“Anachronisms” in Fantasy – Keeping It Real

Apr 19 2015, 5:07 pm in , , , , ,

IMG_0343I’m over at Word Whores, showing off these pretty flowers I got for the Top Pick review for The Talon of the Hawk, and talking about language in fantasy, along the lines of realism and suspension of disbelief.


Personal Best – Chasing that Moving Target

Apr 14 2015, 3:24 pm in , ,

shoelacesI have not always been this person I am these days. The one who puts on her cross-trainers to run in the morning and later to walk at my treadmill desk. In fact, I recall this one time that my colleagues teased me about it. I arrived to work with them in Salt Lake City after the main team had been there a couple of days already. We were starting a big project and a bunch of newbies were being trained. I walked in the room, having just flown in, and my boss says, “I told you all that would be Jeffe.” I asked how she knew and she said by the clicking of my heels. I happened to be wearing a pair of high-heeled Enzo Angiolini boots I still miss – a lovely light buff suede that eventually became too soiled to rescue – that I’d bought at DSW in Boston on another work trip. At any right I told her that heels didn’t necessarily mean me and she said no, but that I always wear them. Then she asked me if I even owned a pair of sneakers or athletic shoes.

At the time, no, I did not.

Like I said, I’m a different person now. Especially since I’ve learned to tie my shoelaces correctly.

It’s funny to remember this, but once upon a time, tying my shoelaces was a Big Freaking Deal. I must have been five, in Kindergarten, and I got pulled out of class for a series of days for “Special Tutoring.” Because I could not tell time or tie my shoelaces. I know, right? With the telling time thing, keep in mind that they wanted me to be able to on an analog clock and we had all digital clocks at home. With the shoelaces…we’ll get to that.

So, this was kind of humiliating for me. I mean, I saw myself as a smart kid. I could already read on my own by then. I’d shocked the hell out of my mom by spelling, then sounding out the name of our grocery store. (Naturally, words were my first and best skill.) I really hated feeling stupid about the time thing and the shoelace thing. Frustrated, too, because despite all that Special Tutoring, I still got it wrong easily half the time.

Looking back, I’ve realized I probably had dyslexia. I only figured this out in college, when I was tired and actually saw a road sign arrow flip back and forth horizontally. It explained the analog clocks that showed me two different times at once, my baffling tendency to run the ball over the wrong goal line and those shoelaces that wouldn’t stay tied.

It’s amusing then to find out that I’d been tying my shoelaces WRONG. After all that Special Tutoring, they didn’t even teach me correctly.

If you don’t know, there IS a correct way to tie shoelaces so that they don’t come undone. Even better, this knot tightens as you run or walk.

All goes to continuing to grow, improve and learn new things. One of the many bounties of the Internet, that we can escape the embarrassment and frustration of Special Tutoring.



Three Ways to Add an Important Character: the Environment

Apr 12 2015, 3:39 pm in , , ,

CB6iMEBUgAEiiL1I’m over at Word Whores talking about ways to make the environment be another character and asking for recs on books that do this really well!


How *Not* to Talk to an Agent

Apr 7 2015, 5:24 pm in ,

spring blossoms, Eldorado, Santa Fe, NMRecently I had occasion to research my agent’s Twitter feed, looking for a link he’d posted. Along the way I found a number of writers commenting on him not responding to their queries fast enough. Some of their tweets had a fairly terse and impatient tone. One was downright antagonistic.

It truly gave me pause.

First of all – I totally get the frustration. I queried agents (and editors) for years. Some I never heard any kind of response from. Others took approximately forever to reply. One in particular sent me a rejection a year after I’d signed with my first agent. On one level, we hear what they tell us – that client work comes first, that queries come at the far end of a long list of priorities – and intellectually we understand that. But emotionally we also understand what they’re too polite to say: that we are not that important to them at that stage.

Now, before any agents jump in and argue that, OF COURSE queriers are important, that this is where they get new clients and they’re always looking for something exciting in the slush pile – which is all absolutely true – let me clarify. A potential client is exactly that: a possibility. This person and their book lie in the intangible realm. Whereas the agent has very tangible clients and books to deal with. No matter how much as authors we believe in the vast potential of the book we’re querying, no one else has that same emotional charge as we do. And it’s painful.

It’s cranky-making.

It made me cranky, too.

But here’s the thing. The crankiness never goes away. Publishing is a strange business. Things can move at a glacially slow pace. There’s rarely ever a direct relationship between any two things. Hard work does not necessarily equal success. Brilliant writing does not necessarily equal great sales. Awards and rave reviews don’t mean the book will succeed. People you thought supported you turn out not to. Exciting things happen out of the blue and expected things evaporate. Yes, it’s exciting and creative and I wouldn’t trade it for any other career, but my point is this: it’s a cranky-making business. Everybody gets cranky at some point: authors, editors, agents, publishers, marketers, etc.

So, here’s my point. Agents know this. They know that there will be times in working with their authors that things will get stressful. There will be annoying contract negotiations, offers will fall through, books will fail to live up to expectations, editors will change their minds, difficult conversations will be had. This is part of the business. In point of fact, I mentioned in a blog post last week how I was cranky and snarky to my agent about advice he gave me. He probably didn’t love me for it, but he also gave me some latitude on it. (At least, I *think* he still loves me…) And I’m taking the advice, I decided once my cranky subsided. But part of why I get a bye (the one I hope I got) is that’s as cranky as I get. (And we have a pretty easy relationship at this point, where we get each other.)

To him. Or in public. I absolutely get crankier than that in private. That’s what DMs, IMs, text messages and tearful, ranty phone calls are for. Otherwise, I try to keep my professional relationships relatively cranky-free.

Imagine then, if an author is hostile and impatient with an agent they don’t know, have never talked to and have no relationship with. This is like the standard dating advice: he or she is not going to get BETTER after you marry them. Nobody turns out to be sweeter, better behaved and with more diligent hygiene AFTER the vows are said. No, when we’re dating and courting is when we are wearing our best selves. An author who’s impatient about queries, and is cranky about it, is not likely to be pleasant to deal with when the chips are down and a deal is going badly. If you think agents don’t know this and consider it, think again.

Most agents are in the business out of love and passion, much as authors are. There are easier ways to make money. But there’s also a reason we’re not stockbrokers. Agents want to love authors, want to love the books they write and help bring them into the world. If they make a bunch of money doing that, even better. But no book is brilliant enough to make an agent want to work with you if they think it will be a miserable experience.

Because life is too short.


Time in a Novel: What Should Your Scale Be?

Apr 5 2015, 3:28 pm in , , ,


Tis the season to be gearing up for the RT Convention! This is just one of the fun reader parties I’m participating in.

I’m over at Word Whores talking about 3 Hours, 3 Days, or 300 Years: How Do You Choose & Use The Passage of Time?

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