Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Death Toll

So I am helping critique a friend's novel (and it's really good) and at one point one of her other critters suggested a change that would save a secondary character's life. My knee-jerk reaction was, "No way! It adds drama and tension and huge emotion to the scene." (And it does!) And my next thought after that was, "Of course, this comes from me; I kill a lot of people in my book. If I just count named characters who you actually get to know, I kill . . ." And it took me a long time to count up my answer.

Now first things first, there are a LOT of characters in my novel. When you have a magic system that requires two people, all of your main, magical characters come in twos. . .so I have about a zillion characters. (One of the main reasons I couldn't cut it anymore; lots of characters who are essential to the plot.

So anyhow, I counted up all the named, important characters who are killed. None that die accidentally or from diseases or something, but those who are killed. (Head smashed in, neck snapped, run through with a sword, etc.)

You ready?


I was amazed and rather appalled with myself. Because on top of that there are a ton of unnamed characters (soldiers, guards, etc.) who die. (And just to give you an idea of how many people are in this book, there are a further 20 or so front row characters who do not die. I have a HUGE cast.)

People I agonized over killing? (And this is part of the twenty-one, not on top of):


People I ended up saving from death?


I'm not very merciful, am I?

Anyone else kill as many people in their book as I do?


Monday, January 29, 2007

Growing up.

Trust me, this post isn't about what you think it's about.

I LOVE to surf the net--to the point that sometimes I have to put limits on myself to make sure I get anything else done that day. I adore writers' sites and blogs and forums. Also agents' sites and blogs.

But it's been interesting the way my surfing habits have changed since I got an agent. I'm growing out of some of my favorite sites. Not because they are not fabulous and wonderful, but because that's not the stage I'm at anymore.

Here are some of the sites I used to read religiously that I have let fall to the wayside:

Rachel Vater's Site I love Rachel's site. She got a great personality and shares tons of advice on real-life queries. But that doesn't really apply to me anymore.

Literary agent forum- I still pop in there once in a while, but I don't read anyone else's queries and just quickly browse any other interesting looking topics.

The Rejecter- Well, she's had a quality issue too. Majorly gone downhill. But I used to enjoy seeing the literary agent assistant's point of view on submissions. It just doesn't matter that much to me anymore.

Agent Query- The absolute number one spot in my mind for authors who are looking for an agent. But . . . I'm not anymore. Although once in a while I do go there and look up Jodi's name just to remind myself that she's real.:)

There are others, but I won't mention them publicly.;)

Now here are some that I've grown into:

The Debutante Ball
- This is a really fun "grog" (group blog) of women whose debut novels are all coming out. They are only a step ahead of me and give lots of good advice as well as simple, fun reading.

Amazon.com- This one may seem weird, but I've totally started market watching.

Pat's Blog- You'll have to excuse my constant mentions of her. She's like my mentor.:) Now, I read Pat's blog before, but it was because I liked her as a person and liked her writing and pictures. Now, the content is very applicable to me. So even though this isn't technically a new site, it's one I now read with new eyes.

Of course, just like I still have my favorite pair of jeans from college and the ratty pillow I just can't let go if, there are blogs that I still read despite being in a new stage of publication life:

Kristin Nelson's Blog- It doesn't matter where you are in your publishing life, this blog has great advice. Maybe I'll feel differently when I am a multi-published best selling author (cough, cough, sputter) but for now, it's still one of the goodies.

Miss Snark- How anyone can ever grow out of Miss Snark is beyond me. Though I doubt I will participate in another Crap O Meter (we all know she'll have another one some day.;))

It's a little weird to see some of these sites stop holding my interest; rather like childhood friends you have nothing in common with any more. But you still look back fondly and remember when.:)


Friday, January 26, 2007

Don't Sweat the Infinitesimal Stuff.

So it's been kind of a lame week over at Writers.net. Generally, it really is a good site with lots of fabulous advice and, in particular, a wonderful place to get your query critiqued. But the last couple of weeks it had been a bit of a madhouse. A majorly irritating troll, about ten people asking about the New York Literary (Fake) Agency--about half of those *after* signing with them--and pointless arguments. Luckily, the forum is showing signs of getting back on track. However, one of the pointless arguments made me think a bit.

One of the websites I recommend to anyone who is looking for an agent is agentquery.com. Fabulous database. And most of their advice is sound. However, they state in their query advice section that when addressing an agent the term "Dear" (as in Dear Ms. Reamer, for example) is inappropriate. That it should always be Attn: Ms. Reamer.

Personally, I thought that was some of the silliest advice I've ever read.

But someone had to post it up on WN and start an argument.

Now, I understand that you want your query to be business-like, and you want to make sure your manuscript is properly formatted. Sweating some of the small things puts you above the crowd and makes you look like a professional. But for the love of Pete, who cares if you put Dear or Attn:?

I'll tell you one person who doesn't care . . .

The agent!!!

They just want you to spell their name right and assign the correct gender. (Poor Mr. Ashley Grayson--no one ever gets his right.)

By all means, sweat the small stuff--but leave the infinitesimal stuff alone.

For Example . . . Small Stuff

Double space your manuscript
Number the pages and make a running header with your name at the very least, preferably with the title too.
Send a cover letter, no matter what. Partial/full/proposal, it doesn't matter, send a cover letter.
Thank the agent for their time time in your closing.
Include a SASE!

There are numerous others, but these are examples of details that are important.

Now . . . Infinitesimal Stuff

One space or two after periods.
Time New Roman or Courier New (unless requested)
Dear or Attn:
Whether to hand-write or type your address on your SASE (unless you handwriting is really that bad, and you know who you are.;))
20# or 24# paper

If you are getting a slew of rejections, trust me, it's not because you addressed the agent incorrectly on your query. Stop focusing on the teeny, weeny things--work on your writing! That's WAY more important.

However, on the whole salutation thing, Mya Bell wrote up a fun guide for how to address your query based on which genre you are writing. With her permission, here's the list.:)

romance - Darling Agent or Liebe Agent

gay fiction - Dahling Agent

gang fic - Yo, agent!

newbie author - Hey, uh, agent?

suspense - Psssst, agent ...

humor - Woo hoo! Agent

British Humor - Blimey, agent!

chic lit - Hey Girl! [Guy!]

Chinese history - Ah so, agent

vampire fiction - Good Eeeevening, agent

Victorian fiction - To whom do I owe this pleasure?

epic fantasy - My Precious

sea tales - What ho, agent!

--- Mya Bell

Gotta love Mya.:)


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Recognizing the Next Big Thing

Pat and I were discussing this few weeks ago and I thought I would share.

During the couple of weeks that Miss Snark did her Crap o Meter I thought it was fairly obvious from the hooks which ones were going to be awful, and which ones had promise. After reading the first 750 words, I thought it was even more obvious. I don't think I'm alone in that. I think that most readers feel they could probably recognize the "next big thing."

But what about when professionals don't?

I'm going to use two examples, both my friends.

First, Pat. Pat received a rejection from an agent at Writers House and his reasoning was basically that he just did not connect with the voice. Since Pat's book is told from the point of view of a 30-some-odd mentally challenged man, voice is everything! If you don't connect with the voice, you don't connect with the book.

But just a little while later Pat was picked up by a lovely agent at William Morris (and received offers from others as well.) She and her agent worked on the book for a little while and when it was ready, they sent it out. It sold in a week, at auction, for six figures.

That is almost unheard of for a debut novelist.

What did the agent at WH miss? He later sent her a very nice congratulatory note, and you have to wonder, were there some sour grapes in there? Was he kicking himself a little? Why did he not recognize the huge potential?

Example number two, my friend Stephenie. She sent out about 15 queries and received two requests for partials. (She says her queries sucked . . . I don't know about that.:)) But a very small, upstart agent requested her first chapter and wrote her back to say that, although it was cute idea, there just wasn't a market for this kind of thing.

Tell that to Little, Brown who offered her the biggest advance they had ever given a first-time author. And believe me, it paid off.

What did this agent miss? She didn't just miss a publishable book, she missed a book that hit the NYT bestsellers list shortly after its release, and the second one debuted there and stayed for over twenty weeks.

Aren't agents supposed to see that coming?

But sometimes they don't.

Kristin Nelson mentioned several months back that she hardly ever regrets the ones that got away. She even did a post where she posted the covers of several books she remembers rejecting and, although she is thrilled for the authors' successes, she doesn't regret not being their agent. She did mention one she was sorry about because she loved the book. But it was very early in her agency's history and it was a genre she was not representing very strongly. But she'd have loved to be the agent and, if she had received that project now, would have taken it on.

My own story is a little weird too (and will hopefully be followed up with some fabulous deal, bestseller, jealous agents, etc. etc. etc. *wink*) As most of you know, Jodi was the very first person I ever sent anything to. And she got a barely better than first draft edition. An edition that was rejected by dozens and dozens of agents. One of the things that is still surprising to me is that she contacted me when she was half-way through that very first edition to say that she was loving it.

By that time, I was embarrassed by that version. The story was essentially the same, but the writing was so-so at best. Jodi was very happy to get the revision and mentioned that I had fixed many of the very things she was going to suggest. But what got her attention, was that first draft. She saw something in my book that she was intrigued enough by to let me know she was already seriously thinking of taking it on, halfway through that awful version. She saw something she liked enough that--had I not had a revision for her--she was willing to spend time working on to make it right.

Did she see something real? Is it something anyone else will see? I guess we'll find out.

It's amazing to me what agents do and do not see. And I know every agent has the unpublished book on their shelf that they love, love, love, but that nobody else loves. But we don't hear about those very often, but I know they exist. (Man, I hope that's not in my future.)

I wonder if this shakes their self-confidence sometimes. Both the ones that they let go, and the ones no one else seems to want. Because I have to believe that agents do take their clients' work personally, if not to the degree that the writers do.

Anyway, sorry for the novella here. But it's really been on my mind.



Monday, January 22, 2007

I am so Tired!

I just sent my--hopefully--last (I know I said that last time) revision off to Jodi and Man! I am beat! It's hard to explain how tiring doing revisions can be--especially in a very emotional section like the one I am working on right now. I typed up my e-mail, attached my file, and hit send. Then there was a huge sigh of relief. Whew!

I write because I love to write--don't get me wrong. But revising and polishing? That's a whole different thing. I don't know a single writer (except maybe Pat who loves everything;)) who loves every step of the writing and publishing process. First draft? Oh yeah! It's like teen aged love. You have the biggest crush on this story and it just makes you giddy to write it. But as you moved onto editing and polishing--and even more so when you start editing and polishing with someone else--it's more like marriage or a very-long term relationship. You still love the book--more than ever, really. But now there's kids, and a mortgage, and different schedules and a job, etc. And it becomes work.

Worthwhile work.

And every revisions make sit better and makes you even more glad you started the whole process to begin with.

I love my book.

But boy, it wears me out!


Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Teenager in the Making

My three-year-old daughter loves to pretend to be a puppy. But since winter set in few months ago, there is a new development. She likes to pretend that those flannel pyjamas with the zipper up the front are her "fur." Normally this isn't a problem, but this morning, for some reason, she can't make up her mind which puppy she wants to be. So she keeps switching back and forth between three different sets of flannel zips.

Then, of course, I have to call her by the appropriate puppy name. *rolls eyes* I love my daughter; she's so cute.

But really, a teenager in the making. I can just see her in twelve years, after trying on about sixteen different outfits.

"Mooooooom! I have nothing to wear!"

"What about the clothes covering the entire surface of your bed?"


Then I'll remind her of the fur story.:)


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New York Times' Take on Marriage

I was looking up the NYT Bestsellers for the week and found an article about the questions two people should ask each other before they get married. Here's the list, stolen from the Jan. 16th issue of the NYT.

1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?

6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?

7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?

9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?

10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?

11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?

12) What does my family do that annoys you?

13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?

14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?

15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

I think they are great questions that should be asked . . . but does anyone else think it's a little weird that among all the life guiding, mentally stimulating, serious honesty-requiring questions number seven is will there be a television in the bedroom? Is this a big problem in marriages? I don't think I've ever discussed that with my husband. (Of course, when we got married we didn't have a televisions and have never had more than one our whole marriage; so the question of whether the kids are going to watch their cartoons in the living room or in our bed has never really been an issue.:))

Marrige is (or should be in my opinion) a life-long commitment and there are a lot of things you need to ask yourself and your prospective spouse before you tie the knot. But really, is the presence of a television in your bedroom one of them?


First Chapter

I decided to post the first chapter of my YA project since there was a ton of interest in it. Plus I am stalling while I wait for my e-mail from Jodi with the final call on revisions and the answers to several burning questions.:)

So here it is if you're interested.;)


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Check this out!

Amazon finally got their act in gear and got the NYT bestseller's list up for this past week and check it out!

Stephenie's got both her books on there!

Whoo-hoo! Congrats Steph! If you haven't read both of these books, you should.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Random Thoughts

It seems like all I have to do these days is think. Well, think, agonize, and obsess. But I've had a lot of things on my mind.

One of the first is that, as of yesterday, I have some time to do some true pleasure writing. Don't get me wrong, I almost always love to write and this last round of revisions was really fun because I got to write two completely new scenes that were absolutely incredible. (I've been asking myself for days why they didn't get put in there in the first place.:)) But with revisions in, I sat down and wrote a new scene in my YA project. That was fun. I love writing the first draft. When I was visiting with Stephanie a couple of weeks ago we talked about how you really have to love writing that first draft or else you'll never be able to carry yourself through all the work involved in making it truly shine. But that first draft? That's just fun.:)

I've also been doing a lot of thinking about the current fantasy market--for obvious reasons.:) I feel like there is a shift occurring in the fantasy market--at least in the classic sword and sorcerer market. Think about the big writers these days. Who springs to mind? Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, George R.R. Martin. Throw in Tad Williams; I believe he has another book due out sometime soon. On top of that, we need to count J.K. Rowling. What do all these authors have in common? They are all winding down their big series. Last Harry Potter Book comes out this year, George R.R. I believe has two, I can't remember if Terry Goodkind has one or two left, and Robert Jordan has one. George R.R. is moving into the YA genre, and Robert Jordan is stepping down. Terry Goodkind has never done anything except the Sword of Truth series so I don't know what his plans are now. But there is a huge chunk of the market that is going to be up for grabs.

People that I think are in the running: Neil Gaiman. His books are not really the same sub-genre as the authors I've listed above, but among the same readers, he is becoming very popular. (and rightly so!) Novik . . . Novik, what's her first name? She write "His Majesty's Dragon." I have heard nothing but fabulous things from editors, agents, and readers about these books. But again, not quite the same sub-genre. Keep an eye out for Jim Hines, in my opinion. Humorous books about goblins. His first is out and his second is due . . . soon, I believe.

But who is up and coming in the classic sword and sorcerer genre? I've noticed both online and in bookstores that I don't see a lot. Is that because the genre is dying? Do readers not want this stuff anymore? I think the sales numbers for "Knife of Dreams" and "Phantom" would put a pretty good-sized dent in that argument. I personally think that you are going to see some excellent talent rise to the top in the next three to five years.

Now don't read too much into this; I'm not saying it's me. But it makes me optimistic. There is room at the top. Doesn't mean there's room for me. But no matter what, I predict that we will see some fresh new voices roar to the top of the lists as some of the mighty giants take a seat.

And I think that's exciting.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

I Love My Agent.

She responds quickly, gives me honest feedback, reminds me how much she loves my stuff, answers all my questions . . . yanno, all the stuff agents are supposed to do.:)



Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Better Late than Never!

I'm a few days late on this, but as I only get the regular Lunch from Publishers Marketplace, I had to wait a few days to get my own copy of Pat Wood's news. You all know her as Orion, so a big round of applause for Orion!!!

"Patricia Wood's LOTTERY, the story of a 32 year-old, mentally challenged man, whose life is forever changed when he wins 12 million dollars in the lottery, discovering who his true friends are and the deep reserve of his own abilities, to Peternelle Van Arsdale at Putnam, at auction, by Dorian Karchmar at William Morris Agency (NA).

Rights sold previously to Jason Arthur and Susan Sandon at Heinemann in the UK; Arena in Holland; Keter in Israel; and Sonzogno in Italy, in pre-empts."

Yea Pat!!!


Monday, January 08, 2007

Okay, Now it's Officially, Officially Official!

Well, she made her intentions very clear last week, but today she is sending me a contract!!

I am hereby, officially represented by Jodi Reamer of Writers House.

She is preparing a submission list and plans to send it out as soon as I finish this round of revisions. (probably in about a week)

So those of you who read this blog regularly may be bored by the rest of this post, but I have to do the obligatory "story" post. So here goes.:)

I finished this book at the beginning of December of 2005. My friend Stephenie, who's first book Twilight had just come out a few months earlier, asked if she could read it. Well, she loved it and asked if she could give it to her agent, Jodi. (Ha! Like I was going to say no.) So I sent off my baby and really started counting my chickens. She's going to love it, she'll get back to me soon with an offer, we'll shop it, it'll set for an exorbitant amount of money, etc, etc, etc.

Fast-forward six months.

I e-mailed Jodi (for the first time, I was way patient) and asked if she remembered me, basically.

No response.

So I wrote it off as a rejection. After all, there were so many more fish in the sea for this perfect, fabulous, all-hallowed novel. *rolls eyes*

I'd racked up about 50 rejections by this time, but those were easy to dismiss. My query didn't work for them, they just weren't quite the right agent, etc. The perfect agent was waiting just around the corner. On top of that, I'd had two agents request the full after reading the partial so I was feeling pretty cocky. I did get several rejections on partials during this time, so I decided to see if I could get a few betas from absolutewrite.com to look it over and see if it might need just a few little tweaks. I had a couple of people volunteer, so I e-mailed off my book and waited for the praise to roll in.

Only it didn't.

One of the guys thought it was okay. Loved my world and my magic system, but wasn't really taken by my main character. Well, that was okay, because his main character was very, very, very different than mine so clearly he just didn't like my type of hero.

Then Glenn's response came in. He had several nice things to say and said them right up front. Then he proceeded to tell me everything that was wrong with my book. Down to minute detail!

I would like to say I was crushed, but I was still to high on my horse to feel that way. What the heck did this guy know? He wasn't published. He'd never had a NYT bestselling author read and recommend his book. Who was he? Nobody! I wrote him a nicely-worded thank you for his critique, but dismissed his thoughts without consideration.

Fast-forward three months.

I reached triple digits on my rejections. I had sent this sucker to every agent who might possibly be interested in representing fantasy. Every single one had come back a rejection except for the two fulls which had both been out for at least four months with no response. This was my low point. I finally had to admit to myself that there was something wrong with my book.

So I got out Glenn's critique and read it with new eyes. I spent two months revising what I thought had been a perfect manuscript. I actually ended up putting my first and second books together and cut almost 75,000 words by the time I was done. I took a lot of inspiration from Caitlin Kittredge during this time because she talked about how long and hard she worked polishing her manuscript (which sold like a hotcake, by the way.:))And when it was finished, I had a manuscript that sparkled. . . and I was completely sick of it. :)

I got out my spreadsheet and looked to see who I could send it to again. I picked six agents who had only seen the query and two agents who I really wanted a second chance with. I also e-mailed one of the agents with the full and asked if she'd like to see the revision.

Then I held my breath. I didn't expect anything expect anything at this point; my book was really long for a first-time fantasy (140,000) and I knew that would hurt my query. But I tried to be hopeful. I did get rejections, and this time it was hard. I really felt them, even if it was just those first five pages. But I had a couple of bites and was happy about that.

Then came November. I was just sitting at my desk and I check my e-mail and I have a message from Jodi. I'm like, what the . . .? So I open it and skim it expecting the same old not for me but thanks for considering our agency, blah, blah, blah. But the words I was skimming didn't make sense. Then I caught the words "enjoying" and "immensely." Well, that wasn't right. So I went back to the top and started reading again slowly. First were very long apologies for the huge delay (10.5 months) and then that she was halfway and done and enjoying it so much she was already starting to think of where to send it, and thought she should check if it was still available.

Still available!?!?!?

So I took a very deep breath and e-mailed her back to let her know that yes it was still available, but that she might want to see a revision. She wrote back and said that some of the things that I mentioned I had revised were things she was going to suggest so please send the revision right along by e-mail.

About a week later she called me and had lovely things to say. Then asked if I would do some revisions for her. Everything she suggested was absolutely spot on and just hit my gut and being exactly what I needed to do. (And what an experience that was, let me tell you . . . like sharing brainwaves!) So I finished my revisions and sent them in just before Thanksgiving.

A little word of advice. Never send stuff during the holidays!!!:) You just have to wait and wait and wait and wait. It is so maddening! But finally she e-mailed me last week with responses to the revisions and a few more notes. She made it very clear in her e-mail that she intended to send it out after this round if things looked good, and so I felt comfortable announcing to my very small blog audience that I had an agent. But not confident enough to announce it to anyone else.

We arranged a phone call to brainstorm a bit over the last set of revisions (it's going to require two new scene . . . about 3,000 words) and right before she hangs up she says, "Oh, by the way, I'll e-mail you a standard house agreement. Let me know if you have any questions. Okay? Bye."

By the way?!?!? I've been waiting for you to say those words for almost two months!

But she did say them. And so now it's officially official and I am telling everyone and their dog, "Hey, guess what? I have an agent!"

*Sigh* Hopefully the next couple of months will be very interesting for me. And exciting, I hope.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Miss Snark Loved My Pages!!

I am so stoked over this! She had nothing to say except basically this worked and let me tell you why. Here's the link if ya'll are interestd.:)

The book the hook and pages are for is my on the back burner project right now but it is one that I just have so much fun with and I've never written a book that I thought had so much marketing potential. Hopefully others besides Miss Snark will agree. This is the next thing I want to spring on Jodi either after she sells my current manuscript, or if it doesn't sell. . . I mean, of course, when it sells.;)


Friday, January 05, 2007

What a Trip!!

Well, I am now back from my week-long trip to Phoenix for my sister-in-law's wedding. What coukd be better, right? Sun, warm temperatures, family and friends. Good times.

Yeah, that's what I thought too.

Turns out that when you take four families, comprising of 25 people from four different states, into the same house everyone's immune systems go haywire!!! I caught two different illnesses and possibly three. I was sick and mostly in bed for three of the days and felt pretty crummy for two more. At least 15 of the 25 people threw up at least once. I got to do so twice. (Yea!) This leass than two weeks after my morning sickness finally wore off. *Grumble*

On the up side (yes, there is an up side) one of the days I felt good was the day I had scheduled to have lunch with Stephenie. Now, I have to say, I love all my publishing friends online, but it is so fun to just sit face-to-face with someone and talk books and writing and publishing for like two hours. I had such a splendid time and learned quite a bit about foreign rights.

But, as always, there's no place like home and despite the great visit we had with my husband's family, I am so glad to be back in my own house with my own germs . . . yanno, the ones I'm immune to.;) I am also glad that the wheels in the publishing world are turning again. Jodi and I are having a phone brainstorming session on Monday for one last trouble spot in my book and it should be abut ready after that. I am hoping that February will be shopping month for me!