Friday, February 22, 2019

developmental editor and query timing

My coauthor and I have written a YA fantasy novel. It is the first in a series. We have edited it to the best of our abilities (we think), but currently do not have the funds for a professional developmental edit. We have started on book number two of the series. Is this a wise decision, or should we wait to edit and query the first book and see if there is any traction? I have other novels that I can work on in the mean time. Is it better to continue with those?
I think it's smart to have two different books percolating. If you fail to get traction with this first one, and the agent or editor says "what else ya got?" it's better to have something different than more of the same.

I'm perplexed why you think you need a developmental editor before you query.
It most likely won't hurt, but how long do you intend to wait to get started here?



Is this a thing with authors now?
Are you hearing "you must have an editor before querying?"


I know the emphasis is on "you must be polished before querying" and that's VERY true, but polish does not require an outside editor. (At least I don't think so.)


Let me know what you're seeing and hearing out there in authorland!















Thursday, February 21, 2019

Moral rights and sub rights and do what's right. It's a three-fer day at the Reef

Dear Sharkiness,

Much thanks to your advice, I dove into query trenches, and emerged with an agent in my claws teeth tentacles. However, eighteen months on, I'm not sure I picked the right one. And so, I'm back in your waters, asking for more advice.


One of the things I really wanted from the agent was editorial guidance. I asked about it during the call, and was assured I'll get "as much as I wanted." However, my novel went on submission with little more than copy edits. It didn't sell.

When I started working on the next project, I shared the outline with the agent, but got only an encouraging sentence in response. We agreed that she will give me feedback on the first draft. I got it back with some scene comments but nothing structural. Obviously, I'm working with beta-readers (who pointed out major plot-holes), but since this was something I was really looking for in the agent relationship, I'm rather disappointed.

Also, I recently discovered that the types of deals the agent has been making are "global rights," i.e., including all translation and film rights, which I believe is not the best idea.

And so, I'm thinking of moving on. But some questions remain:

1. Since the agent has already seen the novel, does she have any "moral rights" to it? It's not the case in the agency agreement, but I want to do what's right, not just what's legal. For me, asking for the comments on the draft was a test, and what I got is clearly not what I need. (And as I said, this was a first draft for comments, not a submission preparation).

2. I am terrified of going back into the query trenches. Since at this moment the agent is not handling this novel, would it be acceptable to contact some of the agents who I was in touch earlier? Or is it an absolute no-no until we officially part ways?

3. Am I right thinking that selling "all rights" to a publisher is generally a bad idea?
Thank you very much for your advice, and all the work you're doing for us here.


(1) No
(2) No/Yes
(3) Not so much bad, as you net less dough. If that's bad, it's bad.


Now, let's add some context.

(1) Moral rights are the right of a creator to have control over what happens to their work. If a sculptor has moral rights to her work, you (the owner of said sculpture) may not be able to legally alter it in a substantial way. You can't destroy it either.

As the author of a Work, your moral rights come into play if someone (the Publisher for example) wants to condense your novel.  You have the right to not allow that.

An agent is NOT the creator of the Work. She does not own your work and copyright and control does not belong to her, no matter how much editorial guidance she did (or didn't!) offer.

(2) You cannot have representation in place and start querying. Reputable agents will say exactly that if you query them.  If you don't reveal that inconvenient fact, and the new agent finds out, you're starting out poorly because you've put her in an ethically gray place. Don't do that.

(3) Selling all rights is shorthand for the publisher licensing all the subsidiary rights from you; including but not limited to audio, translation, film/tv, dramatic, merchandising and theme parks.

If the publisher controls those rights, you get a cut if the rights are sold.  It looks like this:

Offer for theme park rights for Felix Buttonweeze's Kale Gardens of Karkoon: $1,000,000
(yay!)

Publisher negotiates license.
Royalty statement reflect this

Gross payment: $1,000,000
Publisher retains 50% ($500,000)
Remits balance to agent
Agent commission 15% (75,000)

(A) Remits balance to you $425,000

Nice payday, thank youuuu!

BUT if you retain theme park rights here's what the accounting looks like:
Gross payment: $1,000,000
Publisher gets 0

Payment made to agency: $1,000,000
Agent commission 15% $150,000

(B) Remits balance to you $850,000

Now, I don't know about you, but I like that (B) more than (A).
Call me avaricious and greedy, I'm ok with that.

The math works the same way on almost all subrights. The percentage can vary but you see the pattern: when you license subrights to the Publisher, they get a cut. When you don't, they don't.

How an agency handles subrights is one of the questions you want to ask BEFORE you sign. While individual books may vary, and some publishes insist on licensing all rights, you want an agent who doesn't do that as their default position.  It's your money. Find an agent who's dedicated to helping you keep more of it.



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The much maligned prologue-with some actual guidance on when to include

I put a final coat of polish on my MS and am ready to start querying. But I have a question about prologues. It seems like everyone hates prologues. Even on your site you say that you want the first 3-5 pages of chapter 1, not the preface or prologue. Should I follow that rule for all my queries or just from the agents who explicitly tell me to start with chapter 1?

The prologue isn't long, maybe 100 words or so, and though I think it adds a nice bit of setup, I definitely don't think it's worth aggravating the agent over. 

The fewer pages you're asked to include with your query, the less likely you should be to include the prologue.

I ask for 3-5 pages. That's 750-1250 words. If you want to use 12-15% of your page allotment with a prologue, be my guest.

I've never rejected anyone because they included a prologue.
I have passed on HUNDREDS of manuscripts because I had no sense of the story in the pages.

Even ESSENTIAL prologues give depth and resonance to the whole story. Agents don't have the whole story at this point.


If the agent asks for 20 or 50 pages, the prologue drops to 5% or less of the content.
You're safer here.

I'm actually thinking of upping the page count for a query because so many people start their books in the wrong place.

20 pages embedded in an email is going to be a huge pain though.
I'm probably going to need to rethink format.
That odd sound you hear is me thinking. Pay no attention unless you smell smoke.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

agent 1:1



The most important thing to remember is agents are just as nervous about meeting you as you are them.

Don't interpret not-smiling, hesitation, staring at the desk as anything other than our shyness too. It's not about you. It's the after effect from the last guy who sat down and told me I should go to AA (true story.)

The next most important thing, and this one is hard, is to not invest all your hopes and dreams into this one meeting.

You've seen a little kids face fall when they realize the chocolate chip cookie isn't for them? That's the face writers get when you tell them at 378,000 words is too many; that zombies are a hard sell; that a novel in verse about dino porn is an even harder sell.

I hate that face more than I hate fiction novels.

Thinking this agent will be *the* agent who recognizes your genius, falls on your work, offers on the spot...well, don't tell me you haven't thought about that even when you knew it wasn't likely at all.

Even if it WAS likely (it's not) you'd still want to talk with other agents, assess any offers. The initial offer might not be the best offer. The first agent to recognize your genius might not be the best agent for you.

You're not moving to the next level after this meeting and that is NOT NOT NOT failure of any kind.

So, what to do?
Bring your query. Bring it printed out on paper. Bring more than one copy for each meeting.

Rather than pitch your book, ask the agent if s/he'll give you some guidance on your query.

Agents LOVE to give advice and be asked for their opinion. That's cause agents  (well not me but they) are people, and people generally love to be asked their opinion.

You'll get a sense of how effective your query is from this.

If the agent wants to see more, generally s/he'll ask for it.

If s/he doesn't, it's ok to ask if you can query.  Expect to hear yes even if the agent isn't interested. Saying no to someone's face is hard. And awful. Trust me, we avoid it.

Don't have anything to pitch or query?
That's ok.
Ask the agent what s/he's reading that s/he loves.
Or about her client's upcoming books.
Take notes.
Follow through (ie read the books!)



If you can get past your anxiety and fear and shyness and insecurity to be your own lovely self, you'll do fine. Agents at conferences are actively looking for good books and they're eager to help you improve.


Now if by some fell swoop of misfortune you have a one on one with an agent who is rude, dismissive, condescending, or hits on you: get up and leave. You aren't burning bridges. You're removing toxicity from your life.  An agent who treats you like this isn't an agent you want. Under any circumstances.

And mention it to the conference organizer as well. No conference should have agents who are less than respectful of authors. ALL authors, even the clueless ones.

For example: when FriendofBill Writer sat down across from me and said "You should go to AA" I said "one of us is getting up and leaving. You may choose which one."

What I wanted to do was throw a drink in his face, but even under provocation, agents can't do that to writers. Not literally. Not metaphorically.

Good luck at the conference!

Monday, February 18, 2019

So, it's raining ice tonight, how's your holiday?

A friend of mine just oh-so-casually mentioned they were experiencing a cold snap in her town.
Temps were in the 50s!
Bring out the sweaters!

I had but one response of course:




It's raining ice here right now.
(or is as I write this at 11:37pm on Sunday night.)

Fortunately I have some good client writing to keep me company.

Tomorrow is a holiday of sorts.

My regular Monday client calls are all on schedule.
Writers don't really take that holiday stuff to heart!

What are you doing today?
Besides envying our warmer friends?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Wreaking revenge on a Poor Innocent Defenseless agent

Recommend an un-put-downable 530 page book.

Then laugh yourself silly.

Particularly after you realize PIDagent forgot to write down WHO recommended this book and thus cannot return the favor.







So, what are you reading now (or recently) that was page turning, unputdownable and LONG?

I need to replenish my armory!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The joy of mute

Recently, someone I don't know at all scolded me on Twitter for the blog post headlines not having keywords. "What's your goal for the blog?" she asked.

Well, ok, I guess that's one way to introduce yourself.

But, it's not all that effective. My response was annoyance, followed closely by "mute."
I'm pretty sure she saw herself as being helpful.
Me, I saw it as criticism from someone I didn't know, and as far as I can tell, isn't part of the community here.

And was left thinking how nice it would be if every human interaction could be accompanied by a mute button.

Cause I'd sure as hell mute the "reviewers" on Amazon who complain that the ebook price is too high (authors have no control over that); who complain the shipment was late (again, authors aren't delivering books to your house); and agents who make authors feel stupid (that's just insensitive ego at play).

Who do you want to mute?
And of course, who would want to mute you?

More problematic: who wants to mute me?



Friday, February 15, 2019

Are writing contests legit?

WRITING CONTESTS
Are they actually legit?  
Before you eat me, let em explain where I'm going with this.
I know what they (competitions) say, but does EVERY SINGLE entry get read? Or do they just get tossed into a big barrel, drawn out at random, THEN read and if THAT ENTRY is any good, it moves on and they only stop picking out of the barrel when they have their top ten/twenty/fifty?? Do we even stand a chance if that's what they're doing?!?  I think not, not if several thousand are in the barrel! It's like a slush pile that we literally pay our last few dollars to be part of willingly!
**By the way, I AM speaking of reputable contests - not the seedy, eyebrow raising ones found in the stuck together pages at the back of bus terminal magazines.**

And when they say you can submit any number of entries, it makes me even MORE suspicious because a writer could literally flood the barrel with their entries given they had the cash flow (yes, yes, I know, we are generally poor folk but...), thus upping their chances of being drawn and drawn and drawn again...

I know that every single writer out there says "I can write better than that!" - hell we wouldn't be writers if we HADN'T said that to ourselves at least once - but I have entered some competitions and didn't even place while the winning entry clearly sucked (again, yes, I know, it's all opinion/subjective but when the winning entry is marred with spelling errors, grammar errors, dangling participles, incomplete/nonexistent plots/characters/settings, and even incoherent language, etc, you begin to really wonder what's going on). 

Would love some input on this! 

I have NO idea.
I know that I read every entry of the writing contests here, but the entries very rarely top 50 . Plus of course, no entry fee.

And when I organized the first Bouchercon anthology, I read every single entry. A couple of other people did too.

And I've run a couple other big-ticket contests, and I read every single entry then too.
It damn near killed me and I swore off doing it again, so you might have a reasonable question here.

Let's tap the hive brain.
If you've judged or been on the team of a place running a contest, can you help us out here?
Do all entries get read?

If you don't want to post under your own name, email me and I'll post your comment anonymously for you.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Agent Laggardly rides again

This relates to a non-fiction book proposal. An agent requested my full proposal back in August. I responded to the request within a few days. The agent stated that I would hear back in three months. I heard nothing for four months, at which point I wrote an email as a gentle nudge. This was in early December. Within an hour, she wrote me back and said that she really connected with my proposal, was gathering some marketing information, and expected to respond to me soon. I haven't heard from her since.


Last week -- so two months after last communication -- I wrote her a brief email updating her on some recent developments with my author platform. She has not responded. I find myself perplexed. Why would she just not respond at this point? I'm wondering if you have any thoughts, either about what might have happened or about how I might proceed.

So, is it me?
Cause I've dropped the ball like this more than once, and I'm not happy to admit it one little bit.

What you need to remember here is agents operate on two kinds of time: response time, and work time.

Response time is the amount of time left over when the other things are done.
Other things like negotiating contracts, submitting works, assessing submission spread sheets, talking to editors, talking to clients. talking clients off ledges, talking editors out of the bar.

Yanno. Work stuff.

And most often the reason agents don't reply is cause they haven't done what they said they'd do two months ago and they're embarrassed.

Or maybe that's just me.

The absolutely hardest thing I've tried to learn is to just email back and say "I didn't do what I said. I'm sorry. It's not cause I don't care about this. It's cause three clients had meltdowns this week, and I don't have any brainspan to give you right now."

For you, two months seems like an eternity. For me, two months is the flash of a minute.

Here's the trick to keeping your own self off the ledge: keep querying. Keep polishing the proposal. Keep doing the work only you can do.

KEEP BUILDING THAT PLATFORM.

If another agent snaps you up, well, Agent Laggardly took that risk by not responding.

It's not you.
It's her.

Trust me on this cause usually it's not you, it's me.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A small rant, followed by a dose of reality. Also, help.


Anyway, here's my backstory/question: a few months ago I went to a small, regional conference and got a 10-pg manuscript with Editor A and a query critique from Editor B. Editor B requested my manuscript whenever it was ready. Of course I went home and have been doing some *major* revisions based on A's feedback and I'm getting to a point where I need to make some decisions. 

Both of these publishers are regional publishers with a market I'm convinced I can have a decent career with (nothing fancy, of course), and they both have good working-author relations, especially for stay-at-home moms. I don't *need* an agent for either of them, but I'd prefer having one. (Word on the street though, is that Editor B's house doesn't offer advances so agents typically don't like working with them.)

Since I do have super young kids to take care of, would I be wiser to stick with a smaller, more secure market until they're a bit older before venturing into deeper water? Should I go ahead and query agents and tell them about these two publishers and/or see what other publishers would be willing to work with a less....prolific writer? I don't want to limit myself because I don't know what else is available, but I'd hate to waste an agent's time simply because of my current life choices. 

Thank you!


ok, here's what you do first.
Sit down in your writing chair.
Place your hands on your knees.
Drop your head to your desk.
Hard.
Repeat.
Repeat.
Repeat.

Now, stop.
Did that knock some sense into your head?
No?

Repeat!
Until you understand that querying an agent is NOT a waste of time.
Not yours.
Certainly not mine.

You have two editors who didn't say things like "gosh, it's good you're at this conference. Pay attention in the craft classes."

They gave you feedback, and asked to see pages.
Those are good things.

And this is why you need an agent. EVEN IF YOU DON'T THINK YOU NEED ONE.

You want to write for a good long while.
Wouldn't it be nice to have someone on your team who understands your goals, understands you're a work at home mom (which means your priority is your children, I know we both fully understand that) and you may not be churning out a book a year?

And that someone is also someone who knows a lot more people in publishing than you do?

I have clients who may just write one book but that book is one I am deeply honored to have had a hand into bringing into readers' lives. Prolific is great. Changing lives, helping people, is better. Maybe not for the bank account, but God isn't going to ask me how much money I made. She is going to ask what I did to make the world a better place for people.

So, the answer to your question is query agents. Don't get caught up in telling them about these regional publishers. Time for that later after they've fallen in love with your work.

When you've secured representation, you and your agent will strategize about the best approach to take.

And as every mom knows, planning doesn't survive booties on the ground.
No matter how carefully you plan, life is going to happen, and it's going to be messy.

That's the glory of it.



Mary Oliver said it far better than I ever will:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down --
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Querying into the void

I have been on the querying journey for a few years now. I started querying in 2016 (prematurely). I stopped, edited, queried again in 2017 (which is when you and a few other agents gave me some great advice) so I stopped and edited some more. Then queried again in 2018 with a few partial requests and then one full request in October. The partial requests were rejected without any feedback. The full request was just rejected and I'm not even sure the agent read the ms, she referred to it as a "sweet romance." It's not a romance. It's very obvious. She also called it "standard fare." Which stung. But in none of these rejections have I heard anything helpful to go back and work on the way I had before.

It is "cowgirl lit," to borrow your term, so I don't know if perhaps my audience of agents is particularly narrow? I'm writing a new project, 50K words in. I just won an equestrian voices writing contest. I know I'm a good writer. But what do I do with the great big void that I keep throwing my manuscript into? I said I wouldn't give up on the ms until I queried 100 agents, and I'm a ways off from that, but I don't want to keep querying something just for the sake of numbers.

What do you say, oh wise and mystical literary one?

Signed,
Cryin' In My Cowgirl Boots

Standard fare is a pretty helpful, if awful, phrase.
It means you didn't surprise the agent at all.
That's death in a query and pages.
It doesn't have to be some zippity new plot point. You don't need Sharknado meets Little Bo Peep.
You need deft turns of phrase, compelling metaphors and descriptions that make me gasp at their beauty.

We've talked about this kind of thing before. If I don't put your manuscript down at least once, just to revel in the gloriousness of a phrase, or sentence or plot twist, it's probably going to be a pass.

I don't need things that are as good as the current front list. I need things that are different. And better.

So, what to do?
This is where you need to pay for some expert eyeballs.
Often you can do this through a writing conference, or through a charity auction of some sort.

Agents and editors often donate services for a good cause.

What you want is someone to look at your query and first 20 or so pages. Very often there's a problem you're not aware of, but you can fix when you know about it. I see this ALL THE TIME when I do one on one sessions at writing conferences. Most often the book starts in the wrong place. I've sent writers to their car to get the full ms so we can figure out the better starting point.

And often you burden those first few pages with set up and backstory. More than one writer has been left with five pages marked "ditch this" and one opening paragraph that I like.

The real question is how do you figure this out for yourself?

Well, one good way is to read a LOT of debut novels. See how those start. See how the story unfolds. Some will be better than others.Take notes about what works and what doesn't. Often what doesn't work is more instructive.

Why debuts? Cause those are the books that got bought. Everything after that can be published for reasons that aren't "this is a good book and I want to acquire it."



A side note: Be VERY careful of which agent or editor you bid on at a charity auction. I recently heard from an author who paid a chunk o'dough and the agent never delivered.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Back to Brooklyn Writing Contest results/FINAL


I needed this contest today! I'm furrless for the first time in almost a month. Neither yowls nor purrs!
No sleek regal beast, no cool orange cat. I'm reduced to cat gifs on Twitter.

The contest was indeed a good way to perk up. Some ferociously talented writers out there of course, and a few of you were in top form!

Kitty's entry made me laugh. The only thing she got wrong? I had gin with me, not whisky. (Sacrilege, I know)

Dan Castro's "TEN HOURS LATER" cracked me up! I always promise myself I'll ONLY spend a few minutes on the NYT Crossword. (Ten hours later!) Not quite done!

Dena Pawling just wrenched my heart.

Things I had to look up:
Eustace Clarence Scrubb (Timothy Lowe)


words I had to look up
futhork
Lucy Crowe


Special designation of She Who Shall Never Be Spoken of Again in the Presence of Her Grace, the Duchess of Yowl (and all she survey, and what you survey as well) given to:
Luralee Kiesel


Great word
Luralee Kiesel
(smirkpurrs)

Great line
cjohs
he wanted the world - it did not want him back.


Not quite a story, but what great writing!
kregger

Not quite a story but hilarious
charlogo


Not quite a story, but honestly, I'm never leaving my apartment again EVER
K (11:54pm)


I don't know why I even try. Honestly.

Steve Forti
Approaching footsteps in sync. LA waterfront at night. Dangerous territory.

My pulse quickens as he seizes me. Hunger. I can feel it. I’m ready. Eyes close as his teeth bite my neck…

CLANG!

“Yeeeooowwwmmmffffpphh!” The vampire reels, fangs blunted and broken against my titanium cybernetic skeleton. I turn, purring at his terrified face.

This is what I was made for. I raise the stake and bury it in his undead heart. Catch or kill is no debate. There is no remorse.

I am Bionic Undead Fighter, model E (BUF-E). This is my America. LA. Mi tyrannis. I slay the night.

Forti slays the shark ....again.


Here's the long list
Unknown
I am a cat who wants the thing that smells good . The lady is snoring on the couch. It is my time.
I have one claw hooked, but it makes sound that wakes the lady.
"Finn. Get out of the cabinet."
I ignore her, and pull. Things fall. The stuff the dogs like scatters across over the floor. I do the work. They eat for free.
"Finn. Oh, Finn. Another cat-calamity?" The lady picks me up. I don't mind.
If I purr she may give me the thing that smells good. I will hork on the dogs bed later.

KDJames
"Cats," she wailed. "Why cats?"

The seventh cat, most recent to appear, purred.

"I've tried half these conjuring spells, but all I get are CATS!"

The largest cat pushed the spellbook off the counter. Pawing, turning pages.

Mrrrrow.

"It's a catastrophe. FURRY CALAMITY!"

The cat calmly clawed a gash under a word in the glossary's F section and gave a slow blink. Then horked up his dinner, curled into a chair near the hearth, and began to snore.

The would-be witch peered at the underlined word, understanding dawning as she re-read the book's title: "Beginning Witchcraft: Easy Familiar Spells."

Kolin Mofield
“Thank you for calling Robyn’s Intimates. This is Mity, how may I assist you?”
“Will the Cat’s Claw thong support my boys, if you know what I mean?”
She muted, stood up and yelled, “I got Frank!” She grabbed some paperclips and tossed them over the cubicle walls & her coworkers jumped up like a game of whack-a-mole; just another day.
She unmuted. “They do have sizes up to 3XL, would that work?” She purred, and sipped her tea. Sheila laughed, someone snored.
“Oh Calamity, you’ll know soon enough.”
She horked out her drink. He knew her name.


Here's the short list:

When I read this by French Sojourn I really wondered if anyone could top it:
“It’s that finishing school that finished her…Calamity College and that starch lipped Headmistress.”

“Honey, it’s Amity College, London.”

“I just about horked, every time I wrote those fucking clowns a check.”

“She met that nice boy there…”

“Nice boy? Looks like he spent his developmental years trapped in a mayonnaise jar.”

“Don’t be catty George, she loves him.”

“He’s a walking snore fest.”

“They want to set a date”, she purred.

“What?”

“It’s true George, he loves her,” she sensed George retracting his claws.”

“Does he?”

“He adores Carrie.”

“So, now she’ll be Mrs. Carrie Oakey of Old Brokenote, Sangloudlieshire.”


Well, ok Aphra Pell is going to give Hank a run for his money
I am cousin to the serval, not a servile beast.

I want to be a leopard in Udaipur, roaming the lakes.
Or the sacred pet of King Neferkahor.

K
odkods stalking the Chilean hills,
Or an iriomote, laying down pacific law.

I yearn to be an ocelot, margay or manul.
A jaguarondi, lynx, or hunting caracal.

Am I ty
pical?

For I am not a Pallas, nor Egyptian god.
Not a ball of demonic atoms, ruling star-lit paths.

I am a creature of pink collars, fancy bows and bells.
Brushes and dry kibble. Clean bowls.

Did they have to call me Snookums?


And we can pretty much always count on Marie McKay to some terrifyingly good story:

She'd had a breakthrough. Orkney was the birthplace of her great-grandma.The archivist confirmed it, along with details of Innes N. Ore's life.
After clawing around for information for months- her dad no help at all- she'd positively purred with happiness when the email dropped in.
She began reading:
Innes was a fisherwoman which had been frowned upon by the menfolk.
"Go Innes!"
She'd been a poet.
"Yay!"
She'd had one child.
"This is it."
But catastrophe: Innes was murdered.
"Murdered!"
The perpetrator, her only grandchild, was released from incarceration at age 25 having spent 15 years in prison.
"..."
Jeannette Leopold
Ironic that a guy named Thor would work in carpentry, but there it was. The others spurred each other to the height of hammer humor. Thor had clawed his way to the top, but there’s no respect anymore.

Back to them, he worked late. He was building a masterpiece, curled wood and straight edges. Catherine waited by the window for him to come home, one hand in the pickle jar. She sniffed him when he came in, trailing moonlight.

Thor knew what she thought, so he showed her the crib.

She showed him the baby. “I’ve named him John Henry.”

I love the understated subtlety here. Elegant precise writing makes me so very happy.


And Nate Wilson just makes it all look so easy
"What is THIS?"
"Oh, hi boss. Sorry. It's MSN. Or... ESPN?"
"Don't care. Your job's to watch Ork, Jerry. That's it."
"Sorry, boss."
"And where's Na?"
"Nanette? Dunno, she hasn't been in."
"For how long?"
"Two... three days."
"Three days. Yet you've said nothing?"
"Sorry, boss."
"Sorry? Old broadcasts will reach Ork any day now!"
"...and when they see how they've been depicted, it might spur retaliation, I know."
"Retaliation completely justified under cosmic law. That'd be a calamity of global proportions. Check her logs."
"Locating them now. And... shit. They've seen. Warships arriving... tonight."
"Damn. Na knew."
"Na knew."

This left me gasping.

Of course it's John Davis (manuscript) Frain
The guys at Mensa snore me to death, so I never mention my brain cancer. I don’t mention my brilliance either, but these cats see it.

“Daniel,” some genius purrs. “How’s the book selling?”

“Only the Bible has sold more.”

“You should pen your memoir. Call it the Man in the Window.”

“My life? Nobody would believe it.”

He nods agreement with a grin that makes me hork. I claw my way out of the room and hear the geezer complain to someone. “Where’s the current New Yorker?”

He won’t find it. I canceled the club’s subscription to that rag.

flashfriday
“You look deliciously clever,” said the dragon. “Harvard educated?”
“Naww, pretty much just YouTube.”
“Ah, comic law,” she said. “Thor knows just how to trap them, hilarious boy.”
“Huh?”
“Speaking metaphorically, dear. More mead?”
“You bet.”
“And you’ve touched neither macarons nor ├ęclairs. May I tempt you?”
“I love temptations.”
“And I love eating local! --Am I tyrannical? So tyrannical, nattering on when you came for business.”
“That’s right, I solved your contest riddle!’”
“Did you? Share the solution, darling.”
“Dragon tired of hoard seeks horde. I won, right?? ‘Prizes to die for.’”
“Clever, clever knight,” purred the dragon.

 I just love this so much.
Plus hoard and horde, used to perfection.


With seven on the short list I need some time to think and reflect.
Let me know who you think should take home the prize! 

**UPDATE**

Well, it took a while, but this week's winner is Nate Wilson.
Evoking the miracle that was Robin Williams reminded me how glad I was to be alive when he was, and that I got the chance to see his amazing body of work. True genius is so rare. It's always good to be reminded that it takes many forms.

Thanks Nate.
 

Friday, February 08, 2019

Back to Brooklyn writing contest

I was ensconced with Her Grace the Duchess of Yowl for three weeks, and then with Intern Ty for this past week.



Needless to say, I'm quite blue at the prospect of being furrless after Sunday. Thus, a writing contest is needed. Nothing is more fun than seeing what you guyz do with prompt words.

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

cat
claw
hork
purr
snore

To compete for the Steve Forti Deft Use of Prompt Words prize (or if you are Steve Forti) you must also use: calamity

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.


Thus: cat/catchy is ok, but cat/cast or cat/tacky is not.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.


5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.


6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.



Contest opens Saturday 2/9/19 at 5:52am
Contest closes: Sunday 2/10/19 at 9am


If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock


If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

Not yet! 
ENTER! 
oh darn, too late, contest closed.


Thursday, February 07, 2019

Talking about ghost writing

I've recently begun ghostwriting for an author in my genre. There are very clear rules on what I can't say per my contract regarding the business side of it, but I'm curious if it's a faux pas to state that I am a ghostwriter in queries, or to put that in my Twitter bio (since agents check those). 

It's not a faux pas to put it in a query.
I'd be more hesitant about putting it on Twitter which is a vast and unwieldy audience.

A query is directed to one person. If you've mentioned the ghosting in your query, an agent knows you have to be careful about revealing info. S/he won't wonder why it's not in your Twitter bio.

But if it's in your Twitter bio, the vast rabble that is Twitter may ask questions you aren't able to answer.

There's a downside to putting it on Twitter that is not outweighed by anything positive.

When you put it in your query, it's a writing credential, and belongs in the last paragraph of your query.

Be VERY careful about what you put down in writing. Some ghost writing contracts have very strict non-disclosure clauses.





Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Can I requery?

If an agent already has rejected a query, is it ever wise to re-guery again, let’s say after two years?

The world can change a lot in that time, and a story that might not have been salable then, might be salable now. I’m thinking specifically of novels about China and things Chinoiserie as China has has been increasingly in the news and public awareness.

 If the answer is yes, how would you go about re-querying: change the title, mention any revisions, or just query like it was the first time?

If the second book of the series is also ready, should that be mentioned too?


No.
Once I've said no, that's usually the end of the line.
I don't say no to things cause they aren't topical; in fact I'm always looking for something that I haven't seen before (ie not topical, not in the news.)

If you want to get on my list of people I'm not happy to hear from again, change the title and fail to mention I've already seen this. Chances are, if you are a good writer, I'll remember you. And I'll wonder if you think I'm an idiot.  I prefer my clients think I'm terrifying, not stupid.

Even if you don't change the tile, mention I've seen this before and you've done some some revising, I'm still not likely to pounce.

This is why you query the next agents on the list. Agents not on your list two years ago might now be looking for hot new thrillers about China.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Is my ms dead in the water?

My agent recently left the industry. Prior to leaving, my MS had been rejected by five editors. I have since edited it massively. It’s in a very popular genre (Own Voices YA F). Do you think it’s worth me querying it out to other agents, or is it dead in the water?

When you say rejected by five editors, I'm hoping only five editors saw it.

If that's NOT the case, if in fact it was subbed to many more editors, but only five actually responded, that's different.
If only five editors saw it, that's not a deal breaker---maybe. And it won't hurt to query and find out. Do make sure your query says this ms was repped and (lightly) subbed previously.

The massive editing isn't really a factor unless any of the editors said revise and resubmit.

You're always better off with a manuscript that hasn't been seen.

Whether you have one of those at the ready isn't clear.

The good news is even if this isn't something that will gain traction now, it's not as though you must wipe it from your hard drive and never speak of it again.  Just wrap it up in a nice red bow, put it on the shelf and promise to come back later.

FYI, #OwnVoices, and YA are not genres.  YA is a category. Categories cross genre. Genre mean the ms observes certain kinds of rules, or breaks those rules to be fresh and interesting.

#OwnVoices isn't a category or a genre.  It's Twitter shorthand for prodding publishing into the real world.

I assume F means Fantasy, and that IS a genre.


Monday, February 04, 2019

Monday splat

Murphy


Murphy would like to know where today's blog post is.

He's probably not alone.

Any guesses as to why today is so ...err....spare?

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Her Grace shares her wisdom


Happy Birthday Your Grace!


Friday afternoon, chez Yowl


Her Grace, the Duchess of Yowl: I'm working on my memoir.

Me: Of course you are. You just had a milestone birthday. Time to share your wisdom
with the world.

DoY: Exactly so.

Me: Is it in essay form?

DoY: No. That takes too long. 

Me: Haiku?

DoY:  Too limiting.

Me: Pithy sayings?

DoY: PURRY sayings, but yes.

Me: Excellent artistic choice. Can I hear one of them?

DoY: "A cat can never be too petted, or too pampered."

Me: That sounds a lot like The Duchess of Windsor.

DoY: Well, she was a duchess.

Me: Publishing is a very competitive. It's often described as "dog eat dog."

DoY: That's what I'm hoping.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

My publisher is teetering

My publisher (small, indie) is in a state of flux to say the least and many of the authors are taking flight like a flock of birds after a gunshot!

Unfortunately, I have a lot invested in this publisher with 5 1/2 books (2 series) published by them. I'm trying to be patient with them and squeak out the 6th which is all edited and ready to go...

Here's my question: If things take a turn for the worse and I have to reclaim my rights, should I/could I re-query my series? I'm realistic that most agents want shiny, new novels. But is there a place, a way, a hope to have my series picked up? Especially since I've written a screenplay and am in the process of writing the next books in each series, as well as a new novel...

Most likely an agent and larger pubisher will not be interested in these books as initial offerings.

You can hold on to them for later, when you have a new publisher, and a new book. Truthfully you'll have to be very successful for the publisher to be willing to publish backlist like this.

But that is not the only option available to you.
There are digital only publishers who republish back list.
And you can self-pub digitally as well.

This is the reason you build a robust mailing list. You can lose your publisher and still be able to tell your fans how to buy your book.

This is a really rough experience you're having.
It's not limited to small indie presses either.
Two of my clients are dealing with publisher shuffles and changes. It's the absolute pits.










Friday, February 01, 2019

protecting your illustrations



I wrote and illustrated a picture book a while back, decided nothing was going to come of it, and let it languish in my portfolio for years.

A few weeks ago, I decided to dust it off and take another look. As expected, the illustrations are better than the words. I may revise someday, but in the meantime I started posting the illustrations on Instagram.

Looking at those old Illustrations, I've come to realize they work as a picture book without words a-la, Mercer Mayer's, "A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog". Not to compare myself with the great Mr. Mayer, it's just the best example I can think of.

So, here's the question: How does the copyright work for a book with no text? 

If I post the entire story, do I risk someone seeing it and using my story idea with their own words? Should I quit posting them? Is it too late? Am I being paranoid? 
Copyright doesn't protect your work from being stolen (plagiarized.) It provides a remedy for you if it happens (suing for damages.)

You can copyright visual material like you do text.
You copyright it with the US Copyright office like you do a book.

Here's an example of a visual materials copyright listing. It's for the illustrations for The Snurtch (text by Sean Ferrell), illustrated by Charles Santoso.

Notice that the registration number start with VA, not the TX you see on books (Visual versus Text)

You might look at other illustrators Instagram accounts and see how much they post of a book. My sense is that it's a page or two, not the entire book.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

So, how cold is it at your house?

Yoda!


This majestic creature is my 11 year old mini bull terrier Yoda. When Yoda is not on his throne (my reading nook) he can be found head butting anyone sitting until they welcome him onto their lap and cover him lightly with a blanket.

It's 6 in NYC

It's NEGATIVE 17 at Barbara Poelle's house.


What are you doing on this cold winter day?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Is it possible to exclude a language from an author-agent representation agreement?


This is putting the cart a mile ahead of an as yet unborn horse, but I have to ask anyway:

Is it possible to exclude a language from an author-agent representation agreement? To be clear, I don't mean translations of works, or other related or derivative material to a work represented by the agent--those would of course be included. I mean an author fluent in more than one language, and writing separate, original manuscripts and articles.

Long story short (not my strong suit): I could become such an author. I am a native speaker of English from the US, but I currently live and work abroad. I've clawed my way to fluency in the language where I live.

I write primarily in English and I hope to start querying US agents for my (English) nonfiction book sometime this year. However, I've toyed with the idea of trying to publish non-English works in the country that I live.

I cannot even imagine the headache of trying to route international-only, non-English publications through a US based agent--the language barrier, the different laws, the taxes...ugh, international taxes... I can't imagine it being worth the agent's time either. The likelihood of an agent being an expert in exactly those two languages and countries, repping the categories I write, and loving my work enough is slim to none. For anyone else, the learning curve would be practically vertical. (Plus, as far as I can tell, agents are less common over here in general.)

Any work that I would want to exclude from the US agent agreement would not in any way overlap or compete with my English language work.

So, given that I would like to find an agent for the long haul and that I don't want to shut the door on potentially writing a thing or two to be published abroad only, (1) can I exclude something like that from my representation agreement?

(2) If yes, how do I ask for that, and when?

If no, what other options are there for me? How does this sort of thing work otherwise?


And lastly, here a more general question:
You have mentioned reviewing contracts that your authors want to sign but that are outside of the scope of your representation. (3) What sorts of things are those for?

(1) Yes, you can exclude things from author agency agreements. Generally you'll want to discuss this with your agent very soon after the initial offer. I know it would not be a problem here for me.  We don't sell foreign language books in foreign countries. We sell rights to translate books published in English. Thus, excluding your second language books wouldn't cut into our revenue or scope of operation.

(2) You discuss it early on, and have language inserted in the author/agency agreement that excludes works written in Klingon and sold into Klingon Territory.  You'll need legal language for this; don't just make something up.

(3) Things outside the scope of my representation include: Short stories mostly, particularly ones to small readership markets with no or low pay. I don't take a commission on those, but I always ask to see them so I can keep Client out of trouble down the road, when we want to put that story in a collection, or license reprint rights.

My rule is I review everything my clients sign even if it's not for something I sold. Not everyone does this; not every client needs it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

About that second book


Last week, I think, there was discussion around "the second book" and how that one can make or break a writer's career. Your advice was to be prepared for #2 (by having it already written).

I am working on a YA book with series potential. I love the world and the characters, but there are several other stories I want to write before ever doing a sequel (even if I found wild success with this hopeful debut). Also, if this work-in-progress isn't the ONE that gets me onto shelves, I don't want to waste time developing the sequel before the first one is even published (because it might never be published).

With the 2-book deal, how does everyone agree on what that second book will be about? Even if I have my next ms finished, I am sure the publisher can go, "Meh - what else ya got?" ... right? Or even, "Can we have Part Deux of Awesome McFirst Book, please?" Deadlines make me itchy. Especially with a day job (blast!), a wife and two kids  (yay!).
If you're writing YA and are offered a two-book deal,  Book #2  is almost always expected to continue the series.
The publisher's perspective on this is that they've invested time, money and expertise to bring a fabulous new book to the marketplace.  They'd rather not start over with a new book; they want to build on their success.
If you don't want to write Book #2 in this world, you're less marketable than someone who does.
You'll want to discuss this with your agent at the earliest possible moment.

You should know that a two book deal will often specify the content (generally) of the second book.

Example: Untitled #2 (Sam Dryden), the second installment of the series is how Signal was described.

Clearly you'll need to have let your agent know before this point that you want to write Untitled #2, the SharkForBrains thriller.

You don't have to write books you don't want to, but publishers don't have to agree to let you write whatever you want to either.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Results for The Brrrrrr-ing It On Flash Fiction writing contest!


Ok, this is the LAST TIME I'm using blood as a prompt word. You guys just went to The Dark Side as one! Next contest: puppies! kittens! bunnies! Fluffy chicks! rainbows!

Words I had to look up: puissant (Sousbois96)
diffind (Leilani)
bergamot (Dan Castro)



Aw geeze Kregger!
YIKES!
I can't think of another entry that I just could not read, but this one with the gore...OWIE! Did you conspire with Kate Higgins? Another one that left me shielding my eyeballs.


I'm a sucker for second person narrative. Mat Thorne did a great job with that.

Mallory Love's great pairing: Places where in our teenage years we tested the thrill of forbidden love. Places where it later tested us.

Great first line:
John Davis Frain
I took Mom to dinner every Sunday until she killed me.

Dan Castro cracked me up with this:
I despise acronyms. Am I the Titan Hurling Oversized Relics?



Steve Forti
>>o bill. i feel so sick about our fight. im sorry ill be better. promise. ur love language may be ‘words of affirmation’, but I hate a realization that its a language me no hablo. o dear, ill try. i think about u 24-7. ur always on my mental radar. kill me and put me in a coffin - dying would be better than losing u. don’t give up, babe. give me another chance. i luv u.

>>>>La
dy, for the last time. You have the wrong number. I am not Bill.

>>o. nvm
>>actually… u single?

I just surrender.
Honestly, uvula? In THREE words?
We have met the prompt word wrangler master and his name is Forti.


Here's the long list:


Madeline Mora-Summonte
Moonlight slashes the alley's dark throat. The words – LUV U LARA - are so fresh, so raw they weep. Tears glisten, drop, pool.

Here, finally, is proof of Craig's unwavering devotion.

Lara will find it first thing when she opens the diner that morning.


*****


Lara watches the police cover Craig's body, the bloody message on his chest. Her co-workers chatter, approve.

"Oh, hon, what a relief this stalker nightmare is over."
"Cops finally got their proof."
"Dude carved himself up like a turkey!"

The police bag the knife. Lara smiles.

The cook will never even notice it's gone.


Timothy Lowe
Jimmie was born with a teardrop-shaped heart -- inverted, with only one ventricle. Aorta ripe like a stem, pumping blood to his feet.

His words came out sideways. Thick. Muddy. Uvula-engorged things.

Edward scissor-words, they called him.

Until the slam poetry contest.

Jimmie closed his eyes. Listened to the reverse ricochet of his heart.

Spoke.

“Fairies of dust, muzzles of gold, I have a heart that can hear, an ear that eats art.”

*Cheering*

*Applause*

But it wasn't poetry. It was how he communicated.

Weeping, he stumbled off into the dark, to find somebody who understood.


frenchsojourn
“A plastic eating enzyme…good Christ,” Alex said, he leaned down to pat Ranger. He surveyed the darkened city ahead, hopes of finding supplies were bleak.

“Seriously, wouldn’t such an ungodly creation raise a red flag?” Ranger as usual, didn’t say a word, he just gave a slight wag.

After the enzyme escaped containment it traveled the country. It developed an appetite for telephone and power lines. The grid was lost, governments fell, and then the blood flowed. It only took three weeks to tear the world apart.

“How will humanity ever survive without knowing what’s up with those frickin' Kardashians?”


Leilani
Here will do. At a word, the heavens diffind. I step through the tear, wondering again what men see. Skies deforming? Wormwood falling? Might they - just a glimpse - see me?

That he has withheld. I have not been seen for millenia. Nor may I touch -

"Cool!"

"How'd you do that, mister?"

I whirl. Two boys, eyes awe-stretched.

Impossible.

But wait. Around me, imperatives crumble. The pit is opening. I unfold across the hills. Fear springs deliciously; still, I hesitate. Once, adulation was as sweet as blood.

Eternity looms.

Wings blot out the darkening sun as I slake my thirst.



Katelyn Yaeger
They’d covered the body quickly, but she’d already seen him. Even in the dark, she’d known the bloodied, boyish face. Young, determined, stupid Jimmy. She’d always said his findings would get him killed… all his ramblings about a killer with incredible powers. Inhuman strength. Flight. Heat vision. She’d thought him delusional. Clearly he’d known something.

Clark had pulled her away wordlessly, holding her as the shock hit. No tears from him, but he’d seen death before. She told herself it made sense. It should have.

Except Jimmy had warned her.

"You’ll need kryptonite, Lois. Luthor will help.
Don’t trust Clark."



luralee kiesel
Photo: three of us on the teacup ride.
I resist the urge to tear it up.
-Garbage

From the one who never said the words: plush message cat proclaims “wuv u”
Later, Garfield!
-Garbage
No
-Goodwill
No
-Re-gift!
*Find box with silver bow

Dress you borrowed for our double date.
-Goodwill
You were right, it did look better on you.

Ugly “Best Sister Ever” mug
-where did I put that box*

Invitation, dreaded words embossed in dark blue
-Garbage
?
-Nah,
Blood should be thicker than water, but when he dumps you for your sister they deserve each other.




Barbara
The gopherwood ark teetered atop the mountain.

"Please," Noah coaxed his cockatoo. "You can do it. T. U. V."

"Ulamas."

Noah banged his fist. His cup of tea rattled. His shark-fin dumplings fluttered like a flag. "If you can say words, you can say W. Forty days we've been at this. Forty nights. It's W. W, W, W, you bloody beast!"

Knock, knock.

Noah glanced at the door. "Who's there?"

God spoke. "Ulamas."

"Ulamas who?"

"You llamas stink," God laughed. The cockatoo snickered. "Open the doors and let them out."

Noah groaned. No wonder the world had gone to hell.


Amy Johnson
That morning’s test confirmed it. He’d be surprised. Thoughts of indelible times filled her mind.

No more Bloody Mary. She made a cup of tea. Raspberry Rapture. The label’s wording struck her: A Bright New Day Awaits.

He wouldn’t be home until dark. She’d go clothes shopping, get her hair cut. Something different. Would coloring be safe?

That afternoon, she saw him approaching the front steps. He was early and carried a bouquet. She should have considered the possibility, after last night. He spotted her. She shoved the suitcase into the cab, jumped in.

“Get back here!” he yelled. “Mary!”


KDJames
Never much use as a guard dog, ol' Shep sure had a nose for finding lost things.

My old leather work gloves.

A favorite hunting knife.

A tore up old oil- and blood-stained tarp.

The tattered duffel Betsy packed the day she tearfully told me she was leavin'.

Pure shame the mutt piled his muddy finds in a dark heap on the front porch the very night old Sheriff Brody came by, hawking phlegm past a chaw-coated uvula, offering condolences after word got 'round that my wife done run off.

Fucking clever dog, that Shep. Loyal to the end.




Here's the short list
Lennon Faris
My teens blacktop ice skate with Annie. I load groceries, chatting with Annie’s mom. Last bag tears.

Bagger appears, snatching up cans. Dull eyes find mine –dark eyeliner, greasy hair, blood-drop tattoos.

“Thanks,” I smile.
Loping, wooden gait.
“Pariah’s in Annie’s class, on meds,” whispers Annie’s mom. “Never talks. Check your bags.”

Loaded, backing up, music blaring.
Teenagers fighting in back seat.
BANG-BANG!
Pariah’s double-fisting my window! Eyes ferocious!
Gun it! I think.

I think?

Slam brakes. Music off.
Screaming? –a girl.

Hands shaking. Teens untangle Annie’s coat from my door. Annie’s OK. Mom’s hysterical.

Pariah’s gone.
No talking needed.
I'm in awe of writers who can delicately spin the negative space of what's NOT on the page so deftly.


Tara Tyler R
“Dad! My uvula is bleeding!”

Five words I never wanted to hear. Kylee’s still a little girl.

I find my daughter’s bathroom door in the dark. What the hell am I supposed to say?

“Dad? What do I do? There’s blood everywhere! Dad?”

“I’m here, honey. It’s your time of the month.”

“My what? You mean my period? Oh yuck... Fine.”

“Are you okay? Do you need anything?” God, I wish her mother was here.

“I got it.” I hear her sniff back a tear. “You can go back to bed.”

I rub my head. I’ll never sleep again. 


I'm always a sucker for misused words that make the story so clever. This is a great example of that. Plus, can't you just feel the emotion here? GREAT writing.


Michael Seese
I’d paid the rent early. Can't have the landlord barging in and spoiling the surprise.

I’d donated blood, twice, the second time using a fake ID. “Always giving. Too much.”

I’d re-read the letters, and caressed the old photos, desperate to find some reason to stay.

I had none left.

Lying there, transfixed by the dark snake slithering through the cool water in the tub, I was surprised it didn't hurt more. Sleepy now, my eyes fell upon the angry words, written—as always—in lipstick on the mirror and, below them, my terse reply.

“My final gift to you.”

 Took me two reads to see what was happening here.
Do you get it?


Marie McKay
They have her word. Tears roll down my daughter's cheeks. My thumbs trace "sorry" on her swollen face.

WHOOPS from the boys crash through the windows. They play rough and loud. Bloodied knees and chins and teeth. Deep cuts left to gape and scar.

I don't distract her from her rage. Distraction is a lie. Instead, I find her hand and make my silent vow.
"I know they took it, your first word. And they took hers... and hers... and mine. But we'll unpick the dark threads rendering us closemouthed and instead stitch together our voices. You have my word.'


This is just stunning.


CynthiaMc
"Find me in the dark, Baby."

Those were the last words Mommy said to me. I've been looking for her ever since.

Now here she was at my window.

"You're crying," she said.

"You always used to kiss my tears away."

"Let me in, Baby."

"Mommy...there's blood on your face."

"Wipe it off for me, Baby."

"Daddy said no."

"Daddy isn't here. Do you miss me, Baby?"

"All the time."

"You don't have to any more. Take the garlic off, Baby. Do it for Mommy."
 If I'd been wearing sox when I read this, they'd have flown across the room.
This is just stunning. So simple, and yet, not at all.



Did you notice a theme in the short list this time?
Parents and kids.
And all lady finalists except Michael Seese.

I'm having a VERY hard time choosing the winner. (No surprise there!)


I'm going to post this now (11pm Sunday) and then take a look again tomorrow morning.
Let me know what you think in the meantime! 

UPDATE:
I took a couple more spins through the short list, and honestly, all these entries are just wonderful.
I cannot choose between subtle and funny, dark and elegant, and the ones that crack me up even as tears come to my eyes.  To say any one of these is better than the other is crazypants.

And you know what? I have FIVE books to give away.

How about everybody wins?
Prizes will be given in the order of when I get your email saying which book you want.

The choices are:  

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
Tear it Down by Nick Petrie
When You Find Me by PJ Vernon
Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz

PLUS
St. Nicholas Salvage and Wrecking by Dana Haynes!!





And yes, I can mail overseas! 

My email: JetReidLiterary/gmail


-->

Happy Sunday!

Dear Snookums,

My family and I regularly foster cats and kittens for the Cat Haven here in Western Australia. The Cat Haven is working toward becoming a no-kill shelter, and foster carers like us go a long way to helping them reach that goal. We open a room in our house and room in our hearts to a cat temporarily until they can find a Forever Home. Every cat we have fostered has been adopted...

...except for one. His name is Tango.

Last year during Kitten Season, we gave house room to three kittens. Due to an incident involving loose bowels and snuggling on the way home from the Cat Haven, they quickly earned their names of Whiskey, Tango and Foxtrot.

With some love and dedication, we were able to bring them up to the required 850g body weight required for adoption. A lovely couple was happy to adopt Whiskey and Foxtrot, giving the two brothers a forever home with a sibling. (Bonded pairs are the best!)

But Tango, poor little Tango, never made it as far as the adoption shed, for our whole family had fallen in love with him and couldn't let him go.

Thus, he became a Foster Fail, as they're known, and was adopted forever by us. He spends his days harassing The Old Lady (our other cat) and his nights cuddled up to someone, usually me.

Cheers,

Heidi