Enter at the narrow gate–but only if you’re a legacy

Interesting trend illustrated here in the guidelines for Ashley Grayson Literary, the agency where author-turned-agent Lois Winston (“I knew her when–and we even exchanged manuscripts for critique”) works. They’re not the only ones saying this.

From their Publishers Marketplace listing:

Note: New submissions policies

Published authors of fiction and non-fiction: We are still accepting clients who are previously published by a known publisher (no self-published or print-on-demand).

Unpublished authors – Fiction: The agency is temporarily closed to queries from writers who are not published at book length (self published or print-on-demand do not count). As of September 15, 2006, there are only three exceptions to this policy: (1) Unpublished authors who have received an offer from a reputable publisher, who need an agent before beginning contract negotiations; (2) Authors who are recommended by a published author, editor or agent who has read the work in question; (3) Authors whom we have met at conferences and from whom we have requested submissions.

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Wot’s the use

Someone sent me this link about how long it took this author to get published, and (*whine oh how we FEEL YOUR PAIN blechh*) OMG it took her THREE WHOLE YEARS. Imagine! ! ! Six entire manuscripts had to be written! ! ! O, ze suffering! ZE tiredness of ze Typing Fingers!!! And she felt oddball because when she was invited to speak, the other authors’ tales went something like, “Oh, I sat down and felt like writing the Book of my Heart, and then I sent it off, and The Call came, and here I am with a jillion-book contract!” And she had to admit of her Herculean Long Struggle of . . . three years or thereabouts. *headdesk* *banging head* *that feels too good, so I’ll stop*

This only confirms my hypothesis further, the one about how if you don’t sell the first thing or second thing that you write, you’ve probably missed the window. If you’re of Generation Boomer-1 and you didn’t do your writing in your twenties and sell it, then you’re out of luck, as your entire mindset will not mesh with nor appeal to the new readership of agents and editors. I’m more than twenty years too late because I tried to fulfill the family’s expectations to succeed in a career of software engineering and get money, rather than chase the dream of publication back before everyone had a computer and thought they should write a novel or two. So THIS, too, is all Mama’s fault!! *gallows grin*

Agents always say *not* that I don’t have a command of the craft, but that “I just didn’t fall in love with it the way I wanted to”; indeed. I should’ve known, because I really am not that thrilled with the way people are/act, and I like being different. Why should my work be accepted when I am not accepted? Heck . . . that’s just logic.

Make my characters more lik[e]able, eh? By putting in little things like “awww” and “Save the Cat” stuff right up front, eh? Hmph. I don’t read ONLY likable characters. I appreciate characters who fascinate me. Maybe they’re complex. Maybe they’re my opposite and I hope for some insight through reading their (imagined) tales. That’s one of my stumbling blocks: I hear that my characters aren’t likable. Well, Pollyanna is saccharine. Characters who are always angsting about doing things just so are disgustingly fake. “I hate phonies,” says Holden Caulfield. I know that most of those goody-goody characters who never have a snarky thought and who’ve never snitched a piece of candy out of the Pick-A-Mix Brach’s display (come on, admit it: you know you have, God saw you) and who’ve never even told a white lie (“Sure, that haircut looks GOOD on you!” because the hair can’t exactly be glued back on, now, can it) repel me. I don’t want to read a book starring such a “likable” character when “lik[e]able” means no snarky thoughts, no interesting quirks, no rolling of eyes at crazy friends’ suggestions. “I had an impure thought–horrors!” thinks the Pollyanna character. *bleah* More like, “I almost had an impure thought, but now I’m going to confession and to the New Age Exorcism Center so I can atone. I only hope my repentance is accepted by the Universe.” Bleah!!

My horoscope says to let my inner child speak today. I know better. She is a brat. In fact, she may be an indwelling demon. Here is what she would like to say: “To all of y’all who’ve published before you’d written twenty books and paid the dues over and over like Some People We Know: I hate you all. Drop dead. Get lice. Why are YOU more worthy? At least you deserve toenail fungus. Or a good case of psoriasis. *flinging my projectile leprosy out the window towards all of them collectively*” See? Some inner children are better kept chained in the attic.

*sigh*

But anyway, another casual rejection today for Camille. This agent understood the book, at least, saying that she appreciated that I didn’t try to romanticize or whitewash the plight of runaways, but of course concluding that she didn’t fall in love with Camille’s voice the way she’d wanted to. Meaning that Camille either seemed not likable enough or seemed to feel sorry for herself or was acting out because of the abuse or whatnot. I know that she sometimes acts younger than she is and sometimes older than she is . . . but if you have ever lived with or around a sixteen-year-old, you know that this is realistic. I’m tempted to steal $1200 and take XLibris up on its offer: they’ll publish your book POD and give you one of the $2400 publishing “packages” if you’ll do it within the next ten days. I get this offer now and then by e-mail. That’s probably the only way that book is going to get into print. Where can I steal $1200? Hubby is watching the savings and E*Trade accounts now, so no go there.

I think the mysteries are still my only/best bet. I’ve tried to make myself work on the second Ari novel–the one that would be the sequel to the Marfa Lights novel–but am still having problems with those phone calls in the opening. That has to work out right, or else it’s an immediate turnoff. But they have to be there to set up a lot of plot stuff.

I should work on that, but it’s 72 degrees and sunny outside. . . .

MARKETS: Speaking of mystery publishing and others’ weblogs

Bookseller Jim Hwang’s musings about the problems apparent in publishing, especially where mysteries and series mysteries are concerned, make sense to me. I also believe that mystery readers love series books and like to follow a series and a character. These standalones might get a lot of promo and make a small splash for a little while, but they don’t have lasting power. The “big book of 1994” is probably completely forgotten by now, isn’t it? But we still read (say) Janet Evanovich, Diane Mott Davidson, and John D. MacDonald. Those series characters are our friends, and we come back to them. More money could be made if publishing would just change its crazy, crazy business model. (And get rid of the “you can tear off covers and return them and get a full refund!” rule. Many changes would go hand-in-hand with that. I do not believe books are simply “product” or “widgets” like so many Easter eggs or Hallowe’en pumpkins to be lined up and sold.)

He writes: “There’s a level of NY publishing that’s both crazy and impervious to change: the top of the market, the relentless and idiotic throwing of big money after ‘hot’ commercial properties that lack pedigree. These are the first novels that get six- (seven-?) figure advances, the high-concept thrillers and suspense novels that publishers try to bully into the marketplace with big marketing campaigns that more often than not are doomed to failure — in the sense of being a building block in an author’s long-term career. This is roll of the dice publishing, designed only to make a splash without regard to what happens next. Because NY publishers are so bad at this kind of stuff, history is littered with failures — Douglas Kennedy, Jilliane Hoffman, etc. — many more failures than successes. (Given the poor quality of THE THIRTEENTH TALE, I’ll be really interested to see what happens to Diane Setterfield.[…])

“We recognize how foolish all this is, but we also know that no matter what we say about this, NY publishers are going to continue to behave this way. To some extent, they have to, but more for corporate strategic reasons than for the advancement of an author’s career or the genre in general. […] What [readers] want is simple: every time we pick up a book by a new author, we’re hoping to fall in love. When we find true love, what we want is to be able to hang out with the character we adore, stand by him or her through change and growth — adventure after adventure, book after book, for better or for worse.”

“[I]n the top ten listing for 2006, four of the titles were by James Patterson. Only one [of these] was written by Patterson himself. The other three were ‘co-written.’ Perhaps James can co-write nine books next year and one of his own, thereby grabbing all ten spots.”

Heh. However, it’s sad that people are buying those pseudo-novels with three-page chapters and such silly writing. I only know this because a fellow in the last real-life FtF writing group I attended was consciously trying to “write a Patterson novel.” His writing was even more atrocious than Patterson’s, which means I expect to hear about his ten-book contract any day now.

Seriously, though, go read.

In the comments thread, there are entries from such stellar authors as Carole Nelson Douglas and Barbara D’Amato.

Y’all have read SLUSHKILLER thread, haven’t you?

For more about why a novel, story, or romantic advance might be rejected (as well as a discussion of why straight males might wear sundresses to the grocery store–although I *still* say that ain’t a-gonna happen here in Texas–and an explication of why “you wrote the wrong book” may be the answer), you really should go to the unofficial oracle for such explanations. The old SLUSHKILLER thread on Making Light is required reading.

I find some of the reasons that books get rejected depressing, of course: the house can’t get behind it because they have something similar coming out already, the profit-and-loss statement that they mocked up for it doesn’t prove out (and this is a complete scientific wild-ass guess, because the book might take off even if it doesn’t seem as if it would), or it just doesn’t set anyone’s hair on fire. But anyhow, a GREAT NUMBER of published authors and editors chime in on this. Jennifer Crusie commented on the thread, and Rachel M. Brown chimed in to compliment her on her novels! Now, where else will you see published novelists being fangirls for one another? Not here in MY comment threads, lemme tell you. *grin*

You could do worse than to read Making Light every few days, anyhow. Always something interesting going on, although adding more to the list of sites to check does mean you’re going to spend even more time reading and not writing. . . .

Peeves are good to know about but not strict rules, continued

An addendum to the previous “pet peeves” entry and more support for the idea that if you DO know the editor you’re submitting to, you might well be ahead of the game. (For one thing, you won’t name your evil villain ‘Lance’ if her son’s name is Lance. And you won’t have the hero be an accountant if she has just been screwed over by an accountant.)

The famous multiply published suspense novelist Allison Brennan notes in an e-mail to the RWC mailing list: “Editors have their pet peeves. All editors do. It doesn’t make them right, but if you’re writing for a specific line or house and have that editor, you do learn their quirks–and I agree, you need to deal with that accordingly. My editor hated in one of my books when the hero called my heroine ‘Babe.’ Okay, I don’t like it either, but it was so in character for him. But it colored everything she saw about him. It, coupled with a few other mannerisms and actions, made her think he was low-class and crass. I ended up cutting all but two or three for effect. Another time she hated the hero’s name. Strongly suggested I change it. (Fortunately, that was in a two-sentence proposal so it wasn’t like I really knew him. I probably would have fought to keep his name if I wrote a whole book already.) [Yasmin’s editor] thinks [flashbacks are] boring. Doesn’t mean ALL editors do. I have read boring flashbacks. Not all are boring.”

For the past couple of years, Allison has published three books a year in her suspense trilogies. I’ve never seen that done before, so they must really believe in her–and the books are doing well! They’re in my grocery store racks. If only I could get just ONE of my books published and into the grocery store racks . . . well, the ensuing cavorting might cause riots, so maybe the Universe knows what it’s doing.

CRAFT: Editors’ Pet Peeves, or Why You Can’t Count on Nuttin’

*cue music*
“I can’t give you anything but sluuush, baybeeee….”

Fiction writers should be aware that every reader, including every editor and agent and slush reader, will have certain pet peeves that turn them off of manuscripts. These usually include not only sensible and expected rules (“don’t use adverbial dialogue tags” and “don’t have a Mary Sue main character”), but also several subtler and more personal things you can’t possibly guess at the get-go. If you know an editor’s list, it can increase your manuscript’s chances.

Herewith the list of Toni’s Peeves, as paraphrased from the FenCon workshop with Baen publisher/editor Toni Weisskopf: (The asterisks are footnote-clues. I deal with them later in the post, so watch for the explanations.)

@ Character with dead parent(s)
– “Instead of trying to import a template of sympathy and emotion and overlay that on the reader, develop relationships between your characters. If other characters care about your character, your reader likely will, as well.”*

@ waking up as an opening [!]

@ dream sequence in the opening [!!]

@ naming convention should have a point and should be consistent
– “Fantasy novels should have fantasy names, mundane novels/characters should have mundane names. In either fantasy or mundane, names can (should) reflect cultural background or relationship.”**

@ Beware “bus trip” plot lines***
– Be sure your story has a beginning, a middle and an end.
– Be sure your story has a concept, moral, or theme.

She didn’t make this part of the official list, but let me add this one: “Don’t have your character make observations about herself and what she’s doing at the time.” This is fodder for an entire CRAFT post, but basically it’s saying not to write, “I was seriously freaking out,” but instead to show how the character is freaking out. (“Her hands shook of their own volition . . . she dropped her knitting,” yadda yadda.) At least I don’t do this . . . at least not very often. Do I?

Okay. But there it is, a set of a particular person’s perfectly phrased pet peeves. (I typed “perfectly valid,” but I couldn’t resist the alliterative change. *grin*) Avoid them if you intend to try to sell to this person.

That said, I’d like to point out that these “don’t do” rules are not universal. In fact, I happened to send to the workshop a novel that hits three of them, and that’s most likely the reason that I was so badly flayed during critique.

Let’s deal with the footnotes (that’s what *, **, and *** are, for you newcomers.)

* The Dead Parent Taboo: While I know the types of books the lady is talking about, mine is not one of them, though she evidently assumed that it was. The meme works (*ahem HARRY POTTER ahem*) (*cough THE OUTSIDERS cough*) (even *hack* TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD cough*), which is why people use it. These tragedies happen in real life. And you can’t tell someone, “Just get over it,” or “Get past it,” because it shapes the person you become, and even if you don’t dwell consciously on it, it has changed you in various ways. But of course some stories *do* import the template, and are trying this just to be melodramatic. _Camille’s Travels_ has it as a thing that kicks off the events that change the main character’s life, though.

When the book opens, Camille’s dad is dead. Has been gone for a year. His death itself caused a trauma in her young life. I know that this happens when a fourteen/fifteen-year-old girl’s daddy dies, because mine dropped dead one morning when I was fifteen, and it has affected my life ever since. I wasn’t finished with him yet. This means that it’s one of MY MAJOR PET PEEVES in real life, eh?

(Because the book was deemed a YA by a couple of powerhouse agents, I went back and put in two or three emotional introspections about how this has affected Camille; it was said that YA novels need these. This workshop thought they were over-the-top, so I’ll delete them. I thought they were a bit much, too, but they were said to be correct for the market. And that’s another cautionary tale against making changes “for the market” or because someone tells you to who is not giving you a contract, unless you really think the changes are improvements.)

Also, this plot truth facilitates Camille’s mother’s reaction (grief and denial and an attempt to hold death off for herself, in part), which is to glom on to a gigolo-type younger man and marry him and start spending up what she got in the insurance benefits department. Camille tried to keep her mother from making this mistake and got on her wrong side, as her mother was deeply in “rebound” mode. Worse, when Jimmy Cline got drunk shortly after the wedding, he came into Camille’s room and jumped her. Her mother said she was a compulsive liar and that of course he did no such thing. Camille knew that this would happen again. She ran away from home rather than go into the foster care system or continue to live with this. Okay? That’s kind of a cornerstone of my storyline in _Camille_.

*Now*, that said, I think that the reason it pushed her hot button so firmly is that I actually have a line about how someone reminds her of her real father and how it brings on a feeling of sadness RIGHT THERE on page three or so, as she’s getting ready to shoplift some stuff at a store. Why would I feel the need to mention this? I didn’t used to (as Grandpa used to put it) until about the fourth draft of the novel. The reason I do this is that so many readers balked at reading about a girl who was shoplifting because she was hungry and on the street. They said she was unlikable and they couldn’t identify nor sympathize. After I put in the explanation about WHY she is on the street–she didn’t just run away at whim or because her mom wouldn’t let her stay up late, but to escape the abusive stepfather who replaced her real dad after his passing because her mom went nutzoid and ran out to find another man to reaffirm that SHE wasn’t dead or going to disappear–fairly early, these objections faded away. Most readers now go, “Oh, then I see why she’s in this situation and understand why she’s like she is.” The dilemma is that I have to explain to readers directly why Camille is not someone we should hate because she’s about to steal and she lives on the streets, and I need to do it early on while their minds are not closed against her. That happens fairly quickly when I just “show” all her actions without any internal monologue about what motivates her.

If that makes this a semi-literary novel, then it does. “It is what it is.” (*sorry* See Tod Goldberg’s peeves below.)

(My book also violates one of Tod Goldberg’s rules as listed later in this entry, as Camille’s dad dies in the Iraq war. Previously he died on 9/11, and before that in the OKC bombing. That’s how long ago I wrote this one. That’s how long I have believed in her story and its power. The Iraq war change was suggested by two agents, and I think it works here.)

Waking Up Openings/Dream Sequence Openings [!] and [!!]: Ages ago, I did both of these in my first fantasy novel, the one about the healer with prophetic dreams. Hee! However, that one was heavily influenced by the first Anne McCaffrey Dragon book.

** Naming Conventions: The bit about making things reflect the culture–I do this, although some people don’t see it this way. Fantasy/SF novels should have appropriate naming conventions. However, I don’t agree that mundane novels/characters should have only mundane names. As a Texan, I see lots of Texan names. “Bubba” and “Dub,” “Jerry Jeff” and “Joe Bob” and “Dabney”: these are not weird redneck names. As a child of the hippie generation, I have seen lots of hippie names, as well, and creative respellings of names. I count a “Typhani” and a “DeBorah” among my acquaintances. Why should I tell them that they don’t know how to spell their names?

Pertinence here: I used the name “Deedra” in _Camille_ and was told I should spell it “Deirdre” or “Deidre.” However, many people’s birth certificates may not reflect the “official” spelling out of the baby names books, and so why should characters be different? In that case, it’s obvious how the name is pronounced, whereas it isn’t with the original spelling.

I think that if your fantasy novel draws on Celtic mythos, your characters’ names and place names ought to as well, and should not have names that come out of (say) the Apache culture. But an American-set novel set in the present day? I can’t see the prob with a Harry and a Dweezil and a Mahmoud. In fact . . . I know those people. I also use a goodly number of unusual names in my stories, because I feel that this way no real person is going to yelp that I used his/her name as the “bad” character or the main character and therefore try to sue me. I also like unusual names. This is one of the stumbling blocks that some people are just gonna have with my work.

***Bus Trip Plots: Yeah, yeah, but MY BOOK IS NOT A PICARESQUE. I’m not going to argue it here. She saw my book as a wandering-around thing. She thinks this is not a story. However, this is a classic story when that’s what the story is about (as implied by my title).

Damon Knight (I miss him) once said that there are only two stories: “Stranger Comes to Town” and “Hero Goes on a Journey.” Duh! Hero’s Journey, anyone?

The Road Trip/Searching novel is about the character’s inner journey, and that is mirrored by the character’s external journey. Camille is trying to get somewhere that she thinks is safe when we start out, but then she starts being chased. This isn’t just a bus-trip thing, although there IS a bus trip in it. There is a train trip. There is a hitchhiking trip. She meets her mentors and the trickster on these trips. If you don’t like this kind of story, it won’t be “your thing,” but don’t say it isn’t legit as a story. _Thelma and Louise_ . . . heck, _Huck Finn_! It’s about the journey down the river that mirrors Huck’s inner journey! But I forgot–Huck Finn isn’t valid because it’s a banned book written by a Dead White Male. Forgive me, world!

Okay, so that was the Baen no-no list. But hers is not the only list!

For comparison, Tod Goldberg’s (Lee Goldberg’s brother–Lee writes the “Murder, She Wrote” and “Diagnosis Murder” novelizations, among others–Tod runs writers’ workshops in out beloved Hollyweird.)

An excerpt from Tod’s list of rules and no-nos (his is deliberately tongue-in-cheek and a bit snarky-toned, bear in mind):

Every fall, I reassess the rules I have for the writing workshops I teach. A few stay constant: no use of the word theme, no air quotes, no use of the word motif, no use of the word vis-a-vis unless you’re a citizen of France, no use of the sentence “but that’s how it really happened!” unless you’re explaining why the threesome involving you and Clinton & Stacy from What Not to Wear is physically (and psychically) accurate, no crying, no saying “your short story would make a great novel/movie/pop up book/Choose Your Own Adventure/Cinemax After Dark series,” no use of the terms “POD is the future” and “but John Grisham self-published his first novel,” and, finally, no adverbs in dialogue tags.

This year, I’ve decided to expand these rules to include certain story lines, as well as certain behaviors, and, naturally, a few more choice terms. They are as follows:

1. No stories about the war in Iraq. Last year, I read 25 student stories and three student novels concerning the war in Iraq. None of them were very good and every time I told the people who’d written the stories/novels that their stories/novels about Iraq lacked authenticity and were already dated the moment they printed them out, I was greeted with a retort like, “Someone has to tell the soldiers’ stories.” When I’d reply that that the soldiers were likely to be those people, they’d say, “But what about now, while they are serving? Don’t their voices need to be heard?” And then I’d tell them that, you know, making up their voices from your apartment in Northridge was probably not going to suffice.

2. No stories about 9/11. No stories about the Virginia Tech shootings. See above.

3. No novel synopses that utilize the title of your novel as a word in the closing sentence. As in: “When the floods left New Orleans, Jennifer realized she’d need to become a stronger woman…or she’d be Drowned In The Bayou.”

[and so forth]

6. No use of the term “It is what it is.”

[I include this because I actually *said* that during my FenCon critique, because when she said mine was a “bus ride” story, I pointed out that there *is* such a thing as a “road trip” story that mirrors the character’s inner journey, and that the title she disliked, _Camille’s Travels_, is a conscious reference to this and is a literary allusion to the Joel McCrae film _Sullivan’s Travels_, out of which came the recent Coen Brothers film _O Brother Where Art Thou_. She was assuming, I think, that my story is a picaresque like _Don Quixote_, but it isn’t–we can discuss that in an entry sometime, because picaresques are a tough sell now, and mine really isn’t one. But I should have kept quiet, as the only thing that explaining does is get you tagged as someone who “defends her work,” and that’s a no-no.]

9. No stories about cancer. No stories about incest. No stories about pissing on someone. No stories told from the pov of a dead person. No stories told in the pov of a dead person who died from cancer but, first, f#&$ed their brother. No stories where it’s all a dream. In fact, no dream sequences. No sentences that end with “…I thought to myself” unless the character is also a clairvoyant and can think to other people, too. No stories that are really about you and will cause you to cry in class when everyone complains that it’s just not believable, that the character lacks empathy and that, also, the character seems like he’s suffering from some kind of brain injury, since no one is actually that f#$%ing stupid. No novels that used to be your sh*##y screenplay.

ANYway. Tod’s list is far more amusing, wouldn’t you agree? I share a number of *his* dislikes. HOWEVER, his list is HIS list. He doesn’t wanna workshop these stories. *But* many stories that he mocks (not the silly ones–I mean the incest/disease ones) are still valid, if done well and done right and aimed at the proper audience.

Give it a moment’s consideration. Those misery tales are really popular; a ton of “women’s fiction” blockbusters are exactly that–stories of incest, disease, war heroes returning to work out their pasts, people who hated their dads and never got to reconcile with them and are now inheriting the Old Manse and its ghosts, and the like. From “Terms of Endearment” to whatever is playing on “Lifetime For Women Movie Network” at this very moment, womenfolk**** seem to adore melodramas and buy them by the ton. I never have been interested in immersing myself in one of those Tales of Woe or Misery Books. I read quite a few for school when we were in school, and I read a couple of them when friends gave them to me, gushing about how Important the books were, and the books just made me sad and sick. Catharsis, heck. So I don’t read the damn things. BUT A LOTTA PPL DO. This is obvious from the popularity of such films and movies, at least during the last few decades. They’re almost as popular as the airhead-couple romantic comedy story in which neither of the pair is smart enough to live.

****Yes, women folk, for the most part. My mom, my aunts, and my cousins LOVE these three-tissue-box tales. Guys, not so much. My husband will flip past one of those faster than he will flip past a re-run of “The Jeffersons.” He says there’s enough sadness and loss in the world as we live it–why not have a little fun and escape when we watch a film or read a book? He gotza point, eh.

TOD EXPLAINS WHAT HIS RULES ARE FOR
“If you’re taking a class with me this year, please go over these rules closely as you will be expected to know them prior to week 1.”

TONI EXPLAINED WHAT HER RULES WERE FOR, TOO
She said that these were her pet peeves. This means that if you are going to send a book somewhere, and it relies on one of these things, don’t bother sending it to Baen.

Bear in mind, though, that these are lists of one particular person’s pet peeves. (Just as every workshop participant has his/her own bugaboos.) The honest truth is that different editors, as well as different readers, will have different hot buttons. So you can’t win by trying to avoid everyone’s pet peeves, as you’ll end up with a mess. You wouldn’t be able to write anything if you kept everyone’s personal stuff in mind to avoid; you’ve got to accept that your work won’t have EVERYONE in its audience. You have to decide whether your work needs to have that aspect (say, a dead parent) for artistic reasons, and then you’ll just know that your audience doesn’t include the people who’ve told you they don’t like it. Well, you can pretty much rely on *everyone* telling you not to kill dogs and cats . . . that’s been a topic around mystery fiction circles for a while. But most everything else is on a basis of “if it works.” (I’m talking about plot bunnies and setups here, not about grammar/punctuation or showing/telling peeves.) If you are not doing it for NO REASON except that it seemed like something that a lot of books have in them, then you probably have a reason that’s reasonable. No reason to rip your book apart just because it deals with something that happens in life.

Flashbacks, infodumps, contrived stuff, a limited number of adverbial dialogue tags (not as many as are in Harry Potter, though; she can do it, but WE can’t) . . . I’ve seen every one of these work when the author has other strengths and can make it all interesting. The trouble arises when you feel it works in
your book, except you’re wrong. *grin* That’s what beta readers are for.

I’m just saying that you can’t take them all so seriously, except when you’re going to send a piece to that particular editor/agent. “You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.” (I hope everyone hears Rick Nelson’s voice in that.)

Still, we love lists! There’s something about a list.

FROM TOD’S COMMENT THREAD
“Available soon: bobble head doll of Tod Goldberg holding a bitsy riding crop in its hand. Place in range of keyboard so taht it can smack your hand every time you’re tempted to use an adverb in a dialogue tag.” (apologies to Dawn C. of Tod’s comments thread)
# # #
Charlie Brown: “Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask, ‘Why me?’ Then a voice answers, ‘Nothing personal; your name just happened to come up.'”–Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000), US cartoonist

Epiphany: quel horreur? YA horror

I realized something last night.

Perhaps _Camille’s Travels_ would fare better sent to publishers and agents who like YA horror or just plain horror. Dark fantasy is pretty close to horror, and I do have some really scary stuff when the sorcerer catches up to my heroine and anti-heroes. The book has creepy overtones here and there, I think. Horror seems to have more character development and such, anyway. At least it did when I read ‘s series.

Yeah, I know I said I was giving up. Have I mentioned I’m a G*$&#am liar? Or perhaps the dream is just too deeply ingrained. Yes, this book is one that I wrote eleven years ago and have revised several times, but it’s good. It deserves a chance.

Anyhow . . . the book is more of a coming-of-age novel than it is a book focused on the magic item and the magic. The magic item is merely the maguffin that sends my character on the run. She’s on a journey of discovery as well as self-discovery, and her outer journey parallels her inner journey. She changes–she discovers that she has to rely on herself, and in her search for a place to call home, she finds that blood ties aren’t always the strongest ties. Hmm.

So maybe the horror people would like it better.

But where do you SEND horror? It’s not going to be a Christopher Pike-style series horror thing. I don’t even think it is YA, frankly, so maybe I’ll just try straight ol’ horror houses. I wonder which agents represent horror? I’ve heard that horror has been down-and-out for a while, so of course that’s what my book is. Actually, it’s dark fantasy, but the dark fantasy editors and readers are looking for werewolves and shapeshifters (they’re tired of vampires at last, it is said!) Thus I might call it horror and do better.
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Oh, and I found out who won the 2006 Malice Domestic First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest. I had to Google around and follow some very obscure links. Now, WHY don’t they publicize their contest winners? I don’t get it. Not at all. Their last two winners don’t even have traditional webpages or weblogs, in fact, but only “facebook”-style pages. WTF? I promote my own stuff better than THAT. Although it is arguable whether my ‘net “fame” is helpful or detrimental.

Here, I’ll give y’all a helping hand! This should count toward my good karma, Universe–are you paying attention?! *tap tap* Is this thing on??

Meredith Cole won the 2007 St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic best traditional first mystery contest, and her book _Posed for Murder_ will be out in 2008. She says on her Crimespace profile that she started out as a filmmaker and screenwriter, and she teaches Directing at a School of Visual Arts. She doesn’t say where the school is. (???)

Vincent H. O’Neil is the 2005 winner of the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press competition with _Murder In Exile_. They’ve just put out the second book in his series. Why in the hell aren’t they doing some promotion? I mean, seriously . . . if I won any contest or got any contract, I would be running major ads like the “Geico” ads. Wonder if those cavemen are working now and who their agent(s) is/are? They’d be cool promoting my novels–“so cool a caveman will read them!” If I had to carjack people and steal their wallets to pay for it, I would. If I got caught, then I could be on CNN and on Larry King explaining why my poor book sales drove me to a life of crime, and my book sales would quadruple! There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Get y’all some!

Come on, people! Do I have to do EVERYTHING for you? Poor struggling me helping out you anointed lot. Feh. *cue “Malcolm in the Middle” theme by “They Might Be Giants”*

I haven’t read either of their books, so if YOU have, feel free to post a review here in the comments and we can dish. *grin*