Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Bonus content: Peter Ginna on NF


This article on writing non fiction by Peter Ginna is a very useful look at what works, and what doesn't.

Duy nIS tlhIngan paq**

How do I go about querying for an American agent, if my book is written in Portuguese? Should I go after a bilingual agent or such a thing would probably be impossible to find?

Thank you again for you attention.



You don't.

There are many bilingual agents (I myself speak Jawsanes of course) but generally we're not the ones doing the translating.

If you want to pitch your book to an American agent, you're going to need a book in English. Whether that means you translate it or someone else does is your call.

There are exceptions to this; sometimes the book is published in another language first, then it does well enough (sales or review wise) to garner the attention of an English language agent or editor.








** this would be funny if the damn translation was consistent.
It's supposed to be "I need an agent for a book" in Klingon.
It's not. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Last Vacation Day: Every Agent's Fear

The story broke, as these kinds of stories do now, on the internet. The "author" of THE BOY WHO CAME BACK FROM HEAVEN wrote an open letter saying the book published as non-fiction was, essentially, not.  He had not gone to heaven and met Jesus. He'd made it all up.

One of my followers on Twitter asked me what I'd have done if that had been my book.

The easy, self-righteous answer is "this would never happen to me cause I don't do those kinds of books." Which is true, I don't handle books that are intended for the Christian book market.

But the question made me ask myself what would have happened if I did sell a book that turned out to be made up. And let's not all rush to say "that would never happen to me" because it could, if the book was was shelved in one of my blind spots.  I've got a couple of blind spots: I generally believe the victim of a crime; I always believe stories of rape and harassment; I always believe stories of sex abuse.  I recognize those are my blind spots.

The people involved with Alex Malarky had blind spots too. His family, the literary agent, and the publisher  all have strong Christian beliefs. What Alex described was entirely possible for them. It would have seemed like a message from God, something that should be shared. Something they had an obligation to share.

There's even scripture to bolster the idea "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." [Matthew 11:25]

Five years later Alex is eleven, not six, and it turns out he made it up to get attention.

Cue the scoffers and the gotcha crowd to say "of course it was all made up" and just to add insult to injury, make fun of the kid's surname.  This was a story made for the social media mob.

Before we all take up the burning pitch torches and light fires under vats of oil, let's remember there are many people out there who made stuff up and got away with it for a good long time.

And that's what my fear is: in wanting to believe something, I'll overlook what should be red flags.


I don't know how anyone involved in this story could have avoided this unfortunate turn of events other than to simply not believe it, but that's like saying "you can avoid drowning by not going in the water."

I don't know how to avoid falling in to the blind spot trap. 

Which means the answer to the question is "that could have been me, and boy am I glad it's not."




Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vacation Day #11: Where?

This week's column by Joe Veix in the NewYorker cracked me up.


But does this very New York joke survive the five boroughs? In other words, is this funny if you don't live in NYC?






Judgmental Towers Apartment Complex, Application to Rent


Thank you for your interest in the Judgmental Towers apartment complex. Please fill out and submit this form, along with your application fee, a copy of a recent credit report, and a DNA sample.

What is your full name?

What is your current occupation?

Is that what you dreamed of doing as a child?

What went wrong?

What is your current address?

Why are you moving?

What are you running from?

How did you find out about this apartment?
 Was it from those newspaper articles, after that “incident”?

Are you (circle one):
∙ Single
∙ Married
∙ In Short-Term Relationship Outlasting Expectations Due to Convenience

Do you own a waterbed?

You do realize it’s not 1973, right?

Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

Have you ever walked out of a store with a pear, after forgetting to pay, and decided it was too much trouble to go back?

And a week later, did the store go out of business?

Does the guilt keep you up at night?

Are you troubled by the brownish, man-shaped stain on the apartment’s floor?

What is your gross yearly income?

How much of that do you blow on greasy takeout food and bottom-shelf alcohol?

Are you aware that if you’d saved five years of that you could own a house by now?

Why are you willing to spend thousands of dollars per month on what is essentially a coffin-sized ghost slum?

Do you think that the lingering aura of hipness from the artistic subculture that formerly resided in this neighborhood might somehow rub off on you?

Despite the fact that everything is just a Walgreens now?

Please list three references:

Are you only now realizing that you don’t have any real friends, just casual work acquaintances?

Are any of the people listed above a barista that you bribed to pretend to know you?

Do you worry that if you don’t get your life together soon, you will wind up like that lonely brown floor stain?


Applicant attests that the above statements are only slightly embellished, and waives all responsibility to management in the event of another “incident.”

Signature: _____________________ Date: _____________________

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Vacation Day #10: How?

I pay attention to the crime novels that get a lot of pre-publication buzz. It's both an essential part of my job, and a perk.

Recently there was a lot of buzz about The Cartel by Don Winslow. I'd read an earlier book of his and loved it. I looked forward to reading this new one; there were comparisons to The Godfather by Mario Puzo (a seminal book in my crime reading eduction.)




I started it pretty near pub date, then set it down for something else.  During this vacation, I picked it back up again thinking I'd have a block of time to finish a 600+ page tome.

And set it down again at page 200. (I'd started over again cause I'd lost track of the plot in the intervening weeks.)

There wasn't a single character I cared about, there seemed to be no depth of character at all. No sense of these characters as real people.  And the violence, dear god, the violence.

I decided to put this on on the stack of "did not finish" rather than invest another 12+ hours in the remaining 400 pages.

How much time, how many pages do you give a book before saying "nope, not gonna finish."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Vacation Day #9: When?

I've sold quite a number of books that use time travel as part of the plot.

Sean Ferrell's MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT




Patrick Lee's GHOST COUNTRY







And a number of books that imagine a very interesting future:









You won't be surprised to learn that one of the questions we toss around when all these gents gather at the bar is "if you could travel in time, both forward and back where would you go, if you could go (and return!) to just one day."


My answer is pretty easy (remember of course that I'm a practicing Catholic): I'd go back to the time of Jesus and hang out with him and the fellas just as closely and for as long as I could.


When would you go?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vacation Day #8 What?

I'm on vacation today from a job I love. A job I'd do for free if I had no need of money evermore.

Sometimes though, I think "wow, now that would have been fun!"

Not many times, cause I really love my job, but almost always when I hear great music like Rosanne Cash.

It's not that I want to be Rosanne Cash (maybe Tina Turner, for just about five minutes!) it's that I'd love to sing with her.





Here's the lineup for one of the songs on her recent album The River and The Thread.



Can you imagine how fun it was to record that song that day?


And another album I love beyond measure is Trio (Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstatd) I'd LOVE to have been a backup singer on this one.




The sound quality on this is dreadful, but if you go listen to it on iTunes, you'll see what I mean.


I don't think I could have tolerated the life of a musician, but oh man, I think of it sometimes.

What do you think of sometimes? If you weren't a writer? or what else you are?





Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vacation Day #7: Who?



This is a sign on the route one of our devoted blog readers walks every day to take her daughters to school.

Translation: James Joyce (1882-1941)
British writer of Irish origin, received by Valery Larbaud, here completed his novel, Ulysses,  twentieth century literary masterpiece.




Our previous FPLM office on 35th Street had us walk by "Nero Wolfe's brownstone" on our way to BEA at the Javits Center 







Do you have famous folk in your daily life?
 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Vacation Day #4: You didn't know?



A recent Facebook post by author Alafair Burke revealed she had not known that the Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair was indeed made of butter. She felt like she was the last person in the world to know this.

What were you the last person in the world to know?


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Vacation Day #3: Gossamer



Do you make time to think every day?
A time to just let your mind run wild or lie fallow or disconnect from the electronic din of daily life?

Do you let your imagination loose to play on gossamer wings?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Vacation Day #2! I'll Say!






This is my favorite motivational poster.
It's in my office.

Do you have a favorite saying posted where you write?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Vacation Day #1: My vacation reading!



These arrived on Monday and it was all I could do not to dive in that very second.

Yes, these books are old friends, but I'm re-reading in preparation for MAKE ME which is coming in September.


What are you reading, or re-reading, this last week of August?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writing courses: Curtis Brown Creative



I applied to a Curtis Brown Creative online writing course and was accepted. I've been researching and there is not much info as to how effective the course is or if it's more of a scam (it costs almost $3,000 for three months). Does CBC have a good reputation in the agent world?

I've never heard of it but that doesn't mean anything. There's a lot of stuff I've never heard of. [For a list of those things, one must consult my eye-rolling minions.]

BUT, if you are intending this to be something akin to a star in your bio (like "I have an MFA from the Sharkly School of Metaphors and Pruning Shears") you're barking up the wrong tree.

When I read queries, I don't give a rat's asterisk where you learned to wrangle sentences.

I don't care who your teacher was.
I really don't care how much money you paid (other than wishing you hadn't squandered that kind of dough on anything till you at least figured out if you needed to)

I care about what you've written.

No program of study is a way to bypass the toll-booth on the roadway to publiciation. There is no EZPass here.

If you want to find out if the program is effective in helping writers, look at who they laud as their graduates. If you like and admire the work published by the people who took this course, that says something worth thinking about.

If the course won't tell you who graduated or attended, or if there are no lauds on the site other than quasi anonymous things like "the best thing since bacon beer" Bill C. (Ohio) that says something else entirely.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Query Question: YA or adult?

I'm having a hard time determining if my audience should be YA or adult fiction (and, subsequently, which agents to target when querying). I tend to write coming-of-age stories with younger protagonists and an upmarket/literary bent. My current manuscript is about a teenager trying to shape her identity while struggling with a chronic illness in the wake of 9/11. Because of the style, themes, setting, etc, I intended for this book to be for an adult audience. Now I'm not so sure, as the general consensus seems to be that if the main character is a teenager and the book is told from a first-person perspective (which it is), then it's YA. (To be clear, I have no problem if it's YA or adult so long as there's a market for the work, and I know part of determining that is figuring out who to pitch to.)

I know that I'm probably trying to seek out a definitive answer when there isn't one, but the blurred lines between YA and Adult have me so confused as to who I should be targeting for my queries, especially if there's the possibility of crossover later down the road. My concern is that I might be limiting myself when it comes to querying by choosing agents who rep one or the other.

Do you have any advice or additional thoughts on the YA/Adult debate?


If you query someone who rejects you because s/he "doesn't  rep This/That/The Other" what do you fear will happen?

1. You will be strung up in the town square and pelted with tomatoes, wearing a sign that says "I thought my novel was for adults; boy am I stupid!"

2. You will be exiled to Carkoon, there to dwell among the kale plants forever

3. You will be added to the Super Secret Agent Blacklist of Writers Who are Foolish and Stupid and whose queries will be spurned forevermore

4. All of the above

5. None of the above



I'm sure you've figured out that the answer is #5.

What this means for you: Query Everyone.

Since most agents have devolved into "no response means no" you'll just hear more silence.

BUT if you have a good query and great pages, agents are looking for good stuff to sell.

One hint: please do NOT put YA or Adult at the start of your query. You're just increasing the chances that you'll get ignored by an agent skimming her queries.

Engage their eyeballs before you mention the category.

I would venture to guess that at least three out of every ten queries get the category wrong in my incoming query mail.

I don't know whether this is YA or adult and I don't really care. I care about reading a good story. I'm pretty sure most of my ilk are too.


Then, once you've landed a slithery agent, you discuss with her where you'll find readers.  She will have read the book and if she's any good at her job, she'll know the market better than you (and certainly better than I do.)

Your job right now isn't to decide which shelf you'll be on, it's to write a book that's shelf worthy.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Vacation Can't Come Soon Enough Writing Contest results!

I'm counting the minutes till I make my escape from the office for a week. I love my job, I really do, but oh man, I'm looking forward to this break.


It actually takes about two weeks to prepare to go on vacation, and that doesn't count packing or planning, just filing, updates, and getting the requested mss a bit more caught up! Oh and determining the winner of the writing contest of course!

Herewith the results of  the last writing contest of the summer!

Ohh, this sweet revenge story makes me v.happy!
Deborah Hert 8:31am

Wonderful use of the prompt words
Steve Forti 9:46am
flash Friday 2:27pm

It says absolutely nothing good about me that I thought this was hilarious!
allierat 9:49am


Dena Pawling 11:54 am elicits a wail of anguish. Nooooooooooooooo!

Not quite a story, but delightful!
Marie McKay 1:36pm

The terror factor on this is pretty much 100%
Steve Cassidy  9:27pm
Suzanne LaCroix 11:15pm


Normally I go for elegant and subtle, but this one is above my head
 (although Lull is a brand of equipment, which I didn't know till I started my google decipher)
Karen McCoy 9:28pm

Always nice to "sea" a shark story!
Charlie Bell 10:25pm


And talk about tugging my heartstrings (if I actually had any)
JustJan 12:56am


Here are the ten finalists:
(1) Michael Seese 8:21am
When there is no prison, there is nothing to escape from.

Except boredom.

And loneliness.

And emptiness.

And Corn Flakes for dinner. Again.

And the occasional blissful bout of silence.

And the screams masquerading as lullabies.

And the fists which, I came to learn, sting less with each passing year.

But other than that, nothing.

Out on a lonely highway, I finally found freedom. Unfortunately, freedom also came with a flat tire, and no spare. I'd had to remove it to make room.

The flashing lights circling like vultures told me I won't be getting away.

But neither did he.

Very noir. It's always amazing how much atmosphere can get packed into so few words.


(2) Kregger 10:01am
    Who would’ve thought summer bowling league and murder were synonymous?

    Not I!

    Forget first place, which disappeared when none of us ever converted a spare.

    Our pleasure to escape the summer heat turned into a raging inferno to remove ourselves from last place.

    We lulled the competition with gutter balls and fouls until no one took us seriously.

    In Kung Fu fashion we struck Ninja style: poison shoe spray, arsenide finger hole paste and best of all…cyano-acrylic alley wax.

    They were doomed!

    The takeaway?

    *face-palm*

    After custom hole-drilling the team ahead of us, we were still in last place.

I love the twist here, cause you have to think about it for a second. If you knock off the guy in front of you, you're still last. Just last of nine, not ten.

And honestly, a story about bowling and murder? The Dude Abides, man.


(3) Brian Schwarz 10:15am
Remote Access to C:/OSP/ granted…

cmd> remove /root/ admin
…complete…
cmd> /root/:OSP
cmd> Password: ********
**Access denied**
cmd> Password: *********
**Granted**
cmd> run /root/: hBlk/climatecontrol/heatwave.exe
…running…
…complete…
cmd> c:/OSP/cBlk/
C:/OSP/cBlk/> install pwr
lulltimer.exe
…installing…
…complete…
cmd> C:/OSP/cBlk/> set pwrlulltimer.exe run to 23:00
…complete…

*****
OSP Log
10:47pm – thermostat deficiency in h-block. Guards lose
spare layers.
11:00pm – unexpected power failure.
11:02pm – Generator kicks in. Fifty-four doors in C-block malfunction. Riot ensues.
11:23pm – All guards
away to C-block. Prisoners disorderly but contained.
11:38pm – Brief failure h-block cell door #385.
11:45pm – Guard uniform missing.
11:58pm – Prison break suppressed.
12:01am – Shift change.
*****

cmd> [
Esc]

During the course of the contest I skim through the comments to remove spam, or anything that isn't an entry. My eyeballs snagged on this and I was nano-seconds from clicking delete when I realized it was an entry, not spam.

Which is pretty hilarious when you think about it.

And I love how artful this is.

BUT, and this I don't know what I think quite yet: [ESC] is not the whole word. It stands for it, but does [#] mean number?  

I'm ruminating. I think I'll put this out for the blog commenters to weigh in.


Actually I just went away and thought about it for awhile. Amazing what a nap and an iced
tea can do for clarity!

 I love this entry but [Esc] is not a prompt word. Thus, a finalist  because the entry is amazing and imaginative, but not actually eligible to win.

(Sorry B)




(4) Marc P 10:25am
Some stories start… ‘Once upon a time.’

But when?

Here?
7/15/2015. When I removed my gun, put a bullet in my sick son’s head.

Or here?
1/8/2015. Discovery of his incest with Bella, my daughter. Fourteen.

The months planning? Hiding the knapsack bomb? Slipping the detonator in his dead hand?

‘Lives spared...’ the citation said.

I stayed away; escaped the ceremony. My FBI colleagues thought they understood.

I wasn’t hated. Everyone blamed the fundamentalism that nobody, including him, had known anything about.

I snuggle in closer to Bella. Hot, lullaby breath. ‘Once upon a time…’

It starts now.
10:24am  8/15/2015

Ok, this is great, but holy moly, CREEPY AS HELL! And the thing is, it only too ONE simple word to make it creepy. "Hot" Without that one word, this is such a sweet story. Add that one word, and this is complex, creepy and GREAT.  


(5) Jennifer R. Donohue 10:41am
When Becca was removed from her family and set up in our spare room, she was too old to be a kid and too young to be on her own. The only comfort she accepted was the lullaby of Grimalkin's burbling purr.

A person's ghosts are hard to get away from, but she was almost okay. Then the whispers started again. The knocking. Grimalkin hissed arched-back at empty corners, a tuxedo asterisk.

We labored over her escape plan, and there was no margin for error when we sent her off to prom, barred the doors, and set the fire.

"A tuxedo asterisk" is such a great description! 
And the ending has a great twist to it.


(6) Jenny C 11:39am
Lulled into a stupor on the subway, I noticed the book before I noticed the girl. DUNE. Hardly an escape read. “Great book.”

No response.

Two days later, same train. “Ever try THE GONE-AWAY WORLD?”

Ignored.

The following week, desperate. “My uncle knew Robert Heinlein.”

A sharp elbow stabbed my ribs. “She’s deaf, seaweed-brain.” Ugh. My ex. Not one to spare feelings.

Months went by. My future girlfriend devoured the RED RISING trilogy. I took online classes. Practiced signing “Coffee sometime?”

Finally articulate, I straightened my tie. Removed my sunglasses. Boarded the subway, heart racing.

But her seat was empty.

I love love love this. BUT, that last sentence! See how much stronger it is when you take out the "but"?  I rail against this with writers all the time. All those extra words are just dragging down the energy of your sentences.  Leave them out! Cut! Snip! Chomp!



(7) sdbullard 6:33pm
Whitewash on the walls removes the stain of powder-blue hopes.

Toys, smiling in plush anticipation, escape in Goodwill bags.

Runaway dreams cling to disassembled furniture.

Echoes of a lullaby never sung drip through the nursery.

Not a nursery.

Nothing, now, but a spare room.

There's the added challenge here of doing the prompts in order listed. 
"Powder-blue hopes" is a great phrase, as is "plush anticipation"  Both uses words
in a distinctive way; I really appreciate that.



(8) Wendy Nikei 8:26pm
I was born in a collision of ice and rock.

I hurtled through space, away from the bleak sphere where I'd been stuck. Removed from its orbit, I no longer was bound by the noose of its gravity.

Freedom! I'd
escaped!

I was elated—for the first few thousand years.

In the vacuum of space, rushing past stars, I fell into a tedious
lull. There was little to interest me, not even a spare space probe or misplaced satellite.

Then the cobalt planet drew nearer, bigger. Its atmosphere burned my tail and shattered me senseless, but I'd never been happier.

I think this is our first story from the point of view of an asteroid. I love that!



(9) kdjames 9:05pm
During a lull in the visitation, I escape out the back door of the church mom hadn't attended since I was a child. October gusts push at fallen leaves that reveal the spare Minnesota landscape. It all feels wrong.

Accidental fall.
Nothing could be done.


I've been away too long.
Not long enough.

Dragging in a shaky breath, I turn to head back inside.
Back to cloying display, numbing grief.

We're orphans now, my sisters and I.
The fresh air did nothing to remove the certainty.
One of us is also a murderer.

There's really nothing quite like a good twist at the end to make me sit up and take notice. This is very lean and elegant writing, spare one might say, but oh so evocative.



(10) Sam Hawke 5:50am
The great Zulu Llewellyn, they called him. Bear trainer, entertainer extraordinaire. Really just Joe: captor, tormenter.

She fooled him with small gestures. Pared back the snipping. Kept her claws out of sight. Obeyed meekly as they were moved from cage to ring and back again. Gave the people their show.

Her chance came with a wayward breeze; it caught Joe’s cape, masked her quick movement. Lumbering like lightning.

A great story has three parts. He had his beginning, from Joe to Zulu. Now he had his end. Of course, she observed, taking another bite, he was missing his middle.

 This is brilliant. It's a complete story. It uses the prompt words so deftly that I had to look VERY carefully to find them. And it makes reference to an ongoing question: what makes something not-quite-a-story in these contests. Also it's funny.




As usual, this was not an easy call. I liked all the finalists, each for different reasons. In the end though, I have to recognize the dexterity with the prompt words, and the multi-level story that
is Sam Hawke 5:50am.


Sam, if you'll send me your mailing address and the kinds of books you like to read, I'll send you your prize.

Congratulations to all the finalists; your work was wonderful.  Thanks to all who took the time to enter. It's always a pleasure to see what you think up for these things.  Well...scary as all get out much of the time too!

This is the last writing contest of the summer.

For the next two weekends I'll be away, and the blog will be staffed by Other Voices.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

No week in review this week

I've been reading my eyeballs out trying to make progress on queries and requested manuscripts.

Which means as you might guess, alot of reading:






But alot of reading often leads to alot of money:





And that means alot of fun!

And it's a lot of fun, but not a week in review.


 Instead, let's dance!


Friday, August 14, 2015

The end of summer, last hurrah before vacation writing contest!


One more week before vacation! I'm counting the minutes!

That calls for a writing contest don't you think?

 The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

remove
escape
away
lull
spare


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word or sequential words. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: spare/ apples pared is ok but spare/sparkle is not

4. Post your entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

5. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

6. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

7. Under no circumstances should you tweet to me about your own entry.
Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!"
This is grounds for disqualification.

8. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

9. Please do not post anything here but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")


Contest opens: Saturday 8/15/15 at 8:18am


Contest closes: Sunday 8/16/15 at 8am
All times are Eastern Shark Time.

(thanks to Richard for alerting me to the typos** on date)
*** (translation: didn't look at date book with BOTH eyeballs!)


Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

ENTER!
awww, too late. Contest closed at 8am.

Blog housekeeping--comments

It's increasingly clear that the comment trail has become unwieldy.

Comments have increased dramatically over the past few weeks and months. If it was due to new people commenting that would be one thing (and a good thing) but it's not. It's that the comments have increasingly gone farther off topic, and gotten MUCH longer.

In fact, one handy commenter toted up the word count recently and it was more than 11K for one blog post.

That's just nuts.

Here are some things I'd like us to think about:

1. The comments are an integral part of this blog. They add value to it.
2. When the comment trail blows up it's hard for readers to see what's of value because there is simply too much there to read.

When people say "oh, there are 90 comments, too many" that's a danger sign. 


For the people who are commenting, here's something to consider:

If you're commenting multiple times a day, are you here commenting rather than working on your writing? What's your priority? What's going to get you closer to your goal?



I'm not going to tell you what you can and cannot write (at least not yet) because often when the comment trail goes hilariously, wildly off topic, it's the most fun.

I'm going to ask that you think about a couple things before you post:

1. Is there at least something on-topic in the comment?
OR
2. Are you asking a question about the blog post itself?
OR
3. Are you responding to a previous comment?

Answering yes to any of those questions keeps you on the right side of vommenting.


4. Is the comment more than 25 lines?
5. Is the comment more about you/your work than it is about the topic at hand?
6. Have you posted multiple times (ie 5+) to one blog post**?

**there are exceptions to this, principally Colin Smith who very helpfully posts links for what other commenters have posted as non-live html.  That does NOT count as over-posting.


Answering yes to these questions indicates you are NOT on the right side of vommenting.

We're all adults here, and capable of controlling ourselves.

I think we can self-regulate.

If we can't, there are two rather Draconian solutions which I prefer not to employ:

1. Comments can be moderated
2. Comments can be edited (ie deleted as I see fit)

Neither of these "solutions" appeal to me, but if we want this blog to remain accessible to new readers, kept manageable for daily readers, and if we want to continue with the Week in Review, we need to temper our verbosity.

Now, back to the task at hand: reading queries.





PS there will be another post today, a writing contest. This post is just housekeeping.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blogging about books

A recent question on the blog came from a writer who has found a degree of success in reviewing books online, only to find himself in a bit of a pickle when a book submitted for review turned out to have some pretty serious problems.


The ensuing comments had  interesting insights but also some questions about the etiquette of book reviewing, now that it's more of a Pro-Am sport than it was 20 years ago.

Since I tout the advantages of talking about books on your blog as a way of finding readers, I thought I'd weigh in on some guidelines for doing so:

1. You are under no obligation to mention or review any book. This includes books sent to you with the "received from the author with the promise of an honest review."  In fact, if an author asks you to agree to that: don't.  If an author wants to send you a book for a possible review that's all there is to it.

I know some authors at small presses, and self-published authors too, have very few review copies available.  They use this kind of promissory note to try to weed out people looking for free books. That's not your problem. It's theirs.


2. You are never required to send a book back to an author, publisher, or publicist. Not even if they include postage.

3. You get to decide whether to review the book, and you get to determine what standards you use.

4. An author who follows up on a review with anything but "thank you for your time and consideration" or "these are a list of factual errors in the review" is stepping outside the bounds of the social agreement on reviewing and should be blocked on social media, and not engaged in any kind of private email conversation.


5. You should send a link, or copy, of the published review to the person who asked for the review.

6. You are under no obligation to respond to anyone's criticism about your review, unless you make a factual error.  Errors of fact should be corrected and noted.

7. A fair review does NOT include a critique of the author's demeanor, behaviour, lifestyle, social media presence, etc.  A fair review is about the book, and can include mention of other books by the author.

8. One star "reviews" for ebook pricing, cover art, setting, or anything else that's not about the book is a cheap shot, and to be avoided.  Even if the cover art is supremely terrible. Melt your eyeballs, miss the point of the book terrible.





9. If you like to review and want to hear from authors, publicists and publishers, it's VERY helpful if you have a tab on your blog with your review policies (what you review, how often, where you post etc) and your contact information (NOT your physical address, your email.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Contract in hand, but not an agent

 There's a recurring question covered in blog posts by agents and authors that's often titled: "Is an Agent Worth It?"

I do not have an agent and have just received a contract for a 3-book deal. I would now say, without reservation, that an agent is DEFINITELY worth it.

I would give my left foot to have someone more experienced with more clout be in charge of this contract and the negotiations.

The story of why I am agentless is too long to include here, but I definitely want to strap on my armor and find an agent for any books subsequent to Book 3.

When is the best time for me to look for an agent under these circumstances? And, is there anything I need to know about querying under these circumstances -- anything that is different from the general agent-search advice? 


For starters, if you (or any writer reading this) find yourself with an offer and no agent, email me and I'll put you in touch with people who review contracts for authors on an hourly rate. Most of them are former publishing company contracts department people.

As to your actual question: You'd do well to query now even though the agent will not be the agent of record for those books.

Never assume someone won't be interested in establishing a relationship with you early on.

Also, you can pay an agent from your contract proceeds directly. The publisher pays you, you pay the agent 15%.

If you are unable to secure interest at this stage, you'd query next when the publisher is talking about the option book for this contract. 


This is one of those times when hitting a good writing conference will be useful since talking about your situation with an agent might be a lot easier than querying about it.

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

So, is this normal?



Imagine my excitement when I landed Big Time Agent! However, after I signed the contract, crickets.

After 2 months I sent a gentle email nudge (BTA's preferred form of commo) asking if there were revisions needed, if I needed to do anything..etc).

After a couple of weeks, BTA responded and we talked. BTA had obviously forgotten about me and (1) asked me to resend the ms, saying that BTA got so many emails that it was lost somewhere. I did so, along with some other requested things.

It's been a month and...still those darn crickets.

I know now I should have asked more questions during The Call, like how often communication would occur.

Here's my question: is this normal, the prolonged silence? (2)  I know BTA has many best selling authors. I respect that BTA is busy, but I also run a business and I know to respond promptly to clients. How long should I give this before terminating (yep. No termination clause. I am exposing my ignorance on the internet because it might help others who are blinded by the light).


I know one of BTA's authors and this author speaks so highly of BTA. Of course, the author is a best seller, which probably helps. I think highly of BTA too, I just need to know what is normal in the agent--client world.

First, you have no idea if BTA forgot about you unless she said she had. You can't read her mind. (If you can, please fire her at once, and come sign with me)

Second, the question isn't whether this is normal. The question is whether this is how you want your working relationship to be.

Normal could involve dancing pantsless in bars on Seventh Avenue (and trust me, for some of my clients who shall remain nameless




it does)


The question isn't whether dancing pantsless is normal, it's whether you want to do it.

And it's clear you don't.

You need a different style of communication. One that does not require months of silence and phone call prompts to hear from your agent.

For some clients that style might be just fine. I have clients who hear from me no more than twice a year and are ok with that.

I have other clients who hear from me several times a week, and one of those might be a phone call just to shoot the shinola.

Every client is different. One of the things one learns as an agent is what each client wants/needs and then tailoring communication to fit that.

That kind of tailoring does not come quickly or easily.  I have clients who've given me wake up calls. I have some ex-clients who did so as well.  Sometimes we learn the hard way.

You need to do the following:

 Speak to your agent candidly. Mention it feels like she forgot who you were. Be very direct that waiting for a month feels disrespectful and like you don't have value.

Then, listen both to what she says and how she says it. If she gets defensive and blames you, or faults your expectations, things are not going to change (ie get better.)

If she listens carefully, apologizes, and the two of you work out plan for meeting your needs, things are going to change (ie get better)

If you realize things are not going to change, you have a choice to make: suck it up or terminate the agreement.

This is where you need to be brutally honest with yourself: what do you want in an agent. Some very good agents are terrible with client communication. If she can sell your book, and get you a good deal, will it be worth the communication downside?  That's a question only you can answer.

You need to think about this NOW before the book is sold, because once the book is sold, she's the agent for that book forever.

A word of warning: a lot of people will weigh in on this topic. Some will have a list of "shoulds." Be very careful about listening to other people's should lists. The ONLY thing that matters here is YOURS. I've seen too many writers go astray listening to other writers telling them they should do this that or the other.  Listen to yourself (and me of course!)

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Sounds Like Trouble Sean Ferrell Flash Fiction writing contest results

There is an earlier post this morning honoring a specific entry.



The caliber of entries is so high now that entries which would have been finalists and possibly winners just a year ago, do not even make the list. 

What I find interesting is there is no consistency week to week with who is on the list of finalists. The entire lot of you are getting better. It's getting to be exactly the kind of problem I love to have.

Herewith the results.

Special recognition for the Perils of Pongo!
Lobo 8:04am

I'm not sure why I love this sentence but I do
Matthew Wuertz 8:19am
"It had been smart enough to get into the shed but dumb enough to get into the home-grown nitroglycerin."

Special recognition for a great line
KayC 9:06am
"Half is never enough."

Terri Lynn Coop 1:20pm
"I need to replevin my underwear."


Actually this may be one of the great lines of all time here
Terri Lynn Coop 1:20pm
"I was suddenly glad this robe covered my opinions."



Special recognition for an opening line that really catches the reader's attention!
Steve Cassidy 8:17pm
She was mindlessly skinning a cat in our kitchen when I walked in.

Special recognition for a great phrase
Kitty 1:20pm
"hung in the silence like a shroud"



This isn't quite a story, but I love love love the premise here
delicartoons 9:56am

Not quite a story but I love the structure
Christina Seine 10:47am

A phrase we need to use more often
Lance 11:08ak
"Thorazine Armada, stand by"

The start of what could be a very interesting story
mugandmuse 12:23pm

Not quite a story but I love love love the vivid writing
Megan V 1:29pm
Ashland 2:03pm


I love the idea of this story!
Erin Szczechowski 11:26pm


I want to join the Imperial Rogues!
CED 12:11am



A story I loved and desperately wanted to trim just a bit.
Firebeard 7:09am
“Worst. Nativity scene. Ever,” said the judge. “My eyes are numb. Mary looked like a Barbie doll, Joseph was wearing a spacesuit, and what's with the animals? There were supposed to be sheep! The Adoration of the Shepherds! NOT the Adoration of the Dinosaur-herds. Your dinosaurs look feral, anyway. That's a big no from me. Amanda?”

A female voice spoke. “No, I thought they were ghastly. Better luck next time, guys. Chin up.”

The door opened. “Bedtime.”

“But mum...”

A wry smile. “You can play Simon Cowell again tomorrow. Go to sleep.”

She put her toys back in the box.

 



Here are the finalists

(1) Timothy Lowe 8:02am


Scene from tomorrow:
No Chance Lake. Flaming fiberglass on the water.
Eyes of the crowd melting in numb denial. Eddie’s singed hair awry, fireproof suit not so fireproof.
Engine split in rotiferal defeat.

Scene from today:
Slim Chance Lake. Sprinting hull racing water.
Numberless eyes wide in denial. Eddie wearing his wry smile like a trump suit. Beneath, fauna scatter in poriferal terror, whispering “Neptune’s loose!”

Scene from yesterday:
Big Chance Lake. Marie tinkers beneath the hood, feral eyes narrow on each gear. Suitors galore have numbed her hard heart and Eddie should have kept his eyes on the dowry.


Things to notice here: obviously the reverse chronology. The name of lake changes each day. "rotiferal" and "poriferal"
And holy smokes, just read this out loud.
And then there's this: "fauna scatter in poriferal terror, whispering “Neptune’s loose!”

That sentence is sublime. It says everything about speed and noise without saying anything about volume or velocity. In other words: gorgeous subtle writing.




(2) Amanda Capper 8:03am

The scene: Office of feral numbskull foxy lawyer in wrinkled suit discussing first chipmunk’s dowry.

(First chipmunk): But

(Lawyer): no buts about it, sweetcakes, it’s all gone.

(Second chipmunk): Then our marriage is annulled.

(First): No!

Lawyer: The nuts market dropped. The oak forest crashed. Later, Dudes. (Turns to leave. Shot rings out, lawyer drops dead)

Second: Duck!

First: No! Skunk!

(Skunk saunters out, smoking pistol in paw)

Skunk: Your nuts are safe. Foxy squirrelled them away for his own winter hoard.

Second: Bastard! (Turns to first) Wonderful! Our marriage is saved!

First: You’re nuts. (First embraces Skunk. Curtain drops)



Totally hilarious. The "Duck! No! Skunk" pairing is perfect.

And dare I hope that "Later, Dudes" means this is a same-sex chipmunk marriage? 
Plus: all the prompt words in that first sentence!


(3) SiSi 9:23am
1. My night job is cleaning sweets at the hotel.

    I think you mean “suites” here— big rooms? “Sweets” are candy, cakes, etc. Watch your spelling :)

2. Sometimes plans go a wry.

    “Awry” is one word. Remember to check your vocabulary list!

3. His body got number when he couldn’t breathe.

    “more numb” is generally clearer-- what do you mean by this sentence?

4. The feral held the wire noose together.

    “Ferrule”

5. I scene what you did.

    “Saw” or “have seen”

Come by my office later today. Let’s make sure you get everything you want from this class.


I always love finding new words that really fit the story. Here it was ferrule. And this made me laugh on the initial read, then when I read it again, I gasped with delight.

For those of you who've mentioned you don't understand subtle or nuance when I make reference to it in a story, this is a good example this week.

On the first read, it's clearly a teacher correcting an essay or list of vocabulary words a student is using in sentences.

On the second read, the student may be misusing the words, but s/he's actually telling the teacher s/he saw what the teacher did at hotel in the suite, using a garrote to kill someone. And the final sentence sets up what I think is a perfect ending: the teacher is telling the student to come to his/her office" and "get what she wants."  It's exquisitely unclear if this is a bribe or a threat.

And I always love it when words are used incorrectly but demonstrate character or illuminate plot in their error.

(4) Dena Pawling 11:44am
Evolution of a relationship:


First date, Outback:

Her, staring at the book on the table: “You reading Numb?”

Me: “Yeah. Supposed to be an awesome book by some feral author who wears an empty suit.”

Her, eyes wide: “Like, he lives in the subway tunnels or some such scene?

Me, with wry smile: “Something like that.”


Fourth date, Denny's:

Her, incredulous: “Why do you always have a book?”

Me, disappointed: “Why do you never have a book?”


Last date, McDonald's:

Her: “Sorry. I... I just... can't see this working.”

Me: “Why not?”

Her: “That... that author... he doesn't like koalas!”


Well, who wouldn't love this? It's all of Sean's novels, although how you know about the unpublished one ["e lives in the subway tunnels"] I do not know.

The only thing I'd change here is leaving off the title. It telegraphs the story too early.

And I love that there's no sense of how many dates pass between #4 and The Last. That's a lovely subtle touch.


(5) Donnaeve 1:31pm
April 2014, the diagnosis is delivered. Soon, we know. Small town news travels fast.

Nerve cells gone awry, the feral consumption of muscles and abilities begins. A slow process, one you’re not suited for.

Time passes. Physical abilities wane.

No more ten miler Saturdays or fishing trips. No walking. Talking.

We try and do our part, accepting the challenge time and again.
Scenes capture dozens of us dumping ice water over our heads, as if to numb ourselves.

June 2015, ventilation is necessary. Facebook updates go silent.
Memories comfort, strengthen.

They’re what’s left.

Along with inevitable knowledge.

And the waiting.


Ok, so I can hear you asking "what makes this a story and not some of the others?" This has a beginning (the first line); it has a middle ("we try and do our part") and it has an end (June 15)

There's change in the story (no more walking. Talking)

but what makes this story stand out is the rhythm. Look at how the sentences get shorter, as do the lines as though the narrator no longer has breath or strength. 

And the line that makes this heartbreaking "as if to numb ourselves"

This evoked intense emotion and is beautifully written.


(6) Just Jan 8:53pm

"Free association," my shrink says.

I nod. We've played before.

"Cat."

Damned thing came out of nowhere. "Feral."

"Driver."

I look suitably ashamed. "Inebriated."

"Oak."

Planted by my great-great-granddaddy. "Unscathed."

"Convertible."

My brother's pissed. "Totaled."

"Parents."

They're angry, too. "Numb."

"Mugshot."

So I got arrested. Does he have to harp on it? "Embarrassing."

"Savior."

This is supposed to be the scene where I let him undress me, and he keeps me out of juvy for another week. But today I go awry. "Rapist."

"Suicide."

He's faster than I. Our eyes lock as he plunges the needle into my arm. "Murder."

I like the lean elegance of this; the fast pace. There are no wasted words. The story is revealed elliptically, which is the purpose of free association of course, but the story that's revealed isn't the one you think it is at the start.



(7) allierat 9:29pm
“Help! My wool suit’s gone feral!” Neal yelled from above.
I raced upstairs to a messy scene. Tatters of silk, strips of linen, and bits of cotton layered the bedroom floor. The suit had attacked my special wry neck pillow; the pillow had vomited its feathers in fear. I felt numb with terror.
His hands bloody, Neal wrestled with the herringbone tweed. “Get scissors!” he screamed.
Instead, I grabbed Neal’s hunting knife from the closet and hacked the suit into pieces. It finally went limp.
“That does it!” I panted, surveying the carnage. “From now on, only polyester!”

the concept of a suit gone feral is just too wonderful not to recognize.


(8) Pharosian 2:33am
When I rolled up, Ortega's unit had already arrived. I climbed out of my cruiser and ducked under the yellow crime scene tape.

"What's the scoop?" I asked.

Ortega gestured to a man sitting on the curb wrapped in a blanket, bare legs sticking out.

"
Numbnuts over there decided to parade around the women's auxiliary club in his birthday suit."

"So, who's the D. B.?"

Ortega flashed a
wry smile. "Seems two of the ladies fought like feral hyenas and one of them stabbed the other."

"Fought about. . .?"

"Whether to call the police or invite him in."


there's just nothing like a good story with a great punch line.
This made me laugh out loud.




This week's winner is the first finalist: 
Timothy Lowe 8:02am. 

Timothy if you'll send me your mailing address, and the kind of books you like to read, we'll get you something delicious in the mail.


Congrats to all the finalists, and thanks to everyone who took the time to write an entry. It's a pleasure to read your work, and it's an increasing challenge to pick finalists, let alone a winner.


Flash fiction contest special recognition

This blog post is to honor an entry in the last flash fiction contest that is sui generis.

It cannot be part of any competition. It is beyond competition. It is perfect. Dreadful, anguished perfection.



CarolynnWith2Ns
I used to be Wry Wryter.
Go ahead google me.
See, I told you. I’m still there. Sort of.
I wrote about that which suited me, until words failed.

On one December morning, a feral male took twenty-six lives, leaving all of us numb with grief and empty of understanding. In a scene from a nightmare, my daughter’s best friend heroically saved some, sadly lost others and perished in the bloody process. For those on the periphery of grief, it was incomprehensible, for the families, the pain is (still) unimaginable.

This is not flash fiction. It’s tragic truth.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Week in Review August 9



It's nice to be back on track after a couple weeks of being away and feeling very untethered by too much to do.

Last week's review wasn't really more than a hodge podge of quick notes from the Writers Digest conference but as usual, the best part of any blog post is found in the comments.

I just loved this news from bjmuntain:
I'd been going to give a whole bunch of travel tips I learned on this trip here, but there's really only one that's important. Edmonton, Alberta, airport has stress relief dogs. They wear vests that say Pet Me and go from gate to gate to let guests get some loving and wet faces.

I never thought I needed to go to Edmonton Alberta, but now I do. And I guess I should quit teasing our neighbors to the north in Canadia. Any country that can come up with this idea should be off limits to teasing.

I'm on a typo kick this week after having DIFFRNT in large letters on the overhead screen at the conference.

Some of you are sharing my pain:
Kregger: And listen to god old rock and roll while doing it.


The fact that there is something called Armadillo con just makes me happy:
Jenz: "but I did go to ArmadilloCon last weekend"

And I think this one wins for both good intentions and "holy moly what are you doing"

Janice Grinyer: 
Packing for Bismarck North Dakota so I can finish my book in my daughter's basement apt. while she works during the day. I am holding myself hostage until I rework this one damn chapter that holds me back from completing the damn thing. I must be getting close because I am annoyed with it and it with me and whoever survives the week in Bismarck wins.

I really liked kdjames Sunday ruminations:
wondered what anthropologists or explorers will make of our language and customs one day in the far distant future when language has changed yet again. Will they discover our flash fiction entries and ascribe them to religion? Will they try to decipher the meaning of the favoured words, repeated over and over, and see them as an offering to appease a powerful demi-god? Will they dismiss the idea of word-play as being too advanced a concept for our inferior and under-developed species?

I used that metaphor a while back to explain why non-fiction book proposals needed to cover the significance of the book being proposed.




The entries are getting better each time and that means it's getting harder and hard to pick finalists and a winner. I think this is all some sort of vast conspiracy, probably hatched on Carkoon, for revenge on The Agent. (and I'm ok with that, having gnawed more than my fair share of writers in the last few years)

I really liked hearing why you all enter the contests, and the individual goals you set for yourselves.

Dena Pawling started a very interesting discussion with her comments about not getting subtext in a story:

When I was in high school, my Sophomore English class was the typical “read and analyze the classics”. The first book we were assigned was Animal Farm. I read it. Twice. It was about a bunch of farm animals, and the pigs were not very nice. That's all I got out of it, even after the class discussion.



bjmuntain added
I have to admit, I didn't get Colin's ending, until Janet pointed it out. Sometimes subtlety is lost on me, I'm afraid. Once I saw it, I thought 'oh yeah', even though Janet didn't say what it was.

And Theresa:
And I always struggled with the "meaning" in novels. I once asked my 8th grade English teacher if she was sure that every story had a particular meaning. What if the author had simply wanted to tell a story? That teacher didn't like me very much.

Colin Smith
I've read that C.S. Lewis was annoyed by people who referred to the Narnia stories as "Christian Allegory." Now, it would be absurd to deny that the series is based in a Christian worldview, and leans heavily on Christian themes and biblical allusions. However, C.S. Lewis wanted the Narnia books to be regarded FIRST and FOREMOST as "good stories." And I agree with this perspective. It's cool if you can pack some deep and significant symbolism and allegory into a novel. But if the story sucks and I can't connect with the characters , then what's the point? I'm probably going to give up reading it, and all your cleverness will be lost on me.

And of course Julie M. Weathers summed it all up to perfection:
I have to agree with you. Someone years ago on the forum pointed out how much they appreciated the symbolism of whatever in my story. That never occurred to me whatsoever. I was describing something on the family farm exactly as I remember it. It didn't represent anything except a typical Montana farm.

    Gads, don't ever accuse me of being literary or deep.

    It's like an intellectual having a discussion with a cowboy who's staring at something on the ground.

    "I see you're pondering life. How that fragile flower can break through that rock to find it's way, reaching upwards to the sun. Triumphant against all odds!"

    "Hmmm? Oh, no. I was just looking at that dry cow pie and wondering where my fence was down. Not supposed to be any cows in this section."

    Yep, that would be pondering the cow pie of Julie Weathers literature. We all have our place in the sun. Some of us just have a kind of flat green place.


And Colin asked: Janet: What do you mean by "not quite a story"?
It has a start and a finish, and something changes. Maybe it's our (the reader's) perception or maybe it's something to do with one of the characters in the story. 

And Colin also asked:
Janet: Do you have any objection to the contests being announced and discussed on Twitter? I know you've said we are not to Tweet you directly and say "Hey, Shark-for-Brains, look at my awesome story!" What are the parameters for Twitter discussion of contests? Are there any? Or, like Chum Bucket, would you prefer to keep the contests for regular blog readers?

I don't have any objection to touting the contests far and wide. Just do NOT include me if you do it on Twitter or Facebook. (ie don't link me, or include @Janet_Reid in the tweet.) Link only to the actual contest on the blog.

And there's been idle chat about doing a Facebook page of some sort for the reader of this blog. I can't control what any of you do (even here on this blog, other than delete comments) but I STRONGLY urge you not to do this.

For starters, none of you have time for that. You should all be busy writing.
Second, starting a group from scratch is time-intensive. If you need a critique group, find a place that's already set up to help you form one.

And finally, under No Circumstances is anyone allowed to attach my name to that kind of effort in ANY way. I have to be very careful about  the perception that something has my OK particularly if it involves critiques of any kind, or information about publishing. And since no one is all that interested in my opinion on anything BUT those items, it's better to just say no and be done with it.

I'm sorry to be such a bucket of cold water on an idea birthed only of good intentions but I've learned the very hard way to be cautious about this kind of thing.

On Tuesday, the question was what to do with a train wreck of a novel when the reviewer was also a novelist

The key piece of information was the reviewer felt some of the book had been plagiarized, which of course meant the reviewer must decline to review it.

Lisa Bodenheim asked a good question after seeing the book in question had such egregious errors:
I had assumed big publishers still had copy editors who review books before publishing them. After all, it is the publisher's name on the book too so it reflects on their professionalism.

So this is a good question to ask on the road to publication. Do I ask my agent (when I got one) or my publisher (when one is found)?

Nothing goes out of my office with that level of error. I'd be mortified to submit something like that to a publisher..  Most publishers I work with do have copy editors, and they make my purse-lipped, eagle eyed nose for errors (and adjective strings) look like a day in Slackerville.

That said, some smaller publishers do not have resources for a top flight copy editor. If you know that's the case, it's entirely reasonable to retain the services of a copy editor yourself.  Not all copy editors are created equal, and I've heard some stories that would curl your hair, so as always, get references and check them before retaining anyone to do work for you.

donnaeve asked: "do reviewers HAVE to review books"
No. No one is obliged to review a book even if you got one on a Goodreads give away with the presumption you'd post a fair review.  Certainly that would not be the time to say "I don't have time to review this." You'd need a more substantive reason. The question poser did have one though: plagiarism.

You simply can not review a book that you believe is plagiarized. You also do not want to post a review saying "this book is plagiarized" unless you've done the page by page comparison needed to substantiate the claim.  Your obligation is only to write to the publisher about your concern and say you will not be reviewing the book. What the publisher does with that information is their business. You do NOT want to be in the position of making statements about a book in a public forum that can lead to a lawsuit. Publishing your opinion about the writing of the book is one thing; saying "this writer stole material from someone else" is quite another.



Her Grace the Duchess of Kneale  posted my new favorite sardonic phrase: diversity bingo cards in their books.

And I had to laugh that it wasn't until the very last comment THREE DAYS LATER that someone pointed out there were two points labelled #6.  Either you didn't notice, or you didn't want to say anything.

I'm totally fine with readers pointing out those kinds of errors. I like to fix them.

And if you want a comment deleted, it's ok to write to me and tell me to delete it for you. I'll only need your posting name, date, and timestamp.

I like to keep the blog tidy. That means deleting the "this comment removed by author" dead spots and fixing errors no matter when they are found.

After a terrible Google mess, I'm still trying to update all the posts that have missing images.  I fear I'll be working on that until the cows (or Colin) come home.


On Wednesday the topic was republishing short stories:


and of course Colin is determined to take up permanent residence on Carkoon with this little gem:
So--how about an anthology of, oh, say, flash fiction stories previously published on a certain literary agent's blog? I'm curious to know what the interest would be in that, if Janet knows of any publishers that would take such a project on, or would this be better as a self-published project?

For starters, no one can self-publish those stories since there are multiple authors. Each author retains copyright of his/her work even if it's posted here. Unless you mean self-pubbing only your own entries.

Second, no publisher is going to be interested in something like this given that all the material is already available at no cost here on the blog. 

If by some twist of fate, I am struck by lightning, killed, then revived as a crazy person who thought this was a good idea, there would need to be fresh new material-- essentially bonus content --for a book to have any chance of  finding a paying market.

Craig brought up the sticky issue of rights:
Make sure that the rights really do revert. Places like Short Story America don't do much of a contract because it is implied that they own the rights forever. Some of the more interesting anthologies have a sliding scale of reversion. If you are a headlining writer you can keep the rights. If you are a filler writer they keep the rights. It has to do with sales generation versus opportunity.

I can not agree with this more. Short story contracts particularly from small presses are often a hodgepodge nightmare. Make sure there is either the phrase "non-exclusive" or a a specific amount of time for the exclusivity.

Example: Author grants Publisher the non-exclusive right to print, publish and sell the Poem  "Ode to Kale"  in the English language throughout the world
OR
Author grants Publisher the exclusive right print, publish and sell the Poem "Ode to Kale" for twelve (12) months, and the non-exclusive right to print, publish and sell Poem thereafter, in the English language throughout the world.

And in case anyone has forgotten, yes there is an Ode to Kale.
ODE TO KALE

Leafy green and verdant plant
Whose charms my taste buds tease
Though food of pleasure here is scant
Your bitter juice doth please

Now this exile land is home
And here my days will end
I'm glad to know your wavy comb
My succulent best friend.
---Colin (The Man of Great Ideas) Smith


and it turns out that Christina Seine's pint size person has a great idea:
8yo: No! Yeah! They could put all the agents in tanks and then you could pitch to them that way! Instead of aiming at them, you could just aim at the target thing, and if you hit it but they don't like your book, they go in the water.

Honest to godiva, if we did that as a fundraiser at Bouchercon, we'd clean up. Well, someone would clean up. I doubt they'd let me keep the lovely lolly proceeds.

Christina Seine harked back to my presentation at the Writers Digest conference wherein I spelled different without the second e:

I meant to tell you Janet that you were eclipsed by another presenter during the conference whose slide was supposed to say "hands." So when we all read that a character had her hans on her hips, a general giggle rippled through the audience. It was followed by several Norwegian-themed erotically funny whispered one-liners that had the attendees in the middle rows doubling over with silent laughter. I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

Sven and Lena jokes? Oh dear, I know only one. It's utterly disreputable and can not be printed on this blog. However. Should we have a Welcome Back From Carkoon gathering at Bouchercon for our exiled Colin Smith, someone remind me to tell you the story of the fellow who pitched me a marriage tips book at a conference one year. (This story is why Barbara Poelle got an air horn for Christmas that year)

And in case you need a discussion on breakfast cereal, this was the comment trail for you.

On Thursday we talked about waiting time for following up on requested fulls.


[There were 177 comments by week's end, which I think is the record now. Fortunately for me, at least 2/3 of them were far afield of the day's topic, thus hilarious but not requiring follow up.]


Jennifer R. Donohue asked a good question:
I'm unclear as to how I ought to word it, though. "Dear Agent, emailing to check the status on the full of TITLE sent DATE. Kisses, have a good summer!" (maybe not with kisses. too early in the possibility of a relationship).
Here's how you email for a follow up:

Subject line: Follow up on TITLE by AUTHOR requested DATE

Dear Snookums,
I'm writing to follow up on TITLE which you requested on DATE.

Option A: I wanted to make sure you received it in good order. Yours truly, Woodland Creature
Option B: Please let me know if any further information will be helpful to you. Yours truly, WC

You use Option A if the agent did not acknowledge receipt of the full
You use Option B if the agent DID acknowledge receipt of the full.

Notice that in neither option do you ask how soon the agent will reply to you. The purpose of this is not to get a date certain, but to make sure the communication pipes are running clearly.

When I reply to acknowledge receipt of requested fulls I tell writers to expect me to take 90 days but they are welcome to touch base as often as their nerves require. You might think that anxious
woodland creatures would email me every day but no only do they NOT, it's cut down on actual follow up emails. Interesting isn't it that telling people it's ok to be in touch salves their anxiety enough that they don't have to.

I can't figure out why more agents don't do this.


Laura Mary had a good question:
I know that some agents are 'no reply means no' at the query stage, which is annoying but I guess understandable - what is the etiquette form an Agent's perspective with partials/full requests? I naively assume that that would warrant a reply, even if it is a 'not for me' 12 months later.

I believe that agents should reply to partials and fulls. Most agents I know say that is their practice, even if they've gone over to the Dark Side on "no response means no."

What happens is they get woefully behind, and it's kind of embarrassing, not to say humiliating to keep writing back with "not yet." I think that's why there is the Great Silence sometimes. Or, they mean to read it this week, and things get out of hand, and then the email gets buried, and pretty soon it's three weeks old and starting to smell like ripe gym sox, and it's just easier to delete it and pretend you never saw it.


I liked kaitlyn sage's imagery here:
I tend to view my partials and fulls as little unicorns I put out to graze and get fat on the lush grass of being read by strangers. Maybe they come when I call to check on them, maybe they don't. They're unicorns. Suckers have minds of their own.


And Lizzie makes a good point:
I wish it was more professionally acceptable for agents to post status updates on fulls even if they are a year or more behind. The waiting is a bummer, sure, but it's the daily today-could-be-the-day suspense that niggles.

The problem with that is I don't always read in date order. In fact, I read out of order a lot. I do my queries in chrono order, but short of actually posting names or titles, I can't think of a way to keep up on the status of requested fulls.  

On Friday we paused to compose entries for the flash fiction writing contest. The results for that will be posted on Monday.


Bouchercon:

Colin Smith
And if I might just say something else about Bouchercon (and then I'll shut up about it--unless you all carry on talking about it...), I'm actually looking forward to the fact that this is, essentially, a fan event. It's not a writing conference, so I'm not going to be there trying to get published, and agents are not going to be there trying to build their client lists. This means we can all relax and have fun, which is a much better way to get to know people. That's not to say I don't want to go to a writing conference. Heck yes I do. But this sounds to me like a much better atmosphere in which to meet the likes of Janet, Barbara, and Jessica for the first time. Especially given my relatively inept social skills. :)

A note about Bouchercon. It's in Raleigh North Carolina October 8-11. As Colin mentions it's a fan convention, NOT a writing conference. I go to support my authors. That means I attend their panels.  If you want to find me, that's the first place to look.

Second, I'm in the bar A LOT. And not sozzled either (mostly) It's just a convenient place to hang out.
I'm very much looking forward to seeing blog readers there as well. 

Here are some tips for you:
1. If I'm talking to one person, intently, it's most likely a meeting. Please save your hello for when I can buy you a beverage and have an actual visit.

2. If I'm in the middle of a bunch of people, please feel free to join in. Even if it's all clients or colleagues, we're happy to include you.

3. If I'm sitting alone in the back of the room at a panel, please feel free to talk to me. Even if I'm reading. I tend to get to panels early and stake out my claim to the back of the room.

4. If you see Loretta Ross, say hi. She's a client of mine, and this is her first Bouchercon. She's one of the nicest, funniest people in the world.

5. Under no circumstances will you initiate a conversation about your query or manuscript. This is a convention for READERS and I'm there as a reader not an agent.

Fire away with any questions about B/con.


And a heads up that it's almost vacation time again. I'm not sure what to do for that week+ here on the blog. Here are some ideas:

We can have blog posts with pets again
OR I can do reposts of earlier topics (like all the Rules for Writers)
OR we can just go dark
OR ??? your suggestions appreciated. (Except for Colin. He just gets in to trouble with those)



Subheader choices for the week.
"And then the cat yakked up a hairball."--kdjames

"The thread here is like a stream of consciousness interrupted each day by a post from Janet."-Colin Smith


"Topic? What topic?"--kdjames

"One of the many reasons I love this blog is that Janet understands exactly how batshit crazy we writers are and seems to like us in spite of it." --kdjames

"The first thing on my to do list everyday is read this blog. Worrying about things I can't control is #2.

Unless I wake up super early. Then the order is reversed."--SiSi

kaitlyn sage:
I tend to view my partials and fulls as little unicorns I put out to graze and get fat on the lush grass of being read by strangers.