Sad Heart/Happy Heart

Monday, March 28, 2016

Last week was a pretty stressful one for me.  There was a private family emergency that I had to deal with, as well as a more literary stressor:...rejection.

I HATE falling head over heels in love with a manuscript, offering to the author, and then losing to another agent.  It's weird to read that, right?  I think a lot of authors don't realize that the agents are going through the same process they are, and that submissions on this side of the divide can be similar to what they experience.

In the logical part of my mind, I know rejection is something that happens to everyone, but it's still a big bummer.  It's also the reason I always do my best to give helpful feedback to authors when I pass on their fulls, because I know the pain.

I lost out on something last week and a few other times already in 2016.  All of the projects were awesome and they ended up with great agents, who I know will find them excellent homes, but I can't help but be a teeny bit mopey.

I have an on-going list of my unrequited authors, with asterisks next to their names when I see their deals listed on Publishers Marketplace.  I recently went to lunch with an editor friend at S&S who admitted she does the same thing, and we talked about just how insanely unhealthy that is.  It was made funnier by the fact that my meal with her was the epitome of health: fried pickle chips with ranch dressing and an extra-large Oreo milkshake. 

did, however, land one of the authors I'm crazy about a few day ago, and that is the amazing Georgina Penney!!  She is fantastic romance author with great energy and awesome books, and I can't wait to start sending her out.  I have calls set up with a couple others authors I'm very interested in this week, too, so I know I'll snap out of my funk soon.  

Also, as John reminded me, I've gotten the biggest advances of my career this year so far, so it kind of balances out :)

Query Critique Winner

Monday, March 21, 2016

Lee Kelsall's lucky number must be 8, too, because she has won the query critique again!  I'm also reading a partial of this manuscript after doing a ninja attack on Pitch Madness, so yay for Lee!!

Here is her original query:

A deaf Aboriginal teen’s determination to break the cycle of welfare dependence and poverty is derailed by love. Yet it’s her Muslim boyfriend’s secret that may ultimately destroy her future.

Seventeen-year-old Natasha figures if she doesn’t flee her small Australian country town after graduation, she’ll wind up just like Mum; hitting the pub for half price schooners on pension night, and too wasted to find her way home. The welfare money will run dry, and this week’s inbred, toothless boyfriend will boot her out. There’s only one way to escape the crap hole she calls her life: win a scholarship to study teaching at Sydney University. Then they’ll see. She’s better than her Mum. And Natasha’s determined to prove it.

But when Turkish immigrant, Tarik, moves to town, his exotic differences challenge Natasha’s place as the local oddity. Tarik’s attention makes it clear he doesn’t consider Natasha the stupid, deaf, half-caste of her mother’s accusations. Teasing her with his lip-reading ability—and his lips—he encourages her to bend her rigid rules about study and life, and expand the safe little universe she’s created.

Against a backdrop of rising anti-Muslim sentiment, their relationship intensifies. But when the fantasy wears off and reality sets in, Natasha discovers Tarik has secrets. In an act of petty revenge, Natasha makes a shortsighted mistake that leaves her pregnant, alone and trapped. If she can’t find a way to make it to uni, she’ll be a failure; just like Mum.

THINGS BETTER NOT HEARD may appeal to readers of OUT OF DARKNESS and STORY OF  GIRL. I'd love the opportunity to send you a partial or full.
Thanks for your time,

Lee Kelsall

And here is my critique:

dDeaf, Aboriginal teen’s Natasha is determinationed to break the cycle of welfare dependence and poverty that her family has been stuck in for so long. is derailed by love. Yet it’s her Muslim boyfriend’s secret that may ultimately destroy her future.  Seventeen-year-old Natasha She figures if she doesn’t flee her small Australian country town after graduation, she’ll wind up just like Mum; hitting the pub for half price schooners on pension night, and too wasted to find her way home. The welfare money will run dry, and this week’s inbred, toothless boyfriend will boot her out. There’s only one way to escape the crap hole she calls her life: win a scholarship to study teaching at Sydney University. Then they’ll see. She’s better than her Mum. And Natasha’s determined to prove it.

But when Turkish immigrant, Tarik, moves to town, his exotic differences challenge Natasha’s place as the local oddity getting out right away doesn't seem like such an immediate need anymore. Tarik’s attention makes it clear he doesn’t consider Natasha the stupid, deaf, half-caste of her mother’s accusations her mother screams she'll always be. Teasing her with his lip-reading ability—and his lips—he encourages her to bend her rigid rules about study and life, and expand the safe little universe she’s created.

Against a backdrop of rising anti-Muslim sentiment, their relationship intensifies. But when the fantasy wears off and reality sets in, Natasha discovers Tarik has secrets. In an act of petty revenge, Natasha makes a shortsighted mistake that leaves her pregnant, alone and trapped. If she can’t find a way to make it to uni and forget Tarik, she’ll be a failure; just like Mum.

THINGS BETTER NOT HEARD is a deeply compelling, diverse YA that may will appeal to readers of OUT OF DARKNESS and STORY OF  GIRL. I'd love the opportunity to send you a partial or full.

Thanks for your time,
Lee Kelsall

This sounds like a really exciting story (I'm really glad I ninja'd it for Pitch Madness!) and the query is off to a great start.  I ended up rearranging and cutting some areas to highlight the focus of the story more and prevent some confusing wording.  Other than that, though, this is a solid submission in my book!  Use the comment section below to chime in with your thoughts or questions about any of the critique.

Happy Pub Day!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tomorrow is the pub day for Jessica Arnold's sequel THE LINGERING GRACE!  The first book in the series, THE LOOKING GLASS, was something that I read back when I was an assistant at Writers House, and the haunting story of a girl who wakes up in the 19th century version of the B&B where she and her family are staying on vacation stayed with me when I went to Prospect.

This book is about everything that happens after the protagonist, Alice returns to her real life, but of course after her escape from the hotel.  Here is Jessie's interview about it!



Tell us about THE LINGERING GRACE and what is was like to write a follow up book to THE LOOKING GLASS.

In The Lingering Grace, Alice finds herself immersed in a world of magic once again when a new friend asks for her help doing a potentially dangerous spell. It is a sequel to The Looking Glass—in which Alice had to break a century-old curse. The Looking Glass was inspired by the amazing short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and by Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking GlassThe Lingering Grace was more inspired by the concept of magic as a game of exchanges. One question drove the story more than any other: How much are these characters willing to sacrifice to get what they want?

I didn't expect to be writing a sequel to The Looking Glass until Month9Books offered a two-book deal. There are two types of book series in the world. You’ve got your Harry Potters, where each book clearly leads into the next. Then you have type two, in which the first book really could stand alone, so the follow-up has to function as a stand-alone as well. Writing another stand-alone book that was also a logical sequel was no walk in the park, but I was surprised by how rewarding it was to push my character further than I expected. In The Lingering Grace, I got to ask the questions I didn’t have time to deal with in The Looking Glass. For instance, in The Looking Glass, Alice has to harness magic to break a century-old curse. I always wondered about the possibility of having her create spells of her own, but that particular plot element didn't fit in the original book. In The Lingering Grace, however, that's something that Alice actually does, and I Iiked exploring what that magic would look like and how it would function.

The first book was inspired by Alice in Wonderland.  Did you retain any of that inspiration when writing THE LINGERING GRACE?

Nope! Because The Lingering Grace needed to function as another standalone, I didn't want to rehash the Alice in Wonderland theme. Usually I love drawing inspiration from classic literature, but I didn't use anything but The Looking Glass as a jumping-off point for The Lingering Grace. It's entirely its own thing!

Now that you've written about Alice and her world more than once, do you think you have a specific writing style?  Anything you've learned about your writing as time has gone on that you want to share?

I had a writing professor in college who told us that only true masters of the craft have actual writing styles—and none of us were good enough to have a "voice." (I know. He was awful.) Ever since then, I haven't been able to think of myself as having a writing style. What I have noticed is that I have some kind of annoying writing tics. Like—case in point—the previous sentence. I use the phrase "kind of" ALL THE TIME. I had no idea I was doing that until someone (*cough cough, thanks Carrie*) pointed it out. I also use a lot of looooong sentences to convey action when something exciting is happening. It can be effective sometimes, but all the time ... no. People notice these things.

The cover art for this book changed along the way. which I didn't even realize until recently.  Tell us about this cover and  what it means.

Yes! That cover change was a recent surprise development. The switch had nothing to do with the first cover not matching the book—it was an issue contacting the designer, who has fallen off the face of the earth (hope she's ok!). The new cover is great, though. The little girl on the front is the little sister of Eva, one of Alice's friends; she tragically drowns at the beginning of the story. The plot centers on her accident and (I don't think this is giving too much away) whether it can be reversed.

Now fun question!  If these books were turned in to a movie (or movies ::salivates::) who would you cast to play the main characters?

Wouldn't that be awesome! Something to dream about, right? The one person I've had in the back of my mind to play Alice is Molly Quinn. I was a huge fan of Castle for a long time, and I've always thought she would be perfect! Logan Lerman would be a good fit for Tony, and Chloe Grace Moretz for Eva. Ah, if only ....

Be sure to pick up a copy of the book and learn more by checking out the blog tour!

March Madness

Monday, March 7, 2016

I had this lovely moment a couple weeks ago when I was all caught up on my queries and getting my To Read pile nicely taken care of when I made the arrogant mistake of saying to myself, "I don't have that much to do!"


Then all my authors did that thing they do where they secretly confer and send me their revisions at the same time, two contracts came in for me to go over, and the pipe in my bathroom re-burst.

The bathroom thing wasn't really that bad since my landlord had someone come the next day, and I'm actually excited about the manuscripts, because there are a bunch I'm really looking forward to getting ready to submit to editors.  And, of course, I'm SUPER pumped about the contracts and having two more deals to get the year rolling (more about them soon)!  So I'm a good busy, but busy nonetheless, which means my one-second daydream of chocolate making is falling by the wayside for now.



Now that John has started his new job as a sous chef in Brooklyn, he has also had a lot on his plate (PUN!), so we haven't had too much time together.  I felt really bad about it and battled my inner sleep-craver last Friday to stay up until he got home at 2am so we could watch the new episode of Vikings together.  I'm hoping that I can speedily (yet diligently) get through these manuscripts and contract notes so that when his day off on Thursday pops up this week we can do something fun together.  Apparently it's going to be 70° in NYC on Thursday, which is crazy but also very opportune, because what sounds better on a day off than a sunny picnic in Central Park?

 
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