The continuing chronicle of Wesley's quest to be published; plus comments on popular culture, family life, and whatever else falls out of his head.

Monday, April 24, 2006

"Not My Genre"

I've got the book out, waiting to hear back from a few agents. But if I get negatives back from them, that'll be it for agents who represent fantasy authors. Carrie has been encouraging me to start submitting to agents who represent mystery as well, but I wasn't comfortable with the idea. I figured at best I'd be wasting my time, and at worst I could get put on some agent's blacklist.

So I called Miss Snark. If you have never read her blog, the anonymous but good hearted Miss Snark doles out advice to published and unpublished about the vagaries of the publishing industry.
I asked her if I should bother querying mystery agents, and here's how she
Query Kristin Nelson of course.
She does both, and sold a book
like that recently. She takes equeries so you’ll hear back pretty fast I
Then query mystery agents.
Genre blending is the latest thing
(think Charley Huston’s latest just for example).
Go for it.

The problem, of course, being that I already queried Miss Nelson. Twice. It was purely by accident, but it was still due to my own poor record-keeping. I found her name after the first wave of querying, and I thought she was a good enough fit that I should query her as well. Then, I re-discovered her (oy) when I was going through my second wave of queries, and didn't realize the fact until I was filing her rejection the second time and came across her first rejection (double oy).

Haven't decided if I am going to query mystery-representing agents yet. But if I do, I am definitely going to do my homework beforehand to try to find agents that have a passing knowledge of fantasy. And I will definitely be certain that I haven't queried them before.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Review: Fantasyland

Ever since I got married, I've been infected by the same baseball bug that has gotten to my wife's entire family. There were things that I had missed entirely, like the emergance of fantasy (or 'rotisserie') baseball. Some estimates say that there are hundreds of thousands who play in fantasy leagues each season, although others say that many of those leagues are played by the same people.

Fantasy baseball confuses and frustrates me. What's the point of rooting for the home team if you really need to have the opposing pitcher win the game for your fantasy team?

Sam Walker, a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal (well, that's your first problem right there) takes a year off from his job with the intent of beating Tout Wars, one of the most exclusive and elite fantasy leagues in the United States. Open spots are taken by invitation only, and the majority of its players are professional fantasy players, in that they provide the stats and isue the dictums that the rest of the fantasy players use to choose their teams.

Even though the winner of the league gets nothing but bragging rights, Walker hires a team to help him in the draft, scouts the pre-season himself, and spends thousands of dollars traveling from game to game to interview players and managers to prove that any rank amateur with a press pass can beat the experts.

Does he do it? Well, of course I'm not going to tell you that. But I will say that Walker injected a fair amount suspense into what is essentially a memoir. But there are also belly laughs in every chapter as his assistants from opposite sides of scouting theory square off against each other, and he profiles the eccentric members of the Tout Wars.

Good book. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Recommend it for anyone with a passing interest in baseball. Mandatory reading for anyone involved in fantasy leagues.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Urban Fantasy

Over at Kristin Nelson's blog, yesterday she posted a very short comment about what editors are looking for right now. At the top of the list is erotica. But just below that is urban fantasy.

And that's what I've been thinking about for the past 24 hours.

Carrie asked me to define what urban fantasy is, because, while she is a vorascious reader, she doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to genres, so she can't classify the subgenres.

Urban fantasy, in a nutshell, is just fantasy set in a contemporary setting. In fact, it would probably be more accurate to call it "contemporary fantasy" instead. However, "urban fantasy" is the name that stuck.

And even though urban fantasy is still a growing market, thanks to folks like Laurel Hamilton and Jim Butcher, there are already some standard characteristics and themes that seem to run through most urban fantasy stories, and even using "urban" over "contemporary" lends one to focus on some aspects of setting more closely than others.

There seem to be two major types of urban fantasy out right now: The first I'll call "Monster Hunters." These are the Anita Blakes and Dresdens of the literary world, where vampires and such are still hidden, and generally thought of as inherently evil, if misunderstood. This is where "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" goes as well. Sometimes these stories will have a secondary theme of these hidden societies trying to keep their secrets from the outside world.

The other type is what I call "My next door neighbor is a werewolf." These are stories where the fantasy creatures have "come out of the closet," so to speak. Human culture is generally the bad guy here, not understanding the vampires' plight. There are more newcomers like Kim Harrison (Dawn Cook's pseudonym) and Patricia Briggs fit in. (I shouldn't call them newcomers. They both have several books in more traditional fantasy under their belts)

Even though the genre is on an upswing, there are already tons of other urban fantasy novels, mostly in the vein (pardon the pun) of Anita Blake. There are elements of chick-lit in most of these books, sometimes even bordering on erotica. But either way, unless another twist is brought in soon, urban fantasy will implode the same way chick-lit has.

I think the only real way that the implosion can be avoided is by finding a story where the fantasy elements are inherent, but secondary to the story, and then figure out how to sell it to the agents and publishers in a neat little package.

The package, I've got. What I need now is the story.

With the continuing problems I've been having with the Dancing Cat story, I'm going to change my focus to coming up with an exciting urban fantasy story. I already have a couple strong concepts, if not ideas. If I can come up with something strong enough in the next couple of weeks, with any luck I'll be able to catch this wave and ride it out before it shallows out and hits the beach.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The five-second rule does not apply to chewy granola bars that have fallen under the desk.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Thinking Aloud

While writing the last post, I remembered something important. Something that I always forget and am always surprised that I've forgotten it when I remember:

I think better when I type.

I know everybody has had the experience when they're tackling a problem that's been frustrating them for awhile, but as soon as they vocalize the problem (sometimes as they're asking someone else for help), the answer suddenly materializes. It's happened to all of us.

For me, that happens when I sit down at the computer and type things out. Something shifts in my head and I can think more clearly while my fingers take notation straight from my head, freeing my subconscious to do all the heavy lifting.

At least, that's what I think happens.

As I wrote the previous post whining about my problems, a couple of possible solutions presented themselves to me. None of them may be the answer I'm searching for, but they're avenues to explore.

I have got to remember that.


Yeah, it's been a long time since I last blogged. Carrie and I got back from New Zealand about a week and a half ago. During our time I read five different books that I'll be posting my opinions on in the next day or so. But that's not what I'm writing about.

We arrived back in town at 6:30 AM, and I was back at my desk at work by noon. But that's not what I'm writing about.

Spent the next several days recovering as much as possible from jet lag, then it was back to the grind of working on the house and trying to plot out a new novel.

That's what I'm writing about.

Carrie is absolutely convinced that I need to continue the Springer stories. And, to be honest, that was the plan. But the story is not growing as organically as I had hoped. Essentially, I've hit a road block with the vilain, which is what happened last time. In my first story, I had a decent plot (I think), but the villain was paper thin and undeveloped, and it ended up really muddling the story for a while.

This time I want to really nail the villain and his or her motivations down before I start, so I can know how they react to a particular stimulus if something unexpected comes up.

Herein lyeth the problem: due to the hero's reticent nature, he doesn't want to get involved in anything and has to be pulled into the larger conflict. That means that the villain has to attack someone he cares for before the hero will do anything about it. So I've been considering blackmailing one of the hero's friends.

However, I can't think of a reason why anyone would want to blackmail any of his friends. They're all a little too perfect I guess.