How Not to Talk to Agents

010Jackson loves to sit on the kitchen garbage can to supervise all food preparation. It’s his special stool. So funny.

My lovely agent, the vivacious and Bookalicious Pam, keeps a Tumblr where she generously answers publishing questions. I amuse myself by reading through it. Not long ago, an aspiring writer asked her a question about whether Pam wanted to see a book from a particular genre. The writer said:

Should I send it your way (you are my top pick from Foreward), or to one of the other Foreward agents? Thanks.

*minor note that the agency name is Foreword

This triggered a memory from college. One evening our apartment phone rang and I answered. Now, this was in Ye Olden Days and we had a landline phone with a verrry long cord. Six of us shared an apartment suite with six bedrooms off a super long hallway. We’d drag the phone into our rooms to talk. But we all shared this one phone. I just happened to answer this particular time.

A guy on the other end invited me to a fraternity dance. I only vaguely knew who he was, but I was flattered to be asked. Sadly, I had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t go. When I told him as much, he said “Oh, well how about one of your sorority sisters?”


I mean, not only was I more or less interchangeable with my sorority sisters to him, but he didn’t even specify which of them he might be interested in spending the evening with. Because, well, it ultimately didn’t matter to him, right? He needed a date for the dance and any girl would do.

I think my analogy here is obvious.

You know – I get this. I really do. I felt this way back when I was first seeking an agent. They all seemed pretty much the same to me. One big sorority of faceless people who could bestow the boon of their efforts upon me or not. I wanted to go to the Publishing Ball and I really didn’t care who escorted me.

I just wanted to BE THERE.

One of the things you learn over time, however, is that it really does matter how you get to the Publishing Ball. You can buy your own ticket and go. Maybe you’ll be invited as a special guest. But I can tell you this – if you go with the wrong escort, that can suck way worse than staying home alone. At best you might be miserable. At worst you might get date-raped in the parking lot.

Seriously. I don’t think I’m taking this analogy too far.

So, that’s one piece of it. Pick your agent carefully. It may seem that any one will do, but that’s just not so. And I’m saying this as someone who does not believe in the “Dream Agent” concept. Nor do I believe in True Love. Just as I believe any of us could find any of a number of people to make delightful life partners, I think any number of agents would work out great for a given author.

But don’t treat them that way, okay? I mean, that guy who called me up so long ago clearly didn’t care a whit for actually dating me. He never asked me out again or made any effort to get to know me. So far as I know, he planned to ask out whoever answered the phone in our six-sorority girl apartment. Now, WE all know that he missed out BIG TIME, but he wasn’t looking for a life partner. If he was, he went about it in absolutely the wrong way.

What if I might have been the girl for him? Maybe True Love did await us and we would have hit it off, found a delicious mutual accord and gone on to marry right out of college and have brilliant careers, a scintillating social life and a passel of over-educated kids.

(Hey – I write fiction, run with me here.)

The way he treated asking me out, that one incidental time, ruined that possibility forever. I couldn’t go that night – just as an agent might pass on your book because it’s simply bad timing – and by treating me like I was unimportant as a person and interchangeable with any of my random sorority sisters, he not only blew it with me, he blew it with everyone in my sorority. Because OF COURSE I told them about it. It became a running joke that this guy said this to me.

Agents gossip, too. Especially when someone treats them carelessly, as less than an important individual in their own right.

Something to contemplate.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Making Conversations Be More Than Talking

012It’s a funny thing, living in the desert. Like getting junk mail that so does not apply.

So, you all know that I’ve been busily drafting Rogue’s Paradise, the third book in my Covenant of Thorns trilogy. Well, maybe you don’t breathlessly follow my daily doings and so wouldn’t know, but I am. And – I think this isn’t spoilery – there are *ahem* dragons in it. Because, you know, they were in the first and second books. I’m just indicating the trajectory continues is all.

But it’s funny because, as I deal with the ins and outs of dragons and their role in my overall story, I keep remembering this conversation I had a few months back.

I was at a writers conference and, when I arrived at the area where the workshops were being held, I saw Agent Pam talking to this guy. She spotted me walking up and introduced me to the guy. I can’t recall exactly what she said, but it was along the lines of “Jeffe writes fantasy and [Guy] writes some kind of fantasy, too.” And then she ducked away really quick, which should have given me a clue. But I was freshly arrived, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, feeling generous and friendly, so I made a little joke, something like “oh, one of those, huh, who doesn’t know it exactly what kind of fantasy it might be?”

I mean, come on – I have internet conversations almost every day where we debate if something is epic fantasy or urban fantasy or contemporary fantasy or fantasy romance. It’s not like our stories come pre-pigeonholed.

 At any rate, Guy gives me a look (you know, the mansplaining kind) and says to me, “No, I know exactly what kind of fantasy I write. It’s [insert some way-too-specfic term here].” Seriously I can’t remember what he said, because as soon as the words came out of his mouth, I started to glaze over. Then he proceeded to give me his resume, which largely included his “near-misses” along with the books he had written. A near-miss happens when, say, your book makes it all the way to the second meeting of the editorial team at TOR and they ultimately decide to pass. I total “I coulda been a contenda” moment. Agonizing for the author, yes. Not a good way of introducing yourself.

Writers, of course, discuss and commiserate over the near-misses all the time. But they never count for making you more legit or important. (Pro-tip, there.)

Anyway, Guy tells me about a near-miss. Then also tells me how this prestigious role-playing game (which meant nothing to me, since I don’t know that world) wanted him to write a spin-off of book. He, however, refused! “They wanted to me to write about dragons sitting around discussing war,” Guy said, in a disgusted and dismissive tone. “No amount of money would get me to write about a conversation. I write action!”

Okay then.

So, as I write about my dragons – who are, by the way, not sitting around discussing war, for what it’s worth, though there may be other, similar conversations – I keep hearing Guy’s voice. And thinking how he just didn’t get it.

I mean, yes, write action! That’s great stuff. Nothing wrong with writing action. A good writer, however, can make a conversation into a fight scene. Or a love scene. Hell, look at Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants or Dorothy Parker’s Here We Are. Conversely, I’ve read tons of fight and battle scenes that I skimmed because they were all about the blow-by-blow and contained no emotional tension.

I think that’s why the conversation with Guy keeps coming back to me. The thing is, while the STORY is key, it’s the writing that makes it come alive. Written well, a conversation adds to the overall tension and climactic build of the plot. Written poorly, the most dramatic fight scene can, well, droop and fail to satisfy. 

I’ll leave you with a snippet from the amazing Dorothy Parker’s Here We Are.

“Well, you see, sweetheart,” he said, “we’re not really married yet. I mean. I mean—well, things will be different afterwards. Oh, hell. I mean, we haven’t been married very long.”

“No,” she said.

“Well, we haven’t got much longer to wait now,” he said. “I mean—well, we’ll be in New York in about twenty minutes. Then we can have dinner, and sort of see what we feel like doing. Or I mean. Is there anything special you want to do tonight?”

“What?” she said.

“What I mean to say,” he said, “would you like to go to a show or something?”

“Why, whatever you like,” she said. “I sort of didn’t think people went to theaters and things on their—I mean, I’ve got a couple of letters I simply must write. Don’t let me forget.”

“Oh,” he said. “You’re going to write letters tonight?”

Guy would no doubt disapprove, but something also tells me he wouldn’t get it.

Bringing the Serendipity Back to Contingency

020We went hiking yesterday at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, tucked away over on the Cochiti Pueblo. We’re trying to get back into our weekend hikes and New Mexico has so many lovely, overlooked places to do that. It was a deliciously warm and sunny afternoon, we got out of the house, away from work and got to play. !

Highly recommend!

*makes note to take own advice in future*

So, when I looked up the Word of the Week – “contingency”- I groused to myself and speculated on which of my bordello-mates picked such a dull word. Mulling it over, I decided I’d pretty much only ever used the word paired with “plan,” such as a contingency plan for if things go all to hell. “Contingency” by itself is really a word only lawyers use, right?

Turns out it’s much more interesting than I thought! Head over to Word Whores to find out why.

A Valentine for Zip

P1010203This is the post I was going to write last Friday.

And then I just couldn’t.

Even, now, a week later, I’m tearing up as I write.

See, last Thursday, our old dog, Zip, died. He was almost 15 – old for a border collie – so we were expecting it. Braced for it anyway. You know how it is. For the last couple of years he’d been getting skinnier and more unstable. Two years ago we bought a ramp for him to walk up to get in the back of the Jeep. Not that he liked to use it. He’d always try to jump in and out anyway – which his joints just couldn’t take.

His two favorite things in the world were riding in the Jeep and going for a walk. Keeping him from crippling up so he could continue to do those things required more and more elaborate efforts on our part. He never quite understood that his body didn’t work as well as it used to – a blissful ignorance.

Zip was a beta dog. Or gamma. So far from being alpha, that we often shook our heads at his sheepishness. The cats bossed him around. He lived the first part of his life with our very alpha female border collie, who pretty much oppressed him. After she died, he  changed so dramatically, gaining weight and spirit, that David decided Zip deserved to be an only dog from there on out. It was a good choice. David was the sun and center of Zip’s universe. That dog loved being near David and being his constant partner.

So, though we’d been braced for it, the actual event took us by surprise.

He’d had his usual walk the night before, had been doing his usual things that morning. David came into my office and said Zip was acting foggy and would I give him a B-12 injection. We’d been giving him weekly B-12 boosts for the last several months and it had really helped. I did and went back to writing.

David came in again and said “I think he’s dying.”

Zip was lying belly-down on the floor, weaving his head around like he couldn’t see. He liked us petting him though. We sat beside him and he turned onto his side, breathing getting erratic and legs stretching. His tongue lolled out, which made us think it was a stroke. We briefly discussed taking him to the vet, but decided against it. We doubted the vet could do much and it seemed to be moving fast.

Indeed, within a few minutes, Zip sighed his last breath and was gone.

It was a lovely warm day, so we cleaned him up, took him outside and buried him. There seemed to be no reason to delay. Still, from him clicking around the house to being buried in two hours was kind of wrenching for us. I canceled weekend travel plans and we spent Valentines Day in mourning.

We’re doing better now, learning not to listen for him. David has been going on the evening walk without him, which never fails to trip my heart.

And, though, we’d said that, once Zip died we wouldn’t get another dog, David is changing his mind. He’s been talking about a puppy.

I’m good with that.

Master of the Opera: Dark Interlude – Release Day!

Master of the Opera, Act4 Dark Interlude (ebook)Release Day for the Next Episode!

In the fourth fiery installment of Jeffe Kennedy’s scintilliating Master of the Opera, a woman surrenders-body and soul-to the one man who is everything she desires, everything she craves, and, possibly, everything she fears…

Reeling from the discovery of a dead body in the Sante Fe Opera House, intern Christy Davis is forced to reassess the strange, erotically-charged relationship she’s forged with the mysterious masked man who lives in the labrynths below. Could her masterful lover be capable of murder, and worse? Perhaps it was the thrill of danger that drew Christy to him in the first place-like a moth to the flame-instead of a more conventional romance with the opera house’s handsome benefactor, Roman. For the sake of her sanity, she must at least give Roman a chance. But for the love of her master, she must give in to every wild fantasy, every wicked game, and every whim he commands…

Is Christy prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice? To surrender her heart, her soul, her everything? First she must acknowlege the truth: a woman in love can serve only one master…

and here’s a fun review: (entirety here)

Worldbuilding: I’m thrilled out of my mind about this installment in the serial, but even more so about the next one. As you might have seen from my Genre OCD-ness, in this one we get to see a glimpse of a fantasy world that I CANNOT wait to explore! Aside that, the brilliance of the Santa Fe setting with the Opera in particular still made my heart throb.
Characters: I will admit I found Christy somewhat less likable than in previous parts of the story, but to her credit this is the make or break point (I think) in her and the Master’s chemistry. It makes sense that she’d be confused, hesitant, indecisive – her behavior makes sense to me in the circumstances. Then again, she did end up doing what I wanted her to :D So all is good. I loved Hally, I always love it each time she shows up because she has this cool, spiritual vibe while being wicked fun at the same time – love the combination.
Characters I’ve previously found annoying got even more so now, and can I just say I hope they get a rash in parts they can’t scratch? :) If you’ve been reading this serial, you know for sure who it is I’m talking about *coughRomancough*.
Plot: Aside the growing mystery vine, a fantasy tangent made a teasing entrance and I’m dying to follow all these leads to the end of the story.
Writing: Awesome third person narrative, Christy’s POV. The more the Master shows and his world, the more I fall in love with Jeffe Kennedy’s atmosphere-building and relationship-building.
Curb Appeal: Great cover, hooking blurb, instant buy author name = epic win.

All in all, I felt this was a great addition to the serial and that it ended with a huge teaser (for me), making me want to REALLY want to read the next one like right now. But then again I feel that way after reading anything by Jeffe Kennedy, so no surprise there.

That Old Black Moment

2_15Want some GOOD news from the SFWA front? Really, there are so many amazing, talented members of the organization and I’m honored to be part of it. Several of us have put books on sale this week. A great opportunity to check out some excellent writing! See more here.

I’m over at the Here Be Magic group blog today, talking about black moments – both in our lives and in fiction.

SFWA Sale!

Petals and Thorns, erotic romantic fairy tale, SFWA Sale
This week a group of us writer-types from SFWA (Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America) are staging a sale of sf/fantasy books. We’ll be nattering about this and cross-posting all over the Internet. This is an opportunity to pick up some good reading material at great prices.

The promotion lasts through Friday, February 21, and the following authors are participating:

    post-2363-0-81636100-1392434971Amanda C. Davis with new takes on classic fairy tales in Wolves and Witches for $2.99, and also her fantasy novelette The Lair of the the Twelve Princesses for 99








M.C.A. Hogarth with her aliens-only epic fantasy The Worth of a Shell at $2.99.cns-cover-shell-frontcover-198x300









AdCover-215x300Cat Rambo with her brilliant collections Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Midnight at $2.99 and Near + Far, also at $2.99.HH-Near-Cover1-200x300









Don Sakers’ tale of futuristic psi and intrigue, The Eighth Succession at $2.99.




BfzPLs7CcAA8A2cAnd I’ll be offering my erotic romantic fantasy novella Petals and Thorns at 99 cents, plus you can still get a free sample of the first episode of my serial novel Master of the Opera: Passionate Overture.

Lots of fun new books to check out – I sure plan to!