An Excess of Riches

I'm learning something new about myself. When I have a full requested by an agent I like, I stop querying. It's not an intentional, "This is it. No need to send these things out any more!" It's more of a, "Damn, that's hard work. I'll get to it later." Later just happens to come after I hear back on my full request.

That's not entirely true. Later will come after a month or two before my common sense kicks me in the back of the head and says, "What are you waiting for? That's two months another agent might have been interested in your work!" My common sense wears cleats, so I don't like it when it kicks me in the back of the head.

But, here I've received a full request and here I'm not sending out queries even though I should be. Really, I should have been sending out queries for the past two months. I even had multiple rounds of feedback from Jennifer S. Wolf. So you'd think I'd be all over that.

Well, then I had a new idea for a novel, and I wrote that instead. Then I revised that novel. And the day before I finished revising that novel to send to beta readers, an agent asked me for a full of a third manuscript. So querying seems so out of place.

Oh woe is me! I sent a new novel to beta readers and received a full request for a separate novel so I don't feel up to querying a third novel. Gee, Joe, that must be a rough life you're leading there.

It's actually kind of awesome. It's also kind of confusing. My process has been: write a book, query a book, write a new book, get rejected, query new book, write a third book, get rejected, and so on. This whole revise a book, write a book, send off a full, query a book makes me all dizzy!

So all that self-aggrandizement is really meant to say, query. Don't sit back and wait. It is not in your best interest. At worse you garner multiple rejections (okay, at worse you garner someone telling you you have no talent and should stop breathing) and at best you garner multiple offers of representation and can declare a Thunderdome among agents to see who you will pick.

Either way, there isn't much reason for you to rest on your Laurels. Your Laurels are tired of you resting on them. They told me so. Get to work and give your Laurels a break. They work hard enough as it is without having to put up with your ass in their faces.

The Good, the Bad, and the Stuffing

So I have decided that rejections that offer praise first actually sting more than just flat rejection. "This is a great story with strong writing, but I didn't fall in love with it" says to me "Damn you were close, but it just didn't click with me" which stings SO MUCH MORE than just a straight "This isn't for me." (Granted, by the time an agent has requested pages, a "this isn't for me" response doesn't work because you'd have to wonder how they couldn't figure that out by the query.)

I am not one of those people that take solace in coming in second. That just means you won at losing. (Extreme, and probably hyperbolic, but you get my point, yeah? I want to win.) Knowing I was SO CLOSE bums me out more than if I hadn't come close at all. I think this may come from a childhood of choking at sports when it really mattered. Or not. I don't know.

But this is not all self-created doom and gloom. Two agents I greatly respect have used pretty much those exact words. Strong writing. Great story. One loved the world building more than the other, but they also read different stories so I'm not sweating that. This is wicked awesome confidence inspiring bolstering supder-dupertude. I've got the tools. I've got the talent. I just need some ghosts to, an agent that clicks with the stories I tell.

SO CLOSE! It's time to finish in first place. Let's get on that.

...after lunch. Chicken and stuffing. Nom nom nom nom!!!

A Disturbing Thought

So if you don't make it out of the slush pile, you're most likely getting the ax by the assistant tasked with grinding the slush. Assuming the assistant wants to be an agent someday down the road, not only are you getting rejected by the agent you queried, you're getting rejected by an agent from the future! Double the rejection, double the fun1?

It's like Jet Li's "One"2 but for querying.

1 Rejection from the Spearmint twins would be easier as it would be wholly expected.

2 Which is a lame sci-fi reinterpretation of Highlander. I prefer Li in his kung fu roles like Hero, Fearless, and Forbidden Kingdom.

Sonny Liston

If you know the name Sonny Liston at all, you know it's the guy on the mat in the famous Mohammed Ali photo. It's one of the most highly recognizable/promoted sports pictures in American sports history. There's Ali talking smack and some boxer on the mat he's just knocked down in the first round. That's Sonny Liston1.

In the world of publishing, you are not Mohammed Ali. You are Sonny Liston. You need to focus on the fight you're in and not think of the fight that comes next. If you're not focused, you'll get an Ali jab to the face that will drop you to the canvas and then they'll publish your humiliation for decades to come.

I submitted a query on Monday. It was a damn fine query. One of the best I've ever written (and while I only have four completed novels, I wrote eight different queries for WANTED alone, so plenty of queries for comparison's sake). I submitted it to an agent that had previously requested a full manuscript. I then started doing wat I always do. I started a new project to take my mind off the wait. But, I skipped back to the completed manuscript. I had rewritten the beginning and wanted to make sure that this new content was as good as it could be. I wanted to make sure they requested a full again and not just sample pages.

Do you see what I did just there? I'm working to make sure they request a full when they haven't even requested sample pages yet. A solid query + a desired genre + previous positive history with the agent summed a presumption that they would want to see more. So thirty hours later when I got a rejection, Ali got me right in the face. I have never had such a strong reaction to rejection as I did yesterday. Why? Because I wasn't focused on the fight I was fighting. I had moved on.

Don't do that. Publishing is hard enough. There are so many steps along the way where someone can tell you that your awesomeness isn't good enough. Put your effort into staying emotionally strong. Learn from their criticism, improve, continue. You need to put the next foot forward and you can't do that if you're lying on the mat getting your picture taken.

This is only one rejection. I still have plenty of other agents who--if they have any sense at all--will want to see my manuscript. ;) There's another fight after this one, and it's time to prepare for that one2.

1 Sonny Liston had a record of 50-4-0 and was world heavyweight champion when he faced Cassius Clay for the first time. The famous photo is from the rematch. Clay had changed his name to Ali, the Nation of Islam was at the height of its national power, and Liston took a considerably light jab in the first round and dropped. The ring ref was so occupied with getting Ali to a neutral corner that he never started the ten-count. It was a sports reporter who informed the ref that Liston had been down for longer than ten seconds that prompted the ref to call the match (even though the rules of boxing require the opponent to be in a neutral corner before the count can begin). Years later, according to Wikipedia, Liston admitted to taking a dive because he was scared of retaliation from the Nation of Islam if he should win.

2 The next fight involves a synopsis. I hate synopses. They just suck the life out of a story.


We only went into a day of injury time before the game came to an end. Our beloved hometown heroes have lost this one in a buzzer beater. While it's easy to feel torn up and brought down by rejection, you do that shit in the privacy of your own home, not on the internet. On the internet you tell everyone else the same thing you will eventually tell yourself. It's just one more step in the process. You have another story to tell and another opportunity to tell it. Stop whining and get to work.

So with that, I'm going to go work on THE 7TH SACRIFICE.

Enjoy your Sunday. (Go Patriots, beat the Jets.)

The Waiting Game

So you've written your novel, you've revised it, you've received feedback, you've revised it again, you've written a query, you've revised it, you've received feedback, you've revised it again, you've queried, you've paced madly worrying about rejection, you've been asked for a partial manuscript, you've revised the partial in fear of it not being good enough, you've submitted it, you've paced madly worrying about rejection, you've checked your email obsessively, you've paced madly worrying about rejection, you've been asked for a full manuscript, you've revised the full in fear of it not being good enough, and you've submitted it.

What happens now?

You wait. And wait. And wait and wait and wait and wait.

It's a common enough topic among writing blogs. Don't wait for a response on your current work. Move on to the next one. Publishing is a lot of hurry up and wait. You'll revise your entire book over the course of a weekend to make it as perfect as you can and then nothing.

It can be hard to deal with. The closer you get, the harder the rejection is, and the harder it is not to make it back to that level again. If you come close to touching the sky, nothing short of reaching your hand up into heaven will do. It's maddening to not achieve your goal no matter how hard you try.

But wait you must. Good things come to those that wait. ...crappy things too, I can attest, but nothing good comes from something rushed (just ask my previous girlfriends).

The first time I had a full manuscript (BLACK MAGIC AND BARBECUE SAUCE), I was told to expect a twelve-week response time. I was mortified when twelve weeks passed, thirteen, fourteen. Were they JUST about to get to my manuscript? If I asked for an update when they hit delete and tell me to sod off? Was it all a test to see if I would be a low-maintenance client and not pester them a thousand times a day with inane questions?

Finally at fifteen weeks, I emailed to confirm the file had been received and asked if they needed any additional material. That's the polite way of asking, "Hey what the fuck?" They confirmed that they had received the manuscript and apologized for the delay. The assistant was super awesome and I like her a whole lot. She was never anything but professional with me.

In total I received an eventual pass 7 months after I sent the materials off. They offered feedback which was awesome. I never expect feedback on a query. I don't expect it on a partial (though it would be nice). While I don't expect it on a full, after waiting so long and having invested so much, it certainly would be nice for even a paragraph of feedback. But hey, we're not entitled and that's not a statement of how things should be. I got it on my first two manuscripts, though, and it was incredibly helpful.

I thanked the assistant and the agent for the pleasure of working with them and the feedback. I then said I had finished another novel while I was waiting and asked would they like to see it? Sure it was a dig, but only a little one. I really had finished a second novel (and not first draft, the thing was done and in the can). I queried the second one (HELP WANTED: CHOSEN ONE, NOW HIRING) and we went round and round again.

They passed and I think it was for the best. This agent wants a manuscript ready to shop as soon as it's submitted. While I hope to be able to produce such a manuscript eventually, it doesn't seem like I'm producing them yet. I'd like an agent who not only points out what (s)he thought was weak but how that could be improved.

Which brings me to the current manuscript (THE TRIAD SOCIETY). This is with a different agent, one that I think is exactly the person I would want to work with. When they asked for my full, they said to expect a turn around time of two months. This is a third less than the previous agent but nothing says it won't be another seven months. Except for my experience with this agency. I queried (twice) my first two manuscripts (for a total of four queries) and they were prompt and always beat deadline. Two months is up Saturday. Of course, that two months covered Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and the general winter holiday.

This brings us to what I'm calling Injury Time (watch soccer to get that joke). Given the number of holidays that occurred during that stretch of time, I really don't think the two-month mark hits until February 5th, three weeks later. If they replied to me within that time, I would still consider it at or less than two months.

Now like I said, that's just an estimate. Things come up, emergencies with existing clients, illness, family emergencies and the like. If it takes seven months it takes seven months. I have finished the second draft of JEHOVAH'S HITLIST and sent it to beta readers for feedback (could use a few more if you're in the mood for adult, dystopian, alternate-history science fiction). I'm also working on the first draft of THE 7TH SACRIFICE. I've got plenty to do. No resting on my laurels here.

BUT, like I said earlier, this folks have always come in before their deadline. The arrival of injury time means that it's likely I'll hear back from them soon.


You can tell yourself not to obsess, not to worry, but really, I consider all this anxiety part and parcel to my ambition. I want this and have wanted it for decades. This is my life's goal and I've taken as many steps as I can take without an agent. That's the next step. That's the next step in my publishing plan. I could query publishers directly or self-publish, but there are other blogs for that kind of thing. Here in the Inkwell, we follow the traditional mode of publishing and we plan on ruling that bitch with an iron fist!

I won't even begin to tell you how many times I've checked my email just writing this post. Granted I have a smart phone so all I have to do is glance at it and see if it's blinking at me. That only enables the obsession.

I started actively tweeting and blogging about my writing before I was published not only to build platform but to document how hard it is to try and achieve your dreams when you can send off a completed manuscript and not hear anything for months and months and months. When I'm the flipping Clint Eastwood of fantasy, aspiring writers will read these early posts and see all this desire and anxiety and worry and think to themselves, Clint Eastwood? Really? I would have gone with John C. Reilly.


Living the Dark Crystal

First, yesterday was awesome. My niece began her freshman year at Boston University, and the person with whom she was going to have Thanksgiving dinner bailed. Which meant she ended up at my place. I've never had the opportunity to hang with her without one of her parents around and this is the first time she met her Aunt Jen. It's amazing how squared away this young woman is. If she's the future, things are going to be awesome.

A post I wanted to make the other day, but I wanted to make it with a video example that I cannot locate. You've seen the Dark Crystal. (This is not a question. You have seen it. If you have not seen it, stop reading right now and go watch it. Don't come back until you're finished.) The skeksi that is banished, Chamberlain (the one who has the always-identifiable whine), is trying to lure Jen into his clutches one last time. He starts begging:

Please? Please come down. Please? Please?! PLEASE?!

Knowing an agent I would love (LOVE) to work with is currently reading my full manuscript and may (or may not) offer representation? Yeah, I have those moments. I just want to shout in as shrill a Chamberlain voice as I can manage PLEASE?!?!?!

Then I get a grip and go back to my writing, but for those few seconds, ugh. I hope for the best which makes me fear the worst.

It's good for a laugh, at least.

This is a query I submitted1 to one (and only one) agency for my first novel, BLACK MAGIC AND BARBECUE SAUCE. I repost it here as a lesson for you all. How not to get an agent:

Attention humans

I am Cyrus the Conqueror. I am not Mr. Whiskers. I am not Kitty the Conqueror. And I am most asuredly not Wittle Whiskers the Wonkerer. If you must speak, address me as your majesty, as you should every cat whose presence you are fortunate enough to be in. It has come to my attention that one of your ilk had the good sense to include me in his manuscript. I will overlook the fact that he did not ask my permission. The quality is such that to execute him would be a waste of human talent, what little your species possesses.

The story does not focus on me, and I am thankful for it. It is unlikely a book could adequately capture the wondrous life a cat leads. No, this monkey scrawl focuses on one of your own, Cy Lekkas. He is extraordinary in comparison to the rest of you and not just because he buys me gormet cat food. He can speak to me in the majestic language of cats, not that gutter language you use. He can speak to other things as well, doors, stoves, ceilings, anything really. He is called a Speaker. His kind has been known to my people for millennia. They live forever, speak in tongues, and eat strange foods that fuel their powers.

They are still humans despite themselves, and monkeys will be monkeys. They play games, steal from one another, beat their chests, and fight. Really, if you hadn't shed so much of your fur, I don't know if I could tell you apart. It seems that Cy stole a pearl from another Speaker, Christian, who then sold the pearl to antoher Speaker, Seth, who discovered it a fraud. Seth demanded that Christian find Cy and retrieve the pearl, hence the fall of dominos that lead to action-packed fights, daring rescues, and an epic faceoff of immortals. I watched the whole thing from the top of my couch and was quite impressed.

The whole thing is 110,000 words. How a human assembled 110,000 coherent words, I do not know. But there it is. He calls it contemporary fantasy and titled it BLACK MAGIC AND BARBECUE SAUCE. His name is Joe Selby, and he has written coherent words before. Perhaps he is a genetic anomoly. His ten-minute play was produced in Sioux Falls, SD, as a finalist in the Kennedy Center ACTF. He wrote the role-playing rule book, Dangerous Denizens for Kenzer & Co. in 2003. And he wrote 33 role-playing adventuures for Kenzer & Co. and Wizards of the Coast. This will be his first commercial novel. I am told he also follows your blog. I do not see the appeal. Your inclusion of a dog marks it as an inferior endeavor. Perhaps if you were to feature a cat, you might garner some success. I may be willing to make an appearance if your tribute is worthy.

That is all.

Your benevolent feline overlord

Cyrus the Conqueror

on behalf of
Joseph L. Selby

1 In case you were wondering, yes, this is the query with which I set my rejection speed personal record.

Redux: What Rejection Means to My Work Week

It's a Friday, I have a full manuscript with an agent, and I'm querying others. This reminds me of a meme the Rejectionist had on her blog. It feels poignant today:

The Rejectionist asked another question, one I felt worhty of a response. The question returns us to a topic I have written on frequently here in the Brick City (a name I have not used in a long time but fits the tone of this post, so here it is again.) It is, in fact, a topic that comes up frequently, often in an attempt at humor, often resulting in a typical Joe Selby tirade. Regardless, I will endeavor to answer said question anew with both humor and derision, as is befitting.

What does rejection mean to me?

What a simple question. What an unsimple answer. Rejection, to steal a phrase, is like an onion. It has many layers. Specifically, in this case, rejection refers to query rejections in the pursuit of publication, so we can cast aside any blunders I had in my youth attempting to touch my girlfriend's breasts. We will keep this in the now, as I continue writing and continue querying and continue getting rejected.

Writing is one of the most important things in my life (truly, second only to my wife), and rejection is the largest hurdle I currently face to taking my writing to a national (international?) market. As I approach my writing as the second job it is, I will now address rejection as it impacts said job during a standard work week.

I received a rejection letter today. This makes me proud. Many of my friends who do not write or who write as a hobby do not understand this. They assume rejection means failure. This is because they do not attempt professional publication (or, at least, not in anything larger than self-publication, which I discount). They do not truly understand the challenges of finishing a novel-length manuscript. How could one understand without having accomplished the same. So often a manuscript is abandoned after the first surge of creativity is expired. One cannot compare the challenges of writing a 20,000-word manuscript to finishing a 100,000-word+ manuscript. And then to revise that manuscript multiple times and then to query an agent. It is a daunting task. And while true, many queriers do not go through all those steps, I did. I wrote professionally. I submitted professionally. I was rejected professionally. I am a professional. This makes me proud. Thank you, Rejection.

I received a rejection letter today. I appreciate this. It's a form rejection, as they almost alrways are. I recieved a semi-personalized rejection once, or the most politely written form rejection ever known. I hope it was semi-personalized because if she says how close she was to asking for it, that seems horribly unfair to the author. Today's wasn't one of those. It was just a form rejection. It was polite and professional. It went through all the standard statements of how this isn't a reflection of my work and that writing is subjective. I understand that and after having read it so many times, I wonder if it's necessary, but then I remember that it's a kind word and kind words are never unnecessary, so I say thank you. I do not write back thank you, because that would clutter a busy agent's inbox, but I say thank you in my brain, because she deserves thanks for taking the time to read my query and respond.

I dislike agent policy of not responding. I've seen the argument that it's a waste of an agent's time. The math and the totals of how much time out of the year would be spent replying to queries and I do not care. Agenting is not just about writing, it's about relationships, and taking the time to acknowledge you received, reviewed, and passed on my work established a good relationship. Not to mention it spares you from receiving follow-up emails and requries that I think in the end would take up more of your time than creating a form rejection. Email clients and super-copy/paste applications make form rejection absurdly easy. I have posted before what I think when an says she is too busy to do something. We're all busy. A rejection letter is not too much to ask for. So thank you, for sending me one today.

I received a rejection today. Dammit. I'm running out of agents I queried. It's not right for you or for her or for him. This has to be right for someone. Come on. This isn't hackneyed stuff. This isn't my first time at the rodeo. I've written. I've revised. I've avoided cliches and found an interesting hook. I wrote with character and with adventure and threw in some fun twists. This will appeal to the market. I've seen books with this tone before so how can you tell me it's not right for you? It has to be right for someone. How did those books get published if they weren't right for anyone either? There aren't THAT many fantasy agents in the world, and I've done a LOT of research. One of you has published this stuff before. Why won't you even ask to read mine? It's good! Yes the page count is high of your perfect margin, but it's not a 250k+ epic. I'm sure that number will fall during editing. I already brought it down once with my own edits. I edited. I've edited professionally before. I had beta readers and took into account their feedback. Come on. This has to be right for SOMEONE. Someone? Anyone? Listen, I'm productive. I write a minimum of one novel a year. I wrote two last year. I have over a dozen books percolating in my brain, so this isn't going to be a one-shot and we're out kind of thing. Professionally, I'm an investment. I'll produce regularly for you and of a quality that won't suck up all your time from your other clients. Come on, just give me a shot! I'm a steady paycheck! Read the damn manuscript. You'll like it. It's good.

I received a rejection today. One of my self-published friends tried to have a conversation with me today about the challenges of publishing in the industry. He talked down to me like he was some seasoned professional. Dude. Dood. You are self-published. I admit, the changing marketplace makes self-publishing more feasible, but you relied on your friends to edit, design your cover, and set the pages. Sure some of them have some experience, but this is small scale. Your friends were in the creative writing class in high school. They're not professional fiction editors. They do not make their living doing this. They do not win awards for doing this. The authors they edit do not win awards for doing this because you're the only person they edit. Please do not think because you are self-published, and I received another rejection letter, that this somehow puts me into a subordinate position. I am a better writer than you. I am a significantly better writer than you. It is because I am a better writer than you that I am attempting to break into professional writing. I am not cowering in self-publication, "setting my terms for success." My "terms of success" are succeeding. My sales will go well beyond the three-digit cusp. I will make advances. I will earn them out. I will earn royalties. I will be published in multiple languages. I will be asked to submit more manuscripts and even to possibly participate in an anthology.

So, dear agent, while I appreciate that you took the time to send me a rejection, I would ask you to reconsider if for no other reason than to save me from my friends who think I'm a failure. I am not a failure, but it is unlikely they will accept that until I can beat them over the head with an ARC.

I received a rejection today. What. The. Fuck. You posted on your blog that you wanted to expand your list. You said you were looking for fantasy. Hey, that's me! You said you didn't have enough male clients. I have a penis! I know. I touched it this morning! You said if the writing was good you'd ask for more pages. You didn't ask for more pages. You rejected me. What the crap is that? I've been putting up with this all week. You were the last one. My entire query list has rejected me. You see this book I'm reading? It's average. It's not crap. It's not testament to the poor standards of the industry. It's average. The author repeats himself too much and has this unnatural aversion to pronouns. I am better than this. He is a best selling author. This novel is a best selling novel. I am better than this. Why won't you even give me a chance? You know how many times I've revised that goddamn query? Just give me a chance.


I did not receive a rejection today. That's a Monday through Friday thing. I still write on the weekends, though. I write all the time. It's what I do. It's what I've always done. Some days, it's hard. I wake up on Saturday and wonder why I'm not playing frisbee golf or Xbox with friends. Why am I sitting at a counter behind a computer writing about a world that doesn't exist? My wife sees the look on my face and she gives me a hug. She's still in bed. She's going to sleep in. But she doesn't want me to be sad. She reminds me that I'm an asshole when I don't write and, while I may not feel up to it, she'd appreciate it if I'd go do it anyway. For her sake. She also tells me her favorite Babe Ruth quote. "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run." I avoid telling her that you only get three strikes until you're out. I kiss her. I thank her for her encouragement. I write some and see a new agent. Perhaps she'll like what I write. I send her a query. Maybe next Monday will be different.

The Tlot Thickens

As I mentioned on Friday, my productivity fell to shit when I joked about being the anonymous subject of an agent's impending rejection. I checked my email over and over and over again until the day came to a close, and it was time to go home.

Of course, there was no rush to go home since my wife was in New Brunswick. I decided instead to walk across Boston Common and take in a movie at the AMC1, 2. When the movie was over, I bust out my Palm Pre (smart phone of champions) and check my email to see if my wife had the results of her competition3. She had not, but the agent had.

OH NO! The rejection, it came! Calm down Mr. Pessimist. Maybe they're asking for a full. Ha! Yeah right! This is the agency that holds my personal record for fastest rejection to a query ever4. Of course it's a rejection.

Walking out of the theater, I open my email...


Now, I could in all haste send them the finished manuscript. I'm a professional. I wasn't so foolish as to start all this without finishing my work. BUT, this is a big flipping deal. When once this blog held a list of agents I wanted to work with, these people ranked number one. You don't just send a manuscript all willy nilly because they want to see it. You go back over that shit and make it shine like a diamond, like your combat boots with the drill sergeant waiting to look at them. You'll be able to see your reflection in this manuscript when I'm done with it.

So I go back over it. Again. All weekend, this is what I did. I sat in front of my computer, and I pored over this thing to find every typo and unnecessary past progressive verb. Moreover, the super fabulous awesome Elizabeth Poole, beta reader extrodinaire, went back over it in a single day to offer me new comments. (My favorite of her comments was "The tlot thickens!" Of course, this was followed by my own typo, "What he wouldn't give for a clean shit." Awe yeah. I'm a professional.)

A half hour ago, I sent in the revised revised revised manuscript along with a stylesheet (not asked for, but I think they're helpful). I now begin the nerve wracking two-month wait to hear whether they want to rep me. Liz tells me the thing is good, but is it good enough?

We'll find out. In the interim, I will return to JEHOVAH'S HITLIST. That thing is only 40k away from an ending. It would be fun to say "I finished another book while I was waiting for your response. Would you like to take a look at it? (I'm a show off like that.)

Wish me luck.

1 $11.50 for a movie? Are you crazy? I'll stick the the weekend morning shows for $4. Get off my lawn!

2 I saw "Unstoppable" with Rosario Dawson. Helllooooo nurse!

3 Her quartet moved up two spots to 6th place out of 30 something quartets. Phenomenal for their second year together.

4 3 minutes5 in case you're wondering, and you know you were.

5 Yes, you read that right. Minutes. Not days or months. Minutes.

How to Kill Productivity

How to Kill Productivity in Five Easy Steps

Review your Twitter as you do often during the day.

Reply to an agent who you follow when she asks for feedback on whether saying "it was a close call but no thank you" was cruel or encouraging.

Suggest that it would be crushing at first, but over time would become exciting and encouraging.

Follow said response with a joke of "unless it's me, in which case you should say 'Yes, more please.'"

Check your email obsessively to see whether or not it really was you.


I was kind of down on the way home today. Thinking about my (very few) experiences with my father. Specifically, when they took me to the hospital to see him right before he died. I was three years old and he was in the ICU. Children aren't allowed there because they're petri dishes of germs. They told me I needed to stay behind my sisters so as few people saw me as possible. Why, I wanted to know. Well, because you're not supposed to be here. You have germs adults don't and there a lot of sick people here. You could get them sick and they could die.

In the mind of a three-year-old, these various bits of information added up to me trying to kill my father because I was different. I didn't buy that I had germs any different than anyone else. I didn't get sick more or less than they did. They thought I was some sociopathic kid bent on fulfilling an Oedipal impulse (okay, I didn't know sociopath or Oedipus, but on an emotional level, that's where I went). I was intensely pissed off until I went into that room and saw my father totally zonked out on morphine. Then I was just scared shitless and had no problem hiding behind anyone.

This spiraled into a lot of other morbid thoughts during the drive home and I was pretty down by the time I pulled up to my home. I grabbed the mail and sifted through, looking for a letter I had been looking for for awhile, one with my own handwriting on it. BAM! There it was. I had queried JABberwocky Literary on THE TRIAD SOCIETY and here was the reply I had been waiting for.

They rejected the query.

And I felt a lot better. You'd think I'd be bummed. One more to add to the pile, but I felt quite good. It grabbed me by both my ears and pulled me back to the present. What's done is done and there's not much point in worrying over the frustration of a three-year-old. Plenty to worry over here in the present, like getting published. :)

Rejection, a much needed slap upside the head. :)

Humility Has Its Limits

My routine on a writing week and a reading week are pretty similar. Spend an hour on the commuter rail either reading or writing. Spend 20 minutes on the subway reading. (Writing on the subway is very difficult, and I do it very infrequently). While I have a number of samples and one novel on my nook I still need to finish, I opted for this week to take a book off my bookshelf that I never finished.

Really, I only got a couple pages in and put it down. Having bought CORDELIA'S HONOR for the first time when I bought this other title, I switched to that and then promptly read Bujold's entire catalogue. Clearly it got left behind. But I'm back, aware of what I didn't like and trying to soldier past to get to the meat of the story.

The book fell open at one point and I saw the acknowledgments. I decided to give them a read. Ever since Nathan Bransford posted a link to another agent's blogpost saying that it was dangerous for writers not to include their agents and editors in the acknowledgments (and their assistants!), I look to see if they are included.

Thus, I've been reading a lot of acknowledgments lately. And while agents and editors do always appear, I've noticed another trend: over–self-deprication. It's one thing to acknowledge the people who made your work better. I certainly do. But it's another thing entirely to spend a page enumerating all the different ways you suck as an author. If you are incapable of forming coherent paragraphs, crafting related scenes, or in any other way forming a story that is capable of moving from beginning to end without other people performing life-saving surgery, what the fuck are you doing writing a book? No wonder editors never have any time. They take incoherent pieces of shit and rework them into books. Or so these acknowledgments would have me believe.

Humility has its limits, people. At some point you stop sound modest and start sounding lucky. You're lucky that a bunch of people took pity on your ineptitude and let you leech off their talent while still slapping your name on the front cover. Do you have talent? Do you have skill? These are not things to be embarrassed by. Did they make your work better? Give them the credit they've earned. But don't tell me, your reader, that you aren't any good. If you aren't, I'll return your book and go find someone more worthwhile.

And as an aspiring writer, this is even more frustrating. What the hell, people? Look at all these talentless hacks getting multiple books published. I wouldn't have thought them talentless hacks, but then I read their acknowledgments page and they told me so. It simultaneously offends me that talentless hacks are getting multi-book deals while I'm still getting rejected AND kicks me in the junk because talentless hacks are getting multi-book deals while I'm still getting rejected. You'd rather spend all that time working with a talentless hack than me?

Unless, of course, they aren't talentless hacks, in which case they really need to chill out on the acknowledgments page.