Friday, December 31, 2010

Hello? 2010? Fuck off!

That's really all I've got to say on the subject.  I thought 2009 was tough; this last year practically killed me.  I'm just about at the end of my rope.  I am nearly ropeless.  I am tired of being poor, of looking over my shoulder every damn day to see if I can pay the bills, feed the family, buy my kids a fucking ice cream cone.  I used to make a hundred and thirty-five fucking thousand dollars a year!  How did this happen?  Oh, yeah, I thought I'd retire early to write, trusting in the spousal unit to bring home some money.  And she chose to go into real estate.  In December 2007.  It seems funny in an oddly self-immolizing sort of way.  Maybe I'll laugh at it some day.

Plus there was that whole "Nice Agent Lady" fiasco.

So, 2010, go fuck yourself. Far ti fotere. Va te faire foutre. Chinga tu madre. Yebat' tvoyoo mat'.

Monday, December 6, 2010

And Another Full Bites the Dust

Oh, this is turning into just the best Christmas ever.  Nearly three months after she requested it, another agent has turned down my magnum opus, saying it's well done but "seemed to lack a certain urgency, if that makes any sense."

Of course it makes sense.  It means you didn't like it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Query Bomb Full Request No. 4

Query Bomb(tm) II brought in a request for a full today.  It's a double-plus-good request, since the query was accompanied by the first 50 pages.  If they liked that, maybe they'll like the rest....  I'm not super-crazy about the agency, which seems a little light in the mystery-thriller experience, but I'm focusing on the positive here -- for once.

UPDATE: Well, no sooner had I written this and picked up my son from school than I arrived to find a rejection of an earlier partial: "Despite wonderfully descriptive and strong writing," the agent "didn't quite fall in love with the story and characters." Or so she says.  So things have kind of evened out, I guess.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Hate Literary Agents

I was reminded this morning, as I racked up another rejection in the Query Bomb(tm) Tracker, what I hate most about literary agents -- when they don't bother to respond to your query at all.  As I've written before, there's no real excuse for this.  I can understand agents not wanting to get into a dialogue with some "writer" who won't take no for an answer, but it's easy enough to set up an auto-rejection macro that comes from a no-reply email address so all you've got to do is hit "ctrl-N" (for "No") and off you go.  Let some pissed-off writer try to reply to that.  I don't know crap about computers, but even I could set that up.  I'm pretty sure I could.

So, what do you hate most about literary agents?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The Queen of the Northwest lies under six inches of snow this morning, with overnight wind chills dipping into single digits (Fahrenheit) and dry, drifting snow blowing about while roads froze.  Seattleites know only one way to deal with snow -- to freak out, talk about nothing else (like me, here) and abandon their cars by the side of the road.  Fortunately, I live in the city and don't have to go anywhere, so I'm cool with it (pun intended).  In fact, I love it.  I grew up snow-deprived in Arizona, so every flake of falling snow is like a gift of heaven for me, a promised chit of recompense for the deprivation of my snowman-less, sledding-less childhood.  Yay!

No real news on the book front: a couple of form rejections wending their way in over the last week, that's all.

How's the weather where you are?  And what are your feelings about snow?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One Good Thing

I noticed this morning, as I put off logging on to the Online Man's site to start slaving away to get around to printing out the "requested materials" that the agent who wanted the partial asked for, that my query had included the first three pages of the book.

This is semi-good news, because so many agents make a decision about representing you, if they respond positively to your query, based solely on the first few pages of your writing.  (Google "first five pages.")  So at least that particular hurdle has been...hurdled.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mr. Gloomypants Speaks

"Now, a lot of readers of this 'weblog' -- well, a few of what's left of the readership -- have seen fit to chastise Trav as a 'Mr. Gloomypants' for expressing a certain amount of, shall we say, cynical detachment concerning the full and partial mss. that are currently in the hands of -- or at any rate, sitting in the computer files of -- these semi-mythical beings known as 'agents.'

"'A well-worn cynicism is the saddle beneath my butt of hope,' says I, Mr. Gloomypants. 'It is the glue with which I keep my noggin from exploding off my neck.'

"Well into the second year of his AgentQuest(TM) now, the most recent outburst of my alter ego, Trav (see below), is merely the logical expression of his experience of the aforementioned AQ, which has been, since roughly Day 2, a cavalcade of rejection and hope gone to rot.

"Added to which, he had seriously hoped that 2010 would turn out better than 2009, which sucked slimewater through a fire hose (in which suckiness the AQ played only a secondary role), but only 45 days are left before 2010 turns out to have been, no-if-ands-or-buts, worse than the preceding year.  Something neither Trav nor Mr. Gloomypants could possibly have believed if they hadn't seen it lay itself out before their own eyes, day after frakking day.

"So, in short, Mr. Gloomypants, speaking on behalf of Trav, says he will take a powder when he has good reason to, and not before.

"Thank you for your attention to this matter."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Yet Another QBII Partial -- Ho Hum

Another partial request this morning.  Good thing: at least my query doesn't suck sewage.  Bad thing: they say they're 90 days behind, so I'll have to wait that much longer to be told to fuck off.  And they want it by snail mail.

Monday, November 8, 2010

QBII: Another Partial, For What It's Worth

Another partial request this afternoon, for what it's worth.  You can see I have become cynical about these things.  I was just thinking this morning that it's been a couple of months since I sent off those full mss., so it's about time for those rejections to come in.  Well, today's agent told me not to expect to hear back for a few weeks, so I have that much glory time at least.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Query Bomb II: The Partial

QB-II is off to a good start, with a request for a partial the day after.  The request was so enthusiastic, actually, that I was afraid I'd queried a scam artist, so I re-checked my research and, no, she's a for-real agent with loads of experience.  I don't pay much attention to that enthusiasm crap -- not until after she's read it.

UPDATE: She read it, says it reads well, I'll have some takers, but it ain't for her. Hard to articulate why, she said.  Somethin' about voice.  Sigh.  Well, she goes on the list of top 10 agents for being responsive, personal and quick.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Query Bomb: The Sequel

QueryBomb(tm) II launched yesterday, with another 35 queries sent off into the cyberspatial void of Agentland.  Think of QueryBomb II as the Nagasaki to QueryBomb I's Hiroshima, or the Mothra to QB I's Godzilla.

Anyway, this has pretty much shot the bolt -- quick: who knows where that expression comes from? -- with perhaps a few decent snail-mail-only agents left to be queried -- but who wants to deal with those dinosaurs?

Paul S. Levine of his eponymous* literary agency was in with the first rejection, a mere 3 hours, 21 minutes after the query had been sent to him. Good work, Paul!

*Sierra, there's a word for Word-Up Wednesday for you.  (Quick: who knows why what I just wrote will drive Sierra Godfrey crazy?)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stupid Books

So I'm reading this book called Crashers, a thriller I got from the library.  It's about people who blow up planes.  In the first 24 pages, the author makes two howler mistakes.  First, he describes a "colossal" "wide-body" jet with four engines as being similar in size to a Boeing 737, a two-engine, narrow-body jet -- the smallest Boeing makes.  Second, he refers to the National Transportation Safety Board as the "National Transportation and Safety Board."  I mean, for heaven's sakes, he's writing a book about planes and most of the protagonists work for the NTSB and he gets that stuff wrong in the first two chapters.

I mean, it's just annoying.  So sloppy.  Pathetic.  Did I mention annoying?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Trip to the Library

A trip to the library these days is rather depressing.  There are two reasons for this.

One is that that library is haunted by old people, wrinkly-skinned near-wraiths with their gigantic Coke-bottle-lensed glasses and their sweaters covering them up against "the cold," and this is what their life has come down to, this is their entertainment now, their version of clubbing -- a shuffle into the library with all the other elderly to see what new books are on the shelves, because they have all this time on their hands now, waiting to die.

It depresses me because that will be me in fewer years than I care to think.  I'm practically a geezer already.

The other reason, of course, is that there are all these new books on the shelves by all these no-talent schmucks...  I read the liner notes (remember: this is basically your query!) and think to myself, Who would want to read this drivel?

But what I'm really thinking, of course, is Why are these worthless hacks published and I'm not?

So, what's lifting your spirits these days?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

QueryBomb Duds

A couple of form rejections have sashayed into the in-box in the last week, but nearly three-quarters of QueryBomb(TM) inquiries remain unresponded-to orphans.  This has bothered me from day one of AgentQuest(TM).  I just don't understand why it's so hard for some agents to set up a form-rejection macro.  Hell, I don't know anything about computers but even I could do that.

I have absolutely no other news of note, except that last week, my 11-year-old but precocious daughter, speaking of her attributes, declaimed, "Yeah, I'm the complete package."  I almost crashed the car I was laughing so hard.

Monday, September 27, 2010

QueryBomb: One Full Down, Two to Go

One full rejected this a.m. with usual boilerplate. That leaves two to go. It doesn't seem more responses to the bombload of queries will be coming in. Have 80 percent of agents now become serial non-responders? That's pretty sad.

On a happier note...oh, actually, I've got nothing to fill that blank with.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

QueryBomb's Shock and Awe

QueryBomb(TM) continues to pummel the resistance out of literary agents, resulting in another request for a full today.  Now, that could well be the end of the line.  Earlier research by this here blog established that if you were going to get a positive result to your query--indeed, if you were going to get any kind of result at all--you were likely to get it within just a few days of sending your query.  But even if that's the case, I'll be more or less satisfied with the big bang I've gotten out of QueryBomb(TM).

Monday, September 13, 2010

QueryBomb's Reverberations Continue

Another full request late this evening, so QueryBomb(TM)'s success rate stands at 18.2 the moment.

It won't last.  And probably won't mean anything in the long run.

But for the moment, we are savoring again that giddy sense that comes when someone asks to see your work.

Friday, September 10, 2010

QueryBomb's Explosive Results!

We've got a new feature on The Big Litowski, the QueryBomb(TM) Tracker, to allow you, dear reader, to follow the progress of Trav's latest, greatest, and in all likelihood last major attempt to scam the denizens of AgentLand(TM) into asking to see the magnum opus that is Trav's little mystery/thriller.

So far, the QueryBomb(TM) has worked like a charming thermonuclear device, resulting in a success rate--defined as prompting a request for a partial or full ms.--of 12.5 percent.

Of course, that's based on just one request out of eight responses, but hey, let's celebrate while we can.

Special thanks to Christine Pope and Perri for putting The Big Litowski over the top to 50-plus Followers!  It only took a year.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Query Bomb: Score 1 for 5

I only managed to get out 18 of a planned 25 queries yesterday.  Another 13 so far today brings the total to 31.  But I'm not done yet.

Score so far: four rejections, one full request.

I'm too experienced at this by now to get excited by ms. requests, hence my need to keep the QueryBomb(TM) going until it hits at least 50.

This time, I'm not fucking around.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Query Bomb


I'm letting fly a query bomb of nuclear proportions today, sending out 25 into the inky depths of the Mephistophelian darkness known as Agentland.

Tomorrow I may re-query every agent I didn't hear back from the last time around, just for the devilish hell of it, unless they specifically say that "no response means no."  The way I look at it, half have moved on, they all might have new assistants, they aren't likely to remember my query from last year and, WTF, who cares if they do remember--all they can do is say no (or be silent again).

So, AgentQuest(TM) is on again!

UPDATE: It took less than an hour for the first rejection to come in: thank you, Uwe Stender at TriadaUS.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trav Never Happy?

Matt, over at Pensive Sarcasm, had this to say in passing on a "strange and hazy" blog award to me (the Dead Man in a Pale Blue Suit Award...or something like that): Finally, I always love bestowing awards on Travener, aka, the Big Litkowski. Why? Because I don't believe that even winning an award he did nothing to deserve could make Travener happy. I find that strange.

Now, this is pretty odd stuff.  Is that what you all think of me?  That I am incapable of happiness?

Do you know that at one point, my protagonist's love interest says to him, “You’re afraid you no longer have the capacity to love, that’s what you’re telling me? Wow, that’s some baggage.”

So, to set the record straight, a few things that make me happy:

1. My kids.  They always come first.
2. That I have finally gone from 48 Followers to 49.  Thank you, Franklin Beaumont of London, England.
3. Blues skies, smiling at me.
4. Chocolate.
5. Scotch.
6. A trout rising to take my dry fly.
7. Born in the USA.
8. A really good read. (Recently read, highly recommended:  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Where Men Win Glory.)
9. Friendship.
10. Receiving undeserved blog awards.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

One Year Anniversary of AgentQuest

Ah, it seems like yesterday... A year ago today, full of optimism, Trav embarked on AgentQuest(TM), sending out a batch of 25 queries.  The very first reply was a request for a partial.

And it's all been downhill from there.

A hundred-plus queries, however many fulls and partials and Nice Agent Ladies later, Trav is no farther along than when he started.  The only difference is that he now refers to himself in the third person.

What has Trav learned in this year of woe?

That when folks in publishing say it's a subjective business, they ain't kidding.

That however long you think it's going to take to get published, it's going to take longer.

That however much research you put into targeting agents, it's still a lot like monkeys throwing darts in the dark.

That rejection and frustration are your constant companions.

That alcohol is your best friend.

Trav supposes there are other lessons to be learned, but doesn't feel like investigating the subject further.  The pursuit of a literary agent is what it is: a grind, a slog, a trek, a Quest.

So, in the next couple of weeks, Trav will haul out the list of literary agents he's compiled, check QueryTracker and Agent Query once more for new agents, dust off the query letter and, come September, fire some more darts off into the inky gloom.

WTF else can he do?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nice Agent Lady to Trav: Drop Dead

Excuse me.  I meant to say, Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.  And by the way, Fuck.
Long story short, the Nice Agent Lady's senior partners have decided they don't have the proper editorial contacts for my book, which is Agentspeak for, "Not right for our list," which itself is Agentspeak for, "Fuck off."
So, off I am fucked.

Friday, August 6, 2010

California, Plot Contrivances, Evil

Travener is back, having survived an eight-day road trip with the kids to Davis, California.  We took in Crater Lake and the middle of Oregon on the way back to avoid the horror that is Interstate 5.

While in Kallyfornyuh, we took in Othello at Shakespeare in the Park in Sacramento.  I'd neither seen nor read the play before.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, a key role in driving Othello mad over the alleged indiscretions of his wife Desdemona is played by a dropped handkerchief.  As plot devices go, it's pretty ridiculous, and the fact that the genius Shakes resorted to such nonsense to tie up his plot somehow made me feel better about the workings of the plot in my ms.  Also, Iago is one of the all-time great evil characters.

So, back with new determination to get moving on the WIP, as soon as I finish sketching out all its handkerchief moments.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

As Demanded By Amber

Ms. Amber Tidd Murphy has demanded the following information, which I am happy to supply.

What have you just read?
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
What are you reading now?
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.  I'm on a bit of a 20th century classic streak, it seems.
Do you have any idea what you'll read when you're done with that?
What's the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
Silas Marner. BOR-ing.
What one book do you always recommend to just about anyone?
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.
Do you read books while you eat?
Does snacking count?
While you bathe?
Yes. A sublime pleasure.
While you watch movies or TV?
No to the first, yes to the second--all the time.
While you're on the computer?
When you were little did other children tease you about your reading habits?
What's the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn't put it down?
Don't remember.  Snow Falling on Cedars, perhaps.  That was awfully good.
Have any books made you cry?
No.  Movies make me cry sometimes, though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hot Amish Romance

Evidently, romance novels are the way to go, their sales rising even as the rest of publishing flounders.  Particularly hot: Amish romance.

Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Bad Habits

I'm referring to my bad writing habits, though gods know I have enough of the other kind.  I am not a disciplined person.  When I worked for the VIO I was a skilled multitasker, but in my private life, not so much.  So I quit the VIO to make sure I'd write because I spent a couple decades not writing.  Was always too tired, or Seinfeld was on, or I was playing trivia on the computer, or...well, it didn't really matter.  So after quitting the VIO I actually did write.  Now I'm not because I work all day for Tom, the Online Man and...well, bad habits return.  So I must schedule myself.  I must!  Ich muBte, devo farla, turiu daryti!

So...I'm taking a poll.  I'm going to set aside 90 minutes a day.  I'm writing it on the calendar in indelible marker.  What's better, the morning or the evening?  What works best for you?

P.S. Why is BSG in the labels?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Poverty Sucks

Back when I was single and working for the Very Important Organization, I was practically awash in dough.  I once took a vacation from Lithuania to New Zealand (setting a VIO R&R distance record) and didn't think twice about the cost. Now, one spousal unit, two kids and one Great Recession later, I'm scraping for every dollar to keep the sheriff from the door while trying to preserve what's left of my life savings.  Yesterday I got a bill from the dentist for $681, and that was after insurance.  (Spousal unit has crappy Former Soviet teeth, while yours truly had put off going to the dentist for years to save money, hah.)

The last time the economy was this bad, it took World War II to snap us out of it.  But, we're already in two wars.  What's it going to take this time?

Damn you, capitalism.  You are a fickle mistress.  In the '90s you made my head swim.  Now you have cast me adrift.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

That Elusive 'Voice'

I've often been mystified WTF agents really mean when they talk about "voice" in a novel, especially when all they've given your book is a superficial two-page read.  But I've been re-reading The Catcher in the Rye--the last time I read it was the summer between high school and first year of college--and there's no mistaking Holden Caulfield's--J.D. Salinger's--distinctive "voice."  So I suppose I get it a little now.

More important, I'm loving reading it.  I don't remember liking it that much when I first read it.  But it's hysterically funny.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How Does This Happen?

OK, I've complained about the declining standards of the publishing industry before...but today I'm reading a book in which the author has Winston Churchill writing to "Theodore Roosevelt" in 1945.  How can the writer, his agent, his editor, and copy editor (if any?) miss that kind of mistake?  How ignorant do you have to be not to know Franklin Roosevelt was president in WWII?  And that Teddy was dead?  Jeez.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Deal With the Nice Agent Lady

To provide some context for the preceding post, my deal with NAL is as follows: because she was undertaking to go through the entire ms. again with her red pen in hand, I would not query any new agents until I got the book back, made the revisos and sent it back for a decision.  I was free to follow up with requests for partials or fulls from any of the agents I had previously queried and had not yet heard from, or even to sign with one of them.  There were a lot of no-responders in that bunch, but the ones I did hear back from after striking my deal with NAL all said, "Fuck off," or some agentspeak variant of that.

We sort of arrived at this decision mutually.  I believe I brought it up--something along the lines of, "What are your expectations of me?"  I thought it was fair.  Still do, for that matter.  She's not just reading it but providing edits and stuff.  Understand that this all occurred after more than 100 queries and a couple of heart-breaking this-is-really-good-but-the-market-sucks-rught-now-so-sorry-but-fuck-off responses to fulls.

The other thing is, she really is nice.  And she gets, and what's more, loves my book.  Used those very words: "I love your novel."  While NAL herself is a junior agent--and part of the delay comes from her having to deal with administrative stuff plus all the queries coming in from all you fuckhead dingbats--the firm she works for is well established with at least one agent with lots of deals under her belt in the ol' mystery-suspense-thriller world.  So, I would love to be represented by her.  Plus, I did tell her to take her time the last time we communicated, when she apologized for how long it was taking.

I guess I'm really just frazzled by how long it's taking and how it seems I have no money and no time and no way to easily get enough of either.

How Long Am I Supposed to Wait?

It's been three, fourth months since the Nice Agent Lady undertook to go through my ms. with an eye to sending me suggested areas for improvement (as we would have put it at my former employer, the Very Important Organization).  In our last colloquy I told her to take her time, but still...  Since I promised not to query further while she was working on it, I'm sort of stuck in limbo.  Despite its constant flow of heartache, I sort of miss querying.  I spend so much time working for TOM (the online Man) that I'm too exhausted at day's end to even think about, much less write, my WIP.  (Thank you, poverty.)  I'm sort of thinking giving her to September and then breaking my promise (heck, this is business after all), given that summer is a tough time to query anyway.  I don't know.  Is that fair, or should I feel like a jerk for even contemplating this?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Home Alone

It's the Fourth of July and I'm home alone.  My son's in Costa Rica with a school group, my daughter deserted us to spend the day with her friend's family, the spousal unit is "out with a friend" -- bartender, drinking buddy, lesbian lover -- WTF do I know?  Plus, it's gloomy as hell here: cold, gray, wet.  A perfect Seattle day.  For November.  Plus I've spent all fucking weekend working for The Online Man (henceforward: "Tom").  Doesn't anyone out there feel sorry for me?  Anyone?  Anyone?


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Help! I'm Losing Followers!

Jesus, I went from 48 Followers to 47!  WTF?  Was it something I said?  I have few enough Followers as it is.  I can't afford to lose any.  What is it you want?  More pathos?  More sex? Drugs? Rock 'n roll?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Literary Agent Scandal!

Hey, here's an interesting article on how Saul Bellow's former agent has disappeared among allegations of missing royalty money.  Something to be wary of, if we ever actually do get ourselves a flippin' agent.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why Did I Watch 'The Road'?

Just finished watching The Road.  Movie of the book of the same name by Cormac McCarthy.  Post apocalypse.  Dreadfully depressing.  But I knew that going in, because I already read the damn book.  So why did I watch the damn movie?  Spoiler alert: don't read the next sentence if you plan on seeing the movie and haven't already.  Even if they tweaked it with just the teensiest bit of optimism in the movie version, totally fucking absent from the book, by having the kid find a living beetle just before his dad croaks.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Special TMI Friday - Travener Revealed!

Scores of you have been clamoring for a photo of the real Travener (OK, well, Amber has), so here it is!

Now, this is an, uhm, somewhat dated photo of me.  This is not because I am vain (Carly Simon once told me that song is not about me), but rather to protect myself from having to defend myself against the horde of my many fans in the Greater Seattle Area, among them Dawn Simon and Too Cute to be Very Interesting, who will demand my autograph if they see me in the street or at Fado.

This special treat will be up for 48 hours only (that TV show: yes, inspired by an old feat of derring-do of mine), so it comes down at 10:31 a.m. PDT Sunday, June 13.  Enjoy while you can!

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Want to Sleep With Scarlett Johansson

First Roni did it, then musing Amber.  Now, me.  Next: you.

My Favorite Beverage

[Laphroaig scotch]

My Hometown

[Tucson, Arizona]

[current hometown]

Favorite TV Show

[Fey = funniest woman in the world]

My Occupation
[formerly:  big middle-ranking shot at Very Important Organization]

My First Car

['67 VW Beetle - had the new headlights but the classic chrome bumper]

My Favorite Dish

[corned beef and cabbage -- seriously]

Celebrity I've Been Told I Resemble

[unlike William Hurt, I still have all my hair]

Celebrity on My To-do List

[I should be so lucky]

Favorite Childhood Toy

[still have him]

Any Random Picture

[Google "any random picture" and this is what you get]

Your turn!

Update: Changing the title of this post to "I Want to Sleep With Scarlett Johansson" to see if it will draw more attention...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Men Who Write Chick Lit

So, can men write good chick lit?  I ask this because I just finished Beginner's Greek by James Collins, a sort of modern-day Jane Austen-type of novel wherein various people find their way to True Love.  There was a lot of verbiage about what people were feeling, why they were feeling that way, what they might or might not do about their feelings.  The kind of stuff that usually doesn't appeal to, uhm, men.  I found it hard to finish and basically skimmed the last 100 pages just to get to the end.  So, the question stands: any male authors you know who write great chick lit?  Now that I think of it, any women who write great thrillers (as opposed to mysteries)?  And should we care?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bestselling Authors What Don't Write English Good

So.  Tom Rob Smith, author of a great debut thriller, Child 44.  A Soviet detective who tracks down a serial killer in the early 50s.  Interesting that he uses his full name and writes about Soviets, just like three-name Martin Cruz Smith (Smith!) of Gorky Park-Arkady Renko fame.  But that's a sidebar.  I've just read his follow-on thriller, The Secret Speech.  Pretty good, though I had some too-much-suspension-of-disbelief problems and gripes over some saccharine sentiments.  But I was struck by this sentence:

Taking place in the courtyard of her apartment complex, Fraera intended to host the first victory celebration.

Now, clearly this sentence states that the character Fraera is "taking place in the courtyard," not the celebration.  OK, OK, happens to the best of writers.  Norman Mailer famously opened Ancient Evenings with a dangling participle, too.  But the above sentence is immediately followed by:

Open to all, she provided crates of alcohol...

Now, I suppose you could argue that he's saying Fraera was "open to all," but I think he clearly means the victory party.  (Since it takes place during the Hungarian Revolution, the "victory" part turns out to be premature.)

And this guy went to Cambridge!  The worst part is, there are many more examples of this kind of sloppiness.  And yet he's sold bazillions of copies.  You'd think the publishing industry could hire just a few copy editors who know what they're doing, if for no other reason than to prevent the embarrassment of their big players.

Just sayin'.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Still Lost After All These Years

The finale of 'Lost' -- WTF?  What kind of resolution was that?  I still don't know where the dang island came from in the first place (my theory's always been Atlantis).  Who made it?  And if the light-filled water cures the dead but makes them evil (Man in Black, Sayeed), why would you protect it and the stupid island in the first place?  And how did the Dharma folks know to keep the Black Smoke out with some fancy electronic squealing?  Ah, too many unanswered questions after six years.  The ending itself -- meeting up after they're all dead -- feh, OK, I suppose, but not a real winner.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

WIP: No Progress

Man, between the online writing, the household chores, dealing with the spousal unit and ferrying the child units around looking after my family, I am just betwixt and between and feel as if I've got no time to sit down and make some notes.  I get a few ideas now and then but don't scribble them down.  How do the rest of you with families and jobs make time for writing?  It's killing me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Ten Favorite Literary Agents

Hi, devoted followers and those who wander in.  I haven't blogged much lately because I've had nothing to say and have been devoting so much time to writing stupid articles for the online Man, trying to keep the wolf outside the door, which has left me exhausted, but slightly less poor. 

Anyhoo, here's my list of favorite literary agents I've encountered over the past nine (!) months of AgentQuest (TM).  Now, understand, all of these agents rejected me.  (Not me.  My book.  Repeat.  Not me.  The book.)  This list does not contain the nice agent lady currently working through some edits on my ms.  (You don't seriously expect me to share her with you, do you?) But these ten either rejected my full/partial/query with some helpful commentary and/or responded to my query with alacrity and a form rejection that seemed above par.  I won't say which did which, as I want to preserve my anonymity and what's left of my dignity. I would recommend querying any of them, if you need an agent and if your genre fits their interests.  Herewith, in no particular order, my top ten agents:

Ann Collette, Helen Rees Literary Agency
Anna Cottle, Cine/Lit Representation
Sorche Fairbank, Fairbank Literary Representation
Kate Lee, International Creative Management
Laney Katz Becker, Markson Thoma
Renee Zuckerbrot, Renee Zuckerbrot Literary Agency
Daniel Lazar, Writer's House
Nathan Bransford, Curtis Brown
Jenny Bent, Bent Agency
Paige Wheeler, Folio Literary Management

Of course, your mileage may vary, and they could wind up behaving like complete jerks with you...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Nice Agent Lady: Still Nice

Whew.  The nice agent lady got back to me, said she was still working through my ms., not wanting to rush it, while dealing with the typical kaleidoscope of queries, foreign rights, printer break-downs, admin crap & cetera, and said she was sorry not to have let me known sooner that it was going to take longer than she'd thought to finish the edits.  This is why I call her the nice agent lady.

I sort of feel bad, because I have twice doubted her and now twice been shown to be a paranoid twit.  I think searching for an agent does this to you.  Well, it has done it to me.  So...I shall now relax about the whole thing.  I told her to please take her time.  The delay itself doesn't bother me.  This whole process has proven to be so ridiculously long that throwing a few more months in the way won't make a difference.  In fact, I have thought that delay might be good: if the economy continues to improve and publishers start to crawl out from under their beds, they might loosen up a bit, giving more of us newcomers whose books don't have "next Dan Brown" written all over them a better shot.

And I've got that WIP now to work on.  So...big exhale...big inhale...big thanks, nice agent lady.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Onward and Upward

Well, I still don't know WTF's going on with the nice agent lady, but at least I've started up a new WIP -- "started up" in this case meaning making notes and beginning to come up with characters and plot points, always the hard part for me.  It is not a sequel to the ms. currently being considered by lost under the desk of the nice agent lady.  No way I'm writing a sequel unless the prequel finds a publisher.  And, working like a dog -- a big, slobbery dog like a Newfoundland -- I'm bringing in some bucks with the online gig, staving off the poorhouse for the moment.  Now if spring would just finally get here and stay awhile.  Jesus, there was frost here the other day.  This is the Northwest, not the fucking Northern Plains.  That kind of crap just shouldn't be happening here in May.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ignorance Ain't Bliss

Well, I sent an e-mail to the nice agent lady last week letting her know I was still alive and waiting for edits (in a very nice and roundabout semi-funny and not-whiny way) and her response response.  It's a good thing that despite my advanced years I have most of my hair, otherwise I'd have nothing to tear out.

In the meantime, let's all congratulate Kristen on getting herself an agent.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why 'Avatar' Sucks

I walked out on Avatar.  OK, actually I just turned off the DVD after about an hour.  I know a lot of you will say to me, "Listen, you can't appreciate it unless you're in the theater with the big screen and the 3-D effects and all," to which I reply: bleh.  If a movie can't stand on its story alone, it can't stand at all, and the writing in Avatar is, in a word, awful.

Now, I'm not an anti-Cameronite.  Terminator is a great movie.  I loved Aliens.  I even sort of liked The Abyss, even if the science was nonsense (I don't care how much fluid he had in his lungs, Ed Harris would have been squashed into a pancake long before he got all the way to the bottom of the sea where the aliens lived).  Titanic was tolerable but it foreshadowed the decline of Cameronism: the dialogue was written to enable effects, rather than the effects designed to enable the movie.  I've seen all the characters in Avatar before: the young Marine, the evil corporate honcho, the mad scientist.  And the dialogue sounds as if it were written for 12-year-olds.  Which I think it was.

Anyway, if it's any consolation for you Avatarophiles out there, I was bored to death by the Lord of the Rings movies, too.

Survived the Girl Scout campout by reading a book far from the other parents and just waiting it out.  Still no Fedex from the nice agent lady so if I've gotten nothing by mid-week, I'm going to e-mail her.  I believe I have been patient. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Last Girl Scout...

The last Girl Scout campout with my daughter, that is.  We take off in a couple of hours.  Next year, she'll be out of Girl Scouts and into her clique-ridden Mean Girl upper-middle-class middle school.  I'll just be older--older than I ever thought possible.  And where on the road to being published will I be?  It's gotten to be such an absurdly long slog that I'd even forgotten to note the eighth-month anniversary of AgentQuest (TM).  Kind of scary how a book is like a baby:  at first you count their age in days, then weeks, then months, then years.  Then they stop being a little kid and go off to middle school.  But in my book's case, it's still stuck in the nursery.

Oh, fiddle dee dee.  I'll think about that tomorrow...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why I Haven't Posted Much Lately

I know I haven't posted much lately, though I thought the graph I put up yesterday -- was it yesterday? -- was pretty funny and would have drawn more than three of my occasional readers loyal followers in.  Sigh.  What can I say?  I already confessed to lack of marital cohesion.  Lack of Fedex from the nice but maybe not so efficient agent lady.  I spend all my day now writing crap articles for little money when not shepherding the child units around or dealing with the spousal unit's dyspepsia.  In short, life sucks right now.  You're probably bored of hearing about it.  I know I'm bored of living it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Explains It All

And you wondered why you were hitting the Scotch with abandon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

TPO Thursday

Whew.  This is finishing up as a Totally Pooped Out Thursday and I still haven't dragged my son and my ass to his orchestra concert tonight.  And where TF is the spousal unit?  If she's not here in 10 minutes I'll have to drag my son's 10-year-old sister along -- fine by me, but hell for her.  Spent all day blasting away at the freelancing, piling up -- ha, ha -- the big bucks, dollar by dollar.  If the spousal unit would actually sell a fucking house already I wouldn't have to sell my soul to the company store.  OK, it's really not her fault; the housing market sucks.  Still.  No Fedex from the nice agent lady which is just giving me the willies.  Is she going to be any more attentive if she actually becomes my agent lady?  And I haven't had any spousal cohesion, if you get my drift, in a fucking dog's age, first because the spousal unit had some kind of bacteriological/viral/unknown alien origin something or other going on with her lady parts, and after that it was/is a big old nasty cough that's put her off the mood -- it doesn't take much, anyway -- and so...  Oh, crap.  Gotta go to the concert.  Bye.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Busy as a Beaver With a Deadline

In addition to all the usual crap related to kids and their activities, house-husband chores and regular husband chores, I've added writing freelance for one of those online community things.  The pay's a pittance so speed and volume are key, but we are desperate enough for moolah around here that I gotta do it.  Still waiting on suggested edits from the nice agent lady; I guess if I don't get a Fedex by Wednesday I'll have to risk sounding like a whiny writer and e-mail her to see what's up.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Meaning of 'Pre-Offer' Revisions. Or, Perhaps, the Revised Meaning of 'Pre-Offer.'

The QueryTracker Blog has an interesting snippet-interview with agent Joan Paquette on why agents ask for, and what they expect from, "pre-offer" revisions here.  I took a personal interest in it, as those of you who've been following my dance with the nice agent lady will understand, but I think any would-be author would find it interesting.

I've finished a new scene as part of my revisions but am still awaiting the box o' suggestions from the nice agent lady.  It was supposed to be here last week...or even the week before (I lose track).  I am trying not to freak out about that.  I've got plenty of other stuff to freak out about now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

101 Form Rejections on the Wall...

Well, I'm officially into a second century of query rejections as of today, when the 101st form rejection slipped into the inbox.

A hundred and fucking one.  Jaysus.

I tell ya, if things don't work out with the nice agent lady, I'm just gonna do one gigantic query bomb to every agent left on my list and fucking get it over with already.


Monday, April 5, 2010

I Want to Kill My Cat

Seriously, she's been meowing for attention all fucking day as if I haven't fed/petted her enough, which I have, in fact, done, at least in the estimation of any normal cat.

Getting Back in the Groove

I got seriously off-kilter some time after the holidays (Christmas, not President's Day), allowing the regularly scheduled maintenance of my aging body (exercise, daily intake of vitamins, Dark Green Leafy Vegetable and High Fiber Heart Healthy V-8 juice) to slide, as well as putting off, faking out, and generally evading my responsibility to write, rewrite, think about/take notes on next project.

So I am trying to get back on track from the siding where I have sat, immobile, boiler unstoked, for lo these past few months.

I do this as I am still awaiting the arrival of revision suggestions from the nice agent lady.  I'm eager to get started but want to revise what she wants me to revise, not what I think she wants me to revise, ya know?  My last partial submission just got form-dissed.  A few February queries saw their rejections flitter in over the past couple of days.  The deal I have with the nice agent lady is that I won't send out any new queries while we're working together, though I can respond to outstanding queries, sending out partials, fulls, or even accepting offers of representation (I should be so lucky).  Since my big batch of January queries remains mostly unanswered, this doesn't seem likely to happen.

So...  I'm going to try to get back on schedule which means, unfortunately, I now have to close up so I can go down to the basement, get on the stationary bike, and pedal for an hour.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Grab Baggin'

James Scott Bell at The Kill Zone has some advice for grabbin' 'em on page one here.  It's the kind of advice I sure can use.

Been outta the mix the last week doin' taxes (small refund), gettin' the Forester fixed (there goes the refund, plus an additional grand), entertainin' the kids (spring break), tryin' to take care of the spousal unit (flu) and cuttin' off all my g's (ouch, that sounds nasty).

Friday, March 26, 2010

WTF Is 'Whuck'?

If you watched 30 Rock last night, you'll have noticed that Tina Fey exclaimed "Whuck?" on finding out her ex-boyfriend was on the Today Show announcing his engagement to an aerobics instructor.  According to Fey in this month's Esquire (which I continue to receive monthly though I have never once paid for a subscription), she's hoping "whuck" will be adopted into the vernacular as verbal shorthand for "what the fuck."

Spread the word.  Literally.  (I still intend to use the inimitable WTF in writing.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who's My Aussie Reader?

Hey, who are you down (up) in Australia who reads this blog from time to time?  I'm just curious.  I just find it fascinating that someone so far away is reading this drivel compendium of publishing wisdom.  For awhile I had readers in En Zed and Moscow, too, which just floors me.  This Internet thing is unbelievable.  I wonder if there's a way to make money off it...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to Query -- Not

A very funny post by Tahereh on "What Janet Reid really wants" in your query can be found here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's OK to Laugh Now (True Story, Part Deux)

OK, the deal is that a couple of weeks ago the agent who had my full e-mailed me to tell me how much she loved it, though she thought it needed some revising.  Woohoo, I said, and said no problem about revising.  She was then supposed to call me in a few days.  And didn't.  So I freaked out, of course.  Had she changed her mind?  Been hit by a bus?  Been kidnapped by al-Qaeda?  I was loathe to check with her, not wanting her to think I was one of those "whiny writers" that we know all agents dislike.  Thus, the true story I was in the middle of, not knowing whether it would end with me crying at this lost chance or laughing at my freaking out.

So I'm laughing.  (Not really.  But I'm not crying.)  Because she called.  Whew!

Now, I have not got an offer of representation here.  But we had a great chat, and the revisions we talked about don't seem too onerous.  Mostly trimming and shuffling about.  Once that's done -- then she'll make up her mind about representing me.  Hey, I couldn't ask for more.  (Well, I could.  But won't.)

More important, she understands my book, is clearly a great person, works for a real agency that's sold tons of mysteries and thrillers and such.  So.  Good news, for once.  I'd be in hog heaven if I had a signed agreement in hand, but this is pretty good after so much dreary news and I'm taking it and running with it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Seven Months In

So little has been happening that I actually forgot that yesterday was the seven-month anniversary of AgentQuest (TM).  I haven't had a query response in weeks.  That whole boatload of queries I sent the first week of January just seems to have disappeared down a wormhole.  I feel like re-querying the whole bunch of them.  Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

And Blogger seems to have reduced the number of font size choices.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Day in the Life

I can't finish the true story yet because I still don't know how it comes out, so in the meantime, pace my secret lover Sierra, here's a day in the life of Travener:

6:30 a.m. - Get up.
6:31 a.m. - Make coffee. Take HBP meds. Go get newspaper in rain. Get coffee, take newspaper outside, drink coffee, smoke three (3) cigarettes, read newspaper front section.
7:00 a.m. - Call upstairs for son to get up, get dressed for middle school.
7:01 a.m. - Return outside, drink second cup of coffee, smoke two (2) cigarettes, finish newspaper.
7:15 a.m. - Yell upstairs for son to get his ass out of bed, already.
7:20 a.m. - Tell son to change the shirt he's been wearing for three days and remind him he needs to brush his hair.
7:21 a.m. - Log on to computer, check: e-mail, NYT, do NYT sudoku.
7:45 a.m. - Drive son to middle school.
8:00 a.m. - Call upstairs for daughter to get up, get dressed for elementary school.
8:05 a.m. - Take second section of paper and third cup of coffee outside. Smoke two (2) cigarettes. Do NYT crossword puzzle.
8:20 a.m. - Yell upstairs for daughter to get her ass out of bed already.
8:25 a.m. - Remind daughter that it's still winter and she will need to wear socks to school.
8:26 a.m. - Check Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan. Log on to BigL. Check Absolute Write for the hell of it. Check the Daily Beast, Politico.
8:55 a.m. - Drive daughter to elementary school.
9:05 a.m. - Check e-mail. Check Blogger Dashboard. Make snide comments on blogs, as appropriate.
9:50 a.m. - Eat daily complement of Dark Green Vegetable (spinach).
9:55 a.m. - Check e-mail.
10:00 a.m. - Go downstairs and get on exercise cycle while watching whatever DVD's in from Netflix (this week: Ken Burns' The West).
10:45 a.m. - Return upstairs, make green tea. Take vitamins and fish-oil capsules.
11:00 a.m. - Check e-mail.
11:01 a.m. - Go outside, drink green tea, read, smoke one (1) cigarette.
11:15 a.m. - Check e-mail.
11:16 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. - Some combination of read, write, check e-mail, watch CNN, garden, mow lawn, do home maintenance, pay bills, worry about paying bills, talk to spousal unit (if she's up), go to grocery store, clean clothes, clean house, once in a blue moon meet a friend for coffee.
2:00 p.m. - Hardball with Chris Matthews.
2:45 p.m. - Pick up son from middle school.
2:55 p.m. - Check e-mail.
3:00 p.m. - Go outside, read, smoke one (1) cigarette.
3:15 p.m. - Tell son to get ready for tae kwon do.
3:20 p.m. - Remind son to get ready for tae kwon do.
3:30 p.m. - Take son, pick up daughter from elementary school.
3:45 p.m. - Deliver child units to tae kwon do.
3:46 p.m. - Pick up grande decaf Sumatra Clover Brewed coffee at Starbucks.
3:47 - 4:29 p.m. - Read, drink coffee, smoke three (3) cigarettes.
4:30 p.m. - Pick up child units from tae kwon do.
4:45 p.m. - Check e-mail.
4:46 p.m. - Settle argument between child units over who gets to go on the Internet first. Demand proof they have no homework.
4:50 p.m. - Read, smoke one (1) cigarette.
5:00 - 6:00 p.m. - Get and open mail, try to figure what to make child units for dinner, read, smoke one (1) cigarette.
6:00 p.m. - Make dinner for child units. Settle argument over whose turn it is to set table. Wind up setting table myself.
6:20 p.m. - Serve dinner. Respond to son's complaint by reminding him he doesn't have to eat potatoes if he doesn't want to.
7:00 p.m. - Go to Girl Scout meeting with daughter.
8:00 p.m. - Kick son off computer, check e-mail.
8:01 p.m. - American Idol, whether I want it or not.
8:45 p.m. - Smoke one (1) cigarette.
8:46 p.m. - Remind son that tonight for sure he has to shampoo his hair and cut his nails.
9:00 p.m. - Send son to bed, reminding him that tonight for sure he has to shampoo his hair and cut his nails.
9:01 p.m. - Read, smoke two (2) cigarettes.
9:30 p.m. - Check to see if son is out of shower yet.
9:31 p.m. - Tell daughter to log off computer and go to bed.
9:35 p.m. - Remind daughter to log off the computer and go to bed already.
9:38 p.m. - Tell daughter to get off the damn computer now I mean it now.
9:59 p.m. - Check if daughter is out of bath yet.
10:00 p.m. - Seinfeld.
10:10 p.m. - Call upstairs for daughter to get out of shower and into bed.
10:20 p.m. - Greet spousal unit returning from "work."
10:30 p.m. - Call upstairs for everyone to turn their lights off.
10:31 p.m. - Seinfeld.
10:35 p.m. - Call upstairs for everyone to turn their lights off now I mean it now.
11:00 p.m. - Check e-mail.
11:01 p.m. - Sleep.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Story in the Making

I have a true story to tell that will either make you laugh or make you cry.

Trouble is, I don't know how it ends yet.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Trail of Tears

A reader calls his journey toward publishing "The Query Trail of Tears." Man, if there's a better description I haven't heard it.

What do you call your version of AgentQuest (TM)?

Monday, March 8, 2010

No-Post Monday

Actually, that's really only no-post Monday evening. Cuz you know it's Big Bang Theory night.

Actually, that's not the reason. I just got nothing to say. Nothing worthwhile, that is. I don't plan ahead. You know me, Mr. Spontaneity. Ha ha. That's what they called me in college.

No, that's not true. I made that up. That's redundant. From the Department of Redundancy Department. That I stole from the Firesign Theatre. Who probably stole it from somebody else.

Really, the deal is, I'm just trying to get someone to comment and want to see if anyone will bother to read this drivel this far down.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Misery Loves Company

First Matt over at Pensive Sarcarm said "sharing Travener's misery" makes him happy, then Kara over at Moomurs said "Travener is hilarious, even if he's not happy."

So this got me to thinking: Am I unhappy? Am I miserable?

Well, yes and no. I am unhappy and depressed about some things, not all of them having to do with my well-documented, frustrating AgentQuest (TM): money, sex, optimism (too little, rare as steak tartare, elusive) and weight, blood pressure, stress (too much, too high, way too fucking much).

But my discontents do not rise to the level of misery, which I hereby nominate as the subject for one of Sierra's Word Up Wednesday webinars. I am not even clinically depressed (been there, done that) -- just garden-variety bummed out.

To prove it, I'm going to list ten things that make me happy even now.

1. My kids. Most of the time.

2. The Big Bang Theory. Penny! Penny! Penny!

3. That I still have my father, aged 88, around. My brother is another story.

4. My friend Roland. I've known the guy forever and he still makes me laugh every time we talk.

5. My blogger buddies and Followers. It's nice to be able to vent to people who get it.

6. Clear, sunny days. Ain't nothing prettier than snow-draped Mt. Rainier on a day like today.

7. The smell of freshly baked bread. It's hard to beat a French patisserie.

8. Hummingbirds. They're the dangedest things.

9. Did I mention my kids? They crack me up.

And, of course,

10. Boobies. As I recall.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

No News Is Not Good News

It occurs to me that when it comes to querying, the old adage "No news is good news" does not apply. I got nothing but no news lately. Bleh.

I've got nothing else to talk about, really. Isn't that sad? Even our father-and-daughter Girl Scout cookie site sale the other night was awful -- two hours in the rainy cold, sold maybe ten boxes. Still waiting for 2010 to turn it all around.

Good thing Amber is celebrating her birthday. She looks so young and pretty.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Yoohoo for Jennifer!

A bazillion congratulations to Jennifer for snaring an agent and giving hope to us all. Best luck on your road to publication! Please remember the little people when we come to your Barnes & Noble book signing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Merci pour l'amour

Thanks to everyone who commented on my funk over the past couple of days, whether with heartfelt sympathy or imperious demands that I stop feeling sorry for myself, get up off my ass, and start writing again.

I'm by no means cured of my melancholia but am feeling somewhat better. For one thing, I sat down yesterday and read my book. And I still believe it's rock-solid good, strongly written with an inventive plot that builds suspense and a killer ending. Maybe not Pulizter Prize-good or Edgar-winner good, but, honestly, as good as a lot of mystery/thrillers out there and a damn sight better than many. (I know, every author thinks the same.) Certainly better than the Sue Grafton mystery I'm reading now, which takes forever to get going, and in which she wastes two pages describing the inside of a motel room, a couple pages ruminating on a Burma Shave sign in an antique shop, along with other decidedly dull diversions. Of course, she's a fucking bazillionaire with a boatload of published books and I'm just a guy who can't convince an agent to take me on, so WTF do I know?


Whatever ever the reality, I felt confident enough to send out another five queries. I'm still bummed that so many of my January queries have gone unanswered and fear they were just deleted...though among them are some snail-mail queries with SASEs, I don't know. As usual, waiting is tough.

I still feel like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman some of the time, carpet-bombed by discontents and regrets. Hopefully the arrival of spring will help. It does get gloomy up in this neck of the woods at this time of the year.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm Not in the Mood...

Warning. This whole post is a fucking downer.

Matt and Tina gave me awards in which I was supposed to reveal ten things about myself and ten things that make me happy, respectively.

To be honest, I'm not in the mood. As I put it to Sierra, I'm currently engaged in a lacrimose, self-referential pity party. I'm down, I'm blue, I feel like I'm living that old Cream lyric, if it wasn't for bad luck, you know I wouldn't have no luck at all.

Today's the six-month anniversary of the start of AgentQuest (TM) and more and more it feels like WriterFail (TM). Last week I nudged on my last remaining partial (it'd been well over three months) and two days later got a form rejection in reply. (This, by the way, seems to be a common experience: if you need to nudge, the answer's a foreordained no.) Leaves me one full out there in Agentland (TM) and I know the answer, if it deigns to be more than a form one, will be something along the lines of Sorry, but your book's just not unique, the market sucks, I'm not in love with it, yadda yadda. When that rejection comes in I'll be back at square one with nothing to show for the last six months except a heap of disappointment and a seriously shrunken list of potential agents to query.

Mirthful, hopeful idealism crashes up against the jagged-rock seawall of realism. Story of my life.

In addition, there's just been a train wreck of other crap going on which I can't begin to discuss without first downing a couple of glasses of scotch and boring the bejeesus out of you.

Usually when I get down I fall back on my children, reminding myself how much I love them, how special they are. After one woman I loved was killed by a drunk driver when I was 28, and the one who came a couple years later broke my heart over and over and over, I spent my thirties in a wasteland of loneliness and despair. The one thing in life I knew I wanted for sure was to be a father and it looked like it would never happen. Finally, finally, it did and I have loved it all even though my failings as a parent have been legion.

Now, my wife and daughter confuse my son's voice on the phone with mine, a reminder that all too soon he will be an adult and go off to college. My ten-year-old daughter's blossoming Dolly Partons are the subject of my hatred because they, too, are constant reminders that my little girl will soon be nothing but a memory, replaced by a young woman. Can I be happy for her and hate her metamorphosis at the same time?

Then what, what's to fall back on when the kids are gone? A loving, fulfilling marriage? See "jagged-rock seawall of realism" above.

And writing? Why am I not writing? Don't I have ideas? Oh, I have ideas. But are they unique? Are they special? Are they inspiring? Are they evocative, true, fantastical, moving, interesting, [insert adjective here]...? If I spend another year or two or more writing another book only to face the same WriterFail... What the fuck is the point?

I need a vacation. Bad. I just can't afford one.

To steal from Amber, fuckitspice, I'm going to go weed the fucking garden.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Damn Dreary and Dreadful

These are the dog days of winter here in the Great Pacific Northwest. The weather gods pulled their usual February tease -- clear skies and 60-degree temps -- to lull us into thinking spring was just around the corner, but a cold, unending rain has followed. It matches my mood exactly. Why TF have so few answered my January queries? WTF is the status of my submissions? WTF's the point of all this, anyway? The book market sucks. Nothing but gloom ahead. Aarrghh. Frak it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Things That Drive Me Nuts

So I'm reading Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and it's quite good and all, but every so often she'll employ an Anglo-Canadian expression or word, even though the novel is set in the U.S. Now, Atwood is Canadian, but she knows that Americans don't say "rubbish" when they mean "garbage" and that no one down here says "bugger off" when they mean "fuck off." This kind of anomalous stuff makes me crazy.

Also driving me crazy is that fact that 30-some agents haven't responded to my January queries, making me fear they got back to their desks after the holidays, saw a thousand queries in their queue, said, "Oh, fuck" (or possibly "bugger," if they were born up there) and deleted all of them without a look. Not that there's any way of knowing that.

What's driving you nuts these days?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

More Queries!

Fired off a bunch of queries today -- well, five or six. Don't know why. Maybe since I hadn't sent any in a month. Oh, well, WTF, can't hurt, right?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't Infer That I'm Implying Anything

OK, I usually don't write about stuff other than the AgentQuest (TM), but I'm reading an otherwise well-written book whose author confuses "infer," which means to gather an idea of from facts or statements, with "imply," which means to suggest indirectly. So, damn it, (1) don't any of you do that and, (2) WTF is up with copy editing these days?

Also, if you've been watching Caprica on the Scify channel -- and by the way, why is that "Scify" and not "SciFi"? -- you'll have noticed that young William Adama's eyes are brown even though old William Adama's eyes were blue. If they made Edward James Olmos wear blue contacts for four years the least they can do is make the kid who's playing the admiral as a youngster do the same.

Done ranting for today. So far.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Got Nuthin'

By which I mean of the 30-some queries I sent out the first week of January, I have yet to garner a response on 20. That's a lot, even for the notoriously slow and non-responsive community that is literaryagentville. Anyone else finding this to be the case?

I also have an unresponded-to snail-mail query dating back to 10/29, and one to 11/30. You'd think the least they could do is scrawl "no" on my query letter and stick it in the SASE I sent along with it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How Fucked Up Is the Publishing Biz?

Pretty fucked up, it seems. First, this Wall Street Journal article on the death of the slush pile. Literary Rejections on Display has this post on a query rejection emphasizing the doomsday state of publishing. Both non-form rejections I've received cited the fiercely competitive fiction market, and there's been plenty of buzz about timid editors looking only for grand-slams and blockbusters, the mid-list be damned.

Even when they get things right, publishers still get it wrong. For almost two weeks now, I've tried to find a copy of Game Change, the Heilemann-Halperin book on the 2008 campaign. HarperCollins got a boatload of free publicity and spun up plenty of demand for the opus. The only thing they seem to have forgotten to do is print some actual books.

Where does all this leave us, dear writers? Should we shelve our completed novels and wait for better times? Or will there never be better times? Has consolidation of the book industry, publishing and retail, made the climb up the publishing ladder a Herculean effort, the equivalent of scaling Everest, that only the few and the lucky will survive?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kill Me Now

There's much to admire about the "strong writing voice and thoughtful plotting" that made my novel "an enjoyable and engaging read," the agent said, but "in light of today's extraordinarily competitive fiction market..."

You know the rest.

Somebody, put me out of my misery. Please.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

After Five Long Months...

I began this blog and my Quest For a Literary Agent (QFLATM) back on August 21, 2009 -- five months ago. It was warm and summery then, cold and wintry now. Venting frustration at this lengthy process back in September, I think it was, I asked plaintively whether I'd have any idea if I had a future as a writer by Christmas.

Ha. That was a good one.

More has changed in that time since the weather, certainly. The naive enthusiasm with which I began -- My book's different. It's not going to take endless months to find a home. -- has been replaced by a cold, forbidding realization that, yes, it's going to take a lot of time to find a home for my little novel -- and it may very well never find one. It may well just wander for years, Hansel- and Gretel-like, in the spooky forest that is the Land of Publishing.

I've taken to telling my friends that I'm more convinced than ever that my book will never be published. It's neither fish nor fowl; not a straightforward mystery nor brilliant enough in a literary way to break through preconceived notions of genre. The publishing industry is recession-wracked and scared witless and editors are interested only in blockbusters and celebrity tell-alls.

I don't know who I'm trying to convince -- them or myself.

Now, some things have gone OK, though not without passages here and there through rocky terrain. The success rate of my query is around 10 percent, somewhat higher if you don't count the agents I've queried but have not heard from. I understand that to be a decent percentage. (Though who knows, really? I mean, has someone done a study of this?) The four submissions I still have out there -- two partials, two fulls -- represent 40 percent of all the submissions I've made. Still, that seems a lot of querying just to get ten people to take a gander at the manuscript.

I started off being frustrated by the slow-pokey attitudes of the publishing industry, moved on to frustration over those agents who don't bother to respond, and am now frustrated by form rejections of partials and fulls.

What will come next, I wonder?

Well, I'm gonna sit down now with a notebook and try to flesh out the exceedingly vague idea -- notion, really -- I have for a follow-on soon as I check to see whether I won the lottery.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Real Woohoo!

Finally, an agent who said she liked the first chapter and has requested the full manuscript! (Actually, she said she "really enjoyed" the first chapter and "would love" to see the full manuscript, but I am trying not to read too much into that.)


Monday, January 11, 2010

...And an Itty-Bitty Partial Too

OK, I am on a little bit of a roll here, with a request for a couple of chapters coming in this evening. But I'm too mindful of the past history of these things to get too excited.

One thing I can tell you: if all my partials and fulls out there now (zounds! four of 'em!) come in with nothing more than the usual form rejections -- no commentary at all, no runes to try to decipher, no clues to these agents' thinking -- then I will seriously be in need of an intravenous infusion of Laphroaig. (Talisker on the rocks will do in a pinch.)

UPDATE: And a request this Tuesday a.m. for 100 pages. Well, I may still not know how to write a novel, but it appears I may have finally figured out how to write a decent query. This is going to be hard to write about when all those rejections roll in. (I know -- crappy attitude. OK, I'll think positive(ly)!)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Another Little Woo, Another Little Hoo

'Nother full request today. Again, keepin' calm and skeptical. But still, nice.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Woo. A Hoo.

That's a deliberately subdued woohoo! up there for the full request I got this morning. One thing I've learned, if nothing else, is to assume it's gonna be followed by a form rejection. That's a crappy attitude, I know, especially as I've started 2010 afresh. But I think it's better to assume the worst. That's what I assumed when I saw the e-mail answering my query, so the positive response it actually contained was a pleasant surprise.

QUICK UPDATE: I got an acknowledgment from her that she had received the ms. not 20 minutes after sending it. So far, this woman's been a pleasure to deal with.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Envious of Other Writers? Jealous?

I am not generally envious of the success of other writers, though there are a few -- James Patterson, Tom Clancy -- whom I dislike for essentially turning themselves into corporations and churning out titles under their name, and a few -- Stephen King, John Grisham, Dan Brown -- of whom I think, "Why not take a breather for awhile and leave some space for the rest of us, you frakking billionaires?"

And though I long ago decided that I would never be a literary star, I once in awhile find myself envious of the deftness and beauty of the craft of other writers. For example, Michael Chabon, whose The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay I finished yesterday. Even though I find him a bit ponderous at times, he's an authentic genius and a great storyteller. But it's his way with words that makes me green-eyed with envy (or is it jealousy?). I could cite numerous examples, but one that struck me was his description of something giving off an "anenome flutter." Think of that image: the languid, delicate, subtle motion of an anenome fluttering in the currents of a lagoon.

I don't think I would ever, in my best writing, be able to create such an evocative wordplay as Chabon did simply by attaching "anenome" as an adjective to "flutter."

Sure wish I could.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First Rejection of 2010!

Well, The Plan (see post below) is off to a rollicking good start. I noticed one agent who'd been on query hiatus for some time had opened up to queries whipped one out to her yesterday. Roughly 18 hours later, her nyet was in. I'll probably start the query blitz today -- I settled on 32 agents -- though I had been planning to wait a week, figuring there'd be a deluge of queries piling up in agents' in-boxes and pissing them off...but Janet Reid said now's the "perfect time" to query, her theory being you'll get in before everyone else who's waiting till next week. So, per my usual approach to these things, WTF.

Speaking of agents, Jennifer Jackson has her 2009 statistics up, and they aren't pretty: 8,004 queries received (!), 47 proposals or manuscripts requested, 5 new clients signed. If you do the math, that's a survival rate of 0.062 percent. Ouch.

And an update: The agent that some of you -- you know who you are! you're on my list now! -- convinced me to re-query says she's still not moved.... Actually, I took it pretty well. BFD. I think this attitude arises from the fresh start I've given myself for the new year. We'll see how long it lasts.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Plan! Oh, Man!

Well, I've teased a bit about 'The Plan,' my strategy to hog-tie an agent, so here's The Big Reveal.

Actually, it doesn't amount to much more than starting afresh, as if I'd never sent a query. That's why I got rid of the stats on the queries I've sent, rejections I've received, etc. I'm starting over, as with a blank slate, tabula rasa.

Basically, I'm going to send out a blitz of queries next week -- thirty, forty, who knows, fifty! -- with the only wrinkle being that I'm going to split them between two variations of the query letter. I'll hit up some different agents at some of the agencies I targeted before and spread my querying around more geographically (up to now I've been more or less exclusive to NYC).

The one question I have is whether to re-query the agent who way back in late August gave me some feedback on my first chapter (feedback!), finding it not unique enough, but who expressed a willingness to see a revision. On the one hand, who better to send the revised first chapter to than someone who said she'd take another look? But what if I send it to her and she still doesn't take to it? Having my new, First Five Pages-friendly chapter one bounced a second time by the same agent would really be a bummer. I don't know how well I'd handle that.

I may just have to flip a coin.

Or let you guys vote on it.