Saturday, August 17, 2019


Artemis, The Luckiest Cat In Greece

I’m an avid reader of your info and once dabbled in writing a memoir about living on a yacht in Greece for 7 years.

One chapter would be entitled TLCIG which is the title given to Artemis, The Luckiest Cat In Greece, who we rescued as a tiny kitten from the Greek island of Evia. She lived happily on our boat for over two years. She is now living back in England with us. We have sadly had to give up the boating life but Artemis reminds us of all the adventures we had. 

Friday, August 16, 2019


This is Jed. I found him in a West Virginia petting zoo. His mama's a bobcat and his daddy's a raccoon.

He sheds profusely, bites tenderly and frightens the neighbors' dogs. He also slams doors at 4:30 a.m., which is when I wake up and write. He's an unpleasant cat, and I love him very much.

8-year lurker.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Call for Vacation post entries

The Reef has spoken and you are not of one mind.
Which is better than not being of sound mind.
(Although, the jury is still out on that!)

So, send me your favorite pet pics.
Or if you have a pair of pets, two.
If you run a horse rescue spa and rehab, send as many as you want.

Include his/her name!
Tell us how they came to live with you.
And of course, any nicknames you use.
Her Grace and Sleekness, the Duchess of Yowl also says to include any titles. (she does not mean books)

Send to JetReidLiterary@gmail (add the .com of course)
I'll let you know I've gotten it.

I'd like to start with folks who lurk; this is a great chance for us to meet you, say hello, and let you dip your toe in the comment pool.

Of course I want to hear from the active commenters too.

If you don't have a pet, you can still participate of course!
Send a picture of your plants!

Don't have plants?
Send a picture of your view!

In other words, it's pretty open.
Fire away.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Upcoming vacation!

I'm heading out on vacation starting Thursday afternoon!
I can't wait!!

I didn't really know about vacations, as in taking time off work, as a kid.
We had school vacations but my parents didn't really do the Take the Tykes to Disneyland kind of thing.

We took trips with Grandmama to the shore, but my parents stayed home...working.

So, discovering vacations was a real bonus of becoming an adult! It took a while to get the hang of it but I've got it now.

So, while I'm off reading, sunning my noggin, and avoiding any kind of green vegetable, what should we do here at the blog?

Animal pictures have been popular. Should we do that again?

Your suggestions welcome.  (Remember, the idea is I'm NOT HERE to do anything. Ideas about stuff we can put in the pipleine to post later.) Post in the comments section of this blog post.

Her Grace and Sleekness the Duchess of Yowl has a few ideas of course.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Pen name to conceal your identity

Hello! I was hoping you could address something in your blog. Cart before the horse, I know...but I've really been agonizing over it the closer I am to querying.

I am in law enforcement and have written a story that is set at my own department in a large, metropolitan city. Despite the size of the department, I am fairly well-known among the chain of command and am easily identifiable as an employee. The City is very concerned with how we promote ourselves privately, such as on social media, and some can't identify as members of the department while others are on national TV shows with their blessing. I expect The City would be very critical (or unsupportive) of a current employee writing even a fictional story set here, especially since it doesn't show city in the most favorable light (think: an apathetic response to uncovered corruption). I can't afford to quit my job, but this is my dream and I really believe in this story, so I am considering a pen name (which I don't want). My specific questions are:

Does the threat of having to use a pen name make a writer less appealing to an agent or publisher because she might not be able to promote the work as openly? 

How would one properly promote the work through a social media platform while trying to remain on the down low for job purposes? It seems like any decent amount of promotion would out the writer anyway.

A pen name isn't a problem.
For promotion, you create a new identity and use it to promote.
Lots of writer do this.

And this is a big however.
If you're using a pen name so people won't know who you are, trust me, someone will find out.
And they'll spill the beans.

Even one of the most closely held pen names I can think of (Robert Galbraith) was revealed due to someone whispering the secret to make themselves look like an insider.

I can't tell you the number of people who've sidled up to me to say they know Lee Child's "real name".

As if I cared at all.

But you DO care because your job is on the line.

You need to talk to an employment attorney first, and maybe your union if you're unionized.
Whether they can fire you from your job for writing this is one thing;
they can certainly make your life miserable if they choose.

AND if you haven't planned for this, it will happen at the Worst Possible Time, because that's the only time this kind of thing happens.

The last thing you want is to be blindsided AND unprepared.

It's not a problem on my end for you to use a pen name.
It's not a problem to promote.

Consider how much you're willing to risk on your end.

Monday, August 12, 2019

oil up the rodent wheel

I have just finished a book. Well, I have finished the first draft of said book, and am diving into the editing and rewriting process, banging my head against the wall and cursing humanity. As I get in deeper, doubts are starting to surface. My book is YA fiction--and it's 110K words. This I can fix, with skillful editing. But I don't think the story fits in less than 100K words, since I have multiple protagonists.

Yes. This is one of those books, and I need your advice.

I have no idea whether my book is good or not. I know that the bottom line is always quality, but things like word count and complexity definitely impact sales and chances of representation. I am passionate in this story, and I would love to get it published, but I know odds are slim. Am I shooting myself in the foot attempting to even get this published, much less as a debut novel? Can I even trust my own judgment that the story works how it is?

Here are my options, as I see them:

a) Edit the story down to be shorter and with fewer protagonists. No

b) Edit how much I think I need to, then trust the writing to hold the story. Yes

c) Stop worrying until I get opinions from the rest of the world, such as rejections letters or beta readers. Yes
d) Put the novel in my under-the-bed novel box and wait until I'm world-famous to publish it. No, NO. NO!

e) None, all, or some of the above? No

I know you can't magically tell how a book will do, but I'd love your professional input. Thanks.

No, I can't tell magically about how a book will do.
No one can.
Not even great agents and prescient editors.

Every book is acquired with high hopes.

Some find traction with readers.
A lot don't.

Not only is there no way to tell, there's NO PATTERN.
Long books with a multitude of characters can do just fine.
Simple books with fewer characters can tank.


And none of this is anything you can control. Write the story you want to write.
Then let it sit for a month.
Then go back and start revising.

In the month that you let it sit, READ.
The best way to learn about good writing is to read it.

Go read the books that librarians recommend. They have all sorts of list of Best of this, and Better of that.

The library is a writer's nuclear arsenal. With it you are powerful.
Without it, you're slinging arrows at random.

I know this isn't the answer you were looking for, but it is the answer.

PS  This question is a good sign you're on the right track. It means you're not one of the clueless folks who think golden prose falls from their pen; nary an edit nor revision needed.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

Its 71 here in NYC today, and the humidity is under 60 o/o
That's low for August, and I am embracing that anomaly with fervor!

I can turn the AC off; give the poor little beast a rest from the 24/7 it's been running most of the week.

I can open the windows.

I can get some cleaning done without needing to shower every hour!

But mostly, I'm going to just unplug and enjoy.

Yes, there will be some reading involved, I'm sure!

What delightful surprise greeted you today?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Country code what?

I’m based in the UK and have been querying a sci-fi novel for a little while now. I’ve mostly been looking at UK-based agents, but have recently come across some sci-fi-loving agents from the US on Twitter who I would love to query. I was wondering whether you had any thoughts on what hurdles an author might expect working with an agent overseas? Does the distance make it a lot harder for all involved?

If you want to know about hurdles faced with working with an agent overseas, you'll want to ask my clients.

Yes, I know Anchorage is NOT overseas!

From my perspective, the big problem is getting paid.
The US requires an ITIN and getting one isn't as easy as it should be.

Other than that, and the shorter communication window (as in don't call Australia at 2am!) it's pretty much like working with all my clients.

Promotion can be a problem.

But again, find writers who are doing this, Stuart Neville, comes to mind, and stalk them on Twitter to see what they do.

Bottom line: if you've got a good book and live on the moon, it's ok with me. I'll even come visit.


Friday, August 09, 2019

yes, there are idiot agents out there

If this has ever happened to  you, let me know.
I like to keep track of the idiots in the field.

Suggesting you whitewash your characters is not only rude and patronizing, it's terrible advice.
Almost everyone I know is looking for fresh voices and new stories.
#OwnVoices is a very hot ticket right now.

If an agent anyone EVER suggests this to you, please rise from your seat, affix him with the Shark Stare of Death and say "We're done here." No need for cursing, spitting, or pouring a drink on the agent. We'll lock them in a closet with angry bees later.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Don't assume the pass is about you. Or your book.

I recently had a conversation with a writer I admire and respect. They had a book on a topic I can't bring myself to touch.

Because I knew this writer I said as much.
I did so because I didn't want them to think it was a pass on the book or them.

On the other hand, writers who send queries, writers I don't know, just hear no.
I'm not able, and don't want,  to engage with them about why I will never take on a book on this topic, or will not take this book now.

Some things I don't want to read about.
Some things I simply can't.

And often, the more heartfelt the book, the more likely you'll hit this kind of snag with at least one agent.

I know your first response to a pass is to think "I suck. My book sucks. This writing thing sucks."

But your second response should be "Wait, I read about this on the SharkForBrains blog. Maybe she's just not up for fruit memoirs after she was horribly disfigured in a strawberry explosion last year."

Every agent has a Fruit loophole of one kind of another.
Most of us will never tell you what they are.
You just have to know they are there.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

yes, you missed out

Oh, you little woodland creature thinking "who would ever want to mail anything to MEEEE??"

Well, I did.
Yesterday, as it happens.

I have some extra copies of Laird Barron's Black Mountain, and Patrick Lee's Dark Site.
I looked through my address book for people I hadn't sent things to in a while.

But first,  I looked through my requested fulls for writers who are revising their novels. Nothing like a really good book to see how it's done.

And guess what?
A LOT of you don't put your physical address on your manuscripts.

I didn't email you to ask.
I just moved on to the next guy.

Which just underscores one of the Rules for Writers: BE REACHABLE.

Put your address on your manuscript.
Put your email (NOT just a contact form) on your website.

Link to your website or email with the name you use to comment here.

You don't know what you're missing if you aren't reachable.

Well, you do now.

Any questions?

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Rant: querying unfinished novels

Only after I emptied the coiffure-sized fire extinguisher on my spontaneously combusted hair, did I realize my NO!NO!NO! shriek reply on Twitter wasn't self-explanatory.

So, why is querying an unfinished novel a TERRIBLE idea?

Do I need to tell you it's harder than it looks to finish a book? If I do, this is your first book. More times than I care to remember has an "almost finished" novel been administered last rites and laid to rest in the steamer trunk.

You're querying something that hasn't been revised. If you finish and send it within a short amount of time, you haven't allowed enough time for revision. When I read it, I will know. And most likely you'll get a pass with "not fully cooked" as the gist of why.

Notice neither of these have to do with concept or execution. Or the writing. You can really shoot yourself in the foot by querying EVEN A GOOD NOVEL too early.

You're starting out on the wrong  foot. I request the full, you reply with "it's not ready yet" and the implied "I just wanted to test the waters" means wasting my time is ok with you. Also ignoring the very specific guidelines that are there to help you avoid rookie mistakes like this.

Those are NOT qualities I'm looking for in a client.

You're free to ignore any guidelines you want. The QueryPolice will not show up at your door. There's no Ignored the Guidelines Blacklist. But, it's also not effective.

Your goal isn't avoiding the QueryPolice; it's getting an offer of representation.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Flash Fiction contest early returns--FINAL now posted

UPDATE at bottom of post

I had to decamp from ChezYowl on Sunday, after almost two weeks of being with Her Grace. Needless to say, I needed your writing contest entries to cheer me up! A good dose of revenge, mayhem and clever really did the trick. Thank you!

Herewith the results:

Words I had to look up:
Colin Smith Cullion
Michael Seese annuli
Steph Ellis and Just Jan ganglion

Steve Forti is just sneering at me now.
I slink back to my hammock to dream up another plan.
In Virginia for a wedding and unable to enter this week. I bet that gives Janet a sense of demented serenity, thinking she has thwarted. I've got no time to think, no computer, literally typing off the cuff on my phone while waiting for the shower.

But I wanted to share a true story from yesterday when picking up the rental. I only can choose from intermediate class cars. I get to the parking lot and the only piece of crap ride left is a friggin station wagon. What a crock!

Guess who's rolling up to the ceremony in style.

Here are the standouts:

The Scarred King sighed. Beautiful Alliona! She rocked him to his foundations. What to write, to woo her?

Then: eureka!

In the scratching of the pen, he heard wedding bells.

Two weeks later, Alliona arrived.

With an army.

The Scarred King gulped.

Admitting to being the Scared King had always been too awkward. He'd never confessed he needed remedial English lessons. He'd thought spell check would save him.


Alliona came for him, sword swinging.

"Wait! I meant, you're pret-"

Abruptly, he was the wrong kind of smitten.

Folded in Alliona's breastplate, his note: "Your pride I be smitin! SK"

Two weeks later, Alliona arrived. With an army. 
Might just be the best two lines of the week.

And of course I loved the theme here.
Sharyn Ekbergh
Strange things have been happening around here I tell you. 
The cats were going crazy stalking and chomping insects all over the shack. Seemed like millions of the buzzing things.

Ramona nailed the last one. I trapped that bug under a glass, fetched my magnifier.

It was an adorable ant-sized creature. Pink wings and a green body with yellow feathers on its tiny head. It smiled, I tell you, smiled! It stood with pride but looked scared while it frantically waved a miniature sign.


The glass rocked off the counter. Ramona pounced. Swallowed.

Gotcha, she said


This story just tickled my humorous.
And such a lovely metaphor for the world today, too.

Ellis Tandy
Jenn traced the rocket-shaped scar on Cal’s foot and waited. Not a twitch.

With a touch of pride, he said, “Told you I’m not ticklish.”

“Just making sure. One giggle and they’ll throw you to the... you know.”

He knew.

“They’ll try anything. Chris Fleming videos.”


“Baby goats in diapers.”

“I’ll be strong.”

“Keep a straight face for ten minutes, and we’re set for life.”

Their eyes gleamed.

“Aaaaand our next contestant on Live or Laugh – Caaaaaaaal!”

Striding onstage to bloodthirsty applause, Cal filled his mind with miserable things and tried not to notice how hungry the lions looked.

Chris Fleming videos

I had to look up the Chris Fleming videos.
Did you click the link?

Marie McKay
The skin was scarlet; scars feathered and raised, constricted her movements. She stretched as far as she could for the alcohol, but they had put things just out of reach.
She forgave them a million times each day; they were weak, consumed by pride.
She reached again, her feet briefly leaving the ground. She took the bottle back to her quarters. There, she removed her frock, provoking her mind's ear to recall the tearing sounds of flesh.
Removing the lid from the bottle, she saturated a sheet with the alcohol before wrapping it round wounds where wings used to be.
This is the start of something exquisite, no?

Leona spied the shoes beside the door. The shower was running. Fingers to lips, she pointed—sofa, la-z-boy, curtains, credenza.
His family hid.
Oscar, his new boss, whispered, “Birthday and a promotion? Glad I gave him the afternoon off.”
She forced a smile. “Me too,” and stashed him behind the door.
She hung the banner—U. ROCK!—and let loose the balloons.
The shower cut off. Was she making a mistake? No. A lioness had pride.
Hushed giggles
Her husband yelped. The intern screamed and clutched her towel.
Leona smiled with demented serenity and whispered, “Fool me twice.”

It says nothing good about me that I just loved this!

Broccoli on her plate and napkin gathered neatly in her lap, she wondered vaguely if the knight still felt the prenup rider was worth the gold disc armor and twenty roc knaves he now theoretically owed her.

She wouldn’t have agreed to the rider at all, but she’d found him bold, pure-hearted, and eloquent, with an unflagging optimism about reformation that could have put even a mother to shame. In short, she murmured fondly, he is absolutely everything a knight ought to be.

[burp of smoke]

Er, “ought to have been.”
So much left unsaid, and so perfect!

We go early, walking up Montgomery with cars on 26 roaring below. Lionel sees the bloody foot first and lunges to sniff it but I manage to keep him back. Everyone up here has cameras but the closest house is being remodeled and I can see scaffolding blocks the view. "We'll alert someone," I tell Lionel. He twitches his scarred ears and I feel pride and shame. At home, Lionel alerts the sage bush by peeing on it and I think that's close enough for now. I get a tea and Lionel gets a bone from the good-boy crock.

And another entry with so much left unsaid, and tantalizing.
This is GREAT writing.

Amy Johnson
Ms. Pesterly’s arms were crossed. Again.
“Your quiz, Lonny. Now. You’ve had enough time.”

She greeted him as she often did: “See me before lunch.”
It wasn’t only hunger that had Lonny’s stomach turning as he approached her desk.
“Read Meredith’s answer to number five.”
“Stop. Drop. Roll.”
“Now yours.”
“Li on de grownd and rol. Herl rocks at scary villin til he falls. Pri de gas can away. Giv him a kick in groyn.”

Thirty years later:
The boy across the table smiled as he read the inscription: “To: Ricky—Never be discouraged. Lon Hunter.”
Do not get me started on Mrs. Pesterly.
Or her colleague Mrs. SniggerPuss who attends writing conferences to make sure writers know the One True Way.

Of course I'm dithering on picking the standout from these standouts.
It's not helping that they're all wonderful in different ways.

Plus I'm sulking at being thwarted so neatly (again!) by Steve Forti. Honestly, I may need to rebrand myself as a coyote.

Let me know your thoughts here: who got overlooked, who you think stands out.

Complete results later today.

Also, isn't Ramona just the bee's knees?


I've been beating my head against the wall today on a variety of things.
It was lovely to come back to the standouts and re-read them. A reminder that this really is all about the work. A reminder of how much I love my job. So, thank you!

And I just had to give this to Amy Johnson.
I think we're all in agreement on why.

Amy, email me with your preferred mailing address. A copy of Louise Penny's new book A Better Man is the prize IF you want it. (If you don't like/read crime, that's ok, I've got other choices for you.)


Sunday, August 04, 2019

Happy Sunday!

This week I had a conversation with two clients that led to book reccs. I love hearing about books from people whose taste I admire. One highlight of that was walking through the book room at Bouchercon some years back with Lee Child. Yes, he's a terrific writer, but he's also a reading fiend. I needed to buy a second suitcase to haul my loot home from that little tour.

What's a recent book you've read on the recommendation of a pal (or enemy!) and did you agree with his/her assessment?

And on a side note, are you using Amazon lockers? This was my first tentative toe in the water this week, and I love it!

I picked up these three books at 3:30 Sunday morning. Didn't have to talk to a soul and no one had to dig around for a package.  Whoever came up with this idea is a genius!

Contest results tomorrow...I hope!

Friday, August 02, 2019

Feline Flash Fiction writing contest--purrfect for your weekend

The Duchess of Yowl was delighted to discover there is a new movie all about cats. Delighted enough to insist on tickets to every showing today.

So, while I'm elbowing her out of my popcorn, let's have a writing contest!

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

To compete for the Steve Forti Deft Use of Prompt Words prize (or if you are Steve Forti) you must also use the PHRASE: "demented serenity."

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: lion/lionessis ok, but lion/lipton 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 8/3/19 at 8:11am
Contest closes:  Sunday 8/4/19 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

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

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?
Not yet! 

Rats! Too late! Contest is closed.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

I should have subscribed to Publishers Marketplace BEFORE querying

 I was going to send you a pic of our Newf with a visiting Bernese/Pyrenees mix puppy in order to cause fluffiness-overload induced spontaneous combustion (your only known weakness) and rid the writing community of your menace forever, but Newf wouldn't cooperate. 

She took one look at everyone paying attention to the puppy instead of her and went to sulk in the bathroom. I tried putting her on a leash to get her near him; at ten feet away she actually braced her feet and started telling me off. Loudly. She's still mad, four days later.

Next, queries. In hindsight I queried before my manuscript was ready, without nearly enough input from other writers into either the pages or the query, and without really having a good idea of which agents I should be querying. 

I'd consulted several online lists of agents and gathered names as I read agent-related tweets and blog posts. Once I had a list of potential agents I researched each one online with a checklist. That meant I read each of the following, if available:

- Submission guidelines on their agency page
- Their page on
- Their social media posts on Twitter and Facebook
- Any interviews/podcasts they'd done that could be found with a simple Google search
- Some google searching on the list of books they'd already sold, if any.

I then queried any agent that was open and said they represented my genre, Adult Sci-Fi. It took me on average about 30 minutes to figure out if an agent was one I wanted to query. Much of the time I'd read things like "I rep all commercial genera fiction" on their agency page then read "but I hate Sci-Fi" in an interview they'd done three years ago. Actually querying 26 agents this way meant I did research on about 70. Those 26 queries/agent pitches at conferences got me one request for a partial, which was promptly (and deservedly) rejected, and one request for a full after I'd fixed the obvious mistakes. That's still out there, so fingers crossed...

There is one bright spot in the wreckage though. I've made very significant revisions to my MS and I got help to un-screw my query, so I can re-query the agents I sent a hot mess a year ago. 

In order to make sure I didn't repeat mistakes during the salvage operation I figured this time I'd spring for a month of Publisher's Marketplace.

Twenty five dollars and an hour of research showed me just how much harder I'd made my life by querying without it.

- Eight of the agents I'd queried were good prospects.
- Ten agents didn't rep anything even remotely close to what I'd written. Querying them was a waste of time guaranteed to result in confidence-battering rejection.
- In 'other' I found three via their social media presence the first time around. A PM search gave me cause to doubt that they were even legit agents, at least recently. I also left the comments in there in the hope that they'll help some other writer about to go on query brace for the really sub-optimal responses they're going to get.

In addition to a wealth of info I couldn't get even being pretty diligent without it, PM let me cut down my search time to something like ten minutes per agent. A simple check for previously sold books, and what they are, is an effective screen most of the time. Even if I was still busing tables for minimum wage I'd try and pick up a few extra hours and subscribe for a month; I'd save that much time on research and also a heck of a lot of sanity.

Equally important, a PM search allowed me to conclusively prove you exist. That finally put to rest the vicious rumor that 'Janet Reid' is really an online persona created by Jeff Somers so it'd look like he has somebody to talk about dino porn with while drunk. Figured you'd want to know!


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Frisking your query

How much do agents research writers before making an offer? Are there other factors involved like a quick google scan? Reviewing the writer's website? Scrutinizing criminal records?
That guy outside your house in the fedora chomping a cigar? That's my undercover writer investigator. He goes through your garbage to find out what kind of breakfast cereal you eat; your preferred brand of laundry detergent; and, most important, tallies the number of empty beer cans.
(Back in the day, when one of my parents had a high visibility job in a small town, they'd take their empties to the city dump only under cover of darkness.)
Yes, I'm pulling all four of your little rodent-wheel running legs here.
While we do poke around a little, how much depends on how many (if any) red flags there are.
For sure I will click any social media links you include in your query.
I will check your website too.
If you don't have any of those things, I type your name into google. 
I'm not trying to find out if you used to be a mermaid, or if you are an alien from space, or if you  vote the straight Know-Nothing party ticket.
What I do look for is what you post on social media. Not so much the political stuff, although some of my ilk do for sure; I'm mostly looking to see if you're ranting about agents, querying and the beast that is trade publishing. 
I specifically look to see if you've published something and left it out of the query. Or if you had an agent before and left it out of the query.
And I only look when I'm interested in a project.

Any questions?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Do agents need permission to sign clients?

When an agent finds a manuscript gem, can they make an offer independently? Meaning, do they need the agency's okay first? What about junior agents, or an assistant just breaking into the business and dipping her toe into agenting?
What are you worried about here?

There is no industry standard, and any agency practice is specific to the agency itself.
So, the answer is: it depends.

Obviously someone very junior will most likely need advice.
Whether s/he is required to get permission is something you can't know, and an agent most likely wouldn't tell you.

If a prospective client asked me that, I'd be mortally offended, so be careful here.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Her Sleekness, The Duchess of Yowl would like a word

The Duchess of Yowl's patented Serve Me stare

Thumbs has her sadly no-whiskered face in a book this morning.
She's ignoring me.
This is totally unacceptable.

Although, there was sushi delivered for dinner last night, so she is not totally in the Doghouse. YET.

She says she has to read slowly cause it's so good and she'll be done soon because the book is the prize in the next writing contest.

The writing contest topic should of course be ME.

While I wait for her to get her priorities straight, you may tell me how beautiful I am.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Happy Sunday!

Oh yes yes yes!
I got a bag full o'books from Minotaur recently and tucked in to the bundle was Louise Penny's A Better Man.

I'm slumped on the couch, reading.

I realized just this minute (12:22pm) that this book is NOT yet published. Expect it to be the prize in the next writing contest. Honestly I'm Wile E Coyote and Steve Forti is the Roadrunner.

What are you doing this lovely Sunday afternoon?

And if you have any insight in to where July has gone, let me know.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

clean underpants

Ok, the real title of this post should be  Clean Underwear, but I think the word underpants is so hilarious, I use it whenever I can.  This probably tells you more than you want to know about me.

The blog post title derives from Mom's advice: always wear clean underwear cause you don't want the ER nurses to see your skanky drawers if you get hit by a bus.

The query letter equivalent of clean underpants is all the stuff  that isn't about your book.

1. Your email.
Calling yourself HotpantsHoney212 is obviously not the way to go.

But what about FurBabyMom?

Or Nettie718? (My sisters were DELIGHTED to find a long dead great-grandmama named Janet, who was called Nettie by her family. Me, not so much.)

Not terrible, but not professional.
You want to be taken seriously here. Present a serious face to the world. That doesn't mean leave your sense of humor at home. Far from it.

But use your name if you can.

2. Your social media bio.
Did you call yourself a wannabe writer?
A newbie?
Call yourself a writer.
Say New to the #WritingCommunity if you want to connect that way.
But there's no law that says you have to announce your newness.

3. Your website
Do you have images of typewriters, feather pens?
No No NO. Not even if you write historical fiction.

If you don't have images of you, or your books, use images of where you live, or your dog/cat/alligator.  (Maybe Chicago will let you have Chance the Snapper)

4. Your business cards.
Are they cute?
Get new ones.
Unless you're an illustrator and it is YOUR art.

Or you write about unicorns and the image is of your book cover.

In other words, cute if you own it, but you can't rent it or lease it.

Make sure you get new ones AFTER you get a new email address.

4. Woefully outdated social media posts
If your last tweet was 2012, or you haven't blogged since 2013, or anything on your social media sites isn't current, either fix it (ie update, and continue to post) or take it down.

The only thing worse than no social media presence is one that screams "I don't wanna do this, and you can't make me."

There's a LOT in publishing that isn't under your control.
The face you present to the world IS.

Any questions?

Friday, July 26, 2019

First lines/killer lines mark up -FINISHED (+some add'l revisions)

Here are the Killer First Line offerings.

I'll be marking them up throughout the day. Markup is done.

You're free to disagree with my assessments.

You may suggest changes to the offerings but the normal respectful tone of the comments on this blog will be enforced.

The people who posted their work here are incredibly brave.
(I can hear the panicked wheezing from here from a lot of them.)

Please do not email your entries just to show me what you wrote. 
I will not critique them and you will annoy me. 

UPDATES (what were you doing at 4:00 this morning??)
are Green

I really loved this insight from Stacy:

In an opening, I don't want to read a scene of a character brushing her teeth unless there's a burglar behind the bathroom door. 

Ok, here we go:

AJ Blythe said...

Erin Cooper read the petition and each word threw her a little more off balance. It would take more than a tyre weight to centre her again. The cloying scent of grease and stale beer flowed around her and scraped over her taste buds. Choking on the heavy air she turned and pushed her way out the doors of the Outback Hotel.

Nope. You've got your main character reading something. That's very passive. Not a gripper. Drop a wrench on her head.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Our mother wasn’t the kind you went looking for if she was missing. First because she’d be mad as heck if you found her and she didn’t want to be found and second because she always showed up in a day or two anyway.

So I wasn’t too alarmed that Sunday when I realized we kids were alone.

Yup. You instantly want to know WHY, and you're eager to learn more. That's what you want.

Kitty said...

Otis Pike would never know how much he helped Doris Pratt by dropping dead at The World Famous Bader’s CafĂ©. In fact, by a strange turn of events, just about the whole town of Dunder Mills was helped by his death, thanks to Doris who set things in motion, although “The Boys” would bicker over the who part for a long time.

Nope. This isn't bad, but the first sentence is too long to pack a wallop.

Consider this revision: Otis Pike did Doris Pratt a favor by dropping dead at The World Famous Bader's Cafe.

20 words in the original. 16 in the revision. That doesn't seem like much till you realize four words is 20% of that sentence.

Now, the whole art of revision is you don't stop at one.

Let's revise the revision:

Otis Pike did Doris Pratt everyone a favor by dropping when he dropped dead at The World Famous Bader's Cafe.

This doesn't change the word count much but it punches up the sentence. Always look for ways you can give the sentences more oomph. Changing -ing form verbs to -ed form is usually a good start.

Now, after reading the comments, we can revise once again to REALLY get it going:

Otis Pike did Doris Pratt everyone the whole town a favor by dropping when he dropped dead at The World Famous Bader's Cafe. 

Now, eagle-eyed readers will notice that the -ing form is back. Yes, I changed my mind.
Why? I still think -ing form verbs aren't as punchy as  -ed, but it's always always always the right choice to use what's best for the specific sentence. I thing dropping dead here works better. Of course, check back later, revising is also code for dithering.

Gail said...
"Get that stone out of his hoof, will you?” I said. We were nearly there, and out of water. Only three more miles, but still a big highway tunnel to get over. Not really a tunnel, I guess, but what else would you call an arched concrete barrier put over a highway to keep the rabble out? Map says it’s the old PA turnpike extension, I-476. I don’t care. Carbon fiber fencing is nearly impenetrable, and even without barbed wire, horses can’t climb.

Nope. There's no sense of tension in getting a stone out of a hoof. I've carried around a hoof pick or ten myself back in my cowgirl days.  I'm a little more intrigued by the last clause horses can't climb, but it's still not enough here. My guess is you're starting too early in the story. Where does something happen? That's the start of the story.

julie.weathers said...
My hair was pinned up neatly off my neck as might befit a woman bound for execution. I wasn't, of course. Bankers can't kill me. They can only steal my property, though for a woman of the land, that would be as good as death.

Yup. The only change I'd make is deleting of course because it undercuts the tension here.  You don't need to tell your reader everything. Let us find out as we read.

nightsmusic said...
Duncan stood over the body of his wife, full with their unborn child, covered in blood from the attack. Dead. So very dead. He’d watched the life in her steal away, slowly, horrible in its relentless path, knowing there was naught to be done to save her. The attack had been too swift and vicious. The blood groove on his claymore dripped as relentlessly as her death.

 nope. This is all exposition. The wife and child are dead. That's all we get here. No sense of why or what's coming next. 

Knowing now that Duncan did not kill his wife, let's do some revising:

Duncan stood over found the body of his wife, full with their unborn child, covered in blood from the attack. Dead. So very dead. He’d watched the life in her steal away, slowly, horrible in its relentless path, knowing there was naught to be done to save her. The attack had been too swift and vicious. The blood groove on his claymore dripped as relentlessly as her death. 

If we take out the part about him watching her bleed to death, it underscores that he's not the  man who killed her. 

I purposely left out anything like "the blood dripped like his growing thirst for vengeance" even though I was itching to put it in cause it would be over-wrought.

Just Jan said...
The calendar proclaimed it Good Friday, but there was nothing good about that day. The weather was typical for Ivy Lake--unsure if it should rain or snow, it did neither. Instead, dingy clouds swirled over the treetops, sending thin offshoots to settle in the nooks and crannies of the lawn. I sat at my cherry writing desk staring at my phone. When it roused me again with its insistent ringing, I decided against answering. It had done enough for one day.

Nope. This is classic passive opening (weather, phone, reading, writing.) Nothing is happening. The WRITING is fine here, but the story isn't engaging yet.

french sojourn said...
“All rise, for the honorable Judge Silvers,” the Bailiff said, watching George and the plaintiff rise.

Judge Silvers sat down and nodded for them to sit.

“Morning gentlemen, rough night?” she looked at the two men, and kind of focused on George and his grease stained coveralls. Her eyes moved to the gallery and paused. “I see we have a few guests in the courtroom.

Nope, but with some revision, we can  improve it a bit
“All rise, for the honorable Judge Silvers,” the Bailiff said, watching George and the plaintiff rise.

Judge Silvers sat down and nodded for them to sit.

“Morning gentlemen, rough night?” Judge Silvers said, looked at the two men, looking at the plaintiff but  and kind of focused on George and his grease stained coveralls. She looked toward the gallery and paused. “I see we have a few guests in the courtroom.
This still isn't the most gripping opening but it avoids moving the characters on stage. A good opening has the characters already on stage doing whatever dastardly things their World Domination plan requires of them. 

Dena Pawling said...

Father never gave her a name. "You're nothing but a smudge," he'd said, with extra emphasis on the word smudge. “A smudge does not have a name.”

He'd flashed the thought at her with so much force, she staggered back as if he'd slapped her.

That was the day, several years ago, when she'd asked to go to school.

not bad, but can be better.
Consider this revision:

Father never gave her a name. "You're nothing but a smudge," Father said, with extra emphasis on the word smudge. “A smudge does not have a name.”

Reading the comments, the smudge is the main character.
So, let's convey that here. Right now, it's not clear at all.

Her father never gave her a name. "You're nothing but a smudge," he'd said, with extra emphasis on the word smudge. “A smudge does not have a name.”

He'd flashed the thought at her with so much force, she staggered back as if he'd slapped her.

That was the day, several years ago, when she'd asked to go to school.

Now, knowing that this is middle grade fantasy, let's do something bold here and change the point of view:

Her My father never gave her me a name. "You're nothing but a smudge," he'd said, with extra emphasis on the word smudge. “A smudge does not have a name.”

He'd flashed the thought at me with so much force, I staggered back as if he'd slapped me.

That was the day, several years ago, when she'd asked to go to school.

 That last sentence just doesn't sit right. I'm not sure why.

When that happens, I try something else, even if I don't think it's right. Sometimes enough not-quite-rights lead me to the sentence that is right. 

That's revision in a nutshell: trying, changing, trying again.
You can see why 17 revisions is just the start.

Cogs said...
Sarah Babbage’s last words would not be whispered, gasped, shrieked, or muttered. They wouldn’t be a plea. Or a prayer. A curse. Or a question. In fact, they wouldn’t be spoken at all. They would be typed. Frantically. On the bloodstained keyboard of her iMac Pro. And if Sarah had known she would write her last words on a computer, just like the hundreds of thousands of lines of code she had programmed in her life, she might have been amused. But, at the moment, last words were the last thing on her mind. She was running late and she needed to be home.

nope. Nothing happening here but foreshadowing. Because you're writing about something in the future you can't even change to present tense to give it more pizazz: 

 Sarah Babbage’s last words would were not be whispered, gasped, shrieked, or muttered.

Unknown said...
She remembered.

It couldn’t be possible. It shouldn’t be possible.

The hair-thin dividing line between genuine memories and created ones gets fuzzy after a while, especially when you’re young. All the gaping blind spots in a four-year-old’s memory gradually get filled in by a overly-helpful brain unable to tolerate ignorance or ambiguity.

But, possible or not—helpful or not—Rhia remembered everything.

Nope. But some judicious pruning will help.
She remembered.

It couldn’t be possible. It shouldn’t be possible.

The hair-thin dividing line between genuine memories and created ones gets fuzzy after a while, especially when you’re young. All the gaping blind spots in a four-year-old’s memory gradually get filled in by a overly-helpful brain unable to tolerate ignorance or ambiguity.

But, possible or not—helpful or not—Rhia remembered everything.

Line implies divide. Blind spots don't need to be modified by gaping.
Always look for ways to say things with less.

Best writing advice ever: “I’m not going to say anymore than I have to, if that”--Chili Palmer

KariV said...

The ash around him reeked of judgement and shame. Ronan scooped another pile of what, until recently, had been his father’s workshop onto a borrowed shovel and, scoop by scoop, moved that pile to cart that would ferry the remains of their livelihood to the compost heap.

The first line is pretty good. Then it's a bit of a splat. Shovelling and scooping isn't all that engaging.
Some judicious pruning will help too.
This is the pruning you only see on the 17th revision.

The ash around him reeked of judgement and shame. Ronan used a borrowed shovel scooped to scoop another pile of what, until recently, had been his father’s workshop onto a borrowed shovel and, scoop by scoop, moved that pile to the cart that would ferry the remains of their livelihood to the compost heap.
 Without all the markup:
The ash reeked of judgement and shame. Ronan used a borrowed shovel to scoop another pile of what had been his father’s workshop into the cart that would ferry the remains of their livelihood to the compost heap. 
I subscribe to the less is more theory of writing.
It's entirely possible to be a great writer and NOT subscribe.

Just because someone is an agent or an editor (or a beta reader, or a person who bought your book!) does not make them an oracle. Give yourself time to thoughtfully consider suggested changes and revisions before discarding. I get a hefty number of emails starting out "six weeks ago you were an idiot. Now you seem to have regained your senses."

Carolynnwith2Ns said...
It was Tuesday. I had to be out by Friday.

For six months I’d been drifting on the mercy of a generous New Yorker who let me borrow her apartment in the city for free. She was doing a favor for a friend. I wasn’t the friend, my husband’s lawyer was.

Good but a little paring is in order:
It was Tuesday. I had to be out by Friday.

The tension is in the second sentence so let's start with it.
The perfection of this lies in the fact that not only is there tension here, there's tension in the last clause (my husband’s lawyer was.) as well. 

This is very good writing, and good story-telling.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

“The world’s our oyster?” The barista poured a white foamy fern on the espresso. “Ha! Not for us. Here you go. I’ll let the boss know you’re here.”

Addison McDonel accepted her macchiato, grateful for the warmth against chilled fingers.

Quietly, she skirted other waiting customers. What she really wanted to do was give the barista a good shake, tell him, 'Wake up! Frame the quote out of context.'

Starting with a saying is a misstep.
Pouring coffee, drinking coffee, using coffee to warm up are all to passive to engage our interest.
Compounding this is I don't understand the last line.

Look farther into the chapter to find a better starting point.

Tamlyn said...

Marietta Pereira was watching her friends argue outside a tiny cafe in inner city Bourneham when unfamiliar magic twined around her. Nausea churned her stomach; the tempting aroma of coffee and cake smelt, for a moment, like garbage.

"Marietta? What's the matter?" Sarah turned immediately.

Fi rolled her eyes. "She's fine. She's distracting us."

Marietta ignored them. It had definitely been magic. It skittered across her skin, and the taste of honey lingered in her mouth.

 Nope. Watching anyone is low energy.
Some revising here will help:

Marietta Pereira was watching her friends argue outside a tiny cafe in inner city Bourneham when unfamiliar magic twined around her. Nausea churned her stomach; the tempting aroma of coffee and cake smelt, for a moment, like garbage.

"Marietta? What's the matter?" Sarah turned immediately.

Fi rolled her eyes. "She's fine. She's distracting us."

Marietta ignored them. It had definitely been magic. It skittered across her skin, and the taste of honey lingered in her mouth.
 Starting with dialogue is usually a good choice.
Starting where your reader does NOT know what's happening is usually a very good choice. You need enough info so we're not totally lost, but not so much we aren't eager to find out what's going on.

NLiu said...

There was a time when I wanted to disappear into a black hole. I guess plenty of people feel like that. For most people, it doesn't happen. Not literally, anyway. But for me - well, it was different.

Nope. Look farther into the paragraph for something happening. If you don't want to do that, consider this revision: 

There was a time when I'd wanted to disappear into a black hole. I guess plenty of people feel like that. For most people that's a metaphor it that doesn't happen. Not literally, anyway. But for me - well, it was different.
Again, say only what you have to, if that.

Melissa said...
Sol Chapa was born with a different first name, but being the first son after four daughters lent itself to the nickname Solo Veno—Spanish for he came alone. The moniker, granted by his grandfather, stuck. Despite his mother’s protests, his first name was quickly forgotten as Sol proved a far more fitting attribution to the boy who preferred a mile between him and civilization.
Starting with why someone has a name is not engaging. It comes without context. There's no real bit of humor to leaven it. This does not make us wonder what happens next.

That last sentence though has some potential. Consider
Sol was a boy who preferred a mile between him and civilization.
Now we have something interesting to gnaw on!

I find a lot of really good sentences are buried in paragraphs. What that says to me is you can write a killer first sentence; you just can't recognize it when you do. I find that utterly hilarious of course since it's so counter intuitive.

Kelly said...

Henry could see the lit-up neon Flashbacks marquee halfway down the block. Even in daylight the sign flashed bright enough that anyone could notice it, not that many people did. Especially not people on this street, smack dab in the middle of New York City. Most of the people here had someplace important to be. They checked their phones while they walked, swinging brief cases and wearing dark suits, even though it was the first week of June. Henry dodged out of their way. He had someplace important to be, too. If there weren’t so many people, he might have run. Instead, Henry picked up his pace to a brisk walk. For every person he dodged without bumping into them, he gave himself ten points. If he accidentally hit them, minus ten. By the time Henry got to the entrance of Flashbacks he was up to 170 points and had only gotten three angry watch its – a new personal best!

Nope. This is set up to the main action. Get us to the good stuff. START with the good stuff. This isn't bad writing, it's just not good story telling.

Ellen said...

Penny walked through the propped-open front door and paused, picking at her sweat-damp shirt. “I think your next door neighbor is a racist,” she said.

Leora tried to turn her attention from the empty living room to the words her twenty-six-year-old daughter had just said, but her brain refused to focus. This happened a lot lately. Since her husband died eight months ago, her cerebrum had a tendency to short circuit.

You have a good line, you just didn't start with it: “I think your next door neighbor is a racist,” she said. 

Let's do some renovating here:

“I think your next door neighbor is a racist,” Penny said to her mom. Penny walked through the propped-open front door and paused, picking at her sweat-damp shirt. “

Leora tried to turn her attention from the empty living room to the words her twenty-six-year-old daughter had just said, but her brain refused to focus. This happened a lot lately. Since her husband died eight months ago, her cerebrum had a tendency to short circuit.

Explaining why things are the way they are can bog down a narrative. 
Explain only what you need to. Leora isn't as acute as she was; do we need to know why right this very minute?

Explaining why things are the way they are is for documentaries and science classes.
Being lured into a story to find out what's going on, that's what we're doing here.

Sure you need some exposition, but where to put it in the novel is the artistry of story telling. When you read books, keep your writers' journal at hand and list the books that know how to deftly lay in expositions and explanation.

KDJames said...
The first time she saw him he was shirtless and wearing a kilt. The second time, he was wearing a custom-tailored suit and destroying her grandfather on the witness stand. She didn't much like him either time.

It did nothing to change her opinion when the third time she saw him she was on her knees in the grass, wrestling an 80-pound black lab, while he stood there with worn jeans snug across narrow hips and a short-sleeved polo clinging to the muscles of his arms and chest, lips curved in a half-smile.

She was irritated with him before he even spoke.

Nope. This isn't bad writing at all. But, it's like snapshots. That first sentence is too static to entice me. He's a handsome beast, got it.

That last sentence though, that's the keeper. It leaves you wondering why she's annoyed with him. Starting with that and revising the first two paragraphs is an option. Since we don't know what follows we cant know it it would be a better fit.

That's the end of the first revision.
I'll probably slink back around later tonight for a re-read to see what I missed. 

Update: And I did!

Do you have a killer first line? (yes, you need one)

Let's find out.
Post your first paragraph in the comment section below. Six sentences,70 words are general guidelines.

I"m going to cut off entries pretty early so don't dawdle.

Then I'm going to post the entries and make pointed comments.
If you don't want pointed comments, DO NOT POST.

This is not the QueryBunny!

Well, fire away, but probably better to post first and ask questions later.

8:13 update: comments closed for now. I'll take a look and see if we can reopen but 20+ seems like a lot to assess.

More soon. And will be posted here. 

Post is up now.
I'm working my way through this a couple entries at a time as I take a break from tormenting clients with Brilliant Ideas for World Domination.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

I've used this towel 8 times. Can I throw it in?

How many rejections does one need to have before they have a serious rethink? I did take a reputable course and polished my submission package, but I have already had 8 rejections. (A)

What is bothering me is people talking about how they sent out 10 queries and received request from 5 of them. (B) Some say keep querying till someone says yes, others say if you send out fifteen and are not getting the fabled 20% request rate, something is wrong. (C)

I guess this is all speculative, but is there an answer somewhere in the middle?

(B) I don't always believe people who say they have a 50% request rate UNLESS it's something like #PitMad where a lot of agents are seeing something at the same time.

People put the best spin on things, or outright prevaricate, to help them deal with the cold hard reality of rejection. I don't blame them for this coping strategy. I use rose-colored glasses to look at the world most days too.

But YOU should not take this as some kind of benchmark or guideline. It absolutely is not.

(A) Eight rejections isn't even a good start. You need 100 before you get to drink bourbon for breakfast and contemplate waiting tables at a truck stop in Alaska as your next career move.

I've signed and SOLD books that had 70+ rejections when I saw the query. While 70 isn't the norm, it can and does happen.

(C) Any kind of "stop if you haven't hit this percentage" misses a very cold slurp of reality soup: Sometimes you're writing in a category I know I can't sell. At ThrillerFest I had two VERY painful conversations with fiercely talented writers who heard exactly that: good writing, dead category. Yes, we were serving bourbon for breakfast that day.

The existential question here is How Long Do I Have to Do This before I can throw in the towel, start over again and NOT HAVE TO QUERY for a while? The answer is you never get to stop.

Rejection never goes away in publishing. Not for you. Not for me. Not for publishers who have high hopes for next smash bestseller only to see copies pouring back to the warehouse, unsold and unloved.

If you have a nagging doubt that maybe your query isn't as strong as you think, get pro eyeballs on it.

And by pro I mean an agent with a track record who's sold more than five things in your category. An agent is better for this than an editor. An editor knows good work; an agent knows what she can sell.

But also remember that agents, like all readers, have different tastes and preferences. Try to connect with one who has sold books you like.

Agents at conferences (like T/fest) often meet with writers; agents auction off this kind of thing all the time.

That's what I was doing at ThrillerFest; they lassooed me; tied me to a chair, and allowed writers to quiz me ruthlessly about their work. It was terrifying I assure you.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

why do agents still ask for partials?

I and doing some research and wondered if you could tell me why editors and agents prefer to view only the first chapter, first 30-50 pages, etc. over receiving the full manuscript? Do you feel it breaks the flow when you read those first pages, are drawn in and want to read more, and then have to reach out to the author to request the remaining pages?

This is a holdover from the Paper Days when authors had to pay to send pages, and pay to get them back. Agents didn't ask for the whole thing in order to save money. And frankly, shelf space on our end of things.

And yes, I do think it breaks the flow to have to stop and ask for more.

The best example of that is when Patrick Lee queried me (on paper!) and I emailed him and asked for the first fifty (I was young and foolish) and when I got to page 49 I called him up and said "I'm waiting right here till you send it."

And then I called the office and said "I won't be in today."
And then I read his book and called him up and said "Please god tell me no one has gotten their claws into you yet?" and he laughed, and I breathed a sigh of relief and we were off to the races.

I never asked for a partial again.
But, I've never seen a book as compelling as Patrick's was either.

Monday, July 22, 2019

It's not bad writing, but...

As I work through quite a few queries and pages from ThrillerFest, one thing I've noticed is a tendency for writers to stop the narrative and settle in for a bit of description.

It's like a quarterback pushing pause to discuss the team colors with the offensive line, rather than running with the ball. Or better yet THROWING the damn ball.

[Yes I have been watching too much of All or Nothing and no one is more surprised than I.]

Description has its place.
In the middle of a conversation is often not the right one.

Her Grace the Duchess of Yowl emerged from the afghan to find Thumbs typing at the table, not preparing her overdue tuna.

"Yes, Your Grace?"
"It's lunch time. Why aren't you slicing up my tuna?"

Thumbs was seated at a table awash in discarded sections of the New York Times, crossword puzzles with one or two blank squares, several stained with blood.  A coffee cup hid behind an orchid. The orchid was ethereal, clearly above the fray.

"Sorry Your Grace, I'll get right on that. I just need to ...'
"Are you suggesting something is more important than my lunch?
"Ah, no Your Grace. Never. On it."

The description of the table isn't needed, and the bit about the orchid is really out of place. It stops the narrative cold.

Now, stopping the conversation is not always a bad thing. Sometimes your readers need a brief pause.

And, description CAN move the plot forward.
Her Grace the Duchess of Yowl emerged from the afghan to find Thumbs typing at the table, not preparing her overdue tuna.

"Yes, Your Grace?"
"It's lunch time. Why aren't you slicing up my tuna?"

Her Grace glanced around her royal suite. Crossword puzzles were stacked untidily on the coffee table. The scent of that foul liquid Thumbs couldn't seem to live without in the morning still hung in the air. Thumbs herself was slow to obey.  It was so hard to get good staff these days.

The trick here is to recognize the difference.
The ONLY way to do that is to revise with a calculating eye: does your reader need this info? Is this info in the right place? Does it develop or reveal character, or move the plot forward?

This is the kind of problem you probably won't see in editorial notes because what I see as I read is pacing problems, NOT why you have the pacing problems.

Finding this takes HOURS of work and thinking.  I can do about five pages in one sitting of 30 minutes, and only about twice a day. You may be able to work faster since it's your book, but you can NOT finish  this kind of revising in a week.

The reason it takes so long is it you can't just read for this. You have to stop at the end of every sentence and assess.

Well, I have to do that. Maybe you don't. If you don't, please share your secret!

When people revise too fast they're thinking I'll lose interest if they wait too long.
The EXACT reverse is true: revise too fast and I have diminished (if any) interest in reading it again.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


It's hot.
It's Sunday.
I think I've been absorbed by my couch.

Even the Duchess of Yowl, a skilled conversationalist is quiet.

How's your Sunday shaping up?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Return to the Duchess of Yowl

The Duchess of Yowl is invisible.

I am faced with a dreadful conundrum.
The Duchess of Yowl's royal heating pad was off when I arrived.
I forgot to turn it on.
Thus the only warm thing in her Royal Suite is ME.
She's been cuddling up with me a lot. Extra petting time, extra purring.

So now that I've realized the heating pad is OFF, do I turn it ON?

Friday, July 19, 2019

10 Truly Nutty Things You Can Believe (but please don't)

A recent email conversation with a writer led her to say "just tell me if I'm being too crazy here."
I had to disappoint her with the news that not only was she NOT crazy, she was going to have to try MUCH harder to get in to the Crazy Corral.

If you wanted to be fitted for Crazypants, here are the guidelines:

1. Believe that my lack of IMMEDIATE reply means your writing is so bad I'm just trying to craft the most delicate of let-downs.

Why you're nuts: I don't write delicate let-downs (ever) and I'm busy making other writers crazy. I haven't gotten to you yet. Chill.

2. Believe that if this query doesn't secure representation, your writing is clearly bilgewater of the most foul degree.

Why you're nuts: I turn down good and publishable writing every day for reasons that would not surprise you. So does every agent. Rejection doesn't mean anything, ANYTHING, other than not for me.

3. Believe that if you don't sell this book at auction, it's not going to get attention from anyone ever and you might as well throw in the towel.

Why you're nuts: You're woefully unaware that many books sold at auction NEVER EARN OUT, and lots of quiet little books earn for years. Sure we all like big splashy headlines. I like money even more.

4. Believe the guidelines are only for idiots who follow the rules.

Why you are nuts: I throw out most of the stuff that doesn't follow the guidelines. I ask for the things I need. If you don't send it, I can't read it. And I'm not going to engage with you by emailing and asking for it.

5. Believe agents have hidden agendas about submissions.

Why you are nuts: Agents are mercenary beasts with VERY SIMPLE AGENDAS: find work we can sell.  

6. Believe the only way to secure representation is a raft of connections in the publishing world.

Why you are nuts: 75% of my list came in COLD through the query inbox. Most authors arrived the same way for their debut books.  You're looking for a reason you got a pass. Quit it. Query harder.

7. Believe no one ever in the history of the world has had this idea before.

Why you are nuts: You haven't read enough. This is a statement of epic ignorance UNLESS you are  James Joyce. 

8. Believe agents will steal your great idea, give it to one of their existing clients and leave you out of the ensuing zillion dollar deal.

Why you are nuts: Even if I were a filthy scoundrel who would do such a thing my clients are not. Plus, most of them like writing their own stuff. If they like writing something they didn't dream up, I get them work-for-hire jobs.  Your work is raw and untested. Work for hire contracts can be for a NYT bestselling series. Figure out which is more attractive.

9. Believe it's easy.
Why you are nuts: It's not easy. The guys who make it look easy (Lee Child for starters) don't show you the workout room with stinky togs, liniment, and blood soaked towels.  A LOT of effort goes in to making it look easy.

Like Simone Biles.

10. Believe there is a secret to getting published but no one will tell you what it is.

Why you are nuts: There is no secret. There is hard work, luck, and staying sane. That's it.