Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Entering the Agent Rat-Race (or Why I Haven't)

Sorry this is longer than my usual posts, but I think it's important.

I have been wondering if it's time for me to look for an agent. I have written a killer query letter (with invaluble help from Elana's Book), I have a great synopsis (Thanks to the incomparable Suzy--love you, girl!), and I am ready to go. But I can't make myself do it. I have been on Querytracker a dozen times looking at agents I might want to query, but I haven't queried them. I just really don't know if I want to.

After discovering Writing Excuses at LTUE, I listened to several of the podcasts. One that especially caught my eye was this one about whether authors need agents. It was a response to a series of posts by Dean Wesley Smith as part of his Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series, taking on what he perceives as myths about agents:

Agents Sell Books
Agents Know Markets
Agent Agreements
Agents Care About Writers First
Agents Can Give Career Advice

Since most of the writers I know and whose blogs I read have or are actively seeking an agent, I HIGHLY recommend reading all of these. I found them very thought-provoking and eye-opening. I don't know whether Dean Wesley Smith is right or wrong about agents, but I have read him, submitted to him, and sat in workshops with him (at LTUE many years ago, as a matter of fact), and I consider him someone who knows this business and knows what he is talking about. Some quotes from these articles (which you really must read, whether you agree or not):

From "Agents Sell Books":

To be clear, I like agents and have no desire to bring them harm. But the myths these days about agents are so thick and have become so ugly to new writers, I figured I had better tackle at least one of them next. And yes, there are more than one.
And in the last 20 years, the biggest myth that has blown up into a damaging myth is that you need an agent to sell a book.
This is, of course, complete hogwash, but I have no doubt some of you reading this are already resisting this idea. You want someone to do the dirty work for you, to do the research, to just “take care of you.” Yeah, that’s going to happen.
From "Agents Know Markets":

Before I get into the silly myth about agents knowing markets better than writers do, let make a few quick, basic points that need to be clear.
—Agents work for writers.
—Agents can’t buy books, no matter how much they talk about “acquiring” a novel.
-–Agents make 15% of what they sell of a writer’s work, never money in any other fashion.
—Agents don’t know enough about writing in any fashion to make a writer rewrite a book. If they did, they would be writing and making 85% instead of 15%.
-–95% of modern agents, especially agents you can get as a beginning writer, have no more clout with editors than a beginning writer does.
—It takes nothing but stationery to become an agent. No rules, no organization, no school is needed.

This advice (from the "Agents Can Give Career Advice" post) really struck home for me at this point in time:

In summary:
—Write what you love, what you are passionate about, what scares you, what you want.
—Never, ever write to market. Just go into your writing space or office and be an artist.
—Then, when the project is finished, worry about how to sell it.
—Never, ever let anyone tell you what to write. It will kill your writing and your career faster than anything ever will.
Trust your own skills, your own voice, keep learning, and enjoy the writing.

I would also highly recommend listening to the Writing Excuses Podcast on the subject (click the link above), as they also have good advice and a more moderate approach. Like I said before, I don't know whether Dean Wesley Smith is right or wrong, but I think I have figured out what's right for me. Call me crazy, but I think my killer query will be just as great for submitting to editors (yeah, the people that can actually buy the book) as it would be for agents. I think I'm going to stick with the belief that I don't need an agent until I have a contract. (Even then I wonder if an intellectual properties lawyer at that point might be a better choice for me, let me emphasize for me. I'm not trying to say what's right for you or anyone else.)  I, of course, reserve the right to change my mind.

Am I crazy? Doomed to failure? What are your thoughts?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Falling in Love with Books Again

For just about all of 2009, maybe even longer, I didn't do much reading. I could hardly make myself pick up a book. I just didn't want to read. It was weird. I worried about it a lot, but I just couldn't make myself do it. I read a few books, some really good ones, but nothing like what my husband and kids were doing. Part of it was  a time issue. Why spend time reading when I could be writing instead? (Yes, I know. Reading is essential. I completely agree.)

But around December something changed. I'm still not sure what. Maybe it was just finding the right book, but I finally got excited about reading again. Here's the book that turned it around for me:

I loved this book! Actually, I loved the whole trilogy, but this is the book that made me excited about reading again. Funny thing is, I got the book for Christmas in 2008. See what I mean? It took me a year to pick it up. Reader's block. It was bad.

After The Hero of Ages, I kept the momentum up with this one:

It was a fast-paced and fun space pirate adventure. A quick read to help keep me on the right track. Then I dove right into:

Written by a fellow Mindflights editor, Flank Hawk was a super fun read with characters that I absolutely fell in love with. Just yesterday, I finished reading:


All I can say is "Wow!" That kept me on the edge of my seat. That's four books so far this year! That's about as many as I read in all of last year. Next up on my list are these:

The fifth Fablehaven comes out next month, so I figured I better get on this.

We got this one for Christmas. My husband loved it, and I can't wait to read it.

The sequel to Heroes Die Young. I won it from T.M. Hunters blog, and I'm sure it'll be just as fun as the first.

My most favorite author, Connie Willis! I love her books so much that I can't wait to get my hands on this one. I hope to take a trip to Barnes and Noble tonight.

Don't know which order they'll go in, I'm so excited to read them all. Ah, it feels good to have my reading groove back. I feel more like myself again.

Have you ever experienced reader's block? What great books are you reading now?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life, the Universe and Everything

Otherwise known as LTUE ( I wonder why the "the" gets included, but not the "and.") It's BYU's annual Science Fiction Symposium. I went to it last week for the first time in thirteen years. *gasp* Good heavens, why did I stay away for so long? I don't really have the answer. Many years I just simply forgot, or I didn't have a babysitter or I was off somewhere else for Presidents' Day weekend. This year, though, I heard about it early, and since one of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson, was the Guest of Honor, I asked my hubby to schedule some days off work so that I could go. My awesome hubby agreed. I went for all three days, went to some awesome panels, heard some amazing writers speak, reconnected with old friends, and met some new friends too. It was especially fun hanging out with Elana, Alaina, and Mary. You guys made it fun for me! When I first arrived, I was a few minutes late for the panel I wanted to attend. I slipped in the back door to find the room packed full. I couldn't hear, there were no seats, so I decided to wait out on the balcony until the next hour. Walking down the hall, I noticed James Dashner walking in front of me. I just so happened to have The Maze Runner in my bag (because I'm reading it right now), so after a few minutes of working up my courage I went over and asked him to sign my book. He was very kind and even remembered me from the the Book Academy last fall. One of my favorite things from the three days was Brandon Sanderson's keynote address. The basic message I got from that was be positive, stop looking for the negative, and acknowledge other people's opinions as valid. Anyway, it was very uplifting for me. I also loved the live Writing Excuses PODcast. I haven't been listening to Writing Excuses, but I will be from now on! Well, this has been a kind of rambling post. The convention was a great experience for me. Some of the panels were quite thought-provoking, and will probably be the subject of later posts. I hope I'll be back next year and not wait another thirteen before I go again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

From Vague Idea to Finished Product

Do your story ideas come to you fully formed and ready to go? Mine don't. First they have to kick around in my subconscious for a while (provided I've written them down so they don't disappear). That's because I can't work on more than one project at a time, so the ideas have to get in line. Once I'm ready to start working on an idea, then comes the thinking, questioning, day-dreaming, brainstorming stage. The one where I ask "Why?" and "What if?" and "What else" until I finally find some answers that excite me. Once I have a relatively clear picture of where I want to go then the writing starts. The elation. The hope. The excitement. The bogging down. The despair. The falling out of love. The going back. The starting over. The plunging ahead. The desperate determination. And finally (finally) reaching:

Oh, the satisfaction of finishing! I think that feeling is the thing I love best about writing. That's the reason that I spent a decade writing short fiction. I just had to have the joy of finishing something and setting it free. It's thrilling. I am so close to

of my current WIP that I can almost taste it! It's my second novel, so finishing a whole novel-length work after almost twelve years of short fiction is truly exciting. Sure there's a lot to do after the finishing, but it's still a great feeling.

How do you feel about finishing a project be it writing or anything else?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Over the Top!

The incomparable Elana J. and the sparkling Natalie Murphy both passed the Over the Top award on to me! Thanks, gals. I have enjoyed reading everyone's one-word answers to the questions, so now I'll give it a go:

Your Cell Phone? Nonexistant
Your Hair? Curly
Your Mother? Outgoing
Your Father? Hardworking
Your Favorite Food? Ice Cream
Your Dream Last Night? Interrupted
Your Favorite Drink? Water
Your Dream/Goal? Queen
What Room Are You In? Common
Your Hobby? Music
Your Fear? Moths
Where Do You Want to be in Six Years? Famous
Where Were You Last Night? Musettes
Something You Aren't? Organized

Muffins? Yum
Wish List Item? Windowseat
Where Did You Grow Up? Ferron
Last Thing You Did? Bathekids
What Are You Wearing? Diamonds
Your TV? Obsolete
Your Pets? Outside
Friends? Understanding
Your Life? Blessed
Your Mood? Anticipation
Missing Someone? Maybe
Vehicle? Red
Something You Aren't Wearing? Nosering
Your Favorite Store? Barnes and Noble
Your Favorite Color? Yellow
When Was The Last Time You Laughed? Today
Last Time You Cried? Friday
Your Best Friend? Awesome
One Place You Go To Over and Over Again? Church
Facebook? Yep
Favorite Place to Eat? Out

I am going to pass this award on to:

Suzette and Bethany (Shooting Stars)
Aston West

Mostly because I want to see their answers.

The lovely Elizabeth Mueller gave me the One Lovely Blog Award. Thanks, Elizabeth. Your blog is lovely also!

I am passing this award on to Sherri's Miracle. It's not only visually lovely, but also a fitting tribute to a truly lovely lady who has touched my life and many others, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

February Story Feature: Casualties of War

"Casualties of War" first appeared in AlienSkin magazine in their April/May 2005 issue. Previous to that, the story won third prize in the Science Fiction Writers of Earth contest in 1998, which was my first real success as a writer.

SFWoE reviewer, Dilip Agarwal, had this to say:

"Casualties Of War", establishes itself quickly and draws steadily to its conclusion. The war . . . is an interstellar crisis, and in this case, of the diplomatic, rather than military variety . . . This is economics imagined in the language of combat. And it is combat, one of the most vicious where populations are exhausted through slow starvation and civil unrest rather than by bombings and battlefield weapons.

Called by Ed Bryant, "a heart-felt examination of culture clash," "Casualties of War" tells the story of Joshua Parrott, a trade negotiator from Earth, and the dilemma he faces when a young woman comes to him begging for help.

I hope you will enjoy "Casualties of War." Click on the story title to download the PDF. Be sure to leave a comment here to let me know what you think.