OFFER OF REP! (and why I said no)


guy kneeling crying

Please, put down the torches and pitchforks.

I know how that title sounds. I never, ever imagined I’d turn down an offer of rep from an agent. But I did. I had to. It was a difficult thing to do, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

It all started with the most recent #PitMad event. The day job was busy sucking the life out of me, so, the night before, I scheduled a few Tweets to jump in and scrap with the thousands of others vying for attention in the stream. By the end of the day, I had two requests: one from a small pub & one from an agent. Right away I knew I wouldn’t submit to the publisher. Because, you see, I’ve made the personal decision that I want an agent fighting by my side, adding value, experience, and wisdom to this passionate dream of mine.

So that left me with an agent who wanted to see more than the (exactly) 140 characters: Tera joins the crazy-twisted Phreak Show where she must embrace the truth: being a freak isn’t about looks, it’s a frame of mind #PitMad YAF

I’d previously researched the agency *a little*. My mind couldn’t instantly dredge up any black-listed reasons not to submit. Plus: AN AGENT WANTS TO SEE MORE OF MY STORY! Once I got home, I hunted the sub guidelines and shipped off the query, synopsis & first 25 pages. I grabbed some dinner and nonchalantly strolled into my weekend.

5 days later, this arrived in my inbox:

I’m absolutely obsessed with this. Your concept looks really tight and the message is just awesome. I think there is something so real about this, but you are entertaining instead of didactic. I could go on and on, but suffice to say I’m fangirling : ) I would be delighted to give your full manuscript a read.

Of course I did a celebratory jig (a cross between Riverdance & walking on hot coals) & sent it right over. An agent. Fangirling over my words! And only then did I do the in-depth research I should have.

Uh-oh.

As this process progressed, a half dozen of my fellow writers, CPs, and an Assistant Agent friend all suited up & went into research-war with me. There were a lot of questions marks, which twisted into perplexities, which then flared into big, flaming red flags.

– Predators & Editors only noted: slow response time to queries. [Well, hell. That’s 75% of all queries I’ve ever sent…]
– No agents with the agency are members off AAR. [Okay, well I know of some top-notch agents who aren’t…]
– No clients listed on the agency website. [Okay. Wait. What? You’ve been in business for years…Your website is a basic (and easy) venue to champion your authors’ work. If you’re not showcasing your clients & their books on your own website, then what kind of marketing value are you really adding?]
– Twitter digging, following the rabbit down its hole, unearthed a few “clients”. [Hmmm…few and far between. The quality of the book covers look little better than something created in MS Paint. Are these self-pubbers? I smell fish.]
– Even though the agency (and its parent Talent agency) has been around for years: no sales listed. None. Anywhere. [Slow the eff down. Even if the agent (for whatever reason) chose not to post sales, then the Editor, or the even the author most likely would. Right? HOW CAN YOU BE IN BUSINESS FOR YEARS AND NOT HAVE ANY PUBLIC RECORD OF SALES?]

And as a few more red flags were firmly planted: that dead fish smell clung to me, my manuscript, my misconception that landing a full request is always a good thing.

THE NEXT DAY: My phone rings during my commute home. I don’t recognize the number. It’s the agent. I pull over. I whip out my notebook, access the mental database of all those questions & red flags in my head.

I absolutely LOVE this. Love.it. The aesthetic you created is perfect for this concept, perfect for YA. The quirkiness is really good; weird in a good way. Your characters are a BIG strength; they feel so real. The whole story felt really emotional without sacrificing plot. It’s so hard to balance characterization, worldbuilding and plot, and you did it beautifully. That’s evidence of a great writer.”

Lucas’ brain: She’s genuine. She reallymeans every word. Damn, those words feel good. Why, oh why, does this have to smell like a Red Lobster’s dumpster?

I’d like to offer you and your phenomenal book representation.

Lucas’s brain: Oh fuck does this suck. Hard.

I dig into my questions: carefully. I ask about the things giving me major pause (or, actually, damn-near a full-on stop). She answers. She’s super nice. Her personality is vibrant, cheery, and wonderful. We’d get along great outside of the whole agent-author relationship thingy. Oh yeah. That’s the whole point. A knowledgeable agent guiding me through the process, selling-the-hell-out-of-my-book, connecting with contacts I don’t have, championing my story, fighting alongside me to make this passionate dream of mine a reality.

I have other fulls out, so I need to nudge those agents and give them the opportunity to offer. A week ought to do. I ask for a copy of the agency’s contract to look over. I can text or email or call anytime with questions or concerns.

I’m torn. There’s no way I can accept this offer. But, at the same time, in an ooey gooey part of me, this is the call I’ve been working SO HARD to receive for years now. THIS EFFIN SUCKS.

If the red flags smelled fish-like, the contract is the bloody meat of every fish who ever died, piled on a shit-covered beach, rotting in the boiling hot sun while zombie skunks spray musk on the stinkbugs chewing on the eyeless corpses. You think I’m exaggerating. I’ve seen a few agency contracts, so I have comparison points. I work with contracts & legal docs in both my day job and in my own business. This contract isn’t for just this project, but basically for your creative soul. The Author’s Work is defined as:

“…all ideas, story materials, characters, situations, formats, and works of authorship which Author has created or creates during the term of this Agreement…”

That feels pretty all-encompassing. “Ideas” are included? And what’s with the “has created” phrase? The word “irrevocably” is used too many times throughout the contract. The clauses involving how the contract can be terminated revolve around a very specific period in time; not just with 30 days written notice, which seems to be the standard. With each new work, the contract auto-renews & resets the clock & the termination clause. The continuation of residual commissions is scary when combined with the agreement’s definition of the Author’s Work. If things weren’t fishy before, this contract alone would have been enough to lead me to a no.

My deadline for getting back to this agent arrives. My gut wrenches as I dial the number. And I’ve heard agents say this before: rejections suck no matter which side of the conversation you are on. This isn’t true with queries or partials, I’m sure. Probably not even with a lot of fulls. But here, with an offer of rep before me, knowing and believing that (despite all the salmon) this agent truly & genuinely loves my work, I feel so awful saying no. And not for my sake. Not because I feel like I’m losing something, but because this agent feels so strongly for my manuscript. My heart hurts because she has expectation and hope. And I’m the one dashing it against the stones.

It bites when agents give you a generic rejection, which leaves you wondering But, really, WHY? It’s harder this way (on me), but I’m super-honest and straightforward with her on the reasons why I am declining her offer. She is gracious, but sadness tinges her voice.

I received an offer of rep. And yet, I had to reject it.

But the story doesn’t end there. Since I rejected that offer, I expanded the deadline: for reasons. Baited hooks still dangle in the sparkling water, with the possibility of reeling in an agent with the passion, experience, and wisdom worthy of a yes. It may or may not happen this round. I’ll keep you posted. Thankfully, there are fish in that wide, open sea who don’t smell fishy at all.

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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.

Nomad Trip & Such


couchsurfing

So much excitement going on around here. Lots of little things, which are amazing just because they will never happen again in quite the same way.

I’ll yap a little bit about my upcoming trip to Toronto, then post some random, un-captioned pics. [Ambiguous posts are ambiguous.]

The trip currently looks like this:
– Amtrak to Buffalo on the 4th. Hang out with strangers for about 6 hours. [Pending]
– Back on the train, passport in-hand, north of the border.
– Subway ride from Toronto to my couchsurfing hosts, 30 minutes north in North York.
– A private room, rooftop parties, lots of tea/coffee/booze, exploring the pedestrian-only Victorian Distillery Distict, random art & performances via the Fringe Festival, whatever other opportunities arise.
– Return train to Buffalo. Vist Niagara Falls with another couchsurfing “stranger”. [Also pending]
– Board the train home at midnight. Arrive in Cleveland @ 3:27 a.m. 2 hour drive home. Report to work at 8 a.m.

That’s the loose plan, anyway.

Phreak Show Sub Status


Because the numbers have changed since the last time I posted a Sub Pie.
Also, the other shoe could drop at any moment.
Also, also, there will be times when I will not be able to openly share ooey, gooey, behind-the-scenes goodness.

SubmissionsStatus-20130603

 

So 1/3 of the queries have come back as Form Rejections. Is that the sign of a bad query? Bad matching (on my part) of the agent with the book/genre/concept? Is that above, below, or spot-on with the average? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Wow…1/4 of the queries have been coded as “Non-Response”. That seems awfully high, but, based on the agent’s estimated response times, it is accurate. For a previous novel, I had a query response arrive 4 months later than the estimated 8 weeks. That one made me giggle.

0% Full Request Rejections. (At this snapshot-moment, at least.) A few of those are closing in on the 2-month mark. I suspect that % will jump soon. [No! The glass is half-full. The damn glass is half-full!!!] Querying writers, I’m curious about your experience; have full rejections come soon after the submission, or after many weeks? Months? Part of me fears that delay in response to a full = negative news.

Holding at 25% for Outstanding Queries. As long as my hot-list of agents holds out, I like to keep this rough percentage. Each new rejection = sending a new query (or two).

Q: When do I get to add my “Offers of Rep” slice? Soon, you say? I totally ❤ you from here to the moon.

The Writer’s Voice Entry – Phreak Show


Plink0

I feel like I’m on The Price is Right. Or something. My entry Plinko’ed through the pegs and channels of Rafflecopter to land a spot in The Writer’s Voice.

Get the skinny here, or here , also here, and let’s not forget here. Mucho appreciation to the lovely ladies throwing this shindig. Barker’s Beauties, or Drew’s Dolls, or Voicy Vixens we might could call ’em: CupidBrendaMonica , Krista, and Kimberly.

There are some wicked-great agents participating, and I’ve got to say, Phreak Show is bouncing up and down with anticipation for the Showcase Showdown. Come on Coaches! Pick this here entry to be one of your 8…errr 9? You know, whatever number, without going over.

QUERY

When Tera sees through the 600 pounds of fat smothering Twiggy the Blubber Girl, and finds a hurting, size 16 girl beneath, she knows something’s crazy-twisted with The Last American Phreak Show. The wicked Phineas is enslaving teens by wielding their warped self-images against them. Sixteen-year-old Tera has enough crap of her own to deal with, but there’s no effin way she’s letting the jackhole Phineas exploit them in his human zoo.

Tera sacrifices her own questionable normality, and becomes one of Phineas’s sideshow phreaks. Once bound by Phineas’s covenant, Tera discovers that she is more like the powerful showmaster than she’d like to believe, and her presence in the Phreak Show is killing him. If Phineas dies before the captive teens discover a way to break free, they will die with him.

The carnies only have a few days to confront the lifetime of lies lurking within their own hearts. And it will require more than Victorian costumes, sideshow tricks, and creepy performances to save them. The dark magic which binds the teens runs soul-deep. Being a phreak isn’t about looks; it’s a frame of mind

Phreak Show, a YA Greenpunk Fantasy where The Night Circus meets Skinny, is complete at 86,000 words.

With published short stories, articles, poetry, and illustrations, Phreak Show is my third novel. When not writing, I’m an artist who works with reclaimed materials, a spreadsheet junkie, and phreak who has learned to be comfortable in his own skin.

FIRST 250

The neon-red TATTOO sign buzzed with the only spark of excitement in Podunk. Or whatever clone of a town I rolled into that day. Slow and gray like all the rest. Railroad tracks stretched down one side of the street while a storefront church and a sorry excuse for a coffee shop sat on the other. A mom wrangled her toddler into a rusty pickup parked against the curb. Old men perched on a bench outside a hardware store, ogling me, some strange teenage girl, invading their land.

At least this Podunk had a tattoo shop. The first I’d seen in two days. Enough stalling. I needed to get it done while I had the chance, before I lost the nerve again, before my money ran out.

A bell jangled as I pushed my way into the antiseptic air. Drawings of hearts and butterflies, daggers and skulls, covered the walls. I slid my fingers into my back pocket and fished out my last eighty-three bucks. And the photo of Jamie. The white crease down its center cut right along the middle of his tiny body. A tangle of tubes and wires snaked in and out of him. All because of me.

“What you need?”

I jerked away from the image in my hand, and followed the voice to the pierced lip of an inked-up guy. Scruffy hint of a beard, jet-black hair, and nerd glasses reflecting the light so I couldn’t see his eyes. I stepped closer, checking out his skinny jeans through the display case of tongue rings and metal bars.

Of course, I had to check out The Price is Right and find out how to get tickets. Not because I’m really going, but just because, you know, curious: http://www.priceisright.com/tickets