Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sharks on display!

New York chapter of Mystery Writers of America sponsors:

The Inside Track: 
Top Agents Reveal How You Can Make Your Project Rise to the Top of the pile

More and more people are writing mysteries and getting published is harder than ever. The key is to write the best book you can. You’ve already done that, right? But then you have to find a publisher and you do that by getting an agent to represent your book.  This is harder than it sounds and requires first of all, a gripping query letter.

Literary agents  JANET REID of FinePrint Literary Management and MICHELLE BROWER of Folio Literary Management will discuss the purpose and structure of a query letter, and what makes a query stand out.

They will also tell you what an agent can do for you, what to look for in an agent, and the questions to ask when an agent offers representation.

There will be time at the end for the audience to ask questions related to getting your book published and the state of the market.

Wednesday, February 16, 2010  uh no, it's 2011.  Thank you Joelle!

6:30 PM

The New York Public Library, mid-Manhattan branch, 6th floor
40th Street Fifth Avenue

Murder Goes South: one picture says it all

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Weekend writing contest!

The Devotion of Suspect X is one of the books I'm most looking forward to cheering on in 2011. I beguiled the editor into sending me a copy so early it was still in manuscript form, but he got his revenge: I didn't have anyone to talk to about the book for months!

Well, let's solve that problem.  Let's have a writing contest and the prize will be a copy of the book!  You'd kill to get your hands on this if you knew how good it was.

So, write a story using 100 words or fewer. Post it in the comment section of THIS blog post starting Friday at midnight (that is 27 hours from now: Eastern Shark Time)

Use these words in the story:


Mulligans or do-overs are fine. I'll take the last version posted. Try not to post more than once though, ok?

Previous winners can compete.

The contest runs for 24 hours, midnight Friday to midnight Saturday.  You snooze, you get eaten by envy for losing out.


Faygo indeedio!

I'm working on manuscripts for the critique sessions at Murder Goes South.

One of the things I'm noticing (and I also see this in queries a lot) is the tendency to over write. Not all things need to be explained. In a moment of high dudgeon we know the hero is hitting the steering wheel with frustration. We know he's frustrated because of what's happening. You don't need to tell us.

The problem with writing everything is that it ruins the pace and rhythm of your paragraphs. It's as though the little bouncing ball in the Faygo ad hits every letter, not every word. We can't tell what's important, what to focus on.

Your readers will fill in the expected: he hugged his mom lovingly. Only if it's killingly would we need an adverb.

Let your writing bounce, not plod.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We've got your number

Ring! Ring!

~~Wild eyed look from Meredith, talking on one line, texting an author on her cell, AND fending off the Herpet American assistant who is seeking bodily warmth~~


Me: Hello, Fine Print ***

Caller: Can I talk to one of your agents?

Me: What about?

Caller:  What do you think?  About who the right agent is for my work.

Me: Oh, I can answer that. We aren't. We don't take queries over the phone.

Caller: You're an idiot.  *SLAM*

Meredith (from her perch above my desk, wrapped in snakeskin) "I love caller ID"

**you'll notice I didn't answer with my name.

Signs your agent might be a dunderhead

His or her name does not actually appear on the agency's website.

What is "voice"

I've long struggled to be clear about what voice is. I've fumbled around on panels and often times resorted to the true-but-not-helpful "I know it when I see it."

Jessica Faust at BookEndsLLC nails it here.

Voice is one of the ways I can tell where a book goes on the shelf without being told the category.

 Posts like that are one of the reasons the BookEnds blog is on my must-read blog list. It should be on yours too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You don't have to be stupid or clueless to outsmart yourself

I received a query from a prospective author today.  He had all sorts of accolades; mentions in national newspapers; blurbs from authors; lots and lots of visibility.  Of course he was querying me for a novel, and that doesn't require platform or visibility, but what the heck, it's nice if you've got it.

His query letter, sans links to articles about him, and the pages of the novel, was 515 words.  I cut and pasted it into my word program just so I could count.

The other thing I counted?  How many words there were about the book he wanted me to read.
That count: 14.
17 if you count the title.
2 words are adjectives describing the protagonist;
2 describe the world they live in.

How many words give a sense of the plot? 0
How many words give a sense of the choices the main characters face? 0

How many words entice me to read on? 0

Chances I'll read the pages? 0

Have you brushed darkness yet?

You should!

Allison Pang is an amazing writer (with an amazing agent: The Suzie Townsend.)  A BRUSH OF DARKNESS is her debut novel.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Quote of the day

Me (in the Lair, stifling cola induced burps)  "I think I'll stop ordering cola and stick to water. Listening to me try not burp has got to be one of the major downsides of this job"


Meredith (in the driest tone ever): "What makes you think I'm listening to you?"

I love this job I do!

Win a free registration fee for the Backspace Writers Conference

If you're planning to attend the Backspace Writers Conference here in New York on May 26-28 there's an opportunity to win a free registration fee (not travel, not lodging, not meals).

Here's how:

 1. Mail  your query letter and the first two pages of your finished novel (the same two pages you want critiqued at Backspace.) The query letter should be single spaced; the two manuscript pages should be standard manuscript format: 12-point type and double-spaced. (Remember, only the first two pages, even if it ends mid-sentence.)

Do I really need to tell you 1" margins on the sample pages? Why yes, after today's incoming queries, yes I guess I do.  

2. One entry per person, please.

3. Mail your entries (yes, on paper, with a stamp - no email entries for this contest!) to:

Sara Kendall's Holding Pen
Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.
240 West 35th #500
New York, NY 10001

4. Your envelope MUST have the word BACKSPACE written prominently on the front so we know it's a contest submission.

5. DO include an SASE. We will let you know when your entry arrives.
If you do not hear back in ten days, RESEND your entry
(please do not call or email to follow up).

6. Entries must be postmarked by Tuesday, March 15th. Entries received with a postmark later than March 15th will be disqualified. This INCLUDES any material sent again. (That means you should really plan to send no later than March 1)

7. The two winners will be announced the week of April 1st.

8. The contest will be judged by Janet Reid, Suzie Townsend and Meredith Barnes of FinePrint Literary Management, and Joanna Volpe and Sara Kendall of Nancy Coffey Literary &Media Representation.

REMEMBER: The Agent-Author Seminar part of the conference is limited to 150 writers and tends to fill up quickly. Anyone who registers for the conference, but who also enters and then wins the scholarship contest, will have their conference registration fee refunded in full.  In other words, don't wait to see if you win before you register or you could be too late for the Agent-Author Seminar.

This contest is over. Don't send an entry!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A book that should be on your reference shelf

One of the books I mentioned a lot during the Writers Digest Conference yesterday is Christina Katz's GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL.

It's an invaluable resource for building visibility.  Her agent is Rita Rosenkranz who is both an invaluable colleague and a treasured friend.

You're welcome

If Brenda Bowen's blog isn't on your must-read list yet, all I can say is you're missing one of best blogs out there.  Every single post is something I wish I'd said, or worse, something I had said but nowhere near as well.

Read her.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I'm slated to attend the Writers Digest Conference tomorrow, Saturday, 1/22/11 here in NYC.  I'll be on the agents panel in the morning (and trying to keep a civil tongue in my head since I'm sure someone will be live-tweeting!)

In the afternoon I'm leading a workshop on Effective Query Letters.  Here's what I'm going to say:

1. Electronic queries are the norm.  Pay attention to the DIFFERENCE in format required in e-queries:

a. Address NOT at top
b. Importance of a subject line
c. No cc; no bcc; no "Dear Agent"

2.  Single biggest problem in queries is they do not convey what the book is about.

How to fix: Circle EVERY verb in your query letter.  Strike out all forms of AM, BE, WAS.  What's left?  Are they words that convey choice? Conflict? Stakes? If NOT, you'll want to revise

3. Don't waste words or space. Focus on the book. Everything else is secondary.

4. Never apologize for being new. Never apologize for sending me a query. Never apologize for not knowing something.  You are not a beggar.  Treat yourself and your work with the respect you deserve.

I'm also going to talk about how to pitch when you meet agents face to face, as conference attendees will on Saturday afternoon.

How to Pitch:

1. Don't be afraid.  The only agent who will actually eat you is chaperoned, and been warned to behave herself.

2. Tell me three things up front:

a. The novel is finished.
b. the word count is X
c. What category you think it best fits (TWO words at the most here)

3. Tell me the main characters name (if you have a sweeping family saga, or a high fantasy with a gazillion characters pick the main character who appears FIRST in the book), and what choice or decision s/he must make.  This takes no more than 25 words.

Then stop talking.

The agent will ask you questions.
You answer them.  Keep your answer brief.


1. say "let me give you the backstory" or "you need to know this" Focus on the choice the character makes and what happens on page one.

2. Memorize and recite your pitch

3. close your eyes and recite your pitch

4. Don't ramble. Keep your answers short.  This is a conversation, not a lecture.

5. Panic.  All agents except that sharkly one who is being chaperoned for your protection are very nice people who are glad to see you.  Smile and say hello.

I promise, it's just that easy.

I'll have a bottle of bourbon in my briefcase if you need a quick restorative belt after this.  Bring your own glass.

Winners of the Second DIVERGENT contest

Y'all knocked my sox off!  Of all the contests on this blog, this one had, hands down, the highest number of really terrific entries. Huzzah to you all.

These entries had GREAT lines:
"I reckon the scandal tied the noose round his neck but the sorrow pulled it tight.”
Kate Outhwaite 1:24pm

The flash of the camera was like sunlight to their flowered faces.
L.G. Smith 3:01pm

"And in this seedy motel that’s more mildew than carpet." 
Steve Forti 7:49am

"Go give Pastor Tim over there a lap dance.” 
Kristen Dickson 12:00noon

This was a great description:
"The neighbors had many names for her. Most popular were Senile, Scandal or from the nicer folks, Colorful. I always went with Gram."
Kelly 2:16pm

Mer-Bear isn't quite sure about this line, but I think it's hilarious:
“You booze, you snooze, Flair Bear.”
Christi Goddard 2:34pm

This one gave Mer-Bear quite the scare:
Brokenfingers 10:36am

The Herpet-American Assistant voted for this one:
CKHB 2:30pm

Homage to Sean Ferrell:
AKDD 7:14pm

Nice use of the word Jasper:
Jess 10:33pm

Closest guess of what links the words:
"And I'm guessing what links the five prompts is that each, on any given day, can be found within 10 feet of the Shark's desk."
Simon C. Larter 11: 13pm

Simon, if you'd said 25 feet you would have been spot on.  What linked the words was they referred in some way to the Suite 500 YA team:

Mildew-Volpe means "mildew" in German, so of course I call Joanna Volpe Mrs Mildew whenever I can.

scandal: a variation on Skendall, which is what we called Sara Kendall when we had several Saras in the office, and of course, it stuck.

snooze: yet another name for The Suzenator. We're not actually sure she sleeps at all though.

flair: Mer-Bear in the Lair, with flair!

jasper: if you got all the rest, this was the one that everyone stumbled on. Jasper is the name of Heather Evans dog.  He's a pawful.

Now for the finalists:
Wickerman 5:18pm

The radio shattered the quiet of the little bed room.

...scandal involving a walrus, a politician and Taylor Swift...

"Mildew, hit the snooze button. Mildew!"



... now for a thief with some flair for the dramatic. 5,000 pounds of jasper were stolen from...


"I'm trying! Keep a lid on it, Sandy."



Shaunna 1:30pm

When the anesthetic wore off, Bertha discovered the surgeon's unfortunate flair for removing organs. During her light snooze in the OR, he had divested her of her appendix, as scheduled, and also her left kidney, gall bladder, uterus, ovaries, and half of her liver.

Hours later, sprawled in the hospital bed with the smell of mildew lingering in her left nostril only, she began to suspect the loss of an olfactory gland as well.

A large, gilded cross, inset with jasper, hung opposite her, but she couldn't pray. She missed herself. Damn organ donor box, she thought. What a scandal!

And the winner, in the fiercest, most intense contest EVER is Shaunna.

Congratulations to everyone who entered!

Shaunna, email me your mailing address and we'll send you an ARC of DIVERGENT.  You're on your own for finding the five hours to read it, and if you're like me, it will be an hour of reading before bed, and four hours spent reading that were slated for sleep....and TOTALLY worth it.

The best pair of sawbucks you'll ever spend

Dana Kaye, book publicist, is offering a webinar to teach authors how to organize effective blog tours.  She'll help you identify things NOT to do, things you should do, and most important, things that help you expand your readership.

This will be most helpful for authors just starting out because all the info will be new and useful.  But, if you're an experienced author, there's still value here, particularly in ways to get attention from non-book sites.

You can get more information and sign up here.

It's next Friday the 28th, so sign up soon!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So, there I was, prowling around the interwebz

I was ordering the books on the Edgar finalist list, truth be told, and having a lot of fun plotting how to find a week to read them, when I spotted this

Now, you'll not be surprised to hear I am a long time devoted fan of Cara Black and the titles published by Soho Press. So long time I knew instantly that Something Was Up.

Soho titles have a certain brand conformity, a signature look, and this is NOT it.

No indeed. This is a very spiffy new look for my BFF (Book Friend Formidable!) and further investigation revealed that there is a special $9.99 rate as well.

Zut Alors!

Of course I ordered it.

You haven't??

And if you haven't met Cara Black yet, well, here's your chance!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

just watch

"Chance favors the connected mind"

what we'll be doing tonight here at The Reef

What do YOU do when the moon is full?

The difference between "pitch" and "query"

I'm one of the horde of agents attending the Writers Digest Pitch Slam this coming Saturday.  I'm also the one helping writers hone their pitches earlier in the day before the big event.

One of the first things writers need to know is "pitching"--talking about your book in person-- is not "querying" --writing to an agent about your book.

A pitch is short (VERY) and verbal.

A query is short (250 words, but not 25) and written.

A pitch is face to face.
A query is not.

A pitch requires some set up: my novel is finished; it's a historical romance; it's 78,000 words.  That helps your listener get ready to hear your pitch.

A query starts with the name of the main character and what problem or choice he faces.

A pitch is about 25 words.

A query is 250.

Guess which one is harder?

A couple of very brave people will be asked to pitch to me at the Saturday prep session--pitch to me in front of everyone attending the conference.  Are you brave enough to be one of them?

Quote of the day

One of the great joys of my life are the hilarious emails I get from my clients.  Just today, this was the closing line from one of them:

BTW, did you know there's nothing to bring out the wannabe paramilitary crazies like standing in the middle of Walmart and saying, "so, anybody know anything about hand grenades?" 

I love this job, I do!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some other contests for comparison purposes

If you're at all like me, when you see a bunch of people all saying the same thing your first response is "oh yea??"  Nothing like a lot of one thing to make me wonder about the other side.

Of course, I'm referring to the contest I ranted about here and the firestorm this contest ignited around the blogosphere.

If you want to compare that contest to others, try this one at The Strand magazine.  I picked it cause it was the second one I saw after posting about First One Publishing's contest. In other words, randomly.

And truthfully, you should develop your own standards for evaluating whether a contest is worth entering.  Here are mine:

1. entry fee is less than the cost of a local one-day conference

2. Prize is something you can't purchase or obtain on your own.
That means if the prize is publication of your book, make sure it's more than what you can obtain from a quality POD service or publishing yourself.

3. You retain ownership of the work and you license only the rights the contest needs.
That means entering the contest or winning the contest does not require you to license translation rights or film rights or enhanced ebook rights to a company that can't exploit them for you.

4. The contest isn't brand new.
This is my personal preference, and it's my preference for a lot of things. I don't want to be first, I want to be second.  I want someone else to find out if the wheels come off the roller coaster, or the contest company doesn't make good on the prizes.

5. The winners of previous contests are works I'd be proud to be compared to.
I've seen some contests where the winners were books I'd pay to keep from being associated with.  This is a corollary of (4) because if there aren't previous winners, you don't know what the tastes (or competences) of the judges are.

6. Announced judges are people with reputable, verifiable track records whose opinions I respect. If Bernard T. Blowhard is the judge, I'm not sure I want to win.

Those are the ones on my list, and I use those criteria when I send contest notices to my clients.

If you've got additional criteria, I'll be glad to hear about them in the comments column of this post.

Monday, January 17, 2011

to quote Jeff Somers: "damn"

Usually Jeff Somers renders me speechless with his novels. Or with a call from the bail bondsmen.

This time, all he did was post this link

The value of the rejection process

I swam down to McNally Jackson tonight to catch the greatly talented and fetchingly modest about her talent Betsy Lerner talking about her book THE FOREST FOR THE TREES.

Companions in crime, Kathleen Orteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze and Mer-Bear of the Lair joined me.

Meredith take notes at these things since she's the only one I can boss around the best at it. Both Kathleen and I  hissed "write that down" when Betsy said this:

One of the most important things a writer needs to learn is how to to separate information from analysis. 

She was talking about the stream of rejections that come with the writing biz.  It's important to separate the information "no, this agent is not going to read your work" from analysis "this agent doesn't think your work is good enough"

If you think of every rejection as an analysis of your work you'll make yourself nuts.

If you think of the query process as simply as way to get information --which agent wants to read your book-- you'll make yourself less nuts.

Betsy said it better of course, and you should read THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. to get the full sense of how eloquent she is on the subject.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Holy Helvetica! ANOTHER DIVERGENT ARC writing contest!!

It took stealth.
It took cunning.
It took bribery.

Mostly it took outright thievery.

Yes, I got my fin on a SECOND ARC of DIVERGENT!

 Please don't ask for details, they will only terrify you. Sufficient unto the day to say duct tape has many fine applications.

So, let's do this again!

WRITING CONTEST will open tomorrow, SATURDAY 1/15/2011 at noon.  It will run until Sunday at noon. All times are EASTERN SHARK TIME.

Here are the rules:

1. Write a story in 100 words or fewer

2. Use the following words in the story


Bonus points if you correctly identify what links these words.

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

If you want a second shot, a mulligan, just enter again.  I'll delete the first entry.

One entry per person will be considered.

Prize is a copy of DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth and trust me, you WANT to win this.

Ready, set, JUMP!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Don't enter this contest--updated yet again!

I'm a fan of writing contests. I've run more than a few here on this blog.  When you enter a contest, make sure you check the rules VERY carefully.

Here's a contest that you should avoid like the plague.

UPDATE:  this page now goes to a 404 link--in other words, it's dead.  As John Scalzi reasonably points out, if this means the publisher is responding to the concerns of writers, great.  If not, well, google cache knows all.  And I saved a PDF of it too, just cause I wondered if this would happen.

Take a look at clause 13:

All submissions become sole property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. 

That means they own your intellectual property.  Publishers never own your book, magazines never own your stories. They license the use of it. They pay you to print the book for a certain amount of time. 

By submitting an entry, all entrants grant Sponsor the absolute and unconditional right and authority to copy, edit, publish, promote, broadcast, or otherwise use, in whole or in part, their entries, in perpetuity, in any manner without further permission, notice or compensation.

In other words they can take your work and do anything they want with it. Including make a movie. And pay you NOTHING.

Entries that contain copyrighted material must include a release from the copyright holder.

Your work has copyright protection as soon as you create it. That means you send them a release to allow them to use your work forever, and never pay you.

What I like best here is there's a fee to enter.  So you pay them to own your work. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. Oh wait, I know what to do: don't enter.

Be smart. Read the rules.

oh this just gets better and better!

A comment in the comment trail:

While I appreciate your comments. And I understand your vested interest in this business because if we're successful, we eliminate the need for literary agents, the contest hasn't launched yet. 

So to post our rules and a link telling people that this is a contest to avoid is both self-serving and misleading. Are there issues with the rules, yes. But I think you should wait until the contest officially launches on Feb. 11, 2011, before you tell people to not join it. That's the fair thing to do.

Could I, a 20-year veteran in publishing as a writer and publisher, afford to put out a contest that rips people off? I'm not desperate. The goal is to truly find the next great author, something not too many people are actually looking for. What's been your success track record?


Karen Hunter

PS: I sleep extremely well every night because I operate in truth.

This just cracks me up. It's misleading to point out the rules of the contest?  Unfair to point out the rules of a contest BEFORE a writer pays to enter? I need that one explained to me. Simple words please.

This isn't about me being an agent, or you being a "20 year veteran of the publishing industry."

I don't care what your motives are, who you are, or what you've done or not done. What I care about is that you are inveigling writers to send you their work, with a check, and then claiming ownership of it. No publishing company operates like that. No reputable magazine operates like this.

Generally speaking when we use the phrase "I'll pay you to take it off my hands" it's understood we're talking about junk.  If you can produce the name, address, email, or surveillance photo of a single solitary writer who thinks what they write is junk I'll be damn surprised.

PS  And of course I'm not looking for the next great writers.  I already represent them.

DIVERGENT writing contest results!

We had some terrific entries in the contest! Thanks to all who did battle with the word list! You're dauntless!

Herewith the results:

Recognition for outstanding achievement in minimalism!

ClothDragon 9:04pm
Jeanne 10:07pm

Recognition for an exquisite sentence that took our breath away!

"He was no novice to the feast." Jeremy Myers 9:22pm

"She casually picked her teeth with a singed finger bone." Kate Higgins 1:49am

"Two disappearances: hers and his money’s." Simon C. Larter 10:46am

"a trait that scraped my inner blackboard." Marybk 1:22pm

best use of the phrase "heaving breasts" since Barbara Poelle's last conference bio
Deb 10:11pm

Best followup comment to a hilarious entry:
Deb 10:59pm

Lovely imagery but not quite a story:
AKDD 10:42pm
Kristen Dickson 11:00pm

Great evocation of True Grit:
Myimaginaryblog 10:58pm

Someone who needs a vacation and soon:
Myimaginaryblog 2:36am

Someone's been reading too much meta-fiction!
Ricki Berg 11:42pm

And here are the entries that made the final cut:

Ari 9:14pm

Simon C. Larter 10:46am

Papillon crew 12:28pm

Dylan 4:53pm

Kristin 5:29pm

Christie K 5:58pm

And here are the three entries we selected as the finalists:

GregKShipman 3:21am

Closing Conversation

“I’m pregnant,” she said, “and I want to keep our baby.”

“Knock yourself out, Amity,” I replied.

“I want us to raise our baby,” she said, dauntless as always.

“I may have to knock your ass out.”

“Don’t you want the baby? Don’t you want me?”

“Call me Abnegation,” I said. “in both cases.”

“How can you say that?”

“It helps being an erudite thug.” Candor is part of my lethal arsenal.

“You’ll make a good father,” she said.

“Baby,” I replied before walking out of her life forever, “the only good thing I’ll ever make is bail.”

Marybk 1:22pm

The raccoons waged a war. Not being creatures of self-abnegation, they graduated from summers pillaging my outdoor trash to winters looting my indoor pantry. Clever. Devious. Dauntless.

“There’s no raccoons at Dad’s,” said my ten-year-old with candor.

Although I’d called a truce with my ex, our amity went only so far. As a professor, he believed himself erudite in every subject of conversation ever spoken, a trait that scraped my inner blackboard.

“Look, Mom. One’s sleeping in your bed.”

I shut the door and winced. “Let’s give your dad a call.”

Marie Rearden 7:10pm

Lil and Margie lived on a cobbled cul-de-sac, homes and hearts separated only by a glowering A-frame. The eighty-somethings baked muffins, shared memories, and showed no abnegation at the library’s book giveaways. But amity turned to enmity when Mr. Pawpaw, the erudite librarian, moved into the A-frame. Cotton balls of hair fanned his ears, and his bespectacled eyes twinkled. He was a granny’s wickedest fantasy.

Margie concocted a lovely pie. A dauntless Lil whipped up an irresistible quiche. They hobbled to Mr. Pawpaw’s door with their seductive gifts.

With candor, he smooched Margie and honked Lil’s bottom. “I love cougars!”

I had a very hard time deciding which of these entries wins the ARC of DIVERGENT, a fabulous prize indeed, so I solicited the assistance of The Reef Dwellers.

They too struggled but in the end (and after we'd doctored up the cuts and bruises from the fin-fights) the winner is:

Marybk 1:22pm

Marybk if you'll email me with your mailing address, we'll send you an ARC of DIVERGENT.  Sadly, we can't email you the five free hours you'll need to read it but I have a feeling you'll forgo sleep and meals when you start reading!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm Scandalized!

Our fearless postal carrier arrived with delicious reading material!


CROOKED LETTER CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin knocked my sox off last year.  Here's a story about how that book came to be. And yes it involves an Agent Intervention (I love those stories!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The weekend carnage in Arizona defies words.  Like many of you, I can't think about what happened, I can only feel. And what I feel is anguish. Raw, hot anguish that makes it impossible to look at news reports in the office because they make me weep.

It doesn't help that too many people think the best way to deal with their anguish is to point fingers of shame and blame. And others to say, God forgive us, the good folk of Tucson who were shot somehow deserved it.

Before you rush to tell me how wrong I am, ask yourself this: if a kid commits suicide do you blame the rock music he listens to?

And if you truly believe a nine year old girl deserved to be shot to death, I'm sorry, I can't think of any  rational reply.  I only pray your journey through life makes a u-turn onto the road to Damascus very, very soon.

We know what happened in Tucson. We know six people are dead, and others are seriously wounded.

We know Sarah Palin did not pull the trigger. We know Jared Lee Loughner did. And we know he's not of sound mind. 

And that is ALL we know.  We FEEL a lot.   We don't want to think and particularly not think it could take years to find out the why.  Or worse, that it might never make sense.

Please, my friends and foes alike, let us step back. This is the time for mourning. This is the time for weeping.  The time for blame is not now. 

Let us be kinder to one another, friend and foe alike,  in our collective anguish and pain.  Stop talking. Stop blaming. Please stop.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Writing contest! Prize is an arc of DIVERGENT!!!

I've terrified the author, agent and editor into giving me an ARC of DIVERGENT.  Since I've read it, I am glad to offer you the chance to read it too.  A writing contest is just what we need!

Same rules as usual: write a story in 100 or fewer words.  Use these words in the story:


Post your story in the comments column of this post.

Contest starts NOW!

Contest closes at 9pm EST tomorrow (Tuesday 1/11/11)  EST is Eastern Shark Time.

All decisions, errors, and irresponsible choices are mine.

Ruth Cavin has died

And it truly is a sad day for publishing.

Here's why.


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Dan Krokos cracks me up

His interview here at The Novel Road reveals some interesting facts.

What are they?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I'm having this hand lettered on the office wall, I am.

7. Trust that you have greatness inside of you. This is the big one. 

Warren is a utilitarian potter, meaning he makes a lot of pots, mostly for everyday use. Mark and I eat off his work daily. But with each firing Warren sets a few pieces aside for museums. The pots that sing. 

When asked how he creates those pots, he said he doesn't worry about it, because he doesn't set out to make a great pot, just one that's useful. He said to trust that there's something inside you, something simultaneously human and divine, that will come out in the work. When you find a pot that exhibits the ineffable, then you've made art. It's easy to pick the functional pots from the brilliant pots. The brilliant ones glow from within. 

And yes, I'll say it: Just like him.

I stole this ruthlessly from Robin Becker's blog post about her father in law Warren.  Read the rest of it here.

And I'm not kidding about the lettering. It's going to take a while, but there will be photos.

And here's Robin's book BRAINS.  Just in case yours exploded when you read that.

Sean Ferrell says it better than anyone else

With apologies to anyone who has ever been verbally assaulted by the use of the term, the word "nigger" matters.

A new edition of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is being released by NewSouth books with the text censored to remove the word "nigger" and replace it with "slave." This galling decision has been done, claims Twain expert Alan Gribben, because, "Race matters in these books... It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century."

I think Mr. Gribben has confused the importance of history and literature with contemporary mores and marketing.

Here's the link to the rest of the post.

I'm glad we're all offended by use of that terrible word, but the way to deal with it is not to bowdlerize the novels it appears in. As one of the commenters on the post replies: erasing is the first step to forgetting.

Another reason you want to be on Twitter

It's where people hear about your book.

If you don't believe me, here's the latest piece of evidence:

It's funny how we decide to pick up books sometimes. I was introduced to David Eddings by some fanboy-types I knew while going to college. I think I'm grateful I wasn't running with the Oprah-crowd back then. I don't think I could handle the angst. 

Anyway. The Breach by Patrick Lee is a book I wouldn't have even known about if it weren't for John DeNardo over at SF Signal and I might still have passed it up if it wasn't for the occasional tweet to remind people that it might be worth checking out. 

So I picked it up over the holidays and I probably read it faster than anything else I picked up in the last year. 

Read the rest of the blog post here.

If you are an author and you want to reach your audience, there's no substitute for an effective twitter presence.

Is one of your new year resolutions to be more connected?

Media Bistro has a list of reasons people won't follow you back on twitter.
 I think it's a pretty good list.

The only thing I would add is that if you protect your tweets (ie you require someone to ask if they can follow you) you won't get followed a lot.

I never request permission to follow someone, and I block people who do from following me. The whole point of twitter is to expand your network, and protecting your updates doesn't do that.

(yes, this post was up at QueryShark this morning. For some reason, I didn't click the correct blog. Argh! Morning!)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Our spies are everywhere

yes, that is the ceiling light fixture.

For those of you who missed the arrival of Awesome the Octopus (aka The Scourge!) here's her backstory:

How to find out if your agent is an idiot-part deux

I was chatting with one of my editor pals yesterday and in the course of the conversation, Editor Amazing mentioned a book with an AWFUL premise, one that left both of us ewwwwing till our respective assistants glared at us.

Today, Editor Amazing calls me back. Update on the AWFUL:

It turned into the house joke yesterday afternoon. I bragged to a few other colleagues about my "awesome submission" and it turns out at least three of them also got the same submission the same day - apparently said agent does mass e-mail query submissions, at least with individually addressed emails. Said "agent" has now been added to the editorial spam filter.

So, what does that mean for you? Well, if you're a client with this agent, your work is in the spam filter. Nice start to your career.

If your agent is pitching your project ASK to see the list of editors.

And before the comment column lights up: YES you can ask. And if your agent won't tell you, or makes you feel like a loser for asking, that tells you something.

I had a phone call with a client this morning who asked where his work was going.  I said "I know but I can't tell you yet cause I haven't put together a list. When I get ready to pitch this, I'll send you the list."

So, timing is important.  An agent may not know five weeks ahead of time, but s/he will know the day it goes out. Ask to see it then.  If there are seven editors all listed as the same publisher, you've got a problem.

This is your career. Manage it well.

What ho, BaPo!

It's amazing what La Slitherina is looking forward to reading in 2011.

If I wasn't terrified of falling over a crashcart and a still, I'd swim over and thank her myself.

If you annoy me, I'm less likely to do what you want

This was the subject line in an email today: Secure Your 2011 Foothold in the Trade Book Publishing Market With (company) information

Well, at least they didn't say toe-hold, but foothold??

Maybe I read that without enough coffee, or without my sense of humor nailed to my noggin, but sheesh.

You want me to buy something that implies I'm a raw beginner?  Not bloody likely.

What's missing on this list?--contest closed/winner picked!

Warren Richey's book about paddling around Florida in a kayak for The Ultimate Florida Challenge is hilarious, and has drawn quite a bit of interest from the denizens of The Reef.

It's also gotten interest from the nice folks at Florida Rambler who asked Warren to list what he packs for a kayak trip.  His list is in the article.  

I've read Warren's book more than once and yet, this article was the first time I realized there's something missing from the list.

What is it?

First person to guess correctly (sole judge of what's correct = me) wins a copy of WITHOUT A PADDLE by Warren Richey.


of course I thought of "something to read" and Jaymg guessed that right off the bat at 8:35am.  There's one winner.  (Jaymg, send me your mailing address and we'll be happy to send you copy of the book)

Then I read the rest of the comments, and howled!

Delilah, the unruly helpmeet (which has to be one of the best names ever) weighed in with Underpants and shark repellent.

I can't believe I didn't think of those!  Clearly a winner.

Delilah send me your mailing address, and we'll send you a copy of the book as well.

Thanks for a great start to the morning!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Flatout fantastic

Steve Ulfelder races cars. Fast ones.  It was one of the things that intrigued me about him when he first queried me.  Over the years I've read and loved his stories about racing, most particularly his blog post about sharing the track with Paul Newman.

Steve's first novel PURGATORY CHASM is being published by those savvy folks over at Minotaur who know a thing or two about publishing terrific writers.

Steve's editor sent over an ARC today. I think I'll race up and deliver it in my new Shark ATV!

Mer_Bear @ fplm .com?

We have two Merediths at FinePrint.

One is an agent.

One is a godsend.

The agent was here first, so she got the email address that follows our pattern: Meredith@FPLM

What do we do with Mer-Bear?

Mer-Bear is a terrific name, and lots of fun but she does make business calls and some lame-o is sure to ask her if it's Mer-Bare, so that one is out.

We wanted it to be easy to remember, so nothing with a number. Besides she's really not Meredith2.
More like MeredithExponential.

As we were gnawing on the dilemma, swimming about in the reef, the perfect suggestion surfaced:

Great guffaws all around of course, but I kind of like it.
I wonder if I can talk them into changing mine to ApexPredator @FPLM

Query letter intensive workshop

February 13, here in NYC.

The course leader is my pal Jenny Milchman who organized a great panel at Wachtung Books this past October.

Here are the deets!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Oh crap, I forgot to post the contest winner!

Yea, ok, I'm a total slacker. This vacation thing has been a LOT of fun! Probably not quite so much for those people who were wondering if they won the writing contest!  (and who were kind enough to NOT send flaming bags of crustacean poop to the reef.)

Alrighty then.

When we last visited the five finalists I asked you who you thought won.

As of 4:20pm shark standard time, here are the results:

LeAnne: 9%
Janet B. Taylor 32%
Patrice: 19%
Reality Analyst: 27%
Joel: 14%

Since this was a new and really terrible way to torment writers, I've decided to give all five brave participants the same prize:

A copy of GHOST COUNTRY by Patrick Lee.

For the winner selected by the Great Reader Horde, Janet B. Taylor, you'll also get the swag created by the elves over at Harper pr and marketing. (It's a water bottle and go-bag, but without the flowers.  Those are one of Mer-Bear's foliage flourishes)

For the second place winner selected by the Great Reader Horde, Realityanalyst, also the swag.

And my choice, which you probably knew and didn't vote for just to cause me consternation:


the book, the swag, and a copy of The Breach, also by Patrick Lee.

If all five of you will mail me your mailing addresses, we'll get the swag out to you.

I should mention that we can't mail anything but books to overseas addresses.

Congratulations to the five winners!

Hell with the subway fare increase!

I will now be driving a SharkTerrain Vehicle to the office.

And I might share some of the cupcakes sent by His Hilariousness The Editor for the Ages!

MIGHT! (don't even think about stealing one or I'm sending Mer-Bear from the Lair after you!)

List this!

DAY ONE is on the best of 2010 list compiled by the Portland Mercury!

If you haven't treated yourself to this amazing book, well, click here and get cracking!

Yes, I'm bullish on NYC..and you will be too!

Here's how it happened:


The nicest compliment ever

Found at The Novel Road interview of Sean Ferrell.

Happy New Year

Lifted ruthlessly and shamelessly from the  
kept by Kevin Burton Smith.