Thursday, June 30, 2011

NPR posts some nice YA novels appropriate for everyone

Here's the link to follow, and I dare say it would not be much issue to find something to like on that list. :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What NOT to do when an agent calls...good advice

Just read this list of great things you should NOT do when you finally get an agent to call you. Obvious? Perhaps, but well worth repeating.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Current story

At the moment, I just broke 40000 words. I have no real end in sight yet, so I think it is safe to say that that book will be over 80000 words long--unless something happens to majorly change that. I can't really imagine at the moment what 80K looks like. All I know is, it seems HUGE! (Even though I know it's not.)

Anyone else get daunted by the sheer numbers sometime?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ten left

Out of my 100 queries, there remain ten that there is still time for the agent/agency to contact me before they "time out." What that means is, many agents/agencies have a "no response from me means I'm not interested" policy. After the standard waiting period of 8 weeks--which seems short but most people agree that's a good period to wait--the queries "time out," indicating that the rule ("no response equals 'no'") is in effect. At that point, I call it "dead" and I go to the next queryable agent.

Simple process. There is a flaw: if the agent didn't get the query, for instance it came in and was--for some reason--marked SPAM and deleted; or their email server crashed--any number of possible technological glitches. End result is they didn't get my query, and I have no way to know it. However, I'm sort of unwilling to "ping" them again and say, "Hey, did you get that query or were you just not interested?" (I would, no doubt, be far more eloquent than that.)

This is why I really, REALLY, REALLY appreciate agents that have either an auto-responder set up to say "We got it, dude!" or they take some of their valuable personal time to write an email saying the same thing--or have a lackey do it. At least then I know and don't have to wonder what the heck may have happened.

Such is life of an aspiring author.

In case you're wondering: of the 100 agents/agencies I queried, only ONE agent ever asked for a partial manuscript. Only one. That sounds about right--based on odds--but others are telling me that for every 20 queries, there should be at least one request. I find that hard to believe. Of all the people I am vaguely knowledgeable about none of them have a 5% request rate.

Could be me, however. Perhaps I'm just "special," in the wish-I-wasn't-special-like-that sort of way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fail

Just got a rejection letter where the agent spelled my name wrong. I understand that happens, but it doesn't make me feel any better about the situation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Agent 100

Well, I did it. I hit the "magic number" of queried agents: 100.

This means that, for all intents and purposes, the querying on Memories of the Dead has now come to an end. Should this fail, there's "Plan B"...followed by "Plan Z." After which, there is no plan, as that's the end of the road for this first book.

We'll see what develops, of course; but I still remain hopeful to the extreme. We'll get there--it all depends on how.

Stephen King's 10 Commandments of writing

Here they are taken from a very nice blog. Read 'em and weep.

ChicaReader reviews: POSSESS, by Gretchen McNeil

Here's the review, and I have to say, she sounds a little more than "disappointed," in the tale. But all in all, she credits Gretchen with a passing grade of "C+"--while not the perfection anyone ever shoots for, it is more than enough to gain hard-core fans as well as get anyone's career going.

Regardless, I hold my opinions to myself until I read the book personally. And as every literary agent has told me, publishing (as well as writing) is subjective--not everyone is pulled in and enthralled by the same stuff. What LiLi says in her review may not be your ending opinion.

Or, as they say on the multitudinous Internet chat-rooms and every car-review forum: your mileage may vary.

I still say: pick it up.

Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Gretchen (Hi!), is running yet another contest to win a signed copy of her new and soon-to-be-released book, Possess, which will be coming out in August from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. Get thee over and pre-order the book (link below), and head on over to her blog for more details on how you can win a copy of this before you can even buy it!

Is that cool, or what?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kindle publishing on the rise.

Future of Media: The rise of the million-selling Kindle author. Interesting. Take a gander.

Lauren Ruth is open for submissions

There's a "new" agent in town, pardners; and her name is Lauren Ruth. She stables up at Bookends, LLC, and she just blogged this nice post to let y'all know that she's hankerin' for some new blood to come her way. So, saddle up, and submit. Make her a happy agent and give her really good stuff.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Plotting

You know, just when you think you have a handle on the plot for the next chapter, something comes along and monkey-wrenches the whole thing. Creativity is a blessing and a curse like that--you can be "good to go," and then BOOM! You're thinking all these things that a simple verb choice flip-flop brings into play.

Language: serious business.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Full of Fail

Well, I knew it would happen. The agent who was looking at my partial chose to decline. Specifically, she said she didn't get the sense of wonder she had hoped for. Not sure exactly what that means, but for now it means the hunt continues. Such is life. Such is life. :(

Monday, June 13, 2011

X-Men: First Class

This last weekend, I managed to take in the new X-Men movie, and I liked it.

Yarr, there be some spoilers ahead, matey!

Telling how everyone at the beginning came together is nice, and you end up doing that when something like this happens, and with previous X-Men movies having broken the comic entirely (they couldn't just follow what the creators did in the issues--they always have to play around with it), they took one of the more interesting villains, Mystique, and brought her along for the ride. Her retconned history makes her pretty old, so this works. I have no beef with the movie's story-telling.

The pace was pretty brisk, considering. They could have went the dull way around and taken a lot of time with exposition, and I'm glad they didn't. I still think X-Men would be a great TV series--if they did the effects right. There's a WHOLE LOT THERE they can play with, and it would be light-years better than anything on TV now.

But I have to say this, or I would not be honest. I think Banshee is a lame character. Sorry, but that's how it is. He's stupid. But I knew he wouldn't get killed because he's a main-stay character of the franchise. Bummer really.

The cameo of Wolverine was fun. Good to see. Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw was fun--I never expect him as the bad guy, so that worked out great, if you ask me.

Emma Frost--aka, "The White Queen"-- was boring and seemed tacked on, like she was just there for cleavage. Meh.

I was hoping the "Angel" of the story was actually going to be "Wasp," but such is life. She ended up going evil anyway, so good riddance.

There's rumors of a sequel happening. Be fun to see. I recommend you all go to see X-Men: First Class for a matinee, get the drink and popcorn, and sit back for some fun.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Villains have lives and feelings, too

We love our bad-guys. We need them. Without the antagonist, the plot is lost. It's easy to think of the villain as just this nameless, evil monster doing who-knows-what to the hero/heroine. Being bad is his job, right? But that's not all they are. They're (or perhaps, were) a well-rounded person at one point--with fears, hopes, dreams, ideas, a home-life, perhaps a wife, and then...something happened.

Maybe, he turned his back on the society that turned against him; perhaps, he had an injury to his brain. Or ...

Well, you get the idea. Whatever made the villain the VILLAIN is what also makes him--even if you're writing some fantasy story--"human."

I'm exploring the human side behind the mask of my villain. Turns out, there's more to him than just being the bad-guy of the story. He had a mom--who wasn't really his mom, but close enough--his dad is with someone else now, and "mom" still pines for the villain's father. This causes some emotional stirrings in the villain, as he really cares for mom--and sends her money when he can. Heck, he even refers to his father as an "asshole."

And this guy is a murderer! (With issues, of course.)

This, I hope, makes the character not only more "real," but also more believable and perhaps even something of a sympathetic character as well. Maybe the reader will end up liking the guy a little--even though you should despise him immensely (and most likely, you will.)

To me, this is WAY better than "Oooh, there's the spooky bad-guy! He's a monster! Ooooh!" Real is definitely an improvement over fake--and that's the last thing I want to try to pull off: fake.

The point is this: villains should be thought about. Their not just the evil force, they have reason, thought, intellect, emotion, a life, a home, a plan, and they have the taint of bad that makes them oh, so glad to be bad. If you have people cheering for the baddie, you might be doing it right. But you don't want to make them so human they lose the whole power you intended them to have. A fine line, to be sure.

I loves me some evil characters. Make 'em real. Take a little time to think about them, it's worth it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Normandy +66 years

Sixty-six years ago, on June 6, 1944, thousands of men crashed upon the occupied beaches of Normandy in the perhaps vain hope that they could wipe clean the continent of Europe from the tyrannical scourge of Nazism. We here, living today, are the inheritors of a great debt unto those soldiers. Each and every one of us who reads this post today: I urge you to seek out, if you can find them, a serviceman who was there that day--who survived against odds so great that they seemed insurmountable--and thank them for their service.

Additionally, thank them in place of their fallen comrades who never left those bloody beaches. Evil was fully confronted that day by men who, though they were afraid, did their ultimate to serve the right, the good, and the free. They did their job with dignity and honor; and for that, you and I, mere mortals in comparison to their profound act, must graciously bend knee before them in great praise and thanks.

Though I am too young to know of those horrid days of absolute war, I know somewhat of their sacrifice, and this moves me in ways no other thing can ever compare.

Servicemen of that dreadful day: I salute you, though I do not have the right to do so. May your woes be over, may the hurts you have suffered be cleared, may the wars we fight be the last--and may you who are not with us, rest in eternal peace.

This debt to them, I am unworthy to repay. Perhaps one day, I shall be able.

In the name of all the fallen, the murdered, and the missing: I thank you and hope I can make you proud.

Organic Development of Plot


Call me crazy, and some of you might just do that, but I like it when a story unfolds before me "organically." That is to say, that the tale snowballs and develops over time. This is not to imply that I don't like a good old "drop in the meat grinder" beginning. (They call this "In Media Res," by the way; and if you want a good example of In Media Res, look at the opening of "Star Wars Episode IV -- A New Hope." [If you're old, like me, you know it simply as "Star Wars"--before all that prequel crap.])

My point is this: I'd had it mentioned to me that my stories develop slow and then build up. This is quite intentional. Like I said, I like organic development. I can see where this could be annoying--having to wait for things to get going--people like immediate satisfaction and my stories take that lingering moment to build.
Here's an example of the thing I'm talking about: I was reading Dracula last night (yeah, really) and good ol' Stoker does the same thing--taking the time out to introduce a character, build some suspense, and make you think that Dracula isn't all that bad. Yet Stoker's writing leaves lingering thoughts as to what the heck is the deal with all the townsfolk crossing themselves? And why is Harker locked in his wing of that decrepit old castle? Why all the baloney drama? What's the deal with the Count disappearing at dawn? 

In other words: what the heck is the deal, yo?

Of course, we know that Dracula is pretty evil--such is our history with the character--but imagine when the book first was published, this all would have been brand new stuff. The rest, they say, is literary history. Now you probably cannot swing a Barnes & Noble book bag without hitting a novel that in some way owes a deep level of respect and credit to Dracula and Stoker.

Organic: it's not just about plants; it's how writers get things done. It might be currently out of fashion in the age of click-a-button-and-your-electronic-transfer-is-complete, but it certainly not old fashioned. It's traditional; it's what writers, if they think about it, are really trying to aspire toward.

Find me an author that wouldn't trade a leg for the fame, influence, and respect that Stoker has, and I will show you a fool who happens to write. I, for one, would make that trade in a heartbeat.

So, yeah, I try to develop things slowly; but once I get going, I hope making the reader wait was worth it. I just hope I don't make it boring--which is the worst kind of insult a writer can make to a reader. I don't aspire towards boring, and no writer ever should. There is that fine-line between building suspense and taking thirty pages to describe a mushroom. (Or, "Tolkien, let's get this wagon-train a-rollin'!) [Not that I am disparaging J.R.R. Tolkien--that would be foolish: his addition to the fantasy genre is immeasurable. What I'm saying is there was room there and he took all of it even though he really didn't need to.]

For me, I think, it's all about moving forward; but doing so in all good and proper time. Take the time to tell the tale--leave the meat grinder for when it's really appropriate.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I just received a request for a synopsis + 50 pages!

You cannot contain my level of sheer happy at this moment. I wasn't sure I'd ever make it this far, but here I am. A real, live, honest to goodness agent said "hey, lemme see."

I might cry. Wow. This is indeed an amazing day.

The oddities of writing and the discipline needed

So, here I am roughly 33000 words into my newest "pre-alpha" story, and I have come to a crossroads: do I continue to tell the admittedly depressing tale, thereby showing I have the discipline to continue a project that isn't "fun"; or, do I piddle back and forth with it and a few other ideas I have floating around in my noggin?

Difficult to say what the correct answer is. It doesn't really matter, I suppose, since all the stories will be told eventually...but I am not much of a multi-taker, and I cannot guarantee that any of the stories would ever see completion if I didn't "hunker down" and finish them one-by-one. The problem is, the book I'm working on right now is sort of depressing. I knew it would be, after all, you can't really be chipper and upbeat about a guy who is surgically dismantling someone against their will. I'm thinking, if nothing else, I need to stick it out and finish the book--if for no other person than for myself.

An exercise in writing discipline, I figure. The bummer is, I have this (hopefully) great fantasy story idea that I'd like to get to. I just hope I remember it when I'm done with MINIMAL. (I tend to not take notes, either; so it's possible it will get lost in my muddled mind along the way. Yes, I know...I'm weird.)