Sunday, February 15, 2015

Week in review 2/15/15

And what  a week it's been, mostly due to the weather. I'm not much on snow and ice and we've had enough of that this week to last the rest of the year. Of course, readers farther north are getting hit much harder, so I should probably remember "it could be worse!"

Last week's WIR found Colin Smith suggesting a dedicated blog for the flash fiction contests.  Flying monkeys descended on Colin's house and he was summarily freeze-fried, then transported to the Great Pit of Carkoon, where if he very lucky, some droids might come along to save him.

A dreadful typo on John "Ol Chumbucket" Baur's name had to be fixed. Baur like Reid, Kristin and Sean has a million spellings but only one is correct for each person. Honest to Godiva (only one spelling) you'd think I of all people would remember that.

Jenz has one of the best lines of the week here, continuing the discussion on suspense and tension: "Ah, the hardships of writing first person. You can't just stick a bomb under the table."

Monday was the flash fiction contest results.  Kitty pointed out that the writer with the "best typo" erased the entry (which is a shame, but it's the writer's choice, can't argue)  The typo itself was tomb for tome.  I loved it.

One of our winners was Amy Schaefer and many of you know Amy does not live in the cold dark north. In fact, the only way to get real books to her involve hand-offs at the airport and secret passwords.  Because the prize (the ARC of SIGNAL by Patrick Lee) would have been both an arm AND a fin in postage, I sent her an electronic copy.

And she replied with this.

Yea, me too.

Tuesday's blog post was a follow up from a reader's question last year. I really love follow-ups in case any of you are wondering about sending them.

Tuesday's comments included this from our own TLC: 

"Lawyers have been known to use their powers for good. I got a guy custody of his son that wasn't his biologically (he'd been in prison when the deed occurred,) but that he accepted and raised as his own. When she started making noises about the whole thing, saying he wasn't the dad, I told him to give her a copy of the divorce and say, "Bitch, I've got a receipt."   

A perfect 72-word almost-story.

Wednesday's post was on exclusives. I debated about posting this question since I've ranted about the evil of exclusives for so long I'm starting to bore even myself. But I thought, this really wasn't about an agent asking for an exclusive, so much as asking about the competition, so I thought it might be useful.

Colin Smith (rescued by droids it appears) asked
 "Is it okay for an agent to ask who else is reading a ms? If I queried you and told you Barbara Poelle, Darley Anderson, and Ellen Geiger were also looking at my ms, how would that matter? That may be an impressive list, but surely what matters most at this stage is that YOU love the query and ms, not which of your colleagues/competitors are looking at it?"

Mostly I want to know how serious the competition is when I ask who else is reading it.  If Barbara Poelle is reading, the competition is pretty stiff. My only advantage here is that I read faster than she does (sometimes) and I can sometimes divert her attention from matters at hand with a case of Polish vodka. 

If a writer tells me it's an agent in Crawdad, North Dakota that I've never heard of and hasn't made any sales, and her website mentions how much she loves writers, well, that's competition of a different sort.

And frankly if it's an agent I have serious reservations about, I've been known to reply that research is the author's friend. Even if they sign with Agent Trouble, I've at least told them how to avoid that. Some people can not be diverted, and I feel bad for them, but that's the state of the world.

Thursday we sauntered over to the prologue aisle and had some fun. Diane (DLM) asked a question that I'm sure many writers wonder: 
"As to formatting ... dropping images into Word is super easy. I may not be understanding whether/why that isn't an option if .doc is preferred?"
For me, images can make a word .doc so big I can't actually open it. AND it screws up spacing  and page count.  This is an ironclad rule of querying: leave OUT images unless the agent has expressly said ok.  In other words, at the query stage, it's text only. No exceptions. At the requested manuscript stage it might change, but don't count on it.

On Friday we were talking about how to interpret requests for "next work" when Diane realized that Gossamer has become the face of the Chum Bucket.

Funny story about how that happened:  Google sent me a notice saying I was running out of space. I futzed around in my Google account and couldn't figure out why there were so many pictures. I looked at a couple of them, and couldn't even remember why I had them.  Soooo… (insert ominous noise here) I deleted them. All of them.  And only later, and very slooowly did I realize I'd erased most of the images from this blog. All of the hilarious pictures…gone. And the Chum Bucket image, gone.  When I realized this, I just used Goss's picture, cause really, Gossamer is the best thing to look at when you're feeling very very stupid.

Saturday's blog post on "unpublishable" topics REALLY hit a nerve. It generated the most comments of any post other than contests in quite some time.

This is the comment, from CarolynnWith2Ns, that tugged my heart:

I thought about this post all day today at work. When I left at four I had NPR on the radio in the car and listened to The Moth, their storytelling show.

Coincidence is a strange beast and it rode with me on the way home.

The first story told was by Paul Knoll a school guidance counselor. (800 Heros)
In a quiet voice he gently told the story of what happened at the school where he worked four years before Columbine. When he started to speak I thought God was playing a cruel joke on me, why this story, why today. God wasn’t joking, he was teaching me, (a person who always has an answer for something), a lesson.

As the story continued I was riveted. I had never heard about this incident and yet it seemed so familiar because of all the other incidents which have ripped at my heart.

It was snowing when I left work so I was driving slowly. As I neared home, and the story came to a close I drove even slower, not wanting to miss the ending, even though I was sure what it would be. It was not.

My comment this morning was a knee-jerk reaction to grief. I’m not apologizing for that. I do stand by my words BUT…to the questioner I say this:

If you can write your book, like Paul Knoll told his story, you will see it published. I’d read it and I never thought I say that…ever.

And this line from Julie Weathers will haunt me forever: "The salesman kept apologizing for not having more caskets, but business was so good they couldn't keep baby caskets in stock."

If the tone of the comments turned a little down, that's  ok with me. I respect that readers are willing to talk about things that aren't puppies and kittens and unicorn rainbows here.  The only comments that get deleted are those that attack other commenters (particularly for grammar or spelling) or are seriously off topic.

While reading your comments keeps me occupied, I have had time recently to finish a couple books. 

I'd been working on Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst for a long time (it was my SudsYerDuds reading for weeks.) I'm a rabid drooling fan of Alan Furst, and writers who are interested in historical fiction would do well to read him closely. He's a master at creating suspense (or tension!) in a world where we know the outcome of large events.  And he evokes time and place better than almost anyone I can think of.

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawson was on my shelf for a while. I picked it up cause I needed subway reading.  I picked at it for weeks, finally finished it. This is a really good example of three different points of view (all written in third person) to tell one story. The precipitating event is the disappearance of Judge Crater which is an old New York mystery. 

Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander is a delightful new cozy set in Ashland Oregon. Well, I'm a sucker for bake shops, and Oregon, and when I got this I dove right in.  Cozies can set my teeth on edge if they're too cute, and too removed from reality, but this one hit all the right notes.  Plus, I was SHOCKED to find out who the culprit was. That does not happen often at all.

On Thursday I was delighted to get an ARC of the new Lyndsay Faye novel, The Fatal Flame.  I wrote about how it arrived here on my Facebook page.  Not much work got done on Saturday cause I was busy reading.  Let's just say if you want a good book, read Lyndsay Faye. The first in the series   [GODS OF GOTHAM] was nominated for an Edgar.  What I admire most is how she's developing her characters in the series.  This is definitely a book I'd recommend to writers. This one, the third, goes on sale May 15.  I think you can count on a flash fiction writing contest.

On Wednesday night I attend an author event for Sandra Newman's THE COUNTRY OF ICE CREAM STAR. The book is written in "future patois." Interestingly Lyndsay Faye's characters also speak a kind of patois called "flash." I thought it was interesting that I ended up with two books using a kind of special language as a device within a few days of each other.

And last of all, I've been reading the first three installments of my client Michael Bassin's trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Harrowing is just about the only word I can think of.

And of course, like everyone who reads crime, I'm watching the new Amazon series BOSCH based on Michael Connelly's novels.  Are you? What do you think?


Anonymous said...

"SudsYerDuds" makes me laugh and reminds me of my Martha and Tilley characters. They are two irreverent old women who are constantly reading their Duds For Studs (TM) male lingerie catalogs in the most inappropriate of places.

It sounds like you got a lot of interesting reading done.


Unknown said...

As fans frequently thank Janet for the Sunday review, I'd like to add that it felt very "Paul Harvey" this week. There was a rhythmic swing in the retelling that felt almost cozy, as if sitting by a warm fire, sipping vintage port. Thanks again.

BG in CHI said...

Bosch is terrific so far. Good, solid procedural with a good cast (thanks, The Wire) and good use of the whole of LA to tell the story.

It looks easy to do procedural noir but it's not. So many shows fail to bring the elements together. Melodrama is the devil's kiss for these kinds of narratives.

I particularly liked the opening noir of the first scene of the first episode, which is a reincarnation of a scene from Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (if you haven't seen this please do), complete with the stairs from the now demolished Bunker Hill neighborhood. So many good noirs filmed there.

On episode 5 and all systems go.

Anonymous said...

I feel as if I can resume the rest of my day now that I've had the WIR. Whoop!

I'm not watching the BOSCH series, and suddenly feel like I'm missing out on something really good.

I'm excited (for some odd reason)to see you've read something my agent sold, i.e., Meet Your Baker. He sells a lot of cozies. I've not read any, (not my thing) but now, NOW the fact YOU were SHOCKED by the culprit has me intrigued. That's one I just might have to enjoy.

The comments did go into a different direction on yesterday's "publishable" post, but what a support team we've got out here, even if only virtually.

I love it.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I second MB Owen on the fireplace similie.

WIR plus a mojito did calm my nerves after the kid party this afternoon.

I love that kindle in the tropics photo.

DLM said...

It began with my Pillsbury Doughboy chortle. Then it became a full-throated laugh with snorting. Then there was the sustained, cackling, gleeful LOLling that hasn't entirely given way, spurting now back down to PbD giggles.

What's that, you say?

My response to this:

"Gossamer is the best thing to look at when you're feeling very very stupid."

Aww. Penelope ain't half bad either, but our boy is definitely my writing-pal pet. (Oh, and his new nickname is Glossy. How it took me two and a half years to get to that, I cannot explain nor defend.)

LynnRodz said...

The dreary weather here in Paris made me jealous looking at Amy's photo!

No images with your query...what if it's of a cute baby shark?

Speaking of images and photos, I'm not a cat person myself, but I've taken a liking to Glossy for some reason.

Like everyone else, I love these WIRs! (I know it's a lot of work, but well appreciated because there were several things I had missed in the comments although I'm here everyday.)

Now to have a kir royal before dinner. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday everyone and keep warm...except for Amy, of course!

Colin Smith said...

I'm badly behind on my crime reading so it's no surprise I haven't seen BOSCH yet. But I'll get to it. Really. I'm intrigued. :)

The droid with the English accent was very nice, but I couldn't stomach the one who kept spouting expletives at me. Like trying to have a conversation with Gordon Ramsey!

Thanks again for the WiR, Janet. You're blog is the best and so are my fellow commenters! :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I've had a spotty week for paying attention to things, and have only skimmed the comments...I missed the "ran out of coffins", but it gave me a chill.

(or added to my chill. It's COLD in centrary New York. Doberman and I are snuggled, hoodied and blanketed, on the couch.)

Colin Smith said...

Oh, I forgot to thank you for your answer to my question, Janet. How remiss of me!

I never thought about that angle on the "who else is reading this?" question. Indeed, I forget how closely-knit the Tribe of Literary Agents is. You guys know each other--and some better than others. It makes sense that knowing who else is looking at the manuscript might affect how quickly you get back to the author, or how much Polish vodka you send to Ms. Poelle.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

My Sunday has been spent chasing a one year old around, around and around. Boys and girls, I am too old for this, but loving it.

Just hit the WIR and Janet, your respect for this community is beyond heartwarming.
I second Donna's comment about the support team. All of you, every single one of you helped me make it through my day and into tomorrow. Bless you all.

And MB Owen, yes on, Paul Harvey, it was exactly, THE REST OF THE STORY.

AJ Blythe said...

BOSCH the tv series... gah! Have just hit google and can't find any mention of it on any Aussie station. Thanks for tormenting me, Ms Reid.

And I am now all the more poorer for reading this blog. I couldn't resist your review of "Meet Your Baker". Sounds intiriguing (especially as it is what I write).

Janet Reid said...

AJ, it's running on Amazon Prime. I'm not sure if it's the Aussie market yet. (sorry)

AJ Blythe said...

Thanks, Janet. I've made a note so I won't forget to keep an eye out for it. Maybe it will come out on DVD?

Also, I didn't mention how timely your comments on "Meet Your Baker" were. On Tuesday Jessica Faust blogged about 'Cozy Mysteries v Traditional Mysteries v Amateur Sleuths'. One statement in particular caught my attention:

I do think there can easily be a simplicity and formula to a cozy, but I find that the most successful cozy authors, as with the most successful authors in any genre, tend to push those boundaries a little bit.

From your review I got the impression Ellie Alexander has managed to do this. I immediately wanted to read a debut cozy that does just that.

Thanks for the perfect timing :)

Stacy said...

AJ, if you're on Facebook at all, you can follow Michael Connelly Books for updates--I've read several times there that Amazon is working out distribution deals in Australia. He also updates his website with info on where the series will air.

I've seen the whole series twice now and I can only say everyone should be more like Bosch.