Thursday, June 24, 2010

because I know everyone was holding their breath

I passed! The iron test, that is. My iron count was just over threshold, and I gave blood successfully!

Then I ate a giant cheeseburger and had a peanut butter milkshake. Yar.

So glad to tell you the sacrificing caffeine seems to have paid off! Or at least it didn't hurt.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

why the first page of your manuscript is so dang important

Just briefly, because I am up to my tailbone in manuscripts.

Heaps and heaps and heaps of manuscripts. At the moment, all of them fiction. 90% of them debut novels. All of their authors hoping desperately for a book deal, for a home for their beloved novel.

When I read submission after submission after submission--which, let's face it, is everyday--my mind starts to dull. My eyes begin to glaze from all the white on black. My butt begins to hurt from sitting. I'm pretty hungry (because I'm always pretty hungry), and this is making me cranky. As the day wears on, I get irritable. The reading gets faster, and the disappointments stack up more quickly.

I don't want to reject books--I want to buy them! But I can't buy something that I'm not passionate about. So many of these manuscripts are only 60% of a book I'd want to read. There are different reasons they don't fit the bill--maybe the content doesn't interest me personally; maybe I don't like the writer's style; maybe there's nothing special about the book, it's just adequate. Maybe the agent didn't do a great job of pitching it, and I was expecting something other than what I got.

Or maybe it's a beautiful, perfect, exquisite book, exactly the book I've always dreamed of publishing. But I'll never know, because the first page was CRAP.

There are different ways to create a crappy first page. Boringness. Cliche. Too many fancy schmancy words. Immersing your audience too quickly into the action. Immersing them too slowly.

Yeah, I know, it's basically impossible to win at this game. But YOU MUST TRY.

Above all things, YOU MUST BE SPECIAL.

Assume whoever is reading your submission is going to be in a terrible mood when they look at page 1.

You just don't have until page 2.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday morning educational video

How to swear in English (Korean instructional video). As the commenters say, "I would learn English from this man!" "Learn English? I would follow this man into battle!" (Warning: as our kind teacher points out, children and pregnant women should not watch, as it will not be beneficial for them.)

Thanks to Maud Newton for steering me to him.

Friday, June 18, 2010

weakness of nationalism at The Office

Editor Colleague: You know, maybe we should stop feeling so happy the US tied it up. After all, no one here even cares about soccer. That's all Slovenia has.

YT: Shh!! Stop! Be strong of mind and will!! Slovenia has plenty.

Marketing Director: Like what?

YT: Like... delicious cuisine.

MD: Oh yeah? Like what?

YT: Uh. [I'm not sure, so I scramble to look up "Slovenian Cuisine" on Wikipedia, and come up with this]. It says right here that... "There is no such thing as Slovenian cuisine..."

EC: Exactly.

Fight Wikipedia, my friends! Send me your best Slovenian recipes. Go US!

just finished reading

Lips Touch Three Times, by Laini Taylor, illustrated by Jim di Bartolo. My review here. Anyone else read it? Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I guess I'm more closely genetically linked to her pet turtle than to her.

Fellow Editor: So I was thinking about this. I have a pet turtle, and every day she eats--well, it's basically lettuce, but it's still bigger than her entire body. Meanwhile, I eat this [brandishing a sandwich], which is smaller than my head, and I feel totally satisfied.

[file under: #problemsidonot have]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

life is meaningless without challenges.

This post has absolutely nothing to do with publishing, except maybe how much coffee people in publishing drink (a lot).

So back when I was very very young, I used to give blood all the time. I started when I was 17, and quickly figured out that giving blood was a nifty way to assuage my grieving conscience for all my other crimes against humanity. E.g. "You've been gossiping an awful lot about your friends lately; that makes you a nasty person. But at least you gave blood." Etc, etc. Plus giving blood is a good excuse to eat like a hooligan. Replenishing nutrients and whatnot. Right?

Anyway, this merry pattern dropped off about two years ago. At that point, every time I went into the NYC Blood Center, they would stab my finger and then turn me away for low iron. An outrageous accusation, especially hurled at one who could easily eat an entire cow over the course of a week (or other tasty iron-filled meat product, for that matter).

I tried eating more meat and going back. No dice. I tried supplementing iron-rich non-meats, like spinach and walnuts. YUM WALNUTS! An addiction was born. But no, still the iron count was too low.

The last time I went, I asked the guy what was wrong with me. "I never used to have this problem until a couple years ago," I told him.

"Hmm," he said. "Well, have you started drinking a lot of coffee lately?"

"No," I said. "No more than three or four cups a day. Unless I'm tired. Then sometimes more."

"Right," he said. "You know coffee depletes your iron. Try cutting out the coffee and coming back."

Obviously I laughed uproariously at his hilarious joke. Cut out the coffee! FUN.NY. Sure, I wanted to help save lives. But without coffee, I might accidentally kill someone myself, either through morning rage or sheer sleepy accident. So saving lives might actually cost lives. Which would defeat the purpose, right?

Well, anyway, suffice it to say that after lo these many months I am reversing that decision. I have to leave the country shortly (on vacation, boohoo, poor me), and that will make me ineligible to donate for six months. So, when inspired by my friend Ellen, who also wants to make a donation, I decided to squeeze one last little life-saving in before jetting off.

Our appointment is set for next Thursday. I haven't had any coffee whatsoever--not a single drop--since Friday morning of last week. Let's just say this is both easier and harder than I imagined. I come from a fine line of coffee drinkers. My father, who used to be in the navy, drank so much black coffee everyday to keep himself awake through his dog watches that on nights he managed to sneak in a full 8 hours to sleep, he would wake up 4 hours into it with a crushing caffeine withdrawal headache, brew himself a cup, and go back to sleep. I mean, he makes me look like an amateur.

It's very interesting to look at the facets of my life this probably largely psychosomatic drug has. For example, without the crutch of coffee, how do I trick my brain into engaging in the morning? A brisk walk? A math puzzle? Cake? (I have tried at least one of these options. I will not insult your intelligence by saying which.) And this is only one manifesting issue. My coworkers probably want to kill me--I keep walking into things, taking three times as long as usual to do stuff, and being unable to think of very common everyday, uh, what are they called. Those things, that you say and write. Words! That's them. But my coworkers are kind and haven't let on.

Perhaps we can break the addiction forever! Do I have staying power? I don't know. I like coffee. I like the smell, and also mixing it with lots of milk. But I do hear it does a number on your poor insides. I dunno. I'll leave big decisions until later.

Anyway. That's my adventure for this week. Now if the Blood Center tells me my iron count is STILL too low, I shall return here with irateness anon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

just finished reading

The Elvenbane, by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey. This is the one I promised you I'd review a couple days ago--the reread of my childhood magician's book. My review here. I know at least a couple of you have also read it--I hope you'll come out of your lairs and comment. (Dragon joke.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

writing @$$ off commencing

Please feel welcome to report your accomplishments here, fellow stalwart friends. The official goal is 3,000 words, but my personal goal is to finish one scene that's been tricky.

Knock 'em dead!

Friday, June 11, 2010

ladies and gentlement, we have a bleeder*

*I borrow a term from vampire literature I've been reading lately to refer to a "real, live human being, who has presented itself in the flesh, for all the world as if it is begging to be sucked dry"

That's right. We have had an unsolicited, unagented author "drop by" the press to hand-deliver his work today.

He is, even as I type this from behind my little wall, describing to our poor managing editor the merits of his manuscript and exactly why he's sure we're going to love it.

What is our ME supposed to say to that?!

*squeak*

"Uh, thanks"?

"Well, this is a little uncomfortable. I really wish you'd stop describing your plot to me now so I can get back to work, especially since I'm not the one who will be reading this anyway"?

"Wish you had followed our submissions guidelines as they are available on the web, but instead you've chosen to demonstrate that you're above everyone else's submission guidelines, so thanks for helping us realize at the beginning of the process that you're going to be a handful to work with"?

It sounds (as I huddle behind my desk) like our ME is being very polite. Power to the ME! Better our ME than me!

I know dropping off a manuscript in person seems like a great idea--a way to make yourself stand out, a way to make yourself special, make that agent/editor remember you.

But it's really, really not.

Remember that on a whole, editors are introverted and antisocial (even, secretly, yours truly, if you crack through this blustery exterior--it's part of the job calling, if you think about it). This means that for many editors, in-person presentations like this feel an awful lot like confrontations. You do NOT want the person who's reading your manuscript having backed-into-a-corner thoughts about you.

In fact, you risk the editor becoming afraid of you, and assuming you are a stalker.

Anyway. Everybody reading this blog already knows these rules. It is, alas, the people who will never need this blog that most need them.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

My Magician's Book (Or, the Life-Long Secret of the Reader Child)

So, fans of the Chronicles of Narnia, I'm going to remind you of one of one of Lewis's mini-fables, as this book reminded me:

Lucy Pevensie is looking in a spell book for a spell she desperately needs. The spell, it turns out, is in the form of a story, a really amazing story that Lucy can't stop reading. It's so good that she tries to go back and reread it, but finds the (magical) pages only turn in one direction. Worst of all, the story is erasing itself from her brain even as she reads it, so that by the time she gets to the end she can't remember it at all. But it was such a good story that from that day on, whenever she reads something that she enjoys, it's only because it in some way reminded her of that one perfect, lost story.


Sound familiar? The Magician's Book. The perfect story you read as a child, and which since you read it has gone utterly unmatched and only vaguely echoed by anything else you read?

If you're a nerd-child like me, you probably have a book (or book series) like this. You might still be able to quote from it extensively, even though you haven't read it in five, ten, twenty, or fifty years. You're still not sure you ever felt as good or as intense as you did that first time you read it, and you may have wished really desperately that you could just find and be transported to the world those characters lived in. Any of this ringing any bells for you?

When I read The Magician's Book, Laura Miller's monograph on her love of Narnia and rereading it as an adult, bells were clanging in my head, like Sunday morning at all the churches in the world.

For Laura Miller, the book columnist at Salon.com, the Magician's Book was Narnia. She writes about her childhood love for Narnia, her return to the series as an adult, and everything she has learned about and ruminated on regarding nerdy childish reading patterns. Some points she makes:

1) As children, we read books desperately then, falling wholly and completely in love with them (did you ever sneak a book under the dining room table or under the lid of your desk at school, and then get yelled at by your parent/teacher for reading instead of being social/studious? I did all the time. ALL THE TIME.)

2) We kept reading as adults, but don't really love reading as much or as purely as we used to when we were kids. This is because...

3) Experience, life-knowledge, exposure to various things, etc destroy our credulity as we get older, meaning we don't allow ourselves the same escapism we used to as kids. One of her great examples here is the nearly universal desire of children to read about talking animals or a hero's ability to commune with animals--it's because, down to that bitter moment we actually become adults, all children hang onto the hope that *they* will be the child to bridge that gap and talk with animals. Eventually, we finally give up on that hope, and then we feel stupid and embarrassed at ourselves for ever feeling hope in that particular magic.

(That's another sad part about being an adult--being embarrassed by the things that made us happy when we were kids.)

Laura Miller says that, for us, you know, us kids who read constantly and obsessively when we were kids, we've spent our entire lives trying, like Lucy, to resuscitate that feeling of total immersion we felt when we read our Magician's Books when we were kids. We read things and like or enjoy them based on to what degree they can recall that ancient, complete escapism.

Now, full disclosure--I read a lot. I mean, besides for work. And despite all this very great amount of reading that I do, it is very, very rare that I read anything and experience a sense of pure enjoyment. I mean, I often experience some or various enjoyments from what I read, or I appreciate different elements about the book, or maybe it strikes a particularly resonant chord for me. But very, very, VERY rarely do I get so totally lost in a book that every time I put it down I just itch to re-immerse myself. You know, the way I read EVERYTHING when I was a kid.

So recently, I reread my Magician's Book--an epic fantasy called The Elvenbane, which I'll review separately. I don't want to give up any spoilers regarding whether or not it held up to my childish love for it; I'll get to that later. But I've decided it's really silly to be embarrassed about the things I read and loved as a child. That means--mostly epic fantasy, which made me so, so happy as a child. So very happy.

So, calling all nerd children: what do you think of Laura Miller's thesis about childhood reading? What was your Magician's Book? I can't wait to hear.

*Postscript: I dedicate this post to Alyssa Smith, the Sterling editor who loaned me her copy of Laura Miller's MAGICIAN'S BOOK and inspired this post. Alyssa has been a very good friend for a long time, and has been one of a small vanguard of folks who have helped me re-discover my inner geek. Alyssa also had the horrific experience of losing all of her belongings and pets in a fire that burned down her entire house earlier this week. Alyssa has done a lot of kind things for a lot of people, so please send her your love, good wishes, and, if you can spare a couple bucks, her friends are collecting donations to help her rebuild her life. More details here.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

tons of good news

Lots going on in our part of the blogosphere...

First, a bunch of his friends have put together a huge online party, complete with prizes, presents, and games, for the release of Stephen Parrish's new book. And writing contests. I know "contest" is the magic word for a bunch of addicts around here, so run off and submit!

Next, devilish good news, my very dear friend Ellen Oh has just signed with the stellar agent Joe Monti. I'm SO happy for her. I know a lot of you guys know and love Ello as much as I do, so this is a big victory for the team!

Finally, he's so modest that I had to figure it out for myself, but very very long-time EdAss reader and commenter Charles Gramlich just had a book come out! Bitter Steel, a collection of epic fantasy stories, is available from Borgo Press.

As for me, I'm still icky-busy over here (you know, though, in a good way). But I will be doing Saturday's Write Your @$$ Off Day! The official goal is 3,000 words in one day, but my goal will be just to devote a couple steady hours to writing. I'm still working on that project that came to me in my dream, just like what happened to Stephenie Meyer.

That's all for now!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Summer Fridays!

So here's a wacky tradition that goes back to, we imagine, back when everyone in publishing was incredibly wealthy and had some kind of summer weekend getaway in the Hamptons. In the summers, we work an hour later Monday through Thursday, and then on Fridays everyone leaves at one o'clock. (Not everywhere... just most places.)

Obviously, for all the COOL kids, that makes summer the time of Karaoke Happy Hour. From 2pm to 7pm, at various New York establishments, Karaoke is only $4 per person per hour (I pay to sing, not to drink--I understand other people go to Karaoke for different reasons, but I have VERY clearly defined priorities).

So to celebrate, I link you (again) to this ridiculous video: "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (perhaps the best Karaoke song ever), the literal version. If you don't laugh, your next two songs at Karaoke are on me.

Happy Summer Friday!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

just finished reading

Rock Paper Tiger, by Lisa Brackmann. My review here. Anyone else read it? Any thoughts?