Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Review of the Day - C.L. Anderson

Just finished BITTER ANGELS by C.L. Anderson, and I enjoyed it. There's a woman in black holding a gun on the cover. Of course I enjoyed it.

No deviation from my norm here. This was kick-butt, female protagonist science fiction. My favorite thing. One minor difference, though. The main character was older and had children, which added an interesting depth to her. The only other older woman main character I can recall liking so much would be the one from Elizabeth Moon's HAMMERED trilogy.

I also really liked the relationships between the main character and her subordinates. I had several moments where my heart wrenched for her, and them, based only upon her responses to their pain. I love it when a novel evokes a physical reaction from me. It's rare. I'm a pretty even-keeled kind of person. For writing to get to me emotionally, that's very impressive.

Beyond the characters, BITTER ANGELS is full of great action, suspense, and a surprise ending. It seems clear that a sequel is intended. I look forward to reading it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Have An Agent!

So, this is it, the post I've waited almost two years (and a lifetime) to make. I have an agent!

I won't mention the number of rejections received prior to now for both the first book I shopped years ago, and the current ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE. My closest friends know the number. The rest of you will have to guess.

I won't tell you how many revisions the novel has undergone. And more are forthcoming.

I will tell you, or at least try to put into words, the whirlwind of the last few days.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I won a scholarship to the Backspace Agent/Author Seminar in New York City. The competition was run by agent Colleen Lindsay of Fine Print Literary Management. Now, I should also mention that Ms. Lindsay had requested my full manuscript, well, let's just say, some time ago, and I've been holding my breath every time I check email and jumping every time the phone rings for a while now.

When I won the scholarship, I was thrilled, but a bit confused. I wasn't sure if she'd had a chance to read the whole manuscript yet. The contest focused only on the query letter and opening pages. If she had read the full, then did she like it? If she liked it, would she say so at the conference?

I suspected one of two things. Either I was being brought out to New York for her to tell me in person that she liked the writing but it wasn't quite right for her, or, she was "checking for crazies." Having read her blog and her Twitter posts, I was well aware that Colleen, and likely most other agents, try very hard to screen potential clients for the "crazies" before offering representation. Makes complete sense to me. A long-term working relationship depends upon a rapport between the participants. I'm a middle school teacher. Clearly, I'm a nutcase. I understand why she wanted to meet me face to face.

Fortunately, it was the latter of my suspicions.

Now, I might also add that Colleen Lindsay is a master of suspense, though she may not realize it.

On the first conference day, I was assigned to two agents in the morning, both of whom liked my work, and one of whom gave me her card to send her pages. She'd looked at the partial a year ago and wanted to see the revisions I'd made. In the following session, I was assigned to Colleen Lindsay and another agent. So, here I am, face to face with someone I really hoped wanted to be my agent. And you should have heard the running dialogue going through my head.

"Smile, Lisa. Don't look overeager. Don't say anything stupid. Just be yourself. Oh wait, my self is occasionally on the weird side. I like to think it's a good, nerdy, sci-fi fan kind of weird, but . . . I don't want to look weird to her. She's hunting for crazies."

At which point, I've got Elmer Fudd's voice in my head saying, "Be vewy vewy quiet. I'm hunting cwazies." Which makes me want to giggle. Crud. I'm not a giggler. Just ask my students.

I doubt highly that any of this was visible from the outside. I'm pretty good at hiding my emotions when I want to, which translates into the assassin characters I write. But I was pretty nervous.

So, back to my story. I read my query out loud. Colleen informs the group of writers that I'm a very good writer and she's read my full manuscript several times over the past few months. And my heart stops. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Talk about torture! I don't know what to make of this. I mean, if she liked it enough, she would have called me, right? No, wait. Maybe she just wanted to make the offer in person. But if that's not it? Sigh.

And so we go to the break/social hour when all the writers get an opportunity to mingle and chat with all the agents at the conference. And what do I do? I find a good corner where I can chat with some of the new writer friends I've made, but from which I can also survey the room and see Colleen Lindsay coming, should she decide she wants to speak with me. I was bound and determined not to pester her or seek her out. She also stresses how much she appreciates patience in her clients and potential clients, so I was darn well going to be patient, even if my brain was about to explode.

So what happens? She can't find me. About half the break goes by before I hear, "You!" and see her pointing at me. "I've been looking all over for you. Can we talk?"

"Sure!" I squeak. Help!

So, she sits me down in the empty meeting room and says, "I'd like to offer you representation."

Colleen, if you read this, I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you nearly killed me with that statement, because the only thing I could think was, "Okay, you'd LIKE to offer me representation, BUT . . . ?"

As querying writers, we hear those words with some frequency. "I'd like to offer you representation . . . BUT it's not quite right for me." "I'd like to offer you representation . . . BUT the market is so tight right now." "I'd like to offer you representation . . . BUT we can't currently handle any new clients."

So, I'm expecting the "BUT." And I'm staring at her stupidly, waiting for her to say it. She probably wondered why I didn't say anything, and just sat in silence. So, she repeated it, maybe thinking I hadn't understood her the first time. "I'd like to offer you representation."

It finally sinks in to me that THERE IS NO "BUT."


Now I'm in shock and likely still staring at her stupidly, but I nod and smile and listen to her discuss some details and plans, some things she really likes about the book and some ideas she has for revisions.


She talks about the agency agreement/contract. She talks about the scholarship contest and how the other judges actually picked me to win because she didn't feel she could judge me since she already knew and liked my work.

Holy poop, I have an agent!

The rest of the conference is a blur. I didn't do much else, because, well, I already had an agent, which Colleen was wonderful enough to announce at the next session, and then to the entire assembled group of conference goers at the closing panel.

It's a really weird feeling, actually. The next day, at the mixer, I didn't know what to do with myself at first. I've spent the past year and a half training myself (a rather shy individual by nature) to approach and strike up casual conversations with agents so that, if and when I queried them, they'd have a positive memory of me. But I had an agent. Now what?

I realized that with or without an agent, I'd come to really enjoy talking to professionals about the field of writing. So, I did it anyway, and probably much more comfortably since I wasn't worried so much.

At the closing panel, after Colleen's announcement, I felt like a minor celebrity. Other writers wanted to touch my hand or arm, hoping some of it would "rub off." Others asked for my card, my opening pages, my query, so they could see what I'd done. It felt great.

I know there's a long road yet ahead of me. I can't wait to see what great ideas Colleen has for making my book better. But I'm one major step closer.