It's unofficial Agent Appreciation Day! (Who makes these things official, anyway?) And far be it from me to hold back on declaring my very great and heartfelt appreciation for my agent, Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

I love that Josh and his wife Tracey (who started the agency) work as a team, and have young children so they understand the challenges of raising a family and trying to write at the same time. I love that they're warm, friendly, funny, generous and caring -- I've never doubted that Josh is every bit as invested in the success of my books as I am, and that he really wants to find an editorial match that's in the best interests of me and my writing, not just make a quick sale and leave me to it.

Josh encourages me and affirms me and makes me laugh and tells me not to worry (he's uncannily good at telling when I'm fretful and trying not to show it), and he's always looking ahead and exploring future possibilities. He's great at networking and following up with editors, and fantastic at keeping in touch whenever there's the slightest bit of news.

I've heard all sorts of complaints -- legitimate ones -- from fellow authors whose agents have been indiscreet, apathetic, disorganized, difficult or even downright dishonest, but never once have I felt the need to chime in. I really couldn't wish for a better agent than the one I have, and I'm so thankful that he and Tracey saw the potential in my work and took me on as a client.

Thank you, Josh and Tracey!
(Ow! That iron's hot!)

As my Facebook friends will have heard but I stupidly forgot to mention here until now, I got my signed contracts and my first cheque back from HarperCollins this week. Woo, yay, whee, etc.!

Still no revisions, though. O Editor, Where Art Thou? Never mind, I know the answer: working frantically on other projects which are due RIGHT NOW, or possibly yesterday. Editors are perpetually and incurably busy.

In other happy news, I'm featured in the Fall 2007 newsletter (PDF) from my agent, Adams Literary. They've done a little piece on my blog, and included two of my contract-signing photos. Very exciting! (And if you're reading this and have just arrived here from there, hail and welcome.)

Also, if you're interested in learning how to write a successful query letter, you may want to check out the [livejournal.com profile] fangs_fur_fey community, where a number of us have been sharing our queries and answering questions about them. I'm not scheduled to post mine until Sunday, but as most of you know, it wasn't the letter that made the difference for me, it was the referrals. So while I am including the letter for folks to look at, I'll also be talking about networking and the importance of maintaining good relationships with agents and editors, even those who reject you.

Finally, I've just swiped this meme from [livejournal.com profile] mistraltoes, and post it here for anyone who may feel inclined to answer:

What would you say are the trademarks of my writing? What themes or quirks or turns of phrase have you noticed? What is it that makes a story by me -- well, a story by me?

Go on, mock me. I know you want to. :D
Yes, I know that I attended the SCBWI Canada East conference back in June, and that it is utterly ridiculous it's taken me two months to type up the second half of my notes from agent Stephen Barbara's talk. However, at least it's done now. And in case you missed it, Part One is here, which discusses the reasons people buy books and the four habits of highly successful writers, among other useful things.

Now on to Part Two:

What can a good agent do for you? )

Writing a good query letter )

Other things to keep in mind when looking for an agent )

The session ended with some Q&A from the audience, with Mr. Barbara's answers )

And that's all! Thanks to Stephen Barbara for giving permission for me to post his talk on the web. I hope that this has been of some use and help to my fellow authors!
Last weekend I attended the SCBWI Canada East conference, a one-day event featuring agent Stephen Barbara of the Donald Maass Literary Agency and authors Alma Fullerton and Jo Ellen Bogart. Unfortunately my pen died early in the afternoon, so Jo Ellen's talk has been lost to posterity. But I took detailed notes in the morning sessions, and got the speakers' permission to post them.

Stephen was up first, so here's a recap in my own words of what he had to say:

What to do BEFORE you look for an agent )

Four Habits of Highly Successful Writers )

In Part Two, which I hope to post soon, Stephen discusses what a good agent can do for an author. Part Three will cover the Q&A session that followed his talk.
When giving advice on how to write a good query letter, I've often heard agents and editors recommend that authors compare their ideas to something that's already out there. For instance, I've heard one paranormal romance author describe her books as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets James Bond". Well, I just came up with a description of Wayfarer (the sequel to Knife, which I am currently brainstorming) that amused me greatly:

"It's like Thomas Covenant meets Watership Down. With faeries."

Hee!
SCBWI CANADA EAST SPRING CONFERENCE

Location:
Saturday June 23, Barrie, Ontario, Kempenfelt Conference Centre
Just 10 minutes from downtown Barrie or 40 minutes north of the Hwy
400/401 intersection

Featuring:
* Agent Stephen Barbara from the Donald Maass Agency, NY talking about what an agent does, do you need an agent, how to get one. He acquires YA and middle-grade novels plus adult literary fiction and nonfiction. [Yes, he does fantasy/SF -- Ed.]

More Details )

*** If you'd seriously plan on coming please drop Lizann a note at lflatt@muskoka.com or ra@scbwicanada.org as soon as possible. We need to judge attendance numbers because we will have to cancel if it doesn't look like we can cover our costs. ***

Anyone else interested in this? James and Erin? *dangles shiny new agent*
It's good to know that I can outline and pre-plan a story without completely losing interest in it, and great to know that I could actually write 2/3rds of a first draft in a month... if I'm willing to accept a cruddy first draft.

I am not so sure about that last one, however. With a little less than 1/3rd of Touching Indigo to write, I feel as though the strain of cranking out words I don't really feel proud of has finally gotten to me, and killed my enjoyment of writing the book altogether. I also feel that the ideas for this last bit of the book need a bit more time to percolate: I know where I'm going and roughly what has to happen to get there, but the fine details are clogging up my brain at the moment.

So I am officially giving myself permission, as of right now, to do ANYTHING I WANT related to writing during my writing time, instead of pushing for those 2000 new words every day. I can work on hooks, write queries, do writing exercises, make research notes, polish existing text... or maybe write some of those new words, who knows? But one way or the other, I've got to give myself a break and rediscover the things I loved about writing before I'll be ready to carry on and finish that first draft.

*stretches*

*takes a long, deep breath*

Ahhh... that feels better already.

In other news, I sent out two e-queries today, to the agents referred to me by the lovely and gracious Agent M. (whose clients are indeed blessed to have her). We'll see what comes of that.
I got a bicycle for my birthday! A shiny new bicycle from my husband, who is wise in the ways of cycling! Yay! I think this may be the first new bike I've had in my life. And it's certainly the first one I've owned in over fifteen years. *huggles it*

My other birthday present: spring weather! It was positively mild today, and the snowbanks are rapidly shrinking. Dare I hope that by next week they will be gone?

In other news, I fail at writing today -- only 572 words so far. But my head feels like it has been stuffed with cotton wool, and I just can't seem to get my thoughts to cohere. So I have been using the time to do character maps, timelines, and other useful things. At least that will keep me from feeling completely unproductive.

It's embarrassing to admit how hard I have to think to do a timeline, though. I'm constantly counting things on my fingers with my tongue stuck out one side of my mouth, trying to figure out how much time has passed between on event and another -- and even after I've done my best, I'm sure I've got it wrong. Why do numbers hate me so?

I also fail at intuition. I really thought that by now I would have some word from Agent E. about Knife. However, no news is at least potentially good news, right?
[livejournal.com profile] raleva31, otherwise known as Uber-Agent Rachel Vater, is looking at a bunch of query letters right now and saying what does and doesn't work for her. As some of you will recall, I tried this a few months ago with Miss Snark and didn't pass muster, so I worked hard on revising my hook before sending it in this time. Here's the result:

Knife - The New Hook )

Ms. Vater's Comments )

So it seems I'm finally doing something right, hook-wise. Yay!
Needing something to cheer me up after the horrible train wreck of FBOFW these last few days (Lynn Johnson, you have two days to pull this storyline out of the toilet. I am not optimistic), I turned to my f-list. And [livejournal.com profile] superversive, bless him, came through:

I had already read (or watched) all the really seminal English-language fantasy works of [1977], except for The Sword of Shannara. I have therefore been plodding through that distinctive if not distinguished work. It is actually a very good sort of book to read while one is sick and depressed, because it reconciles one to the brevity of life and makes death a happier prospect than it seemed before. In Heaven there are no such books, and in Hell all books will burn.

He promises to write a more detailed review soon. I confess that after suffering through the first two Shannara books (otherwise known as Brooks Does Tolkien and Brooks Does Donaldson), I am rather looking forward to it.

***

Yesterday I got my brand-new glasses -- lovely pink metallic frames that suit me better than any pair of glasses I've worn in the past ten years. Unfortunately, there was a pinwheel-like smudge in the centre of both lenses, which no amount of rubbing could remove. After suffering through a couple of hours of frustration and eyestrain, I ended up turning around and driving back to the optometrist's to return them. They confessed that they had made a mistake and offered to replace them, but now I have to wait another week to wear my bootiful new eyeglasses with the updated prescription again. Alas.

***

Remember how a couple of weeks ago I mentioned getting migraine auras without the migraine? Well, on the weekend I got the migraine without the aura. My first migraine, and all I can say is OW. I really hope this is an isolated incident, because there's nothing like blinding pain and nausea to put the kibosh on your creative energies.

***

In other news, I watched "Words and Deeds" (House) yesterday and actually quite liked it -- not that it didn't have its logistical flaws, and not that the behavior of all the characters was perfectly consistent with their behavior in the past, but I didn't think it was the Worst Episode Ever, or even close to it.

This is why I have come to the conclusion that I am happier out of fandom than in it. Not that I mind hearing what my closest friends think of the shows and books I enjoy, or discussing our opinions even when we disagree; but on the whole I prefer to make up my own mind about whether I like something or not, and not have it spoiled for me by people insisting that it stinks. I offer a belated bow to [livejournal.com profile] yahtzee63, who has long been wiser than I in such matters.

***

Got an e-mail today from Agent #2, telling me she'd received my ms. Thanks to Canada Post's parcel tracking system I knew that already, but it was nice to get a personal note to that effect. She says she's hoping to get to the book by mid-March.

I have a feeling that March is going to be The Month for my writing career, in a lot of ways. Could be good, could be bad, but something is definitely going to happen around that time.

***

And finally, I have tagged all my old entries up to June 2005. Go me!
Okay, okay, so I got distracted and am... well, not exactly behind schedule, as I still have until the 15th to complete Day 1-6, but not exactly on schedule either.

Mind you, I don't have enough information in my head yet about the secondary characters for Indigo to write down more than a line or two for each of them, and I already wrote down all the thoughts I had on Thea and Leith on Days One and Two. Today I'm supposed to be making notes of the various settings in the book, and compiling a research list -- but I don't know yet what specific settings I'm going to need, and since the majority of the book's action takes place in a town where I lived for ten years, I'm not too worried about getting the details wrong.

On a tangential note, though -- I'm trying to decide whether to set Indigo in the actual Sudbury, or a fictional northern Ontario town just like it. The advantage of a fictionalized city is that I can rearrange landmarks and make up new ones without local readers saying, "Hey, there's no such place as Trufflehunter's on Lasalle Boulevard!" It also prevents any potential English readers being confused (since there's a Sudbury in the south of England which is manifestly different from the Canadian one).

On the other hand, it's just possible that nobody actually cares about that stuff so long as the general feel of the place and the major geographic and historical details are right. [livejournal.com profile] james_bow, care to weigh in on why you chose to invent Clarksbury rather than work with an actual town? It might help me to decide what I want to do. And, of course, anyone else with experience of reading or writing about contemporary places is heartily invited to comment.

***

BUT I DIGRESS AS USUAL. The actual point of this entry is to present the fruit of my distractableness, in the form of my revised hook for Knife:

The New NEW Hook )

I've tried to include the added plot and conflict details that Miss Snark and the Snarklings requested, and I think the result is an improvement over the original, but I'm still not sure if it covers all the necessary bases. Thoughts? Suggestions? Squashy tomatoes?

ETA a totally different version of the hook, just to confuse the issue for everyone and MAKE YOU ALL SHARE MY PAIN.

*phew*

Dec. 22nd, 2006 03:42 pm
rj_anderson: (Knife)
I made it!

KNIFE - The Hook

She didn't ask for pages, but she didn't stomp all over me with hobnailed boots, either. Now I just have to try and figure out how to incorporate a few more plot details into the hook so that the story's internal logic comes through. So... useful, yes.
...and I am SO DEAD. My hook is bland. The stakes aren't high enough. My sentences are all too long. There's no hint of an antagonist. Wah! *tears hair*

*takes deep breaths*

Of course, it would be sensible to ask why I am even bothering to do this, since I have two agents looking at the book already. But you see, I want to be prepared in case neither agent is interested in the project. If that should happen, I'll have exhausted all my personal contacts and referrals, and will have to start from scratch in the New Year, cold-querying agents who know nothing about me. And in that case I'll need to be ready with a well-written hook that can grab an agent's attention even before they've read a word of my actual prose.

After reading nearly 300 of the other Crapometer entries, I feel pretty certain that my hook for Knife needs work. I'm just not exactly sure where and how yet. But I guess I'm about to find out...

*meebles faintly*
Right now the full ms. of Knife is on its way to two agents, and while I'm waiting on their responses, I've been thinking about what specific qualities I'd like in an agent -- aside from the obvious ones like being reputable and qualified and knowing the ins and outs of the publishing business and having a good track record of sales, and generally being a decent sort of person.

[livejournal.com profile] jaylake's just written a helpful post on the writer-agent relationship, and I agree with a lot of what he says, though not all. As [livejournal.com profile] arcaedia points out in her response, not all agent-writer relationships begin the same way, and her personal experience as an agent is different from what [livejournal.com profile] jaylake suggests is the norm. [livejournal.com profile] jaylake also believes that agents ought to live in or around New York City, and although I used to worry that might be the case, I've read enough now to feel differently. Agents Erin Murphy and Kristin Nelson, for instance, have both remarked that most business between agents and editors is done over the phone, not at the mythical business lunches, and therefore there's no particular advantage to an agent being located in NYC as far as sales go. As long as they're willing to make occasional trips to New York in the line of duty, that usually covers things just fine.

So, I'm not going to worry too much about the fact that I've only met one of the two agents I've queried in person, nor that one of them is located thousands of miles away from NYC. I don't think either one of those things is going to make a big difference in the end.

Qualities I'd really like to find in an agent )

In other news, I have got my copy of First Draft in 30 Days and am eagerly perusing it. I have no idea whether the system will work for me, but I'm definitely interested in giving it a try when the New Year rolls around. Only with my schedule it's more likely to be First Draft in 60 to 90 Days, but the author of the book says that's just fine.

Also, in case there was any doubt that I am a masochist, I just sent my hook for Knife into Miss Snark's current Crapometer. I won't be showing up until #314, and she's only on about #50 at the moment, so it'll be a few days before I get her comments (and I think I can already anticipate half of them). But it's definitely worth skimming over the current Crapometer entries to see what makes a hook work and what doesn't.

Miscellany

Oct. 28th, 2006 11:00 am
rj_anderson: (Mary Russell)
I may be the last person in the world to watch Hornblower, and it's rather different than I'd anticipated. I thought it was an actual TV series with umpty episodes that would take me forever to catch up on -- didn't realize that it was just a few movies. But we're enjoying them very much -- the acting and production values are excellent, and some casting talk, not really spoilery ) But the really smitten one is my six-year-old son, who keeps begging for a chance to watch the movies again, and runs around the house with a plastic sword yelling "I'm Horatio!" I'd give it four stars out of five.

My husband and I also just finished the Gormenghast miniseries, and although it all fell apart at the end (much as the books do, alas -- once Titus comes to the fore, the story really loses interest and coherence), it got a lot more right than I'd expected. More thoughts, only vaguely spoilery ) Since I'm feeling generous, I'll give it three and a half stars.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the BBC's just-finished adaptation of Jane Eyre. Here's why... ) In short, it's good stuff. Four and a half stars.

***

In other news, I heard back from one agent today, politely declining (on the basis of the query only, no writing sample). I wasn't too disappointed, though, because another agent's already asked to see the full manuscript. Since Knife is ahead of schedule at the moment -- I've just finished Chapter Fifteen, with either four or five chapters to go depending on whether I drop the Epilogue -- I'm feeling pretty positive about my writing at present.

***

[livejournal.com profile] lizbee, you might want to check out Margaret Atwood's last entry in the Wired Magazine Very Short Stories. Squid is the new black, I tell you.

***

Finally, after the on-list events of the last twenty-four hours I feel that it is my duty to inform you all that the Mary Russell fandom is a DELICATE HOTHOUSE FLOWER.

From MARS.
I was busy packing up boxes, listening to the boy's new album, and steadfastly ignoring Chapter Sixteen of my novel, but [livejournal.com profile] lizbee and [livejournal.com profile] cesario nagged me into doing this. So...

Da Rulz )

So, that done, here we go:

Da List )

Profile

rj_anderson: (Default)
rj_anderson

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