Saturday, August 20, 2005

“Into the Sunset”—Not so bad!

After I finished a tight draft of my first novel Into the Sunset last year, I wrote a query letter and sent it out. I got a couple of bites, and two requests for partial manuscripts. After two rejections, I figured I better just sit down and write a better book. The reason I thought this was because many of the books on writing I had read basically said, “Your first book will suck, so write it and get it over with. Then write the second one with the experience you learned with the first one.” So I did. And it was easier (and faster) to write the second novel. I’m very happy with this second novel, and think it will eventually find representation. Along the way, I bought into the fact that first novels suck. In my mind, I began to believe my first book wasn’t very good. I was even kind of afraid to go back and look at it again. Then a funny thing happened. I did go back to the first one after a seven month break to see if I could salvage it in any way. Though it did need some work, I was totally surprised at how good it was. I did a new draft, starting from page one on. I sharpened it, added more humor, fleshed out some scenes, slowed down the pace of other scenes. When I made it to the last page I immediately went back to page one and started again, and kept writing, and writing. It is now a lot funnier than before, the lead character is more rounded, and the overall voice of the story is stronger. Last week, I sent out my first query letter for this novel in six months. So it starts again...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Books On Writing

These books have helped me more than any other books on writing:

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
If you are a new writer, this book is for you. It will shave months, even years, off of your learning period. And nip any bad habits in the bud. It gave me the kick in the butt I needed when I started out.
Self-Editing For Fiction Writers

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Flat out the best book on novel writing I’ve ever come across. Immediately after reading this book, I sat down and outlined my second novel Like I’ve Never Been Born. With Bell’s guidance fresh on my mind, I wrote a 50K first draft in only three months. His idea of “doorways” was particularly helpful, and really sticks out in my mind still. What thrusts the lead character out of his ordinary life, and into one of confrontation/conflict? That is the first doorway that leads to the whole middle of the book. The second doorway sends the lead character toward the “knockout ending” and the story’s resolution. Good stuff.
Plot & Structure

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
Write a novel in 30 days! Very inspiring, and funny too. His notion of giving yourself a deadline is what really sticks in my mind (and, basically, is the whole concept of the 30 day novel). 50K words in 30 days breaks down to approximately 1,600+K words a day. Hard to do when you work full time. I cut it in third and wrote the 50K in 90 days—still fast. You just have to write every day and not give yourself any excuses. I was able to write 500-600 words a day and still get everything else I needed to do accomplished.
No Plot? No Problem!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Into the Sunset" Excerpt

I’ve decided to take a break from sending out query letters for my second novel, ”Like I’ve Never Been Born”, at least so I can re-work the query letter. I still think this is the book that will get me an agent. Meanwhile, I just revised my first novel, the comedy ”Into the Sunset”. I revamped my query letter for it and plan to send it to the agent for an author I admire. I will post the rejection when it arrives. Here is the opening paragraph of my novel ”Into the Sunset”:

Spring 2004
Chapter 1: Retiring Personality

“You’re an old man stuck in a young man’s body.” My ex-girlfriend Cindy once said this to me during one of our routine verbal skirmishes. I don’t remember what led her to make that claim, and, because I basically agreed with the assessment, I couldn’t really argue the point. But I did anyway. That’s what she and I did so well together—argue. Now, sitting in my car just before finally embarking on my master plan, I realized she may have been right; or maybe she had just planted the seed. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Either way, here I was. A young man in an old man’s body. Literally.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Buy my story "Astronaut" on a coffee mug!
View Mug
by Donald Capone

Jesse opened his eyes and thought he was an astronaut. He was suspended upside down by straps that held him tight. The only sound was a metallic, groaning noise—the sound the space shuttle must make after it breaks free from the earth’s atmosphere and enters the cold void. And it was dark, too dark to see. Soon there were other sounds that he focused on: A drip, drip, dripping, and the low moan of another person. He wasn’t in the shuttle. Where was he?

His head was pounding, throbbing with the beat of his heart. Blood was in his hair, in his eyes. A flash of memory came to him, a twisted face, the side of a big rig sliding toward him. Someone moaned again, and he tried to turn his head.

He was tumbling—no the car he was in was tumbling, rolling down an embankment. Wait, that already happened. He looked down, felt the release to the seatbelt and pressed. The pain as he hit the roof of the car was overwhelming. He was out again, strapped into the space shuttle, and looking at the blue planet covered in cotton. Water visible through the cotton. He was so thirsty.

A moan brought him back to earth. It wasn’t as dark as before. A drop of something dark landed on his face. He looked up and saw Helen hanging from the passenger seat, strapped in, bloody. An immense feeling of love for her washed over him.

The truck had jackknifed, was coming at them, its length spanning the entire road. He jerked the wheel hard to the right, which only succeeded in pointing the car toward a rocky cliff. Then they were tumbling, glass was breaking, limbs of trees, boulders, bushes. Something sharp struck his forehead. Soon he was floating, looking at the darkness, marveling at the moon.

“Help...” He looked up again. Helen had her eyes open. “Help me...Jesse.”

Jesse was alert now, okay, he needed to get help. Where was the cellphone? There, on the floor, no, ceiling, of the car. He slid it over. Did it still work? He flipped it open and the glow lit up his bloody face.

“I’m getting help, honey,” he said, and dialed 911. He saw the signal bouncing off a satellite.

“This is 911. What is your emergency?” a female voice said.

He thought of a joke, but didn’t voice it. Houston, we have a problem. “There’s been an accident...”

“Is anyone hurt?”

“My wife. And me. We’re hurt.”

“Was it a car accident?” the female voice said.


“Sir, can you tell me where you are?”

“In the car still. There was a truck, I think.” His mind was off again. Images of astronauts floating inside a spacecraft, weightless, objects drifting by as they smiled at the camera.

“Sir...sir!” the voice again, insistent. “Stay with me, keep talking until help arrives.”

But he was gone, thinking of the stiff flag, and the footprint that is never erased. He was cold, and began to shiver. A voice was calling him, a female voice through a speaker. Was it the NASA control center? “Sir, help will be there momentarily. Can you hear me?”

Then another voice: “Jesse. Where are you? I’m scared.”

“Don’t worry honey...Houston is coming.”

Time passed, or did it? He couldn’t tell. He felt hands, strong hands, pulling him free, a male voice saying “We have you. Everything’s okay. What is your name, sir?”

“Jesse.” He was lifted, then was on a bed, no, a stretcher. Red lights strobed and pulsed, blinded him. Wavy figures moved to and fro, blurry, all wearing the same color orange. Were they aliens?

“Jesse, we’re here to help you and your wife.” He was brought inside a vehicle, or capsule, or maybe the shuttle again. He was strapped down, ready for launch. When he opened his eyes next, he saw Helen being lifted into the capsule, also strapped down, ready for launch. The door was shut and the shuttle rocked gently, from side to side, like a boat in dock. The sound of an engine started, raw, powerful. It grew louder with the addition of a beating, rotating, flapping noise, Whap, whap, whap!

Jesse thought that the countdown must have begun. 10, 9, 8...

Suddenly they were airborne and he felt his stomach lurch. The shuttle turned right, then gained speed.

“Helen,” he said. “We’re flying.”


Then they were on the ground again, hands were lifting them up and out, placing them on concrete, rolling them toward bright lights, open doors, where figures in white waited. Was it heaven?

“Helen, we made it.”

“Yes,” she said.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Rejection Letters

A sampling of rejection letters I've received so far for my novel
"Like I've Never Been Born"

"Dear Donald Capone:
"Thank you very much for your query letter.
"We're very sorry to report that we don't believe that this described book would be saleable in today's tough marketplace.
"Please keep in mind that ours is a subjective response. Another agent may have a totally different response. We've been proven wrong before.
"Good luck in your quest for publication."
Standard rejection. At least they used my name.

"Dear Writer:
"Thank you very much for your recent submission. I regret that I cannot offer to represent your project. As an agent, I never take on a project unless I have a strong personal response to the material and feel I can successfully place it with a publisher. I am sorry I could not be more supportive, and send you the best wishes for good luck."
Impersonal. Didn't even use my name.

"Dear Mr. Capone:
"Thank you for sending me a query letter and synopsis of your novel. After careful evaluation, I have decided that I am not the right agent to represent your work. Please do not take this rejection as a comment on your writing ability. I can only properly represent material that greatly excites or interests me. I am sure another agent will feel quite differently about your work.
"Due to the volume of material sent to the agency (close to 800 unsolicited letters a month), I am unable to provide a personal evaluation or further explanation.
"Thank you for considering our agency. I wish you the best of luck finding representation and good fortune with your writing career."
This was a nice one.

"Thanks, Donald, but this wouldn't be right for us."
Short but sweet.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My Two Novels

I’m currently seeking representation for my two novels, “Into the Sunset” and “Like I’ve Never Been Born.” “Sunset” is a comic novel, while “Born” is more literary, my serious piece, but not without its moments of humor.

Since the books aren’t agented, I’m wary about putting my ideas out here on the internet. So I’ll be cagey about their descriptions. “Like I’ve Never Been Born” is my second novel, and probably the better of the two (due in large part no doubt to the fact that I already had the experience of writing the first one).

“Like I’ve Never Been Born” incorporates a landmark event in rock n’ roll history with the personal journey of my main character, Angela Girardi. I have been sending agent query letters out for the past two months, which have been roundly and soundly rejected. Frankly (and at the risk of sounding pretentious), if I was an agent and this query crossed my desk, I’d want to take a look at the manuscript, since it involves one of the legendary figures in pop culture and rock n’ roll history. But...because of the cool reception, and because I’ve just completed a revision on “Sunset,” I think I’ll try again with that book...

“Into the Sunset” is a comedy, plain and simple. It has sex, disguises, work place humor, sex, and romance. What else do you need to know? My main character, Wayne Benson, hatches a plot to lessen the stress of his bachelor lifestyle. The idea is brilliant, edgy, outrageous, and it just might work. Or will it? Sorry, I can’t be more specific about the plot. But I will say that while I was writing this book I always felt it would make a great film. I’ll give a more complete summary of the plot in future posts, and keep you informed as to my query success/failure for this book.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Short Stories

Some of my stories that have been published
Word Riot

"Another Day"

Thieves Jargon

"Door to Door Service"




Flask Fiction

"Green Panties" (PDF)

Susan DiPlacido's Novels-great summer reading!

Wow! I feel like I've been to Vegas and back three times. And lost my wallet, shirt, and heart along the way. DiPlacido has a winning recipe here. Without sending it out to a lab, I think I've determined the main ingredients: Part chick lit with a dash of Elmore Leonard, a hint of Mark McGwire's testosterone-based steroids, a pinch of Quentin Tarantino's violence (for extra zing), and finally some Penthouse letters to raise the temperature past the boiling point. Forget Oprah's reading list, take this one out to the pool with you so you can jump right in and cool off when you need to. Excuse me now, I need to take a cold shower.

In "Trattoria," Susan DiPlacido presents a different side of Las Vegas than she does in her other novel "24/7." The setting is not a corporate-owned casino and its accompanying gambling lifestyle, but a family-owned Italian restaurant, struggling for survival, and a gambling of a different sort-on love and family. DiPlacido brings the reader into the lives and minds of her characters, their inner desires and fears. You're rooting for everything to work out for them, but just like in real life, you know all too well what's at stake, and that the odds for a happy ending are stacked against them. "Trattoria" is a fun ride and it was hard to say goodbye to the characters when I finished the book.


OK, I really signed up for a blog because I wanted to post a message on Susan DiPlacido's blog. Also, it seemed like the thing to do. I mean everyone has a blog, right? I was the last kid on the block with a cell phone and I didn’t want to be left out in the cold without a blog to communicate my rants/angst/success with the rest of the world. The only problem—I don’t necessarily WANT to communicate my rants/angst/success with the rest of the world. But that will come, I’m sure, once I get into the whole blog swing. I guess this blog will mostly be geared toward my attempts at getting my two novels (“Into the Sunset” and “Like I’ve Never Been Born”) represented by an agent. "Sunset" is a comedy; "Born" is my serious "literary" novel, in which John Lennon is central to the story. More on those books in the next post.

Hey, I'm starting to like this!