Sunday, July 12, 2015

Researching Agents and Small Presses

I am currently querying agents for my YA Fantasy novel, Welcome to Sortilege Falls.  I spend several hours a week researching agents, looking at their recent sales, and sending out queries.  So far, it's going as expected.  I've been asked for a partial and received a lot of rejections, completely normal.

But I'm a just-in-case kind of gal.  I know that I could spend the next 6-12 months querying and still not find representation.  My hope is to find an agent that loves the book like I do and is totally jazzed to rep it, but if not, then I have a back-up plan.  I've decided to approach small presses after the agent search.  I don't want to do both at the same time as that can cause problems.  And note, if I get an agent, I have no intention of still shopping my book around on my own.

Books with question mark by AJMy search into small presses has actually proved to be a blast.  Why's that?  Well, it involves a lot of steps which I tend to enjoy and I don't know why.  First, I find the small press.  Then I check out the titles, submission policy, etc.  If they carry books in YA Fantasy and they are open to submissions, I check out how the titles they've already published are doing on Amazon and Goodreads.  What's their sales rank?  How many reviews do they have, etc.  If everything looks good there, meaning that more than two recent titles have over 20 reviews on at least one platform, I then google the publisher and try to find out all that I can.  Absolute Write has proved an invaluable resource.

I have to admit, this is the part that appeals to the gossip-pleasure-center of my brain.  A lot of the presses I've found that have good sales and a high number of reviews get pretty good feedback from their authors.  BUT, I've heard some crazy stuff on Absolute Write and other sites.  Publishing houses refusing to pay authors, books being published unedited in order to get them out quicker, small presses shutting down after one or two years of operation, etc.

The publishing world is becoming a very interesting place to investigate.  I sometimes have to remind myself that I have writing to do and that research is supposed to be a small part of my day.

What about you interwebs?  Have any techniques you use to find agents or publishers?  Heard any crazy stories?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Holy Fourth Batman!

One of my best friends came to Raleigh to visit this past weekend.  It was a lovely visit filled with fun, beer and food.  And food.  And then some more food.  Oh, you've stopped chewing for five minutes?  Well, let's shove some more food in your mouth.  Because America.

Well, that's unkind.  America did not force me to overeat.  I am more than capable of that myself, thank you very much.  But goodness, Raleigh has some terrific restaurants and you can't let your out of town guests go by themselves.  Well you can, but then you'd be a horrible person.  Thinner, but horrible.

Then there was the beer.  UGH, RALEIGH, you're killing me.  NC beers are soooooooooooo good.  How good are they?  When I waited tables, I once heard someone say the desserts at the restaurant were so good, they would make you slap your momma.  Yes, NC beers are that good.

Basically, this weekend was pretty stellar.  I hope to relive it in 2016!  Hope you all had a happy fourth as well!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Recent Reads I'd Recommend: Syndrome E

This post will contain spoilers.

Syndrome E is a psychological thriller/crime novel that revolves around one intense film and several mysteries.  Mystery one - five male bodies are found with brains and eyes missing.  Mystery two - an experimental film from the fifties is found that causes one man to go blind and is eventually linked to these murders, but no one knows who made the film, how they made it (lots of odd sequences including a bull stopping on a dime), or why.

What I didn't know going into the novel:
That this was the third novel featuring the same character: Franck Sharko.  I had a feeling a few chapters in that there were other books featuring this character BUT, neither my enjoyment nor comprehension were hindered by not having read the earlier novels.

What I liked:

I loved the description of the films (there end up being two).  Traditional movies are difficult enough to describe in word form, so to do a scene by scene retelling of an experimental film (think Meshes of the Afternoon or Un Chien Andalou) is quite the task.  The author mixed in the character's reactions, which helped, but it was really his ability to create full pictures with few words that impressed me.

All of the technical explanations were handled wonderfully.  I have always been a sucker for a story that can tell me how things work mechanically without boring me to tears (I'm looking at you hardcore science fiction).  This novel had the task of explaining film history, 1950's film technology and capabilities, the eye/brain relation, the definition of a psychopath, subliminal messages, different medical tests, and several police procedures.  I felt that all were deftly done and handled mostly in dialogue or character ruminations.

The story.  Damn!  I loved it up until the end.  I won't give it away here, but I had issues involving the killer's motive and their inability to make different choices or explore other options over a LONG span of time.  If you read the book, you will know exactly what I mean.  BUT, until then, I did love the story.  The murder mystery involves France, Canada, Egypt, Belgium and the USA.  MK Ultra, and Project Avocado are involved.  And even though the story is about the murder, the author never skimped on developing characters both big and small.  Every character had their likes and dislikes, their niches, and attitudes.  My favorite is the first person to die, an old man who falls from a ladder while trying to reach for a film.  He starts it all and we only get to know him post-mortem through the eyes of others, but he has a depth not afforded most victims, and his flaws and foibles are revealed slowly.

What I didn't like:

Two things.  One, the love story that developed between Sharcko and Lucie, the two cops working the case.  It just didn't seem necessary to the story and actually, for me, detracted from the plot.  Every time one of them would think lovey dovey thoughts about the other, I would just roll my eyes.  Yes, they are both flawed, lonely, isolated, damaged people but them falling in love just did nothing for me.  I would have thoroughly enjoyed a partnership based on respect and admiration, but that's just me.

The ending.  UGH.  Okay, SPOILER ALERT - the person who committed the murders was the little girl from the movie.  She was drugged and exposed to violence until she broke and became violent.  This is captured in the film and the hidden film within the film (a really cool part of the story).  The film was made under a doctor's supervision.  Then, the girl was adopted by the doctor and groomed to take over his research - having to deal with mind control and aggression.  However, in the 50+ years since her adoption and the death of her father, she never sought help, and states that she had no choice.  Her explanation at the end of the novel felt weak for such a strong, well crafted story.  I hated ending the story on a note of disappointment.  What a let down after an intense, well-written, well researched, gripping novel.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Beta Feedback

Great news!!!!  My beta readers have delivered feedback and it looks like the first book in the Sortilege Falls YA series is ready to go!  What does this mean?  Well, I'm going to make sure I have the rest of the series plotted out, fix my grammar mistakes in the manuscript, and then I have at least one publisher I'm going to query.  Based on their answer, I might try to query a few agents or I might leap into self-pubbing.  I'll have a few weeks to decide.

I also have a lot of books to write, three to be exact.  And those are just the ones for this series.  There's also my sci-fi series, two stand alone novels, two short stories, and a play I'm working on.  So it's not like I won't be busy.

But man, does it feel good to know you've completed a project.  I started this project three years ago!  I am as shocked as you are.  I really thought I'd been working on this for a year, but nope, three years have passed since I announced the idea.  To be fair, I wrote the rough drafts of several novels and plays in that time as well.  The rest of the series should take a fraction of the time (I friggin hope).

This is how excited I am.  Image by
What about you interwebs?  What exciting news do you have?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Update

UGH!

I used to keep a diary and for years I was fairly good about writing weekly entries.  Then I hit thirty and stop being that interested in myself.  I became much more interested in the world around me but had no need to write down all my observations, so I stopped journaling.

While this blog is nowhere near a confessional (you're welcome for that, trust me), I do feel that I've neglected it in recent months.  Unlike my journal, I actually feel tremendously guilty.  So what happened?  Well, I got tendonitis in my arms, which slowed me down a ton.  I've recently done a lot of physical therapy and the arms are good!  YAY!  But then I had to finish my first Sortilege Falls novel (mentioned on the blog before as the Grape Merriweather novel).  It's about 98% done, I'm just waiting on word from a few beta readers to make sure the ending works and then I start the process of publishing it.

SOOOOOOOOO, I should actually be able to blog again.  And not just these "I'm so sorry" posts.  Lame.  But actual posts.  I have a lot to tell you about the books I've read as well as the one I've just written.  Spoiler alert: I've discovered China Mieville and Jo Nesbo!

I'm going to try to post on Mondays, so I'll see you around blogosphere!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Daniel Clausen

Hi All!  Yes, I've been gone for a very long time.  My apologies.  I took a job that I knew I shouldn't and got tendonitis in both arms on top of a lot of headaches.  The job is done with and my arms are healing so I am back to say hello and that I will post more often!  Today is just a couple of quick sentences to say hello and to tell you about a cool free ebook!


My writing buddy Daniel Clausen put out a free ebook: Reejecttion, you can download it at the link below:
http://issuu.com/danielclausen/docs/the_reejectts-7-23-2014/1

Here is a quick excerpt:


THE SCIENCE OF A PERFECT SUMMER

I made a checklist in my mind: a great girl, two good friends, great books, a magical view from a mountaintop, and a commitment to making every day magical. Sure we would never cure cancer or paint a masterpiece—our lives would be our masterpieces. We would live out the perfect summer together in perpetuity. It would be the profession that never got old.
We sat on the top of the mountain and admired the view, us, together, a community. I saw it all right there, and I thought about it in terms of the ingredients I had already experienced. There was that summer when I was thirteen playing basketball, dreaming of greatness. The dreaming being better than the greatness, I would live on the court for hours at a time. Afterwards, I made stories in my mind, casting myself as the hero. Then there would be bonfires at the beach and nights howling at the moon.
“There’s no way,” my friend objects. “We would run out of money.”
“We would work,” I answer back. “But not real jobs, just summer jobs. You know, we would work at like video stores and wait tables and that kind of thing.”
“There’s no way. We could never live off that kind of scratch.”
My beautiful dynamic dream girl comes to my defense. “Sure we could. We would pool our money to buy beer. We would develop better strategies for saving money, for making quick money, and for making our money last.”
“Yeah,” my more optimistic friend says. “We could spend lots of time just playing frisbee and hanging out on the mountain top together. It would be great. It would be better than great, it would be the best thing ever.”
A pause hangs in the air.
“Think about it,” my more optimistic friend continues. “The worst thing in life is having to hang around with dicks. Sure, we could get jobs with high salaries and fancy offices, but who’s going to guarantee that we’re going to like our coworkers or customers? What we have here is what economist would call a ‘comparative advantage’”.
‘“Comparative advantage’? What do you mean?” my other friend asks.
“Well, when countries trade, each country has a good or a service which they can export to other countries because they do it better than anyone else. They may lose something, but they gain because they can focus on their comparative advantage. Some countries have oil, others are good at making microchips, others potato chips.  People are the same: some have brains, some have money, good looks. If we were a country, well, we’d have a comparative advantage in coolness.”
“Yes,” I say coming to my optimistic friend’s aid. “That’s right. We have a comparative advantage in coolness.”
We would master it, perfect it, make it ours until it became our science. One last summer to end all summers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nearing the Finish Line

Exciting news!  I am nearly done with the first book in the Grape Merriweather series.  Whoot whoot!!!

Not quite as exciting, I have to punch up the beginning and overhaul the ending.  I've been getting feedback from Betas and so far, they all agree: the story is good and fast-paced, but there are a few bumps that need smoothing out.  I am super happy because the finish line is in sight, but I'm worried that I'll lose steam.  When I was a runner and used to race, I always slowed down once I saw the finish line.  Something about the end looming in the distance took the wind out of my sails.  I'm the same way with writing.

The novel will be done by the new year.  I might have to drink ridiculous amounts of yummy coffee and bribe myself to do it (I'm looking at you, iPhone6), but it will happen.  And then I get to start querying agents.  FUN!!!!

How about you guys?  Any exciting news to share?

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