Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Musing 4/7/15 ~ "Ward, I'm worried about the Genre."

So if you've checked my Facebook page, I didn't get the promotion at the 9 to 5.  However, the department head is going to basically take me under his wing and get me the additional experience I need with the help of my supervisor.  They want me to be ready for the next round which will come sometime this summer.  I'm trying not to explode before then.

So about the industry.

I did go to the bookstore this weekend.  I've been feeling really stressed and uptight lately and I thought it would calm me down.  It did a bit but I didn't really pay attention to what was on the shelves this time.

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology -- otherwise known as my Motorola Droid Maxx smartphone, I was able to access Twitter and participate in their #askagent forum.  

Me: Are agents interested in futuristic sci-fi that is NOT dystopian?
JB: For kids or adults?
Me: Adults but I believe teens would enjoy it as well. Thanks!
JB: Not sure of the market for adult, I’m sorry to say. A genre I don’t rep.
MKH: Depends on the book, really. YA sf can be a tough sell with editors...often, but not always.

Me: I guess the inevitable question would be in this case, what isn't a hard sell?
JB: In adult, thrillers, suspense, mystery, romance, but of course there are nuances.

So my general tweet was, "Participated in #askagent #asktba today. Asked what was selling? No one said fantasy or sci-fi. That's discouraging..."

Of course this is just one agency's opinion but it was enough to, as I said, be a bit discouraging. So as always, when faced with a conundrum, I did some research. I started. By the way, I also asked about Young Adult Heroic Fantasy but I'm still waiting for an answer.

So I hopped on over to the Manuscript Wish List site and looked up fantasy. There are several lists like this but this one is at the top of the list.  Oh, yes and this is agents only, not editors, since most don’t accept unsolicited anymore.  I hope they don't mind me providing this information here but since it's the agents saying what they'd like it may be useful. 

Laura Crockett of TriadaUS is looking for, "Great storytelling + parallel narratives (like Kate Morton) or lush, light fantasy writing (like Paula Brackston)"  I looked up both and Ms. Brackston's book is going on my TBR list.  Both books seem to take place in what appears to be an alternate reality London in different time frames-- as many seem to be doing lately, Ms. Morton's is closer to modern day .  Authors feel free to correct me here if I'm wrong.

Marlene Stringer of Stinger Literary only lists contemporary fantasy.  As far as I’m aware, it’s where the fantastic is intermixed with the modern day world.  Here’s Amazon’s list of Best Contemporary Fantasy.  

Although some of these seem to be paranormal fantasy to me or maybe urban fantasy?  So what’s the difference? They all seem to include the standard vampires (seriously, are they really still that popular?), werewolves (ditto) and sometimes zombies (eww, sorry I don’t think zombies are sexy, they are decomposing people, people!) and shapeshifters, which could actually still be filed under were’s.

Amazon’s Paranormal and Urban list are tied together and still seems to contain the same tropes.

You know, I actually remember (yes, I’m old!) when none of these offshoots were around. You had contemporary, literary, romance, mystery, science-fiction, fantasy and horror and that was it!  I know, I know this gives readers and authors more variety, but still, sometimes…

But back to the subject at hand.

One agent, Lane Heymont of The Seymour Agency (who has my query for Tinderbox BTW) wants these according to his blog: 

In Fantasy he asks for, “… Dark and gritty Contemporary in the vein of Chuck Wendig, but says no Urban Fantasy.”  

I looked at Chuck Wendig’s site and his work seems along the lines of futuristic science-fiction and urban fantasy. Again, please feel free to correct me.

In Science Fiction: “Military science based in our world but no space opera.”  I’m assuming futuristic.  He also wants “horror elements” apparently along the lines of Halo, Aliens or Frankenstein.  He continues with adult and hard or soft like Coherence and Carl Sagan’s Contact.

By the way he also states fantasy/paranormal romance with no vampires or werewolves.  Bravo!

Maria Vincente of the PS Literary Agency actually does want both Fantasy and Magic Realism (so wouldn't magic realism be the same as contemporary fantasy?) in both YA and Middle Grade.

Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary would like to see: “SFF (YA or adult) about sisters (born or fostered) who end up on opposite sides of a war.”  

Hmm…come to think of it, so would I.

I only went back to the beginning of the month and only included certain listings.

I glanced at science-fiction.  Laura Zats of Red Sofa wants, “Lighthearted Sci-fi for adults.” 

Hmm…I’ll ask for examples and let everyone know what she says in my next musing.

So that’s all I’m going to do for now. Another case of doing a lot of writing and not even noticing. 

I’ll do a bit more research and see what I come up with.

Peace~
CJ

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mini-Musing 3/18/2015 ~ Can You Really Go Home Again?

I've mentioned previously that I haven't written as of late.  I just haven't felt like it, waiting for word from Tinderbox. I know that's the absolute worst thing to do -- not continuing to write that is. Have you ever had so much faith in a work that you don't want to stick it into that awful box and start something new?  That's how I'm feeling right now.

As some of you may know, I graduated from college!  The first person in my family.  My Big Brother is so proud!  Well then so am I!  I was so antsy about not passing the last class that the stress levels were very high.  And now I received the email today that my degree is on the way! Boo-Yah!! So that's one less thing stressing me out.

I still haven't heard about the promotion yet, although I did get the your application is still under consideration email.  I was calm about it, now I'm climbing the walls again.  Time for some deliciously fortified wine.

OK, so one stress inducer is gone, as for the second, there isn't much I can do about it.  And the third...

Well, I've mentioned the writing defeat I had which was about a decade and a half ago. I'd written a young adult book, the wrong publisher got their hands on it and everything went to hell in a hand basket.  I got both good and bad reviews and a write-up in a major magazine, receiving a five star review when another more famous writer received a two-star for their first YA. But I simply haven't been able to write like I used to since.  Well I'm thinking it's way past time that I stopped letting that incident control my muse but on the other hand...it's hard to kick those feelings to the curb.

While I await word on Tinderbox I've wondered, should I have a go at that YA again?  I've been doing research into what YA's read.  It all seems to be dystopian and futuristic, which quite frankly I think is being played out (no offense intended) and that's not what I want to write.  I noticed quite a few that followed the path of The Hunger Games and Divergent -- places where the world is divided into four or more sections and someone is trying to change the balance of power -- usually a young girl.

Mine is a good old fashioned YA heroic fantasy along the lines of the works of Tamora Pierce (whom I incidentally must start reading again, it's been too long!) and authors with a similar style.  I've seen a few books like it but not many.

I would have to do extensive rewrites and major changes even right down to the character names. And I'm still a bit antsy about doing that.  Also that science-fiction idea keeps trying to force its way out of my brain and onto my keyboard.

I'm not going to go back to school for my Bachelors until this fall so I have a good six months to myself.

But as the title suggests -- can I really go back?  Can I really make the tale into something exciting? I've got eleven years of additional practice and experience since then.  I'd like to think I've improved. Hell, I KNOW I've improved by leaps and bounds if you'll pardon the cliche.  Whenever I think of it there's that annoying nagging doubt.

So I'm not sure what I want to do right now,  Any thoughts?

Peace~

CJ


Friday, February 20, 2015

MUSINGS ~ 2/20/15 - Writing The Way I See It: Changes in the Industry

OK, here's what I've been doing as of late...

I haven't been writing.

My brother is down with a little bug so I'm having him relax and I went out at his request and bought him some soup and Gatorade.  He's now resting quite comfortably and has been marathoning Daria and Mother-UP.

Meanwhile I went out and had a somewhat smallish Me Day.  I avoided the bookstore and decided to put a serious hurt on my store card.  Hey, I think I earned it.

At the 9 to 5, I continue with my relentless schmoozing in order to obtain a newly available assistant manager position.  This will of course mean a bigger mini-office, higher pay and business cards! Woo Hoo!  Ok -- well, I'm going to make a PowerPoint presentation this weekend to present to the powers that be.

And it looks like I'm going to swing a C in my last Algebra class so it appears I will finally earn my degree by the end of March.  And now I'm thinking of going for my Bachelors...yes, I'm insane.  But at least there will be no more Algebra. 

Right now I have a three day weekend to enjoy.  And a brand new XBOX One! Anyone else have a Gold Membership?  I've used my old name Bellatrix Thorn and am currently working on a very interesting artistic RPG called Child of Light.

Oh yes, and I'm still not writing.

I have been asking questions though.  Like on Twitter today, I posted these...

I'm confused. Why would a lit agent request a full & then never respond to the author again? It's very discouraging. #literaryagent #MSWL

Especially if your site says, we respond to everything & I've seen responses to authors who submitted queries after me. #literaryagent #MSWL

An email with a, no thanks, would suffice. I know you're busy but you asked for my full for a reason didn't you? #literaryagent #MSWL

I think they're fair and not meant to bad-mouth anyone.  I just want to know why.  This business is hard enough.  And of course, so far I've received no response except from a fellow author.  In my last post I revealed that I had a few full and partial requests out and waiting for a response.  It's been months -- no for one, it's been a year and a month and the other, its been six months.  The yearlong one received two nudges, the six month one got a nudge after four -- and that was three months ago. I also saw on Query Tracker, the agent in question received a query from someone in October, requested a full in December and offered representation a week later.  A full two months after my full request.

So I'm assuming his answer was no?  Neither agent has a no response, means no policy, and I can find little to no information about what's going on with either one of them.  Then there are the thirty or so queries which never received a response (and of them only about four had the no response means no policy) although I've again seen the same agents answering the queries of others.  Maybe they got caught in their SPAM folders?  Maybe, but forty?  And others have received my letters.

I was going to name names, but I decided not to after all.  Who needs that aggravation?  Then again, if someone really wants to know...   

I just want to know what's going on.

Some may see I've been back and forth a bit lately about my writing.  I made a comment on FaceBook about how I made a promise to myself, that I would retire from the business at the end of the year if I didn't get published.  That I was just tired.  And of course, the first response I got was someone saying that maybe instead of making resolutions, I should try and work on my craft.  If you're planning to do that, I ask that you don't.  Or if you must, try reading my last two blog posts which explains a lot about how I'm feelings and my experience.

However, if you'd like to share your own experiences in my comments, feel free.  Whether you got THE CALL or not.

Meanwhile I'm trying to decide if maybe I shouldn't wait until the end of the year.  A couple of things happened making me want to. The issues were resolved but still I can't seem to get my groove back.  I've been trying to keep myself up and be positive but the more time passes, the more I just don't want to anymore. 

And why don't I make up my mind then?  Because I LOVE WRITING!  I love it with a passion and don't even want to think of quitting.  That's why I hang on, but hanging on has become a lot of work lately and I'm getting a little too old for this.  But then I have all these ideas that have been screaming to get out for years.  For people to see them, read and enjoy them.  I know people will LOVE my work as much as I do.  Hell, I've been published via online, so I know I must be doing something right or at least I thought I was.  Getting those full and partial requests told me that I had finally reached that point that all writers strive for.  You're a true professional.  You've written the perfect query, synopsis and most important of all, THE BOOK!  Now without getting any type of a response, how can I be sure anymore?

So I really don't know what I'm going to do but I wish I did.

Well I do know what I can't do, and that's self-publish.  I've been researching for months now and I simply can't afford it.  That and the fact that I simply don't want to chance it.  I can't spend thousands of dollars on the risk that I won't even make a quarter of that back.  I have to give props to the writers who have successfully self-published and have made back what they put in and then some.

And of course, there is this:

By Shana Ting Lipton 
February 13, 2015
Vanity Fair

I'm not saying it's a bad article, it's very well written.  And I’d like to see what Ms. Lipton thinks of my post.  But I mean have you read the article?  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Done?  OK.  As you saw, it basically states that literary agents are now searching the web for the next Fifty Shades or A Pound of Flesh by reading more fan-fiction.  Also by going on Watt Pad among other places to continue their search.

*Hey wait a sec, I'm on Watt Pad?  When the hell did I sign up for that? Why did I sign up for it?!

The article begins of course by citing Fifty Shades and its phenomenal success.  

*Oh, BTW, here's the score for the Fifty Shades movie on my favorite review site, Rotten Tomatoes
Part of me feels vindicated, yet part of me is thinking...well all respect for erotic works just got flushed down the toilet...

The article goes on to state that literary agent Lorella Belli, : "...snagged a six-figure advance from Simon & Schuster for her author Sophie Jackson’s forthcoming trilogy, A Pound of Flesh, which also started out as Twilight fanfic."

I mentioned this of course in a previous post.   The article continues by Belli saying her fan-fiction authors have solicited her directly. And that "...submissions she receives from fan-fiction authors are often higher in quality than the average submission."

This must be something new since every agent I've dealt with have said that if a writer so much as suggests that they would like to send redone fan-fiction there will be some serious hell to pay.

*Hold up…does that mean that my works are not as good as fan fiction?!

“It’s almost like having thousands of editors at one time,” said first-time novelist Anna Todd who credits fan fiction and its open-forum style with helping develop her writing chops.”

Wow.  OK, that's great for her and all, but, you know there was a time when there was no WattPad, Amazon Kindle Worlds, or FanFiction.net.  Hell there was no internet!  Yes, I'm repeating myself.  So I had to develop my writing chops by actually writing original works or as original as they could possibly be.  And keep writing them with no one to judge them but me and of course my English teacher.  No millions of discerning readers to tell me what was right and wrong.  Just writing, researching and studying.  That's how I developed my chops.  I wonder what she would have done back then?  But then again it simply doesn't seem to matter anymore.

Keep reading.  I'm naming names now.

"Jennifer Udden, a literary agent at Donald Maass in New York concurred, adding: “[The film studios] don’t care about the stories; they just care about numbers, for better or worse.” As an avid fan-fic reader, Udden is less focused on fanfic page views, and more interested in connecting with authors who can develop compelling characters and a good story structure, to see if they have any original work that doesn’t involve copyrighted characters."

Um...I did that.  I mean made an original story with everything you asked for and you -- well more accurately your agency, turned me down.  And shouldn’t you as a literary agent care about the stories?  Why would you want to deal with someone who didn’t?  I always thought literary agents had to fall in love with the story or at least that’s what they always say on their sites, blogs and in interviews.  So that doesn’t count anymore?

"Caitlin McDonald, an associate literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic in New York and vocal champion of fan fiction, admitted, “Fanfic is always treading that fine line,” between fiction-inspired original writing and copyright-infringing work."

Um...Ms. McDonald...you don't have to worry about my work infringing on anyone's copyright -- hell not even Hans Christian Andersen!  Unfortunately, she's already said no too.

"Turning a work of fan fiction into a publishable book can be as simple as “filing off the serial numbers"

Um...isn't that plagiarism?  And again, you don't have to worry about that with me.

"Belli feels the snobbery and criticism leveled against Fifty Shades of Grey and fanfic-based books like it is “small-minded”: “Fifty Shades of Grey has put loads of cash into publishers’ pockets around the world, who can buy more books, and has opened up the market in an incredible way,” she says."

OK, silly me, I'm just a snob.  I’m being completely dishonest when I say the changes in the literary world are somewhat disturbing to me.  How so many years and such hard work are being reduced to basically nothing.  How the literary gatekeepers insisted all these years on creating your own works, on making that perfect query and synopsis and yet now they say, we’ll take re-done fan-fiction or ask for a full on a 140 word pitch.

Maybe I’m too old fashioned.  Maybe I should just go with the flow.  I said on my last post, maybe I’ll just give in and write some Hunger Games fan-fiction, change a few names, times and places and start sending it out.  And all of my works?  The ones that I can say are truly mine?  Put them in the closet I guess.

*And again, isn’t this annoying Stephenie Meyer just a little?  Having all these people make money off her work?

Or I could just retire like I planned.

I don’t want to take someone else’s story and try to call it my own.  I’ve done fan-fiction but for me it’s always been a separate entity and mainly for fun.  Nor do I want to struggle to shove an entire 95,000 word manuscript into 140 words.  It took me years to get what I thought was the perfect query and synopsis.  And most recently, I got a Publisher's Marketplace Page.

I want my work to be my own or at the very least something that I thought of, maybe inspired by another story like Tinderbox, but not coming from a ready-made package.
If the literary gatekeepers no longer want to do it the old fashioned way, then it is time for me to ride off into the sunset.

Peace~

CJ