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Thursday, June 30, 2005

It's Good To Be A Pack Rat

My advice of the day to all writers out there: save everything. Never toss an old version of your work. Really.

Case in point: My GAN. The Great American Novel has been around in various forms since 1994. There are LOTS of previous versions, dead scenes, discarded characters, etcetera. Read: fodder.

Today's the deadline for submitting a story to the Writers of the Future Contest, last quarter 2005. So, two days ago, I started to think about writing a story to submit. (Have I mentioned that I work well under pressure? And that Procrastinators United wanted me to be its Spokesperson, but the reps never got around to sending me the forms?) When I realized that I didn't have one fresh creative thought in my head, I hit my files.

I found the start of a short story dating back to 1997. Good start--funny protag, a magical practitioner living in modern times, being told that she must marry by midnight. That's it; no more story. Huh. Okay, so then the thinking part started. I fleshed out the character and family history, tossed out the pre-conceived magic and created new definitions/rules for power. Began writing. Needed a spiffy challenge for the protag to overcome. And then I remembered a previous version of my GAN, from 2001. The GAN's protag overcame a spiffy challenge, but I wound up cutting the events that led to that challenge, as well as that entire scene. So...a tweak here, more polished writing there, and voila, my short story now had the challenge scene. The ending wrote itself. Which was a good thing; let me tell you, all that research is exhausting.

I think the story's actually decent. I'm going to finish polishing it today, then get it out for the contest. Wish me luck.

And remember: Save all your files. You never know when those deleted scenes will come in handy.

And Now, My Almost-Four-Year-Old Son's Dream From Last Night
"I had only good dreams. No bad dreams. There were good doggies, and good monsters, and good friends, and good family. And there was a bad monster, but I punched his head off."

Jackie's Submission Update
Alas, Agent No. 14 took a pass on the partial of the GAN. Either it was the Challenging Marketplace Form Rejection, or the Lacked Sufficient Enthusiasm Form Rejection; I'll have to double check. Or not. So the GAN is back down to three agents.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

How Do You Dial 9-1-1?

Mondays are known far and wide for bank holidays overseas and for inspiring general feelings of loathing here in the US. The start of the Work Week--the Day After Weekend's End. Me, I sort of look forward to Mondays--hey, maybe an agent read my stuff over the weekend and will get back to me, gushing about how brilliant my book is. (Writers dream Big Big. You knew that, right?)

But yesterday evening, Monday hit the official "Garfield The Cat" Level of Ickiness. A call to 9-1-1 puts a damper on the entire day, you know?

Loving Husband had chest pains. I couldn't even blame my cooking, because we'd had pizza for dinner.

So, a nine-eleven it was. And the EMS guys and gals swung by, hooked up Loving Husband to a bunch of machines that made beeps and boops, and we told our Tax Deductions that Daddy was wearing silly necklaces that the doctors brought with them. (To their credit, our precious TDs didn't buy that for a second. But they were really interested in the cool paramedics truck in our driveway. They got the full tour. Then they got bored and played outside.)

Loving Husband was (and is) fine. But just to be sure Nothing Bad had happened, we agreed (read: I strong-armed him into agreeing) that he should go to the hospital for the full regimen of tests. My best friend came by to help me usher the TDs to bed, then she did the babysitting thing while I zoomed over to the hospital. I wasn't really worried, but God and I had a little talk, anyway. (Well, more accurately, I did all the talking, and God did a lot of patient listening. He's really good about that kind of thing.)

I was a tad disappointed to see that they let Loving Husband keep his underwear and shorts on under the hospital smock. I'd been hoping for a bit of tushy flashing. No such luck. Hospitals. They take all the fun out of being sick. Must be a managed care thing.

So he's fine. They're not sure what happened--it could have been gas. (Like I said before, it wasn't from my cooking, so I'm hopeful that it was gas.) It could have been a muscle spasm. What they do know is that it wasn't a heart attack, or anything in the Realm of Serious Shit. Thank God.

Am I sorry that we did the 9-1-1- thing? Nope. Not at all. If there's one thing you don't mess around with, it's your heart. It breaks easily, you know? It needs a lot of love and attention.

I'm thinking that tonight, now that the minor crisis has passed, Loving Husband and I will play doctor. And I'll make sure he's dressed appropriately.

A Sale!!!
Officially breaking my seven-month dry spell, I have a new short story sale to add to my portfolio! "Giving the Devil His To-Do's" was purchased by From the Asylum and is slated for the August 2006 anthology, as well as online publication. This is a humorous horror tale about what happens when Hell gets outsourced. Woo hoo! I don't suck!

A Birth!!!
Samuel Ezra Hurowitz was born on June 23, 2005 at 6:30pm, weighing 6 pounds 8.5 ounces, measuring 20 inches in length. Mommy and baby are doing extremely well and Daddy is on laundry duty indefinitely. Mazel tov!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Happy Weekend!

I'm back from my day-trip to NYC. Had a two-hour art meeting for the day job. Looking at different art concepts for our line-up is always interesting, usually fun, and sometimes worthy of discussion. Not this time; it was just interesting and fun. Have my next art meeting in two weeks. Woo hoo, a respite.

When I finally trudged through my door, exhausted (had to get up at 4:45 am to make the 6:20 Amtrak--which is a 40-minute drive from my house) and grumbly (because I'm just that kind of person), Loving Husband called out, "Who's that I hear?" And both Tax Deductions shouted, "Mommy!" There's nothing like a spine-crushing hug from a 3 year old and a wet-lipped smooch from a 1 year old to really lift the spirits. Hell, it's proof of God. ((Huge contented smile here.))

Today's going to be a scorcher -- over 90 degrees, with the heat index hitting 100. We're heading up to Saratoga Springs to my best friend's house. The kids will all be splashing in their pools, and the adults will either be doing the same or drinking caffeinated beverages or drinking said beverages and doing some serious said splashing.

Bon weekend, all.

Jackie's Submission Update
Well, I'm completely over my devestation from the other day. So what if one agent took a pass? I still have five others out there with the material for CHARLES, and still have four looking at THE LORN (or possibly using the full manuscript as a booster seat for their children. Who knows?), so it's not all bad. Positive thoughts!

I have seven short stories circulating out there. I should be hearing from one mag Any Day Now -- the editor is supposed to be looking at the queries/subs that fell through the cracks this weekend. Fingers crossed; my story's been there since December 2004. ((shrug))

Book Buzz of the Day
The Stephanie Plum series, by Janet Evanovich. I'm rereading the early books in the series, and I had forgotten how fun and breezy the dialogue was. Stephanie rocks. A NJ chick with excellent fashion sense and a stun gun. Not exactly Buffy, but she'll do in a pinch.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELIZABETH SHYMAN! And congratulations to Laura and J.T. on the birth of your little girl! Finally, huge hugs to big brother Mitchell. Rmember to teach Elizabeth how to wrap Mommy and Daddy around her finger.

CONGRATULATIONS, ROB ROWNTREE, ON YOUR SHORT STORY PUBLICATION! Check out "Perspectives," a very cool character-driven SF story: http://www.sciencefictionfantasyhorror.com

Snarly Grrr Argh Thought of the Day
Mosquitos suck.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Oh, So This Is What It Feels Like

Ever have your heart pulled out from your chest, stomped on a few times, then spit-shined and shoved back into place?

Just wondering.

So I got my first rejection on the full manuscript of CHARLES today. Snail mail. I knew when I saw my own SASE that it wouldn't be a pretty picture. I suppose good news can come by post, if you consider bills and junk mail good news, that is.

With a sinking feeling, I tore open the envelope and pulled out the letter. Nice stationery. Watermark and everything.

Dear Jackie:

Thank you for sending HEY, CHARLES--YOUR SLIP IS SHOWING. Though the premise is intriguing and promises a fun ride, I found the actual storyline a bit familiar and somewhat bogged down by Lee's issues.

Of course, another reader may feel differently and I wish you luck.


The storyline was a bit familiar? I guess that was the vibrators at work again. Who'd have guessed that a story about a recent college grad becoming a stock girl at a clothing store that also sells sex toys was "familiar"?

Ah, nuts. Off to find some chocolate and mope. Maybe there will be good news later.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"It's Worse Than That--It Sucks, Jim"

To borrow part of a phrase from my friend Marie, I've come to the conclusion that I can't write science fiction to save my life.


Here's an excerpt from a story I wrote about ten years ago and, shockingly, never saw publication:

Sherrie’s computer was programmed with an illegal text-literate option that had belonged to her great-great-grandmother, dating back to well before the Freemind Revolution. Greatmam Hilly had been sure to teach all her kin how to read and write, and she had taught them to scorn the audio-visuals that lulled people into thoughtless bliss.


The concept was okay, but it's also one that's been done way to death: In the FUTURE (cue menacing organ chords), no one can read, so everyone becomes so stupid that sand fleas are considered the superior life form. Of course, it was all a vast Government Conspiracy (boo, hiss). Etcetera, ad nauseum, insert pithy Latin phrase here.

So, my science fiction, not so much. Thank God for fantasy and horror. To this day, my mother can't understand why the supernatural fascinates me and why I have such a macabre sense of humor. Once she asked me, "Why can't you write about bunnies?" And I immediately thought about killer bunnies, a la Monty Python.

See, it's not that I'm warped. It's that I watched too much television and rented too many movies.

Book Buzz of the Day
Phobos by Ty Drago. This, my friends, is good science fiction. It's actually more of a futuristic thriller/mystery hybrid. Call it what you will, it's a damn fine read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am eagly awaiting the sequel. (Ty, if you're reading this: hop to it, man! Chop chop!)

Jackie's submission update
Boo hoo, yet another agent has taken a pass. Actually, two -- one for The Lorn, one for Charles. What's the etiquette here -- do I give real names on blogs? Huh, better not; brutal honesty could come back and bite me in my thong-clad tushy. (The "thong" part was just in case Loving Husband is reading this. Mooches smooches, honey!) Okay, so, no real names. I'll call the chick-lit agent who took a pass on my query and synopsis "Girly." Yeah, so Girly e-mailed me today to say that she didn't think it worked for her. Here's what she actually wrote:

I don't think this one is for me. Something about the plot just doesn't appeal to me.

Maybe it was all the vibrators.

Onward. Sent out two more queries to fantasy agents today -- snail mail, alas, but hey, one never knows. Hope springs eternal, and all that crap.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"Hello, Mrs. Kessler?"

I knew when I picked up the phone that it was my children's day care center calling me -- which meant Something Happened. And something had.

My littlest Tax Deduction tripped when he was running, and he slammed the business end of his face into a shelf. Nasty bruise on his ear...and dilated pupils. A quick call to his doctor, and then I was on my way to pick him up and whisk him to the Albany Medical Center ER, which has a specialized pediatric unit.

Long story short, he's fine. Just a nasty bruise. No worries there -- I'll take a "no problem" rating any day.

Sorry, too tired to do a Proper Blog Entry tonight. More tomorrow.

Monday, June 20, 2005

"It's a Nice Day for a White Wedding"

Back from the wedding in Ithaca. And still alive, as are both of my darling Tax Deductions and my Loving Husband. Even the cats are still with us, wailing about a half hour after we go to sleep and tearing through the house around midnight, chasing ghosts or their shadows or, in general, just being annoying yet still cuddly.

Given that this was our first Family Event, it wasn't bad at all. Loving Husband and I were able to snatch a few precious Alone Grown-up Minutes, with drinks in hand, and the Tax Deductions both had a good time, especially once I let them run around in their superhero pajamas. Hey, would you rather have an almost 4 year old and an almost 2 year old dressed up for a wedding and loud-loud-loud, or dressed up for bed and giggling-laughing-being utterly adorable? Right. Us, too.

It was a three hour trip up there (and back again). On the way there, when did the little ones fall asleep? I can hear the parents out there answering with me: ten minutes before we arrived at the wedding.

Parenting 101, Tip No. 38: When going on a Road Trip (defined as a car ride longer than a half hour), make sure you have goldfish crackers, apple juice, and lollipops ready for the Tax Deductions. These things are godsends. Truly. Dentists may not like the lollipop angle, but that's why some clever person invented toothbrushes.

Jackie's Submission Update
Well, finally heard back from one of the contests. Specifically, the Writers of the Future. My story didn't make it to the finals this time around. Ah well. I'd rather know than not know.

Ah, nuts to that. I'd rather squirm from uncertainty for a while longer and then learn that my story is getting published.

Bummer. Anyway, looking to see if I have another short story ready before the quarter closes (June 30).

Book Buzz of the Day
Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I always thought the Wicked Witch got the bum end of the deal. Well written, literary yet entertaining--and quite clever--this story is well worth the read. (Haven't seen the musical.)

Friday, June 17, 2005

Everyone Has Something to Say

I'm fairly new to this whole blogging thing. For example, I didn't post yesterday, so I don't know if that earns me a demerit or something like that. (I'm after the shiny gold star, so I'm working on my penmanship.) So forgive me if I'm pointing out the obvious. Newbie learning curve, and all of that.

I'm stunned -- utterly stunned -- by some of the comments people post on other blogs and on public forums. Truly. It's as if posting something via the Internet gives people an excuse to act in ways that assuredly would get them beaten to a pulp in real life. Name calling, thinly veiled threats, profanity...the works. And the attitude! Some people post things that are so laden with sarcasm and contempt that I'm surprised it's not dripping off my monitor.

I just don't get it.

I mean, it's perfectly acceptible for people not to agree with other posters or the blogger or what have you. In fact, it's expected. But why, on God's green earth, do some people insist on being a virtual bully? Is it a power thing? Stupidity? Underwear too tight?

I was in a bit of a daze last night from all of the venom in the comments section on one particular editor's site. Loving Husband thought I was unbearably cute. He, of course, has been thoroughly enmeshed in the Internet since, oh, five seconds after it was invented. So, with all the due pride and nachas that a supportive, loving mate could express, he took my hand and said, "You're up to the second level of Internet discussions." That, apparently, is when you're dumbstruck and rather saddened by how thick and, frankly, mean some people are. (The first level is when you get right and properly pissed off.)

In weeks to come, I'm sure I'll learn about the various other levels of coping with Internet discussions. Until then, I'm going to silently marvel at how some people act as if just because they're in a public forum, they can say anything they want, no matter how abusive or insulting.

Some people really, really need to find a happy place.

Book Buzz of the Day
Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes. This romantic comedy is funny and bittersweet. Very short chapters and very engaging characters make for good reading, even if you don't have a lot of time. If you have five minutes, you can squeeze in a chapter or two. Excellent stuff; highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Patience? Yeah, Yeah. How Long Does That Take?"

I'm not very good at waiting.

When I was a kid, I'd count the days until my birthday, dreaming about all the neat presents my parents would be giving me. And I always preferred getting one large gift for Chanukkah instead of eight small ones, because I hated having to wait for another day to pass before I could open another package. Maybe it's a leftover gene from my ancestors wandering in the desert for forty years before entering the promised land, but waiting for me is right up there with cleaning hair out of the shower drain. I hate it.

Even worse than waiting for the eventual birth of my kids? (And let me tell you, when you're 35 weeks pregnant, and summer has just kicked into gear, those last few weeks are damn close to eternal.)

Waiting for responses from agents and editors.

Now it's a given that the publishing industry does not work in Real Time. Agents and editors want material faster than a New York Minute, yet their responses on that material hovers somewhere around Glacial Speed. And between summer hours and the end-of-year holidays, there's roughly a quarter of the year that agents and editors basically bamf into an alternate dimension.

This isn't a complaint. Like I mentioned above, this is simply a given. Kind of like reheated Chinese food is never as good as when it's fresh, this simply Is. And there's no point getting huffy about it.

That doesn't make the wait any easier.

Like now: I'm waiting on ten agents (four with material from Book 1, six with material from Book 2), three magazines, and two contests. God willing, I should hear something from someone sometime next week. But it's been a long road getting here; one mag has had my story since December 2004; one agent has had my full since November.

The postal carrier has learned to deposit my mail at superhuman speed to avoid accidentally seeing my reaction when (A) there's no correspondence or (B) when I see my own SASE peeking out between the bills. I still don't know which is worse.

So I've been eating far too much chocolate, and losing far too much sleep, while I wait to see what Fate has in store for my writing. Yeah, I know: don't wait. Write. Be Productive.

You know what's wrong with that? The more I write, the more I submit material to editors. The more I submit to editors, the longer I have to wait.

It's a damned vicious cycle.

When does publishing get glamorous?

Off I go to check my e-mail for the millionth time today...

Book Buzz of the Day
Cover the Butter by Carrie Kabak. Yet another Backspace author hits the shelves! This book will be available starting tomorrow, June 16. Get thee to Amazon.com and order, order, order! And congratulations, Carrie!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I Love You, You Love...((BLAM, BLAM))

The top ten warning signs that you've been spending too much time watching educational programming with your kids:

10. You catch yourself humming or singing the theme song to Dragon Tales even when your child isn't watching the show.

9. You start writing stories in which you happily slaughter large, purple dinosaurs.

8. You start writing such stories, and you find them uproariously funny.

7. You start believing that there's a real Dora, and the show Dora the Explorer is all part of her vivid imagination. (Boots is actually Marcel the Monkey from the first season of Friends. Chico the squirrel is the love-child of Sherlock, the pink squirrel from The Magic Garden and a woman who looks frighteningly close to Charo circa 1973.)

6. The only way you stay on top of the music scene today is through the guest stars singing on Sesame Street.

5. You have to coax your toddler to sit through the end of Bear in the Big Blue House because you love "The Goodbye Song."

4. You find it a topic of discussion that all of the animals, and most of the inanimate objects, on Blue's Clues can talk, except for the dogs.

3. You eagerly awaited Noggin's week-long music special, and you were bitterly disappointed to learn that it was the same half-hour segment repeating all week.

2. Between the Lions is funnier and wittier than most sitcoms on network television.

And the Number 1 warning sign that you've been spending too much time watching educational programming with your kids:

1. You start having sexual dreams about Anthony from The Wiggles.

Book Buzz of the Day
Books? I'm too busy watching educational programming with my kids...

Monday, June 13, 2005

The GAN: A Love Story

Is a sixteen-year love affair a sign of dedication or insanity?

When I started writing the book that eventually I would call THE LORN, I was an avid Dungeons & Dragons player, and very into Dragonlance. This first attempt at my Great American Novel (the GAN) wound up being a 300+ page nightmare. Well, at the time, I thought it was pure genius, of course. But I recently reread my original attempt at being a novelist. Ouch. The pace was almost non-existent. None of the characters were remotely likeable. The oomph of the story didn't happen until page 212. And I ended on a cliff-hanger. Oh yes -- the main characters all played Dungeons & Dragons, thus they were able to handle the extraordinary events with the usual "I'm a gamer, so I can deal with this" aplomb.

Simply put, it sucked. No wonder Tor laughed me out of the water in 1994.

Fast forward to January 2004. Over the course of ten years, I became a better writer, and I actually started doing (gasp) research on the publishing industry. I started querying agents in February 2004. I got precious few hits. The first of which was Agent 1, asking for the first three chapters and the synopsis. (Back then, I was so green that I was beside myself trying to figure out single-page, single-space synopsis versus double-space, three-page synopsis, and whether the prologue counted as a chapter.) When I got her rejection five weeks later, her handwritten comment said, "Promising, but moves a bit too slow and is a bit too cute."

After much soul searching (not to mention numerous rejections on the query letter from other agents), I decided that Agent 1 was onto something. Enter Major Rewrite No. 3 (Nos. 1 and 2 happened years earlier, with the second having begun in 2002 and not finishing until January 2004.), where I added another character for the sole purpose of killing him off quickly...except the character refused to go down quietly, so enter a haunting as well. Next round of queries: May 2004.

Two big hits: Agent 2 and Agent 3, both asking for the full right off the bat. Joy. Rapture. Surely, one of these two agents would recognize my brilliance. By the start of July, I had rejections from both...saying nice things about my writing, but they didn't know how to position the story in the marketplace.

Mid-July, I decided to do something radical. At this point, I had about 20 rejections, and I felt desperate. So I did the Konrath Method of querying at the end of July. This is when you pull together a mini-marketing package and send it out, cold, to all agents, with no SASE. (I'm not doing the Konrath Method justice; it's really a brilliant device. For way more information, plus tons of excellent tips and advice, check out Joe Konrath's website: http://www.jakonrath.com/ )

This resulted in roughly 30 more rejections, out of a list of about 62 names. Got one major hit from it, when Agent 4 contacted me directly, enthusiastic about the novel and series. Off went the first 75 pages, plus synopsis at the end of August.

Around this time, one of the members of my crit group mentioned an agent, Agent 5, giving fabulous feedback. So I queried her. She asked for the full three days after I e-mailed her the query. This was the end of August. Around this time, Agent 6 also responded to my e-mail query, asking for the first 30 pages. Off they went. In September, Agent 6 rejected the partial. Agents 4 and 5 had fallen off the face of the earth.

By this point (end of September), I was feeling completely crappy. Just as I was positive that I sucked, Agent 5 mentioned to me via e-mail that she had finished reading the manuscript and was typing up her feedback. And she hinted that it wasn't all bad. This bit of hope kept me going (and querying) through October. Agent 7 requested the first 35 pages; he rejected it in about two weeks because the plot simply didn't interest him. The middle of October, Agent 4 takes a pass because she didn't feel invested in the characters. By this point, I had hit pretty much every fantasy agent out there. Really. Depression almost sets in.

October 31, 2004: Agent 5 tells me the feedback is on the way. Joy! Same day, a colleague mentions Agent 8, a big wig. I e-mail him. November 1, 2004, he responds, asking for the full manuscript. Hooray! Two days later, Agent 5's feedback arrives. It's fabulously detailed. She's right on the money. Her biggest concern was that it was very difficult to differentiate between the five main characters. For the next two weeks, I did nothing but try to understand my college-senior characters, really know their backgrounds, what makes them tick, etc. Enter Major Rewrite No. 4.

November 14, 2004: I send the full manuscript to Agent 8, incorporating Agent 5's feedback (version A). Even though there was still work to do, I was afraid to wait too much longer. I spend the next two weeks finishing the revisions, then sending the full manuscript, version B, to Agent 5 on November 29.

Thanksgiving through New Year's: All agents disappear.

Agent 7 agrees to see the revised partial in January. For the hell of it, I query Editor Gal of a large publisher directly (thanks to ties from Backspace); she agrees to see the partial (version B) in February. Agent 9 does a Q&A at Backspace, and I manage to finagle getting her the partial, via e-mail (version B). Agent 7's reader chimes in. Loved the prologue, hated the first three chapters. Too much focus on the characters; the plot is glacial. Faster! Action! And yes, I can send the full. So, in a burst of creative energy, I compress the first three chapters into one, cutting 4,000 words in the process, and send out the full manuscript, version C.

Here's where it gets tricky. Ready? You'll be quizzed.

In February, I query a favorite author's agent, Agent 10, who requests the partial (version C). I send Agent 9 an e-mail, asking if she'd like to see the revised opening, based on agent feedback; in response, she tells me she's not interested, thanks anyway. I re-pitch to Agent 4, who responds positively. I send her the first 50 pages of version C. Then Editor Gal asks for the full, along with a detailed synopsis. I send it to her (version B), then e-mail Agent 4 to ask if she'd like to see the revised opening. She says sure, so I send her version B. I also get a positive hit from Agent 11, who asks for the first 100 pages (version C). And I query Agent 12, who wants the first 3 chapters and synopsis with the query. He gets version B. I query Agent 13, based on his recent sale mentioned in Publishers Marketplace. And I take the plunge and send the partial to the Wizards of the Coast Open Call for Fiction on February 25 (version C).

March: disaster. Editor Gal takes a pass. Agents 11 and 12 take a pass. Agent 4, you guessed it, takes a pass. Agent 7's reader sends feedback that I strongly disagree with, so I take a pass. Agent 10 takes a pass, although she praises the writing. The only good thing? Agent 13 requests the partial. I get that out on March 23. Version B.

April: Agent 5's feedback arrives (on version B). She's super positive about it -- I really nailed it, she says. It takes me about a week to address her minor feedback. I send a love note to Agent 8's assistant. Make that his new assistant, who says that Agent 8 hasn't even cracked it open yet. She agrees that I can send the revised manuscript her way, and that I won't lose my place on line. I send the newly revised manuscript (version D) to Agent 8. A week later (to give Agent 8 a bit of a jump), the full (version D) goes to Agent 5 on April 22.

May: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Agent 8's assistant tells me on May 16 that Agent 8 still hasn't gotten to it, but she'll contact me once he does. Oh, and Wizards of the Coast won't have results for the Open Call until late summer. ((sigh))

June: I do more research and discover Agent 14, who wants science fiction, fantasy and horror. I send her an e-query; she responds the next day, asking me to e-mail her the detailed synopsis and the first three chapters. Done -- version D. Actually, version E; I started some minor clean up (was's, had's, that kind of thing). Agent 5's on vacation. Agent 8's I don't know where. Agent 13 isn't answering my e-mail queries about the status of the partial.

And here we are, sixteen months after my initial query. Waiting on Agents 5, 8, 13, and 14.

Isn't the life of a wannabe novelist exciting?

But I'm still very much in love with the story and the characters. Here's hoping that one day, one agent will love the GAN as much as I do.

Book Buzz of the Day
Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath. And it's not just because the protagonist is a gal named Jacqueline, "Jack" for short. Really. If you like humor mixed with your gore when you read a thriller, this one's for you. Joe (yep, a Backspace member) has a distinct style that makes his book a refreshing change from your standard Gotta-Catch-A-Serial-Killer read. For more on Joe, check out his website (URL mentioned above; link off on the side).

Deal of the Day
From Publishers Marketplace: Film rights to Ally Carter's debut YA novel I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU, to Karen Glass at Walt Disney Pictures, in a pre-empt, by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency, through Amy Schiffman and Sarah Self at the Gersh Agency. A huge mazel tov to Ally and Kristin (both members of Backspace)! Woo hoo! You both rock!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Ob-Fam Trip

Just returned from NYC for our early Father's Day visit -- one of a few obligatory family (ob-fam) trips. Here are the highlights:

- It took about 3.5 hours to get to Greenwich Village (for a pit-stop at my mother's to use the bathroom, even though Mom wouldn't be home). Finally got up to her floor, with two squirming kids in tow, only to find that my keys no longer worked. What does it mean when your mother changes the locks and forgets to tell you?

- It took another 45 minutes to get to my father's apartment (roughly two miles away). I don't know if it was the Second Avenue Fair by itself or if about a million people decided out of the blue to all loiter on the East Side, but pedestrian traffic was something out of Henry Ford's worst nightmare. Entire avenues were blocked off, thanks to the throngs of individuals who insisted on ignoring the heat, humidity, and overall sardine-like nature of walking in crowds in NYC.

- After spending about two hours with my father (in his tiny studio apartment, with two hyperactive kids and an understandably grumpy Loving Husband), we had to pack it up because said two hyperactive kids reached Meltdown. This is a topic unto itself, but those of you out there with Tax Deductions don't need any definition. For those without Tax Deductions, picture Linda Blair from The Exorcist. Split Pea soup optional.

- It took 2.5 hours to drive from NYC to Brooklyn. After 20 minutes in the car, Loving Husband started getting aggressive. Drivers paled when they saw us approaching. When I asked him about his Get-Outta-My-Way , he said, "Do you want burned lasagne?" Um, no. So we road-raged it for another 5 minutes...and then hit standstill traffic. God is whimsical, make no mistake about it.

- Finally, we got to my In Laws' house. I grabbed the Tax Deductions, and we hustled up the front steps while Loving Husband scared up a parking space. And we rang the doorbell. And knocked. And rang. And knocked again. Finally, I called my Mother In Law. No answer. really.

- Five minutes later, my Father In Law opened the door. They were all downstairs in Great Grandma's apartment, with the television on and the AC full blast, so they didn't hear us. So they said. That's their story, and they're sticking with it.

- The lasagne wasn't burned. I had two helpings. During dinner, my Grandmother In Law asked why the younger of our two Tax Deductions wasn't eating. I told her that I hadn't gotten up to that part of the Parental Manual yet.

Anyway, I could continue, but I'm too damn tired. I think I left my sense of humor back at my dad's. Dang. That means another trip back to the city...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

It Ain't All Bad!

So I've been desperately clutching onto the guard rail of the Agent Query-Go-Round. You know the ride: submit query to literary agent, agonize during the waiting period, receive rejection, repeat. There's also the popular agent dance, the Limbo, during which an agent reviews a requested partial or full manuscript. Between the Query-Go-Round and the Limbo, I completely understand why some writers begin to add a healthy splash of vodka into the morning cup of OJ.

My first book, a contemporary fantasy novel, is still doing its time in Limbo. My second book, a chick-lit novel, just jumped onto the Query-Go-Round a few weeks ago, and I've gotten a number of requests for a Limbo dance with agents. Yesterday, I received what has to be the best rejection ever. (At least, for me.)

I queried this agent after the Backspace Conference earlier this month. This agent was fabulous -- charming, smart, intelligent, and very sharp. Even though her website didn't mention anything about representing chick lit, I sent her an e-mail in the off chance that she might be interested. Sure enough, she asked for the first 50 pages and a brief synopsis. Here's the rejection I received yesterday:

*  *  *
Thank you for giving me the chance to read the synopsis and opening chapters of HEY CHARLES--YOUR SLIP IS SHOWING. You have a terrific voice, great characters, and an uncanny knack for making preposterous situations seem believable. It grieves me to say this, but I am simply not the right agent for a young twenty-something novel, no matter how good it is, since I just don't have the right pool of editorial contacts. Carefully research agents who do handle this kind of work, and be prepared to be very discriminating when you get multiple offers for representation. You're the real deal, so make sure your future agent is absolutely right for you and this book.
Very truly yours,
*  *  *
Oh my God, I think I'm going to frame this.

Book Buzz of the Day
Babyhood, Paul Reiser. Funny stuff, whether or not you were a fan of Mad About You. I love his line about his "precious little tax deduction," which I now use almost daily about my own kids. My little TDs.

Friday, June 10, 2005

For Better Or For Coffee

I have a love affair with coffee. Every time I try to sever the relationship, caffeine pangs send me back to a mugful of java.

When I was just a DINK, coffee was a treat. I didn't need the boost. I also had an alarm clock that got me out of bed around six (except for those times when I would hurl the clock from my night stand and bury my head beneath my pillow). Weekends were a luxury of late mornings, with flavored coffee "just because." Nothing like a vanilla latte to mix it up a little. (Boy, I was a wild thing back then!)

But now, two kids later, coffee isn't a treat. It isn't a "just because." It's part of my bloodstream. The thought of a day sans coffee is enough to send me whimpering under the covers. (The plus side, though, is that I no longer need an alarm clock. The boys get up starting around five in the morning. Loudly. With much fuss. Loving Husband and I haven't known the luxury of a late morning since...how old is the eldest?...oh, June 2001.)

So coffee and I are together, for better or for worse. Sadly, I've become dependent on my liquid caffeine. Truly. I can't think straight without it. And there are repercussions.

Like this coming weekend. We're heading into NYC to see the grandfolks for Father's Day. "But Father's Day isn't until next Sunday," I hear someone mention in a stage whisper. True enough. Except on Father's Day, we're going to a wedding. (Yes. A wedding on the one day that beer equals flowers and colorful underwear is considered a precious gift.)

Not just any wedding. A family wedding...in Ithaca, NY. Understand that Ithaca is roughly three hours away by car. Between the distance and the date, why on earth would I have said "yes" to the invitation? We live far away from our family for a reason. (If any family members are reading this, I don't mean you, of course.) So what possessed me?

That's easy. I read the invitation before I had my coffee. I thought the card said the 18th of June (Saturday), and that it would be in Islip, NY (Suffolk County -- still quite the drive, but at least we could tie it in with a family visit to the city for Father's Day).

So, without coffee, I screw up dates and places. I can't believe I ever passed any classes before I took to coffee. (But to be fair, back then it was soda and chocolate. Same caffeine, different form.)

For better or for worse, indeed. So coffee drinkers of the world, heed my advice: don't even consider responding to mail before you have at least one cup of high test in you.

Speaking of which, I'm off to refresh my cup.

Book Buzz of the Day
The Bitch Posse by Martha O'Connor. Simply put, this is one of the best damn books I've read in years. It's dark, unforgiving, and brutal in its passion. Order it today on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com (one of these days, I'll figure out how to do the spiffy links). For more about Martha, check out her website: http://www.marthaoconnor.com (see above about the whole linking thing).

Attention, poets! Poetry.com is having another symposium in August. Here's the URL: http://www.poetry.com/poetscorner/index.asp.

NOTE: This is not an endorsement! This is, in fact, a huge, wish-I-could-do-it-in-neon warning. Here's one person's report from the Poetry.com 2000 symposium: http://windpub.com/literary.scams/bigmoney.htm

For more information on Poetry.com (a.k.a. the International Library of Poetry, the National Library of Poetry, etc.): http://windpub.com/literary.scams/abc-nlp.htm

A huge thanks to Jenna Glatzer of the ever fabulous Absolute Write Water Cooler for the information. URL: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/

Remember: Writers don't let writers get scammed!

Okay, wise guys. Why the hell didn't someone TELL me that I had typos? *Grump.*

Thanks, Loving Husband! My blog post is now (God willing) OK. (Which, some argue, stands for "all correct." I suppose AC would look kind of silly, eh?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hello? Hello? This thing on?


My name is Jackie Kessler, nee Jackie Morse. (I am the writer who says "Nee!") Actually, my full first name is "Jacqueline," but that's used only when I write or when my mother is really angry with me.

I knew I wanted to draw when I was 8. That's when I first started reading comic books. I wanted to grow up to be an artist like George Perez or John Byrne. But when I went to college, my folks put their collective foot (feet?) down and said there was no way, no how, they were paying an ungodly amount for me to be a studio art major. So I did the next best thing and became an English and American Literature major.
On my way to getting a degree that proved I knew how to read, I took a handful of creative writing classes. Lo and behold, I loved them. When I was 18, I created a character called Cody Turner. Sixteen years later, Cody is one of the two protagonists in my first novel, a contemporary fantasy called THE LORN. (Yes, it really took 16 years to write the thing. Well, 16 years and 10 revisions. So technically speaking, my first book is really my tenth. New math.)
Meanwhile, I have written a number of short stories, one of which has been published at the time of this writing. "Guilty Pleasures" appeared in PERIDOT BOOKS: http://www.peridotbooks.com in the January 2005 edition. Ty Drago, the editor, is a terrific fellow, and I'm not just saying that because this was my first sale to a paying market. (Hi, Ty!)

I also had a book review published in TENEBRES back in 2000, but it was translated into French, so I can't read my own contributor's copy. C'est la vie.

Working at a consulting firm, I had a number of articles published in the company's internal magazine. (I don't know if that counts on the offical "Publications" page or not.)
Along with pitching my contemporary fantasy novel (and series, natch) to agents, I'm also pitching my chick-lit novel (which, shockingly, does NOT take place in NYC, nor does the protagonist work in publishing--huh, maybe it's not really chick lit...). HEY, CHARLES--YOUR SLIP IS SHOWING is a story about love, relationships, and the American Wet Dream.

I'm an active member of BACKSPACE, a terrific online writer's community. If you're a writer, whether first starting out or already on the road to publication, syndication, and six-figure advances, you should check it out: http://www.bksp.org

And yep, I have a day job. For more than six years, I've been the senior editor of a management and technology journal. I wear three professional hats: copy chief, production manager, and web editor. (You'd think, based on that last one, that I'd figure out how to make the links here live, but no such luck. I did mention somewhere that I haven't had enough coffee yet, right?)
I hang my hat in upstate NY. My husband is a computer god, and my children (3 years and 23 months as of this writing) astound me more and more with each passing day. My cats continue to be cute, which keeps my husband from turning them into mittens. And my comic books (9,000, give or take) are collecting dust in the basement. I'm five feet on a tall day (I was three inches taller back in the 1980s, thanks to Big Hair), and I'm a fool for chocolate.