Monday, December 11, 2017

10 Signs that It Might Be Time For a New Agent

A post by Mary Fan
Being a writer often feels like being at the bottom of the publishing food chain, especially when you’re just starting out. On the traditional publishing side, landing a literary agent feels like reaching a finishing line of sorts, like you’ve Made It. But sometimes, having an agent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Before I go on, I want to clarify that I’m not subtweeting (subblogging?) anyone in particular here, but rather aggregating a list based on various anecdotes from various writers.

Anyway, the agent-author relationship is a business relationships, and as in all business, sometimes, things just don’t work out. Now, as a writer (especially a newbie writer) who’s spent countless hours querying and hoping and praying for an agent, to finally sign with one can feel like a miracle. So it can be especially hard to accept that it may be time to walk away. But you’re not doing yourself any favors by staying with an agent who’s not a good fit. 

Here are some signs that it may be time to move on with your publishing life:

1. The agent doesn’t return your emails
Open communication is key to making any relationship work, business or otherwise. While it’s true that sometimes people just get busy and accidentally miss emails, watch out if a pattern starts to form. As in, you email and follow up time and time again, only to get crickets from someone who’s supposed to be your advocate. If they’re being unresponsive, it probably means you’re low on their priority list, and that’s not a good place to be.

2. The agent doesn’t answer your questions
This is related to #1, but also distinct. For example: You send the agent an email with a question, and the agent dashes off a vague reply without answering. Again with the communication. And again with being a low priority.

3. They don’t add you to their client list on their website or follow you on Twitter
This might sound petty, but hear me out. If an agent lists a bunch of their clients on their website but not you, that could mean they don’t see you as being that important. Similarly with Twitter—it costs literally nothing to hit the “follow” button on Twitter. Yet I’ve heard of some agents only following back clients after they’ve sold, which just seems… petty on their part. And is yet another sign that you just might not be that important to them.

4. They treat you like a cog
Publishing is a business, but that’s no reason to stop treating people like they’re human. And authors are human beings, not just word producers and revenue generators. If you’re starting to feel like you’re being seen as a product instead of a client, then it might be time to walk away.

5. They become less cordial the longer you don’t sell
Related to #4. It can take a long time to sell a book. I’ve heard of books being on submission for years before landing a deal. Or sometimes, the book the agent originally signed for doesn’t sell, but the next one or the one after that does. And the agent-author relationship is supposed to be long-term one. So it’s starting to feel… transactional, like you only matter when you start bringing in cash—maybe reconsider who you’re working with.

6. They’re not open to your new ideas
Some agents sign authors—they’re in it for the long haul, and if the book they signed you for doesn’t sell, they’re up for trying again with the next thing you write. Others sign specific books—they liked that one thing you wrote, but if you try anything different, they’re just not interested. Some authors find a specific space they’re comfortable writing in, in which case, this one probably doesn’t apply, because if the agent liked the first book, they’ll like subsequent, similar books as well. Others are eclectic. They want to explore. They never write the same book twice. And sometimes, this throws a wrench into the author-agent relationship. If the agent isn’t open to your new ideas, then it could be a sign of a bad fit. You shouldn’t have to feel like you’re querying your own agent with every new thing you write. You might as well query another agent entirely.

7. They don’t pay attention to your concerns
This goes back to the whole “you’re just not that important to them” thing. Remember, you’re the client. You shouldn’t feel ignored.

8. Their enthusiasm wanes
Sometimes, they’re just not that into your writing anymore. And they won’t be a particularly effective advocate if that happens.

9. They don’t provide updates
This is an important one. Lots of things can happen during the submissions process, and you have the right to know what’s going on with your book. Who has the agent sent your book to? Have they followed up? Who’s requested or passed on it so far? Are they sending it to anyone new? Even with bad news, it’s better to know what’s going on. If you’ve asked your agent for updates and they aren’t answering, then that’s not a good sign.

10. You’re just not comfortable

Trust your gut. You should feel comfortable working with your agent.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

May the new year be....well, anything's better than this

Last year around this time, I was all ready to say good-freaking-bye to 2016. Man, was that a tough year. Okay, maybe the last two months sucked big time. Other than that, I was feeling good. I had a book published in March and I was just finishing up the last edits on a YA novel I was particularly pleased about -- a mystery I planned to query, and hopefully sell. I saw hope, professionally if not globally.
Fast forward a year and I am in no better a place. Someone tweeted (and I'm paraphrasing) that if were you able to write anything in 2017, you did good. Well, it was tough. My writing, creative energy, and motivation were spent on political news and developments. Writing scathing letters-to-the-editor of our local paper, trying to rally folks on Facebook (Ha! Like that's a thing you can do), trolling my politicians on Twitter (I guess it was kinda cathartic) and, not to mention, watching a lot of escapism on Netflix. It's amazing anything got done. Actually, little got done. I queried my beloved YA book, secured an agent, fired an agent, and the book is trunked. I'm still in the midst of finishing edits on a sequel to Dead and Breakfast that I've been working on for year! 

Life can be paralyzing. And because I'm not at the point where an editor is pressing on me to finish a project, my work ethic is what I make it -- weak and unfocused. But 2018 will be better. It has to be better. For one thing, I'm the only one pushing me. And I have a lot of great project ideas that I want to see bloom. Only I can do that.

Every January, the majority of Americans pledge to eat healthier, exercise, and spend less money. Well, I already do two out of those three things, so I'm promising to get my ass in gear. To work for the betterment of my mental health and to force change where I can -- with my art.

And to celebrate the new year, here's the cover art for my next mystery. Set to be published in early 2018.

Monday, December 4, 2017

12 Days of (a Writer’s) Christmas

To have a little fun this holiday season, I bring you the 12 Days of Christmas—writer’s edition. The traditional song has a lot of repetition, so I’ve gone straight to the final verse.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my Writing Angel gave to me:

Twelve Months of Drumming
(Fast fingers, drumming on the keyboard for a solid year will lead to an impressive word count.)

Eleven Pipers Typing
(One for Facebook, one for Twitter, one for Instagram . . . This could work. If rats follow when they pipe, maybe readers will follow when they type.)

Ten Lords a-Loving
(I don’t really need these for my genre, so I’ll re-gift them to a historical romance author friend.)

Nine Ladies Leading
(Oh, I like strong female leads. I’d better get writing and give them all a novel home!)

Eight Maids a-Cleaning
(They clean, I write.)

Seven Scripts a-Swimming
(Maybe more like treading water in my mind, staying cool and patiently waiting for their turn in the spotlight.)

Six Hours a-Lying
(I need at least 6 hours of sleep to be creative, which has been hard to come by these days, so YAY!)

(And they’re legit—not the kind you pay for!)

Four Calling Agents
(Does this mean I don’t have to deal with rejection letters?)

Three French Chefs
(They cook, I write.)

Two Turtle Doves
(One to distract the cat + one to distract the dog = fewer distractions for me.)

And a #1 Spot in a Bestselling Tree
(I’m not too picky about which tree it is. It’s not so much about the title as it is the reach it represents.)

May your writing angles bring you many wonderful gifts this holiday season!

~ Carrie

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Imposter Syndrome, Anyone?


A Post By Jonathan

While I was on Facebook yesterday, avoiding writing this blog post for lack of a decent topic, a decent topic popped up right there in my news feed. I guess procrastination isn't always a bad thing!

Someone posted an article about Imposter Syndrome and, never having heard of it before, I clicked. Moments later, I found a name for a truth I have been living for much of my adult life:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Wikipedia

I can find countless examples of when I've felt this way, especially when it comes to my writing. I've won and placed highly in a couple of writing contests, but no matter the successes I've had I always seem to make excuses for it. The contest was too small or the prize wasn't a money prize so it wasn't as competitive/legitimate or it was just dumb luck. I always thought it was low self-esteem, but Imposter Syndrome seems to be more than that.

It's when there is an actual example of success that is outright dismissed by the individual who has achieved said success. It's an inability to recognize your own accomplishments. So you do achieve, but you refuse to accept the results as anything but a deception, a ruse. And sometime, very, very soon, you will be found out and the gig will be up.

I know why I feel this way. I was a horrible student in high school. More jock than academic. I didn't read my first real book until I was 18 years old. Most authors I hear about have been reading and writing stories since they were kids. But somewhere along the way, despite all my best efforts, I learned to write. Or maybe it's just a natural thing, I don't know.

Hopefully, soon I'll be able to feel like I'm not fooling everyone and just get on with my writing. Thoughts and feelings like this --the psychology of the craft-- tend to hold me back so often. and I know I'm not alone. Apparently 70% of people feel like frauds at some point in their lives.

I leave you with a related story by Neil Gaiman and a little bit of inspiration:



So do you feel like a fraud too? If so, leave your comments below!

    Monday, November 27, 2017

    Do you NaNo?

    Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
    Hey all!  Hope you're recovering well from Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the weekend.  Today is Cyber Monday, the semi-secret holiday when everyone tries to slip by their boss that they're getting all of their online shopping done at work.

    I was not at work today Cyber Mondaying.  That's because this weekend I was at Chessiecon, a delightful little sci-fi convention in the Baltimore, MD area that has become something of a holiday tradition for me and fellow Boarder Mary Fan.  I got to judge the Turkey Awards, as I have every year since Chessiecon's inception.  It's a delightful little writing-related tradition when aspiring (and not-so-aspiring) authors do their best to write their very worst first paragraph, "Eye of Argon"- style.

    So what's with all this tradition talk?  Well, I can hardly believe that we've made it this far into November with scarcely a mention from our fine bloggers about NaNoWriMo, the biggest annual writer's tradition of them all.

    For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo (or NaNo for even shorter) is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place every November.  I presume it's because November has a solid 30 days rather than 31, and is pretty well packed with holidays between Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving, which many people take a few days off work for.  And in those 30 scant days participants attempt to bang out 50,000 words, the number which is often used as the bare-bones bottom-end definition of a novel.  So many people will complete a full novel this month.  Many more will fail.  And there's no shame in failing, or, for that matter, not trying.  I'd say the only real shame, as in anything in life, is in berating those who do participate, but perhaps that's a subject for another blogpost.  In short, my feeling is if you enjoy or get something out of NaNo, then bully for you, and if you don't, well, also bully for you but don't feel obligated to degrade those who do.

    Now I've participated in NaNo (and won!) every year since 2009.  Of my novels, BRAINEATER JONES, THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS, HUNTER OF THE DEAD, and SLASHVIVOR! were all NaNo babies, at least in part.  So you see I get a lot of writing done during this event each year.  (And for the newbies out there: not a one of those was "finished" on December 1 - I spent solid years in some cases editing each.)

    This year I was up to some real hijinks.  I'm working on a haunted house collaboration with Wile E. Young that will hopefully blow all of your socks off when it comes out, and my own piece about secret police in a near-future semi-dystopian America.  So how did things go for me this year?  Well, let's take a look:

    These are my stats as of today, the 27th, so they're a bit off.  I wrote about 2500 words a day up until the 17th.  The 17th I absolutely crapped out and wrote about 400 words.  Then I didn't improve much on the 18th, only adding 1400 words or so.  The 20th was similarly crummy.  Then I got my groove back and completed 50,000 words on the 22nd.

    So, of the 22 days I wrote I averaged 2280 words per day.  I can't say this is usual - I often have more ups and downs.  This is one of the least wacky NaNos I've ever done, having in the past made up for writing a hundred words one day by writing 5000 the next.  Slow and steady wins the race, though, I suppose.  This is pretty much exactly what I'd like my NaNo chart to look like each year (barring the three fall-down-on-my-face days, but everybody has those now and then, I suppose.)  Ideally, I'd always like to be done by Chessiecon so it doesn't hang over my head that weekend.

    The greatest thing about NaNo is, (for me, at least) that it's over.  I can go back to writing on my own schedule, and not leaving my girlfriend an effective novel widow.  But there are still four solid writing days left for NaNo participants.  So I'd like to know: how are you looking this year?  Did you participate?  Will you finish on time?  

    What are your thoughts on the process?  Do you enjoy it?  Hate it but do it anyway to be one of the cool kids?  What do your stats look like?  What have been your wackiest stats over the years?  Let me know in the comments below!

    Thursday, November 23, 2017

    Grateful Harvest

    By Cheryl Oreglia

    It's hard to imagine the first Thanksgiving was a harvest celebration held by the pilgrims of Plymouth colony in the 17th century. Clearly Americans like to eat and perpetuating foodie traditions is especially popular. As you know the early pilgrims had a lot to celebrate, 53 out of 102 survived the Mayflower crossing, only to encounter raw land in need of cultivating, disease, extreme weather, and the Native Americans. It was a tenuous beginning at best. I'm sure they were flabbergasted when members of the Wampanoag tribe generously supplied them with food for the cold winter. A kind and neighborly gesture that sort of backfired a century later.

    The first harvest celebration went on for several days. Can you imagine? Ninety members of the Wampanoag tribe showed up with five dead deer in need of roasting. This is diversity at its best. Edward Winslow wrote about the celebration in his diary. 
    “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” 
    Eventually the United States established a date for these yearly harvest celebrations, which of course made travel a nightmare, but at least you know why the grocery stores are inundated with turkeys, cranberries, and sweet potatoes. In accordance with tradition, families and friends gather to enjoy an array of foods, express gratitude, and watch football while gorging on pumpkin pie. The traditional meal was choreographed in the 60's when an article appeared in Better Homes and Gardens describing the perfect, "Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner: Hot Tomato Starter, Roast Turkey, Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Orange-glazed Sweet Potatoes, buttered Green Beans, Apple-Pinapple Slaw, Hot Biscuits, Butter, Pumpkin Pie, Hot Coffee." They outed the deer and corn for a more appealing meat and seasonal vegetable. Who knew?

    Mail isn't delivered, schools are on holiday, and most businesses are closed, except for Walmart of course. This is my experience of Thanksgiving, but I wanted to explore some of the more unusual expressions of this holiday, and this is what I found. 
    1. How about a traditional food fight at the end of the meal? Started by a crazy aunt, slightly inebriated, but becomes a cherished family tradition. I have to admit this one worries me.
    2. I learned about a crafty host who provides a white tablecloth for guests to leave painted handprints, made to look like turkeys, dated, and signed. They add new hands to the cloth each year. Now there's a way to occupy the guests while the turkey cooks.
    3. A few people I know host an open table Thanksgiving, this is where you might land if you are estranged from family, or far away from home. It is a generous and kind practice for those who would otherwise spend Thanksgiving alone. Open hearts, open doors. I am ever so thankful for the tables that are open to my children that are not with me this year.
    4. The turkey dance is one of the more unusual traditions I came across. This requires the cook to dance with the turkey prior to being stuffed? I will assume this requires soft music, romantic lighting, and good wine. Bon Appetit!  
    5. The Twitter family asks everyone to send out a gratitude tweet right before grace and then all phones all go into a turkey shaped cookie jar until the end of the evening. Tweet, tweet, gobble, gobble.
    6. Instead of pie this family plays hide and seek after dinner with their cars. Teams are constructed, boundaries decided, the "it" car gives a fifteen minute grace period for teams to hide, and then drives around until all the cars are found. Makes you wonder what you would say to the police officer who discovers five people sitting in a dark car, on Thanksgiving, behind a bush in a neighbors yard?
    7. Friends-giving is a popular tradition for many who gather in celebration of friendship. These events are often celebrated at an earlier date leaving the holiday open for family events. My daughter hosts a friends-giving up at the lake every year, and other than an Instagram of the table setting, I know nothing about the intricacies of this event. Beer and ping pong balls might be involved? 
    8. I read about a grandma who bakes "thankful rolls" with pillsbury dough. The family writes down what they are thankful for on tiny slips of paper as they arrive and these notes are actually baked into the rolls, like a fortune cookie, only with butter. What would you write?
    9. The Turkey Trotter is a stuffed turkey that travels with family members that are away for Thanksgiving. They are required to take regular updates of their travels with pictures of these turkeys positioned in funny locations. I just sent turkeys to Australia and Utah (most likely they'll arrive late, remember it's the thought that counts, but I expect pictorial updates nonetheless). 
    10. One family has a Twister competition after dinner with several mats and rounds going at the same time. Right hand, blue circle, left hand, yellow circle. This could be an interesting intergenerational activity if no one gets seriously hurt. 
    11. Instead of sitting around after dinner you could go on a scavenger hunt searching for specific scenes; like pumpkins on the doorstep, piles of leaves, people walking pets, live turkey's milling around, someone jogging (really), or early Christmas decorations. See what team returns with the most finds substantiated with photos of course. I admit, this one's a keeper.
    12. The famous butter shapers, comes from an odd family skill, passed down through the generations of sculpting the butter into turkeys. The kids then fight over who gets to cut off the heads. A little violent but aesthetically pleasing I suppose.
    13. Then of course there is the family weigh-in prior to gorging on the traditional meal, it's actually a competition to see who can gain the most. Why? 
    14. And my personal favorite. After the dinner is consumed the ladies leave and go shopping at Walmart for comfy PJ's and silly socks while the men clean up the kitchen. Oh I can not express how much I love this tradition. 
    Wishing you all a wonderful and gracious Thanksgiving! Sharing a table with those you love is a sacred act. This year listen to the music of the table, the voices, the laughter, the clink of the spoon against the gravy bowl, the scraping of chairs on the hardwood, the litany of silverware dinging the plates, the movement, the grace of being elbow to elbow, worshiping the flavors of life. "For this and all we are about to receive, make us truly grateful..."  
    Drink and be thankful to the host! What seems insignificant when you have it, is important when you need it. Franz Grillparzer

    Notes - The term cold-turkey means suddenly, without preparation. Talk turkey means to speak without preparation. A turkey shoot is a fight or contest where one side is so much stronger that the weaker side has no chance of winning. Bird for thought...

    What are some of your favorite traditions? 

    I'm Living in the Gap, drop in anytime.

    Monday, November 20, 2017

    Rumpus Room Cigarette Break - The July 1974 issue of "Woman's Day"

         A few weeks ago I flew up to Philly/Jersey to meet my new nephew Chester (first time aunt you guys!).  As is the custom when our family gets together up in the northeast, we all went to my grandma's house for some Chinese takeout (not that she doesn't cook!).  I went down to rummage around in the basement and found this vintage gem on top of a bunch of Golden Book Encyclopedias of American History from 1963, pre-Kennedy assassination because there's a little foreword from him in each book.  Perhaps I shall explore those another time.  Today, though, grab your smokes, pop a Miltown or a Quaalude, and let's get domestically groovy.  Mostly through ads.

    "No woman wants the world to see her at LESS THAN HER BEST - even for the BRIEFEST MOMENT!"  Poor Moira here.  Between the gas shortage and all that Nixon ugliness earlier in the year, not to mention the fact that Harvey keeps working longer and longer hours and Moira could SWEAR she smelled Love's Baby Soft on his jacket last week, Moira's got a lot to give her a migraine.  But mustn't let the pain show!  Mustn't let the world see anything but the shiniest female facade at all times!  

    This mother of the bride chose Quaaludes, as did my own parents at their seventies nuptials.

    Weird, apparently Woman's Day used to have a direct line to Yahweh.  Couldn't see this flying in a secular mag today, not with the "Twenty New Ways to Make Him Orgasm Using Only Hand Signals!" and such being the typical headlines.

    BUT YOU ALSO HAVE TO FIX YOUR FACE DON'T FORGET THAT!  Actually, this promotion sounds sort of like a subtle, secret way to signal your lesbianism in a day and age when coming out of the closet wasn't an option for most.  Invite your intended paramour over, leave out the tool box with the "You Don't Need A Man To Fix It Book" leaning on it, and tip her a wink as you light her Virginia Slim, because you've come a long way, baby, but you could both come a little more if you know what I'm sayin'.

    Well, IS there?
    I use the term "douche nozzle" as an insult all the time, but "douche powder" seems to have a classier, more refined feel.  And Massengill Douche Powder is triple-refined, now available in floral.

    You know how pop culture phenomena have so many ripoffs and spinoffs that get lost in time?  This was the only puppet-based Manson Family murder cult ripoff, and now that Charlie is dead, let the world rediscover the wonders of the Mann Clan and Company!  Also, look how sweet the 409 packaging used to be, in ozone-decimating aerosol!

    If you see this man, you need to put the cap back on the bleach and ventilate the area immediately.

    Every women's magazine before 1980 had to include at least one recipe for a Jello mold.  It was the law.

    Guess who's got more kidney?  I hope it wasn't the Jello mold.  They had meat ones too, ya know.  Sounds like kidney was the trendy pet food ingredient of the time, like lamb and rice in the 90s.

    Barbara here is definitely taking Linda here back to her place after this to check out her new Virginia Slims toolbox, which may contain other unexpected pleasures.

    You say "good candy," I say grandma candy.  Fun fact - most of the candies purchased with these coupons are still in your grandma's candy dish to this day!

    "Gimme a baby prince valiant" said no woman ever, I hope.  Soft and feathery maybe, but who wants to look like an infantilized version of the least read comic in the history of comics?

    This one - this one is an emotional journey.  This took me through the mountains and the valleys.  Read the whole thing.

    Smoke menthols and you'll be a wholesome un-aging German sex vampire, just like Heidi Klum!

    High fashion couture of the day.  The hat trick is good for pulling over your face when you realize you're wearing a massive bath robe in public.

    The question mark necklace stands for why am I wearing the afghan off my aunt's couch as a skirt?

    Omg what is this what is this what even is this?  Ten year old bombshell?  "Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me" is her big hit?!  Oh Jesus, I just looked this girl up and it's as bad as you'd think: she became anorexic at 13 when puberty made her stop fitting into her costumes, got depressed, got destitute and into some bad marriages, got shock treatments, then died at 35 after having "pioneering psychosurgical operation" and getting pneumonia as a complication.  Christ.

    Knick knacks will cheer you up!  Just vacuum clean the sad off your face!  From the age before drunken Amazon purchases, a woman had to hand-address an envelope to a PO Box number and write a check to buy a weird crappy overpriced ceramic poodle after hitting the cooking sherry a little too hard.

    Ohhh, I get it, cuz the hair will be mysteriously gone like the aviatrix herself.

    Okay for real though this is Kim Basinger on the back cover.  Hairstyling contest for high school seniors is how she got her big break?  If only I'd entered that Herbal Essence Top Scrunchie Look contest back in my high school days, I too could have had a child by Alec Baldwin by now!

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