Welcome to the week that was.
Last Sunday started with the remembrance of 9/11. We will never forget, and many of you shared how you heard the news and the impact it's had on you.
Later in the day we had the week in review.
Jenny Chou cracked me up with this comment, in response to my joke about auto-audio on websites:
I would comment but I have to get back to my new YA project about a teen Mozart rising from the dead as a tool of the devil to add auto-audio to websites and the 17 year-old hacker who is torn between her upstanding boyfriend and her secret passion for the long-dead composer.
All I can say is thank goodness I do not rep YA!
Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale, sent me to the dictionary with this:
I used chthonic in a query today. It was the perfect word and I hope it doesn't throw any agents.
If I see a word I don't know in a query, and it's not a query full of misspellings, I look it up. I did look this up, and my initial idea (that it was related somehow to Cthulhu) was wrong!
Sam Hawke said:
>And when I tell you that suicide is the third leading cause of death among children 12 >and younger. (YOUNGER, not older!) I hope you'd want a source for that cause I still >can't believe it and it's true.
It took me more attempts than I'd like to admit to have gotten past that sentence. Is that really, really, true? I don't want that to be true.
Yes. The book I just sold that used that stat is to help parents of children with these kinds of mental health problems. My client's son expressed a desire to end his life when he was four.
I thank God that he is alive and doing well today, in large part to his family's steadfast devotion to getting him help.
This is the kind of book that I am most proud of helping to publish. I truly believe it will save lives.
like Sam, I was shocked to see the statistics on children's deaths. Who would've thought that children that young would even consider suicide. It's horrible to imagine. I wonder, is this relatively new? Does it have to do with bullying and social media? I'm afraid to think it does. Children today may have it easier in many ways thanks to technology, but in just as many other ways, their lives are harder.
Sadly it is not new. Bullying and social media are certainly problems but this book is more about children with severe mental health issues.
Monday's post was prompted by Julie Weathers comment on an editor dismissing her work due to poor research. Sometimes an agent or an editor is just plain wrong, as in this case.
nightsmusic really nailed it with this:
There are stupid people in every profession. And there will always be someone out there who will profess to know more than you do. Be confident in your research and (silently) tell them to go screw themselves.
This from Jenny Chou had me reaching for my smelling salts:
Julie - I write about jewel thieves. Yes, I know stealing is illegal and that it's not very nice to take things that belong to others. I specifically told my kids that just because Mom writes about thieves doesn't make it okay for them to steal. (They rolled their eyes) While I was querying I received quite a few rejections saying my character's behavior and chosen profession made them unlikable. That was hard to take. Personally, I like stories about people who lie and cheat and steal because I'm curious to find out their reasons and view the world from a different perspective. Luckily, I finally found an agent who loves heist novels and my characters. I really hope you find your perfect agent, too, so we can all enjoy reading your Civil War story.
Good gravy train! The only books I like to read are about people doing bad things for interesting reasons. Clearly those agents were idiots. Yes, you can quote me.
Jennifer R. Donohue said
Only once has somebody said to me "I feel like this is X's story, not Y the way you wrote it" and I thought they were right. That story is still in rewrites, because sometimes that's my life, but my main point is sometimes those comments make sense and other times they're bulldrek.
Very true. There's a big difference between "you're wrong, you didn't research" and "this story feels like it's from the wrong perspective." I'm on a campaign to remove "I think" and "I feel" from my female compatriot's writings (particularly in business letters) but in this case, it's better to use that than not. It is an opinion. It is subjective. And it's someone's creative work. All good reasons not to make concrete statements.
I really like what Lucie Witt said here:
I think it's important to distinguish topic from premise.
Generally speaking no topic should be off limits. The premise, however, might be a hot garbage fire.
Let's take a recent example from the romance community.
Topic: German and Jewish person falling in love during WW2
Premise: a Jewish woman at a concentration camp, who is special because of blonde hair/blue eyes, falls in love with a Nazi officer at the camp. She later finds Jesus and is saved literally and figuratively.
It's easy to see how the topic was tricky but potentially okay while the premise was abhorrent.
On Tuesday we talked about comp titles because youse guyz simply can't resist twisting yourselves into knots.
This, from Cheryl, cracked me up
Ugh. Every time I think about comps (which is rarely, just to entertain myself) I get confused. See, when I love a book it's because I love the writing style and so that's what I want to compare and that rarely maps well to plot or even genre. And anyway, who is ever good at analyzing their own style?
I tend to think more about influences: I read a lot of X author while writing this. I admire Y and Z authors.
And believe me, I would never mention that in a query, because someone who simultaneously wants to write like Guy Gavriel Kay and David Wong is probably someone you should think twice about signing.
Craig F said this about the fact comp titles need to be published in the last two years
Two years? I have two problems with that. First the adventurous thrillers for the past two years have been heading in a direction that I am not. The second is that for searches like that I hit the library. The branches near me don't even have three year old books on their new release table yet.
You'll be *delighted* to hear that the "no older than two years" isn't my guideline. It's the guideline given to US by the editors we're pitching to. Often they use comps in their launch meetings and they can NOT use things older than two years.
That's one of many reasons you don't put in comps. We'll figure it out on this end. Plus, we've got access to sales figures and the LAST thing you want to do is compare your book to one that tanked.
Bad comp titles are worse than nothing, but good comp titles really can sell your book. I got so many requests when I described my book as "Code Name Verity in Soviet Russia."
Well, yes, I want to read that knowing nothing else.
And on Wednesday, just to see how fun this would be, I posted a piece on language and diversity.
DLM's WIP sounds not only interesting but illuminating:
In my WIP right now, I am dealing with the way Theodoric the Great's image was rewritten after his death. In life, he was almost without a doubt educated. His policies were liberal and fairminded; he more than once taxed and required reparations for Jews, whose synagogues and persons were attacked in his realms. He was immensely canny, politically, and immensely proud of his Amal (so-called "barbarian") heritage, and dressed the part very purposely, of a new king of a new dynasty.
After his death, Theodoric was rewritten as a dirty Barbarian-with-a-capital-B. He has gone down in history as illiterate, which probably was not the case. This served the political expedients of those who did not care for his highly Romanized daughter's regency and eventual rule.
"Loaded" words get loaded to serve an agenda. To this *day* "barbarian" is an insult ... even as those once described by the word are forgotten in terms of their culture and society.
I agree wholeheartedly with almost everything you've said there, Janet - although, like Colin, I find it sad that an enquiry as to someone's ethnic origin could be seen as 'incredibly rude' no matter what the context.
Since it's most often used to imply that the person being asked is not US, but OTHER, it's hard to ask that question any more in any kind of benign way. I was sensitized to this when I worked with a young woman who had a mixed racial heritage. And given our family has a number of people who were adopted rather than birthed into the family, it's a question that we all learned to answer with "why do you want to know?"
And I liked what Melanie Sue Bowles said here:
When I was hired as the 1st female firefighter in a large department (waaay back in the 80's), my officers and fellow firefighters spent a lot of time and energy tip-toeing around what they presumed were my female sensitivities. While I spent a lot of time convincing them, mostly by example, that the ef-bomb and various other expressions didn't offend me. There was even some formal discussion about changing the word "manning" to staffing... absurd, in my opinion, and I said so. I recall one officer saying, "Okay, guys . . . and Melanie . . ." as he ran down the list of daily duties. I would speak up and say, "I'm one of the guys!" It was a strange and interesting time as we all found our footing on this new ground.
And I liked what John Davis Frain said too, and his quote from DLM:
I try to teach my kids a simple concept: You don't get to decide what offends other people. You only get to respect their choice. And they should do the same for you.
It's different for me, however, I'm your father and this house isn't a democracy. You'll get democracy when you graduate to the real world.
I loved this from DLM:
When someone says "I am hurt", to do anything but consider their pain is, simply, selfishness. If someone feels the question "What are you" is invasive and blunt, MY DESIRE TO KNOW is automatically irrelevant.
I need to remember that advice, because MY DESIRE TO KNOW guides me too far sometimes, and instead of listening to an answer and observing body language, I'm gearing up for my next question.
Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts here. My guess is there are some thoughts being held back because this is such a mammoth topic.
And Adib Khorram says it beautifully here:
It seems I missed a great discussion while I was flying halfway across the world. Hello from Cyprus! I would have been here earlier but Air Force One had priority on the tarmac in Philadelphia.
With a name like mine, I have been on the receiving end of "Where are you from?" More times than I can count. For me the problem is not the asking, it's when the answer I choose (usually Kansas City) is not sufficient. My background is mine to disclose, not yours to demand, which is how it can come across.
Most people mean it innocently and I give them the benefit of the doubt most of the time. But if can get exhausting.
And this from kdjames was terrific:
Anyway, it reminded me of my dad's approach to telling jokes. I grew up hearing a lot, and I mean A LOT, of jokes about Norwegians and Swedes (my ancestry). Ole and Lena, or Sven and Ole. It wasn't until I was much older, maybe college age, that I began to hear some of those exact same jokes, only they were about "polaks" or Jews or black people. It was a stunning realization. So I asked my dad about it. He said if you could take a joke about some other ethnicity/culture and tell it about your own, and it was still funny, then it was truly a funny joke. Otherwise, it was not and you should think about why you were telling it.
And yes, I know some hilarious Sven and Lena jokes, and they are funny when they're about Maria and Pedro, and Hortense and Humphrey, and Leia and Han, and even Adam and Steve.
This was a really interesting discussion and 141 comments later I'm left with the idea that our experiences inform our world view of course, but the danger is in not realizing that other people experience things much differently. Their world view, informed by their experiences isn't wrong, any more than mine is.
On Thursday the topic was new agents, and how they earned a living during the years they're building a list
How do I find out if shiny new agent is within 6 feet of your fin, my sharkly queen? That seems a reasonable standard for risking an unseasoned agent. If adorable new agent makes an offer, can we request they begin swimming within six feet of QOTKU's fin? Is "do you know who Janet Reid?" is an unreasonable question to ask an agent during "the call"? Ok, that would not sound kind to new agent, but how do you find out if new agent has that caliber of expert support behind them?
It would be rather awesome to be the writer that put a shiny new agent on the map so to speak.
well, if they work at New Leaf, they're sitting pretty close to me! And yes, it's ok to ask a new agent about the other agents in her/his office and how much help s/he gets. I'd be leery of an agent who's not IN the office with her mentor. Remote agenting is hard enough for experienced agents, and I think it's a serious disadvantage for the ones just starting out. I'm pretty sure there's a variety of opinions on that of course, but that's mine.
I liked what Lucie Witt said here:
Like Sam I signed with a newer agent. There were also new agents I struck from my query list, like Julie. Here's how I made my way through the decision:
While making my query list - I checked if the agency was well established. I checked if the newbie agent had intern experience or other valid pub experience. Yes to both and they went on my list.
During the call: I straight up asked about agency support and how closely she worked with her peers. I asked detailed contract questions (found in the Treasure Chest maintained by Colin) and paid attention to how well she could answer on her own.
Like so many things in writing and life, pay attention to your gut instincts.
And this was fun to read from Aurora:
I usually just lurk, but I wanted to comment here because the timing of this post couldn't have been better for me. I just received an offer of representation from a SNA, and all of your thoughts did wonders to help me figure out the pros and cons of the situation and figure out what the best decision would be.
(As it turns out, the SNA in question has an agenting pedigree that can be traced directly back to La Sharquesa herself (aka QOTKU), so I know I'm in good hands. I think I'll most likely accept the offer.)
I love the phrase "agenting pedigree"!
On Friday I talked about some of the reasons queries didn't get to yes recently:
I should start by saying that these are not the ONLY reasons I didn't ask for a full manuscript. I heard from one querier who had received a pass and wanted to know which of the six reasons was hers. In fact, none of them were about her query. I should probably make that more clear on these posts given what I know about you woodland creatures.
CarolynnWith2Ns cracked me up completely with this
Six reasons I said no to an agent recently.1.Agent is okay but about as captivating as Sleepy on a Nyquil overdose.2.Agent only handles how-to books for preschoolers.3.Agent accepts only over the transom snail mail queries February, 29th thru 31st.4.Signing with agent is so unappetizing it requires a celebration party of Saltines and Pepto-Bismol.5.Agent thinks Merriam Webster is a New Jersey housewife.6.Agent’s favorite song is Bruno Mars Uptown Funk and Wagnall.
And it was lovely to hear from luciakaku:
I'm alive! And still reading the blog, just lurking because man, moving to the other side of the globe is a lot of work. >.<
And this sentence from Julie Weathers stopped me dead in my tracks, only to scroll UP to see what had prompted it:
Joseph, I wish we lived closer. I would happily beat you.
Saturday was back to our pet pictures.
I'm not sure I'll ever fully recover from this visual provided by Kitty
When my daughter, Nurse G, had moved into her own place, she bought an iguana that was 5 feet long and named it Kalibanos (after the Raul Julia character in the 1982 movie TEMPEST). One day Kalibanos decided he wanted some exercise and jumped out a second floor window. Running through a neighborhood chasing after a large lizard looks like pretty much like the komodo dragon scene from the movie THE FRESHMAN.
I gotta tell ya, I watched that clip this morning, and it's 8:12am, I'm bleery-eyed and swilling coffee, and laughing so loud I'm afraid I'll disturb the neighbors. My favorite part has to be either the elevator or the mall announcement about the owners. Watch it. Five minutes.
This sentence from nightsmusic should be the prompt for a writing contest.
Killer now spends his days hanging by the glass, watching me. Like I'm his next meal.
I was really surprised by how many of you had hermit crab experiences to share!
And this from Dena Pawling bears repeating:
Last Friday morning, the lady across the street from me [I'll call her Mom] discovered her oven was on fire. She shouted at her girls [ages 5 and 10] to grab the dog and go stand by the mailbox.
PSA#1 – have a plan and be sure everyone knows what it is.
In the heat [pun not intended] of the moment, Mom forgot about the fire extinguisher in the kitchen, so she ran to the garage to retrieve that one.
PSA#2 – know where your extinguishers are.
She returned to the house less than 60 seconds later, to discover the fire had run across the ceiling and was now in the living room. She abandoned the fire extinguisher and ran outside [in her pajamas] to join her girls.
PSA#3 – it's not recommended to sleep naked.
The fire department showed up in less than 5 minutes, with no less than 4 trucks.
PSA#4 – sometimes it's beneficial to live in an area known for fires.
The fire was knocked down within 10 minutes.
PSA#5 – Firefighters are awesome.
The house is now red-tagged and surrounded by yellow “keep out” tape. The neighbors have donated money, clothes, toys, school supplies, storage boxes, and labor. The family is now staying with relatives.
Dad was at the house over the weekend, seeing what else he could salvage. With a major effort at keeping his composure, he told me that the one major nice thing that happened last Friday, was he always knew his neighbors were “neighborly”, but now he learned just how wonderful his neighbors were.
PSA#6 – be a good neighbor. You might make someone's entire day/month/year.
The insurance adjuster came out yesterday [one business day later. State Farm is quick] and indicated that even tho in the front, all that's noticeable is a black smoke stain around the front door, the house might be a tear-down.
PSA#7 – fires move FAST, even a “simple kitchen fire”, plus don't forget the smoke and water damage.
Mom and Dad rented that house from Mom's parents. The girls' bedrooms were on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen, so altho they lost much of their possessions, some were salvageable. Mom and Dad lost ALL of their furniture, clothes, and other possessions.
PSA#8 – buy renter's insurance.
And for those of you waking to news of an explosion in Chelsea, first let me say I'm fine, and everyone I know is fine. The location of the explosion is about six blocks from my old office at FPLM so very familiar to me. I learned about it from the comments on yesterday's blog post! Yes I read the blog before I read the news. I'm not sure what that says about me.
Thanks to all of you who reached out via Twitter or email to ask how I was doing.
Blog subheader: I'm keeping last week's since I forgot to actually post it!