Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm heading out of town for Thanksgiving. It's my daughter's favorite holiday. Mostly because she has a deep, unconditional love for all Thanksgiving food. :) She's working over the holiday so we're taking dinner to her. And getting out of the snow for a couple of days.

But before I leave I want to give thanks. I mean, isn't that what tomorrow is all about? I've been incredibly blessed this year and I attribute a lot of my successes to the wonderful friends I have in the writing community. I've found many a kindred spirit over the course of this year and I'm grateful every day for the friends I've made. Suzanne, Sarah, Windy, I wouldn't be sane without you! Sandy, I'm SO glad we started exchanging emails and have become friends! I can't wait to read your book!!Cole and Shawntelle, you've made me laugh and given me great advice when I needed it. Oh, and Shawntelle, your writer's gadgets are the BEST! I mean, advance calculator, synopsis wizard... AMAZING! :)

Have a great holiday weekend, everyone! Be safe! I'll be back on Monday with a food hang-over I'm sure. Unless my daughter hijacks all the left overs!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Real Me

So I was thinking the other day. I know, amazing, right? I was thinking about the fact that in a year and a half my book is going to be on shelves. Printed. Bound. Glossy, beautiful cover. Dedications. Acknowledgements. And my words plastered all over the sweet smelling pages. And then I realized, HOLY CRAP! People are going to be READING my book!

It's not that I'm not proud of my book. I'm damned proud. But I live in a small town. Everyone knows everyone more or less. And as word got out that my book was going to be published, I noticed a common theme among my congratulators. They all think I write Young Adult. "I'm going to buy two copies for each of my granddaughters!" my husband's secretary said. "My little sister loves fairies! If you have fairies in your book she'll read it for sure!" a high-school student told me. "Tell your daughter I'm so happy for her!" my mom's collegues said. "She writes for children, right?"


Dead wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrongski.

It's not that I have anything against YA. I actually occassionally read it. And two of my awesomesauce crit parters write YA. You see, I was NEVER a conventional young adult. Having a baby at 16 sort of cuts you off from things like going out, angsting over a guy, the fact that Becky So-and-so is wearing the dress I wanted to wear to prom. Yeah, I was angsting over things like dirty diapers, a crying infant who refused to sleep until well after 3 am. Finishing highschool with my graduating class while taking two years worth of classes in one year. A husband who was in the Navy and living clear across the county from me. So to say I can't relate to teenagers is a bit of an understatement. Not that I didn't get into a little teenage trouble (obviously). But my experimentation and experiences were cut short. And, honestly, I don't regret ANY OF IT.

I've been reading "adult" books since I was 16. And this young mom was into the hard stuff: Dean Koontz, Kathleen Woodiwiss (I likes my historical romance), Shakespeare (ya, he turns me on), and Anne Rice to name a few. So when I started writing it was natural for me that I would write for an adult market.

I can really swear it up in my novels. Yep, nothing enhances a sentence like a few artfully placed F-bombs. And sex... well, I can go a little further than a YA writer can in the sex department. I can tell my story from an adult perspective and I can connect with an audience I get. And I can write in my comfort zone.

So, what's the problem, you ask? I'm afraid of dissapointing people. "I don't write for kids!" I've been putting the disclaimer out. "PLEASE, do not buy my book for your granddaughters." "Attention all highschool students: you will NOT find my book in the school library." I told a mother at my volleyball awards ceremony this year that I wrote "Adult Urban Fantasy" and she looked at me like I'd signed on to ghost-write for Penthouse Forums. In a small town, people are curious. I assume some people will read my book out of sheer curiosity if not for their personal enjoyment. And when they dive in, I just hope I live up to their expectations and they still think that I'm as sweet and personable as I've always been.

I am not my characters. Well, not really. I wish I was sometimes. My heroine is tough, foul-mouthed, and unapologetic, not to mention tall, gorgeous, and not afraid to cut your head off with her katana if you cross her. And while there are things about Darian that might remind some people of me, she's not me. And I'm not her. I'm a storyteller and that's my job. To create extraordinary characters for your reading enjoyment. Just... not for kids.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reading the Fine Print or Why I Love my Agent

So... you all know that I've been blogging less and less lately. It's something that I'm going to try to remedy, though I suspect it's going to take some serious effort on my part to actually make it happen. I've got a few weeks of free time before I'll be gearing up for edits and so I'm going to make the most of my time.

The writertly world was abuzz this week with news of James Frey's Full Fathom Five, a fiction factory aimed at recruiting young MFA's and other writers to produce the next "big YA" novel for virtually no money and no rights whatsoever. Obviously, I disagree with what Mr. Frey is doing here, but it made me so very thankful for my agent that I thought I'd share with you all just why I appreciate her so much.

First of all, I want to start off by saying that being young doesn't inherently make you gullible or ignorant. I didn't start seriously writing with publication in mind until I was 34 years old. Not exactly a spring chicken. That first year was tough. The manuscript I was seeking representation for was not at all ready, my skills as a writer had yet to "mature", and I had very little knowledge about the rules of the biz. I didn't even have a crit partner! With each rejection rolling in I became a little more downtrodden and a friend of my husband sent him many links to self-pub services. His basic message: it's just too hard to get an agent these days. Self-publishing is probably your best bet.

I wasn't quite ready to go that route. I'd set out a goal for myself and I was determined to reach it. But I'll admit that if someone like Frey had approached me during that first year, I would have JUMPED at the opportunity to sign on with him. I realized that my manuscript was not going to get me an agent or a publishing contract and so, I put it away. And started the sequel. Stupid? Not really. Of course the sequel wouldn't do me any good in securing an agent, but what it did was give me more writing experience. In the meantime, I found crit partners (great ones, I might add), reached out to the writing community, and learned the ropes. By the time I finished my third manuscript, I was ready to jump back into the query waters. It wasn't easy, though. Seven months, and two revisions later I found the perfect agent. Why is she so perfect, you ask? And what does this have to do with the Frey situation? Well, I'll tell you! :)

First of all, she believed in me. She "got" me. She read my story and saw the potential meat in the skeleton that was my manuscript. She wasn't just looking to throw my MS out there and earn a quick buck. She saw the potential and helped me craft my MS into something worth selling. We writers have a tendency to doubt ourselves and never once during the submission process did she ever doubt that my book would sell. She knew the market, knew the editors, KNEW the business and I always trusted her advice because I knew she had my best interests at heart, rather than solely thinking about what this could do for her. She has a firm grasp of contracts. I know for a fact that she'll cross every T and dot every I. No way am I going to get less than I deserve. I could have never negotiated a sale on my own behalf. I just don't know enough about contracts and I probably would've gone blind trying to decipher the legal jargon. She's with me for the long-haul and I consider her a partner. She's worth her weight in gold and if I could, I'd pay her that and more. It takes a lot to trust someone with your livelihood and that's what you're doing when you sign with an agent. You're saying, "Okay, here's my hopes and dreams for the future. Go for it."

There are pubs out there that take unsolicited submissions. You don't have to have an agent. But even if you sell to a publisher without the help of an agent, I strongly suggest having at least a contracts lawyer take a look at the paperwork for you. As writers, as artists, all we want is to see our work out in the world, our pages perused by eager readers. Sometimes the fine print takes a backseat to our hopes and dreams. No matter how you do it, traditionally or not, agent, no agent, indie pub or self-pub, know what you're getting yourself in to. Don't let someone exploit your dreams.

I'm glad I stayed true to my course. I'm glad I stuck it out when I wanted to quit. I'm glad I have an agent who can be tough when I know I couldn't be and has the guts to say, "Calm yourself, Amanda," when she knows I'm about to go off the deep end. I'm glad I have her on this journey with me and even though I've told her more than once, I just want her to know once again: I am SO thankful for you! I can't wait to see what we accomplish next!