Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Review - Secret Life of Prince Charming


#1-Happy Memorial Day! Thanks to all the men and women who fight for me every day. I know several cool folks in the military, and I thank you all for your dedication to your jobs, for your heart, and for having the courage to risk your lives to keep our country and way of life secure.

#2-Happy Anniversary to my sweet husband! Eight years ago tomorrow a judge in Indianapolis allowed these two nerds to get married:

and life just hasn't been the same since.

Here's to eight-plus more~

Now for the blog! A few weeks back, a mom-friend complained to me that Glee was very racy and the language and situations were inappropriate for children.

She was right, but I hadn't really thought about it because my little ladies are too young to watch the show and they aren't really interested in it anyway. So it hasn't been an issue at my house.

But I felt bad because other friends and I (used to) discuss it on FB every Thurs., and us mommies have to stick together. Mommy solidarity!

At the start of this season, the music and the choreography were still engaging, but I kept with it (despite the flagging storyline) primarily because Jane Lynch (and all the cast members of those Christopher Guest mockumentaries) is/are the funniest human(s) on the planet.

I commented it had peaked with the Madonna bit, but I gotta confess. They sure showed me. The writers got together and pulled out some really strong and moving final episodes.

I actually got a little misty at the wheelchair rider dreaming of being a dancer and the mother-daughter setup they unfolded between Idina and little Rachel. And a fun dose of Lady Gaga theatricality always wins. That was a brilliant finale.

(Here, I always chalked up my high tolerance for theatricality as the result of growing up in such close proximity to New Orleans. I completely forgot artists such as Queen, Alice Cooper, Bowie, Kiss, Elton John, etc., who were cuttin up during my formative years.)

So there you go. My DVR's still set for Glee.

As for book reviews, finished The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, and man, I wished I was still teaching high school for a few minutes so I could round up a group of YA girls and get their take on it.

Here's the cover, which bears no relation to the plot (never at any time does this scene occur in the book):

I gotta be honest with you guys. I found SLPC to be predominantly... Boring.

And I hate to say that because I really enjoyed the humor and heart of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. So I wondered if it's because I'm a grown-up (no giggling). To me the story behind SL of PC isn't new, and frankly, it's tiresome.

I mean, Caletti had a lot of good messages and great instructive stories, but I found it hard to slog through 200 pages of dumb girls and even dumber women making dumb love decisions. And then hot musician boy who's really sweet doesn't show up until the last 100 pages of her 325-page book.

Where's the fun in that?

If I were re-structuring it, I'd have introduced hot musician boy who's really sweet much earlier and had the struggle with MC's "I'm waiting for you to turn into a monster" ongoing as they learn the mistakes of her mom and her dad's exes.

That would've added a little sugar to the medicine. As it is, there just wasn't enough reason to care, and I had to will myself to keep reading.

But I'm ready to be challenged! Someone who loved it, please chime in and straighten me out. Tell me I missed the point just as surely as Lisa Schwartzbaum did reviewing SATC2.

On that note, even JRM got it when I said if I buy him a vintage Rolex that I've had engraved with a little phrase that's meaningful to the two of us for an anniversary present, and he in return buys me a flatscreen TV for our bedroom... He's in trouble.

Have a great holiday, guys. Til Wednesday~

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oh Black Water

My sister-in-law and I were talking about 24-hour news channels. Specifically how they just make people feel Bad.

All that nonstop hearing about problems or situations you can't control... it makes viewers feel helpless and ultimately depressed, we agreed.

Later, I was thinking how after a while it also makes people (like me) stop watching altogether, and serious situations go ignored.

With that in mind... I got a call from my brother in Key West Saturday. The tar balls from the (still going) oil spill had arrived, and he was distraught.

TGT: The coral reef! The mangroves! The whales--they're filter-feeders... 200,000 gallons of oil a day! For five weeks! Do you realize what this means? Do you realize the level of destruction?
LTM: (quietly) I realize. (internally) Welcome to the party.

I took the girls to Pensacola Beach that first Saturday after the explosion. We hopped over the state line and in 30 minutes were passing the big neon fish welcoming us to the "world's whitest beaches." I got a little misty wondering how much longer that'd be true.

It wasn't the best day for playing in the Gulf. The winds were high and the double red flags were out. Still the girls ran in and out of the surf for a good hour or so before a lifeguard came over and squatted beside me.

He'd been watching us all morning, and he was very apologetic for being about to kick them out of the water. He explained that they'd already had two rescues that day and his boss had just called and said to get everybody out.

I smiled and said I understood. The breakers really were too rough for them to be playing in, and it looked like it might start raining any second. Then for a moment we watched my little ladies laughing and squealing and riding their tubes on the surfable waves.

I think we were both thinking the same thing. The clock is ticking. And if what the experts are saying actually happens, they could be tweens before the water's safe enough for them to do it again. If ever.

Richard and I drove to P'cola a few times the summer after Hurricane Ivan hit. It was scary to see the miles of open white sands where once stood massive condos or little villages of rental houses.

But even after that disaster, you could still park the car and get out and those glimmering white sands and turquoise waters told you it was going to be OK. Nobody could stay away from this for too long.

Those blue waters gave us hope. They were a beautiful gift we all shared.

Now it's in jeopardy. And we all feel so helpless.

Bottlenose dolphins are another happy fixture along our coast. They can be seen playing a few yards from the shoreline on any given day.

One June I was holding six month-old Laura in the Gulf off Pensacola Beach. The water was a glassy pool, and as we bobbed along, a spout surfaced less than five yards from us.

LTM: I know dolphins are the "dogs of the sea," but I'll just be getting out now...

The paper last week showed an aerial shot of the waters near Destin. In them you could see a flock of rays and you could even count seven manatees all swimming west on their usual migratory route. The cutline read, "Swimming into danger." My heart broke.

The Gulf might be our gift, but it's their home.

There's a Facebook page listing ways you can help with the Oil Spill. Here's the link.  There's also a local blog for kids and teachers here. (It was created by a teacher at the Fairhope K-1 center.)

Since the disaster, locals have been stepping up (like they always do) ready to fight this thing and save our gift and the animals that live there. They make me so proud.

I hope viewers don't tune out. I hope if anything they'll think about what's happened and what it means going forward. The next time they hear someone carelessly chant, "Drill, baby, drill."

Monday, May 24, 2010

But what about Vincent?

Ah, L O S T. (This is a non-spoiler post!)

I know, overseas readers are still leading up to the finale, but over here.... well, we're still discussing it. My hotmail account is smokin, and not because it's possessed by unLocke. Last week, everyone was lamenting how much they were going to miss our weekly email debates.

LTM: Umm... guys? We're still debating.

So I have many questions. All of which I will take off the blog to avoid spoiling--except for my title, of course.

JRM reads all the spoiler sites, but I personally hate them. I don't want to know! I want to enjoy the journey.

(What? Did I just say that after harshing on Ms. Meyer for being so long-winded? I did! I am not a read-the-last-page-of-the-book-first girl. I like seeing how the story unfolds. I just prefer if it doesn't require 799 pages. OK, if it's working, I can deal. But I do get irritable if I have to skim. All those words have to be there for a reason... don't they?)

As for today's blog, a reader-friend told me the Lagniappe ran a feature Sunday on all the silly names we've got running for office around here. Not keeping up with Mobile County politics, I was not aware they have a Young Boozer running for treasurer across the bay.

My friend was giggling as she told me this saying how she supposed that made his dad Old Boozer. And concluded that he most likely came from a long line of Boozers...

LTM: They're invited to the party.

Today was awards day at the elementary school. It was great seeing so many smiling faces, but by far the smile that made me happiest was on the face of little Anne Claire Dismukes. She was there (looking like nothing ever happened) to get her set of first-grade achievement awards, and as I watched her bounce across the gym and noticed all the faces in the audience smiling back at her, I thought, "She belongs to all of us a little bit now."

Miracle girl.

So wow. Summer's here, and the family's all in town. This has been one long, trippy school year. My "boss" at the school board commented, "I'll be happy to close the book on SY2009-10."

I don't know. No doubt, it was a challenging year. But being the eternal optimist, I can't help thinking about how much we've learned and grown together.

Yeah, that's all fine and good, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to an amazing summer in which little girls stay healthy, oil spills are cleaned and plugged, and dogs aren't...  (poof! L O S T logo.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's in a Name?

As if to reinforce my belief that all natives of this area are descended from folks "on the lam," we have a Twinkle running for county commissioner.

Add that to the Pickle that ran for mayor, the Duck in my church choir, the Clouds we bought our house from, the other Pickle in my church choir, the Koors who live across the street, the Ronks who used to live next door, the Barefoots who live down the way, the Outlaw I used to work with, and my friend-neighbor who liked her last name so much, she married a guy with the same last name.

JRM: She's like Sirhan Sirhan.
LTM: Only without all the killing.

So I'm shopping Brand New Novel, right? Well, before I pitched it to agents, I let some of my reader friends take a look. As usual, they've been so helpful in providing feedback--Kindles for all if/when it sells. One pointed out that I'd called a main character the wrong name in a certain spot.

Can I just say (again) I really am terrible when it comes to names?

When I'm meeting folks at a party or whatever, I chalk it up to my being a "visual learner." Somebody told me that once (they shared my affliction), and I thought it was a fabulous excuse for why I'll forget a name two seconds after I've heard it. I don't know what my excuse is when I'm writing.

One of my brother's friends said I should just do like Lauren Bacall and call everyone Larry. I think he said Lauren Bacall... Heck, now that I'm trying to remember it, the standard name might not've even been Larry...


It's really embarrassing to me, but it does make for some funny stories. My mom's favorite is from when I was an (undergrad) editorial assistant at the ECCB. (See debut post.)

In addition to being general editor, Dr. Borck was also Director of Graduate Studies for the English dept., and he was very proud to have recruited Dr. Bob Becker from the history dept. to come over and join our editorial staff. Apparently "Becker" as they all called him was very renowned.

We were planning a little reception to welcome him that Friday, and I was determined not to forget his name. All week I'd done that name-association thing to help me remember. "Boris Becker, Boris Becker, Boris Becker" I'd told myself.

So there they all were, standing around welcoming our newest member when I entered the room and with my most welcoming smile, announced, "You must be Boris!"


It's funny how ancient college professors really are masters of the withering glare.

My face couldn't have been hotter, and I was trying to remember if I'd said "Boris" or "Becker." Scott Peeples, the graduate student I worked with most, jumped in and saved my life by giggling, which caused Dr. Borck to do his Letterman laugh.

The tension was broken, but Becker never smiled. I slunked off to get my little glass of champagne and chat with Steve who was also in the doghouse for leaving the tearsheets in his car with the window cracked during a rainstorm, thus ruining them all.

Becker stayed on the duration of my time at the ECCB, but I never saw him again. I'd like to believe it was because we had different schedules. I did get one little communique from him before I left that asked me to do somethingorother. It was the only indication that we were cool. He signed it "Boris."

I later worked for his wife Carolyn at the LSU Bookstore before I went back to graduate school. She was very nice and never once called me Loris.

So unfortunately, I sent out BNN with a main character's name incorrect in one place. I'd like to imagine agent-readers will give me a pass--or heck, not even notice. The names are pretty close. They're practically interchangeable, really.

And there you have it. That's got to be my problem...

I don't know. If I hadn't always been this way, I'd be worried. Anybody got any good tricks? I'd be happy to try one, although at this point, I feel like I've tried everything. My favorite technique is Michael Scott's from the Office. I'd just never remember the name for trying to understand the technique. I'll give you a link if I can find one.

So have a great weekend, whatever your name is!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Reviews - The Host; Cindy Ella

Time for book reviews!

In my ongoing self-assigned "homework" of reading current YA novels, I picked up Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer. I've read her other two books, Geek Charming and Little Miss Red, and I really liked them. So I was looking forward to her debut novel, C.E.

Well... let me just say I've had a lot of *stuff* going on around here lately, so it's possible I just wasn't in the right mood for C.E. It took me a whole week to read it, and I just never really got into the story or connected with the main characters... (Jeez, I sound like an agent.)

It was Palmer's usual lighthearted fare, however. Her books are like the Clueless of the literary world, but I just didn't think it was as strong as Geek Charming (my fave, despite the ending) or even as silly as LMR. So if I were to assign grades, I'd only give it a B.

It's not a bad read, though. It's very clean (Moms) and cute. I've passed it to a reader-friend, so I'll be interested to hear what she thinks about it. Like I said, I could've just been in the wrong mood.

So after wrapping C.E., I finally picked up The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I should say I heaved up The Host because it a whopping 700 pages long. (!)

And while it's billed as her "first book for adults," I don't see how this book is any more adult than her Twilight series.

OK, sure, the characters aren't in high school. But the setting is post-alien-invasion Arizona. Nobody's in HS. The main character is only 17, so c'mon, people. If Twilight is YA, The Host is totally YA.

Now let me get this out of the way--I am not a Stephenie Meyer-hater. I think she does a super job making you care about her characters and then putting them in situations that you really want to know how in the world they're going to get out of. But shew! The girl writes for ever!

It reminded me of two things: #1-Those personality tests we used to take in college. They always had a question along the lines of "Do you enjoy the journey or are you more interested in the destination?" S.M. is totally a "journey" girl. I'm more the destination type. (Tell me what happens!)

#2-It reminded me of a friend I had in college who always had these outrageous misadventure stories that were interesting and you wanted to know what happened, but as she was telling you, she'd get sidetracked describing the decorations of the room she was in or the foliage in the park where *whatever* happened, and 30 minutes later, you still hadn't gotten to the end of the story.

All that being said, it's possible The Host is my favorite S.M. book. The premise is fun--Earth is invaded by aliens that take over human bodies by fusing into their brains, right? Well, this one alien is assigned to a captured, "adult" (17 yr-old) female who's one of the "wild" humans (the resistance). Said alien is supposed to find out where the rest of the wild humans are hiding, but instead, the human starts fighting back for her identity.

Cool, right?

It really is a fun read. I caved to my other reader-friend who said I should try it because it was described as Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Days of Our Lives. That's not entirely accurate. It's really more Star Trek meets Days, but I might not've read it if they said that. (I'm not the SciFi nerd in the family.)

It's also similar to imagining what's going on in the head of a paranoid schizophrenic--the whole, "nobody believes me, but I'm telling the truth."

So I give it a solid A.

Of course, when Richard looked over and saw me reading it, he came at me with Quicksilver again (Neal Stephenson). Or maybe it was The Confusion, from which I immediately recoiled...

JRM: I can't believe you'll read that and you won't read this.
LTM: I think the type is much smaller in those books...
JRM: You don't love me.
LTM: I do!

So happy reading, reader friends!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Awesomeness and fishing

Gotta take a break from the world. Catherine and I are beside ourselves about this (use your back button to return): The new trailer for The Last Airbender movie.

The first word out of both our mouths was "Appa!" The second out of Catherine's was, "It's in 3D?"

My children haven't embraced the whole 3D movie craze. As a result, I haven't seen a 3D movie yet either... Here's the deal: a few years back Monsters v. Aliens came out in 3D. (I think it was one of the first for kids.)

Well, a mommy friend of mine called and wanted us to do a girls movie date to see it. That was cool, I was onboard. I love, love, love the movies, right?

Laura dug her little heels in and said "NO!" She was literally offended at the suggestion. But not because it was in 3D. Laura's like me as a little kid--she likes to sleep. And it only took one scary movie for me/her to realize that hiding under the covers in the dark shivering for three weeks straight was no way to spend your nights.

I said Monsters v. Aliens to Laura, and she looked at me like I was a monster. Or an alien. So we agreed she'd stay home with Daddy and watch Kipper or Angelina Ballerina.

Catherine definitely wanted to go, but I can't remember why she didn't. She might've gotten sick--it was first grade. They still get sick a lot at that age. But the rest of the gang went, and after it was over, word got back that one of the little girls had left the theater and thrown up afterwards.

Her mom said it was because during the movie, this tiny six year-old (she really is the littlest of the girls) had consumed her popcorn, her neighbor's popcorn, a box of gummies, a whole Sprite... you get the picture.

Made no difference to Catherine. She lives her little life by a strict "no vomiting" philosophy. (I'm onboard with that, considering I'm the clean-up crew.)

No amount of reasoning would convince her that her buddy had just eaten too much junk food. Nope. It was the 3D. Catherine actually left another friend's birthday party because it culminated in watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in 3D.

I'm almost relieved M. Night gave us an out. Because while we LOVE the animated Nickelodeon TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender (upon which the movie's based) and we have every episode on DVD, I've said before it's one thing to see Koh, the face-stealing spirit, as a cartoon. It's a whole nother to see it in real life. And a whole nother to see it in 3D.

Still, for me July 2 can't get here fast enough. I might have to sneak off with Aunt Dara and the boys to see it... whee!

And what's all this about fishing? Well, let me tell you. It's about Brand New Novel.

There have been times in my agent search when I've been discouraged. I've said I wasn't doing it anymore, it was stupid, why was I wasting my time, I was tired of it, I didn't really care if I never got published, etc., etc., etc.

At the risk of driving away ALL my friends, I've tried to keep these moments to myself as much as possible. Only poor Richard has to hear it. Oh, and my mom.

My sweet mom has been so great. She listens and has no idea what I'm talking about half the time, but every time she says the following: "It's just like fishing. You've just gotta keep casting and one of these times you're going to catch a big fish."

Well, reader friends, I caught The Shark.

I'm trying to be philosophical about it. It doesn't matter if she comes back and says "no thanks." Now I know I have a query letter for BNN that will result in a full manuscript request from a veteran, top agent.

I'm also trying to apply Catherine's "no vomiting" philosophy. I've got 59 days to go.

My uncle Kelly's a welder. When he was in his late 20s-early 30s, he worked on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf, and they used to deepwater fish from the platform. He caught a shark once... It was delicious.

More soon~

P.S. Hey, Locals! The Hangout is donating all profits from this weekend's music/art festival to oil spill relief. Click here for more info.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What to leave in, what to leave out

I was listening to a radio interview this morning with one of the survivors of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. It was the first story I'd heard that wasn't focused on the environmental nightmare that has us Gulf Coast residents so heartbroken (i.e., 5,000 barrels of oil still leaking into our oceans every day.).

This report was about the other heartbreak. A 23 year-old Texan who knew his job was dangerous, but who had just gotten married and was saving for a house. He told of 12-hour shifts and the magnificent sunrises and sunsets he saw. He told of that night, watching fire shoot 100 feet into the air and knowing at that moment he was going to die.

He didn't, though. And as I listened to him, I thought how radio really is unique in that the stories are so powerful heard alone, in a car. I sometimes listen to This American Life, and Ira Glass (the host) once said he edits his pieces with that in mind.

When I started my master's degree at LSU, I wanted to work in book publishing. I wanted to be an editor or some behind the scenes type of person. (Back then I didn't believe I could write a whole book.) I even had the brilliant idea I'd get a job at LSU Press so I wouldn't have to leave Baton Rouge.

Problem: the Manship School of Mass Communication had no course of study for book publishing. They had all the traditional journalism curricula, but my graduate advisor explained there just wasn't a lot of interest in that area.

They did offer one course "The Business of Book Publishing" taught by Katherine Fry, who was executive director or something at LSU Press, and that was it. No more courses.

Still, since I was a good student and a good writer, Dr. Nelson said I could take the basic required courses and then take whatever else interested me. And we'd figure out how to focus my thesis on the book biz.

So I took a course in film and video editing. It was amazingly fun, and the next semester, Dr. Nelson suggested I do an internship at WAFB-9 news, the CBS affiliate in Baton Rouge.

That was possibly the most fun course I ever took in college.

My first day in the newsroom was the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Schools were closed, so I didn't really have to go in, but I did because I'm a nerd.

I was also nervous. I was a nervous nerd, and I had no idea what to expect going into a newsroom filled with all those local celebrities I'd been watching since childhood. I just knew I'd be single-handedly responsible for blowing Phil Ranier's Health Report or knocking over the teleprompter during Donna Britt's breaking news story.

As it turned out, my job was to sit behind a desk, answer the phones, open the mail, and give my "boss" assignments editor Mark Lambert whatever looked good.

LTM: And I know what's "good" because...
ML: You're smart. You'll know.
LTM: (weak smile; sick feeling in stomach)

So there we were, all the morning news people who'd been at the station since 4 a.m. were clearing out, making jokes, going home, ignoring me sitting behind the news desk feeling overwhelmed.

No kidding, five minutes later all four police, fire, EMS and sheriff's radio scanners started going off at once.

Mark ran to the desk, cranked the volumes and stared at me: "What did they just say? What was the code?"

LTM: (panic) Code??? (Those boxes are doing more than just emitting shrieking noises that I can only assume are communications from the aliens???)

Turned out the code was a 10-71. Shots fired. I think they might've also issued a 10-99, which is officer in trouble or something. On the list behind the desk someone had scribbled "Hall butt" beside that one. I always wanted to correct it... should be "haul" ...

There had been a shooting at the MLKJ parade just blocks from our newsroom. Four little girls were shot in what turned out to be a domestic dispute. Shot celebrating the life of a man devoted to nonviolence.

Mark started punching buttons to see if he could get video from the camera on top of our building. At the same time, he got on the radio and started calling all the reporters to the station. The one morning anchor still there dropped her purse and grabbed a camera guy.

In the space of ten minutes, the newsroom was packed. Every talking head I'd been watching since I was a little kid was there. And all the backups. The phones behind the news desk (read, the ones I was supposed to answer) never stopped ringing.

I got calls from all the affiliates. I got calls from CBS news in New York, I got calls from the BBC in London... They wanted the facts, they wanted satellite feeds, they wanted video. I didn't leave until 11 p.m. that night.

And that was my first day in television.

As we were all dragging out of the newsroom that night, I was suddenly a colleague. Everyone was very kind and said I did a great job. They made comments like "that was some first day."

LTM: It's not always like that? It is in the movies...
(Weary laughter) A.m. news crew: We'll be back in five hours. You?

That semester was really busy, and by the end I was going out on stories with reporters, even alone with camera guys shooting B-roll for which I wrote the scripts for the anchors to read.

I learned that when you're working on a broadcast piece, you always get more video than you need and then you sift through it to find the most powerful 30 seconds. The clips that are going to capture the heart of the story the best.

It can be hard at first to get it just right. It also gave me a revised appreciation for what I see on TV. Somebody's behind the curtain making those decisions. It could even be somebody like me.

At the end of that semester, I was hired as an assistant weekend producer. I even interviewed for a full-time reporter position in Lafayette, but I didn't take it. I loved TV news. It's fast and fun and you'll look up and 18 months have passed...

Still, radio stories like the one I heard this morning make me misty. Even if I know there's a person somewhere sifting through the B-roll to find the exact segments to make it happen.

Eleven men died on the Deepwater Horizon. Sixty more watched as their derrick burned and melted into the black Gulf waters taking their friends with it.

Even sombody as inexperienced as me would know how to tell that story. Here's the link if you'd like to hear it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Author-Agent Match dot com

OK, so originally this post was going to be something about the oil spill.

I've been thinking about our beaches and growing up in south Louisiana, living on the Alabama Gulf Coast, having family in Mississippi, a brother in south Florida. We're all virtually joining hands in this crisis praying it can be resolved with as little damage as possible.

Then I got a form rejection on a query letter for Brand New Novel from an agent who, according to her stated interests, should've at least wanted to read a little more... It's OK, I wasn't that upset. (big lie)

I can say I was pleasantly surprised that after only a few test letters, I got a full MS request from an extremely nice and reputable agent I interacted with on Debut Novel. (whee!) She seems like a neat person to work with. I'll keep you posted as that unfolds.

So since it all comes back to the books, I was thinking about how the agent search is a lot like using Match dot com to find a date/potential mate. (Never used MDC, but I'm betting it is...)

I read somewhere a caution to writers to approach selecting an agent even more carefully than you would your husband/wife. That seems a little extreme, but I get it. This person is going to have a huge role in my career path, and as most agent-author relationships involve contracts, there's a similarity.

So here's how it works (and those of you who've used MDC, see what you think):

The search is 98 percent online now--almost everybody's wanting to be green, and it sure saves on postage, so I'm all for it. You set out, aspiring novelist, finished novel in hand (teeth brushed, coolest outfit), and you head over to Query Tracker to set up your dbase/do a search for agents seeking your genre.

QT has links to agency websites and agent email addresses--even a comments section from queriers as to how fast they respond or if they do.

I'm sure this is some Big Brother means of tracking the habits of aspiring novelists and plotting trends in the industry, but I Don't Care. The fellas who designed and maintain QT (which is free, btw) are Heroes.

The list is made (profiles matched), so you pick about seven you'd like to ask on a date (i.e., send a query).


I once read a long blog post about how a bad agent's worse than no agent at all--possiblly worse than never being published. (gasp!) I can't remember where that was or I'd give you a link.

So how do you know if this person you're about to ask out/possibly marry's crazy or not? What if you get an offer from the literary agent equivalent of Glen Close in Fatal Attraction?

Run over to Absolute Write Watercooler for the skinny. It's an online forum of writers who post about agent behaviors. Sometimes agents even drop in for interviews or to update threads about themselves. It's basically like your group of girlfriends, although I feel like the total guy in this scenario.

You can also Google the agent's name to see if he/she has a blog or has been interviewed recently by many of the helpful agent-interview blogs out there (e.g., Guide to Literary Agents, Literary Rambles, etc.)

For me, even after all this homework, it's been very hit or miss.

I've gotten several form rejections from agents who specifically state they're seeking what my novel is. I've gotten several partial requests from the same. And the I've gotten full requests (the home run) from agents both specifically seeking it and from some I've queried because I liked books they handled or their agency, regardless of whether they were specifically seeking what I'd written.

I've gotten the no call the day after treatment. I've gotten the surprise positive follow-up from the date you didn't think went so well...

And then I discovered Agents on Twitter. Can I just say, following AOT is a big mistake.

I know it helps us keep track of them 24/7, but when they start tweeting about queries, it's a lot like being the guy who overhears the group of girls discussing a bad date when you've just gone out with one of them.

They never tweet the name of offending querier, but you just KNOW they're talking about you.

Or then you have the agent who tweets that she just had the most amazing cookie at some NYC bakery while hanging with the Shark (Janet Reid), and you're thinking, "Why are you hanging out with the Shark eating cookies and not reading my partial???"

The best are the tweets from the agent who's so disappointed because she never gets the MS she really, really wants. Or the one who proposed to an author who'd already gotten married. But based simply on a query, not on reading the full...

Naturally, I hopped over to her profile to see if I should ask her out! I discovered she's seeking exactly what DN is! I tentatively send her a "Would you like to go out with me?" query and get back the insta-slap. The "Dear Author..." form reject.

LTM: (Puzzled frown, rubbing cheek) I guess she was still in mourning...

They should start using "John" instead of "Author" in those. Just to inject a little humor.

If all this sounds bitter, I've failed. It's totally not meant to. I'm actually extremely optimistic, and I've gotten super feedback on Brand New Novel.

The agent search is frustrating, but I still think it's way better than sending my MS off to the slushpile of four major publishing houses and hoping for the best. And I very much appreciate the fast-responding agents, positive or negative.

It's just the entire process brings to mind that Fountains of Wayne song "Someone to Love." (You knew there'd be a musical tie-in.)

I'm Seth. Agent Seeking Exactly What BNN Is, But Who Sends "Dear Author" Form Reject To My Query can play the role of Beth. Pay careful attention to the taxi interaction... Here's the link to the song.

Onward and upward, reader friends! Oh, and some Happy Mother's Day recipes (my contribution is #3).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Deja vu & a Review - I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You

Last week Richard and I watched the first 13 three episodes of Knott's Landing. It was goofy and funny but also interesting in a social historian kind of way. (I have never denied being a nerd.)

I missed KL the first time around. The '70s occurred before I reached double-digits in age, but I do remember bits and pieces vaguely. (That's probably how most adults remember it...)

While watching, I commented to JRM how crazy it is that the late-2000s so closely mirror the late-1970s. Check it out:
  • Gas was at an all-time high, and Carter was encouraging everyone to carpool.
  • Inflation was out of control and a lot of people were out of work.
  • Consumers were trading big cars for the smaller, compact cars coming out of Japan. (Toyota, Honda)
  • There was a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969... (which led to the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970) Read about it here.
  • Tylenol recalled all their capsules after some maniac put cyanide in eight bottles (That has also become a PR case study of how NOT to respond to a crisis. Seems the BP CEO took note.)
And have you seen the way teenage boys are wearing their hair these days? I'm just saying. The Twilight Zone music should be playing right about now.

An (inadvertant) recurring theme in my blog has become the cyclical nature of social events. I'm not sure how it started, but I'll go with it. If you notice anything, please leave a comment/shoot me a msg (at any time)!

I'm an observer at heart, but it takes me a while to formulate conclusions that satisfy me. So I don't know what all these repeating events mean. But I'd love to hear what you guys think.

I read somewhere that America's undergoing a series of mini-terrorist attacks. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, however, (sometimes) their wild theories are fun to consider. Kind of like reading a suspense novel... what's that bumper sticker? "You're not paranoid if they're really after you"?

In book news, I finished I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter.

I liked it! It took me a while to get into it, but only because Carter tends to write like I did pre-journalism school--she uses a lot of words at times when she doesn't really need to.

But the story's lots of fun, and I really liked the parent dynamic she set up leading into the next book. Have to admit, I had major plot-envy the whole time I was reading.

When we were elementary age, Dara and I played secret-agents nonstop after church on Sundays--she was 99, I was 86. Seriously! We'd climb on the walls in the parking lot, and once we lost our SS activities when the car we'd put them on drove off with them.

LTM to JRM: Why didn't I think of writing a teenage spy academy story???

It's a super book, though. I very much recommend it. It's very clean, Moms, and it's part of a series, so bonus!

Starting Robin Palmer's Cindy Ella next. I love her books, and it's her debut novel. So more on that soon.
In the meantime, prayers for the fish and the families. No oil's made landfall in south Baldwin yet...