Friday, March 15, 2019

Why Getting a Novel Published is the Exact Opposite of Shaving a Corn: My Path to Becoming A Published Author, Part I


     I have this patient, let's call her Opal. That's not her name, but you get the point, she was born a long time ago. Opal is a mighty healthy lady despite her many years; she just has this one problem, a troublesome corn on the bottom of her right big toe that makes every step painful. But she's a tough lady, and she hobbles around for a few weeks until she can't stand it another minute, and comes in to see me. She's also a little forgetful, so she doesn't remember she's come in for the same problem at least two dozen times over the years. She bursts into tears when she starts explaining the problem to me, and I assure her I can fix it.
     "You can?"
     The tears slow down; her mouth curls into a hesitant smile.
     "Sure."
     The smile becomes more confident; the tears stop.
     "Ohhh, you don't know how much I would appreciate it."
     I do know, because this exact scenario has transpired so many times I feel like I'm on the set of Groundhog Day. I get her situated on the table and grab my supplies, a #11 scalpel blade and a handful of alcohol wipes, which I use to clean the bottom of her foot. Her corn comes into focus, a nasty little bugger which has grown deep into her flesh. Distracting her with a few lines of the latest song running through my head--in this case, Patsy Cline's Crazy--I wield the scalpel, using short, flat strokes to pare away the thick layers of keratin that have made Opal so unhappy. 
     "Crazy for feeling so lonely."
     In five minutes, it's done. The corn has been reduced to a pile of dead skin shavings on the floor--which reminds me I forgot to put a chuck down to catch the debris--and Opal has tolerated the procedure well, except for the singing.
     "Crazy for feeling so blue."
     She puts the foot down on the floor, tentatively at first, because the one thing she does remember is how much that usually hurts. But the corn is gone, and the pressure of her step is painless. She starts prancing around the room in unadulterated joy, which makes me so happy I don't even mind that her insurance company refuses to pay me for the procedure. I remind her she needs to see the podiatrist (she'll never go) and that's it; a beaming Opal walks out of the office telling anyone and everyone what a great doctor I am.
      "I'm crazy for trying and crazy for crying."
     Do you know what goes through my head as I sit there, shaving Opal's corn for the nth time? (Besides the lyrics of Crazy?) Yup, you guessed it, that publishing a book is the exact opposite of shaving a corn. It's possible that this particular thought has never popped into your head--in fact, it's probable, if not certain--but as a physican and an author, it occurs to me every time I shave a corn, which I do two or so times a month. Here's why.

  • Fewer than 1 in every 100 manuscripts submitted to a publisher ultimately gets published, that's less than 1%. In contrast, I have attempted to shave off more than 1,000 corns, and have been successful every time.
  • I started my first manuscript more than 15 years ago (landed neither an agent nor a publisher). I finished my second manuscript 7 years ago (I signed with an agent but, despite much interest, it never sold). I signed a publishing contract in November 2018 for my third mansucript, which I had begun six years earlier. It takes me approximately 5 minutes to shave off a corn, 10 for the really stubborn ones that are as hard as iron. 
  • When a publisher requests my manuscipt (which they only do after reviewing the first one to three chapters and synopsis previously sent) I am not at all confident they are going to offer publication. Why am I so fatalistic, even though I have re-written and edited the manuscript several times? Why am I so pessimistic, even though they have already seen part of the book and clearly liked it? It's a numbers game: My agent and I have sent my three manuscripts off to more than 120 publishers; I have signed just one publishing contract. When a patient calls and asks me to shave off a corn, I am dead certain the patient will leave corn-free and happy.
  • When I get a response back from a publisher after submitting a manuscript, my stomach flip-flops like I'm on a rusty rollercoaster, sweat beads on my brow, my hands shake. When I take a razor-sharp scalpel and cut into a corn, my heart doesn't race, air doesn't stick in my throat.
  • I have been writing, as I mentioned above, for more than fifteen years. In that time, I have made a total of zero dollars (my book comes out summer/fall 2019, so that will change, but still); the insurance company reimbursed me 60$ or so for the ten minutes I spent shaving Opal's corn.
Okay, so there they are, the five reasons getting a novel published is the exact opposite of shaving a corn. I thought it would make a good introduction to my blog series, My Path to Becoming a Published Author. The premise is simple; I waged a long and ultimately successful battle to get published, and, in the process, learned a lot about the publishing industry and what it takes it get over the hump. I'm looking forward to sharing it with anyone who wants to know how a guy with no platform, no MFA, and no previous publishing credits is expecting a box of books--that he wrote--to arrive in the mail.

See you next month.
cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Intern, coming in 2019 from TouchPoint Press; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Importance of Being Persistent




My first rejection came in the mail before I turned ten. I had written a story about a police officer and his dog--from the viewpoint of the dog--and sent it to the New Yorker. The rejection came a couple of months later, along with a coupon for a free year's subscription to the magazine. I should have seen it as a harbinger of things to come, but I didn't, remaining blissfully unaware of my fate for forty-five years.

I don't mean to imply that I've had more than my fair share of rejection, but I have had my share. Every writer does. Rejection is simply part and parcel of the business; the part and parcel that every writer hates. But it's a necessary part all the same. Every rejection I've had--after the crying and the stomping of the feet--has led to improvement. There is no better incentive to get better, to hone your craft, than the soul-sucking experience of rejection and the desire not to experience it again.

The other nice part about rejection? It makes the acceptance all the sweeter when it finally comes. And mine finally came. I will take a second to tell you how sweet it was. I honestly felt like I was floating. So many feelings coursed through me--elation, relief, excitement--but the primary one was vindication. After dozens of literary agents, agency readers and interns, editors and publishers have implied that you weren't quite good enough, you get confirmation that you are. And it is confirmation, because every writer knows they can write, that all they need is a chance. They'd have to believe in themselves to keep going despite all the passes and rejections, the seemingly endless stream of bad news.

And that's my lesson to every writer who wants to be published. Keep believing, keep writing, and keep querying. Persist. I suspect this salient advice for anyone trying to do anything, but it is especially germane to the writer in 2018. Persist. Don't let rejection define you as a writer. Keep at it.

I did. Forty-five years after my first rejection at the ago of 9, I am soon to be a published author; The Intern (TouchPoint Press) comes out in 2019. I hope you don't have wait that long, but I will say one thing:

It was worth the wait.

Cheers, peter
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Intern, coming in 2019 from TouchPoint Press; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Wisdom of Swine: The Top 10 Things Pigs Can Teach Us, on the #MINI


There's just something about pigs that makes them fodder for expressions and idioms from all over the world. My father was especially fond of porcine proverbs, and I have included several of his favorites in my top ten. Without further ado (this being the #MINI and all.) here they are:


Number 10: Happy as a pig in mud.

Where's your mud? Wallow in it.




Number 9: Even a blind pig sometimes finds a truffle.

This explains why even I have a good round of golf once in a while.





Number 8: Bring home the bacon.

Not to be confused with 'bring home the soy bacon.'

Number 7: Living High off the Hog.

Life's short, eat the bacon.

Number 6: You Can Put Lipstick on a Pig, but It's Still a Pig

Keep this in mind when you watch Fox news...




Number 5: Don't buy a pig in a poke.

I don't want to buy a pig in anything... The B-B-Q place down the street handles all that quite nicely.

Number 4: Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered

Keep this in mind next year when you fill out your tax return.

Number 3: There's too many Pigs for the Tits

The last couple of piglets will end up Sucking Hind Teat.




Number 2: You Can't Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow's Ear

You can't really make anything out of a sow's ear, they are as worthless as a sow's ear.

Number 1: If you want to get the Mud out of the Water, you got to get the Hog out of the Spring.

Or out of the White House... #justsaying


Cheers, peter
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Don't Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz: A Book Review on the Thursday Afternoon #MINI



If you have read a lot of thrillers, you will be familiar with the premise of Gregg Hurwitz's Don't Look Back: Eve Hardaway, every day woman, having lost her husband, her career, and her inner self to the tedium of every day life, goes on a vacation to the jungles of Mexico to find herself, only to become the target of a deranged terrorist determined to kill her. Sound familiar? It does, and that's because it's a working formula for thrillers; ordinary people with ordinary problems put into extraordinary circumstances. Who couldn't relate to that?

The extraordinary circumstances? Here's where the problems begin. It just so happens that one of the world's most wanted terrorists lives right next to the Eco-lodge that Eve and her fellow adventurers are staying in. When Eve happens to glimpse the man--an Islamic extremist--as she uses the toilet, he goes on a mission to kill every man, woman and child at the lodge in order to protect his identity. Every thriller has to have a turbine to drive the action, a reason for the protagonist and the antagonist to do what they do, and this unlucky event is it. A not overly-complex plot such as this needs superior prose and characterization to make it work, and Hurwitz certainly delivers with his outstanding prose, which is flowing and descriptive, if sometimes over-descriptive to the point of distraction. The characters aren't there, however: the MC falls flat, and her recurrent flashbacks about promising her young son she will always be there for him make her seem whiny rather than provoking sympathy; and the antagonist is improbable (a jihadist in the jungles of Mexico?) and cliched to the point that I had to skim over paragraphs on a repeated basis.

I did enjoy the story, however, reservations aside, and it moves along quite nicely, thank you, albeit within the parameters of its limited structure.  Hurwitz is a talented writer, and you will enjoy this quick read depsite its flaws. (I can also highly recommend his Ophan X series.)

As always with the #MINI, I include a few reviews from other sources (as if the Washington Times can be trusted!), and the link to the amazon site in case you want to buy the book:

Washington Times Book Review

Kirkus Reviews

Amazon Page: Don't Look Back

Cheers, peter
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Millers All Day: A Dining Review on the #MINI


Millers All Day is the kind of restaraunt that makes you want to be hungry. My wife, daughter and I were strolling down King Street in Historic Downtown Charleston and we just kinda ran into the place at a time when my wife was hungry (and therefore everyone was hungry, if you get my meaning.) So we went in.



The first good sign was that queue was good and long. As I tell my patients when I'm running late: When you're going out to eat, you pull over when you see the line of people spilling out the door, and you get in the back of the line. <Patient gives confused look as to why I am telling this story> The moral of the story is that people will wait for good food. We waited.

When I go out to eat, I like a place with a good vibe. Millers All Day has a real good vibe; there's a good buzz of conversation, but it isn't too loud, and people were having a good time. I like good food as much as the next guy, but I don't like places that are so reverent about their food that they don't allow laughter. (Also, I can't afford those places.) Millers All Day hits the sweet spot between spirited atmosphere and mosh pit loud. And the waitress was perfect; friendly and hip without being too chummy or demanding you eat something you don't want to, like grits.

In the end, though, a place to eat lives and dies but the food it serves. I sampled several different offerings (I had to get a feel for the place, right?). The BLT salad was perfect: perfectly cooked (meaning crisp and not overdone) shrimp and warm bacon over a bed of butter lettuce and heirloom tomatoes, with sunflower seeds and a vinagarette that had just enough (but not too much) vinegar. For a guy that had just had a gelatto in the Farmer's marker, I ate every but of it. The quiche my wife ordered was also excellent (she didn't intend to give me any but she excused herself to go to the Ladies Room and didn't take her dish with her) in particular the side salad of fresh asparagus and portabellos topped with a citrus dressing and goat cheese.

I could go on, but (you don't want me to) and the rules of the #MINI are clear: Short and Sweet, Mister. The bottom line is: If you are hungry (or your wife is hungry) and you are in Downtown Charleston, Millers All Day is offering great food and convivial atmosphere All Week.

 Cheers, peter
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.








Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Sixth Extinction: A Book Review on the #MINI


There are good books, there are great books, and then there are great books that change the way you think. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, is a great book that can not only change the way you think but how you live as well. Simply put, The Sixth Extinction is a chronicle of the five major extinctions that have occured on earth and the sixth extinction that is occuring right now, the so-called Anthropocene Extinction. It is fascinating subject material, made even more fascinating by the personal way Kolbert tells the story and her fluid, often humorous prose.

It is so often the case with books like these that there is a moral to the story. The moral to this story: Although previous mass extinctions have been caused by forces beyond human control, such as asteroid collisions and volcanic eruptions, the relatively recent megafauna extinction and the current amphibian extinction are directly related to human activities. Having said that, Ms. Kolbert manages to make her case with fairness, equanimity and, often times, light-heartedness, which is a diffcult task given the subject matter and her implication that, unless we start doing things differently, the human race is going to be one of the victims of the next mass extinction.

Ms. Kolbert does a particularly good job in making real the abstract and the theoretical. As an example, we have all heard about the acidifying ocean and the consequent effects on the biodiversity of marine life; the author found a way to see what the acidified ocean of the (unfortuantely not that distant) future will look like by finding an ocean vent off the coast of Italy spewing acid into the ocean water. The barren waters in the neighborhood of the vents are an excellent example of Ms. Kolbert's point about the effect of the massive amounts of CO2 we are dumping into the atmosphere (1/3 of which is absorbed into the oceans, lowering the vital pH) as well as a fine example of the way she goes about making her point to the reader, using real people and real places.

I'll leave you with a sentence from the book, a good illustration of both Ms. Kolbert's lucid prose and her deft reasoning. Speaking about some sketches found in a cave in France attributed to early humans, Ms. Kolbert writes: 'With the capacity to represent the world in signs and symbols comes the capacity to change it, which, as it happens, is also the capacity to destroy it.'

As always with the #MINI, here are a few links to some other book reviews of The Sixth Extinction, from some of my (less well-known) and (not as deeply trusted) book reviewing competitors and the link to Amazon:

New York Times Book Review

Washington Post Book Review

Amazon: The Sixth Extinction


 Cheers, peter
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.



Friday, March 2, 2018

In the Wake of the Storm: Tortola after Hurricane Irma.

On September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma--the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall--battered Tortola with 215 mile per winds. Six months later, my family and I flew down to see how Tortola and the other 'Nature's Little Secrets' of the British Virgin Islands had fared. 


Look in one direction (above) and it's hard to believe a catergory 5 hurricane devatastated Tortola less than six months ago. Look in the other direction (below) and it isn't.



220 mile an hour sustained winds were hard on this palm grove.



Neither motor boat nor monohull was spared from the tidal surge that stacked the boats at Soper's Hole up like plastic toys.



Since the mangroves were decimated, a school of minnows is using this inboard boat for protection. Nature is clever.



If you are trying to calculate the cost of this storm, this 28 foot inboard boat goes for about three hundred thousand dollars; it's a total loss, and there are hundreds more like it. And that doesn't include the cost to replace: the countless roofs which blew away in the wind (most not repaired yet); tens of thousands of windows (plastic and duct tape in their stead) blown out; legions of crumpled cars (almost all still sitting in the same spot); and the list goes on.


This pelican doesn't seem to be perturbed by the loss of the magroves, but the water quality will suffer, as mangroves clarify the water by trapping sediment and filtering pollutants. Their strong root system is also a major buffer against erosion.




The hurricane was hard on the island's feral goats. This one--a kid named Betty--followed me around for a few hundred yards until we found the man who raised her by feeding her bottles of cow's milk after her mother died. 



Fluffy, as the locals called her, followed me around on my hikes all week. Like all the other locals, she was happy and carefree despite the destruction of her island. I hope she's doing alright.



My wife and I walking down the mountain to Soper's Hole to get breakfast at D' Best Cup Coffee Shop. 1200 feet elevation and 2.5 miles--in both directions--but well worth it for a great breakfast and... you guessed it, the best cup of coffee in the BVI. 

Want to help Tortola or the BVI? Go there on vacation and spend money. Rent a car, charter a sailboat, stay in a villa, go out to dinner at one of the fabulous resteraunts. Toursim accounts for approximately 95% of Tortola's economy. Tortola remains beautiful despite the destruction, and you can help get Tortola back on her feet. 


 Cheers, peter
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.