Saturday, December 10, 2005

Who's Selling My Thesis on Amazon.com?

This article published in Backspace by PCQuill Blogger Jon Kohl describes his recent investigation into magazines, aggregators, and mystery postings to Amazon.com.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

StoryPilot's Science Fiction & Fantasy Market Search Engine

Found a great magazine search site. You can do a specific search and then scroll down to see a list of magazines. This site also allows you to save your search list in a file. You don't need to pay a dime to join. Just create a user name and password. I don't know how often the magazines are updated.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Miss Snark, the literary agent

This blog is a must read for writers. It is written by an anonymous agent and offers advice on marketing, synopsis writing, and answers writers questions on agents, as well as other writing related issues. The questions are posted by writers seeking advice and answered by Miss Snark. The site is informative and amusing.

How is that possible? You ask. There's only one way to find out.

Go to the damn site and see for yourself.

Friday, November 25, 2005

village voice > vls > North by Northeaster by Jenny Davidson

The Sherlock Holmes quote: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth," encapsulates Stephen King's latest novella, "North by Northeasater."

Read entire article by clicking on the title link.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

'Potter' series casts a spell over entire genre - Yahoo! News

Science fiction and fantasy writers be heartened by this article, appearing in USA Today. It appears that sales of science fiction and fantasy have jumped 8.5% in the past five years.

Click on the link and find out why.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

village voice > vls > Quit Lit by Izzy Grinspan

With the recent publication of Lauren Weisberger's second novel, Everyone Worth Knowing, job-horror fiction has officially come into its own—but only for women.

-------------
I can relate to job horror. Work sucks the life from you like a vampire.

ABC News: How to Write a Novel in 30 Days

Nov. 17, 2005 — Are you convinced you have a novel in you but just don't want to spend all that time and mental effort to actually work on it?

If that's the case, you could join 60,000 other intrepid, wanna-be novelists competing in National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo for short) — a sprint to finish a 50,000-word novel from scratch during the month of November.

Friday, November 11, 2005

BOOK INDUSTRY STATISTICS

A MUST READ

Here are some interesting facts and figures about the book industry.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reading Like the Dickens

Stamford University Recreates Vitoriana

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Sales and Royalty Info.

I have no idea how many sales this is based on, but found it interesting, nonetheless.

Shawn

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A nation of sidewalk publishers | csmonitor.com

"For less than $500, anyone can become a published author. But how many self-published books make it to the mainstream?"

For the answer to this question and others, click on the above link header. If you absolutely cannot wait to find out the answer to the above question . . .

Drum roll!

"Fewer than 50 titles are picked up by traditional publishers each year - that's about 0.5 percent."

By the way, that really sucks. Might be better to write a really good book then look for an agent. Postage is a hell of a lot cheaper than publishing and promoting your book.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

STEAL THIS BOOK -- OR AT LEAST DOWNLOAD IT FREE.

Interesting advice from author Warren Adler, brainchild of "War of the Roses."

For someone who has been in the publishing industry for years, Mr. Adler provides contemporary solutions, i.e., e-book publishing, etc. for getting ones book in print, if the conventional route doesn't pan out.

Mr. Adler also offers book marketing solutions, as well as practical approaches in the art of writing.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Elements of Style." The Opera?

Well, actually, before it was scored for opera, it was first illustrated. Some people just can't enjoy their commas and hyphens without an attractive backsplash. I, for one, can't fathom viewing an exclamation point without a smattering of red. Though the excitement of viewing this much beloved volume in color will likely keep me awake at night, I think I'll wait for the release of the opera. I can't think of a better way to enjoy my drive to work than to listen to an aria on the apostrophe.

What's next in the publishing world? Shakespeare does Sicily?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Time Magazine Picks 100 Best Books from 1923 to Present

Times Critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo picked what they saw to be the 100 Best books since 1923, the year that TIME Magazine began.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Scruffy Dog Review Looking for Submissions (Interesting)

Looking for an eclectic mix of fiction, poetry, arts and culture, book
reviews, writing advice, humour as well as interviews from some of the best
contemporary authors today? The Scruffy Dog Review is just what's needed.

Offering some of the best writing found on the web or in print, The Scruffy
Dog Review begins accepting submissions in October for its premiere issue
publishing in January 2006. Issues will then appear every other month.
Guidelines are available on: _http://www.thescruffydogreview.com/wst_page3.html_
(http://www.thescruffydogreview.com/wst_page3.html) .

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Punching Up Your Prose

Great article on sentence structure.

For those who have a desire to work on grammar, this article is really a good way to learn the basics.

Grammar has been an elusive creature for me. Though, I have taken several grammar and punctuation courses over the years. I found that the best way to learn is to have your work edited.

At this point in my life, I'm beginning to understand the comma (no coma) dilemma. In the past, I've sprinkled commas thoughtout my writing as if I were adding salt to an already tasteful stew. What I've neglected to realize. Commas, and therefore, any form of punctuation should be regarded as traffic signs, to help the reader master the flow of a sentence. We all know that placing a misplaced comma can change the flow, as well as the meaning of a sentence.

I would love to have a better grasp of the mechanics of writing. I hope that it happens sooner rather than later. I hope I don't have to wait years to comprehend sentence structure. I can forsee this scenario: At the ripe old age of 95, I awaken in the middle of a chair nap, and remark to the nurse. "So that's what a a direct object is."

The nurse nods and says, "That's why I went into nursing."

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bruce Holland Rogers

Here is the link for Bruce Holland Rogers' short stories. (Magic Realism style.)

Shawn

Course on Magical Realism

Here is the course on Magical Realism

Shawn

Monday, October 10, 2005

New Fantasy Magazine Launches

Please note this excerpt from Writers Market Market Watch.

Fantasy Magazine, a new quarterly magazine brimming with stories, book reviews, and interviews, launching Nov. 2005. Each issue is at least 80 pages in length, full-size, with gorgeous cover art.


Source: publishersnewswire.com

Also, for anyone located near Madison, Wisconsin, the World Fantasy Convention, takes place Nov. 4 - 6 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Fantasy Magazine will appear quarterly, with a cover price of $5.95.

Literary Agent's Journal

Another great site I've stumbled across--Literary Agent's Live Journal. The Agent's entries touch upon client book signings, running behind in his reading of manuscripts, his days on the road, etc. It offers an interesting behind-the-scenes perspective.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Writing Fiction

I recently found an excellent site that discusses "How to" get published and find an agent. The site also has useful links.

Friday, September 30, 2005

What Is Magical Realism, Really? by Bruce Holland Rogers

"Magical realism" has become a debased term. When it first came into use to describe the work of certain Latin American writers, and then a small number of writers from many places in the world, it had a specific meaning that made it useful for critics. If someone made a list of recent magical realist works, there were certain characteristics that works on the list would share. The term also pointed to a particular array of techniques that writers could put to specialized use. Now the words have been applied so haphazardly that to call a work "magical realism" doesn't convey a very clear sense of what the work will be like.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

2006 US Agents Listing @ Writers Services Website

Writers Services has just updated their US Agents Listing. Please visit their website and check out the valuable resourse information posted at their site.

The title is the link to their website.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Principles of a story by Raymond Carver

From Chekhov to James Joyce, the short story defined modern fiction. The form later came to be defined by America. Writing in 1981, one of the great US writers explains why he came to prefer the story to the novel Raymond Carver.

This essay first appeared in the "New York Times Book Review" in 1981 as "A Storyteller's Notebook." Entitled "On Writing," it is included in "Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories" (Harvill Press) by Raymond Carver. © 1968 to 1988 by Raymond Carver, 1989 to present by Tess Gallagher.
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Back in the mid-1960s, I found I was having trouble concentrating my attention on long narrative fiction. For a time I experienced difficulty in trying to read it as well as in attempting to write it. My attention span had gone out on me; I no longer had the patience to try to write novels. It's an involved story, too tedious to talk about here. But I know it has much to do now with why I write poems and short stories. Get in, get out. Don't linger. Go on. It could be that I lost any great ambitions at about the same time, in my late twenties. If I did, I think it was good it happened. Ambition and a little luck are good things for a writer to have going for him. Too much ambition and bad luck, or no luck at all, can be killing. There has to be talent.

Some writers have a bunch of talent; I don't know any writers who are without it. But a unique and exact way of looking at things, and finding the right context for expressing that way of looking, that's something else. The World According to Garp is, of course, the marvellous world according to John Irving. There is another world according to Flannery O'Connor, and others according to William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. There are worlds according to Cheever, Updike, Singer, Stanley Elkin, Ann Beattie, Cynthia Ozick, Donald Barthelme, Mary Robison, William Kittredge, Barry Hannah, Ursula K Le Guin. Every great or even every very good writer makes the world over according to his own specifications.

It's akin to style, what I'm talking about, but it isn't style alone. It is the writer's particular and unmistakable signature on everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There's plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to that way of looking: that writer may be around for a time.

Isak Dinesen said that she wrote a little every day, without hope and without despair. Someday I'll put that on a three-by-five card and tape it to the wall beside my desk. I have some three-by-five cards on the wall now. "Fundamental accuracy of statement is the one sole morality of writing." Ezra Pound. It is not everything by any means, but if a writer has "fundamental accuracy of statement" going for him, he's at least on the right track.

I have a three-by-five up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: "…and suddenly everything became clear to him." I find these words filled with wonder and possibility. I love their simple clarity, and the hint of revelation that's implied. There is mystery, too. What has been unclear before? Why is it just now becoming clear? What's happened? Most of all—what now? There are consequences as a result of such sudden awakenings. I feel a sharp sense of relief—and anticipation.

I overheard the writer Geoffrey Wolff say "No cheap tricks" to a group of writing students. That should go on a three-by-five card. I'd amend it a little to "No tricks." Period. I hate tricks. At the first sign of a trick or a gimmick in a piece of fiction, a cheap trick or even an elaborate trick, I tend to look for cover. Tricks are ultimately boring, and I get bored easily, which may go along with my not having much of an attention span. But extremely clever chichi writing, or just plain tomfoolery writing, puts me to sleep. Writers don't need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing—a sunset or an old shoe—in absolute and simple amazement.

Some months back, in the New York Times Book Review, John Barth said that ten years ago most of the students in his fiction writing seminar were interested in "formal innovation," and this no longer seems to be the case. He's a little worried that writers are going to start writing mom and pop novels in the 1980s. He worries that experimentation may be on the way out, along with liberalism. I get a little nervous if I find myself within earshot of sombre discussions about "formal innovation" in fiction writing. Too often "experimentation" is a licence to be careless, silly or imitative in the writing. Even worse, a licence to try to brutalise or alienate the reader. Too often such writing gives us no news of the world, or else describes a desert landscape and that's all—a few dunes and lizards here and there, but no people; a place uninhabited by anything recognisably human, a place of interest only to a few scientific specialists.

It should be noted that real experiment in fiction is original, hard-earned and cause for rejoicing. But someone else's way of looking at things—Barthelme's, for instance—should not be chased after by other writers. It won't work. There is only one Barthelme, and for another writer to try to appropriate Barthelme's peculiar sensibility or mise en scène under the rubric of innovation is for that writer to mess around with chaos and disaster and, worse, self-deception. The real experimenters have to "make it new," as Pound urged, and in the process have to find things out for themselves. But if writers haven't taken leave of their senses, they also want to stay in touch with us, they want to carry news from their world to ours.

It's possible, in a poem or a short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman's earring—with immense, even startling power. It is possible to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader's spine—the source of artistic delight, as Nabokov would have it. That's the kind of writing that most interests me. I hate sloppy or haphazard writing whether it flies under the banner of experimentation or else is just clumsily rendered realism. In Isaac Babel's wonderful short story, "Guy de Maupassant," the narrator has this to say about the writing of fiction: "No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place." This too ought to go on a three-by-five.

Evan Connell said once that he knew he was finished with a short story when he found himself going through it and taking out commas and then going through the story again and putting commas back in the same places. I like that way of working on something. I respect that kind of care for what is being done. That's all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say. If the words are heavy with the writer's own unbridled emotions, or if they are imprecise and inaccurate for some other reason—if the words are in any way blurred—the reader's eyes will slide right over them and nothing will be achieved. The reader's own artistic sense will simply not be engaged. Henry James called this sort of hapless writing "weak specification."

I have friends who've told me they had to hurry a book because they needed the money, their editor or their wife was leaning on them or leaving them—something, some apology for the writing not being very good. "It would have been better if I'd taken the time." I was dumbfounded when I heard a novelist friend say this. I still am, if I think about it, which I don't. It's none of my business. But if the writing can't be made as good as it is within us to make it, then why do it? In the end, the satisfaction of having done our best, and the proof of that labour, is the one thing we can take into the grave. I wanted to say to my friend, for heaven's sake go do something else. There have to be easier and maybe more honest ways to try and earn a living. Or else just do it to the best of your abilities, your talents, and then don't justify or make excuses. Don't complain, don't explain.

In an essay called, simply enough, "Writing Short Stories," Flannery O'Connor talks about writing as an act of discovery. O'Connor says she most often did not know where she was going when she sat down to work on a short story. She says she doubts that many writers know where they are going when they begin something. She uses "Good Country People" as an example of how she put together a short story whose ending she could not even guess at until she was nearly there:

When I started writing that story, I didn't know there was going to be a PhD with a wooden leg in it. I merely found myself one morning writing a description of two women I knew something about, and before I realised it, I had equipped one of them with a daughter with a wooden leg. I brought in the Bible salesman, but I had no idea what I was going to do with him. I didn't know he was going to steal that wooden leg until ten or twelve lines before he did it, but when I found out that this was what was going to happen, I realised it was inevitable.

When I read this some years ago, it came as a shock that she, or anyone for that matter, wrote stories in this fashion. I thought this was my uncomfortable secret, and I was a little uneasy with it. For sure I thought this way of working on a short story somehow revealed my own shortcomings. I remember being tremendously heartened by reading what she had to say on the subject.

I once sat down to write what turned out to be a pretty good story, though only the first sentence of the story had offered itself to me when I began it. For several days I'd been going around with this sentence in my head: "He was running the vacuum cleaner when the telephone rang." I knew a story was there and that it wanted telling. I felt it in my bones, that a story belonged with that beginning, if I could just have the time to write it. I found the time, an entire day—12, 15 hours even—if I wanted to make use of it. I did, and I sat down in the morning and wrote the first sentence, and other sentences promptly began to attach themselves. I made the story just as I'd make a poem; one line and then the next, and the next. Pretty soon I could see a story—and I knew it was my story, the one I'd been wanting to write.

I like it when there is some feeling of threat or sense of menace in short stories. I think a little menace is fine to have in a story. For one thing, it's good for the circulation. There has to be tension, a sense that something is imminent, that certain things are in relentless motion, or else, most often, there simply won't be a story. What creates tension in a piece of fiction is partly the way the concrete words are linked together to make up the visible action of the story. But it's also the things that are left out, that are implied, the landscape just under the smooth (but sometimes broken and unsettled) surface of things.

VS Pritchett's definition of a short story is "something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing." Notice the "glimpse" part of this. First the glimpse. Then the glimpse given life, turned into something that illuminates the moment and may, if we're lucky—that word again—have even further-ranging consequences and meaning. The short story writer's task is to invest the glimpse with all that is in his power. He'll bring his intelligence and literary skill to bear (his talent), his sense of proportion and sense of the fitness of things: of how things out there really are and how he sees those things—like no one else sees them. And this is done through the use of clear and specific language, language used so as to bring to life the details that will light up the story for the reader. For the details to be concrete and convey meaning, the language must be accurate and precisely given. The words can be so precise they may even sound flat, but they can still carry; if used right, they can hit all the notes.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sinclair Lewis Quote

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." -- Sinclair Lewis

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Writing Suspense: Fiction vs. Reality

Writing Suspense: Fiction vs. Reality

by Michele Martinez

As a federal prosecutor in New York City, I spent most of a decade locking up hardened criminals. Specializing in narcotics and gangs cases, I knew crime inside out. By the time I left that job, I'd done so many drug trials, listened in on so many wiretaps, and debriefed so many cold-blooded killers and thugs about so many different types of crimes that I could have gone out and committed one myself. And gotten away with it. So it seemed like an obvious evolution to start writing suspense novels based on my gritty real-life experiences. I figured crafting a page-turner out of that material had to be a piece of cake, right?

The Motives of Villains and Heroes in Suspense Fiction

Suspense & Mystery
Shane P. Carr, Associate Editor, Suspense & Mystery

Unleashing the Dark Side
The Motives of Villains and Heroes in Suspense Fiction
By Shane P. Carr
©2001, Shane P. Carr



Did you ever wonder what the author’s mind must be like to think up such a twisted, sadistic character? Would you believe me if I told you that it was the character’s humanity that really sends those chills down your spine? Yes, believe it or not, it is the human side of such characters that make the hairs of your neck stand on end.

Let’s take Tom Harris’s Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lecter for example. Do you really think Dr. Lecter would have been nearly as terrifying if he didn’t have such passion for Agent Starling? Think about it. Imagine Lecter instead as a ten-foot flesh-eating monster that did not resemble a human in anyway. I’ll be the first to admit a flesh-eating monster can be scary, but it wouldn’t have unnerved you on that inner psychological level. If you let yourself think about it for a minute, you will realize that it is the fact that Lecter is human and responsible for such atrocities that is really unnerving you. The fact that Hannibal Lecter could be your everyday physician or the neighborhood mailman is what really makes people terrified of him. In Silence of the Lambs the author makes readers see the dark side of humanity, that inner evil that has the potential to manifest itself in each and every one of us.

This potential for inner evil is what all suspense writers should focus on when creating their villain. After all, it is the manifestation of this dark side of humanity that becomes the basis for your entire story. Now, this doesn’t mean that your villain has to be a flesh-eating serial killer with a taste for fine wine and art. The villain can be an anti-hero like a parent who has lost a child to drunk driver. The loss of the child could be what manifests the character’s dark side. The character could then become obsessed with avenging the child. Perhaps the character (let’s call her Carol) begins hanging out at bars watching which individuals drive after drinking. Carol then follows them home. As they step out of the car she runs them down and kills them.

Now, some readers will sympathize with Carol. Others will see her as having a screw loose. Either way, the author has made a suspenseful character. Carol is very human, yet the tragedy involving her child has manifested her dark side and driven her to kill. The fact that Carol, an average mother who has never harmed a fly, could become a killer is what will scare the reader. Readers will relate to Carol, yet they won’t like the fact that they do.

Carol is just one example and a far cry from Dr. Lecter. Yet what if I told you that, as a child, Hannibal Lecter lived on a farm. What if young Hannibal had a lamb on the farm that he considered a pet? Hannibal wakes one morning to feed his lamb, only to find a farmhand slaughtering it for the market. Hannibal’s father tells him the lamb will be used for food. The death of the lamb triggers that dark side within Hannibal. He soon rationalizes that instead of eating other animals it would be better to eat his own kind. Heck, from the animal’s point of view I’m sure it seems like a good idea.

Now we see Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ as a tragic character that was scarred by the loss of a pet. Suddenly Hannibal is not all that unlike Carol. Each has suffered a traumatic loss, and in their minds they are bringing justice to the situation.

When creating a suspense villain, the writer must look into the motivation of the character. The writer must develop the villain as human first. He must understand what his villain’s life was like before the dark side manifested. The writer then must figure out what leads to the manifestation. Once this is done, the writer can begin writing about this character and his dark manifestation.

In most suspense stories, the villain’s motive is not revealed until the climax of the story, yet the writer must know what that motive is before writing the first word. The villain’s motive will help drive the story. The writer can reveal clues along the way and help the reader draw his or her own conclusion as to why the villain is doing such things.

This is where the writer can play with the reader’s mind. As the writer builds his cast of characters, he can create other characters that may also have a motive for committing the crime. This will keep readers guessing as to who the real villain is. This of course adds suspense, to the story and that is really what suspense writers are shooting for.

So far we know we must have a normal human side of our villain so we can get our readers to relate to him. We must have a motive that manifests the dark side within the villain. Finally we must know that motive before we begin to write. Accomplishing all of these things will bring the character to life and give him greater depth.

Since we now have a villain, we of course need a hero. In suspense fiction the hero is usually a police officer or private detective investigating the case. There are other professions that work just as well; for example, Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta is a forensics pathologist. Use whatever works for you. The hero is, for the most part, on the side of the law, seeking out the dark manifestation in order to halt its actions.

The hero's views will usually oppose the villain's, although you will sometimes find that the hero will relate to the villain's human side, especially in the case of Carol, which we discussed earlier.

You should have your hero’s motivations in mind before writing, as well. Now, on the simplistic level this could be: Tim became a cop to fight crime. Yet if you want the character to become three-dimensional, you must give him more of a life.

Suppose Tim became a cop because his father was a cop. Perhaps his father was killed by a serial killer that he was investigating at the time. The serial killer was never caught. Six years later the killings start again. Tim has since become a cop like his father. Fate finds Tim on the trail of the same killer who murdered his father.

See how we are adding depth to the hero. We now have a background on Tim. We have Tim’s motivation for being a cop. We also have something else . . . we have the potential for a dark side to manifest in Tim. What happens as Tim pursues the serial killer and eventually confronts him? Does the dark side manifest in Tim seeking vengeance for his father’s death or does Tim’s motivation to honor his father, by being a good cop, cause Tim to arrest the killer and bring him to justice?

See how we now have two characters on opposite sides; the suspense builds, and the story climaxes with the confrontation of these two characters. Situations like this will keep your readers glued to the page in hopes of seeing the outcome. Yet none of it works unless you know your two characters and their motives. You, as the writer, must get inside each character’s head and fully realize what is driving the characters in their actions. If you can do this, the plot for your story should begin to develop quite easily. You’ll then be on your way to creating a nail-biting story that can get under your reader’s skin.

To help you along, I offer a simple exercise. Watch your favorite movie or reread your favorite novel. While doing so, examine the hero and the villain. Write down each character’s motives. Then write down the things that make you relate to the character. Think about the villain’s motive and what lead up to it. If you were in a similar situation, could a dark side like this manifest in yourself? Could you become this villain?

On the other side, think of the hero. What drives him or her? How easily could this ‘hero’ manifest a dark side to stop the villain? Are the hero and villain alike in any way? Do they share a common trait?

When you’re finished, try developing some characters of your own. Develop some motives for the villain and hero. Let the dark side manifest from the villain and drive him toward his goal. Do a similar exercise with the hero. Give the hero the temptation of the dark side. See what kind of plot you come up with. I think you’ll be surprised.



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Monday, September 19, 2005

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

BYPASSING THE SLUSH PILE

A REAL LIFE STORY.

SHAWN


An interesting thing happened to me while at RWA in Reno. I was made an
offer I couldn't refuse, and it's one that may impact favorably on many of
you.

A bit of back-story--I'm represented by Carolyn Grayson of the Ashley
Grayson Literary Agency. The agency is a member of AAR and is comprised of
4 agents and 1 intern. Each of the agents specializes in one or more genres
(romance, women's fiction/chick lit, mystery, children's lit, sci-fi, New
Age, non-fiction, etc.) The agency is well-respected within the AAR
community and is known for their negotiating and contract skills. They
receive over 125 queries/partials a week. They know they're rejecting
manuscripts they could sell if they had the time to work with the authors.
Trouble is, they don't have the time.

Several months ago the agency was involved in a project with several other
agents, editors, and one multi-published NYT author. I was asked to take
part in the project. Little did I know at the time, that I was being
tested. Apparently, I passed the test with flying colors, because I've been
invited to join the agency as an associate.

I will not be an agent, will not be pitching manuscripts to editors or
negotiating contracts. So I will not be in competition with any of the
authors I'll be working with. I don't want anyone to view this as a
conflict of interest. Carolyn Grayson will remain my agent. If you're
offered representation and decide to go with the agency, you will be working
directly with whichever agent handles your genre(s). My responsibilities
will be that of a talent scout/first reader/critiquer. I'll be sifting
through queries and reading partials. Like an agent, when I find a query
that shows promise, I'll request a partial. If the partial is wonderful,
I'll request a full. If the full is publishable, I'll pass it along with a
suggestion that the agency offer representation.

However, unlike an agent who often must reject if a manuscript isn't perfect
enough, when I see an author with promise, I'll be able to work with that
author to help her tweak the manuscript in the right direction. This is not
an editorial service. There is no charge. I won't be doing line editing,
but I will, when warranted, make suggestions and show examples of what needs
to be fixed and how to fix it. The author has the option of making the
revisions and resubmitting or not. If the revisions are made and the
manuscript is then publishable, I'll pass it along, again with the
suggestion that the agency offer representation.

Now, you may be asking why the opinion of someone who took 10 years to sell
a book should pull any weight. Well, it may have taken me 10 years to sell,
but as it turns out, I have an untapped talent for recognizing talent in
others and also helping people get sold. Over the past two years I've
tweaked several proposals for friends who went on to sell their work because
of the changes I suggested. That coupled with my participation in the
aforementioned project, leads the agency to believe that I would be an asset
to them.

We see this as a win/win situation. The agency won't be rejecting books
that show promise, and the authors won't be waiting forever, only to receive
a form rejection letter. If your book blows me away, you bypass the slush
pile and go straight to the agent's desk. If your manuscript shows the
potential for blowing me away after a bit of work, you'll have an advocate
who will help you polish it.

The agency will be sending me queries and partials they receive, but I've
also been given the go-ahead to have people submit to me directly. Please,
if you are interested in contacting me directly, remember that a rejection
is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of your work. The agency has
some specific thoughts as to the types of writing/books they believe they
have the best chance of selling. Yours, although well-written, may not fall
within those parameters. Both published authors and unpublished authors are
welcome to submit.

If you are interested in querying me directly, please do so off-loop at
winston72@verizon.net. The query should be in the body of the e-mail. No
attachments, please. If your book fits what the agency is looking for, I'll
let you know where to send your partial. I hope I'll have the pleasure of
helping many of you secure an agent and ultimately sell.
Lois

Lois Winston
www.loiswinston.com
*************************
RESURRECTING GERTIE, 1st runner-up American Title competition
coming from Dorchester Publishing, April '06

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Return Rate on Fiction

I thought it might interest everyone to hear this.

In a letter from Helen Rosburg, President/CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Medallion Press, regarding RWA's decision to pull Medallion from the list of RWA-recognized publishers, Ms. Rosburg says:

'The average return rate for fiction books is now at 40%.'



Shawn

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Welcome to the Slush Zone

Please check out my latest experiment. Goggles and lab coats not required.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2005 Results

for those of you not familiar with the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, this contest encourages bad writing. The entry with the worse opening of a fake novel wins. Here is the 2005 winning entry.

As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.

Dan McKay
Fargo, ND

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The story that changed the world - The Boston Globe - Boston.com - Books - A&E

How a subtitle became a bestseller
By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff | July 25, 2005

It's easy to name the elements that can contribute to a book's success: the story, the author, the title. Even the dust jacket can make a difference. But the subtitle?

As publishing sensations go, it's not exactly Harry Potter or ''The Da Vinci Code." But for several years, nonfiction titles containing the words ''changed the world" (or a variation thereon) have become a publishing standby. (See accompanying list on B9.)

Link to the rest of the story by clicking on Title.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Speculative Fiction Contest

Found this contest for speculative fiction writers. You know who you are.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

'Sybil's Garage' -- A new magazine for fiction

By: Diana Schwaeble
Current Editor 07/01/2005

Matthew Kressel pays tribute to Hoboken by naming his magazine Sybil's Garage.

Do you ever find yourself wishing your job was more fulfilling? Did you ever wake up one morning and decide to follow your bliss? That's what happened to Matthew Kressel, Hoboken resident, who had a career in computers when he decided to take the plunge.

The New School University

Matt Kressel always had an interest in reading, but didn't consider writing until three years ago. "I lived in a fantasy world," said Kressel. "And part of me need to express these inner feelings."

In the spring of 2002, Kressel enrolled in a science fiction writing class at The New School University. His teacher was writer Alice Turner. After taking the class, he joined a writing group to further his development as a writer. Initially, the group he was in met in Hoboken, but then his former teacher, Turner, contacted him to see if he wanted to join another group in the city.

A few years later, he had his first story, "Mortar," published by Alien Skin Magazine in December, 2004. "It took years to get to the point of having my work published," said Kressel. "You have to be surrounded by a group of people who can be supportive of your work."

The magazine

Kressel had the idea for a literary magazine and decided to test it out in the winter of 2004. He and fellow group member, Devin J. Poore, were walking along Frank Sinatra Drive in Hoboken, trying to come up with a name for the magazine. They wanted a name that was relevant to Hoboken since the writing group met there. As they passed the area near Sybil's Cave, one of them asked if it was still there and they joked that the cave had been made into a parking garage. The conversation inspired the name of the magazine, Sybil's Garage.

The first issue, self published in April 2004, only included writing from four members, who were all part of the original Hoboken writing group. Kressel and his friends did all the work from his apartment. He initially thought it might be a one-time deal, but after seeing the process, he decided to do it again, only bigger and better.

For the second issue, Kressel decided to expand the magazine to include poetry as well as fiction and non-fiction es

Monday, July 04, 2005

PUBLISHING IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

(VERY INTERSTING ARTICLE)

Like a world held between the gravitational pulls of two stars, the publishing industry is suspended between two great paradigms. One is the familiar industrial model built around tangible objects: bound volumes of paper manufactured on printing presses, warehoused in depots, transported in vehicles and sold in stores; the other, newly born, can be described as virtual. The sun of traditional publishing and bookselling has illuminated and warmed us for a millennium, but it is unquestionably fading, while the other, fueled by the prospect of direct communication between authors and readers independent of physical means of manufacture and distribution, scintillates with possibilities. In the balance lies the fate of one of civilization’s most precious artifacts, the book.

Interview with Agent Carolyn Grayson

NTERVIEW WITH AGENT CAROLYN GRAYSON,
ASHLEY GRAYSON LITERARY AGENCY
By Lois Winston, KOD Industry Liaison

(permission granted to forward to other RWA chapters)

When I asked Carolyn to tell us a bit about herself and her agency, she
replied, "I'm anxious to meet the author whose novel is going to buy me my
next car (and I don't mean a Geo)." You've got to love an agent with a
sense of humor! She went on to state, "Things I love: I'm thrilled to tell
an author she sold a book; negotiating publishers' contracts; getting an
offer from a foreign publisher in the morning email; meeting with
international publishers at Bologna and Frankfurt. When I'm not doing the
above, communicating with my authors, or reading like mad, I'm gardening,
tending my rosebushes (when I can), living in California and I think I
actually made it to the beach twice last year!"

Carolyn has been an agent for a little more than 10 years, expanding the
agency into romance, women's fiction, and some non-fiction. She also handle
mysteries, thrillers, and children's books. The Ashley Grayson Agency does
very well at selling clients' works for translation and work directly with
foreign publishers in most territories.

You can contact Carolyn at: 1342 18th Street, San Pedro, CA 90732

LW: What sub-genres of mystery/suspense are you looking for (historical,
contemporary, erotica, YA, cozy, paranormal, inspirational, chick-lit,
etc.)?

CG: I love the humor in chick-lit, so I'm always looking for more of that
and would be happy to see chick-lit mysteries. Also looking for
contemporary, romantic suspense, paranormal, inspirational, true crime, and
to a lesser degree, cozy mysteries. I'd also be happy to see mysteries for
younger readers. I do like and handle historical romance but am very
selective. You could try me on erotica, but you must know the difference
between erotica and pornography.

LW: Are there any mystery/suspense sub-genres you don't handle?

CG: I enjoy just about all types of mysteries favoring police procedurals,
amateur sleuths, espionage fiction - I'm slightly less a fan of detective
fiction and cozies, but try me.

LW: You've just read a query letter that knocked your socks off and made
you want to read the manuscript at once. Why?

CG: The query began "I have had three novels published in the last two
years by Morrow, Putnam and Knopf, and now I am looking for an agent.."
Ok, seriously, I do look for publication credits [and please do include who
published your book(s)] but I also look for the voice of the author - give
me an indication of the style of writing I'll find in the book (this goes
for non-fiction as well). If the premise is really fresh and intriguing, and
the query letter demonstrates that the author is a skilled writer, then I'll
leap to respond.

LW: What are the ingredients of a query letter that will get the author a
quick 'no thanks' reply?

CG: "Dear Ms. Grayson, I've wanted to be an author since I was 10, and I've
now written a story that I think would make a fantastic movie, all my family
who have read it say so. It's 310,000 words, divided into 43 chapters."
Such a query letter demonstrates that the author has not done his/her
homework - an author's first duty is to write a book that will sell to a
defined target audience, and second duty is to write a letter that gives me
enough information to help me decide if I can sell it. And yes, when I read
a query letter, I'm thinking more about "is this something I can sell," than
I am about "is this something I would like to read."

LW: Based on a query letter or pitch, you ask to see a partial. You love
it, ask for the complete, but eventually reject the manuscript. What are
the top five reasons for a manuscript's rejection in such a scenario?

CG: First let me say, I don't request very many complete manuscripts, so
I've got to think there's something special there. If I then reject it, the
reason would be that the book didn't hold up throughout. It may have had
any of the following difficulties:
1. Execution of the plot was flawed.
2. I lost interest in the characters and/or their situations- could be for
any number of reasons, but often the characters are on scene with nothing to
do.
3. Relationships between characters fail to develop.
4. Author fails to use dialogue to move the plot forward.
5. It's a thriller that isn't thrilling, a suspense that isn't suspenseful,
you get the idea.

LW: What's your response time on queries? On requested partials? On
completes?

CG: Queries - from 2 hours to 2 weeks. On partials - from 2 weeks to 2
months. On complete manuscripts - from 1 month to 3 months.

LW: What's your REAL response time on queries? On requested partials? On
completes?

CG: Sometimes I do get overwhelmed or I may be out of town at a conference
or trade fair and those response times stretch out - up to 2 months on
queries, to 4 months on partials, and to 5 months on complete manuscripts.

LW: Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite movies? Favorite TV
shows?

CG: Of authors whom I do not represent: Le Carré, absolutely, Tailor of
Panama notwithstanding; Dennis Lehane; I enjoyed Killing Me Softly by Nicci
French. I have quirky taste in movies, very few movies I would watch over
and over except Gone With the Wind; other movies I've liked lately: Shrek,
The Man Who Wasn't There, Barton Fink, and To Wong Foo Thanks for
Everything! Julie Newmar (laughed so hard!). Favorite TV Shows: Law &
Order, CSI: Las Vegas; Mystery!

LW: What is the best book you've read in the past year? Why?

CG: Egad, I can't think..

LW: What haven't you seen that you would love to see in a submission?

CG: I look for books that are extremely well-executed, where it is clear
that the author is in charge of his/her craft - twisty mysteries that truly
keep me turning the pages, thrillers that really have that ticking clock,
suspenseful novels in which I am afraid for the characters, romances that I
find convincing. What I'd like to see that I don't see often enough:
chick-lit in which the narrator actually likes some aspects of her life.

LW: Are there any subjects/types of characters/plots/scenarios you
absolutely don't want to see?

CG: I'm interested in character-driven stories, not scenarios. I am not
interested in clichés: I do not want to see books with Mafia, bags of drug
money, drug runners, corrupt police chiefs, recovered memories of childhood
abuse, killers who confess the instant they are confronted even though the
accuser has no concrete evidence. I want to read very little about the
motions of hands unless it is "She reached into her tiny purse and pulled
out this big gun." When two characters are eating, I don't want to know what
they ate or in what order it was served unless one of them drops dead from
the flounder within a page or two. If I notice the words at the expense of
being there, I leave. And I'm sorry but I have to admit that I have a
personal bias against heroines with men's names: I try, but it's just way
too much work to keep it all straight when I read such things as " 'Where
were you on the night of the fifteenth?' Dan asked, opening her notebook.
'I don't know,' Sam replied, 'I believe I was getting my nails done.' "

LW: Where do you see romance/women's fiction heading in the future?

CG: I admit I like chick-lit and my guess is it will probably last for a
while longer. I hope humorous mysteries expand.

LW: What do you see as the next "hot" genre in the market?

CG: Gee, I'm short a crystal ball. I've been around and seen angels come
and go, horror boom and bust, etc., etc. I don't really try to catch
trends, nor do I counsel my authors to catch trends (write fantasy, it's
hot); I'm more interested in authors with unique voices who write the novels
that they know how to do well.

LW: Who are some of your published author clients?

CG: Ann Lawrence, Do You Believe?, (dark paranormal romance), Tor Books,
May, 2005
Joyce Livingston, The Heart's Choice, (inspirational) Love Inspired,
February, 2005
Kathryn Medico & Mollye Barrows, A Perversion of Justice, (true crime) Avon,
May, 2004
Kathleen Nance, Jigsaw, (romantic suspense). Dorchester, April, 2005
Det. Mike Proctor, How to Stop a Stalker, (non-fiction, self-help),
Prometheus, August, 2003.
Henry Sayre, Cave Paintings to Picasso, (children's non-fiction), Chronicle,
October, 2004.
Pam Smallcomb, The Trimoni Twins and the Changing Coin, Bloomsbury
Children's Books, November, 2004
Denise N. Wheatley, I Wish I Never Met You, (chick-lit), Simon & Schuster,
August, 2004
Upcoming:
Zoë Archer, Lady X's Cowboy, Dorchester, February, 2006
Kirk Scroggs, Dracula vs. Grampa, (original series) Little Brown Children's
Books, 2006
Lois Winston, Resurrecting Gertie, (chick-lit) Dorchester, April, 2006

LW: Is there anything else you'd like to tell KOD members about yourself
and/or your agency?

CG: I don't bite. And all you authors from A-K, send me some books! (A
little humor)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Does Your Fight Scene Pack a Punch?

By Marg McAlister

Long ago, movie directors mastered the technique of creating a convincing fight scene. Bodies crash to the floor.. chairs are upended... viewers are treated to closeups of terrified or furious faces... and the punches thrown are enough to make us wince and close our eyes. (No more of those prissy punches that fooled nobody in the early films - sneaky camera angles to hide the fact that the fist didn't really connect; loud thuds to suggest a knockout punch when anybody could see it wouldn't knock a gnat out of its flight path.)

Movie-goers are treated to multiple camera angles and sophisticated sound effects. We feel as though we're right in the middle of that fight.

Authors have it a lot harder. How can you throw the reader in the middle of the scene and feel every punch? How can you show the action without falling into the trap of sounding like a school kid enthusiastically detailing a fight, punch by punch; kick by kick?

There are just two things to keep in mind.

Remember you're a writer, not a choreographer.

Pack your fights with EMOTIONAL punch.

That's it. So simple - yet so effective.

What does a choreographer do? Plans a series of movements, step by step. He/she teaches the people performing the movements how to perform each one, and then how to put them together into a smooth routine.

Too many fight scenes in books look like a choreographer's notebook. You'll see something like this:

Briggs planted a right hook on Smith's chin. The other man reeled backwards, his arms windmilling. Briggs followed up his advantage, breathing hard. In quick succession he landed several more punches on Smith's body.

Smith fell to the ground and rolled away. "Bastard!" he grunted, and rolled again to avoid a well-aimed kick from Briggs. Cat-like, he leapt to his feet and circled Briggs, not taking his eyes off his nemesis.

"Come on!" Briggs taunted, darting in to land another punch then ducking back out of reach. "Is that the best you can do?" He feinted and laughed.

Infuriated, Smith attacked. Briggs danced back and around Smith, and in two deft moves had him on the ground, one arm up behind his back.

"Had enough?" he panted.

There are so many things wrong with the above scene it's hard to know where to start. In brief:
We have no idea who the viewpoint character is. We seem to be looking on from a distance. That means there is very little emotional involvement from the reader. To really involve your reader, do everything you can to make sure he or she 'becomes' the viewpoint character. If he gets hurt, so does the reader. If he loses... so does the reader.

The writer is "telling" rather than showing. A did this then B did that so A did this in response and B followed up with this... boring! (Can you see the choreographer at work?)

The writer uses the characters' names a lot: "Smith" and "Briggs". This tends to add distance too. The problem is that both characters are men, so constant use of "he", while not so distancing, can be confusing. It's easier to avoid these problems if you are deeply in the viewpoint of one of the characters.

The excerpt is filled with tired old expressions such as "in quick succession he landed two more punches"; "a well-aimed kick"; "cat-like, he leapt to his feet"; "in two deft moves". Expressions like this save the writer from doing much work - they roll off the tongue so easily because they've been around for so long.

How do you avoid these pitfalls and write a fight scene that works?

You forget (for the most part) the physical punches and add emotional punch. Get deep into the viewpoint of one of the characters - preferably the main character; the one the reader really identifies with. This way, readers look out through the eyes of that character. They desperately want him to win; they feel every punch. Therefore, there's a lot more emotional investment in the outcome of the fight.

Most writers seem to feel that fight scenes have to be filled with fast movement, grunts and moans and shouted epithets to telegraph the action. They feel that if you stop to tell the reader what's going on in the head of the main character, this slows things down too much.

That certainly can be the case... but in the hands of a skilled writer, tension actually builds when the action is slowed down. You need to remember that time-on-the-page is not the same as real time. Since you can't actually show the reader what is going on in real time as you can in a movie, you have to compensate by spending some time in the mind of the main character. Show us the character's thoughts. Show us the character's emotions. Help us to "feel" our way into the fight.

The easiest way to show how this works is to use an example from a published book. Here's a fight scene from ECHO BURNING by Lee Child (Bantam Press, 2001). The hero, Jack Reacher, tries to avoid the fight... and the tension builds beautifully until he is forced into a confrontation.

The guy was wearing a white tank-top shirt and he was eating chicken wings. The wings were greasy and the guy was a slob. He was dripping chicken fat off his chin and off his fingers onto his shirt. There was a dark teardrop shape right between his pecs. It was growing and spreading into an impressive stain. But the best bar-room etiquette doesn't let you linger on such a sight, and the guy caught Reacher staring.

"Who you looking at?" he said.

It was said low and aggressively, but Reacher ignored it.

"Who you looking at?" the guy said again.

Reacher's experience was, they say it once, maybe nothing's going to happen. But they say it twice, then trouble's on the way. Fundamental problem is, they take a lack of response as evidence that you're worried. That they're winning. But then, they won't let you answer, anyway.

"You looking at me?" the guy said.

"No," Reacher answered.

"Don't you be looking at me, boy," the guy said.

The way he said boy made Reacher think he was maybe a foreman in a lumber mill or a cotton operation. Whatever muscle work was done around Lubbock. Some kind of a traditional trade passed down through the generations. Certainly the word cop never came to his mind. But then he was relatively new to Texas.

"Don't you look at me," the guy said.

Reacher turned his head and looked at him. Not really to antagonize the guy. Just to size him up. Life is endlessly capable of surprises, so he knew one day he would come face to face with his physical equal. With somebody who might worry him. But he looked and saw this wasn't the day. So he just smiled and looked away again.

Then the guy jabbed him with his finger.

"I told you not to look at me," he said, and jabbed.

It was a meaty forefinger and it was covered in grease. It left a definite mark on Reacher's shirt.

"Don't do that," Reacher said.

The guy jabbed again.

"Or what?" he said. "You want to make something out of it?"

Reacher looked down. Now there were two marks. The buy jabbed again. Three jabs, three marks. Reacher clamped his teeth. What were three greasy marks on a shirt? He started a slow count to ten. Then the guy jabbed again, before he even reached eight.

"You deaf?" Reacher said. "I told you not to do that."

"You want to do something about it?"

"No," Reacher said. "I really don't. I just want you to stop doing it, is all."

The guy smiled. "Then you're a yellow-bellied piece of shit."

"Whatever," Reacher said. "Just keep your hands off me."

"Or what? What are you going to do?"

Reacher restarted his count. Eight, nine.

"You want to take this outside?" the guy asked.

Ten.

"Touch me again and you'll find out," Reacher said. "I warned you four times."

The guy paused a second. Then, of course, he went for it again. Reacher caught the finger on the way in and snapped it at the first knuckle. Just folded it upward like he was turning a door handle. Then because he was irritated he leaned forward and headbutted the guy full in the face. It was a smooth move, well-delivered, but it was backed off to maybe half of what it might have been. No need to put the guy in a coma, over four grease marks on a shirt. He moved a pace to give the man room to fall, and backed into the woman on his right.

"Excuse me, ma'am," he said.

The woman nodded vaguely, disoriented by the noise, concentrating on her drink, unaware of what was happening. The big guy thumped silently on the floorboards and Reacher used the sole of his shoe to roll him half onto his front. Then he nudged him under the chin with his toe to pull his head back and straighten his airway. The recovery position, paramedics call it. Stops you choking while you're out.

Then he paid for his drinks and walked back to his motel...

Of course, this scene just shows a quietly escalating fight and it shows a hero who has the ability to take a fight to a quick conclusion. You're going to have to use a slightly different approach if you have several people involved and if you have a fast and furious fight with two more evenly matched aggressors. But the principle is the same.

Don't let the reader watch the fight from a distance. Get them into the skin of the main character, privy to his thoughts and his emotions. Let readers feel the impact of fists and feet; let them experience the adrenaline (or irritation, depending on the level of provocation). Then your fight scenes will pack the kind of punch you want.

(c) copyright Marg McAlister

Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers' tipsheet at http://www.writing4success.com/

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

Fictitious Force

Fictitious Force

A New Speculative Fiction Market

Monday, June 27, 2005

Buying the Cow, Though the Milk Is Free: Why Some Publishers Are Digitizing Themselves

June 24, 2005
By Anna Weinberg

On June 19, Cory Doctorow announced on his blog boingboing.net that his third novel, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, had just been published by Tor Books. More interestingly, he also announced that the entire text of the book, like the text of his two previous novels, was available online under copyright terms that allow the “unlimited, noncommercial redistribution of the text.” While major publishing houses are digging in for a long fight with Google over making digital versions of books available online (in partial, “fair use” excerpts), Doctorow invites his readers to “send around, paste it into a chat, beam it to a friend's PDA, or print out a chapter to hand out in the university common room.” Further, through the terms of Doctorow’s Creative Commons license, people in developing nations are free to sell print versions of the book for their own profit—as long as they sell them only in developing nations.

Not that Doctorow is opposed to commercial success—he derides “fuzzy-headed ‘information-wants-to-be-free’ info-hippies” on his website craphound.com. In fact, he makes it very clear that he considers the release of the entire text of his books into the wilds of the Internet to be first and foremost a marketing tool. “From where I sit as a mid-list writer struggling to break in and break out, this has been a good thing for me,” he says. Doctorow’s first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, has been downloaded from his website half-a-million times. “If every one of those were a sale, this would be one of the bestselling sci-fi books of all time,” he says.
-----

Read the rest of the article at the above link to The Book Standard, a site that is bookmark worthy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What is a Prologue

(I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR EVERYONE'S OPINION ON THIS.)
SHAWN

What is a prologue? When should you use one? Should you forget about a prologue and simply start at Chapter 1?

All too often we pick up a published book and read the prologue, then wonder why it was there at all. It doesn't seem to do anything that Chapter One couldn't have done - or that couldn't have been worked in during the story itself. Or the prologue is a scene taken directly from the book - a few paragraphs inserted only to make us keep reading. I feel cheated if I get to a point halfway through the book - or near the end - and find that the prologue is nothing more than a word-for-word excerpt from the book. (Seems like 'entrapment' or something!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Shimmer Magazine - New Speculative Market

Shimmer Magazine is now accepting submissions for their October 2005 issue.

Shimmer is a new speculative fiction magazine, published quarterly. Each issue will contain new fiction from emerging and established writers - fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and stories that defy categorization.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

New model 'permits time travel'

For all you sci-fi writers (or readers), check out this intriguing article from the BBC about Time Travel. Please access at the above link. I've included the first paragraph below, a carrot dangled in front of your nose.


The concept of time-travel is laden with uncomfortable paradoxes
If you went back in time and met your teenage parents, you could not split them up and prevent your birth - even if you wanted to, a new quantum model has stated.

Monday, June 13, 2005

A New Romance

By ALEX WITCHEL

Published: June 12, 2005

"Troy let the towel on his waist drop. The morning light falling into the room put his abs and pecs and nipples into perfect relief. • Brad gasped, as if it was the first time he had seen what was hidden beneath. Troy was a magnificent specimen of manhood. At 33, three years older than Brad, he had the firm, hard stomach of a high-school athlete. His muscles were naturally lean and ropy; he was strong, but he had none of the false bulk of a steroid queen.'
---------------

This is a new release. To read more, click on the link to the New York Times website. The article is too long to post.

Friday, June 10, 2005

'A test of absolute faith'

'Writing a novel, I discovered then, in that initial fumbling stage, is a test of absolute faith and absolute endurance. It puts you in a position of vulnerability at the same time as handing you a wand. For me, it felt like wading out into the sea on a raft in the dark and staying there all night, drifting and surging, worrying a lot, until the morning comes up and you can see where you are. That's when the real work begins - the task of getting all that colour, all those images and meanings succinctly, with the right pitch.'

Diana Evans, on writing her first novel 26a, in the Observer

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mining Your Novel for Gold

Mining Your Novel for Gold

Got an unsold novel languishing in a drawer? There's hope for it yet—here's how to pull short stories from those pages, which can get you published and ignite more interest in the novel itself.

by William Barton


It hurts to be told that no one wants your novel, whether it's your first or your fifth, whether you've been previously published or not. All those months, even years, of labor seem wasted. All those painfully chosen words now seem destined to reside forever in a forgotten desk drawer.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Part of establishing a writing career is learning to be patient, creative and, most of all, resilient. No one wants your novel? Then salvage its best parts and turn them into short stories. With your care and commitment, those stories will find a life of their own—and possibly keep your career afloat at the same time.

Ups and downs

I learned the hard way that publication isn't necessarily a magic bullet. My first two novels were published, but my third manuscript didn't sell, so I kept myself in the business by writing nonfiction books about computers. Still, I stuck with my fiction writing and eventually got back in the game, publishing three more novels and submitting a fourth to publishers. But while I was outlining my fifth novel, my agent called and broke the news: No one was interested in the fourth manuscript.

As I considered my next move, it occurred to me that I'd never written any short fiction. Short stories, it seemed, might provide me with a quicker route back into novel publishing than nonfiction books had. So I reworked the still-incomplete outline of my fifth novel, removing everything but the principal plot, and wound up with 28,000 words. I sold the resulting story, "Almost Forever," for serialization in a small-press magazine, Tomorrow Science Fiction.

On the strength of that sale, I was able to write and sell more short stories to higher-profile markets and eventually another book. That got me back on track again and, in time, I had six more novels in print. Then one day, my editor called. "Your sales are poor. We won't be buying any more books." It was time to start over.

From flotsam to fiction

I'd kept my newfound short-fiction career in operation while I wrote those six novels, but now I had 107,000 words about to go to waste. So when a local college literary magazine called, offering me $50 for a short story, I offered them a novel excerpt instead. They agreed to consider an 8,000-word submission. I selected what I knew was my novel's most dramatic chapter and cut 16,000 words. There were lavish sex scenes that would seem out of place in a literary magazine, foreshadowing of later events the readers would never see, back-references to earlier events—all of these got the ax. I hit the 8,000-word mark, and North Carolina Literary Review accepted my story.

I was inspecting the original manuscript for more encapsulated stories to sell when I remembered the condensation I'd done of "Almost Forever." But this novel, Moments of Inertia, was a first-person narrative. There were no subplots to remove, and everything took place in front of the viewpoint character. This time I'd identify the core of the story and work outward, finding material that couldn't be left out.

I went through the book and collected the dramatic peaks—the cores of each chapter, like the cliffhanger endings of old movie serials. I found myself with a short-ish story too fractured to make any sense. I combed the manuscript again, looking for scenes that related to those peaks, finding elements whose content was essential to understanding the whole. What I wound up with was a long, uneven novella, with a prosaic beginning that shifted to violent action somewhere in the middle. I kept working.

There's no law that says a story has to be told in any particular order, of course. So I cut the story in half, starting with one of the dramatic peaks I'd chosen for the excerpt, continuing forward to what had been the end of the book. Then I took the first half of the story and distributed its scenes between the others, placing each one after a later scene that referred to it. I wound up with a story that delivered reward after reward, keeping the reader going to the final climax. By the time I finished wielding the editorial blowtorch, I'd reduced my 107,000-word novel to a 12,500-word short story, which subsequently appeared in the April/May 2004 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction.

With 20,000 words sold, I went through my novel again, looking for anything else that could work as a stand-alone story. What I found were two chapters that, side by side, made up a harrowing tale with an ending of their own. I sold these 14,000 words, now called "Dark of the Sun," to Asimov's, as well. I also found a single, 1,000-word dramatic scene that told its own story. It was published as "On the Beach" in The Urban Hiker.

What happens to a novel once you've extracted short fiction from it? The stories you sold may attract enough attention to interest book publishers, and you may be able to sell the novel itself in its original form. Or you may be able to publish a book that's a collection of your short fiction, in which the stories from your novel appear.

And even if your novel gets published only as short stories, remember the most important thing: Readers saw your writing. You were paid for the work you did, and the exposure those stories earned may help sell the next novel you write. In the end, publication never hurts, no matter what form it takes. And there are stories in your unsold novel, just waiting to be found.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Exploding toilet leads to lawsuit

Associated Press in Morgantown
Saturday June 4, 2005
The Guardian

A man who says he was severely burned when a portable toilet exploded after he sat down and lit a cigarette is suing a general contractor and a coal company, accusing them of negligence.

John Jenkins, 53, and his wife, Ramona, 35, of Brave, Pennsylvania, are seeking $10m (£6m) in damages from Chisler Inc and Eastern Associated Coal.

The lawsuit claims Mr Jenkins's face, neck, arms, torso and legs were severely burned last July after the cigarette ignited methane gas leaking from a pipe underneath the toilet unit.

"When I struck the lighter, the whole thing just detonated - the whole top blew off," said Mr Jenkins, a methane power plant operator with North West Fuels Development. "I can't tell you if it blew me out the door or if I jumped out."

Eastern Associated owns the property where the explosion occurred.

Mr Jenkins alleges that heavy equipment from Chisler ran over the pipelines before the explosion, causing the methane gas leak.

I Do Not Have Time To Read This Crap

WRITER'S LIFE
Fiction
May, 2005

Fiction editors talk about unsolicited submissions
By  Anne Allen

Editors are too often cast as ogres, but the piles of crap they face is a real eye-opener.
On my British editor’s desk is a rubber stamp that prints, in red ink, the words “I do not have time to read this crap.” Its blood-coloured imprint adorns several submission letters that lie scattered around his office.

I feel sad for the rejected novelists, although of course their manuscripts were returned long ago with a polite rejection letter.

So I asked him, and some of our other editors — how does a fiction submission avoid the dreaded red stamp and get a sympathetic read?

Unfortunately, the sympathetic part seems fairly subjective — mostly based on personal tastes — but here are a few major mistakes that fiction editors at my publishing house, Shadowline, say will propel your novel directly into the “crap” file.

1) Death threats in your cover letter.

I’m not making this up. Editors get them more often than you imagine.

A query/cover letter is a business document — essentially a job application. It may accompany a one-page synopsis (the norm in the U.S. these days) or a full manuscript (still accepted here at Shadowline). But it is with that letter that your working relationship with your editor begins and, all too often, ends. Remember it should be short, professional and to the point. Say who you are, what you’ve written and why you’ve sent it to this particular publisher. Full stop.

My editor hopes to compile his collection of bad cover letters into a comedy script some day, so I mustn’t steal his thunder, but suffice it to say that threatening publishers with various forms of witchcraft and/or body mutilation if you are not immediately given a an advance the size of the company’s annual budget will probably not get your novel published.

Although you may achieve immortality in an upcoming sketch on Radio Four.

You also want to avoid personal insults, suicide threats and/or generally whining about your rotten life. It’s about your novel. Only about your novel.

2) Amateurish writing.

Don’t try to run before you can walk.

A person who’s just learned to lob a tennis ball over the net doesn’t expect to compete at Wimbledon, and someone who’s recently hammered her first nail doesn’t expect to be hired to build the next Trump Tower. But for some reason, may beginners believe their first attempt at a novel is going to make a major publisher’s spring list.

This doesn’t happen. Fiction writing is a discipline. And for an eternal lack of a better word, it is a craft. A profession. So take classes. Read how-to books. Join a critique group. Go to workshops and conferences. Chances are, you shouldn’t send out your first novel. Keep it in a drawer and write a couple more.

Some day you’ll thank me for telling you that. I personally learned this lesson the hard, and embarrassing, way.

3) Not reading contemporary fiction.

You can’t write what you don’t read. Don’t fake it. The editor can tell. Write what you read and read what you write.

You need to know who’s publishing books like the one you’ve written, and where to find them in a bookstore. Film and TV references give you away as a non-reader. If you’ve written a forensic science whodunit, compare your sleuth to Kay Scarpetta: don’t just pitch your work as CSI: Peoria.

Specific genres have specific rules. Learn them. The only kind of fiction that can break rules is literary fiction, but if you prefer to read Grisham, don’t attempt the magical realism of Garcia Marquez or the kaleidoscopic character studies of Michael Cunningham.

4) Bad grammar and haphazard spelling.

No editor is going to waste a minute of her overbooked time reading awhole novel written by somebody who can’t be bothered to use her computer’s spellcheck function. Or hasn’t found out where to put an apostrophe.

Get somebody to proofread for you. It’s hard to spot your own mistakes, because you know what you meant to say and your brain sometimes sees the correct version instead of what’s on the page.

And, the editors remind me, never rely on spellcheck alone, or yule seam a compete full.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Department Stores: A New Home for Indie Booksellers?

Department Stores: A New Home for Indie Booksellers?
May 31, 2005
By Rachel Deahl

A shopper walking through the main floor of Marshall Field’s flagship department store on Chicago’s State Street will pass a number of branded boutiques, ranging from high-end clothing shops, like BCBG and Max Azria, to one less-expected carve-out: Barbara’s Bookstore. While a decade or more ago, many department stores had in-house book departments, few, if any, indie booksellers—of which Barbara’s is one of the Chicago area’s most beloved—have ever taken up residence in one. But now, as the department store business attempts to reinvigorate itself, more branded storefronts are being invited into large retail centers. Should Barbara’s prove successful on State Street, indie bookshops may just show up all over, wedged between Crate & Barrel and The Gap.

Barbara’s owner, Don Barliant, explains that, at his operation, which opened in Marshall Field’s in 2003, the chain takes the bulk of the profits. Customers actually pay the department store for every purchase, with a percentage of each sale going to Barbara’s, which provides the staff and stocks the store. (Barbara’s staffers, after being trained by Field’s, are added to the department store’s payroll and benefits plan.) Barliant says the arrangement is doubly advantageous: It helps build awareness of the Barbara’s brand and—despite the revenue-sharing agreement that favors Field’s—the number of dollar signs tends to be high. “If there’s a book at Marshall Field’s, we provide it,” Barliant explains. In addition to the strong sales coming from the high-traffic downtown location, Barliant now provides books for other departments in the company’s local and non-local locations. Thus, Barbara’s inventory can appear everywhere from a cookware display to a storefront window.



Barliant, who is currently in discussions with Marshall Field’s to open another location in the chain’s planned Minneapolis outpost, says his shop’s presence in Marshall Field’s ultimately does what all small booksellers need to do: Bring books to the places where the customers are. The key, Barliant says, is getting books to non-traditional locations.

The partnership is promising for Field’s as well, since department stores—suffering many of the same woes as bookstores—need to find unique ways to battle back into a marketplace dominated by mega-retailers like Target and K-Mart. The department store business has been stuck in “a no man’s land” for the past two decades, says Amanda Nicholson, director of the Retail Management & Consumer Studies Department at Boston College, losing business to discount retailers and specialty chains like Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. “On one end, you have the powerful discount chains which in the last 20 years have really taken a lot of the market share and then, at the other end, you have the specialty store chains like The Gap and Banana Republic,” she says. “People used to go to department stores to buy all their clothes, and that’s changed.”

In fact, Marshall Field’s has “added or invigorated” 500 new vendors and brands at its State Street store since 2003, says Jennifer McNamara, a Field’s spokesperson, with the goal of creating “an environment unlike anything in retail.” Marshall Field’s, says Bart Weitz, director of the Miller Center for Retailing at the University of Florida, “wants to have something that’s unique and different, so Barbara’s is ideal for that. People can go to a Borders anywhere.” And what’s happening at State Street likely points to imminent changes at the store’s 62 other locations throughout the Midwest, and, perhaps, at Macy’s Bloomingdale’s and other department store chains. “If the Barbara’s location is working for Marshall Field’s,” says Nicholson, “then another company will be looking for similar deals.”

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

CBS News | Dracula Novel Earns $2M Advance | June 1, 2005�17:00:12

Dracula Novel Earns $2M Advance
(Page 1 of 2)

ANN ARBOR, Mich., June 1, 2005

(AP) Elizabeth Kostova used some unconventional ingredients from her own life — a childhood spent listening to Dracula tales, a love of Balkan folk music and a passion for libraries — to produce a debut novel that earned her a breathtaking $2 million advance.

Despite its quirky origins, publisher Little, Brown and Co. is hoping "The Historian" will grab readers' imaginations in much the same way as Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," another historical adventure-mystery that has sold more than 17 million copies around the world and been translated into 44 languages.
--------------
Interesting article about a writer's perserverance and willingness to undertake countless rewrites. Sound familiar?

Noteworthy point--this was the author's first novel.

Click on the link to access the article at cbsnews.com

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rejection Letters (A Must Read)

I shared this with my pub group and thought you all might enjoy it also -

"I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English
language." Editor of the San Fransciso Examiner to Rudyard Kipling.

Mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark recently received a $60 plus million
dollar advance on her next five books, but this is what happened when
she was sending out her manuscript "Journey Back to Love" in the early
1960s: "We found the heroine as boring as her husband did."


Classic writer Colette was told in a letter of rejection: "I wouldn't be
able to sell 10 copies."


A rejection letter to Pierre Boulle about his "Bridge Over River Kwai"
said, "A very bad book."

Jean Auel, author of "The Clan of Cave Bear" was told, "We are very
impressed with the depth and scope of your research and the quality of
your prose. Nevertheless ... we don't think we could distribute enough
copies to satisfy you or ourselves."

A letter rejecting "The Diary of Anne Frank" said, "The girl doesn't, it
seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that
book above the 'curiosity' level."

"Jonathan Livingston Seagull will never make it as a paperback." From
the publisher of a magazine refusing an offer to bid on the paperback
rights to Richard Bach's best selling novel. Avon Books eventually
bought those rights and sales totaled more than 7.25 million copies.

H.G. Wells had to endure the indignity of a rejection when he submitted
his manuscript, "The War of the Worlds" that said, "An endless
nightmare. I do not believe it would "take"...I think the verdict would
be 'Oh don't read that horrid book'."

And when he tried to market "The Time Machine," it was said, "It is not
interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for
the scientific reader."

Jacqueline Susann's "Valley of the Dolls" received this response,
"...she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and
thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene
cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia,
writes wide-eyed romantic scenes ...hauls out every terrible show biz
cliche in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless
talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly ..."

When Irving Stone sent his manuscript, "Lust for Life," this is what
came back in the mail: "A long, dull novel about an artist." I guess
that meant "No thanks."

Even Dr. Seuss was not above the scathing rejection, "...too different
from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling."

Before Ayn Rand became known as an intellectual and her books as
classics, she had to get past this from one publisher: "It is badly
written and the hero is unsympathetic." And this from another: "I wish
there were an audience for a book of this kind. But there isn't. It
won't sell." So much for "The Fountainhead." Fourteen years later she
was sending "Atlas Shrugged" on its publishing rounds and reading in the
return mail: "... the book is much too long. There are too many long
speeches... I regret to say that the book is unsaleable and unpublishable."

To writer Samuel Johnson (though I don't know which book the editor was
referring to): "Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part
that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good."

Regarding "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" it was written "(this book
has) no future ..."

Did you know that only seven of Emily Dickinson's poems were ever
published during her lifetime? A rejection early in her career said,
"(Your poems) are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and
are generally devoid of true poetical qualities."

Edgar Allen Poe was told, "Readers in this country have a decided and
strong preference for works in which a single and connected story
occupies the entire volume."

Herman Melville, who had written a manuscript entitled "Moby Dick," was
told, "We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the
book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenbile
Market in (England). It is very long, rather old-fashioned..."

Jack London heard, "(Your book is) forbidding and depressing."

Ernest Hemingway, regarding his novel, "The Torrents of Spring" was
rejected with, "It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of
being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it." Ouch!

William Faulkner may be a classic writer to this, as well as prior,
generation, but back when he was trying to crack the publishing market,
he had to read letters like this one, "If the book had a plot and
structure, we might suggest shortening and revisions, but it is so
diffuse that I don't think this would be of any use. My chief objection
is that you don't have any story to tell." This was kinder than the
rejection he would receive just two years later, "Good God, I can't
publish this!"

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Backstory

May 24, 2005

Marianne Mancusi's Backstory

I always wanted to write a book. So one day I got a hold of a copy of 'The Writer's Market' and started looking through it. There, I found pages upon pages of publishers looking for books. I came across Harlequin and decided they looked like they'd be an easy place to get published. After all, they publish so many books, certainly they must be dying for submissions, right? " . . .


Read the rest of this article at Backstory, a great site featuring the author's story behind writing and publishing their book.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Has Book Publishing Returned to Pre-9/11 Business?

May 24, 2005
By Rachel Deahl

More books were released last year than ever before, according to a new study from R.R. Bowker. The statistics, released today, indicate U.S. publishers put out significantly more titles in 2004, jumping 14% from the previous year, to total 195,000, an all-time high for the industry. Andrew Grabois, Bowker’s director of publisher relations, says the rise points to a “return to a pre-9/11 pattern of publishing.” Grabois says the numbers point to an overall shift in the industry as publishers are now betting on the fact that the public is ready for more “escapist and self-help” fare, after being “exhausted by four years of terrorism, war, and polarizing elections.”

While the Bowker study does not reflect sales of books, and, therefore, industry revenues, it does point to the fact that there is a vast number of titles in the marketplace coming from sources other than the 12 major houses. Grabois says that, while vanity presses and POD companies make up for approximately 50,000 of the total number of titles released, the other 145,000 are coming from a combination of minor and major industry players. The Bowker study also touches on interesting trends in adult fiction, university press output, the growth of various genre categories, book pricing and translations of English titles.



Adult fiction, which accounted for 25,184 of the new titles in 2004, increased a hefty 43.1% from 2003, the highest jump ever recorded for the category. Interestingly, the large houses contributed modestly to this growth, increasing their output in the category only 3.5% from the previous year. Nonetheless, the overall growth means that adult fiction now accounts for 14% of all titles published in the country.

Grabois credits the difference in the output of adult fiction between the major houses and all other publishers with the fact that the biggest industry players are following a more conservative business model. Recognizing there might be more of a consumer interest in the category, Grabois says the major houses are still “a bit more cautious” and won’t “do a 180-degree turn in one or two seasons.”

Major trade houses released a total of 24,159 new titles, up 5.4% from 2003, Bowker reported. University presses also raised their output, releasing 14,484 titles, up 12.3% from the previous year. The strong numbers for university presses point to a turnaround in business, since the group saw a decline of 4.3% from 2002 to 2003.

Grabois says the university presses were able to turn business around by returning to their standard model, which had changed after 9/11. “[The University Presses] were hurt a lot by post-9/11 trends because they tried to gain a foothold in the trade market since there was such an interest in Afghanistan and terrorism and wound up over-publishing. They’ve cut back and now seem to be finding their sea legs again.”

Juvenile titles saw a marked rise in 2004, up 6.6% to 21,516, marking another industry high. And in the adult nonfiction category, the genres enjoying the largest increases included religion, travel and home economics. The big houses filled out their lists by releasing more titles in business, juvenile, law, sociology and travel, while cutting back markedly on religion, poetry and literary fiction.

Another decreasing area in the industry, according to Bowker, is translations of English titles; in 2004 4,040 books were translated from English into another language, a drop of 8.1% from the previous year.

As for pricing, the suggested retail price of various formats went up, for the most, with the exception of adult hardcovers, which dropped $.10 to $27.52. Adult fiction hardcovers remained the same at $25.08 while both adult trade paperbacks and adult fiction paperbacks saw a jump in price; the former rose $.11 to $15.76 and the latter climbed $.07 to $14.78.

A category seeing growth, surprisingly, is poetry, which jumped 40.5% from 2003 to 2004. Bowker, which tracks poetry and drama together, indicates that 1,779 more titles from the combined category appeared from 2003 to 2004. Despite the fact that poetry is not a big seller for the major houses, a number of POD publishers and vanity presses release a steady stream of titles in the category; Grabois estimates that poetry, drama and fiction account for 50% of the titles coming from POD and vanity presses.

Synopsis Writing Lecture

I perused this lecture series. Looks quite good.

Shawn

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Interview with Agent Caren Johnson Peter Rubie Agency

INTERVIEW WITH AGENT CAREN JOHNSON,

PETER RUBIE LITERARY AGENCY, LTD.

By Lois Winston, KOD Industry Liaison



Caren Johnson, the 2005 agent judge for the Paranormal/Futuristic/Fantasy Romantic Mystery/Suspense category of the Daphne du Maurier Awards, is the youngest member of the Peter Rubie Literary Agency. Caren began her publishing career as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble where she spent most of her time in the stock room, sitting on crates reading Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and J.K. Rowling. She met Peter Rubie through the publishing program at CCNY (City College of New York) and started out at the agency as an intern. She is now an assistant agent and one of only a handful of Latinas working as an agent in the publishing industry. Caren is interested in the following areas: narrative non-fiction, pop culture, Latino based fiction (particularly chick lit and mysteries) and non-fiction, new age and spirituality.



LW: What sub-genres of mystery/suspense are you looking for (historical, contemporary, erotica, YA, cozy, paranormal, inspirational, chick-lit, etc.)?



CJ: I'm looking for sexy contemporary, chick lit and romantic suspense.



LW: Are there any mystery/suspense sub-genres you don't handle?



CJ: I'm open to seeing all sorts of mystery/suspense sub-genres. What turns me off immediately is clichéd stories. This includes memory loss, secret children and stalkers. There are so many more interesting stories waiting to be told. Why rely on the usual ones?



LW: You've just read a query letter that knocked your socks off and made you want to read the manuscript at once. Why?



CJ: I'm a sucker for a well written query letter. It immediately places me inside the protagonist's head and makes me indebted to seeing the manuscript because it's such a sexy set up.



LW: What are the ingredients of a query letter that will get the author a quick 'no thanks' reply?



CJ: Never mention that you've never written anything before. If you haven't, why are you wasting my time? Why aren't you telling me that you write every day, even if it is in your journal or that you've been a tech writer for 5, 10, or 15 years. Let me know that you can sustain a career with your writing. This also applies to telling me that this isn't your best work and that you're waiting to give me your best work when I sign you up. Dazzle me from the get-go. Let me know that I haven't wasted my time giving you a chance.



LW: Based on a query letter or pitch, you ask to see a partial. You love it, ask for the complete, but eventually reject the manuscript. What are the top five reasons for a manuscript's rejection in such a scenario?



CJ: This is important because I usually can't go into the details when I send a rejection letter.

Make sure that your writing is its strongest. Every author needs to practice writing. Make sure that you have someone you trust to go over every speck of writing sent to an agent and make sure that person is objective, not just telling you what you want to hear. Make sure that you have a good spell and grammar check done before you send out a manuscript. I'm not a strict grammarian, but nothing bothers me more than not being able to tell the difference between loose and lose. Manuscripts that don't look professional in the sense that they look like you wrote the book two years ago and are still shopping it around always floor me. As a writer, you should be growing with every day, so why not look over your manuscript and see if you really need all that dramatic phrasing or excess alliteration. Lastly, if it looks like an obviously cribbed idea from your favorite writer, it's useless since the industry already has that writer to write like that. They don't need two. If your writing is similar though, make sure that you can clearly voice how you are different and better. I want something that's going to knock the socks of those editors off.



LW: What's your response time on queries? On requested partials? On completes?



LW: What's your REAL response time on queries? On requested partials? On completes?



CJ: My response times vary and are appalling most of the time. Queries are almost useless to me since I'm very much into the instant gratification and want to see a writing sample. Send partials. If I like what I see, I'll ask to see the full. It's usually three months for partials and up to six for a full. Of course if I'm really excited about what I see, it could be the next day that you hear from me.



LW: Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite movies? Favorite TV shows?



CJ: I went to lunch with Charlotte Herscher and she brought me The Dark Queen, by Susan Carroll. This is my new favorite book. I fell in love with its prose and the sensuality of the language. If there's a writer out there who can produce work like this, I'll sign you up tomorrow.

My favorite authors are Michel Faber, whose book The Crimson Petal and the White I absolutely adore, Susan Carroll, who I just mentioned and Phillipa Gregory, whose historical romances I can't get enough of. You'll notice that I mentioned mostly literary fiction. I don't see these books as literary fiction. I see them as exquisitely written stories that were told brilliantly. I adore Lolly Winston's Good Grief because it was so brilliant and anything by Lisa Tucker because she has such a great command of language. Her stories are brilliantly written.



I watch Desperate Housewives and Arrested Development religiously. I love Everwood since it examines some crucial issues for the teen crowd, and Gilmore Girls is my guilty pleasure since I can't get enough of the characters.



I love action movies. My favorite movies in general are Bullit, Bourne Identity and Supremacy, Collateral, Payback, first Matrix and anything David Lynch.



LW: What is the best book you've read in the past year? Why?



CJ: The bet book I've read in the past year has to be that one by Susan Carroll, The Dark Queen. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction since it takes such liberties with history, but this one transcended those barriers and made me fall in love.



LW: What haven't you seen that you would love to see in a submission?



CJ: I would love to see more submissions by creative writers. Make sure the whole package fits what you're sending. My author, who writes chick lit and paranormal, includes a cover page for each manuscript that fits its overall appeal. If it is chick lit, she makes her font flirty and fun. For paranormal, she uses a more sober font. Mind you, this is only for the first page. The rest of the manuscript is plain TNR, perfect for the exhausted eyeballs of an agent or editor.



LW: Are there any subjects/types of characters/plots/scenarios you absolutely don't want to see?



CJ: I hate memory loss. Never rings true to me and I think it's an easy way to create tension. Avoid it and if you're using it, make sure you research responses and the like until you are an expert on it.



LW: Who are some of your published author clients?



CJ: Caridad Pineiro Scordato and Lara Rios.



LW: Is there anything else you'd like to tell KOD members about yourself and/or your agency?



CJ: Though I'm the only one in the agency who will "officially" look at romance, we're all interested in good stories. If I think a story is better suited to one of the other members of the agency, I'll be sure to pass your work on. We have a philosophy that it's better to have the best and most enthusiastic agent for your work, even if it isn't us particularly. We'll pass it between us as much as possible and make sure you get the best attention ever.



Contact information:

Caren Johnson

Peter Rubie Literary Agency, Ltd.

240 West 35th Street, Suite 500

New York, NY 10001

212-279-1282