Last Sunday I planned to work on the week in review while I was on the train from Raleigh to New York. After a two hour delay, I got on the train, only to discover NO WI FI! Aieee! Not only no WIR, no way to post that it wasn't coming.
I got home late that night and was able to post at 11pm! Not surprisingly, a few of you were right there to say hello.
AJ Blythe asked if I read my stack of books and looked out the window. What I actually did was read a client manuscript.
Lisa Bodenheim wondered:
Whew! I thought Colin and Donnaeve had enjoyed your company so much they kidnapped you.
I would have been a willing victim to that! Meeting Colin and Donna was the highlight of the convention.
Retaliation for the delay in posting came from Poof!
Train puns. Now you've got me started! My fav ...And Bouchercon was terrific. Client Jim Ringel and I were on the train together and saw several other Bouchercon-bound friends as they passed by on the way to the café car. The small child sitting in front of us had a video game of some sort that played a song about marching dinosaurs. Yes, we listened to that for about nine of the ten hours we were on the train. I can still hear it in my sleep.
Q. If you weigh a train on a railway, where do you weigh a pie?
A. Somewhere, over the rainbow.
But soon we were in Raleigh and picking up our registration bags for Bouchercon. The kind volunteer gave me very clear instructions on name badge, voting procedures etc. Jim was standing right next to me. She said the exact same thing to him after handing him his bag. Clearly this lady took her duties VERY seriously.
Next morning we hit the speed dating event (yesterday's post) and then handed out copies of the 2014 Bouchercon Anthology to the people attending Bouchercon 101. I had about 50 extra copies of the antho and this seemed like a good way to help them find better homes than my book shelf in NYC.
After that we sat at a small table in the hallway and the world walked by. That's one of my favorite things about Bouchercon: hang out and the world comes to you.
Colin and Donna are doing a much better job of Bouchercon reporting than I am:
Donna Part one
Donna Part two
Donna Part three
Colin Day One
Colin Day Two
Colin Day Three
Colin's exchange with Mrs. Colin cracked me up:
the conversation I had with my wife after I explained what Bouchercon is:
WIFE: Will Janet Reid be there?
WIFE: Will there be alcohol?
ME: I just answered that.
WIFE: And your strange blog comment friends?
ME: Some of them.
WIFE: I suppose you have to go, then...
On Monday, thankfully a holiday, the topic was how to deal with a group critique at a conference.
John Frain's comment just cracked me up:
You know, it's not often you actually LOL when you type LOL. But this did it: "oh god this sounds like hell."
OMG, and now that I hit cut and paste, I realize I did a reado, the reading equivalent to a typo. I thought Janet said "Oh GOOD, this sounds like hell," reveling once again in making writers squirm. Okay, never mind, back to the answer. (No wonder I'm getting confused so often.)
Racherin has a great metaphor for group crits:
Getting critiqued by a bunch of people is a bit like getting directions from a bunch of locals in a city with no reliable map. Everyone has their opinion on which restaurant you should go to, and how to get there, and sometimes they forget that everyone has to get lost a few times to really know their way around.
And then offered up one of the best tools I've ever seen for prepping for a group crit:
This sounds weird, but when I'm scared of putting myself out there, I'll sit with a good friend and we'll come up with all the meanest things someone could say about what I did - tactless, possibly even malicious. Then we translate them to useful-speak, or, how your bff writer pal would say it. It can be good practice at finding the value on the fly, like in a workshop situation. If you role-play it a few times, it will be easier to stay poised.I LOVE this idea! LOVE LOVE LOVE!
On Tuesday, the topic was unreliable narrators, and when to reveal that device in the query. My position is you don't.
AJ Blythe reminded us that not everyone would know the term unreliable narrator:
I'm glad you used an example of a book I am familiar with, QOTKU, because I couldn't even fathom what an unreliable narrator was. All I could envisage was a narrator getting bored with telling the story and just wandering off the page mid-book, leaving the reader to muddle there way through the rest of the story.I stole this definition from these guys
A narrator that is not trustworthy, whose rendition of events must be taken with a grain of salt. We tend to see such narrators especially in first-person narration, since that form of narration tends to underline the motives behind the transmission of a given story. There are numerous famous examples in literature (James' "Turn of a Screw" is a superb example) and a few notable examples in film (Citizen Kane perhaps most famously among them).
BJ Muntain asked a good question
I do have a question - for anyone here - about unreliable narrators. Someone once told me my point-of-view character was an unreliable narrator simply because he had a snarky rebel living at the back of his mind. I disagreed. I have no wish to make this character unreliable.
Don't we all have that snarky rebel, who says the things we would say if we weren't so polite, gracious, and prudent? Who would make a snide remark about our boss's misfortunate spelling of 'public' while we politely, privately point out the missing L to our boss?
I understand that one of the things that makes for an unreliable narrator is insanity, but is having an inner rebel a type of insanity? Or is it a coping behaviour to help one keep one's sanity in a highly critical world?
There's a difference between the narrator offering snarky commentary and withholding information. For example:
Colin Smith is a handsome devil, but I'm certainly never going to tell my readers that! = snarky narrator
Colin Smith doesn't look like his blog avatar = unreliable narrator
Dead Spider Eye gave us a lovely example here:
You know, I was pondering exactly this question while out driving my Astin Martin this morning. It was playing so much on my mind that I posed the question to Sandrine and Mai Ling when I got back to the flat in Mayfair, then I woke up...including the great subtle joke clue: there is only one I in my Aston Martin
On Wednesday we returned to one of the evergreen topics: agent communication. The question was whether the client had been fired and just didn't know it.
Donnaeve asked the question we were all wondering:
What I truly don't get is why the agent didn't handle this in a more professional way? Why did she acknowledge receipt of OP's work politely? Why does someone do that knowing they have no intentions of offering editing points, no intentions of promoting the work. I mean, honestly, what is going on here?
I have clients now who were once in that situation. Manuscripts sent, receipt acknowledged, crickets. You'll notice I now rep them.
I'm not sure what is going on in the agent's mind. It's true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease (mostly) and a follow up email after a month or so, just to check status is always in order. (I get a lot of these as you might imagine)
A year with no reply is a long time to wait, but if you don't nudge….
BJ Muntain pulls out the rose-colored glasses for this one (that nice Canadian side is showing!):
It's *possible* the agent is actually continuing to work in good faith, but is not being very successful. It's also possible the agent doesn't want to pass this information on to the author because of the 'falling out'. (Again, not professional, but not as bad as not even trying).
Entirely possible. I have often been lax in sending emails to clients while I've been busy trying to sell their stuff, but at some point, I had to let them in on the news. "Hey I've got an offer, but it's crap and we're not going to take it" kinds of things.
John Frain asked a technical question:
Just want to confirm something: In the pharma world, scrips is short for prescriptions. So, in our world, is scripts short for manuscripts? I always thought ms was acceptable for manuscript. But I thought script was something written for Hollywood. No?Scripts are generally considered the stuff of which movies are made, whereas manuscripts the starting point of books. However, this blog is read by book writers, so I assumed the question was about books.
OP: "I've sent her several scripts..."
QOTKU: "if you sell another book..."
I know little if anything about script agents. They are an alien bunch.
S.D. King asked:
Also, Janet, I get confused about a point in the agent/writer agreement. When you coach us in querying, it seems that we are not selling ourselves as writers as much as selling an individual book. So does the contract make the writer an indentured servant for ALL work or does the contract cover the one book which was queried? Can't Opie send all future stuff to a different agent w/o legally breaking with original agent/enemy? (However, I think I would get so much satisfaction in the termination- after all, yesterday I fired my parents' lawyer and it felt GREAT!)
It depends on the specific author/agency agreement. HOWEVER. Nothing brings out rapscallion greedy tentacles like money and the last thing you want if you have a Fifty Shades of Gray type hit is an agent waving a contract that says she reps you for all your work unless you send her notice.
It's better to cover your bases, dot your t's and cross your eyes at the time you wish to sever than scramble later.
And Panda In Chief had a very good point about how the author let the situation slide for so long:
I know exactly how you did it, because I've done it too. Not with an agent, but with one of the galleries that used to show my work. It's called the "if I don't make the phone call I won't hear anything bad" syndrome. Kind of like as long as you don't check your lottery ticket, you could be a millionaire. And then one day becomes a week, which becomes a month which becomes, "oh hell it's been too long. Maybe she'll call tomorrow."
On Thursday we returned to the topic that will not die: published versus unpublished.
S.D. King asked:
I worry about these things, too, since I like to enter contests. If I have submitted to the Writer's Digest contest and they ignored it, can I enter it in another contest since it is unpublished? I never know.
Yes. If a contest does not select your entry for publication, it's not published and thus you can send it elsewhere. When I submit short stories for clients, if I get a rejection, I send the same story out to the next magazine on my list that very day.
And then we went happily, gloriously off topic with this news posted by Christina Seine about our own Donnaeve:
Donna Everhart's THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE, focusing on the shared
secrets existing between an eleven-year-old and her mother, and who when confronted by cruelty from those closest to her, exhibits a prevailing spirit and resilience beyond her years, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington by John Talbot at Talbot Fortune Agency
Ha - what can I say? I'm still cross-eyed with excitement after ALL these months. The offer came April 1st - how's that for the day of a book deal? April Fools??? Ask me if I care. Nope, nope nope.
I'll share on my blog tomorrow. So much has already happened.
Christina Seine asked:
Which leads me to a question for the QOTKU. Why is such lovely news embargoed? I mean, I understand waiting until the ink is dry and all, and I'm sure there is a very good reason. But six months is forever. =o
PM announcements are often delayed for a variety of reasons. I like to wait till the contract is done and signed at the very least. For projects that I've retained translation rights, I like to wait till the manuscript is finished so when the announcement hits and the co-agents come a'calling, I have something to show them.
Each agent has their own way of doing things, but it's not uncommon for a deal not to get announced for months, even years.
And yes, it's HORRIBLE for sharks who know to keep their jaws shut.
Many of you raised a glass to Donna and Lynn Rodz offered a toast;
Donna, so, so happy for you! I swear, it’s close to 3 am here in Paris and I’m about to go to bed. We opened a bottle of champagne earlier this evening to celebrate your good news.I looked it up
Hubby: “What are we celebrating?”
Me: “Donna’s good news.”
(Hubby with a quizzical look on his face. He doesn’t know a Donna.)
Hubby: “Is she part of Janet’s clicque?”
Me: “You got it. Her book deal was announced.”
Hubby: “It’d be nicer if you had a book deal, but hey, here’s to Donna.”
Me: “ Cin cin!”
Donna, there are two versions of “cin cin.” The Italian one is similar to saying “cheers.” The Japanese version...well I’ll let you look it up. (I was going for the Italian one. Lol.)
On Friday we talked about typos in a query letter. Of course, I managed to have typos in the blog post itself.
The best one was pointed out by Sam Hawke
I tell you I've always had a terrible time distinguishing between discrete and discrete. Even now, it's eluding me. ;)
(just a reminder that I do appreciate you eagle eyed readers letting me know about these pesky fuckers)
(ummm…by pesky fuckers I mean typos, not commenters like Sam Hawke)
and this comment by nightmusic is why:
All that said, I read a lot of blogs and it amazes me how many people use the wrong words, their/they're/there is a good example. I'm not sure if it's just being lazy or our education system or the fact that the younger generation texts so much that they no longer care because, hey! Text!
It kills me to think of people reading this a month or a year down the road and seeing mistakes.
Colin Smith said:
Funnily enough, it seems today is Noah Webster's birthday. Did you plan this, Janet? :)
|sure ya did|
Andrea van der Wilt asked about one of the examples:
As a non-native English speaker I'd love to know when it's o.k. to use "try and do" instead of "try to do". Or is "try and do" colloquial and not used in writing? (I'm guessing that might be the case because "try and do" sounds completely illogical to me and reminds me of Yoda - do or do not; there is no try. Something like that anyway)Dialogue only. People say "try and do" but the correct construction is try to do. Narrative is try to do. Dialogue can be wrong and still be correct.
Lisa Bodenheim said
umm...Janet? I've never heard of postard! Here in the Midwest we say petard. Omigoodness, I double checked on google. What a fun history petard has.
And Colin Smith hit the nail on the head
Lisa: I could be wrong but I think Janet was being funny. Her post is about spelling mistakes, and she made a spelling mistake in the post, hence postard, not petard. I could be wrong. But I like to think the best of people. Especially sharks... ;)
Dena Pawling had a book recc for us:
For all you language junkies, I'm reading a book right now [the audio version] called Between You and Me - Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris.As did A.J. Blythe
I've been recommended a newly published book: Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation by John Seely, revised second edition, with the recommendation I think it’s the most clearly explained guide to grammar I’ve ever seen.
Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale has a software recommendation for us:
Our brains have this notorious habit of being able to auto-correct. Taht's how erevenoe cna raed tihs snetnence. (my spell czech had a tizzy here) In our works, our brains will catch a typo, correct it so the brain knows what we meant, and then we go on. Unless we specifically train our brains to pause at that moment and not autocorrect without notifying the rest of us, typos will slip through.
I recently discovered this free tool editminion.com, which points out several of the most common grammar and style issues in an analysed text, plus highlight homophones.
Might this be helpful?
I ran a ms through it--a ms I thought was clean and tidy. Boy, did my brain miss some doozies! I don't use as many cliches as I thought I did, but I am terrible when it comes to dangling participles. Who'd a thunk?
Granted, I also have a professional editor going through the ms as I've had too many rejected fulls. Am learning a lot from her notes.
On Saturday I posted about Bouchercon swag. I thought some of the swag items were pretty useless, but bookmarks were tried and true.
Some one could really cash in by giving you a big bag with their book cover, etc. on the side to carry all the other swag.
The conference itself does that. And the good book bags are EXPENSIVE! The crappy cheap ones aren't something you'd want to use either. Every person in publishing fancies themselves a connoisseur of tote bags (I am not the exception to the rule.)
Getting "the good bags" at BEA is something of a priority.
Cynthia Mc had this to say about the fact we toss anything homemade:
Interesting perspective on home-baked vs. store-bought. In the South homemade=made with love for someone you care enough about to take the time and store-bought means you picked up whatever in about a second on the way to wherever you forgot you were supposed to be until the last minute. I understand the reasoning, it makes perfect sense. It also makes me sad.
This is only from people we don't know. Home made cookies or chocolates from someone we do know is definitely on the "get your hand off my chocolate, mine mine mine" list.
But a round robin of authors…not so much. I'm sure they were fine, but we live in a scary world these days, and one way to cope with that is being cautious about which risks to take.
Kara Ringenbach asked a good question:
I'm curious if most skilled writers are as effective at oral story telling? It seems like such a different skill set to me?I agree. A MUCH different skill set. A lot of the writers had clearly practiced. Some had a prepared shtick. Some just mumbled. The ones with a more prepared presentation were better. Hands down. It didn't have to be slick or glib. Just organized.
S.P. Bowers asked:
What about pens as swag? I'm interested in knowing what people think. I'm a little bit of a pen snob and generally throw away free pens because they're not as nice as the pens I like to use. But if they have a special meaning to me I keep them. If the pen is a nice pen (one writers, who I think are probably all pen snobs, would use) would you keep or chuck?I'm a LOT of a bit of a pen snob. Giveaway pens usually get tossed in my bin of unwanted pens (so sad, I know.) I don't throw them away but they don't get used like bookmarks.
What about small pads of paper with the book info at the top?I like that idea a lot, particularly at a conference where I can never find something to write on when I need to pass notes under the table to Barbara Poelle reminding her that she had a vodka delivery at the front door.
Everyone writes on stuff.
And these were some of the best takeaways from the author speed dating:
"We obviously have a failure to communicate. You don't understand how great I am."
"I did crime on the weekends"-author Cate Holahan about her reporting job
"Ethics as a last resort" Robert Lopresti
"Needs an Excel spread sheet to track her sex life" Craig Faustus Buck about one of his characters.
Great title: I'll Sleep When You're Dead by EA Aymer
and this, from Susan Bonifant on Monday, made my entire week:
I visit this site mostly because of a time when I thought I would quit. I believed I should, hated that I wanted to, and worse than anything, didn't know what would stop me. My bravery wasn't enough anymore.
Janet Reid stopped me. At the right bad moment, for only the moment it took, with that piece.
Thank you, Janet Reid. And thank you for today's post, which I promise you, will be tacked to more than one person's wall for a long time to come.