Sunday, October 31, 2010

All the world's a stage, indeed!

The Rejectionist is always hilarious. This post  should be in the Rejectionist Hall of Fame.

Lying fallow

A very good idea from the incredibly talented Veronica Roth (represented by the incredibly talented Joanna Stampfel-Volpe and edited by the amazing and talented Molly O'Neill)

I'm slow but this is too hilarious to miss

Suggested responses to rejection letters.

Sadly, the contest is over but the entries are worth still worth reading.

My favorite is of course #12, but it looks like #5 took the prize.

All advice isn't created equal, and some of it is stupid

I thought you'd found every single way you could make me snort coffee out my schnoz when I read queries.  (The posts labelled Query Pitfalls show the array.)

This new one though is really really funny.

You're querying an agent for representation.  You start the query in this format:

Word count:

And then you write:

Represented by:

No matter what you put there, it's wrong.  Your name?  Uh no.  My name? No no!  Another agent's name? REALLY no. Not represented?  duh!

For starters, you don't begin a query this way. And don't ever put Represented By in a query.  You shouldn't be querying anyone if you have an agent already. (There are exceptions but they aren't you.)

I'm getting the sneaking suspicion there's a website of "helpful ideas and templates" on querying out there that lists this format.  Ignore it.  You don't have to take what I say as gospel, but find ten websites about query letters and see what they all say.  Then decide.

If you don't know ten sites about writing queries, you aren't ready to query.

Happy Halloween!

my trusty godsend, the fearsome Mer-Bear looks just like that when she sees "fiction novel"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hooray! A new Scudder novel is coming!

I enticed my pal Susan's son to purloin it  received this at Bouchercon and dove in as soon as I had a couple good hours reading time.  I'm one of the millions of Lawrence Block fans and this novel, a return to the early days of the Matthew Scudder series, in that it takes place in Scudder's first year of sobriety,  is deliciously satisfying.

As with all Scudder novels, it's not fast-paced, action-packed thrill a minute.  It's more suspense than thriller, and that's just fine by me.  And there's always an interesting twist on the rules of genre in a Scudder novel.  One of the things I like best about the pacing;  you know something's coming but you don't want to race ahead to see what it is.

Martin Cruz Smith said Lawrence Block is "One of the surest, most distinctive voices in American fiction" and he's spot on.

The book goes on sale May 11, 2011. 

We have a winner in the FOREST FOR THE TREES writing contest!

There was an amazing wealth of talent on display in this contest! It was great fun to read your entries. And as a bonus, we learned some interesting things:

Like, Cullen is a plant!
Vinny (3:05pm)

And a poet (other than Countee!)
Rebecca LuElla Miller (6:34pm)
Germaine.dulac (7:49pm

A town in Scotland
M.A.Leslie (10:54pm)

A number!
Patty 12:44am

SarahW (5:38pm) Got almost all the connections right
except Temple which is Temple Grandin, one of Betsy's clients.

Special recognition for one exquisite line:
Together we do not hope as we watch the road
Alii Silverwing (7:35pm)

These entries were weird, but enticing

Alaskaravenclaw (4:25pm)
Rachael Harrie (1:45am)

Nicely done but not really a story

Lauren Doyle (3:46pm)
Cameron (4:18pm)

Adrienne (4:48pm)
Taratyler (5:33pm)

AKDD (9:12pm)
Jjdebenedictis (3:14pm)

Nicely done stories:
Melanie (4:53pm)
Stephen Duncan (6:01pm)

Mags (8:21pm)
Christwriter (9:12pm)

Showinguptowrite (9:55pm)
Peladon (9:14am)

Nate Wilson (10:21am)
Alexis Lampley (11:54am)

Rea (7:37pm)
Kay Bigelow (8:50pm)


Jdh (5:24pm)
Patty (12:44am)
Caroline (1:18am)

Each one of these is exquisite in a different way.

Rachel Searles (9:41pm)

With her at my side, it’s easier to come back to the Midwestern town I grew up loathing. Kids here grow up in shoebox homes on narrow streets, biking to the Dairy-Freez and summer blockbusters, morphing into teens who drink Bud at field parties.

Lucy is different. A city girl, she wears heavy eyeliner, has an affinity for scarves that she picked up during a summer in Paris, recites Countee Cullen poems for fun. My mother still isn’t speaking to me in full sentences.

I kiss the soft skin of her temple to wake her.

“Morning, Alanna,” she whispers, smiling.

Bingol (9:58pm) (Sadly, this entry is disqualified because the writer entered twice)

I. Paris
She didn't know why she'd imagined things would be different here.

II. Kids
They were the best things in her life, largely because they'd undermined every other source of pleasure.

III. Cullen
He wanted to strip her from the straightjacket of her marriage, to cradle her in his brown hands.

IV. Loathing
He didn't understand that in the slanted light of the illicit afternoons, his wrists were buckles and his fingers straps.

V. Temple
She would recite the mourner's kaddish and light a yarzeit candle. She would pretend the person she mourned was already dead.

Charlie Pratt (4:20pm)
The kids were doubled over in the back, vomiting. We’d arrived in Paris that morning, only to discover that my loathing of a child’s griping is eclipsed only by the stench of half-digested Roquefort, which was having a soggy rendezvous with the rear floorboards. The rented Peugot, a name which now seemed quite appropriate, transformed from fuel-efficient adventure-temple into a mobile bastille of whine and cheese, while I knew, like the Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen knew, that I must “hide the heart that bleeds, and wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.”

The winner after several agonizing re-readings is Charlie Pratt. Congratulations Charlie!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Couldn't be prouder!

Two years ago a quiet young woman turned up in our summer intern group.  Once we got her talking, she was hilarious and fun.  Then she showed us her brilliant taste and incredible work ethic.  By the time summer was over, while we were glad she got a job we wept when she left.  Fortunately, she liked us too and came back to visit often.

Thus it was with great pride and affection I read in Publishers Marketplace:

Jaime Reed's debut SOUL IMPULSE, about a 17-year-old girl who discovers her co-worker at the local bookstore is a Cambion, the offspring of an incubus and human, who must feed off of other girls' souls to survive - and while trying to protect herself, she falls for him, to Selena James at Dafina, in a three-book deal, by !!!Kathleen Ortiz!!! at Lowenstein Associates (World). 

There's really only one thing to say: Yayyyyyy!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Writing Contest!

The revised and updated edition of THE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Betsy Lerner is now on sale!  To celebrate, we have a copy for the winner of the contest!

Writing contest: tell me a story in 100 or fewer words.

One entry per person. Mulligans or do-overs are acceptable but I take the LAST entry you post (I use the date stamp to verify)

Include the following words:


Bonus points if you tell me what the words have in common.

Paste your entry in the comments column of this blog post.

Contest starts NOW!

Contest ends at midnight Friday 10/29/2010.
All times are EST: Eastern Shark Time

Good luck!

Just in case your heart needs to be warmed today

Here's a story by Lane DeGregory, published in 2002 in the St. Petersburg Times

60 Seconds with Andrew Grant

Reviewing the Evidence has a very nice 60 seconds with Andrew Grant!

My favorite line is the "little chat" with Diego Maradona.  I'm pretty sure I don't want to have a "little chat" with Mr. Grant! Ever!

Parnell Hall has the best Bouchercon story!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What are you going to be for Halloween?-Updated with a song!

Well, we are bad pug boys, and we like bad pug joys
And we’re loved everywhere we go.
We pee on all the trees, and sit on everybody’s knees
And we never let them tell us “NO!”
We chew on jerky treats; we drink our water neat,
And we’ve got that nasty squirrelly treed,
But better than the squirrelly, What makes our tails twirly whirly
Is being on the BLOG OF JANET REID!

Sung to the tune of “On the Cover of the Rolling Stone” 
-- Apologies to Shel Silverstein

Even the pugnacious clients dress up as sharks!

For more Halloween fun, remember to check out BookorTreat!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

President Obama adds his voice to "It Gets Better"

What a great idea!

From the mailbag today:

Dear Ms. Reid,

Thank you for taking the time to offer the 100 word story contests on your blog. Not only have I learned a great deal by writing the stories, the contests inspired me to conduct one of my own. Okay, I blatantly stole your idea and used a variation of it at my son's school.

To build enthusiasm for the book fair at my oldest son's school, we ran a 200 word story contest.
And yes, students were required to include six specific words in their story (heroes, wolf, wimpy, fever, fowl, thirty-nine). We received a hundred entries! I certainly enjoyed reading the stories, but the best part was giving feedback and prizes to the winners. Due to the success of the contest, we plan to offer more in the future.

I'm sure you know this, but - your efforts are appreciated and far-reaching. Thank you.

I think this is a terrific idea for promoting book fairs!  I hope everyone steals it immediately.

Also, I'm glad you liked the contests.  I think it's time for another one don't you?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You say pushy like it's a bad thing

I was recently pointed toward  a blog post written by an agent who describes herself as The Gatekeeper.  I swallowed my annoyance at that designation (ask me why I refuse that label if you don't know) and read on.

The question posed to her was:
What's the best way to handle the, "Who offered representation?" inquiry?

Her reply starts this way:

First of all--not that I think you should say so--but if any agent says, "Oh yeah? Another agent offered you representation? Well, WHO? Who are they??"--or even a gentle, "Oh, that's interesting. Who?"--I would consider it pushy, rude, and a breach of etiquette.

What a crock of shit.

Competition is not an insult.  If you don't know who your competition is, how are you supposed to know how to hone your pitch?  This "we can't compete cause we know each other" sounds like junior high girls, and if you want a 12-year-old as your agent, well, ok.

She goes on further:

There's a reason you're supposed to write "An agent" versus "[Name of agent]." We exist in a small world; in many cases we know each other--and just as all New Yorkers would go crazy if they were expected to talk to everyone on the subway, there are times we have to pretend we have more space and territory. We really, truly don't want to know that we're competing with friends for the same project. That's like finding out you're both writing a piece for the same publication--and comparing how much you got paid. No good can come of it.

What the fuck?  We don't want to know if our friends are competing for a project? How do you know it's a friend and not a fly-by-night scumbag if you don't ask. 

The idea that a professional agent wouldn't avail herself/himself of every single piece of information to make a deal  (exactly what signing a desired client is) is crazy.

I bring the same intent to win to a sales pitch for signing a client as I do to making a deal.

You certainly don't  have to answer the question if you don't want to, but if you think I'm rude for asking, well, you do need to sign with someone else. 

The trouble with agent blogs that make blanket statements using  "We" is that often they aren't We but wee. 

This is one of the best examples of why you want to read many blogs and balance the opinions you hear.  One agent, even the amazing me, is not the All Powerful All Knowing.

I'll show you the future of book reviews!

I'm a total foaming fan girl of WaPo book critic Ron Charles.

Here's another reason why.

Another favorite Bouchercon moment

Barbara Poelle yodelling "15% of that is MINE!" when Sophie Littlefield won the Anthony for Best First Novel of 2009 for A BAD DAY FOR SORRY.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A favorite Bouchercon memory

Sitting in the lobby of the HyattRegency waiting for a meeting to resume. Reading Tom Franklin's masterful new novel CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER.  Looking up to see Sara Paretsky settle in on the couch opposite the coffee table.  She's reading Julia Spencer-Fleming.

A brief hello, then both of us return  to our reading.

Friday, October 15, 2010

When I say good writing, this is what I mean

"If he wanted, he could fire his .45 and nothing or nobody in the world would hear other than some deer or raccoons.  Least of all Tina Rutherford, the nineteen-year-old college student, white girl, he was both hoping and hoping not to find under the cloud of buzzards."

It's the placement that small word not that made me pause and admire this writer's mastery of craft.

If not was placed to the left of hoping--  he was both hoping and not hoping to find --it makes sense, scans well and it works.

But shifting to hoping and hoping not is elegant.  It's the difference between ice milk and ice cream.

This is the kind of writing that makes me slow down and pay attention.

It's from CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin, a book I first heard about at the Bookrageous podcast, and found at M is for Mystery in San Mateo.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A great podcast about books!

I'm a devoted listener of podcasts (nothing beats plugging in the Ipod on the subway and tuning out all that noise!)

Here's the link to the Bookrageous podcast, one of my new finds!  In Episode 5, the Trade Show broadcast, NUMB by Sean Ferrell gets a nice mention!

Do you have favorite podcasts about books? I'm always looking for good ones!

I will never stop missing you

David Foster Wallace left a huge hole in the hearts of his readers and fans, not to mention his friends and family when he took his own life two years ago.

His wife, artist Karen Green, has a show called "Sure is Quiet" that, without mentioning her husband directly, is about his death.

The New York Times article about the show is here.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

LOSING MY COOL by Thomas Chatteron Williams

Earlier this summer the Oxford American picked their favorite summer reads. 

Their list had two books I'd read, and two books I immediately wanted to read.  You might recall we actually had a little challenge to see if any of the blog readers could pinpoint which book I meant.

One of the books on the list that I ordered is Thomas Chatterton Williams' LOSING MY COOL an elegant appraisal of  "How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture." 

If you can refer to people in a non-fiction book as characters, my favorite character is Mr. Williams Senior, a man who read industriously and thoroughly his entire life but never for entertainment.  As in, never read a novel for fun.  I like to think that one of these days he'll retire and just read for the pure enjoyment of a story.

This is an odd thing to take from a serious and thoughtful book about culture, but I think it's a testament to this book that we see and care about the people in it, as much as think about things in new ways.

Tim Anderson cracks me up

Read this blog post and you'll see why.

PS we caterwauled enough to make him stop

"The first reaction that some people might have when you say that you wrote two novels longhand is that you are insane."

well, yea, this is, after all, Sean Ferrell you're talking to.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

"Speak English or else"

"If the pillory suffices, there is no need to resort to the gallows" is one of my new favorite phrases.  (another fave: "I seem to have come without my gunbelt.")

I found this phrase in one of my must-read blogs "veteran drudge John E. McIntyre's YOU DON"T SAY, this morning, and through linkage there, found this:  Speak English or else which just cracked me up.

Making twitter work for you as an author

A blog post by Robin Becker, author of BRAINS, about Twitter.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What a great piece of news!

Remember those writing contests we had so much fun with this summer?

This one in particular

Write a story, one hundred words or fewer, using these words:


bonus points if you can include this phrase: "Till death us do part."

The winner of that contest was probably the best entry I'd ever seen in a flash fiction contest, and a lot of you agreed with me.

And now, in the comment column today, news from the winner:

PS, four months later.

Thanks again for running this contest, Ms. Reid. I rewrote the story and it just sold to Escape Pod. Yay!

wooo hooooo!!!  Congratulations!

Reason (x+1) I ♥ New York

The Sandpit from Sam O'Hare on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

One of the very best books on writing ever

Betsy Lerner's THE FOREST FOR THE TREES has been revised and updated.  I think it's one of the very best resources for writers at all stages of their career, but particularly helpful to those starting out.

I'm not the only one:

“Lerner doesn’t preach on how to write a book but rather tries to help writers and would be authors cope with such problems as ‘being alone with it.’ It’s a survival course. She wants to help the writer who cannot get started embark, the writer stalled between projects ingnite; She wants you to be an effective self-promoter and not a self sabateur. The book is also an affirmation that late bloomers can become successful writers.”
-The New York Times

“Lerner has a wicked sense of humor. But don’t think that means her book isn’t brilliant. It is. Cleverly disguised as a sensible reference work, [this] is in fact a riveting safari throught the wilds of a writer’s brain, as well as an honest and unpatronizing guide to publishing from every angle. Its tone is singularly authoritative, compassionate, irreverent, and unafraid.”

“Lerner describes the self-promoter, the natural, the wicked child, and the downright mentally ill. She explains the ambivalence that almost every writer feels about writing for oneself versus for the public…Her beautifully written book of observations and advice seems to be coming from a friend.”
-Columbia Journalism Review

“Remarkably generous about inviting writers behind the editorial curtain, [Lerner] sings like a canary the trade secrets of editors and agents, offering solid, insider advice on every step of the publishing process…with this book, Betsy Lerner becomes what every writer hopes for — a friend in the business.”
-Chicago Tribune

“With an early promise not to ‘Strunk you over the head with rules about style,’ Lerner, a former editor in New York’s top publishing houses, provides inspiring, uncondescending advice for writers.” 
-Entertainment Weekly

The new edition goes on sale this Tuesday.  Three words:

Buy it now.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Ruthlessly lifted from

"what is your book about?"

I've wept. I've caterwauled. I've begged. I've pleaded.

Please please tell me what your book is about in the query letter.

A lot of you really don't seem to want to do that.

But here's yet another reason you really REALLY need to suck it up and figure it out: you'll use that pitch for things other than the query.

What fresh hell is this, you ask?  Tawna Fenske's blog post reveals all.

Thrilling indeed!

Holy moly, it's real!

Gary Corby on THE PERICLES COMMISSION in the International Thriller Writers newsletter here.

Friday, October 01, 2010

"and you should be alive to see it."

Ellen DeGeneres isn't laughing about this.  You won't be either.

Ack! Help!!!

I'm attending Left Coast Crime in 2011 and attendees are asked to nominate novels for the LCC awards.  Of course, I can't remember the books I've read and loved this year, and like a true shinolaforbrains, I didn't keep a list. Plus the year isn't over!

Help!  In the comments column of this blog post please give me your suggestions for books that fit in these categories:

Best humorous mystery novel

Best historical mystery novel, covering events before 1950

The mystery (short story to novel length) that best captures the landscape of the Southwest

Best sidekick in a mystery novel

To be eligible: works must have been published for the first time in the United States during calendar year 2010. If published in other countries before 2010, works are still eligible if they meet the US publication requirement.

10/10/ know it's going to be weird!

So of course, Jeff Somers will be part of a reading that night.

Here are the deets

When I put client events on my datebook, I also try to rally the troops:

Me to Sean Ferrell: Jeff is doing a reading on 10/10/10. You in? Drinks after I hope!

Sean: Sure! I'll go if Jeff will void the restraining order.

Me:(cc to Sean) Hey Jeff, can you call off the restraining order for one Ferrell, Sean? We need as many in the audience as possible, right? I'll make sure he wears pants so you don't have to.

Sean: I thought I told you pants were off the table. Speaking of which, who the hell took my pants off the table. They were freshly ironed.

Jeff: Can I get you guys to start chanting "Pants, pants, pants!" every time I try to speak?

Sean: The real question is, can you get us to stop?

(#gracetopia whispering from Twitter: I think they should both wear poodle skirts)

For this and other hilarity, mark your datebooks now!

Mild-mannered dog walker by night...

By day, she's the fiercest typo-fighting, auction-running, splendiferous agent ever!

And wouldn't you know it, she's on Guide to Literary Agents blog today as well.