Thursday, February 25, 2010

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and That Agent in England.

Well, folks, I finally got a response from my agent. It seems that everything we've heard about the economic downturn and the publishing industry, particularly as it pertains to Britain, is true. They just don't want to handle new and unknown writers. The UK is struggling more than most, right now, so I'm going to back off a bit with Hafan Deg. I need a break from it, anyway. I've terminated the arrangement with the agent. In sixty days, under the terms of their contract, I could conceivably sign another agent. Doesn't that sound easy? Like finding a lawyer or an accountant? Hmm, that one sounds nice. I think I'll hire her as my agent...

In the meantime, I have begun the query process for Strachan's Attic, which wasn't under contract. It felt so amazing to send off the letter and the first one hundred  (Yikes!) 25 pages.  I realize now that I quite enjoy the process. It's exciting, at least at first. (We get a little jaded later, to put it mildly, when the rejections start arriving.)

But that process is the thing. Arrival is always as Gertrude Stein quipped, and I paraphrase, "The trouble is that when you get there, there isn't any there there."  We've been told all our lives that it's the journey that counts. It's true, but we don't listen. The thing that gives me such huge pleasure is the anticipation of things possible. My books in bookshops, and people dealing with me as a published writer - all of that will likely prove quite mundane and ordinary, if it ever happens. It's the excitement of the chase, the thrill of the departure, the joy of the now - that's what's important. In a way, we would probably all be much happier (and psychologists do say this) if we never arrive at our goals. It's all a bit like Tantric sex, really.

So today, along with a tiny bit of sadness, I am feeling relief. I no longer have to stress over what's happening with Hafan Deg. She's coming home to Momma for a while, until we can find a new home for her, and Strachan's Attic will be doing the rounds while I'm finishing Summer Must End.

Roz Morris of Dirty White Candy is offering an e-book in PDF format, "Nail Your Novel" which I think could prove helpful to you. It's free to download, and I'm not going to apologize for taking advantage of a technology that augments conventional publishing. This is a great book, available for purchase as a hard copy as well, in case you prefer that.
"Nail Your Novel is a writing buddy in a book. It holds the reader’s hand every step of the way, from the blank sheet of paper to the finished manuscript. And at less than 100 pages it's half the size of most writing books - for the reader who wants effective writing advice without the waffle."
Take care, everyone. Enjoy the adventure.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happiness Doesn't Depend on Hearing From My Agent

It's only Thursday, but I had to tell you. My agent is accepting no further submissions!

You know I've been trying to reach them (and they're in England, so I can't just drop in). All their incoming emails are going through some kind of auto-reject response, so even I can't get a reply. I can phone, of course, and will, but now I think I'll wait a bit longer because of this latest news. It's been eight months since I signed the contract, but I can wait a bit longer.  Patience should have been my middle name, remember.

The agency's web page speaks of their enthusiasm for new work, how prompt they are if they like your query, but there's now an addendum as of September last year. It hadn't occurred to me to check that until today, smug and confident as I was.
"...It is our policy to read and reply to all emails within 48 hours whenever possible. Of course it will take us longer to read your whole manuscript but in most cases we will give you an answer within 2 to 3 weeks. However, this approach has proved too successful and therefore we regret to say that we are unable to accept any new unsolicited submissions for the foreseeable future. "

Goodness, I squeaked in just before the crunch (June 2009). Perhaps it's my manuscript that's taking up all their time. Could it be that they are so busy trying to sell my work to publishers that all else must fall by the wayside? (And now you're wondering why I'm not writing fantasies, as I'm so good at it.)

I'm going to remain resolute about these guys until I finish Summer Must End later in the year. I certainly don't want to deal with New Agent-chasing while I'm still working on it as I use the opposite side of the brain for querying, and that can't be good for the creative flow.

You'd think I'd be cranky about all of this, but I'm not. This whole frustrating profession is full of strange hiccups and wobblies. I've gathered this from contact with all of you, and from reading writer bios and memoirs. I honestly don't think there's room for irritation in this game. We love to write. That's it. All the other stuff is merely fluff, and you deal with it, or sweep it under the bed. In fact, waiting for a response from the moving company I'm considering is annoying me much more than waiting for my agent to check in.

All in all, I'm a happy person. I believe you grade happiness by how often you feel good, compared with feeling bad. Allowing for Life's usual turmoils and emotional upheavals, I always bounce back. This doesn't mean I don't get angry over things, but that quickly passes. It doesn't mean I'm not cynical over much that happens in this world, but you can be healthily critical and still maintain good humor.

Studying someone (surreptitiously, I thought) as we writers tend to do regularly,  I'm sometimes accused of thinking too much, that I'm too serious. Well, of course that's true,  but I certainly like a good belly laugh; it's a buffer against being overly self-absorbed. I do talk to myself a lot as well, and use sailor-like expletives quite regularly when I'm alone - that's always good for a laugh considering how my cats look at me each time. But I can also enjoy a really good weep (remember Holly Hunter's character in Broadcast News?) and then just move on. Moderation in all things, right?

I salute you all, my deeply sensitive, constantly questioning, unwaveringly observant, often, I think, teary-eyed, but patient friends. What an adventure we're all on. Do we all think too much? Hell, yes! And we wouldn't have it any other way.

I wonder if my agent needs a hand getting through the slush pile.  Perhaps I should offer to help. IF I could only get through to them...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Query One - Just One - Manuscript at a Time

Today I'm including a link to a children's agent blog, which impressed me with an interesting post on querying. A kids'  book agent? Well, agents are agents, whatever their field, and this post covers an area not often addressed - the urge to query more than one project at a time.

One or two of you are tut-tutting, saying, "There's that Fran being silly again, assuming we have more than one MS to query." But some of you do. You comment about it. And as we query agents with one story, we long to mention that other one, and perhaps an even earlier one - just a hint of them, that's all; just a snippet...a little whisper of a suggestion that we have a couple of other books looking for an agent; let them see that we're prolific, that we're industrious; and this, in turn, should warrant serious consideration.

Sometimes we sneak it in at the end of the letter. "This is my third novel. My first and second (third, fourth and fifth) are currently being revised (unrecognizably reconstructed, mercilessly mutilated, savagely vandalized, irrevocably ruined)," we say, hoping against hope that the agent will swoon in anticipation of yet more of our great works and email back, "Send these immediately!" Most times we don't say anything, but feel a litte inadequate talking about only one novel, as if we've been a bit lazy, when we've spent years working on those others, too, our earlier babies.

So this children's literature blog, KidLit, has a very useful take on the problem.  And if finding an agent for your only novel is your torment, thank your lucky stars. You are still delightfully uncynical about the whole business and probably life in general.  (It won't last, you know.)

I see Anne Mini is focusing on the correct formatting of  the manuscript again at her blog.  It's hard to believe it's still necessary to remind people of the preferred style, but there you are, all giddy excitement over your clever words and no thought for the agent's feelings, as she, it's hoped, reads it.  This is the one time when you don't want to appear eccentric, inexperienced, or just plain silly. You can do that later during the television interviews.

Of course, her Author! Author! link is permanently in my side bar, but to save you mousing over and looking for it, check Anne Mini's blog here. If you've forgotten how good her posts are, read a couple of others while you're there. This woman really knows what she's talking about, and the site is well indexed and ready for just about anything a writer could need.

Okay, so all of this chit-chat could be perceived as a cover-up for the fact of my NOT working on my current book. It's been ten weeks. I've done a few pages here and there, but no real, out-of-control, steam-heat-generating, can't-concentrate-on-TV, writing. But, I told you, I've had so much on my mind. I am entering a life-altering period again, a stage in my history which will be writ large for a long time to come. Such huge intercontinental house moves are up there with death and divorce when it comes to traumatic experiences, although you usually have little control over the last two.

And so Summer Must End can wait another couple of weeks while I deal with all the stresses that I've chosen for myself. The associated drama and frayed nerves (the cats will cost HOW MUCH to transport?) should help with the writing, at least, when I am ready.  We writers will do almost anything to put the excitement back into our writing.

Last, because it's almost Valentine's Day, I've slipped in the link to Patricia Volonakis Davis's blog, which is entitled "Got Love?" Hope you enjoy it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Too Tired to Write, but not too tired to read more of Under the Tuscan Sun

I'm really not in the mood for writing. I'm quite tired. I've started packing. Of course, I'm not leaving for months, but I do like to get an early start. I hate surprises.

My naughty cat, Jeevesie, was restless last night, pouncing around on my bed, burrowing under the covers, scratching, licking, doing all those noisy things to himself that are guaranteed to keep me awake. Perhaps my packing makes him feel insecure, but what can he know about packing? He was a stray I took in! Anyway, I hissed at him, batted at him with a foot, even took a swing at him at one point, but he was far too quick. Then, as soon as I was resettled for another shift of sleep, he slipped back onto the bed very quietly, and waited for me to be welcomed into the arms of Morpheus, so that he could start all over again.  But Morpheus had given up on me. In seven hours of trying to sleep, I figure I managed about five, all broken up into 3/4 hour lots.

I've tried shutting Jeeves out of my room. But then he begins a new game - trying to shred the carpet under the door. He figures carpet is what keeps doors closed. Baby is never a problem. Through all of this, she yawns, looks totally bored, and goes back to sleep.

So, exhausted from my packing, unable to get a decent night's rest, I am most definitely not in the mood for writing.  I can manage reading. You MUST read Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. This is one of the most delicious books I've read in ages. I know - you saw the movie. Believe me, the book is better. And the movie wasn't bad, after all.

I finally emailed my agent. Short, suitably polite, but a tiny bit grumpy if you read between the lines, but all it generated was an auto-response that they are on vacation, and, even if they weren't, they're not taking any new submissions until the fall.  Hmm. The auto-response didn't recognize that it was me, that I'm an insider, but it still hurt. A dear supporter, close to the industry, assured me that my agent is very reputable and I should be patient. Patience is my second name. Frances Patience Caldwell.  No, I lied. My second name is Grace.  I have a fair amount of that too, if you don't count the names I called Jeevesie last night.

Forgive the meandering. Ver' tired. Barely keeping my eyes open. Good movie on tonight, too. I hate when that happens.

Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky