Sunday, July 31, 2011


I *just* cannot bring myself to query research this evening.  Feel like shopping for vintage lamps I have zero intention of buying instead.

Friday, July 29, 2011


... agents left on that list.  I'm about halfway through the 122, with seven queries out of those.  If I've learned anything about these lists, it's that I can't assume I'll have only seven queries out of Huge List Part II - but still, it isn't a glut of encouraging proportions.

Ah, well.

I should probably log off.  But I probably won't.  I'm an idiot.

Agents or Agencies - Why ... ?

... would you devote dozens and dozens of pages within your website to individual agents, and NOT INCLUDE THE MEREST SHRED OF INFORMATION ABOUT THEM in a good 75% of these pages?  What could possibly be the point of building bio pages - without bios?

I would understand if there were some sign this was a system still under construction, but the sheer majority of pages fully populated with photos and titles, but no content whatsoever in terms of text, information, even a bare list of titles ...  Seriously:  ????

All the rules we have to follow as authors means that the number of man-hours being poured into their directions probably numbers in the thousands just within a week's time.  The weight of numbers of those of us seeking their attention, and *following their rules* seems like it could demand the least bit of effort on their parts too.

Some agencies' sites are enough of a slog to actually make you happy to be able to eliminate them.

All I ask is something beyond a plain-text list of nothing but your authors' names.  It's best for YOU for me to actually be able to learn about whom and what you represent - right?  If I can do that at your very own site, without having to (a) open several dozen nested pages - which contain no information in them - and (b) then have to go do a d*mned search on every one of your authors just to find out who they are and whether I might be a FIT for you, then we are BOTH better off.  Because I will not waste YOUR time as you apparently feel blithely free to waste authors' time.

Holy cr*p.  Some of them actually make it a puzzle.

And, considering that I must work this puzzle literally HUNDREDS of times:  making it hard is just ****ing mean.  You jerkfaces.

I am off the querying tonight.  The list is way down after today's rash of eliminations - and not a single one worth even actually *contacting*.  This is putting me in a foul mood.

Something A Writer Does

In between all this work I do related to writing, every now and then I actually work creatively - and, you know, *write* things.  Other than this blog.  Yesterday, I enjoyed adding a couple of character descriptions to the WIP.  There is a wonderful difference between the creative effort and the labor (birth entendre intended) of getting a completed story onto the market.  Like pretty much any author, I prefer the former by far.

My career has made the latter - or perhaps has made me - a straighforward job of organizing.  It's well suited to my skills, and I like this sort of work ... yet, of late, I feel I do it constantly.  Through nine hour days, four days a week, I am paid for my professional effort - and then I come home, and spend at least a couple hours every night, lately, doing more of much the same.  This will pay too, of course - but the return is definitely deferred.

There's more than one reason I feel like Jacob, laboring seven years for Laban, only to sign on for more labor to get to what I really want.

Going back to the point of all this - going back to simply creating - is an entertainment for me.  It feels less like "work" to me, by far, than all this time querying has been.  I have as much fun in storytelling as I hope my readers will have in going along for this ride.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

12 Alive

Queries active at this time:  one dozen, exactly.  The oldest of these, at just over three months, is the partial still out right now, and the rest are all within the past eight weeks almost exactly.  Of those eleven non-live ones, I hope for at least two more requests, though if I am honest, I fantasize about three.

I'd feel more "pulse" in these live queries if more of them were requests, and I'd feel a LOT better if I had at least one full manusript out.

Next week brings results on the pitch contest.  Last night brought only one new query, but I did go through actually quite a few agents on the long list, now down to 79 from 122.  Out of that particular list, I have queried seven (the other live ones were from the previous, shorter agents-to-research lists).  So.  Seven attempts out of forty-three agents down, which is more than I thought; it feels like so many eliminations.

There's little point to posting all of this other than to keep my virtual fingers crossed, and to add a little color to the constant commentary on the querying process.  So I will stop.

Aww Some

Hee - I seriously think a certain "osum" wee one must be short on Cam Jansen books these days.

Hey, but at leat SOMEONE is reading.  And commenting.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Water Works

Grinding can be less the work of a sander or pumice, sometimes; it may be accomplished by the invisible elements - sand and silt, the particulates of ancient shells - wearing year after year, carried by wind or by water.

There's no art, nor even much insight in observing this.  It isn't original.  It isn't news.  It isn't even interesting.

And *that*.  Is what the WORK of writing is - after the writing is done.  This is what querying is.  A year gone - and, for the volume of effort you expend, the water of your work, a few pieces of sand, of shell, minuscule in the depths, nick and chip and shape ... and disappear.  That is the key.  Most of what you do is just so much water over the bridge, just so much hot air blown, just so much memory (so much experience) yielding nothing it's supposedly meant to make happen.

But what is it really supposed to engender ... ?

The thing is, given the metaphor:  It might seem like what you are supposed to wear away is "Publishing" - some vast entity, against which you throw your blood-earned hard work.  It might seem like what you are supposed to wear away is the massive population of agents in the world.  It might seem like the idea is to affect something outside yourself.

But what the water does is *shaping*.

And what it shapes - if you are lucky (and paying attention) - is you.  Losing the excess.  Losing the droll fantasies.  Losing the illusions - for the blessing of education.  Yes, even killing your darlings.  Loss, and loss, and loss, and loss.

That is the job of selling creativity.

I happen to be working my way down to a killer figure, metaphorically.

Pretty soon, the agents will no longer be able to resist.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cue Connery Singing "B - A - L - A - N - C - E! Baaalll-aaance!"

One new rejection today.  One new query.  Probably half a dozen eliminations.  I must have that list of 122 getting down toward 100 by now, which is good.

Oh, this road.  It sure is long.

How Much Do I Love My President Right Now?

Yeah, the speech he is giving even as I type is pretty stellar and all that.

But he just asked why hedge fund managers should pay lower tax rates than their secretaries.  WOO for him ditching that "Administrative Assistant" bullshit.  (Additionally:  good question.  Let's get a *decent* answer.)

And also, you know - for growing a functional pair, and publicly making the most salient point of our day.

Get it the hell done, O Wealthy Lawyer-Politicians.  The rest of us are heartily sick of the bloody brinksmanship.  NOBODY'S little "endowments" (all entendres intended) are going to look good if this plays out.  So quit lying about your measurements and each other's.  You guys have a ****ing job to do.

Do it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


This weekend, between errands, laundry, going out with my friends, housecleaning, and having the Broads over, I have gotten just one query done.

Still, there is something to be said for fresh sheets and clean socks - and I did eliminate a few agents, too. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ohh, My Beloved Ice Cream Bar

It is raining at last.  I suspect it will *not* "last" - but it is beautiful, for the moment.  Yesterday, like so much of the country, it was over 100.  I ran errands on the way home from work.  Grocery store.  Fabric store.  Gas.  7-Eleven ... where I got a 40-ounce blue-flavored ("raspberry" and lemonade) Slurpee.  Drugstore.  Home.

By the time I got back here:  I was ready to commit to that Slurpee, love it, name it George, maybe retire to Florida with it.  I loved that Slurpee.

I may need to clone it and fall in love all over again tomorrow before the writing group comes over ...

Ahh, joy - on such a very hot day.


Game of Marketing

X and I were talking about The Whole Process - and, since it was something I should be blogging about in any case, I thought I would just use our email exchange.  We were talking about querying "to the market" in a sense.  Generally, we were discussing whether and how to use a popular phenomenon to sell the book - specifically, we were talking about the current success of Game of Thrones - which, though fantasy, in fact shares a great deal in common with The Ax and the Vase.

X: I've read most of the Game of Thrones series but not watched any of the show. So I can only speak to what the books contain, and anything the show presents differently or through a lens intended for mass market is outside my experience. GoT, the books, are very much a so-called 'low' fantasy series, concerned much more with political intrigue, bloodlines, religion versus state, etc. Mostly they are fantasy only in the sense that they didn't actually exist, and George RR Martin created them so that he could have 'historical' sorts of countries and kingdoms vying with each other in the way he wants them too. They aren't an alternate history to ours, but probably most of what happens in them would be plausible in our Middle Ages.

D:  That's what I meant to be saying.  It's interesting you bring this up, because it's something I should actually be blogging about. The querying process is much complicated by the question of genre - and for a LOT of people these days. For me specifically, this very phenomenon - that low fantasy, which is becoming very much more popular, is less about magic quests and dragons, but about the freedom to create realities and relations outside the constraints of "real" places (hee - like my idea of Gaul is real ...), and Game of Thrones has been a HUGE looming example of this. More than once for a while now, I have been tempted to use it as an example of the marketability of my own product. Though I think A&V is more textured and (not a great word choice probably) "psychological" than this kind of fantasy, it does have a *great* deal in common with these things, and the way they have just taken off into the stratosphere, especially with GoT's rather remarkable success on cable now, is both tempting and really problematic for me.
D:  My solution so far has been to restrain myself from comparison (it never EVER works, really, to be all "vampires are hot right now; here's my vampire novel" anyway) and insert a solitary item in my query that says my audiences include those interested in Rome, barbarians, religious history, medieval and Norse, and traditional fantasy. I'm still not sure it is satisfactory - which is why I say I should be blogging about it. Displaying the awareness (for agents to find when they Google me - and they do) without making a pointed show of it directly in the query is, I think, the best thing to do.

X:  Yeah, how do you position the book as a real-life Game of Thrones without looking too much like your grasping desperately for popularity. It'd be nice if some portion of the GoT readership comes over, but you want the work to stand on its own without looking like a GoT cash-in.
X:  There has to be a way marketing-wise to say, 'hey if you like things like GoT, you'd like this, and it's based on real-life' without the literal 'FOR FANS OF GAME OF THRONES(tm)' blazoned everywhere.

D:  This is a hard nut to crack, because the show has turned out to be successful.  It is really hard not to position yourself to catch the light of reflected glory - so, to my mind, it has the potential to be worth touching on. Even if not in my first-contact tool, the query.

X:  I don't have any idea how faithful the show is. I think you are wise to slip in a subtle link in some way though.

D:  Well, as I say, putting the old "Genre B is hot, please read my Genre B story" is awful, awful, awful form, and you hope that agents will Google you. For that matter, I maintain the links to my email, blog, and even LinkedIn profiles in my signature block, as you have seen. If they are interested, agents DO search you. I've been able to tell more than once when agents have hit the site, based on timing of queries and incidence of hits to my authorial pages - the bio, the excerpts, the author's note, - even the images. So to add a post about this seems wise, but this week I just have NOT been able to get myself to do much on there (other than b*tching about That Guy at work, and regurgitating the latest query experience). If they want to know your understanding of the market, you can display it at a blog and they don't have to slog it in a query letter. So I think I've found the solution, but I just haven't done anything about it.
D:  I've said all along that having a blog in my real name is primarily geared toward its being my authorial platform, and over time I have worked a lot to refine exactly what is presented there. It's entirely calculated that I do still include dorky asides about Star Trek or annoying stuff that happens during a week or whatever, BUT most of my posting is in one way or another written to be read by (hah) "my public" - and, by that, I intend to mean those who would read my work. I want to put out there as "this is the kind of author I am" *and* at a blog, I can break some of the rules of querying - I can also bend those genres which blend audiences with mine, without apology.  So I focus pretty heavily on my process as an author, but I can also reach out to Trek fans, and all those readers whom, if I tried to stuff them into my query pitches, would make it look like I am trying too hard.
D:  I try to keep the blog looking limber. The variety on which I post is mercenarily calculated.  What seems personal and having nothing to do with writing, usually is chosen in order to indicate something, even if it's just a sense of humor, or the philosophy behind the writer. I've also set myself the task of focusing a LOT more on posting about history, histfic, writing in its aspects beyond the shilling process - and, of course, the shilling, which a lot of WRITERS want to read about. (Yeah.  Need to get better about some of this ...)  So I'm setting myself up as something of a voice of experience even without the "authority" of Being Published - both to put on display to agents my expectations and professionalism, but also proffering the benefit of my expectations and professionalism to anyone who doesn't know this process (whether having an eye toward doing it themselves or simply being interested in it but not from the standpoint of wanting to replicate it - so, people like The Sarcastic Broads ... and also like you. I actually use you, sort of, as my model of audience for non-writers I want to keep READING).

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Supremely annoyingly, it has happened again.

I haven't discussed the incident at work here on this blog, but it was sufficiently inappropriate that I went on record with it at the time with two separate coworkers.  The particular offender in that case received a wall of ice from me, high enough and for long enough, that he hasn't proffered further *inappropriate* conduct - BUT his presence is near enough to me, and constant enough, that I enjoy a modicum of discomfort and irritation pretty much every day.  Because this is not my home, and because no further issues have arisen - nor has there been escalation - I suffer this, because this is a place I am paid to do a job, and that is the matter I prefer to focus on.  If not joyously gratifying, the lack of any more event has at least been satisfactory.

Yesterday, I was hit on while trying to go to the bathroom.  My response to this was to be elaborately awkward and discouraging - while LEANING on the door and all but "dancing" to get away - and still it went on.

The brand of man who pushes and pushes, asking "can't we talk" and "I just want to be friends" in the face of a stark and utter absence of even a scintilla of rapport (never mind interest):  definitely and unquestionably not the man for me.

Better still - it's not even the original creep.  So now I have two of these people, in a place I spend so much of my time, men from whom I have no escape but the blank ice of (one side of) my personality, to be unfortunately *aware* of all the time.

"I have to say something" this one said to me.  To which, if I'd had any d*mned sense, I would have said right then:  "No.  Really, you do not."  And "are you married" was his opener.  Which - good lord.  Even my very first words to the guy - "No, but there is a specific person I am not married to" - were to no avail with this one.

The thing is, one hit might have gotten a miss, in this situation.  Except then the guy showed up later in the day.  With "I didn't see you again" - to which I said simply, "Nope."  He lurked at me while I was making coffee, and I could not have been less open to his presence, but he kept standing there.  When he said he wanted to be friends, I finally actually looked him in the face and said, "I think that what you want I am not prepared to accomodate" - and even this didn't cause him to evaporate instantaneously.  When he tried the I just want to talk/I just want to be friends gambit YET again, I finally simply said, pointblank:  "You are making me uncomfortable."

Even that didn't result in his absence, because first there had to be all sorts of slow-talk apologies from this overly soft-spoken dullard.  But finally, he did eventually go.

At this point, I mull what if anything to say to my boss, who's in the office this week.  I don't want to create a formal HR process (I don't even know this guy's name), but I do probably need to be on record, now that the population of unwanted attention-payers is doubled (and I'm not even counting the silent stare-er I see around the buillding).

It's a frustrating thing, and I am angry that I have to Deal With all this now, some way or another.  This is not what I'm paid for, and it's an infraction against my right to simply work in peace.

I just want to do my job.

Which isn't actually Human Resources mediation.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is There Any Irony ...

... in receiving a rejection from a LITERARY agent, consisting solely of two sentence fragments?  One of them was a single word, and even the closing salutation omitted a perfectly cromulent "the".


Monday, July 18, 2011

I Wonder Whether It's A Bad Idea ...

... to be sitting here working on another query with a headache bad enough to have me literally strapping an ice pack to my head.

Probably it is.  But I am JUST that dedicated an author.

Apologies to the agent, though.  I'm still working on that one last sentence.  Here's hoping this won't look too much of a doozy.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

"It's A Kind of Magic"

... or, at least, one hopes ...


45 hits today, my pitch page had a hit, and there is no obvious bot-spoor.  Is somebody actually reading?

Comment, people.  The echo's ruining the ambience here.  *Wink*

Hope and Magic

I've always been fascinated by the idea of magic, but I really haven't ever felt it to be real in my own life.  There's still a swath of me open to it, and like most people I practice sympathetic magic and superstition in small ways, at least.  But my belief in a concept as sweet as that seems mostly to be as witness, rather than as a participant.  I've seen my brother and sister-in-law touched in small ways by magic.  I've heard the most beautiful story of the spirit, from my grandmother.  I know magic is that aspect of spirituality we can't explain concretely ... but my life is pedestrian, and largely easy to explain.

The only spell I ever cast is by wearing some talisman in hope it can evoke some manner of blessing ... in praying ... in scenting my domain in perfume and candles ... in the things of the heart, speakable only between mine and X's, and most of those not even then.  Unlike many people, I've never seen magic in death, no special timing, no visions afterward.  I've never seen animal magic, really - as much as I am breath-taken by the power some of them contain.

Once, I had an experience of Christ, which to this day has held me in love.

But in this world, I practice hope, more than incantation.  Some hope is blessed with expectation; some with nothing more than the trembling magic of innocence, tenderly and shyly wished.  Most hope, of course, doesn't come to anything.

But the smart person knows how to cultivate the hope that can be realized.  To farm it, work it, expect harvest.  The domestication of magic.  The control of destiny.  The direction of will to what is attainable.

Perhaps this strips the ineffable of its luster.

But it does make for satisfaction.

I muse on this, because just now, setting out my things for tomorrow, I found myself indulging magic.  I put out my perfume.

I never wear perfume, except in those moments I need magic.  Which means I rarely put it on these days.  It's almost never part of my wardrobe for work - so seldom, I probably haven't worn it one day since starting the "new" (one year this Tuesday ... !) job.  I did wear a drop to church today, and still it haunts my skin so quietly.

For all I don't believe, as much as I believe in magic - I still find it romantic to court it.  To flirt and make myself open to magic.  There is a softness, a familiarity, a beauty ... and a hope.  Always, so many hopes.

If much of my hope is ambition - there is that in my heart so much more childlike.  Needing escape from the day-to-day.  Needing reassurance from G-d ... or my father ... or just that breeze I felt this morning, after church, talking with my dearest friend there ...

Romans says it - "For in hope we were saved" ...

Sometimes, the vulnerable, open part of myself just wants to remember how to let go ... and thereby be best served.

White Wine and Rose Water

With my love of the history of fashion and costume, this was too good not to share (even if it's not relevant to my *current* research).  Hilarious.

And an excellent title for some women's studies paper:  "when azure veins were extra sexy" ...

People have always been hilarious and stupid.

I find that so very reassuring.

(Note that for most people, the length of this article will result in diminishing returns over its full extent for anyone not particularly fired up about the history of corsetry and its discontents.  Still, the introductory blurbs are all-access awesome.  For the very dedicated, the article does end on some historical prints and portraits of truly eye-popping - and definitely NSFW - educational usefulness.)

"What DO Klingons Dream About?"

"Things that would send cold chills down your spine ... and wake you in the middle of the night.  It is better you do not know."  Hilarious moment's pause.  Massive tonal shift.  "'Scuse me."

I adore Michael Dorn.

Lists and Dreams

The priest preached this morning about Jacob's Ladder, and said that dreams might still - even with modern theories of psychology, and dream interpretation, and physiology - be gifts from G-d.  I've never had a dream such as she described, which had me waking rested and stronger.

But just now I did have a dream about an agent coming to this blog and, unqueried, contacting me because they were so interested in my work.

Heh.  I think I know where that one came from.

In other news ... that resource I am working through now, to create a new list, so far has yielded something like fifty names - and I am less than halfway through cherry-picking it.  I don't know whether to be daunted or pleased.

I could almost hope this could be the last list I will have to put together and research.  Good grief, this will take a while ...


I've finally just completed researching (and querying - woo!) the final agent on that long list.  Apparently, I went in the right order - all the dead ends first, and ending in a few good shots.

This weekend, I completed four new queries.  Not too bad.  There are three I need to research further, and one I"ll just keep on a "check back" bookmark, as they're not accepting queries but state this is a temporary policy.

Now I need to put together yet a new list.  There is one resource I know I need to get to.  Once that one is done - I'll need to find more resources too ...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Giving Up Fantasy to Get the Dream

The thing about getting down about querying is that it's easy, but it's smarter not to give up precious time to it.  Indulge the frustration, sure - at least from time to time.  But do the work.

All of us think we are the Special One ... the one for whom querying will NOT, somehow, turn out to be a lengthy process.  All we have to do is hit a list repping our genre, and it won't take but a few agents to find the one(s) who'll fall in love with our work.

Take a walk down the street, though, and consider definitions.  What I write, in historical fiction, is only one kind of many, many types of stories that are also historical fiction.  The general definition of the genre is WWI or earlier ... but a person born after a certain period, writing about it - someone born in the 1970s, setting their work in the 1950s - may be considered to be writing historical fiction.  Taken to a certain kind of conclusion:  there is histfic set in the duration of my own lifespan, kiddies.


But a good object lesson.  Just because an agent lists histfic among her or his interests does not mean they all see the exact same sepia-toned portraiture when they envision the genre.  They don't all even see the same cultures and countries (and it's all too easy for us hidebound writer-types to forget about this).  Many love stories of historical figures, or royalty, or the notorious - but many others want their characters to be closer to the ground, not the celebrities of the historical record.

Good writing is key, of course - but it does NOTHING to abbreviate the process.

In a room of 200 people, maybe ten will all share a certain type of taste.  The job of querying is to politely approach these 200 strangers, to tell them what you've produced, and to find out whether they are one of those magical ten.

There's no way, in advance, to really KNOW what someone likes.  Even reading interviews and researching, as necessary as it is, only eliminates:  it doesn't guarantee that elusive simpatico.  As we do with finding images in the clouds, or recognizing ourselves in our horoscopes, when we read interviews, we may create "matches" the other party doesn't subscribe to.  Just because *I* think Josephina Doe will surely adore my work because she repped a histfic set in France, or said that thing in an interview about loving old musty castles, doesn't mean she doesn't prefer a little bodice-ripping or happens to find the religious-history aspects of my story deadly boring.  Or that she's not in a bad mood the day she receives my query, or has had sixteen other musty castle lovers quoting that same interview at her in the space of a single week.

You just have to go through the room full of strangers.

EVERY one of us will think, at the beginning:  "I won't have to do that."  That first in-person pitch that was so animated and friendly, ending in a request for a partial ... feels so good.  As to that, so does the second, and the third.

Doesn't matter.

Every author with any brains will get over the fantasies, and get down to work.

And learn that eight weeks go by less painfully if you let go of the entitlement  of talent, and take on the job at hand.

I have said (at the top of this very page):  hope is what ambition is made of.

Hope is great, and beautiful.  But ambition is the only way to get an agent.


Found an excellent agent to query on the final stretch of this long list.  Hoo wah!

Auto Follow

I am VERY sick and tired of all my hits being nothing but bots.  I'm sick of the way they skew certain useless posts to the top of my most-read list.  I'm a little annoyed that people say they read here - and one even said "hey that is a great idea!" when I asked her to hit 'Follow' - but nobody actually shows any presence, and all I have to talk to are nasty little spamming computer chips in eastern Europe and southeast Asia.

Yeah.  Maybe my mood is a bit nastier than I was pushing for this morning.

But still, the house is getting cleaner.  And, if I may be a little bit pugnacious - at least I am not sitting here depressed.



I don't succumb very often to very much.  It takes an enormous stimulus to push me to inflict bleakness on me, and not many people nor things can do it.

But, right now - especially after that long list of useless research - I just feel sort of "over" the shilling and querying.

Which is why I started off my computer activity, today, by following up with the agent who's had my partial for two and a half months.

I know how to respond to my brain's attempts to bother me.  Whatever I don't let annoy me makes me stronger.

I may allow myself not to finally finish off the last few from that list.  But today:  I get my house clean.  And tonight, I go out and have some fun.

Some time soon, the agent responds to me, maybe asking for the full finally.  And all the other queries which are still active (I had several out before this stupid list) come to their conclusions too.

For today, maybe I see some good friends.  Maybe I dance.  The house will be clean and cool, and my weight is a little more satisfactory.

Don't try to get me down, life.  You haven't got the power to own me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

... Aaaaannnd Dammit All Over Again

Not accepting queries.

Of course.

LOVE it when I am wrong

Hm, the agent I just started researching might just be a corker.

I welcome the possibility that my last post was a giant batch of big baby whining.


I got a list of TWENTY EIGHT agents off this site, supposedly all repping histfic.

So far, of the maybe two who did, neither one has anything but historical romance in their catalogue.  I'm twenty-one eliminations into this list, with only a solitary prospect.  This prospect is for an agency from whom WeBook listed an agent whose name is, outside their website, essentially nonexistent.  Not an encouraging sign.

Not a recommended resource.

Oh, I'm going to finish the list.  I'm a completist.  Or a neurotic.  Or both, being one and the same.

But I am incredibly disappointed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Facts of Life (Science)

Cuttlefish just never, ever, get less wonderful to watch.

And NOVA ain't half bad either.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Glittering - Like Sequins and Lame'

Oh, this dialogue.  I adore its utter impossibility.

"You're taking a cudgel to an infant."

"No.  I am being honest."

Ahh.  Mother's love.

This is simply glorious.

Juicy Drama

"Kings" may have been the most audacious series ever to air on television, and I ws fairly blown away by it while it was on.  I flagged, though, when it became clear the show would never (be allowed to?) last, and quit watching.  As much as I liked it; as fascinated as I was that it was ever mounted at all - I retreated in fear when I thought we would lose it, and I told myself I'd find it in my own time.

The entire thing is available on DVD for under thirty dollars, and it's on Netflix to boot.  If you are interested in the strangest soap opera since "Soap" itself - steeped in the Old Testament; filled with astounding, unusual dialogue (some of it exceptionally good, much of it beautifully-functionally declamatory ... no small portion rather badly read - even by a cast, annoying as some of them may be at times, still well chosen to their roles) ... a marvelous looking show, and a pretty amazing surprise, I would very much recommend it.

The thing is Dallas on whatever the Judeo-Christian version of a vision quest might be.  It's earnest beyond most contemporary stomachs, about G-d.  It's remarkably exploitive of Him, too.

But then ... the Old Testament itself rather was.  If we're honest.

But more than anything:  it is drama.  The most incredible, power-packed - crack-addled - drama.  Let's face it, the OT was that and then some, and we love it.

Dallas in "Gilboa" - a mythical, modern-looking kingdom, yet imbued with the most medieval aspects of an monarchy.  iPads and the finger of G-d ... salacious palace intrigue and portents and pronouncements from (Reverend) Samuel(s).

Ohhhhh ... but the drama.

My Lord, kids, this thing DARES.  It does things even J. R. might have never been scripted with.  And revels.  And excels.  This is perhaps the most astounding thing I've ever seen, not for the presence of G-d, the light casting shadows.

It's the things the camera dares to see in those shadows.  Holy cats, this is Grand Guignol.  This is unfettered.

Hell, it stars Ian McShane.  It has to be.

Every uber-angsty goth kid should be buying this.  Every drama or Bible nerd.  Everyone who ever loved Ann Baxter as Nefertiri in "The Ten Commandments" - but thought it was too understated and rife with verissimilitude.  All the addicts of those 1980s nighttime wealth-porn soaps.  (Because this is wealth-porn, every bit as much as all the rest of these things I am gushing about.)

It turns out, I missed some of the most amazing things.  I just bumped across an acre of wrinkles and reversals, only to find something enormous said to have taken place offscreen.

I'm interested to see how true that turns out to be.

I'm enjoying the ridiculousness - the SUMPTUOUS indulgence - rather immensely.  Bravo!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

16 Down

... and NOT twelve to go, at this point.  It's time to put the querying research away.  Not one sent, out of all these.  That's the worst record for any list I have ever put together.

Bad Proportions

WAY too many eliminations today.  Out of a list I think started at 28 agents to research, I'm down to 16 now, and not one query out of it.

This is not good.


Today, the job has been all about simply scratching names off the list.  At least 4 so far, but I think 5.  And no new actual agents to query.

Still, it's progress, and I have ideas for my next mining expedition.

Also:  the spanikopeta is just out of the oven.  Phyllo is indeed delicate, but nowhere near the headache I had braced myself for based on breathless reportage.

Also, though I'm not going anywhere:  having a "good face day" which, even if to no social purpose, is pleasant anyway.

I am hungry. Ready for this to cool!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sweet Tea

My smaller niece has the coloring of fire and English roses - yet, as olive and as dark as I am, our relation comes in a magical feaure.

Upon comparison while visiting, my brother, sister-in-law, and elder niece ageed, in looking at us.  I have the same light brown, rimmed-with-grey eyes as the wee one.  We have iced tea eyes.

I used to wish my brown were much darker, but X helped teach me to reconsider that opinion.  Now, of course, I am delighted to have my light, and grey-rimmed, color.

Mary Sue and Me

For those who may not have heard the term, a Mary Sue is a character possessed of a bit more virtue, charisma, and magic than is entirely fair to impute to anybody.  Most often female, MS will always be magnificently beautiful, possessed of preternatural intellect and ability, and charismatic above and beyond the call of her role in any story.  Written by a male *or* a female author, even if it isn't a personal projection, I think the phenomenon of the Mary Sue is an exercise of wish-fulfilment; either that of vicariously seeing oneself, or seeing womanhood, by ths standard of our culture's current epectation of The Ideal.

As a feminist, I could speak volumes to the preponderance of the gender of these characters (you can find "Gary Sue's", but Marys seem to dominate the species), but this will not be my text today.

In writing about Clovis, I offered few physical descriptions of my characters.  It's something X and I have talked about often, and I've been on record before as to why I didn't spend time on it.  For one, I believe readers tend to create their own mental pictures - and I believe, honestly, this is actually central to the point and the very joy of books - so it seems silly to go much beyond "big guy, blond, long hair, healthy" or "she was small and had a mobile mouth and slim, nervous, nimble fingers" to my mind.  For two, detailed description is sometimes all too likely to be hagiography.  The historical romances I grew up with were fulsome in descritption, and unvarying in their praise and flattery, so - being a contrarian - I shied back from that.  And finally, given that I wrote in first person, and given my character, any lingeringly doting detail about Clovis' cousins, or even his wives, seemed disingenuous and out of place.  This was a man concerned with much in life, but the tender charms of those around him would not have been paramount.

But I have realized, there is another reason - and it is related to the Mary Sue idea.  I snobbishly believe Mary Sues are often avatars for authors, and serve the function of vanity.  One can be wildly magnetic, successful, gorgeous ... and, of course, unnecessarily persecuted for it ... by living through, and creating, a character with all these attributes.  It doesn't matter whether the author IS or has any of these things - or doesn't.  The point is to fantasize, and everyone does that in one way or another.

Me, I don't need this particular fantasy.

I'm that rare bird of a woman who's too confident (too vain) to wish I were more - or much less - than I am.  I'm the foolhardy and overweening thing who can pick up a fashion magazine, and - far from developing an instant eating disorder, and complex about my inadequacy - puts it down with a sense of superiority regarding my abilities and personality, my sense of style, and my maturity and curves.

But even more important, for my writing ...

I don't want to live through my characters.

This is core, this is key.  This is the deepest and most important thing.

Just as I don't want to be the Next Great Southern Novelist, because I want OUT of my familiar world, and that is why I am a storyteller:  I don't want to re-envision the people I know and spend time with them in the virtual space of my writing.  I love my friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances ... but if the act of writing is "creative" ... then stealing those people and regurgitating them into my imaginary worlds defeats that purpose, for me.

There is not one soul in my life who could have modeled for Clovis.  I took my best friend's hands to use for Clotilde, but not so much her face, her personality.  There is one minor character some might recognize as my avatar, but that one has little to do with the action overall, and the insertion doesn't affect very much.  Though I have an uncommitted idea that one guy herein could look like Shaun White, it wouldn't break my mental deal for my readers to cast him more Teutonic in their minds.  As much pride as I take in my work, my sense of ownership and control over it is not that pronounced.

In any case, I'm unsure I would like to know people like this.  Clovis speaks with my voice, and I hope his charisma is as powerful to others as it was to me.  The character is wildly fascinating, and arrests attention ...  But, as many assets as he has, I'm not sure I would much like the person if he existed.  Even his ghost, prompting me to write, and I never had a close relationship.  I was steward and servant to this king, while I wrote him; not a beloved comrade, or even a counselor.  I owed him something - I owe all my works my best - but an affectionate relationship, I don't have, intimate with this creature of such powerful charisma.  One might sooner pull an angel down by the ankle than claim community with certain characters!

With the second work in progress, it may be possible to develop more closely with my characters; yet even in this case, I don't feel "friendship" nor love for the women under construction.  For me, perhaps, being too involved would make the writing harder; I don't know.  When I was in high school, writing was a personal exercise, and I was incestuously tied up with what I wanted to write about (often historical, somewhat, even then; and yet always very much bound to whatever concerned me then ... generally, that being one boy or another).  Now that I am older, I have a view of storytelling that it is a venture out of mysef, and that it is an ADventure to give to readers.  Maybe I don't count myself much of an offering, or am just too private to be interested in stripping myself bare before an audience - whatever the cause, I just don't write so personally anymore.

Given the problems I have with my ego, I feel this is only considerate to an audience; a work mired down in my self indulgence would be no favor for any reader to endure.  (And yes, I do recognize the irony here ... in BLOGGING - and what could be more self-indulgent, really - about how kind I am, not to subject OTHER readers to exactly what I do here ...)

Of course, nobody's paid to read this site-ful of blather - and few people come here but those friends loved ones already willing to put up with such nonsense.  When paid to publish, my memoir will be no part of the product on offer for sale.  I have a responsibility to produce something better.


I said above Clovis speaks with my voice, and that is true.  He made me his mouthpiece, and in doing so I came to speak for his queen, his commanders, his sons, even his enemies at times.  All of them recognizeably share some aspect of the way I communicate, but each one is distinct, each one just as much distinct *from me* as the king himself.

My job as an author is to develop my own ability to use the language - yet also to use it to synthesize many people who are not (recognizeably?) myself.  I have to simultaneously command and divorce myself from those I create.  X and I had a long exchange this week about creativity and art, and I have said many times I claim little authority to call myself an artist - but I am an entertainer and I am a creative craftsman.  I take to my work with all the spirit and inspiration I think some people consider to give rise to art, but I hesitate to take so much credit - and I know I don't even aspire to anything to subjective.

I want to divert you, I want to transport you.  I want you given over, as much a I was, to my story, to the characters and what they do - to be in the setting I tried to build for you.  I want to take you where I went, and yet will be proud if what your eyes see is completely unlike what I had in my mind's eye - will be proud, if my words allow that much freedom, and yet manage enough clarity to fix a picture for you at all.

I want you to become my reader.  All I know about writing ... is how to invite you to join in that contract with me ...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Yan to My Yang ... Or Something ...

Just walked The Lolly, and out in front of the local tavern, a guy got out of his car to go inside ... and I have found X's evil twin.  Wow, but for the (salient) fact this guy is like 6 or 8 inches shorter than X is - the features, the profile, the coloring, even the weight of his hair and the way it lies were JUST like X.

It's almost enough to make me want to go brush my teeth and put on a sundress, go out for a drink.  Wow.

The height, of course, is sadly a dealbreaker.  Plus, this guy was wearing a yellow shirt.  X would never put on a yellow shirt.

Mr. Y.

All told - certainly interesting to actually see an attractive man, though.  Don't seem to come across those much anymore.


X has always said he has an Evil Twin out there somewhere.

My thinking is, he's probably the Evil one himself.  Heh.

Anyway, Mr. Y was wearing a yellow polo short.  Evil people don't wear yellow, and rarely polo shirts.

(Unless the collar is "popped".  Then all bets are off, and there is the evil twin.)

The Fix is Not In ...

... so I still can't comment even on MY OWN BLOG (yeah, been a wild hair less than trigger-happy proactive about that digging-up-X's-tech-advice intention).  So, Mo, in answer to your question, the criminal or despised stereotype for me is:


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

And the Beating Goes On

I got the R today from one of the agents I was impressed by.  It was a nice letter, actually, even if the rejection it indicated came pretty much instantaneously.  The woman has some very fortunate clients.

Thank you for thinking of me, Diane, but I didn't connect with the subject matter of THE AX AND THE VASE the way I would need to in order to consider representation, so unfortunately I've decided to pass.

I'm sorry not to be writing with better news and wish you the best of luck elsewhere.

Not an exhaustive litany of regret to lose me, to be sure, but at least it was personal, specific, and written with respect.  Which is to say:  by an actual human.
I don't even mind auto responders the way some people do.  They at least tell you (a) you got received and (b) you were at least seen, if not read by the right audience ... yet ...
I have a feeling, though.  It won't be but so much longer.  You watch me.  Twenty-plus more agents to research, this week alone?  Interesting things will happen, even before I get to the Conference.

STUPID Blogger and Google

The problems I've been having with my login?  Now I can't "follow" a new blog.

Okay, time to dig out Mr. X's tech god wisdom and see if I can fix this mess.  How incredibly stupid/frustrating.  Blah.

(And by "time" ... I do mean tomorrow ...)

New People

I have a way of limiting my thinking - not because I really want to become rigid and stay narrow, but because I am a natural contrarian, and resistance to change is a genetic imperative in Virginians.  I think I will never do "real" social networking because MySpace is, like, over or something and I hate Facebook.

A ping from QueryTracker, though, teaches me I need to watch myself.  It's all too easy to become insular, to habitutate to small selections of behavior - and, on top of being shortsighted as a writer trying to sell, that is just flat out no fun.

People are smart.  They'll teach ya, sometimes, even when that's not the point of a particular action.

Joining HFO and Absolute Write are all very well as ideas for reaching out go ... but that can't be all I do apart from blogging and making lists of agents ...

Thank goodness for people.  Otherwise I would turn into a total hermit.


My friend, the communications goddess, at work wanted to profile me for our newsletter. I thought I would share the questionnaire just for fun.

Diane Louise Major

Administration Specialist Senior (best. secretarial title. ever.)

Years at this employer:
1 1/12

Path to current position:
(It was a yellow brick road, and there were these singing munchkins ...) I've been in mainstream financial services for most of the past decade and a half, culminating in Risk Management at a large securities firm at the time the financial crisis began. When that employer had a merger and a move, I stayed here and went to a local utility for two years. After a layoff there, I remembered having an interview at our employer many years ago; I'd always kept them in the top of the mental list of "if I could go anywhere" places to apply to if I needed to find a new gig, and checked the site every single day, along with my list of 26 regular job hunting go-to's. After three months' unemployment, FINALLY there was a listing, I applied instantly, and last June, somebody in HR got fooled by my resume. By July 19, you guys were stuck with me!

Born (hometown):
It always seems to surprise/disappoint people who like me when I say this, but Richmond VA is a nicer place than people give it credit for!

Favorite pastime:
Just one? I write novels and try to sell them. Sometimes I socialize with people.

Three things you can’t live without:
I'm hard put to respond to questions like this, because I'm a literalist and terrified of committing to limited responses! My loved ones; new things to learn, understand, and be grateful for; the living I make working with all of you guys.

Favorite book(s):
Donald Harington's "The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks" is my favorite picaresque ... Parke Godwin's "A Memory of Lions" is the best historical fiction I have ever read ... Mary Stewart's Arthurian novels ... Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently AND Hitchhiker's novels ... Ursula L. K. LeGuin's "Left Hand of Darkness" is the best world-building adventure story - oh, and it's sci fi. Depending on my mood, any one or all of these are favorites.

Favorite movie:
I'll say the JJ Abrams "Star Trek" reboot, but this again is hard to quantify!

Favorite music artist:
If I had any sense at all, I'd just say the Beatles and leave it at that. You are killing me here ... (Since I have no sense: Bowie, Adele, AC/DC, Daft Punk ... oh, and the Beatles ... Yes, I know.)

Favorite food:
Mediterranean/Greek/Italian (I am aware putting Italy last on this list will get me in trouble with some of our management!)

Worst pet-peeve:
Reductive profile questions ... ?

Three words that describe you:
One of our managers calls me Tenacious D, I like that description. Two more might be articulate ... and resourceful.

Good grief, this was hard ...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mother Lode

Even with several agents who share agencies, and information which looks like it may be as much as a year old (and, of course, the possibility that a significant fraction of these don't do histfic after all), a list of twenty-eight agents to research is still a juicy prospect.  Good day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Picnic at Smiling Rock

Vacation pics ...

The larger one used to have the cutest little tiny barnacle for a nose, nicely off center to the left, but it fell off in our bags.  Even so, quite the adorable Pet Rock!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Oh, I am liking this agent better and better.

(Authors) get scared. The other thing to remember is that you're hiring an agent to work for you. It's been flipped in such an odd way. You have all these writers who are so desperate. But the truth of the matter is, they're hiring us to work for them.


Also?  Finding two agents to be excited about, in one day, makes up for all the ones who don't do my genre at all.


Of course, here is the thing ... when you believe the P&W blurb that says this person does histfic, and then read great articles, and enjoy what this person has to say ... and THEN you finally research her catalogue:  and find that she does NOT do histfic?

It is disappointing, all over again.



One of the things about query research is that it can so often yield useful lessons for writing at large.  Says one agent I'm about to hit up:
It's not that you have to write for your audience. But you have to keep your audience in mind. That's a distinction you have to make.
I've written this way since long before I learned how to become "serious" about the craft, and it is amazing how both freeing and disciplined this advice really is.

(The article is good too; I linked to p. 2 because that's whence the quote derives.)

Then Again ...

... if you find a prospect as exciting as the one I just finished researching and querying one minute ago - the ones who don't handle histfic matter a whole lot less ...

"Eight" is Not Enough

Of the eight agents I added to my list a couple weeks ago, before leaving for vacation, so far several of those I have now finally begun researching do NOT represent historical fiction. Each one specifically noted that they did in the P&W mini profiles, but QueryTracker searches and time-consuming searches of their websites show no evidence of this.

It's frustrating to think you have found a vein to mine, because just finding "historical" at all takes time. It's even more frustrating to find out that the vein is not even a capillary ... AND to waste a whole lot of time researching very obviously dead ends.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Time and Retooling

One of the frustrating things about how long it takes to query a novel is that you find yourself improving the query itself, until you are happier and happier with it over passing iterations ...

... and you wish you could go back to some of the plum agencies you were excited about at the beginning, and re-query them with your new and improved setpiece of an introduction.

This is why I wish sometimes I could meet them all in person. I do SO well with in person agent meetings. As good a writer as I am, it frustrates me that's usually the ONLY possible format in which to present yourself.

Yes, I know how bad that sounds. Even so - I would bet good money some of the agents out there wish they had more authors who *could* present themselves better in person. They may not advertise that. But a property is a property.


Writers often have a hard time coming up with titles, and sometimes they can be incredibly meaningful, or as frustratingly opaque as the silly non-descriptors cosmetic companies come up with for their shades. Some titles gain power beyond their sources, and some mean a lot for reasons obvious and not (and if you are not catching my drift, for pete's sake will you notice my name, please?). My own debut took a long time to entitle, yet once I did it was so screamingly obvious, if I'd had any sense of decency (or shame), I'd have been terribly embarrassed it wasn't clear to me from day one. Novel #2 is still laboring under the working (but not at all well) title, "Matrilineage" - and I will be glad once I've gotten absorbed enough to actually know its real name.

Still probably won't manage to be properly embarrassed, though.

Battle Ass

The armies lay encamped on the low slope of a wide, open hillside. Two thousand men, the force my father could muster from his three cities, were joined by King Odovakar’s equal host of Romans. Even with such a multitude, it was nearly silent in the darkness. My breath came hushed, a dangerous secret I needed to keep.

This is the easy part.

This is the part where a boy is waiting.

And this is my opening sequence. Clovis, fourteen, is still a prince in waiting ... and he awaits an enormity even his clear ambition can't encompass. Clovis enters the field of battle for the first time.


I don't pretend to know what it is to be a boy, fourteen years old. I don't pretend to know war - or battle, as war once was - nor even its strategies, competently. But this is my job. I set myself the task, and Clovis had expectations of me (the character ... if not the real ghost of a king), and the task was clear, cut-and-dried.

My first opening sequence was meant to introduce the story of Clovis and his wife, (the later Saint) Clotilde. I wanted to tell an epistolary romance. I was having one of my own. I felt I had special understanding.

What I did instead was nothing of the kind. Clovis and Clotilde didn't come to know each other by letter. Her persuasion of him into the Faith was not managed so tidily, nor so progressively. She fought him, and he fought back.

And Clovis' life was fighting.

There was nothing for it. I was going to have to write the whole damned thing. Even - especially - the battle parts.


My premise for the first scene was that life consists of waiting. The waiting before the fray begins was the obvious place to start. Yet even once battle is met, Clovis waits. He is held, he sees, by a strategy not putting him at the fore. He is hemmed in, too, by an enemy less obviously strategic. The strain is one of heat, one of anticipation not met. The intensity of expectation, the most powerful thing of all, in any of the great events of our lives.

Steel cleaves bone - even Clovis' flesh is hit - but much of this battle scene is spent on the struggle of *unmet* struggle; the drain, the intensity of frustration.

It seems right thematically - yet also it seems right at this place in his career, in the book itself. We are in chapter one, so the setpiece is a big one - and yet it doesn't lead to glory. It mires in the banality of learning the unknown, the immediacy of baffling losses and the distraction of oppressive heat, the power of accumulated mundanity piled into doses so massive nothing is clear, nothing is victorious - and nothing feels much like defeat, either.

I may be no boy, but I know what it is to wait. I know endurance. I know the shock of coming to understand the profound, or the hideous.

And I knew what my job was. To put down words which would be believable.

It can't be apparent from reading my blog, but I have an eminent capacity to learn my characters. Kent Dixon taught me that I had to divest myself of feminine skin and try on someone else's. He also taught me I was the one who had to teach myself HOW to do that. The most crucial piece of writing advice I ever had, shedding myself, was that, "A guy is not going to describe a girl's sweater. He's going to be looking at her ass."

I re-wrote the story. And he used it up to retirement (which should be coming soon). I wrote that twenty-three years ago, or more.

I take my lessons well.

I also read.

Reading Mary Stewart's Arthurian novels taught me the first fundamentals of battle, and I learned and learned.

It came to my attention, around the age of thirty or so: I am an excellent learner - when I care.

I have cared for little, in my capacity as a writer, more than I did about inhabiting Clovis.

(My companion)’s was the armor I clashed with most, and all our action merely jostling in the press of men and horses. There were more allied haunches than enemy weapons at hand, jostling and turning in a dizzying sea of motion.

Out of the cold darkness of earliest morning and the stark brightness as we’d begun fighting, a humid red mist of blood, clay and battle sweat grew and enveloped the field in smoke, stink and heat. The light rose and grew wider above us, and finally the thicket of horses and men loosened. The miasma grew thicker, almost choking, the only air there was to breathe. As our mobility loosened, the way before us bristled with a profusion of steel; weapons in every direction, thicker even than the density of flesh had been in the beginning. Visibility was challenged in one way or another throughout the rest of the long day.

I began, too, to know the heat of battle. Every pore of my skin perspired, and I was glad of the clot of fabric rimming the inside of the helmet. Even with it, my eyes were full of stinging sweat, and inside the gloves protecting my hands and wrists, my palms were slippery, my grasp unsteady and touch frustrated.

As our lines loosened into dozens of individual brawling combats, cohesion in the flanks was giving way altogether: the center was spreading.

I hacked, and moved forward; hacked, and moved forward.

I wrote, I edited, I moved forward. I focused.

I learned that I don't need to have my uncle the Army Man read me for accuracy. I learned that I produce good product. I had readers read, and learned that their trust is more important than my education. *Authenticity* is the key, and the magic of that is that I managed to find it. You have to find your own; and you will know it when you have, when you read it back to yourself (out loud).

This post seems like I should be offering some sort of step-by-step on that, but I don't believe in steps for myself, and would be suspect of any attempt I could make to offer them to anybody else. All I can say is this:

The guy wouldn't be describing the girl's sweater.

Look at her ass. That is where the truth is to be found.

Nine, and Other Things

I was wrong when I said I had eight queries to do. I've made it nine - a good number, having been off the job for eight days now.

There's much to be said right now - not about vacation, but about writing, and about the work. But the migraine keeps me mentally scattered (even as it continues preventing me resting), and jet lag is probably still contributing too.

Stay tuned: next time, we actually do service to "writing battle scenes for fiction" ...