Correction to the Internet at large–don’t mess up again (*:

Someone out there on LJ had quoted the Parable of the Talents and said that it could be summarized as “With great power comes great responsibility.” That isn’t quite the Bible verse or parable that I would associate with the Stan Lee/Spider-Man quotation. Instead I would direct you to Luke 12:48: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required; and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” The Parable of the Talents is the one that says “don’t hide your light under a bushel” and “sometimes the person with the most talent squanders it or doesn’t use it, and the person with a smaller amount of talent makes it big because he or she exploits that talent.” (Didn’t everyone have to take “The Bible as Literature” for the liberal arts degree? Or is that now a defunct requirement? Everything has changed, so maybe.)

It has been bugging me that SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET WAS WRONG, so I simply had to come along here and make a journal entry about it, that’s all.



Cherry-pickers unite!

What is “cherry picking” in the context of examining manuscripts? Is it like when you work at the charity thrift store and those of you who sort the incoming goods skim off the really good stuff and keep it for yourselves as part of your “payment” because you really DESERVE to get paid SOMEthing for touching all this nasty used dirty underwear when you don’t go in for that particular fetish? Or is it like riding in one of those big scoop-handle things up to the top of the telephone pole to make the cable TV start working again?

I queried an agent several months ago about one of my YA urban fantasy
novels. Yesterday they rejected it with the usual “not right for us”
e-mail. I turned around and sent them a query for my other YA urban
fantasy in response, because I have always been told to “try them with the next project.” Reasonable, I thought.

When I used to have a real job with actual authority to hire software engineers and software test engineers, we appreciated it when
someone we had liked but hadn’t chosen for a job applied again when another opening came up, so this made sense to me. We often found a place for an engineer who wanted to work for us, and the decision was usually a good one because the person chose the company to begin with.

You might reason that literary agencies would similarly like to deal with people who are capable of writing several books, and who are persistent. In fact, this is what I read on agents’ blogs, including Janet Reid’s, Jessica Faust’s (BookEnds agency), and Nathan Bransford’s.

But right away I got this response:

As we do not believe in cherry picking, I am afraid we will have to pass again.
Wishing you only the best,

So . . . what the heck does that mean? What’s cherry-picking in this
context? Surely it’s not a snide answer, one to be heard in the voice of Jon Lovitz. I suppose it could mean that they don’t want to say they won’t represent manuscript A from you and only want manuscript B. But, seriously, what’s wrong with that? Because I hear all the time that “my agent wouldn’t rep this book, but only my mysteries,” or “my agent felt this project would torpedo my career, so we threw it into the trunk.” Obviously, if a writer starts out writing something you don’t want and then progresses to something you DO want, the way it ought to work is that you can accept that thing you DO want and just agree to disagree on the old one.

Does that mean you should forget about ever sending an agent another of
your manuscripts if he or she has rejected one of them? The business has changed a lot over the years, so this may now be the case. When I used to read “Writer’s Digest” as a teenager at the Richardson library, they always exhorted you to try to build a relationship with editors and agents you queried, giving as their reasoning something like, “They will see that you are persistent and not a one-book wonder.” Well, this is apparently not the case any more. That was, after all, the 1970s.

Perhaps they mean that they wouldn’t take on a client if they don’t want to represent any ONE of the client’s novels. This seems to set a dangerous precedent for writers who may send out several novels before one hits.

It could be that she just hates me and thinks I suck, but figures that a cryptic response will get rid of me sooner. If that’s all it is, I suppose there isn’t a danger for writers in general here. But if it’s true that once an agency rejects ONE of your books you will NEVER be taken seriously at that agency, then I am already what my uncle used to call S. O. L. And that don’t mean “saved on layaway.”

What it apparently means is that you get ONE chance. If they are in a bad mood and reject you the day of your one chance, you’re out. If you have not written your best book ever the very first time out of the chute, then tough toenails, you’re a loser forever in their book.

It figures. I don’t have spectacular luck with this, despite getting told by professionals that my work is not the dregs of the poolpah-pot. I need a vacation from taking the beatings. What with Mama bleeding somewhere again and being scheduled for a blood transfusion in about a week (and in the meantime having to be carried around on a litter by servants, namely me) and probably a couple of tests to follow up on that, I won’t be able to sneak away to Sacramento and Micky Dolenz’s “Recording Fantasy” where twenty fans can sing backup on his new album and get an autographed guitar. Maybe I could find somewhere to volunteer to teach some (itty-bitty) children as piano students. If I could do that, then perhaps I could actually make a creative contribution to the world, because at least one of them would surely (given an interest in piano to start with) have talent and possibly by-ear talent, and could catch that spark. I had to take a sabbatical from my piano lessons because of the bursitis (from holding my shoulders up in a tense, cramped position from stress, triggered by pulling a bunch of boxes of books down the driveway and up another driveway a few weeks ago) and because I couldn’t pay and still make ends meet, but what I’m talking about is just showing them how to play by ear in a rudimentary sense. Or just teaching them a few things by rote. However, I don’t have any credentials or qualifications for it. That’s what comes of following everyone’s advice to “major in something where you can make lots of money, not something you have a passion for, so you don’t get a useless degree.”

I’m sure somebody can still make lots of money being a software engineer and/or math guru. Ask the many, many people who are out of work or currently searching for a contract position in IT and related fields. . . .

At any rate, this is yet another warning to writers. If they don’t like the first book you send them, it’s probably a waste of everyone’s time to send them anything else.


REVIEW: David Farland’s Writers’ Workshops

WHAT: David Farland’s (David Wolverton’s) Professional Writers’ Workshop
Dallas, Texas, July 6-12, 2010

SHORT VERSION: Highly recommended

A six-day workshop! How would I ever get away from the family, I mean arrange for someone “to be there just in case” for the family and wait on them hand and foot, for that long? The workshop hotel being only a twenty-minute drive from the house, one would think this wouldn’t be a big deal, but then one does not know MY family and their insecurity whenever I am around the corner and out of sight.

Behind the cut, simply because a few of you aren’t writers. . . .

Happy Bastille Day!

France is celebrating La FĂȘte Nationale (National Celebration), also called “le quatorze juillet” (the fourteenth of July) today, which is their version of the USA’s Independence Day. Today they held a military parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris to celebrate the 211th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 juillet 1789. Vive la France! Now if only they can clean up their economic mess. (They’ve done it before.)

Here, have a recipe for tri-colored crepes! Those look good. I am so tempted.

News flash about these memes

I don’t care who some expert system thinks I “write like.”

My style comes from all those years of reading people like Herman Wouk, Saul Bellow (the early work–Henderson the Rain King, Adventures of Augie Marsh), even Allen Drury (Advise and Consent, followed by many book-length rants). And reading the classics. And reading Donald E. Westlake, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Mark Twain. I do tend to write for the inveterate reader rather than the new crowd of readers (the ones who seem to want a screenplay written down with no internal monologue at all), but that comes out of enjoying that sort of book myself. I like character-driven works that may not be page-turners for the rest of the world. I also appreciate densely plotted works that bring it all to a satisfying conclusion.

But the expert system that analyzes your style . . . well, I don’t give it a lot of credit. It’s an expert system because it uses heuristics to match your word length, sentence length, sentence structure, punctuation choices, word choice (diction), and so forth to the models someone built of Henry James, Shakespeare, and all those greats. When I worked at the big E, I helped to code and implement a rudimentary expert system. They’re only as good as the rules they’re kicked off with and the resulting rules they build. That’s one reason I wanted to use one in SONG. I could have rules that seemed OK on the surface but that caused side effects that snowballed. They’re not like a conscious mind that can catch those side effects and realize what they’ve done. I suppose the AI people are working towards that, but I doubt they’re very close yet.

So. I write like Benchley, Thurber, Wouk, and “Laura Lee Hope” . . . but so what?

I guess I just didn’t see the point of that one. *shrug*

Another Egregious Description I Need to Repair

I’m working on a big blog post all about the David Farland Writers’ Workshop that I just attended. It’ll be all about our experience this week, the hotel, the climate, the (free) bagels, and What Have We Learned. Minus the secret handshake, of course (we’re not FNORD allowed to FNORD tell.)

The workshop involved having everyone read the first three chapters or so of one of our novels-in-progress. Having attempted a paranormal ghost story technothriller in SONG FROM THE HEART (currently retitled LOVE IS THE BRIDGE), I figured I might as well see what they’d say about it.

Many readers circled “You’re as pale as ice cubes frozen to a TruWhite light bulb.” They felt it was just too far-out for Andi to say that. (As if you don’t see ice cubes frozen to one of those special Philips three-way bulbs every day!)

So! I didn’t want to use the cliche “pale as a ghost,” even though that might give a hint of what is to come in this ghost story. But which of these would work better? None? Ideas? Feel free to post a comment.

This is how I wanted to get my nails done before the workshop, but never got a round tuit. Prolly just as well.