Sunday, January 31, 2010

Caren Johnson Agency Pitch Contest

I certainly admire the moxie of Caren and Elana (Roth) to read through a few hundred pitch paragraphs.

Given the rush to read a paragraph, get an impression, then write a comment, I won't blame the agent for mistaking my genre. That's the fault of my pitch. She said it was "traditional fantasy." Seems to me that traditional fantasy pretty much has to be set in a fantasy world, usually of the medieval variety, and that magic is prevalent.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

My setting is the real earth, which I think my mentioning the Arctic and Siberia more or less implies.

Yes, I have a witch, but the world is not filled with magical creatures; just the odd insane Shaman, and a few others not mentioned in the pitch at all.

My timeframe is modern. Alas, I really should have mentioned some of the items that show that this book is more an urban fantasy (but not set in urban environments).

So, watch your pitch. Be overly basic and they probably won't get what your book is about.

Traditional fantasy? I'll take the blame by not saying "Contemporary MG/YA fantasy set in the real world" right at the top of the pitch. Maybe the misunderstanding wouldn't have occurred.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

SPLAT by Lorrie Struiff

My good friend and critting partner, Lorrie Struiff has a newly-annointed website. To tempt you to go visit Lorrie, you can first read her story, "SPLAT." Guaranteed to give you multiple chuckles. Remember the name. You'll see more of Lorrie's work for sure.

SPLAT was originally published in The Cynic zine, then went on to be chosen to be reprinted in their “Best Of” edition.

Read the rest of SPLAT here.

"Winnie, skydiving with me is the best twentieth anniversary gift a wonderful wife like you could ever give me," Stan said. He gave me a quick hug before we climbed into the flimsy plane.

My instructor–of five hours had given me the final go-ahead to jump in tandem with my hubby who had already earned his two-star rating.

"Perfect togetherness," Stan called it. A few other names for this insane togetherness crossed my mind, but I refrained from voicing them. I wanted to prove I could be as adventurous as his other friends were, especially Barb, the gal piloting the plane. The one I referred to as 'the Barbie doll with a southern drawl.'

Our plane neared the jump point. The butterflies in my stomach morphed into crazed crickets. Untangling my hands from the wall webbing, I tethered my guide-wire and inched closer to Stan, nearer to the open bay door. I swallowed hard and my ears popped like two giant corn kernels in a microwave. The icy wind smacked my face and froze in my lungs.

The ground, way, way, down there, looked like a patchwork of small lumpy quilt squares. I trembled out of sync with the vibrating deck. My breakfast pushed up into the back of my throat, and I needed to pee.

Lorrie does have a way with comedy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Check out the KidLit blog about the 500 word contest going on now.

Send in 500 words of your completed MG/YA manuscript for a chance to win a 15-page crit or other wonderful prizes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

How I Got My Agent 15

Contributed by Bodwen:

Dear Agent:

I'm not sure if you remember me, but my name is Margaret Mitchell. Last August I sent you my historical novel entitled GONE WITH THE WIND. You rejected it on the basis that my protagonist was too unsympathetic, the title was too vague, and the book was too politically incorrect and lacked sensational detail and commercial appeal. I just wanted you to know that I have taken your suggestions to heart and have completely rewritten the draft and my query letter. Below is my new letter for your consideration:

In my 40,000 word novel "A CONFEDERATE GENTLEMAN VAMPIRE." 17 year old SCARLETTE is a bit of a misfit. She is too pretty, too outspoken, and her rich family thinks it is wrong to own slaves. But trouble starts when superhot bad-boy vampire RHETT rides into town and falls head over heels for her. He gives up blood-drinking to win her heart, but she barely notices because she's got a crush on her best friend's boyfriend, ASHLEY. And then the war breaks out, and sadistic GENERAL SHERMAN goes around with his evil troops violating women and hacking the genitals off the men. When Sherman develops the hots for Scarlette's innocent little sister SUELLEN, Scarlette visits Rhett in jail and offers her neck, asking him to turn her into a vampire so that she can use her supernatural strength to protect the cherished little sister she loves.***I know how you said that the book drags in the middle, so the story ends shortly after this. Rhett refuses to bite her, instead declaring his undying love. Scarlette realizes that she loves him too, so they share many tender love scenes before Rhett returns with her to the plantation to unleash his vampiric fury on Sherman's men. The book ends with a big wedding in a cemetery. I fake out the reader into thinking it is Scarlette and Rhett getting married, but it's actually Suellen and her shy boyfriend, Mr. Kennedy. If you like this one, I've already started work on the sequel "V IS FOR VAMPIRE-LOVER."

The war is over and Sherman returns to Georgia as a sadistic and relentless vampirehunter. When Scarlette refuses to tell him where her lover Rhett is hiding, Sherman makes her wear a scarlet V on her bodice. Little does anyone know, but Scarlette's ex-boyfriends, THE TARLINGTON TWINS have been turned into perverted evil zombies determined to make Scarlette into their unwilling slave. Will Rhett risk the wrath of Sherman to pass his vampiric curse onto Scarlette to keep her safe from their fetid touch?

Monday, January 18, 2010

How I Got My Agent 13

How I Got the Best Agent Ever
by Charles Dowd,
(posted on Nathan Bransford's Forum as an entry to the Guest Blogger contest)

I just got off the phone with my new literary agent! I am beyond excited and I want to share this story with other writers!

This woman has blasted my head into the clouds. She said my writing was unique and visionary. She said it was full of wit, and delivered in a somewhat manic style.

Perhaps that’s where the conversation took a turn that left me a little pensive. She asked some of those personal questions that all writers dread. How are you supposed to answer them? Too much information and you might bore her to death. Too little and you might seem like you’re trying to hide something.

So I ‘fessed up. I can be a little manic sometimes. The doctors call it maniacal or clinical something or the other. Whatever.

Then she asked if I had any personal problems she needed to know about. Me? I’m boring 101. You know, there was that little dustup with the IRS, but who hasn’t had problems with them? In fact, outstanding IRS liens tend to make someone more normal in my eyes. Or normaler.

Whatever. Then there was that stalking conviction, but I later got married to my stalkee, and if that doesn’t say a lot about my resolve then I don’t know what does. So, outside of that kind of thing, I’m just a regular Joe Regular. You know, a Joe Regular who likes to spend most of his time alone so he can make up stories in his head, and occasionally has loud conversations with the characters in his books, often when his mind is in neutral, like when he’s on the subway, or driving a church bus full of children or senior citizens.

And then I suddenly thought, how did this conversation with my dream literary agent end up in the third person? Or maybe I said that aloud? Whatever. But I was pretty sure I’d read something about keeping all phone conversations with prospective literary agents out of the third person.

So, then our non third person conversation turned toward her agency agreement and such. This was more comfortable conversational ground for me, except I was forced to admit that, as a temporary resident of the state of Illinois, I would not be able to enter into any kind of binding legal contract whatsoever for the next four to six years. But I had already put my bean to this issue before beginning the querying process, and had some options ready for her. I told her about my cousin, who’s into car detailing down in Miami. He’d already agreed to play me on book tours and do any television interviews. We don’t look very much alike, given that he’s from Africa and my side of the family hails from Norway, but surely some kind of plan could be hatched with the marketing folks when it came to the book jacket. You know, a picture with some serious facial hair, or lots of shadows, or something artsy like that.

As far as any book proceeds, or advances, or whatever, I think I earned BIG points when I told her she could just keep that money for the next four to six years. Talk about showing trust from day one. I told her I’d just come pick it up when we could arrange a mutually beneficial time, preferably late at night, and that I would rather it be delivered in small, non-sequential bills.

Whatever! I’m easy to work with. And that was one point I really hammered home. I am EASY. I accept editorial direction with the best of them. I’ve got like twenty three hours a day to write. So I have been producing reams and reams of material. And I can deliver it all electronically, you know, unless the warden is being a horse’s ass because some degenerate lifer started a riot in the shower. Turned out the poor, hopeless bastard had gotten smitten with some white collar mullet, and the rest of us were all screaming, “Stop wiggling, let it happen, let it happen,” but this tease of an accountant had to play hard to get and somehow things quickly escalated from a steamy shower room to bloody shanks, water cannons and tear gas.

While this wasn’t the kind of dazzling personal news I wanted to share with my new agent, she had to admit that you can’t buy that kind of writing material. How true that was, and I seized this time to inform her that after any sizable prison riot, getting material to write on is next to impossible, and would she mind accepting manuscripts handwritten in my own blood on the back of 64 oz soup can labels?

And I’m sure I’m reading WAY too much into this, but this was where she went kind of silent on me. You know, I’m sure she was just weighing it all before making that last second commitment to my literary superstardom. Probably just imagining which magic button she’d push that’ll rocket my name up there with the Browns, and Rowlings and Palins.

At least, that’s what I think was happening.

I don’t know, because at that unfortunate moment our call was cut off. It appeared I was out of time and change. Maybe I could have bummed another dollar and gotten the guys in line behind me to wait, but that shower room Lothario with the monstrous loofha was the next man up, and that was not the kind of grief I needed right then. Besides, I’m sure my new literary agent accepted my silence as acquiescence and vice versa. Great minds think alike and all that. She’s the best, right? I’ll probably be able to call her back next week and find out we already have an offer. Multiple offers. From the biggest houses. In fact, I’m sure we will. After all, she’s the best literary agent out there and we are now ONE.

Gosh, by next week, I guess the only question will be whether our relationship will have reached the point where I can call her collect.

Whatever. I’m easy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How I Got My Agent 11

How I Got My Agent
by Sandy Schoen

My book had everything!! It had characters the audience already loved, because of the show, but I made them even better. The main character was so wonderful that all the audience, even the guys, couldn't help but identify with her, even though she wasn't part of the original show. Unwanted teen pregnancy, nuclear explosions, losing family, orphans, long-lost relatives coming out of hiding, aliens, angst, drama, humour. Everything was jam-packed into 100,000 words. Everything, that is, but a second half.

It sat on a fanfiction website for a few years. Every now and then someone emailed me, begging me to finish it. I always responded politely and said real life was interfering, but I hoped to get it finished soon. That's the polite thing to do.

Then I got a letter that was from a real agent. Us serious writers can tell. He found my story when he was desparate for something to read, and was so hooked he just had to know how it ended. Because this was a real agent, not some internet fanboy, I wrote him a nice long reply explaining how, now I was out on parole, I didn't have time to write. The parole officer insisted I go to work every day, and the welfare lady kept bugging me to feed the kids and clean the bathrooms. They won't even let me have internet at home after the last visit, so I had to go to the library to work.

Now I pack up the six kids and go to work every day in the agent's house. That keeps the welfare lady happy. He keeps telling me he's got an editor all lined up, but this one wants even more chapters than the last one. I might dump this agent, though. He got upset when I experimented with headers and put my name on the top of each page.

That's how I got my agent.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How I Got My Agent 10

by Jane Lebac

Read her blog at

How I got my agent was kind of cool. I had been struggling to play a really difficult piece on my violin for about an hour one Sunday night when I was stopped by a pounding on the door. I answered, violin in hand, to see my next-door neighbor, who introduced himself as a literary agent.

"I know," I said, because it's a really old apartment building and I'd been able to hear some of his phone conversations through the thin walls.

"Have you ever thought of writing a novel?" he said. "If you quit playing that thing and write one, I'll represent you."

I said, "I know a good thing when I hear one!" and the guy's mouth twitched as he looked at my violin, but I didn't ask what he meant.

Besides, I'd been about to give up hope that my plan would work. I'd already spent the past three years living next door to Janet Reid, Kristin Nelson and Rachelle Gardner, and all it had gotten me were a few calls to the police, angry messages on my answering machine and a picture of a violin smashed in pieces and repaired with duct tape pinned to my door with a six-inch stiletto heel.

Friday, January 08, 2010

How I Got My Agent 9

By Laura B. Diamond

See Laura's blog at:

We met five years ago, quite by accident. During an internet search, I came across a website detailing a group of “exclusive agents” who had completed their training and were ready to find their one and only client.

The way it worked was: My agent had signed up with a manager or “handler” who promised to develop a personalized publicity and marketing plan. Potential clients could review said profile on the handler’s website and contact her if they felt they would be a good fit.

Needless to say, the process was daunting. My agent had found such a conscientious handler that she did not allow immediate contact with her agents. That’s right. Before she even let potential clients meet with an agent, the manager required an initial contact request via e-mail to be sent to her. This was followed by a phone interview where she collected standard information for background checking. Then if, and only if, those two communications went well, she scheduled a face to face—and observed!—interview with one of her agents.

Lucky me, I passed the first two steps, no problem! The handler invited me for an interview and I accepted. So, I drove five hours to Extreme Eastern New York, USA and had my initial interview with my dream agent. Boy, was I nervous! I wondered if she’d like me, if we’d get along, and if we’d have the same “vision” for my work.

Well, as soon as my agent and I met, it was an obvious match. We had the same playful attitude, the same interests and hobbies, and we even liked the same TV shows! She completely loved my manuscript and supports me 100%.

We signed a contract on the spot. Five years later, I have no regrets.

Picture of Grace Anne Diamond of GAD Literary Services, LLC:

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Quest for the Simurgh

Quest for the Simurgh

Just a reminder that Quest for the Simurgh is available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and CreateSpace. I've also just formatted a Large Print edition of Quest, which will be out as soon as I order and approve my proof copy. I've been looking hard at the PDF, so I think it's pretty clean. Here are the current links.

Amazon Kindle 99 cents

Amazon Trade Paperback $5.99

Amazon Large Print Edition $8.99

Barnes & Noble Trade Paperback $7.15

Barnes & Noble Large Print Edition $8.95

Barnes & Noble ebook (for nook and other ebook formats) $1.99

Monday, January 04, 2010

How I Got My Agent 7

Terry (aka Tabris, Jane, Philangelus) spins a tale, and knits up a fun HIGMA.
Check her blog at

When I was at a book convention recently, I was sitting in on a session for my favorite author while knitting a sock. It was a really neat session, and I actually concentrate better while knitting. The woman next to me said, 'Are you bored or something?' and I said, "No, he's my favorite author! But I concentrate better when I'm knitting." It's true -- the repetitive motion frees up my brain to really focus.

Then I said, "Wait, do you think it's rude? Because I'm a writer too, and I'd hate to insult him!"

The person said no, since we were in the back. During a pause, I asked if he was one of her favorite writers too, and she said yes. Between sessions, she asked what I wrote, and I told her about my story where a yarn store owner solves mysteries after hours. Then we talked about the sock I was making. She had to go to another session, but then she surprised me by pulling out an ARC of the author's next book and gave it to me! Signed and everything! I was over the moon, and then she told me she was his agent.

I asked for her business card so I could send her a thank-you note. She gave it to me, then said it sounded like I could spin a great yarn, and she wanted me to send her some of my work.

Well! I stayed up all night finishing the first sock, and the next day I finished the second sock on the way home from the convention. I wrote her a really nice thank you note, slipped the socks into an envelope, and sent it to her.

A week later, I got an email asking to see "my full work," so I went over to the yarn store and got a whole lot more yarn and took the next three weeks to knit a sweater, a hat,a shawl and a pretty wrap skirt. I boxed those up and mailed them.

The next week, I got a phone call saying, "Terry, what is this? Are you bribing me?"

I explained about the letter asking for my full work. Then I hesitated. "Wait? Did you want mittens too?"

The agent laughed and said, "Terry! I wanted to see your manuscript!"

My face was redder than the slippers I was knitting! But the agent said it was fine, and that my sweater really was wonderful, and I should email her my manuscript when I got the chance.

She loved the Knitalong Mysteries, and now I've got a two-book deal with Spinner Press.

And that's how I got my agent.

Friday, January 01, 2010

How I Got My Agent 6

Thanks to Holly Lisle for this example request for information. No, it's not to an agent, and I doubt this pair will ever get one, but I'll bet that it will be accepted with joy by PublishAmerica.

Deer Hally:

were not haven trouble written sences and its two of us written it... thats why it dnt really get boring i mean like theres alot of action... were never really bored.... everyone thats read it tells
us to hurry up and finish it.. but we are calling it exspect the unexspected.. its good. we know how were going to end it so we can start the next book.what all does it take to get a book published?

Yurs truly,
Mary Clueless
John Clueless