Future Brian

Three times in my life a future version of myself, a version of myself I’ve taken to calling Future Brian, has paid me a visit.

It’s always happened under the same circumstances. I’d find myself extremely anxious about the current state of my life, I’d be laying in bed, more than half asleep, and a future version of me would sort of drift out of the ether and begin reassuring me about things to come. And, without exception, everything he’s ever told me about my future has come to pass.

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The first time this happened I was in college and my girlfriend, my first love, had moved across the country. This was in the days before email and cheap long-distance phone calls. Her departure spelled the end of Us, and at no time did I need Future Brian more than I did during that dark, cold summer, to come in and let me know that everything would be okay.

The most recent time this happened was in September of 2008. At the time I was freaked out about a lot of things. The elections, the state of the economy, my future. It was deep in the night, with me in a partially awake but still halfway in the dream state, when Future Brian made his appearance. It felt as if an invisible, wiser, older version of myself was whispering in my ear. He explained that all would go well with the election. He told me not to worry too much about the economy. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, he explained, but it will get better. He told me that I would not lose my job as a result of the coming recession, and other things that would happen in the coming months and years. I got a sense that he was from around 2016 and that he had the benefit of eight years of hindsight. My current woes must have seemed almost quaint to him.

He had just about wrapped up the things he wanted to tell me when I blurted out, “My book! Will my book ever get published?”

I’ll never forget his response: “Of course!” There was no hesitation, as if to say, You already know that much!

Weeks, months, and years went by and one-by-one everything Future Brian predicted came to pass. That is not to say I wasn’t a little nervous about them, even after Future Brian’s predictions. They all unfolded but one: My book. When is my book going to be published?

While Future Brian didn’t say he’d contacted me from 2016, that was just the impression I got. If that was true, said book publication could happen at any time up until that moment. Still, I’ll admit I was growing inpatient.

Then last April the call came from my agent. I’d been in a business meeting at the time and quickly silenced my cell phone. But something had told me then, even at the time, This is a call you want to takeThis call is different.

The message was all I needed to hear: I’d been offered a contract for Aftersight, my supernatural Young Adult novel. After all those years, imagining what it would be like, visualizing that moment, really feeling it, it had finally arrived.

Now that it actually has happened, I have to wonder. What else had Future Brian told me, if only I’d asked?

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Getting an Offer of Representation

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I received The Call on a Tuesday.

I work at the edge of downtown Seattle. Every day I walk ten blocks through Seattle’s shopping district, to and from my bus stop to my office. Many evenings on my way home to catch my bus, I would pass one or more of those guys who stand on the sidewalk with binders and harass passersby into sponsoring a child from a third world country. I say harass, because they really do get in your face about it. They are polite, but you definitely know they are there.

Over several months, I began to encounter one of these gentlemen regularly, a guy with an anachronistic hat and quirky Irish brogue, who took to spinning his binder on his fingers like a Harlem Globetrotter.  He’d come to recognize me over the weeks and months that he stood vigil, had come to recognize me and my regular denials. But he never gave up.

“Today!” he would occasionally call out to me as I passed. “Today’s the day.”

And I would call back, “Sorry, bro, I got nothin’ for ya.”

About this time (April of 2011), I began sending out query letters to literary agents about my recently completed supernatural Young Adult novel, Aftersight.  It didn’t take long for me to discover that the task of researching agents and writing and rewriting my query letters took several hours each day. Yet very quickly something amazing happened.  I began receiving rejections, yes, but now I was getting personal notes written back from the agents. I even had a few requests for partials. I felt momentum gathering.

“Today!” my Irish friend called out as I dodged by. “Today’s the day.”

I’d shrug, keep moving, but one day at the start of the summer I said to myself, The day I get an agent is the day I walk up to that guy and sponsor a child.

Now requests for the full manuscript began to come in. That July I attended AgentFest in New York (part of ITWA’s ThrillerFest), an opportunity to hang out in a room with 60+ agents and pitch my novel to them. By the end of July I had sent out nine full manuscripts and four partials to various agents in New York and points beyond.

I finally received The Call one evening shortly after I’d left work. When my phone buzzed in my pocket, I ducked into a nearby shopping mall so I could hear the call over the street noise. And then I heard the words that every writer longs to hear from a literary agent: Brian, I love your manuscript.

After all those years of writing and rewriting, researching and querying and pitching to agents, I’d found  my agent through the good old slush pile. I’d done it at last!

When I stepped out of the mall several minutes later, there stood my binder-spinning Irish guy, patrolling a corner I’d never seen him guard before, directly in my path as if placed there. But that day he was right where I needed him to be.

I stopped in front of him and shook his hand.

“Today,” I said. “Today’s the day.”

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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My Ah Ha Moment

In July I had the opportunity to travel to New York for the International Thriller Writers’ summer conference, ThrillerFest. The conference lasts four days and is broken into two parts. CraftFest, which takes place the first two days, comprises various breakout sessions about the craft of writing novels in general and thrillers in particular. The second two days are a fan/reader appreciation event, with various thriller writers speaking about their books and their careers.

This was my third ThrillerFest and every year the experiences there have been more amazing. This year, while having lunch with fellow writers and authors – many of them bestselling authors – I had a profound “ah ha” moment.

imageAfter spending several days listening to authors talk about their work and work habits, I began to identify a pattern. Again and again, I observed a correlation with the really successful novelists and their ability to produce output quickly. Almost without exception, these authors wrote every day (with Sunday sometimes being the exception) and they pumped out the pages. For them it’s not just good enough to have Butt Time in front of the computer; they demand output.

So, I wondered, is that the key? Writing fast? Is it that simple?

You might be thinking quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality, and I would agree. Many of these authors write quickly because they have to write quickly. They are under contract to write one (and sometimes two) books a year. With a schedule like that, you pretty much have to write fast.

Yet there is something to be said for churning out the pages. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you get. Is it just me or have you ever noticed that your best writing is almost always your most recent project?

One might also argue that the more products you have to sell, the greater your chances of success.

The fallacy with writing quickly is that you have to get a lot done in a short amount of writing time, when in fact it is more about writing consistently over time.  Think about it. Even we writers with day jobs can set a small but reasonable daily word count, say of five hundred words a day, and produce an eighty thousand word first draft in less than six months. What is that old saying? Slow and steady wins the race.

Five hundred words — two double-spaced, Times New Roman pages — a day seems utterly doable. Even one page would mean producing a book a year. How many of us can say we write a book a year?

What holds you back? I’d love to read your comments.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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15 Seconds of Fame

Two years ago, while at a writers’ conference in New York, I attended a party that HarperCollins was throwing at a small bookstore in downtown Manhattan.

The bookstore was exactly the kind of place you’d imagine an independent, New York city bookstore to be. Wooden bookcases reached to the top of the high ceiling. Ladders that rolled along on brass rails were required to access the upper shelves. Large picture windows looked onto a street lined with trees and brick-covered storefronts. The bookstore wasn’t small, exactly, but it was cozy.

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Several of the HarperCollins authors were in attendance, there to have a good time, as well as sign books in case any of their readers happened to catch the news of the gathering. Many of the authors there I’d had the good fortune to get to know over the years at the various writers’ conferences, so there were a few recognizable faces.  At the same time I was in awe of the scene, a mixture of the familiar and the imagined, the hoped for and what I’d fantasized in positive visualizations.

I stood at the edge of the party with a glass of white wine in my hand, trying to look, I don’t know, literary or something. (I always like to hold a drink at parties, even if I’m not drinking it. It gives me something to do. I mean, if I wasn’t around, who would be here to hold this drink, right?)

I’d been speaking to one of my favorite writers, who also reviews books for the Associated Press, when three young Asian women approached me.

They gazed at me with a sort of reverence that I didn’t quite understand. They seemed to want to speak to me, but simultaneously afraid to do so. It was as if I was one of the best selling authors in the room and they were my readers, eager to meet the storyteller that had been entertaining them for these many years. Just for a moment, I actually felt what it might be like to be that best selling author, as if I’d dropped into an alternate universe where that scenario were true.

The woman in the center looked at the book cradled in her arms. “Would…” she began in broken English, “Would you sign?”

I looked and there was James Rollins’ latest bestselling thriller in her hands. I smiled, the moment passing, rapidly being sucked up and drawn back into my own universe.  “I think you are looking for Jim Rollins,” I said, pointing a few feet to my left, “who’s standing right over there.”

Somehow I’d managed to manifest that moment, having skipped a couple of steps to get there. Here’s hoping that happens again someday, but next time that those fifteen seconds of fame grows to fifteen minutes.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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