Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Fricassee

Yesterday, I posted the following on my real-life-me Facebook page:

Brushing the dust off a few-years-old novel and reworking it. 

It feels like skipping the draft and going right to the FUN, which is revising! Lots of work ahead, though. I've got a fire crackling in the hearth, and I just may grab an Angry Orchard. 

Love storytelling! Love!

As soon as I posted it, I had a thought:  How many of my friends will read this and think, why does she spend so much time on this? It's not getting her anywhere.

Seriously.  I had that thought.

Thing is, folks on the "outside" (muggles, as it were) don't understand why.  You and I and everyone else who crafts words DEEPLY UNDERSTAND.  This is my career, my calling, my Number One Thing.  And I continue to write because I intend to be published, and then to continue to write, and to continue to be published, and so on.  'Til the grave.

I've been on Facebook for too long many years, and I can only imagine how many writing-themed statuses I've left there.  Because I write a lot.  And I can't help imagining the eye-rolling that goes on.  And the skipping-over-this-post-because-who-cares-what-she's-writing.

If I'm not careful, those kinds of thoughts will lead to seeds of self-doubt, which happens to be a writer's nemesis.  Am I right?  So instead of dwelling on the what-do-my-friends-think, I came here to write this post instead, because you and I are in this together, and I know you get it.

I'm a writer, and I can't pretend to be anything less.  And neither should you.

And that's all I have to say.  Because...I need to go write now.

And so do you.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Update on Deidre Knight's Wishlist

Deidre Knight requested more material from both of our Wish List finalists this week -- great news!

If you missed the entries, you can read them now (and also read Deidre's comments):


CALL OF THE KOEL (Historical)

Congratulations to both authors!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

From the Archives

There are so many posts sitting in the archives (it'll be 8 years in April since I started this blog) that I've decided I ought to pull one now and again and repost.

I came across the following post from 2009 quite by accident.  In it, you'll read my strong words against a critter named "Anonymous" and her snarky comments directed at our Secret Agent.  And if you scroll down the comments, you'll see the coolest thing of all -- this snarky "Anonymous" humbled herself and apologized.

Just more proof that the online writing community is one of the best in the universe.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Fricassee

On Wednesday, I hit the end of my tolerance for winter.  (I don't know how anyone survives in places like Wisconsin and North Dakota and Saskatchewan and...Iceland.)  So when I got home, I filled up the jacuzzi tub with very hot water and grabbed some seaweed snacks and THIS:

And here comes the best part.  Just as I was ready settle into the bubbles-that-would-sweep-away-winter's-cold, an email from my beloved agent came through on my iPhone--her notes for the first half of my latest revision.

Do you know how DECADENT it felt to sink back in the water and read those notes?  The stage was already set--my playlist for this particular novel was blasting, and I had planned on doing some more Bathtub Brainstorming (I still have to figure out the actual climax of this next book, and then I'm golden).  So there I was, immersed in my story's world and reading Danielle's thoughts on the first half of it.  (Good news--nothing in the first half is broken.)

So what I'm saying is this:  there are ALL SORTS OF MAGICAL MOMENTS available to us as writers.  For me, this was one of them.  Unplanned, for sure--and that's what makes them magical.  When they happen, we need to STOP LIFE and soak up the magic.

Sometimes it happens when we meet someone who has the same name as one of our characters--a name we thought we had made up.  Sometimes it happens when we receive a full request from an agent we never dreamed would give us a second glance.  Sometimes it happens when one of our readers texts us to tell us she cried when she read our big Death Scene.  And sometimes it happens when we're walking through the woods and suddenly have an epiphany about our current plot, and the planets align and the sunbeams course through our fingers and strands of hair while a host of birds burst into glorious song.

That sort of thing.

Grab the moments, my friends.  Writing is a lot of hard work.  Revel in the moments that make you feel, even for a few breaths, like you are living a fairytale life.

When you really think about it, it's not that far from the truth.  :)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Agent Wish List for Deidre Knight: Critique Guidelines

Welcome to our first AGENT WISH LIST critique round!

Today we have 2 offerings for Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency.  (See her wish HERE.)

When leaving your critique, please focus your comments on the actual writing rather than on the query letter.  General comments about the query are fine and can be helpful -- things like "the premise drew me right in" or "I don't have a sense of what the stakes really are".  But try to avoid nitpicking the query.  (I'm not a fan of the overshopped query letter.)

Keep your eyes open for Deidre's comments on these entries!  If she doesn't choose to ask for more material, she will let the authors know why.  This is a wonderful glimpse inside the brain of an agent!

Here are the general critique guidelines, as always:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
Have fun!

Agent Wish List: Deidre Knight #2

GENRE: Adult - Historical/Women's Fiction


Dear Ms Knight,

In 19th century Hong Kong, everything from flesh to secrets has a price.

Siu Lin is a concubine who knows never to expect love from her master. Helena is an English woman seeking a husband in order to escape her past. When betrayal and disaster throw Siu Lin onto the streets of Hong Kong, it's Helena who saves her life. Despite the constraints of race and class, a friendship is born from their shared interest in social reform. Together they work for change by safeguarding prostitutes and taking in orphans.

But both women are hiding secrets. When a plague sweeps Hong Kong, Helena takes custody of another family's son for his protection, and comes precariously close to revealing her connection with the boy. Meanwhile, Siu Lin learns that her own long-lost son has suffered at the hands of Helena’s abusive husband. Now the life of Helena’s family hangs in the balance, and the women discover just how far they are willing to go for the love of a child.

CALL OF THE KOEL, recently short-listed for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award (which honours unpublished works), is my first novel. At approximately 110,000 words, CALL OF THE KOEL is a stand-alone historical novel.

I’m an American by birth, but I was raised in British Hong Kong. I have a B.A. in English from Duke University, and I live in Singapore (where I was selected to participate in the 2013 Curtis Brown Creative Novel Writing Bootcamp, taught by Anna Davis and Jake Arnott).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

May 1866, Hong Kong

At last, and too soon, they arrived at the painted green door. Siu Lin leaned against a rough wooden post, her legs sponge and marrow from the walking that had begun the day before. Her younger brothers sat down by the side of the alley to wait.

"Don't make trouble." Baba's voice was soft, but he didn't stand for disobedience.

"Come, Siu Lin," Mama said. Siu Lin looked again at her brothers tracing lines in the dirt.

She followed her parents across the threshold. Inside, the damp earth floor, musty in the humidity, teased at the back of her throat. Baba murmured low to the woman they had walked so far to see.
An anxious current, choppy and fitful, rippled in her stomach and she drifted toward the open seas of despair. She shoved away thoughts of home and cast her nets, instead, on the strangeness of this place. A candle flickered and shadows danced over the walls. Two beds. A large wardrobe. What did the woman keep inside?

Baba was still speaking with the woman. The matchmaker amah. Finally, the woman nodded, brushed past Baba and came to stand in front of her.

Ah Yip. The name had haunted her for weeks. Now it had a face, round and expressionless like the barren moon.

"We cannot afford to keep her," Baba said in a hollow voice and looked to the floor.

Agent Wish List: Deidre Knight #1

GENRE: YA - Historical


The Games at Olympia have ever been a competition of men–until Cynisca enters her chariot.
Seventeen-year-old Cynisca is the awkward princess in the Spartan Royal House. Unlike her savvy siblings, her only talents lie in horsemanship, and to her politically minded relatives, she's useless. But everything changes when her crippled brother abruptly inherits the throne. Controversy erupts, and when an anti-royalist insults the new king, Cynisca snaps. A hostile exchange leads to a racing challenge, and Cynisca trounces the scoffer. That gives the king an idea: demonstrate royal authority by having Cynisca defeat his detractors in the great Olympic chariot race.

Cynisca jumps at the chance. For her, it's a rare opportunity to make her family proud. But the stakes–Olympic glory and unparalleled clout–are enormous. Moreover, no woman has ever dared enter the Games. With hostility from officials and entrants alike, the journey to Olympia may prove more treacherous than any track Cynisca's raced.

Based on events from Greek history, CYNISCA AND THE OLIVE CROWN relates the tale of the first woman to compete in the ancient Olympic Games.


A model Spartan princess was as skilled in the social arena as a veteran on the battlefield. Dignity was her armor, wit her blade. She could win allies with a glance, thwart rivals with a word. And she never ever embarrassed herself in public.

I was not that princess.

My ears burned as my sister pressed that point within the storeroom's thick brick walls. "Gods, Cynisca! How could you not remember Lord Polycles' wife?"

"I said I was sorry." In retrospect, I probably should've known better than to assume the pretty young woman accompanying the graying Assembly Leader to the town square was his daughter. Hoping to cast my mistake in a positive light, I said, "Maybe his wife was flattered–"

Proauga's fist slammed a shelf, rattling the clay lamps within. "Maybe you should have thought harder before opening your mouth. Considering how often you race against Polycles' son, you should know the man doesn't have any daughters."

"We don't exactly chat while harnessing the horses," I mumbled beneath my breath.

Proauga inhaled deeply, regaining composure with an effort. Her anger was far from spent, but with Agis returning from Delphi in two days, she had more important things to do. "Anyway, try not to insult anyone else. And fix your hair." She snatched the hairpin from my drooping knot and tossed it at me. "You're the king's half-sister. Look like it."

Easy for you to say. Envy wormed up as Proauga sashayed out.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Wish From Deidre Knight

Deidre Knight of the Knight Agency has a wish or two!

Deidre's Wishes:
  • A historical novel about Ancient Greece, or possibly Sparta
  • Women's historical set in Victorian era (not a romance)

Does your COMPLETED manuscript fit one of the above?  If so SUBMIT AS FOLLOWS:

  • Send your QUERY LETTER and the FIRST 250 WORDS of your (completed) manuscript to me via our online submission form.
  • Be sure to include the TITLE and GENRE of your work.
  • Choose a SCREEN NAME that is easily identifiable.
  • Submissions will open at NOON EASTERN TIME today, and will close 24 hours later, or as soon as I've received 50 entries--whichever comes first.  (I will be reading all the entries, so I have to limit the number I accept.)
Questions?  Please ask below!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Fricassee

Yesterday, I had a plot breakthrough in the bath tub.

I know, I know.  So many of you have told me over the years how you get ideas in the shower and in the bath and while doing synchronized swimming in your neighbor's pool (okay, not really).  But, truth be told, I'm not a water person.  I prefer a quick shower over a bath.  And at the shore?  I'm more of a toes-in-the-surf gal.  Don't make me get my suit wet.

So it was a bit of an alternate reality yesterday when, in desperation, I filled the whirlpool tub and climbed in with a clipboard and some blank sheets of manilla paper.  (Because that's best for doodling and such.)  I've been in SUCH a funk over my current plotting (new book)--utterly unable to figure things out, to the point where I actually announced to Mr. A, "I can't do this.  I'm just going to have to bag this book."

He didn't buy it.

So there I am, essential-oil-laced bubbles swirling round me, my playlist blasting through my bluetooth speaker over the roar of the water, clipboard on my knees, pen in hand.


Five minutes.

That's all it took to lubricate my brain.  Seriously, I had been sitting there for no more than five minutes when the answer I needed materialized before me.  And I began to furiously (and fairly illegibly) scribble on my page.

(Which eventually got wet, as you can see above.  But at least I didn't drop my wine glass into the water.  I've absolutely done that before.)

Naturally, I stayed in the tub well beyond those five golden minutes.  Worked out some more story stuff, but also just sort of reveled in the whole thing.  For me to move my scheduled writing time to a body of water is so outside of "me", and it was amazing how utterly fulfilling the time turned out to be.

Maybe it was the essential oil.  Or the wine.

But the real point is this:  I had to get completely outside of my own normal in order for my brain to do the work for me.  Part of our getting stuck, I think, is that we are in our daily rut, which puts our brain into a rut, too.  Not that we can't think or create or imagine or write every day, but it sometimes becomes harder to reach those really deep creative places when we need them.


So here's the takeaway.  Beyond the well-worn (and well proven) advice of "Go take a walk! Go take a shower! Go fill-in-the-blank!", I would like to add this:  GO DO SOMETHING YOU'D NEVER NORMALLY DO.  Shake it up to the point where the ideas tumble out of your head like blocks from an open sack.  If taking a walk is your usual modus operandi, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  Don't just change your scenery for something familiar.

Yesterday I discovered that my brain obviously cries for this--because look how it rewarded me!  I crawled into bed early last night to start my beat sheet afresh, and got about halfway through.  Today I am looking forward to continuing the work, instead of dreading it (as I have been for days).

I'm not going to tell you to go take a bath, because that might be what you normally do when you're in a stuck place.  I'm telling you to do something different for YOU.  And perhaps you'll have amazing results, too.

Whew, though!  Writing isn't for wimps.

And speaking of not-being-wimps--our first AGENT WISH LIST call for submissions will post on Monday morning.  I'm just a tad excited about this!

Okay, then.  Off I go.  Have a brilliant weekend, dear ones, and I'll see you Monday!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Wish From Kate Testerman

This isn't a official AGENT WISH LIST -- that's coming soon!  But to kick off the idea of wishes, I'm honoring Ms. Testerman's request to post the following, in the hope that, if your manuscript fits the bill, you will query her according to THESE SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS.

Kate Testerman's Wish:

I'm especially interested in finding diverse stories by diverse creators, in all genres and age ranges. I am also definitely looking for high concept, hooky YA, and would love to find a great fantasy that sweeps me off my feet. And I would love to find a proper YA mystery, like classic Agatha Christie or Gretchen McNeil's GONE. I'm pretty full with great middle grade now, but am always hoping to find something to blow my socks off!

Monday, February 8, 2016

I've Got a New THING For You!

It's called AGENT WISH LIST.

Here's how it works:

Every once in a while, I will post something that a particular agent is wishing for.

Like, maybe...

"A YA version of the Betsy-Tacy series, with zombies"


"A time travel thriller set in the shadow of Vesuvius"

or...whatever shows up in my inbox.

Once I post the agent's wish, you will have a couple days to submit your query and first 250 words to me.  If I feel that your entry is strong enough to pass the agent's desk, I will post it here on the blog, where it will be open for public critique, INCLUDING THE AGENT.

If the agent likes it, he/she can ask to see more.  If the agent doesn't like it, he/she will be able to tell you WHY.  Which is a rare and beautiful thing, indeed.

And, yes, you will know who the agent is when I post the wish.

Sound good?  Post your questions below!

(And, yes, I've already got a couple of wishes waiting...)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Fricassee

So I've got a bit of a dilemma.

Several days ago, I posted THIS on Facebook.  Just a funny little thing I'd found, adding the circle around "novel reading" because of its pertinence to all-things-bookish.  Not a big deal.

It's sort of gone viral.  At this writing, it has 535 likes and 199 shares.  And they keep coming in.  Seriously, I've never had this kind of response on ANY Facebook post, on either of my accounts (Authoress or Real Life).  Fun, yes?

Except, it must have flagged me somehow, because a couple days after this thing blew up, I got a wee notification from Facebook, asking for proof that my name is really my name.

Okay, game's up.  My real name is not Authoress.

So I chose a link that said "special circumstances", which led me to several choices, including "are you gay/lebsian/bisexual/transgender" and "are you being abused".  I chose "other", and then typed out a brief explanation of why I go by "Authoress", including links to my blog and Twitter account.

The next day, I received a stock response from Facebook, thanking me for working with them and asking me to scan a photo ID.

Um.  I really don't own any photo IDs that say "Authoress".  Yanno?  Thing is, I had already explained myself, but apparently nobody was really paying attention.  So I calmly explained myself again.

Here's the thing.  I've had this Facebook account since 2009.  I've never abused it, never posted anything inappropriate or worthy of account termination.  But if this not-your-real-name issue isn't resolved, they are going to lock me out of my account.

I'm still waiting to hear back.

I get that they don't want to host creepy people hiding behind fake names.  I get that they want to protect users from abuse.  I GET IT.  But I am not a creepy creeper.  And I'VE HAD THIS ACCOUNT FOR ALMOST 7 YEARS.  Suddenly I'm on the radar, which makes me...a threat?

Over the past few days, I've also been receiving a steady stream of friend requests, as people see this post and figure they ought to friend me (I guess?).  This morning when I checked my FB, I had 29 friend requests waiting.  And that was before 8 am.  I'm also getting all sorts of notifications of people liking and sharing other posts--some from a year or two ago.

I'm sure it'll die down.  But whether it does or doesn't, I've still got this issue with FB, and I'm not sure what's going to happen.

Maybe they'll want me to turn it into a page.  But can you imagine starting from scratch after building a friend list for almost seven years?  I can't even.

And, too, we've got a private MSFV Success Story Author page, headed by the illustrious Peter Salomon.  Losing my Authoress account would mean losing access to that community as well.

So there you have it.  This is certainly a first world problem, and I'm not overly stressed.  I'm just...annoyed.  Facebook is a great platform for authors, and now I'm facing having my account shut down.  I'm not going to reveal my name just to keep my Facebook account open.


Probably the time is nigh.  Probably there is no reason to continue hiding behind the Authoress moniker.

I've been tired of the anonymity.  It's interesting, though, because I've always been so transparent here.  I'm as "real" as I can be, and what's in a name, anyway--right?

Still.  I'm pretty sure I'm ready to create a beautiful author site (I've had the domain parked for years) and transition over.

What do you think?

Is it time?

Do you want to hear the real story?

Should I put some real time into the "reveal" story I started working on over a year ago?

Maybe this FB situation is really a nudge for me to move forward, dropping the red hat and joining the ranks-with-faces.  And names.



I'm listening!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Success Story!

I'm delighted to share the success story of the author of one of our most popular entries from December's ON THE BLOCK auction!  In the author's words:

I wanted to let you know that after a month of requests and rejections and offers - I am now officially agented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger!

Of course, this is just the first step. There's work to be done, revisions and submissions and waiting and nail-biting - and maybe more revisions and submissions and waiting after that - but I am so excited to finally have an agent!

And I absolutely feel that you had a huge hand in it. Had I not set the goal of entering On the Block, my manuscript might still be unfinished. Had I not seen the positive response my entry got at the auction, I might not have found the courage to send out additional queries (after the winning agent declined). It was really a series of connected events that started with you.

So thank you so much for all that you do, for helping so many hone their craft, for giving the gift of possibility and community. I appreciate it so much!

All the best,
Jessica Redman
Reverie West and the Oneironauts