Astronomical Risk & Reward ~or~ My Stellar New Agent


Astropop fan art by Crystal Smalls Ord - @SmallsOrd)

So let’s say you write a book. Well, manuscript. And, since it’s your 6th, you rank them all in order, right? Maybe on a scale of omgsuckage to yes-zomg-THE-best-so-far. And this newest one, you know (no, KNOW) it’s your strongest, deepest, brightest. Your CP’s & beta readers, some of whom have read 2 or 3 of your previous manuscripts, absolutely love (no, LOVE) it & also feel it’s—by far—your shiniest.

Then, let’s say, your agent, who signed you with a completely different manuscript… doesn’t feel quite the same way about this newest one…

Your gut believes so strongly in this book (which you title If Found Return To Astropop). What it is, what it represents, its structure, the characters (no, the CHARACTERS), the ~things~ it explores. Honestly, you have no choice but to trust your gut. You need an agent who believes in this book as much as you do, who gets it through and through.

You’re scared as shit.

You worry.

You delay.

Finally, you find your tongue.

A conversation happens.

Your agent is way gracious. Your agent wants the best for you and your career. You believe you know what that is—how this latest manuscript fits into that grand plan. Thus and so, you find yourself plunging (again) into the query trenches. You’re excited and hopeful! (But also, part of you is freaked the hell out. Because what if you’re wrong? What if your gut lied like a capricious, little scoundrel? What if you just made a huge (no, HUGE) mistake?)

No turning back, there you are.

Well, there I was.

And the magic I believed in, the comets and rainbows I hoped for with Astro, rushed in and glowed deep down in that trench with me.

  • 2 days into querying: 3 full requests (WT-actual-F?!?!)
  • Overall comparison:
    • Previously queried manuscript: 35+ long weeks of querying, 5 requests
    • This manuscript: 5 short weeks of querying, 14 requests
  • This time around, at 35 days in: 1st offer of representation.
    • Then a 2nd.
    • And a 3rd.
    • AND WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING IS THIS REAL???

The agent who wooed me, whose gut feeling matches my gut feeling? Well, I sent the query, and she requested the full the next day. A few weeks passed. Then an offer (A SACRED OFFER!) came in from a different (also amazing) agent. I nudged everyone: fulls, partials, outstanding queries.

This agent—MY NEW AGENT—I didn’t hear back from right away as I did with others. But, then, the very next day, an email to slay all emails. She was hella excited about the story. She wanted in!

DANCING. FLAILING. Composure. A phone call. Chat, discussion, vision-sharing. Questions, planning, gushing. So much Astro love. An understanding of my career goals, needs, and desires.

This book I believed in, this story & these characters which thrust me into this risky move? They found a champion. They found someone who understands them. They found someone so exuberant about them that a follow-up email illuminated my inbox approximately 60 seconds after our call ended. That was the best.

And that agent is none other than the phenomenal Sara Crowe.

Sara (can I say this?) Effin (There. I said it. Kind of.) Crowe

Listen, when I took that soul-shaking step to follow my gut, I had no idea how it would turn out. Was I reaching for a star I’d never reach? Would I languish in the purgatory of Queryland for eternity? Would any agent, any agent at all, connect with this story?

And, yes, PLEASE CELEBRATE WITH ME! (ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG) But I also want you to take something more sacred and magical away from this post. Something more than stats and timing (and Lucas doing weird things with parentheses & POV switches).

Ready?

Others can guide you, and that’s an awesome, welcome, necessary thing at times.

But, ultimately, ain’t nobody got you like you got you.

At the risk of sounding like a damn greeting card and whatnot: be that unshakable mix of brave and savvy. Maybe it’ll result in a spectacular failure. Or maybe not. (More greeting cardiness coming. Brace yourself.) The only risk you’ll ever regret is the one you were too scared to take.

Or something.

Btw, did I mention? I have a new agent. Her name is Sara Crowe. And she kinda loves this risky book I wrote titled: If Found Return To Astropop. She digs it muchly, actually. And, wow. Just wow.

*commence astronomically uninhibited Squee Fest*

BONUS MATERIAL: Astro Ink Reveal

My tattoo artist is booked forever far out. Over 6 months ago, I scheduled a session for this past Saturday. Last Wednesday I received the first offer. Saturday, Crystal Ord’s fan art of Astropop was indelibly tattooed on my arm. As hard as it was, I waited until now, until this Offer of Rep post, to share that final image.

Here it is! Stage 2 of a gifted artist’s (and Astro fangirl for life’s) interpretation of non-binary Robin “Astropop” Chicory with a few beautiful symbols from the manuscript. I adore (no, ADORE) it. Muchly.

Astrotat1 Astrotat2 Astrotat3

Also, possibly my next tattoo???

sctopcrop

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Querying – Savvy Little Tip?


I sure do like some spreadsheets and charts

I’ve queried four manuscripts. As my craft developed, my stories moved closer towards marketable, and my aptitude for the actual querying process grew, the request rates slowly climbed.
1st queried manuscript = 2%
2nd queried manuscript = 3%
3rd queried manuscript = 7%
4th queried manuscript = 32% (so far)

That’s an unbelievable increase on the 4th one, like, BOOM. Even now, I’m floored by it.

The core of what writers must do is (we know, we know, we know) craft an amazing story. Solid hook. Identifiable conflict. Unique voice. Unforgettable characters. Consistent worldbuilding. Tight dialogue. Emotional resonance. [Insert a seemingly million other requirements here]. The writing has to be not just strong, but irresistible. And, let’s be honest, the story needs to possess the promise of $cha-ching$ flowing silently beneath the words.

The writing is the most important part, but it’s far from the only element we have to master. And every separate skillset only comes with practice. You know: effort, rejection, frustration, painfully starting over with a fresh manuscript, bringing the scars and callouses and wisdom into the process the next time. Trying again.

This time around, when preparing to query, I became conscious of something I’d been aware of, but never purposefully honed in on—the most common sample lengths agents ask for.
– 5 pages
– 10 pages
– 1 chapter
– 3 chapters
– 50 pages

This little lightbulb went off. Towards the end of my revisions, I focused on making sure those breaking points were loaded with as much tension as the narrative allowed at that point in the story. My goal: to (hopefully) leave the agent thirsty at the end of the sample, to spark that desire to request more pages. Which is the point.

We know to do this at chapter endings. But check this:

When querying, we need to treat the end of each of those sample lengths the same way we would a chapter ending.

For what they’re worth without context, examples of my breaking points:

5 pages

I sighed, and she pulled me closer to stain my cheek with what was left of her cherry-red lipstick.

“Katers demands I hang out with her tonight,” I said, pulling away. “She’ll tell me if I need to quasi-freak-out over this unholy union or totally Astro-freak-out.”

Olivia nudged me from behind, jangling my keys.

Gma pointed at me. “Check in with your daddy first.”

10 pages

I pretend-counted on my fingers. “If we’re including wicked stepsisters, crazy stalkers, and secret boyfriends, then that’s, oh, I’d say, four-point-five. Ish.”

Katers rushed towards me and grabbed my sleeves. “Boyfriend? Why is this the first your supposed best friend in all of creation is hearing about this love connection?”

Love. Ha.

1 chapter

The shadow in the greenhouse shrank to normal size, then the light went out. I grabbed my suitcase and rushed to the house, inside, up the stairs, and into the dark bedroom designated as mine. I peeked through the curtains. Axel Chicory, formerly known as Daddy, looked so inconsequential, a lone silhouette crossing the big lawn.

The New Moon floated directly above him, but its magic had already run its course.

I let the curtains fall closed between us, then locked my bedroom door.

3 chapters

Setting my journal in the grass, I focused on the other book. Plain, black cover. Not the unnamable blue-black of the night sky. Truly boring black. I hooked my finger under the cover’s edge, half-expecting the wind to pick up or a meteorite to land in the orchard when I opened it.

But nothing happened.

So I turned the first blank page.

And then another.

Until I found words.

This journal belongs to:
PIPPOPOTAMUS

I jettisoned the book and jumped up, smacking at my bare legs where the blasted thing touched them.

50 pages

The Heart of Joven.

Gpa had the young whiz-kid architect design the house around it. Ten sycamores planted by my Great-Gma decades earlier. Her hands began the grafting, and Gpa’s continued shaping it when she joined the stars. Axel and I had even touched and whispered to it. Four generations of the Chicory family recorded in the growth rings of a single being who had outlived two generations already.

The third was too busy to love on the tree. The fourth was too scared of screwing it up. Also, too wounded by the mere sight of it to look at it a nanosecond longer.

Among the million things we need to nail as writers-seeking-to-become-traditionally-pubbed-authors, this little piece is a secret weapon. I mean, it’s not a magic bullet. Nothing is. But it’s the savvy thing to do, a special tool to add to the toolbox we’re slowly filling. I believe it played a part—even if a small one—in that ridiculously unbelievable request rate. (Still reeling!)

We all need every hint, trick, key, and password we can get our hands on. Yes? I hope this one maybe helps you.

Invisible Ink! Yesss this manuscript garnered A LOT of requests in its 5 weeks in the trenches. And, maybe, perhaps, it has even gone beyond simple requests. 😉 Pretttty sure there will be another EXCITING post late next week…

Inside the Fish Bowl Castle


glug glug

glug glug

Change.

That’s the reason I’ve been silent on this blog for a bit.

Plenty has been going on in my life. Major things, positive things. But a lot of it is of a personal nature—things best shared over warm cups of coffee, or around a crackling fire pit, but not so much in a public forum. You know, the richness of life which requires conversation, eye contact, Q&A, backstory, body language, and laughter-spiked discussion.

I’m in a period of a hella lot of transition.

And while I know I should (right?) be blogging & keeping my presence here active, that simply can’t happen. Because life. Because sometimes we have to pull back, keep parts of ourselves for ourselves, and curate what we let others see.

I felt a little guilty about it at first—not sharing. I felt like I wasn’t following the rules of posting regularly & keeping my blog active—all those sorts of things we hear over and over. I even worried that this absence would hinder my goals as a writer by not having a structured, frequently updated place for folks to come check me out & whatnot.

I could have forced myself to post things. But, with the real stuff being my true focus behind-the-scenes, I also knew any posts would only be placeholders lacking genuine passion or insight. That, I realized, would just be a waste.

So I did what I needed to do. For me. As an actual person who (surprise!) also lives an existence filled with non-writerly, person-like things.

And I guess that’s the point of this post. Writers, like everyone else, are actual people with families, and friends, and lives, and problems, and celebrations, and times of transitions and change. Yes, we need that sacred “online presence” so agents and editors can see who we are outside of our polished words. But we also need to breathe & focus on the other important things in our lives.

Living in a fish bowl is an interesting thing. Strangers watch us swim. They make judgments based on only what they see. Of course, we do it to strangers, too.

Every now and then, we need to tuck in our fins and shimmy into the privacy of our little underwater castles.

I expect to be in mine for the next month as the culmination of all this personal change is happening. I’ll keep poking my fishy head out on Twitter, etc. I don’t feel guilty or worried about it anymore. This is what I need for me at this time. It’s the right thing to do.

So I should end with a moral-of-the-story or an actionable item, right? Isn’t that a rule? Okay. I’ll totally try.

Slip into your castle when you need to. The outside world will be there when you get back. A bit of respite won’t ruin everything you’ve worked for. It won’t hurt your momentum towards your professional goals. In fact, taking time to take care of yourself is probably the absolute best thing you can do.

*does cool stuff inside castle, where you can’t see. neener neener*

If you find this invisible ink, you deserve a peek into my castle window. My beau and I are liquidating our antiques business, leaving our loft/workshop/storefront behind, and moving into a cute, little house a few towns over. A separate, 20-year relationship is making its final transition—which feels like a mix of freedom and loss, but is positive overall. And I’m doing an experimental writing thing, using a Twitter account run by the M.C. of a fun, ridiculously long titled idea for my next book. Plus other things. neener neener again. 

What Are the Chances of a Book Becoming a Movie?


theatre

Confession: I have imagined my novel as a movie.

Now, don’t leave me standing here all alone, kiddos… This is pretty much a prerequisite for writers, right? Don’t blush or try to deny it. I’ve seen your Tweets. And your Pinterest boards. We’ve had conversations. You’re as guilty as I am.

I’m an extremely visual dude. When I write, the scenes play in my mind like a movie. I direct the characters in a sense, but the buggers improv A LOT.

Okay, eff it, I’ll even admit this: my friends and I sit around dream-casting my Phreak Show characters. And a few of you have even volunteered [okay…demanded] to help out on the casting call for Niko. Your amorous intentions are duly noted. [And he’s flashing his crooked smile at you right now.]

Yesterday, a non-writer friend I haven’t spoken to in a while checked in. Curious about where Phreak Show is in the process, the convo went something like this:

Dude: So what’s going on with your book deal?
Me: Not to that part of the process yet. Finishing edits with my agent and then we’ll move to the next stage.
Dude: Awesome! When do you get the book tour and 3 movie deal?
Me: [internal cackling] It’s super rare for books to actually become movies.
Dude: Then how are all these books becoming movies all of a sudden?
Me: [internal sigh] The % of books being made into movies is probably, like, 2%. Max.
Dude: Well those 2% are really getting lucky these days.
Me: [reminds self dude is a rube] No more than usual, I don’t think. And that still leaves 98% of authors dreaming about their books becoming movies, but it never happens.
Dude: Ahhhh, I see.

This kind of conversation happens all the time. So, obviously, we writers aren’t alone. It seems most folks naturally have this ingrained perception that book = movie. So I started wondering how close my random estimate of 2% really is. Enter: THE MAGIC OF GOOGLE

I submit for your enjoyment and education, the interesting [and perhaps sobering] info I stumbled upon.

First off, some hard-awesome checkpoints we can all keep in mind when writing our next novel or assessing existing ones. John Robert Marlow offers this list of:

10 things Hollywood looks for in any story:

  1. Cinematic concept that can be communicated in ten seconds
  2. Hero that a large segment of the movie-going public can relate to
  3. Strong visual potential
  4. Three-act structure
  5. Two-hour limit
  6. Reasonable budget
  7. Low fat (no unnecessary scenes)
  8. Franchise potential
  9. Four-quadrant (young and old, male and female) appeal
  10. Merchandising potential.

http://andyrossagency.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/books-into-movies-everything-you-need-to-know-almost-part-1/

This first stat sounds really promising. It’s estimated that:

85% of all movies are adapted from books

http://www.kgbanswers.com/what-percentage-of-all-movies-made-in-the-usa-are-based-on-books/22949183

But how many books does that translate to? This poster doesn’t cite a source, so the accuracy is suspect, but states:

In 2006, over 50 books were made into movies

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_percentage_of_movies_are_made_from_books?#slide=2

I have no idea how accurate this stat for 2014 is either. I found numbers ranging from 10 to 35, but CNN reports these as “all the books becoming movies in 2014”:

2014 [estimate #1]: 12 book to film adaptions for 2014

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/31/showbiz/movies/books-to-movies/

2014 [estimate #2]: 35 book to film adaptations for 2014

http://www.buzzsugar.com/2014-Movies-Based-Books-30889382#photo-33260882

So how does a book ascend to the coveted heights of filmdom? This great behind-the-scenes mechanics post explains:

Books are almost always optioned, not bought outright

http://andyrossagency.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/books-into-movies-everything-you-need-to-know-part-2/

But even if a book is optioned, there’s still no promise our friends, family, and fans can check out our stories on the big screen. Author Joseph Finder says:

Maybe as many as 90% of optioned/sold movies never get made.

http://www.josephfinder.com/blog/201101/26/how-a-book-becomes-a-movie-revisiting-high-crimes

And if you scroll down to Lesson 28 in this post, you’ll find this statement putting that estimated percentage even higher:

Thousands of books are optioned every year, but 98% will never be made into films

http://www.ian-irvine.com/publishing.html

Using IMDB & U.S. Census Bureau stats, this random gent [quite non-scientifically] calculates:

Only 1.77343% of books become movies or TV series

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100818233541AA29WXH

Feels like a snowball’s chance, right? But, hey, we can’t resist hoping. Perhaps the most important thing in this entire post is something you already know:

Writers are dreamers.

That’s part of the how and the why we create characters, build worlds, and invent delicious plots in the first place. Our dreams refuse to die.

I guess, at our core, writers are optimists. And, for those of us who are really optimistic, we don’t stop at just dreaming. We finish manuscripts. We revise the hell out of them. We send query after query until an agent falls madly in love with our words. We revise again. Even when it hurts. We suffer with impatience during the submission process. We revise those words again with an editor. We do all these things because we are ridiculously optimistic.

We hope. And we dream.

So, honestly, we can’t stop dreaming about our books becoming movies. Even if we try uber-hard. It’s just not who we are as a species. And as long as our expectations are realistic, it doesn’t hurt a thing.

Besides, being dreamers, we always have that 2% or 1.77343% to hang on to. Even if the true number is only .00001% of books becoming movies, that’s more than enough to birth a dream inside us.

Q: What are the chances of your book becoming a movie?
A: Are you a dreamer or aren’t you?

[FTR, my answer to the question-posing-as-an-answer is: Incurably so.]

This vid inserted thanks to the genius inspiration from @EsherHogan

Dr. Kevorkian and the Miracle of Coffee


Patron Saint of Patience

Patron Saint of Patience

Sometimes you get so close to something you can feel the heat of it.

Like the aroma of coffee warming your nose before the cup ever touches your lips.

I’ve had this health issue thingy for over a year now. So as not to channel my Mama (who expertly lists each and every crick, ache & ooze of her own & those in our extended family, like she’s a hybrid living phonebook/family tree/Ailment Field Guide), I’ll keep it vague. Perhaps you’ve noticed I’m pretty candid at times. (I get that from Mama, for sure.) But, I also have it in me to engage my hush-hush & discretion genes when needed.

Unnamed health issue. Riding on a wave of not-so-good, then okay again. Doctors, meds, co-pays. A specialist. Surgery.

Thursday at midnight, I enter the land of no-food-or-drink-or-you’ll-turn-into-a-pumpkin. Which is to say: NO COFFEE ON THE EARLIEST MORNING IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD WHEN I NEED IT MOST. Java-less Friday dawns. Dread oozes over me as my chauffeur parks the chariot outside the Surgery Center.

Check-in. Consent form signage. Butt naked, then re-styled in surgical couture: graphic muu-muu with this season’s signature slit up the back, a powder-blue cap obviously offering a nod to little Toadstool from Super Mario Brothers, and a pair of grippy-bottom booties—the medical world’s Louboutin.

The second hand of the institutional clock circles like a slow, methodical vulture. The surgeon’s running a half hour late to the fashion show. (And you know what it’s like when you have to wait for things as important as Friday quitting time, to hear back on a full request, to go under the scalpel—agony.) So, decked in my trendy garb, I do what I always do when nervous, happy, pissed, scared, or basically anything other than sad; I joke. My chauffeur plays editorial photographer with his iPhone as I smize & nail risqué poses in my designer clothes. I cause the nurse to chuckle as she enters top-secret jargon into her sci-fi computerator. Nurse #2 (who resembles a young Roseanne Barr) giggles as she inserts the ouchy IV. Anesthesiologist is already jovial (probably hitting a mild sedative), so I surreptitiously prestidigitate, casting a spell to further augment his sunny disposition.

Dr. Sleptthefuckin finally darkens the doorway. Funny bone: amputated.

Questions. Expectations. With nurse #1 carrying my IV bag, my entourage and I own the red carpet (i.e. white linoleum) and sashay to the operating room. Sharp things glisten under the harsh light of the paparazzi flashes. Or maybe that’s just the weapons-grade surgical lighting bouncing off the stark white walls and stainless steel.

I’m horizontal. Action. White-coated bumblebees buzz all around me. I want to close my eyes. So bad. I want to just block it all out. This isn’t fun any more. In that moment, I think, No. Keep your eyes open. Suck it all in, read the visuals like tea leaves, focus on description. Scribble notes in your head so you can fictionalize this experience in a novel someday. 

Electric sensors latch on to my back and chest, cuffs squeeze both legs and one arm, a crab claw clamps down on my finger, sunny-anesthesia-man twists a little plastic knob, my arms get strapped to wings jutting from each side of the table. Dr. Kevorkian palpates the soft skin he’s about to slice wide open. His hands are neither cold nor hot, but they’re definitely not just right. I can barely even feel them.

He grimaces. His unibrow furrows. He pushes with so much force it hurts. He looks at me, mumbles some words that may or may not be proper English.

A complication?

A miracle?

For reasons: the surgery can’t proceed. Not today.

In the recovery room, I cry.

Not because I wanted the surgery, but because I wanted the unknown over and done with. So much build up, months of worrying & wondering, crackling nerves, a coffee-less morning, pokes & pricks, a resolute part of me whispering It will be over soon. Rest well, Lucas. Rest well.

Sometimes you get so close to something you can feel the heat of it. An orchiectomy. A request from a writing contest. A blessed email asking for the full. A surprise phone call and an agent offering your book—you—representation. An editor at a major house whispering yes, blowing the steam over her coffee cup. Just a few more sales to shimmy on to the bestseller list.

Like the way things oh-too-often happen in the writerly world, my health issue and I are back to waiting, to see what comes. It’s a limbo-esque place to exist—fret with hand-wringing, impatience, and the nervous shits. But also: hope. That things are okay for now, and there’s a chance a miracle has happened. That one stage of the waiting may be over. That chauffeurs who take provocative pictures, and nurses who look like Roseanne, will be there supporting you no matter what comes.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, coffee is always there. Even on those most dreaded of java-free mornings, it smiles—warm and comforting—just on the other side of the wait. I’m savoring the heat of it right now. But, Patron Saint of Comedic Coping help me, I’m ready to take a sip.

The Ugliest Mona Lisa I’ve Ever Seen


mona lisa - ral

You know this lady.

Her name’s Mona. You can call her Mo for short. She’s kind of iconic.

She’s here today to help me illustrate this *thing* I’m going through which relates to the world of writing. No, it’s not about visualizing characters, painting a story landscape, or any such helpful advice from a novice. Sorry about that. There are plenty of other blogs with unpublished writers giving profound & sage wisdom…

The topic this blogger is tackling today is: [Well, shit, I can’t really sum it up in a single word. This isn’t Twitter; it’s a post. So eff it, I can ramble if I like.]

Let’s go with this freeform string of thoughts: I have multiple fulls out with agents, which have been out for a while. I recently nudged on one & the agent confessed that she hadn’t gotten to it yet. Cool. No big deal. Another one is past the 10 week mark, at which point I would normally nudge, but I have not because of [keep reading]. The third is in this nerve-wracking, string-a-long sort of web which doesn’t seem to have an end. I am hopeful that it will turn into an offer, but the more pages of the calendar I rip off, the less that feels like reality. So, I have just kind of turned off my wishfulness on this matter until such time as it needs to be either revived, or incinerated.

After all that, I guess what I’m trying to say is: I don’t like to feel like I’m begging.

To be candid, I totally get that agents are busy, clients come first, I’m swamped, it’s conference season–all that. And writers are always labeled “impatient”. “This is a slow process,” we tell each other. Agents say it, too. Yet, still, are we really impatient? 2 months? 4 months? 6 months? 12 months? How long is too long to wait to hear back on a full request? An R&R? At what point has the timing passed beyond simple impatience on the part of the writer?

What it boils down to is that I want an agent to *LOVE* my work. Like, SHAZAAAAM! BAM! YES I WANT IT GIVE IT TO ME RIGHT EFFIN NOW I CAN’T WAIT TO START WORKING WITH YOU AND GET THIS THING SUB-READY BECAUSE AWESOME IN MY FACE AND OMG HAVE YOU SIGNED THE AGENCY CONTRACT YET OR WHAT BECAUSE AHHHHHHH????!!!!!

Instead, thus far, I have felt less like Phreak Show is the real Mona Lisa, and that perhaps it is more like this:

mona lisa - bad

 

And, yes, my loverly invisible ink finders. I KNOW that Phreak Show looks/reads nothing like that horrid ol’ fake. I’m just sayin’ I want that acceptance, that go-get-it agent who believes in me & my story so much that s/he can’t get hold of it fast enough. A dream? Perhaps. But my life has been built on dreams such as this. And damn it, I’m not done believing in magick.