mastering Astral ProjectionBrian Mercer is the author of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and the Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he is the webmaster of and occasional contributor to Author Magazine. When he’s not working as a programmer analyst or exploring alternate dimensions out of body, he can be found writing novels. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara.

Site: http://www.brianmercerbooks.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BriMercer

Twitter: @BriMercer

 

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Filed under Brian Mercer, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, Writing & Editing

The Escape

Aftersight

This may sound strange, but when I get stressed out, I read books about the American Civil War: memoirs, journals, biographies, histories. For some reason, combat and camp life are equally interesting; reading about it always makes me feel better.

It’s an escape to some degree, yes, but what it comes down to is this: No matter how stressful or unhappy life can sometimes get, at least I know life is better for me than it was for those soldiers, who faced hardships far worse than I could possibly fathom: bad food, exhausting marches, seemingly endless tedium interrupted by sudden violence, the loss of dear friends with sometimes little or no warning, and the very real chance that a simple cough might turn into an illness from which they might not recover.  By comparison, even at the lowest ebb, my life looks pretty grand.

One of the more stressful times in my life occurred many years ago when my wife and I were searching for a house. At the time, the real estate market in Seattle was hot. Houses in our price range were going fast. That meant you had to be on call if a new house came on the market. Waiting even a day would likely mean it would be snatched up before you had a chance to see it. And if you toured a house you liked, it meant you had to make an offer immediately. There was no night’s sleep to mull over your decision. Frequently, with good houses that needed little or no work, there were multiple offers.

Reading novels kept me sane. I was at the time working my way through what would become my favorite book series of all time: Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. Before then, I could never read two books by the same author back to back. Even if I loved one book, I needed a little variety before I moved on to the next one.

Not so with the Aubrey/Maturin series. I remember fondly finishing one book, closing the cover and setting it down, then immediately picking up and starting the next one with scarcely a pause. Luckily for me, there were plenty of books in the series.

After three months and forty-nine house showings, my wife and I purchased a home. By the end I remember being utterly grateful to Mr. O’Brian. He had given me a profound gift, offering me the means not just to escape reality but just enough distraction that life became bearable in a very stressful time.

I remember thinking that this, more than anything else, is what I wanted to do as I writer: to give someone the gift that Mr. O’Brian gave me. A place to go when life wasn’t comfortable. Characters to laugh and cry with, surrogate friends who I loved as if they were the most cherished kindred spirits.

Has a book ever done that for you? Where do you escape? Please let me know in the comments below.

Mastering Astral ProjectionBrian Mercer is the author of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and the Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he is the webmaster of and occasional contributor to Author Magazine. When he’s not working as a programmer analyst or exploring alternate dimensions out of body, he can be found writing novels. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara.

Site: http://www.brianmercerbooks.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BriMercer

Twitter: @BriMercer

 

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Filed under Brian Mercer, Reading, The Writing Life, Writing & Editing

Editor’s Pitch

AftersightI file into the ballroom with six other conference attendees for an appointment with an editor from St. Martin’s Press. It’s only my second  Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s summer conference. Over the next two days I have private appointments to pitch my novel to two New York literary agents. I hope this editor’s meeting will be a simple formality, something to build my confidence for my two appointments with the agents.

I’d attended one of these editor’s meetings last year and this is how it works: You sit around a ballroom table with an editor and five or six of your fellow writers. The editor introduces herself, explains what she’s looking for, and passes out her business card. “Send me your first chapter,” she says, “and mention that we spoke at this conference.” The meetings last a half-hour to give everyone time to pitch their work, but no one actually talks about their manuscripts.

That’s how this year will go too, right?

We settle around the circular table. The editor, Erin Brown (who will later become a columnist for Author Magazine), steeples her hands in front of her. She has long, delicate fingers. A piano player’s fingers. “So, how does this work? I’ve never done this format before.”

Uh oh, I think. She’s not going to make us actually pitch, is she?

Erin spends a good deal of time talking about herself and the kind of projects for which she’s searching. I settle down, waiting for the customary moment when she asks us each to send her a chapter.

“Okay,” she says, “let’s go around the table and hear your pitches.”

Only fifteen minutes remain. There are six attendees sitting at the table with me. I do the math. That doesn’t leave each of us much time. Only one person separates me from Erin, but Erin choses to start from the opposite side of the circle. I’d written and rewritten my pitch for weeks. I have it down to a cool ninety seconds. If everyone keeps theirs to a few minutes, I might still be okay.

The attendees begin. They ramble on and on. Not only are none of them rehearsed, the writers seem to be figuring out what their stories are really about right here at the table. I groan inwardly, calculating and recalculating the remaining time.

“It’s like about this girl who, you know, is like trying to find herself after 9/11.” Erin: Send it! “I was a truck driver for forty-eight years and it’s about all my experiences.” Erin: Send it! “It’s an English translation of my novel that was published in Nicaragua.” Send it!

I relax a little. No matter what they have, she wants it.

Finally, it’s my turn. Three minute are left for me and the woman to my right, so I start. Unlike the others, I sound polished. Mine has a beginning, a middle, and end. I have props. A soundtrack. Toward the end, I light off a few sparklers.

When it’s over, the whole table is staring at me like I’m crazy. Erin’s expression suggests that she’s contemplating calling hotel security. “Well, you know, that’s really not what I’m looking for…”

On the way out the door, the old trucker who prattled on and on about the women he’d seen during his years on the road offers to give me pointers on how to pitch. I emerge from the ballroom destroyed, embarrassed, my confidence in flames.

There, on business of his own, is Bill Kenower, editor of Author Magazine (we’d just started publishing the magazine a few months before). I relate what happened. How can I possibly meet with the agents after that disaster?

His expression is intent and confident. “Cancel all this. Success, it’s coming! Know it. Feel it. This is just a step in the journey. It’s not the journey.”

I go on to meet with both agents. Both want to see my manuscript. I begin to understand the power of perception. Viewpoint is everything when it comes to perceiving a no.

It serves as a beginning.

Author Photo 2 Square - Copy copy

Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

Site: http://www.brianmercerbooks.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BriMercer

Twitter: @BriMercer

 

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Filed under Brian Mercer, Literary Agents, Pitching