Author Archives: Dave
A bunch of fairies bestow magical gifts upon a baby princess—in a sci-fi universe with aliens and space stations. Sixteen years later, Rory, the androgynously named aforesaid princess, has grown into a spunky girl, trained in both physical self defense and arithmancy (what other universes might call ‘magic’), and she is not at all pleased when she is called upon to marry a foreign prince as a way to end an interstellar war. She’s all for stopping the war, of course, but the prince was something of dud the one time she had met him. That was when they were both young children; it was the same day a suicide assassin blew up their respective fathers.
It’s difficult to mix humor, fantasy, science fiction, and cultural commentary into a seamless story (I know this first hand), but this book does. The plot makes sense. So do the characters. The protagonist is likeable and relatable. The antagonist is fairly loathsome. It’s not exactly funny, but it is fun. I loved it and hereby endow it with five subjective stars.
This is about as cozy a cozy mystery as you can get. A professional pastry chef flees a philandering fiance in New York and escapes to a small town in Florida, where she picks up a job at a bakery, but not as a baker, as counter help. Oddly, this bakery doesn’t sell pastries or cakes or cookies, which is unfortunate because Kate, the aforesaid pastry chef, has a kind of magic ability; she can tell your favorite kind of cookie just by looking at you. She’s only working there one day before an unsavory customer dies after eating some cinnamon buns that the shop’s owner made for himself. The owner is soon arrested for poisoning the guy.
As far as the mystery goes, I had the the perpetrator, the motive, and the general means pegged pretty much from the start. As for the cozy, it couldn’t get much cozier. When Kate first comes to town, she finds the locals helpful, sharing, encouraging, and just as fond of food as she is. It’s like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood with the warm, fuzzy addition of a friendly community dog that everyone chips into to feed and care for. (It was delightfully refreshing to read about such a lovely imaginary place. I like this about cozies. They’re a nice break from the nonstop action, conflict, and general nastiness you find in so much fiction. But, I digress. Back to the story.) So, in friendly small town spirit, Kate’s new neighbors all volunteer to help her prove her new boss innocent and get him out of jail. A lot of cooking and eating is involved.
I quite enjoyed this book even though it’s almost too cozy and the mystery is fairly predictable. It was a welcome change from the last book I read, but I won’t mention that one here.
Every once in a while you come across a book that you really like but you don’t really know why. This is one of those. There’s nothing overly special or unique about it. It’s a contemporary murder mystery. A woman is notified that her estranged mother has died and left her all of her worldly assets, which includes a shop in a nothing of a town in Arizona. The shop (see title) is only one of several in the area that provide psychic readings and other woo-woo services. The deceased mom was a career con-woman. The daughter would rather not be, although it is what she was groomed for. So, when it turns out that the woman’s death probably wasn’t due to a burglary gone wrong but was, instead, a targeted slaying, the daughter is not surprised, and she begins to investigate.
I like stories with clever, witty, but essentially moral protagonists. The one in this book certainly qualifies. Alanis (possibly her real name, although she’s had many aliases) is given depth in the story through flashbacks to scenes from her childhood, traveling around the country, living in hotels, and playing parts in her mother’s cons. From these you see why she is what she is, and you admire that she’s not been completely destroyed by her experiences, that she’s somehow retained both her sanity and her humanity. One of her first acts upon arriving in Arizona is to make amends with some of the people her mother conned out of money or jewelry. But I think what I find most appealing about this spunky heroine is that she’s a clear thinker, skeptical, logical, perhaps even a bit cynical. She arrives knowing that her mother, her shop, and the mystical stuff the town is known for are nothing more than ways of extracting money from credulous, superstitious tourists. But as she learns more, she wonders if the tarot cards can’t be more than just a con. In the hands of a skilled reader, perhaps they can provide comfort, or motivation, or confidence…. Rather than being used to cheat people, maybe they can be used to help them. Of course they’d need to be in the hands of someone skilled at reading people to do that. Alanis feels that she is.
There are two more books in this series. I just ordered the second, and the third is in my local library system. I’ve added both to my TBR list. I suppose you could consider that an endorsement of this one.
A once-elegant resort hotel in Upstate New York is hosting a rehearsals and a concert to be performed by talented high school kids, and one of them, a true prodigy with a flute, goes missing. Her roommate, one of a pair of fraternal twins, finds her hanging from a pipe by the neck, duplicating the scene of a murder/suicide of a bride and groom exactly fifteen years before. But is it what it looks like? After the roommate runs for help, the body, and all signs of a hanging, are gone. Is the young flutist really dead? Did she stage a suicide to escape her domineering mother? Maybe the girl who witnessed the events of fifteen years ago and has returned to dispel lingering demons has something to do with it. Perhaps the elderly and peculiar hotel concierge is somehow involved. Or the teacher who once shot and killed a former student who broke into her home, or the Scottish orchestra conductor who has one and a half hands… All of them seem to be hiding something. They are all interesting characters in that they are bent or broken in some way. I can’t say I’d want to be friends with any of them. They’re undoubtedly a high-maintenance lot, but as fictitious suspects in a contemporary whodunit, they’re fun. I quite enjoyed this one.
Cas is a super hero. Actually, she’s a super antihero. Her super power is that she is unbelievably (literally) good at math. She knows all the formulas, constants, algorithms, axioms, and whatnot necessary to compute, well, pretty much anything faster than a supercomputer. Combined with her uncanny observational skills and her ability to judge relative distances, atmospheric pressure, wind speeds and directions, and any other pertinent variable, along with her impressive physical strength and apparently superhuman reflexes, she’s close to unstoppable. You really don’t want to annoy her or get in her way because she’ll kill you stone dead without a second thought or a moment of remorse. Like I said, she’s an antihero, so screwed up she makes Batman look psychologically well-adjusted. Cas is the protagonist of this story.
On the other side of the narrative equation is an organization that wants to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, it’s operating under the standard rationalization used by dictators, religious cults and ideologues throughout history: the ends justify the means. They also have a superpower. It’s mind control. They can make you believe whatever they want, which means you’ll do what they want, almost like a puppet on strings. It even works on Cas, although she does have more resistance than most people. The one person who does seem to be immune is her not-friend and ally Rio. Like Cas, he’s a psychopath, but as an added bonus to his uncharming pesonality, he’s also a sadist. The secret organization bent on improving the world wants to recruit him, which is how Cas gets involved. It’s a clever bit of plotting, but we don’t need to go into that for a short book review.
It’s difficult for me to come up with a single star rating for this book. There are parts that I think are brilliant. The story is interesting. The pacing is excellent. The prose is fine. There are no obvious flaws with the editing. But then there are the characters. Since this is a superhero kind of story, you can’t expect them to be believable, but they are comprehensible. They have distinct personalities and understandable motivations (more or less), and yet I found them lacking. The thing is, I like to have good guys in my fiction, at least one character I can like and relate to. It doesn’t have to be the protagonist, and they don’t have to be capital G good. Actually, it’s better if they have flaws and shortcomings and things they are striving to overcome or improve. But they need to have some redeeming qualities, and the main characters in this story really don’t have any. At least the major players don’t. An action story is like a sporting event in which two (or more) players compete, and the reader is supposed to root for one of them to prevail over the other. But in this story, I couldn’t pick a side. Since the story is told in first person from Cas’s point of view, I knew more about her than than the others, but I didn’t feel any sympathy for her. She abounds with negative personality traits. The only positive thing about her that I could see is that she isn’t worse. I certainly didn’t like her. Her primary motivations are self-preservation and revenge. Unlike her opponents, she doesn’t really have an ultimate goal or idea she’s fighting for. As far as the outcome of the fictional narrative went, I didn’t much care which side prevailed.
The Goodreads rating system is based on how much you enjoy the book, and I can’t say I really enjoyed this one. It’s a well-written, action-packed tale with lots of ass kicking, but it doesn’t have much of what I normally look for in a book. There are no endearing, admirable, or even likable characters. It’s not witty or insightful. There is no theme with real-world relevance, a tone I could relate to, or a compelling mood. This may be a great book for readers who like lots of “action,” but I’m not motivated to read any more stories with these characters.
The team from Tripping Magazine is investing another (possibly) weird occurrence, this time involving a pair of twins—one who appears not to be aging (much) and her sister who is. Oddly, the portrait of the younger looking one, which she keeps in a locked room, appears to be tolling the years in her stead. Her sister, who painted the thing years ago, claims not to understand why.
This is a Scooby-Doo kind of mystery, with a team of investigators looking at clues to figure out what’s really going on. Their leader (editor of the magazine) is biased toward finding the most woo-woo version of events possible. The chief writer is far more practical, and the sexy photographer is mainly in it for the fun. I wish there were more books in this series. I find them quite enjoyable.
Women are dying in Edinburgh in the mid-19th Century, but is it murder? That’s the question that Will (our protagonist) asks himself after a lady of negotiable affection, with whom he is well acquainted, dies in apparent agony. His interest is both personal and professional as he has just been apprenticed to an eminent doctor who is the Victorian version of an OBGYN.
The setting and characters are believable. The story moves along well, and the plot is interesting. I was also surprised because the person I had pegged as being behind the dire events wasn’t. The fact that I was wrong and it made sense is certainly worthy of an extra star! I tend to enjoy Victorian whodunits, but it’s the historical medical details that make this one stand out.
January is a tidally locked planet, habitable only along a strip of land running north and south, with frigid cold and perpetual darkness on one side, and endless light and searing heat on the other. Sophie, the protagonist of this story, is a student in one of two major cities in this zone. She makes a life-changing (and story-starting) decision when she takes the blame for a theft committed by a friend. The punishment for someone of her disfavored ethnicity is death, and she is hurled into the freezing dark and certain doom. Except it’s not. Certain, that is, due to the intervention of native monsters who may not be quite as monstrous as people believe.
The chapters in which Sophie provides the point of view are narrated in first person, present tense. The others are in third person, past tense. This felt awkward to me, but not jarring. It was the depressing setting, the oppressive culture, and the essentially unlikable characters that prevented me from actually enjoying the time I spent reading this. Dark stories can still be compelling, but this one was not. I never became emotionally invested in the place, the people, their politics, or even in the aliens, although the latter were interestingly, well alien. The ending, well, can’t give that away, but I can say that I found it less than satisfying.
A fairly average high school boy in central Florida lives next to an unbelievably uncommon girl of about the same age. She’s endearingly clever, but she’s also totally self-absorbed, casually inconsiderate, socially domineering, recklessly adventurous, and inexplicably popular. He is, of course, infatuated with her. It surprises no one when she goes missing just before graduation. She’s done that kind of thing before. But there are circumstances that suggest this time may be different. Fearing that she might be emotionally unstable enough to off herself, the average kid recruits a few friends to help him follow clues she’s left behind, seemingly for his benefit, to try to find her… or maybe her body.
I picked this up at my local library mainly because I recognized the author as the guy who did the entertaining and informative Crash Course videos on YouTube. I had no idea at the time: 1. That it had been made into a movie (so the sticker on the cover claims), 2. That it is set very near where I currently reside (a norther suburb of Orlando), or 3. What a paper town was (actually, I did, but I had never heard them called that).
Because of the age of the characters, the story is shelved as YA, but it’s not juvenile. The prose and pacing are both quite good. The crazy girl may not be overly likeable (although she is, in a way, admirable), and her imaginative pranks may be unbelievable, but her story is quite entertaining.
A Bedouin girl comes down with a mysterious malady, and her father brings her to an unscrupulous magic maker with hope of buying a cure. Centuries later, an unlikable man wants a wife, so he goes to an unscrupulous magic maker to have one made out of clay. . . . Although not necessarily in that order. These events, relayed in flashbacks, provide the backstory of a meeting between a golem bride and a jinni in New York City around 1900. The jinni has no memory of how he got there, or of anything else for the last thousand years. The golem was born only a few days ago. Each is trying to find their place in this strange new world when a chance encounter evolves into a strange friendship between them.
The golem’s plight is especially engaging. She essentially has to invent what she is on her own, figure out if and how to interact with others, and decide on a course for her future. I found the jinni character less interesting overall, but he has his moments. I’m not a fan of flashbacks, and there are a lot in this book, but they’re handled well, providing essential background without confusing or disrupting the flow of the main story (much). Pacing is good, for the most part, although it bogs down a bit in the middle with more emotional turmoil and soap opera angst than seemed necessary. All in all, a good story.
There was a four-year gap between the first Sherlock Holmes story and the next. This well-crafted tale tells us what Arthur Conan Doyle was up to during that time. I’ll give you a hint. It involves Jack the Ripper.
Okay, I know. You’re rolling your eyes. Doyle wasn’t actually involved in hunting down the Ripper. This isn’t a true account. It’s historical fiction. A murder mystery. A Victorian whodunit. And do we really need another Ripper story to add to gazillion already out there? I can’t answer as to need, but we can always use more really good stories, and this is one. The characters have depth. Their words and actions feel real. The setting is vividly drawn and historically accurate (to the extent that fiction can be). The events described are believable. The pacing is good, and the story is intriguing. It tickles your intellect and nudges your emotions. Yeah, this is a good book. I don’t give out a lot of five-star ratings, but this earns one. I’m happy to recommend it to readers who appreciate historical fiction or a good murder mystery.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In an alternate Victorian British Empire, werewolves, vampires, and mundane humans coexist in staid civility. And then there is Prudence. She has the rare ability/gift/curse of stealing another supernatural person’s form simply by touching them. If she touches a werewolf, she becomes a werewolf, and the person she touches becomes a mortal human for as long as they stay in reasonably close proximity with one another. Although she is said to be something of a scandal to her family (including both of her fathers and her mother), this is a relative assessment. Within the section of privileged society in which she travels, the main concerns are fashion, reputation, propriety, etiquette, convention, manners, and tea. This isn’t quite as funny as it might be because Prudence apparently shares these fatuous values, and it’s difficult to care much about her or any of the other characters presented in the first 200 pages of the story. And when she is sent on an adventure to India in a private, state of the art dirigible to secure a new type of tea…. Well, it’s really not all that interesting. But on her journey, mysteries begin to appear, her character begins to evolve, and by the time her airship arrives, there are signs of a respectable plot emerging. Since revealing what that is would be a spoiler, I won’t. You’ll have to go through the slow buildup to it yourself if you read this. All I will say is that the last third of the book is fairly interesting.
It’s been months since I’ve written anything for this blog. The reason is, there’s not much to say. As far as my writing goes, I’m in a bit of a slump. For several months, I just can’t seem to muster the energy or focus my concentration. First, there was the quintuple bypass operation I had in October. And then my dad died in November (coronary artery disease), which, despite his advanced age (93), came as a surprise. And then our tiny dog died in December (kidney disease). The last few months of 2018 kind of sucked for me.
I’m feeling much better now, with just a few lingering minor medical annoyances, but getting back into my daily writing routine is proving difficult. I suspect I may be suffering from a mild case of ‘What’s the point?’.
I was very excited when an agent asked to see the full manuscript of my novel Troubled Space back in September. I sent it to her immediately, of course, but I haven’t heard back. I sent a polite follow-up a few weeks ago. No response to that, either. I don’t know why. Maybe she didn’t get it. Maybe she’s backlogged and hasn’t yet opened it. Maybe she didn’t like my manuscript and lacks the common courtesy to let me know. Whatever the reason, it’s kind of depressing, and it’s probably the main cause of my current deficit of enthusiasm.
But I still think Troubled Space is a great novel, so I’ve sent a query to one of the few reputable publishers who accept unagented submissions. They want three months to look at it before I send it to anyone else. So, until the end of May, my queries are done. I expect no more replies from agents, not even from the one who asked to see my manuscript. I do expect a reply from the publisher, and I’m hoping for the best, but I expect another rejection.
Advice to prospective authors: Writing is not a good hobby to take up if you need positive reinforcement to maintain a sense of self-worth.
But getting back to my current case of ‘What’s the point?’. Well, for me, the point is that I enjoy writing stories. Yes, I wish other people would enjoy reading them, and I can’t say that’s not important to me, but it’s not the main point. I simply like creating stuff….
Speaking of which…. At some point in the not-too-distant past, my dad decided he wanted to take up painting as a hobby. He bought paint, brushes, easels, and canvases, and, in the course of three years, he produced one small painting. When he died, I had to decide what to do with the unused canvases and art supplies. It seemed a shame to waste them, so I tried my hand at painting. I’m not very good at it, but it’s a creative hobby that I find I enjoy in the same way I enjoy writing. One advantage it has is that it takes nowhere near as long to complete a painting as it does a novel.
It’s been eleven weeks, and fewer than half of the agents I queried for my latest book have replied. I’ve also heard nothing more from the one who asked to see my full manuscript. I sent it to her over seven weeks ago. A quick search of the repository of all human knowledge (Google) suggests that six weeks to two months is the average wait time for feedback after sending a full manuscript, but in rare cases, it may take much longer. (One comment in a forum mentioned sending fulls to two agents who failed to respond after two years.)
My tentative plan was to start sending out queries to publishers at this point, but I hesitate to do that if some agents are still considering it. I suppose I can wait a few more weeks. I appreciate that agents (like the rest of us) are busy. In the meantime, I’m creating new editions of my Warden’s World series. After that, who knows?
On the seventh week of queries, my email gave to me…
One more rejection.
…Actually, that was it, so I’m not going to try to come up with something cleverly musical. It was a polite rejection, though, possibly not even the agency’s generic default, although it wasn’t quite specific enough to believe it was personalized just for me. Still, any reply is better than none at all.
I still have 19 in that category because the reply I received yesterday was balanced by a new query to an agency I didn’t know existed when I began all of this. I found it mentioned in the Author’s Notes of an unimpressive book I recently read. Honestly, I didn’t care for the book at all (too much hit, not enough wit), but I figured any agent could make a mistake. Based on the fact that my books aren’t getting more enthusiastic replies, many agents do, so I collected the relevant data from the internet and submitted one more query to this newly discovered agent.
And in this short and boring tale lies a question. Why isn’t finding a literary agent easier? You’d think that businesses that need to attract clients would make themselves obvious. But I’d almost swear that some of the agents out there are trying to hide. The most obvious way is behind websites in bad need of a makeover. Some look like they were thrown together 20 years ago by the one person in the office who admitted to knowing a little html. I’ve come across a few that made me seriously wonder if there was a legitimate business behind them. Maybe it’s supposed to some kind of challenge. Only sufficiently motivated authors will prove themselves worthy, discover the agency, and earn the right to query. Or maybe there are so many good stories in need of agents that it doesn’t matter. But then I have to wonder where all these great stories are because I read over 100 books a year, and very few of them pass my “this is one I’d like to reread” standard.
Oh, well. It is what it is. I’m assuming I’ll see more query replies in the upcoming week. Several agencies indicated they have an eight-week window. After that passes, what next? I’ll decide later. Don’t feel like it right now.
(P.S. For those concerned or just curious about my recent bypass surgery, I still feel like I’ve been run over by a truck, but by possibly a slightly smaller truck than last week. I’m still having trouble doing basic things like thinking and typing, but it’s all slowly coming back to me.)
Some of the agencies I queried indicated that a response could take up to eight weeks. This obviously wasn’t one of them. No more manuscript requests. No more rejections. No word at all, which I’m actually okay with. As it turned out, I went in for quintuple bypass open heart surgery on Friday. I doubt my medical condition was directly related to my queries, but I still feel as if I’ve been run over by a radioactive triceratops, and it’s still a struggle to do much beyond peeing on my own. Revising a manuscript can be quite a chore. So is composing this post, so I’ll stop shortly.
But for those keeping score, 44% of my queries were rejected within the first few weeks, sometimes within hours of sending them. 2% got favorable replies, and another 54% are still carrying their full potential, not unlike the promise of unchecked Lotto tickets. For now, all I can do is wait. That, at least, I can manage.
There hasn’t been much action on my queries for Troubled Space this week. I only received one more reply, and it was to inform me that the agent I queried has left the business. I resubmitted to a different agent at the same agency, although she doesn’t seem as good of a fit for the kind of Hitchhiker’s-Guide-type space opera I have on offer. Still, you never know.
I spent most of my writing time this week on revising my Warden novels. Two with updated text and covers are now available in digital editions. (You can see the new covers in the sidebar of my website.) The revisions on the third Warden book are done, and I uploaded it to the publishers earlier today. (The revised Trade paperbacks aren’t yet available.) I’ve also added a page on my author’s website for Troubled Space, the yet unpublished book I’m currently querying (the cover is just a rough draft). I’m kind of rushing all of this because I recently learned that I’m “a heart attack waiting to happen,” according to my doctors. It looks like a quadruple bypass is in store for me. I doubt I’ll feel up to doing much for a while after that. Oh well, we do what we can with the time we have.
It’s been a slow week for query responses, although I did get a couple more rejections. The score now is:
Queries sent: 36
Reply stating “closed to new queries”: 1
Rejections received: 15
Full manuscript requests: 1
Still awaiting replies: 19
So, nineteen more agents still have a unique opportunity to ask to see my amazing new manuscript. 🙂 Of the one who already has, I’ve heard nothing more, although I know this can take quite a while. I remain hopeful.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on revisions for new editions of my Warden novels. I recently republished the first of these in digital format. A new paperback will be following soon. It will be less expensive than the original because I changed the size from 5″X 8″ to 6.14″ X 9.21″. The pages are larger, so there are fewer of them, which means less cost. I hadn’t known this before, figuring the cost of the larger page would balance the cost of having fewer of them. Not so, apparently. This puts the cost back to something I would consider reasonable. The eBook edition will remain free until the publisher objects.
Here’s the new cover. I think it came out well. The other five books set in the same world will receive similar treatment in the coming months.
My queries have been out for three weeks, and the good news is that an agent has asked to see my full manuscript! (Yay)
Now, for the bothersome bits. My internet was down, so I didn’t see her email until late that afternoon. That’s not a big deal. It’s been going down every day for the last week, but it normally comes back up after a few hours. (The cable guy is coming later today to find out what’s wrong…I hope.) The really stressful thing was, I had to check my email on my Kindle Fire tablet because the day before she sent her reply, the laptop I had Troubled Space (and all my other books) on decided to crash. Yes, that created a moment of panic, I don’t mind saying. I had backed up my files of course, but the last time was about two months ago, before my final edits.
So…. I call the repair shop I brought my computer to that morning and asked if they could save that one file. They said they could, and I rushed there with a flash drive in hand, got the file, brought it home, opened it on my son’s laptop using the Open Office clone of Word he has on it, put my name and page numbers on the MS, and sent it back to her. I haven’t heard anything more from her since. I hope she 1) got it, 2) likes it, 3) agrees to take it on. I suppose all I can do is wait and hope.
Twenty-two other agents have not yet responded to my queries. The repair shop still has my laptop. (They’re putting in a new hard drive.) Unable to accomplish anything, and still feeling stressed, I bought myself a new tower computer. I spent most of the last two days configuring the thing. Of course, my internet went down several times while I was doing so, but it came back often enough to download the programs and drivers I needed. My new computer is now almost functional. I’m using it to write this blog post. Oh, and my doctor’s office called to say I had an abnormal EKG and is sending me in for some nasty investigative procedure to see how bad my arteries are clogged, or something like that. But compared to having an agent request my full manuscript, that’s a trivial matter. It’s been a great week!
It’s been two weeks since I sent out the last of thirty-six queries for my (as yet) unpublished book Troubled Space. The spate of instant knee-jerk rejections now seems to have ended. I got half as many over the last seven days as I did on the first week, now making a total of twelve. The bright spot is that two-thirds of the agents I queried did not instantly reject it. I can only hope that some of them may actually consider representing me. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.
Of course I’m not just waiting around for some unknown agent to acknowledge my existence. I’m also not diving into to writing my next book. I’ve decided instead to take time to produce new editions of my Warden’s World stories. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that they need new covers. I have five novels set in this world, and the covers don’t look much alike. I think they should, and soon they will. They also need a bit of revision. These were the first novels I ever wrote, and I was pretty nervous about publishing them. Before I did, I reviewed as much guidance as I could about the whole process, and I ended up following a lot of bad advice. Basically, I over-edited and ended screwing up the tenses and making the prose choppy. My goal is to correct the corrections I made trying to follow the ‘rules.’
The first book to get a makeover will the An Android Dog’s Tale. It’s a prequel to the others and probably the shortest of the bunch at around 75,000 words. It may also be my best seller. I’m not talking bestseller as in toping anyone’s charts, but it’s either in the top (or possibly the second top) sales spot for my books. It’s currently getting over 100 Kindle downloads per month and a few more in other formats. The revised version is almost done and should be out within the next month. (I considered showing the new cover in this post but decided against it. I have a proof copy of the new paperback sitting on my desk. Take my word for it; it looks damn good.)
So, that’s my writing time accounted for until at least the end of the year. I’ll be revising five books, creating new covers for them, and releasing new digital and trade paperback editions.
Oh, and I’ll also be waiting to hear back from agents.
Over the course of three days last week, I sent queries to 36 literary agencies. I am happy to report pretend that most of them are still seriously considering my latest book. Sadly, nine others must have illiterate monkeys with absolutely no taste monitoring their emails because they almost immediately sent back rejection letters (one within only a few hours of me sending the query).
Okay, that’s unfair. Perhaps they’re not actually monkeys, but they clearly don’t realize what a unique opportunity they’ve just denied themselves. (Listen, lying to yourself is something an author has to do in order to keep writing, so it’s either disparage the good taste and wisdom of some unknown interns at a few obscure literary agencies or curl up into a fetal position, drool into my bellybutton, and admit that I’ve wasted the last seven years of my life.) Regardless of who or what caused those rejections, I am sure that my latest manuscript could find a large and appreciative audience, if given a chance. It’s good. I mean, really good. It had me laughing and nodding my head when I proofread it, and I knew what would happen next.
Which makes me wonder….
We’ve all heard stories about how many agents and/or publishers rejected queries for books that later went on to being bestsellers and were sometimes even mangled into blockbuster movies. The current favorite anecdote is about how J.K. Rowling received ‘loads of’ rejections before she finally found a publisher for her Harry Potter books, and she is far from the only writer with a story like this.
A moment on Google led me to this site, which lists several: http://www.litrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/ It’s not the only one like this out there, and it mainly focuses on rejections from editors, but the point remains valid. Now, you may not agree that all of the listed books are good or even readable, but the fact is that each and every one of them did find an appreciative audience. The agents and publishers who rejected them missed out on amazing opportunities.
So I have to wonder. Are there consequences? There are for the authors, obviously. The snap decisions made by agents and editors can substantially change their lives. But what about for the people who made those decisions? Did those who rejected Rowling’s queries all keep their jobs? Do they still sleep well? Do their peers make fun of them? Do they look in the mirror every morning and see an idiot?
I don’t know. They may not even remember whose queries they’ve rejected among the thousands they get each year. I have a feeling, and I’m not sure I’m right, that agents are more afraid of taking on a book they can’t sell than they are of rejecting one that later goes on to be immensely popular. There are consequences for the first. If nothing else, they’ve wasted their time. But rejections might be safe. If the author doesn’t keep a record of these and disclose it afterward, who is going to know?
Somehow, this just doesn’t seem fair.
But, for now, 27 agents still have a chance to appreciate the opportunity I’ve given them. I do hope they don’t screw up.
I spent the last two mornings sending out queries. Twenty-seven lucky agents now have the opportunity to ask to ask to see my manuscript, or (more likely) to ignore me. All together, sending those queries took me probably eight hours, not counting the time it took to put together the template for the letters or writing the synopsis. Those took up all my allotted writing time for the last week or so. It’s surprisingly difficult to adequately summarize a 400+-page novel in two double-spaced pages. I know I didn’t, but perhaps I did well enough. I suppose I’ll find out.
As for the letters themselves, they’re not all letters. Forget snail-mail. Hardly anyone demands paper, although a very few will still accept paper as an alternative if you can’t use email. But some now use online forms. Like the requirements for the email submissions, no two of those are identical. All agents want to see something about your previous writing experience and a paragraph about the story you’re pitching to them, but some also want to see a two-page synopsis of the story. Some want to see the first three pages of your manuscript, or the first fifty, or something in between. This means you can’t just write one standard letter that works for everyone. Figuring out what each agent wants takes research and time. Some are even picky about the subject line for the query.
This kind of confuses me. Why is there such a difference? Agents are all in the same business, so shouldn’t they all want to see the same stuff? I especially wonder about those who only want to see a short query. I wouldn’t think you could tell much from just that. My first guess is that these agents aren’t all that interested in finding new clients, or that they are looking for something specific, something there is a known market for, such as fantasy stories about snarky dragons or sexy vampires of zombie detectives or something like that, but I could be wrong. The same goes for those who only want to see a synopsis, or the first three manuscript pages. Very few stories really get going in three double-spaced pages. Yeah, you can do a short story in that length, but the settings and characters for a novel require a bit more development, especially for science fiction and fantasy because the author is pretty much creating an entire new world. It would seem to me that in this digital age, agents might as well ask for at least the first fifty pages. That doesn’t mean they have to read all of them. They can still reject after the first line in the query letter, which I’m sure is not uncommon, but if they want to see more, it’s there.
Oh, well. That’s their job, not mine. I’m sure they know what they’re doing. I just can’t help thinking that they’re probably missing out on some great stuff.
After a long and futile search for an agent to represent my ninth novel, I published it myself last month. I even sold a few copies. (Yay me.) I hope the people who bought it like it. I also hope some of them will write reviews, but that may be asking too much. I see (maybe) one review for every 500 to 1,000 downloads. (I don’t keep stats on this, but I really appreciate each and every review my books get, even if they aren’t 5 stars.)
Researching who to send queries to, creating a synopsis, putting together the letters, and actually submitting the things took time, of course, but once all that was done, it was simply a matter of waiting, hoping an agent or a publisher might call. That didn’t mean I had free time. I wasn’t idle. I was working on my next book. I began the outline for it about a year ago. Now, it’s done. I have a good final draft, anyway. It comes in at a bit over 107,000 words, and I think it’s the best one I’ve done yet (but I always think that).
So, what I am doing now? I’m sending queries again, of course. The first batch went out this morning. Yeah, I know it’s probably pointless, but a writer’s got to do what a writer’s got to do. Banging your head on the great wall of traditional publishing is part of the process.
The ironic thing is, when I began this project, I planned on NOT looking for an agent or a traditional publisher for it. I intended this to be an indie book about an indie writer. No, it’s not an autobiography. It’s science fiction. My chosen title is Troubled Space: The Interstellar Adventures of an Unknown Indie Writer. My one-sentence pitch for it is Indie author Theodor Lester never imagined his books might save the world, but one does, which he discovers when an alien who wants to be his agent abducts him.
Since it’s about an indie author who has some definite opinions about the publishing industry, I figured no agent would want to touch it. But once I completed the manuscript, I figured what the hell. It’s a damn good story. At least I think so, and who could be a better judge? I’m both an indie writer and a fan of lighthearted space operas. This is exactly the kind of book I’d want to read.
So, I did my research and compiled a list of agents who might appreciate something like this. I made note of their individual submission requirements, and today I began the quite possibly pointless process of tailoring and sending query letters. (I know alliteration is juvenile, but I like it.) My agent list is fairly short, but I expect it will be a few more days before I’ve sent the last query. Once I’m done, I plan to work on a short story I’ve had bouncing around in the back of my mind for a while. After that, well, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll be working on something.
The Elsewhere Gate is the story of two students from modern America who are plunged into a strange world with unknown creatures, airships, and money based on magic — a place where almost everyone has magic but few have much money. Here, they are pursued by a covetous moneylender who believes they hold the key that will open new worlds for him to exploit.
This book will be released worldwide 1 August 2018.
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