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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How Can You Help?

When I first decided to get serious about writing a few years ago, I was lucky to stumble across an online writing community called Writers Net. For a noob like me, it was incredibly helpful -- people shared information about the market, about agents, about the profession of writing overall. I would have made a lot more mistakes starting out if I didn't have WN as a support system, and as a fountain of information.

From there came Backspace, one of my favorites. Serious writers and people looking to either break into the industry or who have already made their bones frequent that forum. I can honestly say that I doubt I would have written HELL'S BELLES at all, if not for all the terrific people -- family -- I met through Backspace.

And, thanks to one of my writing group members, I also found Absolute Write. At the time, I joined to take part in the writing contest called Absolute Write Idol. I wound up getting an honorary mention, which was pretty cool. And I took the time to look through all the forums there, including the utterly amazing Beware and Background Check. And I never left.

I wasn't the biggest poster at AW, not even close. But I checked in numerous times a day. Through AW I met wonderful people, including the talented Cathy Clamp. Through AW, I contributed to the STORIES OF STRENGTH anthology as an editor. Through AW, I met Jenna Glatzer and a number of the moderators. And damned if I wasn't impressed by these writers -- from Jenna and the mods to the regulars at AW, to the new posters who seemed to come in every day. It's people that make any community, and AW had a thriving, living community.

And now, Jenna and AW need help. Your help.

JC Hosting, the previous web host for AW, continues to hold the AW databases hostage. Jenna is still struggling to get the databases back -- including the tons of information about scam publisher Publish America -- and now, in addition, she has legal costs as she fights the good fight against JC Hosting. And then there's the expense of rebuilding Absolute Write. (Oh yes, let there be no doubt: AW is returning.)

Bluntly, Jenna needs help. You can her blog entry for more details, but here's the gist: Donations can be made through PayPal (see Jenna's blog) or by sending a check or money order to:

Absolute Write, PO Box 621, Islip, NY 11751.

I'm sending in a check this evening. It's the least I can do to give back to a community that has been helpful and supportive as I've taken my first steps as a (soon to be) published novelist.

If you can send anything, please do. Every little bit helps.

And please, spread the word.

Addition: Here's another link about this. Boing boing!


Meanwhile, Back to Me...

Got word the other day that my short story "Why Monsters Don't Do Group Therapy" has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of From the Asylum! Woot!

I wrote the story as an entry for a Backspace contest. I tweaked it, based on the feedback from the faboo Backspacers...and boom, publication! Yay! A huge thanks to Patti Hunt for the contest parameters and to Heather Brewer for suggesting I write a story with a vampire in it. :-)

My writing group, meanwhile, has decided that June will be our unofficial NaNo Training Month. 50,000 words in June, or bust! Given that I want to finish the first draft of ROAD at the end of June, that works out well. I'm in! Wish me luck...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Latest Absolute Write Update

Here's the latest on what the Absolute Write situation is, straight from Jenna's blog.

For those of you late to the show, thanks to the antics of Barbara Bauer, one of Writer Beware's Twenty Worst Agents, the web host for Absolute Write, JC Hosting, pulled the plug on Absolute Write. This news has been all over the Web, from Miss Snark to Neil Gaiman (see his entry from Wednesday). Meanwhile, fingers crossed that AW will be officially up and running soon.

Remember, kids: Scammers suck.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Humph

All right, I'm still ticked off at Barbara Bauer, one of Writer Beware's Twenty Worst Agents. Thanks to her outlandish, childish, psychotic and possibly illegal actions, Absolute Write is STILL down. (Coincidentally, the web host who yanked the plug on AW just happened to launch her own, competing writer site. Read all about it in the addendum posted on Making Light.

Spread the word, folks.


Say "Cheese!"

Lookee! A photo! Specifically: my photo!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Scammer Shuts Down Absolute Write

As of last night, Absolute Write has gotten its virtual plug pulled. Read about it here.

Thanks, Barbara Bauer. You're in a class all of your own.

For context, here's the reason why she complained. I posted this originally on Backspace a few weeks ago. Here is the post again in its entirety. (I'm assuming that by copying my own post, I ain't in copyright trouble.) Thanks to Jim C. Hines for mentioning this on the Speculations Rumor Mill, and to Teresa Nielsen Hayden for blogging about this.

This post appeared on Absolute Write, from Victoria Strauss. She and Ann Crispin run Writer Beware, one of the fabulous watchdog sites out there that help authors navigate the shark-filled waters of agentdom... NOTE that some of the formatting was lost when I copied the post; a number of these agencies all fall under one umbrella name (which is why there are more than 20 listed).

Writer Beware's 20 Worst Agents
Below is a list of the 20 agents about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories/complaints during the past several years.

None of these agents has a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most have virtually no documented and verified sales at all (many sales claimed by these agents turn out to be vanity publishers). All charge clients before a sale is made, whether directly, by charging fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for "editing services."

Writer Beware suggests that writers searching for agents avoid questionable agents, and instead query agents who have actual track records of sales to commercial publishing houses.

EDITED to include the following paragraph:
Note that while the 20 agencies listed here account for the bulk of the complaints we receive, they're just the tip of the iceberg. Writer Beware has files on nearly 400 questionable agencies, and we learn about a new one every few weeks.


THE LIST:

The Abacus Group Literary Agency
Allred and Allred Literary Agents (refers clients to "book doctor" Victor West of Pacific Literary Services)
BARBARA BAUER LITERARY AGENCY
Benedict & Associates (also d/b/a B.A. Literary Agency)
Sherwood Broome, Inc.
Capital Literary Agency (formerly American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc.)
Desert Rose Literary Agency
Arthur Fleming Associates
Finesse Literary Agency (Karen Carr)
Brock Gannon Literary Agency
Harris Literary Agency
The Literary Agency Group, which includes the following:
- Children's Literary Agency
- Christian Literary Agency
- New York Literary Agency
- Poets Literary Agency
- The Screenplay Agency
- Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency)
- Writers Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
Martin-McLean Literary Associates
Mocknick Productions Literary Agency, Inc.
B.K. Nelson, Inc.
The Robins Agency (Cris Robins)
Michelle Rooney Literary Agency (also d/b/a Creative Literary Agency and Simply Nonfiction)
Southeast Literary Agency
Mark Sullivan Associates
West Coast Literary Associates (also d/b/a California Literary Services)

--

One more thing. Spread the word. A number of Absolute Write posters are blogging about this, including Dawno and Blue Texas. Read what happened. Spread the word. And click on this link to view the Twenty Worst Agents and Barbara Bauer in all her glory.


What He Said

And now, a few words from Lou Dobbs.

Monday, May 22, 2006

"The Ties That Bind"

So many years ago, I wrote a story about a witch with a memory problem and a sister with an inferiority complex the size of Texas. It was okay, as far as these things go, but it was also very trite. I even had, gasp, a black cat in the story. Tried to get it published, but no dice. Okay. I pushed it aside and forgot about it.

About two years ago, I pulled it out, dusted it off, and rewrote it. Happy with the piece, I submitted it to FARTHING. Wendy Bradley, the editor, requested a rewrite, but hedged in terms of whether it should be shorter or longer. After some feedback from my writers group, I submitted it to Carina Gonzolez at The Zen Pen. And boom, her feedback nailed everything that didn't work. I edited the piece, sent it to Wendy...and got my first pro-rate sale.

"The Ties That Bind" appears in the second issue of FARTHING. So far, I've read two reviews.

From TANGENT ONLINE:

" 'The Ties That Bind' by Jackie Kessler is the story of Annalee, a witch who wants to break away from her body and fly. But the price of magic has its costs, and unfortunately she has a bit of a memory problem and her sister just arrived beseeching her to curse the woman her boyfriend cheated on her with. What's a witch to do?

"Though a bit predictable, Kessler's writing is strong and filled with lush descriptions. The cult-bashing favorite—hexes and witchcraft—is downplayed, allowing Annalee to shine as a person rather than a stereotypical character. 'The Ties That Bind' is an entertaining story from start to finish that should appeal to a wide range of readers."

And from EMERALD CITY NEWS:

"A witchcraft-and-sibling-rivalry story, 'The Ties that Bind' by Jackie Kessler makes good use of a point-of-view narrative from an amnesiac woman, and also has a fantastic ending. Beginnings are also a strength."

Me so happy!

Of course, I'm also a total dork. After I signed my check for the story, I promptly lost it. ((sigh)) Talk about throwing money away...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Progress on THE ROAD

Well, I've finally updated my original draft for THE ROAD TO HELL so that the beginning now matches the approved chapter outline. Back up to 38,000+ words, eleven chapters. Moving forward!

THE MAGIC BRIGADE is officially on hiatus, but I'm not taking down the progress bar. When I'm done with the first draft of ROAD, I'll pick TMB up again. I have to finish that story, even if it's just for my own eyes.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Catching Up

((Jackie claws her way up from the end of the Earth...))

Morning, all. It's been almost a month since I've blogged, and lots has happened. In no particular order...

Point The First.
My agent, whom I highly respect, has put the temporary kibosh on THE MAGIC BRIGADE. Heartbreaking. But not only did the synopsis not get him really enthusiastic, he also said that YA editors are getting sick of reading fantasy. (My wording, not my agent's.) In other words, it really has to be, to quote Don Maass, breakout territory. Does this mean that TMB is dead in the water? Nah. But the 25,000 words I've accumulated over the past 6 weeks or so? Shelved.

Point the Second.
So is this the end of Jackie Kessler - YA Author? Again, nah. I already have two ideas that I'm fleshing out. I love the idea of teen angst, especially with a paranormal angle. Maybe that's because I've been reading some damn good YA paranormal fiction. The best so far? Heather Brewer's faboo EIGHTH GRADE BITES (officially out in the middle of 2007, from Dutton). If you buy one book in 2007...well, no, that won't work; I know too many people getting published in 2007, including yers truly. But trust me, you want Heather's book on your Must Buy list. (I'd link to her blog, but I'm a techno spaz. I've got her link on the right of this page. Let your mouse do the clicking...)

Point the Third.
I'm back on track with the second book in the HELL ON EARTH series: THE ROAD TO HELL. I have to change quite a bit of my first draft so that it meshes with the approved chapter outline, but that's work I'm looking forward to. I promised my agent that he'd get a polished draft by the start of October, and the final isn't due to my editor until the start of December. Plenty of time (she typed nervously, glancing at the calendar).

Point the Fourth.
My website launch has been delayed by a few weeks, but I'm working on my content. Typety type type. I think you guys will like it. Pictures, and everything! Woot! And...Jesse (the main character of HELL'S BELLES, natch) will have quite a lot to say, as will Daun. Who's Daun? You'll find out... ((Jackie rubs hands gleefully))

Point the Fifth.
I'm sure by now most people have heard of the teenage Harvard student who got seriously busted for plagiarism in her recently released (and more recently recalled) novel published by Little, Brown. This brings up a very important topic: originality. Lots of people say there's no such thing as an original story anymore. I agree, to a point. Pretty much every concept has been used at least once (go ahead: prove me wrong). But it's the WAY in which a story is written that makes it exciting, fun, and unique. Emphasis on that last point. YOU-NEE-QUE.

I don't think anyone can really steal an idea -- I've already seen a number of paranormal romance stories that have to do with either nefarious or celestial characters in a main role -- Michelle Rowan's upcoming July release, ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE, for example (which, by the way, I'm dying to read -- I adored her debut novel, BITTEN & SMITEN). I'm sure there will be plenty of Heavenly or Hellish series out there. And I applaud all the authors doing so. Hey, I have a soft spot for angels, demons and devils. So similar ideas? Fine. But that's not the same thing as stealing content. Even if a few words are altered, that doesn't suddenly mean that content is no longer plagiarized. Maybe it's now foxes instead of mink, and Harvard instead of Princeton. But that doesn't mean the content is original.

So in my opinion, this Harvard student deserves all the bad press she's getting. Now, I'm sure there's far more to the story than we know -- a 17 year old cannot sign a contract; her book packager DID sign the contract; the book packager shares the copyright with her and received part of her substantial advance; her literary agent represents both her AND the book packager. But the main point here is that the author -- the person who bylined the novel -- put her name to content that was lifted from other published works. Bad. Bad. Bad.

Okay, getting off my soapbox to snag some more coffee.

Y'all be good, ya hear?