Monday, December 28, 2015

Announcement: A Fond Farewell (of sorts) to Josh

Some of you have been with me all along, and some of you are newer to the blog and less familiar with my writing journey.  For the sake of history:  on December 17, 2010, I signed with Josh Getzler, who was then with the Russell Volkening Agency.

If you've never read the 3-part story of how we came to be, GRAB A CUPPA AND READ IT NOW.
(I really love this guy.)

For 5 years, Josh and I have stuck it out.  Through the disappointments and near-misses and long, bleak stretches, he never threw me out the back door.  And I didn't throw him out, either.  (Well, I tried to, once.  But he loved me through that episode, too.)

I'm thrilled (beyond measure) to announce that I am now represented by Danielle Burby of Hannigan Salky Getzler.  (Which is, of course, the same agency.  So I'm not really leaving.)  The simple reason?  My current project (as you probably know) is YA fantasy, which Josh does not represent.  Danielle, on the other hand, loves fantasy, and has been indispensable during the last two rounds of revisions on this manuscript.

Thankfully, Josh will still be on board in an advisory capacity.  He has an amazing editorial eye, and I can honestly say that my completed works would not be what they are if it weren't for his input.  (Here is a great blog post about his editing style.  If he's on your to-be-queried list, take a moment to read this!)

As for Danielle?  I loved her almost from the moment I met her.  She came on board as Josh's assistant in early 2013, and started to build her own client list faster than you can say "Danielle Burby is a Superhero".  When I was in NYC this July, I spoke with Josh about the possibility of shifting to Danielle once my current novel was ready for submission, and he agreed that it was a good idea.  Last week, we made it official.

I'm so happy to be moving forward with Danielle (who, when she sent me the agency agreement, closed the email with, "I'm excited to hit the ground running together in 2016!". I mean, how could I NOT be thrilled?).  I know you all understand how amazing it feels when someone shares the vision and passion of your work.  Danielle was enthusiastic about this project when I was still drafting it, and her level of investment and optimism continues to be unflagging.

And, seriously?  How could you not love this face?

So here's to a new year and new beginnings.  Big hugs and thanks to those of you who have been cheering me on FOR PRETTY MUCH FOREVER.  I'm not sure I can ever adequately express my thanks for your faithful support over the years.  Mine was never meant to be the fast-and-flashy success story, yes?  And I'm so very grateful that so many of you have stuck with me through this (very long) journey.  More times than I can count, YOU WERE THE REASON I didn't quit.  (How could I quit when I'd spent so much time telling YOU not to quit?)

Josh:  Thanks for 5 years of not giving up.  You will always be my Agentman.

Danielle:  Thanks for believing in me enough to take me on.  And now I'll need to come up with a nickname for you, too. :)

Everyone:  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Fricassee -- My Gifts

Christmas is a season of giving.  I have so many "gifts" in my life as a writer, and I'd like to acknowledge you here.

In no particular order:

  • Julie Butcher, for your wit, cheerleading, and sharp eye.  You deserve the best, Julie!
  • Adam Heine, for your worldbuilding superpowers and your amazing sense of humor.
  • Peter Salomon, for giving so much to this blog, and for being such a faithful crit partner.
  • Alison Weiss, for your unflagging support and always-there-ness.
  • Jodi Meadows, without whom I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today.
  • Josh Getzler, who stuck with me for 5 years.  So thankful for you!
  • Danielle Burby, for your undying enthusiasm and incredible eye. And love of Jane Austen.
  • Beth Revis, for never failing to speak encouragement at precisely the right moment.
  • Christine Nguyen, for your unconditional love and bubbliness.  And forever faith in me.
  • Michael Wulf, for putting so much time into our fearless bot. I couldn't do this without you!
  • Leah Petersen, for not being afraid to say hard things. And for always supporting me.
  • Holly Bodger, for being so faithful with logline critiques, and for always making me laugh.
  • Joan Paquette, for picking so many gems from our offerings, and for being so supportive.
  • Rena Rossner, for being an incredible "agent sister", reader, and source of encouragement.
  • Gabrielle Harbowy, for believing in me.
  • All my Success Story Authors, for being an army of good will (for real).
  • All my regular commenters and tweeters -- I so appreciate your involvement and support.
  • ALL my blog readers, for, well, reading.
  • All my clients, for entrusting your work to me.  I count it a privilege.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I'll see you week after next!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Fricassee

I'm sure you've noticed the low activity level here.  Originally, I was going to do a thing or two during December--a holiday lyrics contest and probably a small, in-house critique session.


It felt to just let it all go and give myself a bit of relief from the pressure.  I've been running this blog for a long time (it'll be 8 years in April!), and eventually I'm going to plan an end game.  The archives here are a rich resource for anyone who wants to spend time reading critique in order to sharpen his own writing (and critique) skills.  So when this blog finally goes away, its treasures-of-the-past will remain, and will hopefully continue to help and inspire writers old and new.

Anyway.  December needed to just be...December.  Finished the latest round of edits, took on a couple of editing projects, decided to focus on Christmas.  And my husband.  And possibly the shiny, new "book 2" I'm planning.  (You know what I mean--the fun stage where you're not actually plotting yet, but you're considering all the possibilities.)

Thanks for understanding.  Hope you're finding joy in your daily writing.  (Notice I said daily.  That might not be true for you, so substitute something like regular or scheduled there.  Because writers WRITE!)  I promise we'll get back into the critique in January.  That's always been the crux of this blog, after all--a focus on critique for the betterment of our craft.  We're not flashy, but we get it done!

Sending December hugs and something steamy in a cup.  Or frothy in a mug.  Or sparkly in a fluted glass.  Your choice!  :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Release Day Interview: JM Frey

I've got another book birthday interview for you!  This time, we're celebrating with JM Frey, another of our success story authors and a multi-talented gal in her own right.


AUTHORESS: We first met over TRIPTYCH, your award-winning novel that is truly one of the best time-travel stories I've ever read. Can you tell us a bit about how this story came to be and how it has propelled you forward?

JM: D'awww thank you! TRIPTYCH was the second novel I wrote, and the first I really thought about in terms of a book I wanted to publish. The first novel I never really thought was publishable, and I trunked it, but I really worked and polished TRIPTYCH because of that. I came up with the concept for TRIPTYCH on my mother's 50th birthday. I was living overseas at the time, and I was chilling in the local onsen and thinking about Mom; that was when I realized I was turning 25 that year, and that Mom had had me when she was my age. And there I was, not married, no kids, no career, living on the other side of the planet studying nihon buyo, seiyuu, and teaching at a high school. We had cone down very different paths. And then I wondered if 25 year old Mom would like 25 year old me. I thought we'd get along (I got my wanderlust from her). But of course, story comes from conflict, so I then I wondered... what if we didn't?

AUTHORESS: I absolutely LOVE that the time-travel aspect of TRIPTYCH is derived from your mom-and-me soul searching!

So, you wrote it, and at first it didn't fly. Can you share a bit about your journey from first draft to sale?

JM: TRIPTYCH started life as a novella titled (Back), which I sold to Silverthought Press for online-only publication in 2008. I got a lot of really positive feedback from that, and most of it was some version of "And then what happened??" So I started thinking about what happened next, and seeing as I still had all the rights for (Back), I expanded the story into a full novel.

I wrote several drafts, working and rewriting constantly for a year. When I thought it was ready, I started querying agents and sometimes small presses. Every time I heard back, I tried to tweak and edit the book to address the notes or concerns the rejects included. (All in all, I logged 64 drafts between start and publication, and that included the ones I did with Dragon Moon Press. You read draft 64. But a lot of those drafts were alterations suggested after a rejection, like cutting a scene, or adding just a few lines for clarification in the midst of dialogue, etc.)

I'd had a lot of rejections by April 2009. I went to a SF convention in Toronto, as an academic guest, and after a panel I stopped by the hotel bar to hang out with some nerds I knew from the SPACE Channel here in Canada. There were some people I didn't know in the group, but at this convention especially, people are very friendly and welcoming. So when we all relocated to a room for beer and pizza, everyone was invited.

At that party, I was talking to some authors I know about my frustrations, and a woman came over to ask about the book I was talking about. So, having no idea who she was, slightly drunk and kinda bitter, I pitched her the book. I thought she was just being polite when she kept talking about the book, and then, strangest of all, she requested the full! I had no idea who she was!

Turns out she was Gabrielle Harbowy, acquiring editor at Dragon Moon Press!

I sent her the book that Monday, and a little while later got her response. She really liked the characters, but was rejecting it because she felt that there were issues with the structure of the narrative that was irreparable. Well, trust me to take that as a personal challenge.

I asked her if she would be willing to read it again if I revised, and she agreed (I am going to project a little here and say reluctantly agreed), and I spent the summer pulling it apart and rewriting large swaths of the book to address the issues she had pointed out. I returned the book to her that autumn and heard... nothing.

I was anxious, and then I was upset, and then I was devastated. Surly that meant she didn't want it and didn't feel the need to break it to me gently. Right? Wrong. Gabrielle later told me that she held off on reading it so long because she had really liked the characters and really didn't want to read the revisions and have to tell me that they were rejecting the book. Except, that when she finally did read the revisions, she liked them!


I think, though I can't be certain, but I think I got the email offering publication sometime around Christmas? It might have even been on Christmas Eve.

We announced the sale at that same convention in 2010, and then launched the book there in 2011.

AUTHORESS: And the rest is history!

So now you're launching your second novel (with other goodies on the horizon). Can you tell us how THE UNTOLD TALE came to be?

JM: Well, after TRIPTYCH, I wrote another novel (THE SKYLARK'S SONG) and leveraged TRIPTYCH'S success to pitch to agents. I was actually approached by some too, and in the end I had three phone calls. I chose an agent, and we started working on SKYLARK. It was clear pretty quickly, however, that I hadn't made the right choice. He absolutely mangled the manuscript, had no idea what I was trying to do with it, and was extremely condescending. I regretted my choice nearly instantly - the good news was, one of the other agents regretted not pitching me harder. We met again a little later, when I was horribly upset with my then-current agent, and just chatting with her made me realize I had to fire the jerk.

So I fired him. I was worried that I'd completely screwed myself, and that I'd never be represented again, and that THE SKYLARK'S SONG was beyond saving now. The other agent heard I was free, and jumped on the chance. From what I understand, she invited Gabrielle out to dinner, and borrowed her phone to call me randomly out of the blue and offer representation. I actually missed the call, though, because I was busy being the Maid of Honor at my friend's Bachelorette party! She left a lovely message, though.

I decided that if I was going to go to Laurie, I wanted to bring her something that The Jerk hadn't touched first, before we began to work on SKYLARK. I wanted to do with Fantasy what TRIPTYCH did was Sci-Fi - that is, something left-of-center, something issue-laden without being issue-driven or issue-burdened. That was when the buzz for this new TV show started to fill the air - Game of Thrones. I'd never heard of George RR Martin, or read his books, prior to the series coming out. But it sounded right up my alley, so I watched.

It gave me a lot of ideas, but mostly what it really sparked in me was a kind of low-level resentment. It wasn't at the show per se, but at the guy friend I was watching it with. We had an argument about intended audience, and I couldn't get him to understand how much it sucks to not be the center. I mean, I literally couldn't get him to understand that Game of Thrones, while not horrible, was not made for me, but for people like him. White. Male. Straight.

I was so angry I went off to my office and wrote a scene where a female character yells at the hero of a standard fantasy series.

The next morning I reread it and thought... "I think there's something in this. This... anger at always being on the edge."

Turns out there was!

Laurie ADORED the book (only gave me three notes). We had a hard time shopping it though, because it's very self aware and some publishers thought it would be difficult to market. Everyone really liked the book itself, but in general the editors who read it weren't certain how to handle it. Last November, Laurie was giving a keynote at a conference and mentioned the book. As soon as she was finished speaking, she was cornered at the tea table by REUTS. And to borrow your phrase - the rest is history!

Though I was very surprised when they offered a three book deal. I had never intended the story to continue, but now that I have the chance, I really relish the ability to dig back in to this world.

And yes, I did finally bring SKYLARK around to a place I liked with Laurie, and REUTS snapped that up in a three book deal as well.

AUTHORESS: So, as a "self aware" fantasy, what kind of reader will THE UNTOLD TALE beckon to? What do you think the readers will find most surprising? Most challenging?

JM: I think the book will really resonate with readers like me, readers who love fantasy books but are frustrated at never seeing themselves in the books (or, if they are, as villains, exotic "others", or savages). I mean, it's no wonder the weird kids always fall in love with monsters, and bad guys, and mutant characters - it's the only place we see ourselves.

THE UNTOLD TALE points out that fantasy novels have, for a very long time, (And I'm talking The Epic of Gilgamesh here) have been power fantasies for straight males. And my book isn't saying "No, that's bad", it's saying, "Uhg, this is boring. Another one?" The heroes in these books are the side characters, the overlooked ones, the voiceless ones. That, I think, will be the surprise.

As for challenging, it is hard for us nerds to be told that something we have accepted as a staid fact of our reality is problematic. (I mean, #GamerGate/Sad Puppies are the perfect example.) Nerds and Geeks like us often internalize our favorite stories and base a lot of our personalities and self-worth on them. So when someone else finds fault with those stories, it can feel like a personal attack, even though it isn't. It's never a personal attack or an attempt to oppress. It's a question that says, "Don't you see how harmful these stereotypes can be? Not just for me, but for you too? Please, can we make room for everyone?" And I think the book might be challenging for those readers who've never had the flaws and problematics of classic fantasy novels pointed out to them before.

AUTHORESS: Wow, thanks for that very deep glimpse into not only your writer-mind, but your deepest self. Writing is so much more than simply "telling a story", as you've just made clear.

Thank you so much for this interview, and best of luck as THE UNTOLD TALE flies into the wild!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Guess what these tiny Christmas trees are made of?  Ripped-up-pages-of-old-paperbacks!  Wonderful way to recycle, yes?

Beyond that, though, is this imagery of book-shredding that reminds me of revisions, and how good it would feel if the process were a bit more tactile.  I mean, it's effortless to delete a word or a sentence or a paragraph or an entire bleeding chapter.  But wouldn't it feel tremendous to be able to feel it a bit more?  To actually take those words and mangle them with your hands?  To resolutely shove them down a garbage chute?

There's something to be said for those melodramatic movie scenes of writers crumpling sheets of paper in a fit of pique and tossing them into the nearest hearth.

Though, truth be told, I don't feel piqued when I delete things during revisions--I feel EMPOWERED.  I feel LIGHTER.  In fact I feel like I'VE LOST FIVE POUNDS AND MY JEANS AREN'T TOO TIGHT ANYMORE.  All those excess words that had to go away to allow the story to shine!  All that cumbersome fluff, those extraneous scenes--au revoir, all!

(Oh, dear.  "Cumbersome fluff"made me think of Benedict Cumberbatch.  How will I get myself back on track?)

As if it's not obvious, I've just completed a round of revisions that left my story 4 chapters shorter and close to 6000 words lighter.  All along, I knew the story needed trimming, tightening, finessing.  I knew, but I couldn't see.  And then Danielle Burby pretty much nailed it (she's good at that), and off I went with a clear vision on exactly what I needed to do.

Except, I'm now sort of wishing that I had actual pages I could rip up and turn into tiny Christmas trees.  It would help me feel like all the hours that went into the now-deleted pages were redeemable.

(This is the part where I remind you that every minute spent writing a book is worth it--even when you end up deleting stuff.  It's all part of the process.  It all COUNTS.)

So don't be afraid to say good-bye to the parts of your story that aren't doing it any favors.  If it's an entire chapter, you'll probably want to save it "just in case" (and this is one of the reasons why Scrivener is awesome, because you can just throw the chapter in the trash, but Scrivener will save it there indefinitely, so you will always find it later if you need to), but if you're just rewriting dialogue or getting rid of a redundant paragraph, THROW IT OUT AND DON'T LOOK BACK.  Maybe even toss an evil laugh its way as it goes.

Okay.  Go delete something.  Or go rip up a paperback and make me a tiny tree.  And have a marvelous weekend!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wrap-Up Month

That's really what it boils down to--December is largely a "wrap-up" for the publishing industry.

It's unlikely that your agent will send out a new round of subs this month.

It's unlikely that an editor will buy your book this month.

It's unlikely that anyone is going to start a new project this month (especially in the wake of NaNoWriMo).

It's unlikely that anything will kick off, embark, move forward, or otherwise Happen this month.

Mind you, this industry is a study in exceptions!  But overall, December is more a non-month than an actual month.

Which is actually nice, because I LOVE CHRISTMAS.  So it's nice to slide into the final month ready to celebrate Christmas or Chanukah or whatever is important to you in December, yes?

I'm in a lovely, contented-sigh place right now, just having finished another round of revisions for Danielle's sharp eye, and having absolutely no intention of beginning anything new.

Well, okay.  I'll play around some more with Book 2 ideas.  I may even pull out that Other Novel and give it a read, to see how I'd like to change it.  But Actual, Firm-Deadline Work?  No, thank you!

Unless, of course, Danielle says, "Fix this!"  Because you know how it goes.

But for now, I'm happy to be at this hard-work-finished place.  And I hope that, wherever you are in your personal writing load, you will also come to this happy place some time in the next couple of weeks.  Because having time to take a DEEP BREATH during this season is such a good thing!

I've been admittedly lax here on the blog as well.  I'm evaluating and planning right now, and I'll let you know what the coming year will look like.

For those of you interested in an Authoress Edits critique:

I now have a Premiere Critique slot open for December.  The Premiere Critique is:

  • a detailed line edit of your first 75 pages
  • an editorial letter
  • a guaranteed 1-week turnaround
  • $260, payable in 2 equal installments
Please email me at authoress.edits(at) if you would like to secure this spot.  First come, first served!