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

Advertisements

YA – Weird is ALWAYS good


I barely had FREEBORN written before opportunities to throw it into a few contests arose. There is a *possibility* that the manuscript may not have been completed when I entered it into at least one of them… I’m not confessing anything here. I’m simply stating a basic rule of probability. So, before I have submitted a single query, these are the contests FREEBORN has entered:

  1. Strange Chemistry – Prize at stake: A 2 book publishing contract – Current status: Mss sent. Results unknown
  2. #WVTP – Prize won: Request from uber-agent John M Cusick – Current status: Mss sent. Results unknown
  3. YALitChat Pitch Slam 2 – Prize at stake – Requests from 1-4 of the participating agents – Current Status:  Comments in process. Agent ranking of their top pitches begins next week.
  4. We Do Write 3-2-1 Pitch Contest – Prize at stake – Full request from Natalie Lakosil of The Bradford Literary Agency – Current status: Pitch submitted. Entry period closes 6/8.
  5. Super Intern Contest – Prize at stake: Pitch critique and feedback. Possible mss request – Current status: Pitch submitted. Awaiting the ‘random selection’ of the the 30 pitches which will move forward. http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

I believe that’s all of them.

What’s interesting about the contest process is that it offers a laser-like focus on honing the pitch and getting feedback on it BEFORE querying begins. The process is highly recommended.

As for the YALitChat pitch Slam 2, there are two more agents who have yet to make their initial sweep. [UPDATE: I HAVE ADDED THE COMMENTS FROM THE REMAINING AGENTS.] The comments on the entries vary from “full of trope”, “you might want to work on a different project instead because this premise is played out”, “amazing pitch”, to “please send me a synopsis & the first 50 pages”. Here are the pitches I entered and the feedback so far:

 Reply by John Lucas Hargis

FREEBORN – YA / SF – John Lucas Hargis

The squirming in Katia’s gut means two things: she is infected with the dreaded parasite, and her boring life as a sixteen-year-old clone is over. She knows she should obey the Surgeon Generals and submit to their treatment, but claustrophobia has a way of pushing Katia to do crazy things—like accepting Adam’s invitation to a safe house full of infected rebels. As Katia’s stomach swells, she experiences feelings she has never known, discovers the truth about the parasite inside her, and joins the rebels in their insane plan to shift the power. The Surgeon Generals are proficient at ending the little uprisings that threaten their illusion of peace. Only, they have never been faced with the plan Katia and Adam are involved in—one that seeks to infect every man, woman, and child on the planet with the Freeborn parasite the leaders are seeking to destroy. Katia’s fear of tight places is nothing compared to her fear of what will happen to every clone in the world, herself included, if she and the other rebels should fail—or even more so if they succeed.

 Reply by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

This sounds like stone cold scifi. Love it! Great work on the pitch.
 
 Reply by Tamar Rydzinski
Definitely an interesting pitch.

 Reply by Elana Roth

Very interesting. Some reservations about Alien comparisons or worms being good things but…it would get me to read on.

 Reply by Michelle Witte

The first sentence is a bit weak. What dreaded parasite? Is it the Freeborn parasite mentioned later? What does this parasite do—or at least what do the Surgeon Generals say it does to people?

Also, why would her claustrophobia keep her from seeking treatment? Right now it feels like an unnecessary trait tacked on, so make us see how it applies to the story.

If you can incorporate those things, your pitch will be solid.

*************************************************************************************

Reply by John Lucas Hargis

Capritare: Discovery – YA Fantasy/LitFic Mashup – John Lucas Hargis

Capritare flexes his furry legs, clacks his new hooves against the stone floor, and hopes that in cycle two, he’ll get a big rack of antlers, or maybe even wings. Perhaps he shouldn’t worry about such a trivial thing since the three Ogen have made their expectations crystal clear. These seven cycles present his final opportunity to reach completion. Capritare vows to fight with passion, explore every nook of the colony, deal with the random appendages attached to his adolescent body, and—somehow—even find love. Although he failed miserably in his previous nine-hundred-ninety-nine lifetimes, he always knew he’d get another chance—and then another. If he screws up this time, there is only one thing waiting for him on the other side of failure—absolutely nothing.

 
Your stuff is just so weird! I love it.
 Reply by Tamar Rydzinski
 
This is kooky in a good way

 Reply by Elana Roth

Definitely kooky. I need a tad more grounding in the first 2-3 sentences that tell me more explicitly what’s going on, but otherwise, good tone and voice. 

 Reply by Michelle Witte
 
You’ve definitely got talent as a writer, but like Elana, I need a bit more info to be fully grounded. I can envision Capritare, but not his world, the other people/creatures there, or his place within it. Give us a firm sense of what he must do and how, and you’ll be golden.

*************************************************************************************

I would [of course] prefer instant requests, but these comments are greatly appreciated and encouraging. They also lead into the second part of this post, which is expression of my goal for writing in the first place and what I believe my Brand is: YA Weird.

I can’t fathom wasting my time on the rehashing of a story that has been told before. Apparently, some authors seek that as their goal: to tap into the next big trend, or ride on the wave of a current one. Eff that. I want to write my own stories and create my own tsunami. I have additional encouragement on that front as well. It comes from a Twitter feed from earlier this week. #AADA or “Ask A Drunk Agent” hosted by my platonic-agent-crush: John Cusick.

Questions were flying as aspiring authors attempted to take advantage of a slightly “tipsy” agent willing to be candid with his answers. Many random things were discussed along with publishing–including this out-of-context tidbit: ‘I hear if you put your scabies in a box of rice, they will dry out.’ – If you get the reference, welcome to the fanclub!

Back to my ‘Brand’ of YA Weird. Here are the relevant Tweets from the hugely entertaining and insightful #AADA session.

John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick Prognosticate for us in your stupor? The mss you would love to see 6 months from now would include…? #AADA

John M CusickJohn M Cusick@johnmcusick

@gypsyroots A totally original contemporary romance. #AADA

John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick UGH. Never mind. #AADA

SnowmenWriteSnowmenWrite@SnowmenWrite

@gypsyroots @johnmcusick Luckily there is always a fair amount of weird out there too. I think you are still in good shape. 🙂 #AADA 

John M CusickJohn M Cusick@johnmcusick

@SnowmenWrite @gypsyroots Let me be clear: weird is ALWAYS good. #AADA

 Jamie CorriganJamie Corrigan@saphirablue84

@johnmcusick Amen to that! #AADA @SnowmenWrite @gypsyroots

 John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick @SnowmenWrite YA Weird is my genre. The issue is pulling back from a LitFic vibe w/o going too simplistic w/ the writing. #AADA

I will always* [*While a definitive statement is being made here, I retain the rights to amend it at any time if I so choose] bounce around within the walls of Fantasy and Sci-Fi. The reason: those walls are nebulous and permeable. They span wide and allow for universe-sized tanks of breathing room. Anything can happen in that space. And that is the perfect breeding ground for the storytelling of John Lucas Hargis–author of YA Weird novels. 

[Let me throw in a shout-out to @fizzygrrl http://fizzygrrl.com/ & @christinaferko http://christinasbooks.blogspot.com/. They are amazing up-and-coming authors who were involved in the #AADA conversation, but weren’t part of the specific conversation used in this post. Much Twitter & website love to all the @s in this post!]

Excerpt: FREEBORN


Image

Movement ripped Katia out of her imaginings. A man in a baggy shirt passed her bench. Even though the day was cool, large patches of sweat darkened his armpits. He couldn’t hold his head still. He kept checking over his shoulder. Frightened. Infected.

“You see him, Katia?”

“Yeah. He’s got to be a mark.”

“I agree. You ready to snag him?”

“I am.”

“Be careful.”

Katia stood, leaning on her cane. She broke into a quick hobble to close the gap between them. The infected man glanced back at her. Picked up his pace. Forget the cane! Just get to him before he reaches the scanner.

Katia stood upright, and shifted her weight to take off in a sprint. Adam yelled in her head, “Katia, abort! Candystripers!”

A pair of figures flashed past her. They corralled the man an instant later. He tried to run, but one of the assassins landed a roundhouse kick to his gut, slamming the man to the concrete.

“Stay down, parasite!”

“Haha! Look at him. All infected and bleeding from the mouth.”

The man writhed on the cement. Clutching his belly. Gasping.

“Pl—please,” he begged between inhales. “Don’t k—kill me.”

“Katia! Get out of there!”

But she couldn’t move. She was transfixed. Had to watch. Stay within earshot.

The Candystripers circled the man.

“Let’s see,” said one of the assassins. “I’m gonna bet he’s…eight days infected.”

“No way!” said the other. “More than that. A lot more. I’m gonna go with fourteen days.”

“You’re hyped up on Ambrosia! No way he’s been hiding for that long.” He kicked the man in the ribs. “Have you, parasite?”

“I’ll bet you fifty debits. Whoever’s closest without going over: wins.”

“You got it, chump! Check him.”

The high-bidder pulled out a portable detector. The low-bidder lifted the man’s shirt with the toe of his shoe. His partner slammed the needle into the man’s stomach. A moan. A red light.

A holo-screen projected into the air. The high-bidder read off the stats. “Felix-2190. Crop 03. Infected. Sixteen days. Ha! I told you!”

“Lucky guess,” said the loser. He pointed his gun. Fired two quick shots. One to the man’s infected gut. One to his head.

“Adam?”

“Yeah?”

“I can’t wait until those assholes get infected.”

***

Pitch For the Next Novel: FREEBORN


Image

Alright, here’s a couple versions of my flavorful, hot-off-the-press Pitch for the new novel: “Freeborn”. It’s still in the rough-draft stage, but you’ll get the gist.

VERSION 8

Katia2198-04 lives in a time of peace, prosperity, and perfect health. The so-called Common Good Era started 200 years ago when the Surgeon Generals declared cloning the mandatory means of reproduction. Mass-sterilization ensures its necessity. Gene selection ensures its success.

All is golden, until a parasite epidemic sweeps through the Commonwealths.  Children, the elderly, women, men: no one is immune, including sixteen-year-old Katia. An infected boy, Adam, offers her asylum in a safehouse. The residents know the truth the Surgeons are hiding. The life squirming inside all those bellies isn’t a parasite at all. It’s a baby. A human one. A freeborn.

Katia struggles with the revelation that the creature inside her is not a monster after all. As her stomach swells, she joins the safehouse rebels in their plot to snatch control of the masses away from the Surgeons. The plan is risky, insane. It will affect every person on the planet.

The Surgeons will not give up control without a fight, but the future of the infected clones, and the freeborns they carry, depend on it. Adam and Katia are simply accelerating the process that has already begun. The Common Good is not so good. It is time for a new era.

 

VERSION 2

Katia lives in a time of peace, prosperity, and perfect health. The so-called Common Good Era started 200 years ago when the Surgeon Generals declared cloning the mandatory means of reproduction. Mass-sterilization ensures its necessity. Gene selection ensures its success.

A parasite epidemic sweeps through the Commonwealths.  Children, the elderly, women, men; no one is immune. Sixteen-year-old Katia becomes infected.

So does Adam. He and the other rebels in the safehouse know the truth the Surgeons are hiding. The life squirming inside all those bellies isn’t a parasite at all. It’s a baby. A human one. A freeborn. Adam knows this for a fact. Fifteen years earlier, his mom was the first to go full-term. Now, he’s pregnant with a freeborn baby of his own.

Adam offers Katia asylum in the safehouse. She struggles with the revelation that the creature inside her is not a monster after all. The rebels need her on their side. She is pivotal in their plan to snatch the control away from the Surgeons. The plan is risky, insane. It will affect every person on the planet.

The Surgeons will not give up control without a fight, but the future of both the clones and the freeborns depends on it. Adam and Katia are simply accelerating the process nature started.

[Feedback welcome. I’m sick of bland pitches ::: vomit ::: This one matches the style of the writing in Freeborn. Q: Is it going too ‘informal’? Too much voice? Can you have too much voice in a Pitch?]