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An Open Letter To My Agent

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

I can't address you by your proper name yet because we haven't officially met, but I know you're out there somewhere.  I'm as sure of this as I am of a setting sun in the west or the beauty of a newborn child.  When we do meet I'll probably read you this hokey letter and we'll laugh about it, then you'll point out my grammatical errors and chastise me for the weak paragraph structure.  I'll be so juiced that I'll just nod my head incessantly like one of those bobble-head toys, unable to wipe the stupid smile from my face.

We haven't connected yet because I'm still finding my way through this maze of a process designed to bring us together.  I've been spending hours upon hours scouring the database of QueryTracker and AgentQuery, or turning the pages of my well-worn Writers Market, searching for your agency's name and jotting down submission guidelines.  My query letter has been tweaked more times than Joan Rivers and the version number on my synopsis is approaching triple digits.  Whoever thought that the same skill set that served us so well while writing our manuscript should prove useful in boiling 300+ pages down into a couple of paragraphs, is frankly confused.  I feel like a college student who's been studying algebra all year long and the first question on the final exam has to do with organic chemistry.  But I'll continue to plod away, confident that I'll finally find the right collection of thoughts to jell into a coherent letter and then wait for that special day when the planets align and you click on my e-mail.  It's then that you'll first feel a tug of interest as you read about my story, and just as you're about to habitually reply with a standard form rejection, you'll pause.  Unable to put a finger on why, you'll feel compelled to read my first chapter a second time and your interest will deepen into genuine curiosity.  You'll need to read more.  The requested partial will only further stoke your interest and as soon as you ask for the full manuscript, that's when I'll have you.

After finishing my novel you'll realize you've discovered a slightly flawed project with a HUGE amount of potential.  An adult Mystery/Suspense that I've been told is in the same mold as Suzanne Collins Hunger Games, a fast read that trades purple prose and nauseating detail for an intriguing storyline and fresh characters that resonate long after the final page is turned.  The commercial possibilities and ways to promote it will be endless, after all, every one of my friends tell me they would pay money for my book.  Have you stopped laughing yet?  More importantly, they'd pay more money for the next one.   You see, a vote of confidence in this book is actually a future sale of two (or more).

But I understand you're not going to be 100% sold just yet because although the material is a large part of a successful partnership, the synergy has to be there as well.  That will lead to the phone call where you'll size me up and gauge our rapport.  You'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that I'm slightly older than most of the other aspiring authors you've been interacting with and confess to being willing to exchange youthful exuberance for mature ebullience.  I'll brag about the modest following my blog has accumulated and might even mention that Rachelle Gardener tweeted about it once. Then I'll warn you about my introversion and oftentimes debilitating shyness, but quickly counter by pointing out I never have a problem discussing topics near and dear to my heart...such as my writing.  That's when the conversation will drift back and forth between my book, the vision of where I see my future as a writer heading, and your ideology as an agent.  Our chat will last for almost an hour, but we'll both have made up our minds in the first five minutes.

I SOOOO look forward to spending hour after hour on the phone with you discussing the book, listening to your suggestions and agreeing to changes we both find necessary to lift it to where it must be.  I can't wait to see that final version the two of us will craft together and send out to publishers so they can experience what we both believe it possesses. Wings!

So, I know you're weary and that slushpile of query letters is more backed up than a three-hundred pound man following a twelve hour trans-Atlantic flight, but I need you to stay on top of your game.  I can't afford for you to wake up on the wrong side of the bed the very day my email jumps to the top of your queue.  I'm counting on the fact that you'll look past the fact that I put the genre and word count in the first paragraph (or the last) and concentrate less on the technical appropriateness of my query and focus on the heart of the story.  That's where you'll find me.

I'll be right here...waiting...patiently.


PS.  I hope you'll notice that this post, like my blog, like my query letter, strives for subtlety by saying something about me...without saying much about me.  That is to say that despite my tongue being planted firmly in cheek, my eye is on the target.  If your unable to see that, then maybe you're not my agent after all.  

Knocked Up

A common theme we aspiring authors tend to discuss a lot is how open we are about our writing.  Who have we let in on our little secret?  Family?  Close friends?  Co-workers?  Naturally those who’ve been published, about to be published, or have signed with an agent would probably be a lot more forthcoming then those of us still seeking validation.  Why is that?  Why are we so hesitant to talk about this passion to those closest to us…but we’ll openly share our experiences to virtual strangers out here in the blogosphere?  Don’t worry, I’m not an idiot and I don’t think any of you are either, it’s a rhetorical question.  Here in our blogging community we all understand the process.  The trials, tribulations, frustration, gratification, reward (recognized or not), despair, and jubilation. It’s so easy to relate.  But our non-writer friends and family…muggles, if you will…with their obligatory praise and well-intentioned prodding, that’s another matter.

There might be another explanation for our silence.  Expectations.  As soon as you let that cat out of the bag, then expectations start to build in the minds of those you tell.  It’s very similar to a couple informing the people in their life that they’re pregnant.  What’s the first question asked…when are you due?  The newly informed instantly know that big changes are coming and have a timeline to track the couples progress by.  Now let’s back that up a step and pretend the couple make the same announcement…only they’re not really pregnant yet.  They only have intentions on becoming pregnant.   How do they answer the when are you due question now?  It's not like you make that kind of decision, do the nasty, and ta-dah...pregnant!  It doesn't work like that (unless you're teenagers doing it for the first time in the back of a Chevy using a condom with a microscopic hole in it).  How do explain the lack of a belly bulge eight months later.  Twelve months?  Two years?  Is it a problem with her?  With him?  Did they change their mind?  Are they having problems?  Anybody having difficulty equating the red NO on a pee stick to a rejection letter?

The expectations of others upon us create a pressure to deliver.  Our egos are fragile enough, why do that to ourselves?    We don’t.  We keep silent.  Questions like "what have you been doing lately?" are deflected.  It’s impossible to fail at something nobody knows about, right?

But here’s the thing, expectation can serve as a powerful motivator?  Want to lose twenty pounds...tell everyone you're on a diet.  Want to finish that half-completed landscape project...plan a party an invite everyone over.  Want to see your recently revised manuscript published...tell everyone you're a writer.

So that's what I did.  At our company strategic planning session this week we were asked to stand up, introduce yourself, and say one thing that none of the 45 other attendees knew about you.  I proudly announced that I was a writer and I had written two novels!

Thirty minutes later I felt like throwing up.  Maybe its morning sickness?


A problem has been detected and you have been shut down to prevent damage to your ego.

If this is your first time you've seen this stop error message, restart yourself. If this appears again, follow these steps:

Disable or uninstall any defense mechanisms, brain defragmentation or backup utilities. Check your configurations, and scan for any updated suppression drivers. Run CHKDSK /F to check for brain corruption, and then restart yourself.

Technical information

STOP 0x00000024 (0x00190203, 0x839D72A8, 0xc0000102, 0x00000000)


Anybody out there? I’d actually be surprised if there were. That’s what happens when you abruptly pull the plug, especially when you’re dealing with sophisticated systems. Complete memory wipe. In the aftermath you find yourself faced with one of two choices…rebuilding what you had by piecing together bits and pieces from external storage…or begin anew, breathing fresh life into a previously stagnant existence.

Five months ago I made a big decision, one that I had been building up to weeks prior to that. I decided, for me, it was better to be a non-writer, than a mediocre one. My second novel lay on there on my desk, begging me to complete the promising start I had fashioned, but I lacked the skills to provide the finishing touch it required. I knew there was much more I needed to learn about the craft before I could give it the attention it deserved, but that next level was beyond my reach. This wasn’t a case of the self-doubt that all writers face from time to time, this was more than that. What I faced was a realization of where I was…where I needed to go…and the seemingly impenetrable barrier that separated the two.

Motivation was never the issue, but time was. Working 50 stressful hours a week (mostly dues to new job responsibilities) and a family life thirsty for my attention, forced my writing aspirations to the back burner (deservedly so). At the time I couldn’t see a way to alter my circumstances and every post I uploaded to this blog seemed to mock me. So, I pulled the plug. Actually, I joke about it above, but what happened was similar to a computer shutting down to protect itself. On March 28th I stopped swimming against the current and crawled out of the water. I no longer felt comfortable calling myself a writer.

It’s here I would like to take a moment to thank those of you who sought me out back then, and even times since, making impassioned pleas for me to reconsider. Your emails, Facebook messages, Tweets and blog posts meant more to me than I could ever put into words. Thank you all! Really!!

My departure also upset more than a few people, and for that I’m truly sorry. Note to self, next time you feel like imploding…keep it to yourself. I don’t regret quitting…it was the right decision at the time…but I do regret any hurt feelings it caused.

The good news is the reports of my demise were exaggerated…by me it turns out. So, what has changed that’s allowed me to see myself as a writer once again? First and foremost, the stress that my job imposed on me for so long has mostly lifted. I no longer feel drained and vegetative at the end of the day and have hopes that it will remain that way for some time. I also have to say that not blogging (and all that entails) has proven beneficial. More on that in a minute. Both of those things have allowed me time to map out a more focused strategy for moving forward. My passion for telling stories never really diminished, but now I’m excited about writing again because I’m no longer floundering. I may be a writing midget…but I’m determined to be the tallest midget in every room I enter.

I’ve taken my manuscript through yet another round of revisions and I’m gearing up (seriously…this time) for query wars. My confidence in FALLEN KNIGHT is as strong as ever and it’s time to find an agent that feels the same way. Wish me luck.

But that doesn’t mean this blog is back, at least not in the same way it was before. Remember when I was talking about what to do after you reboot? You can either choose to rebuild by piecing together bits and pieces from remembered habits, or begin anew. I’m actually doing a little of both. I’m choosing to keep those elements that I believe define me as a writer, dropping those that are more about attracting followers, and adding content targeted for newbie’s. That’s not a judgment regarding anybody else’s blog, just what works for me. It means I’ll probably post less frequently and only have time to read the blogs of writers who interact with me here, but I’m back.

I guess this officially marks the beginning of Cruising Altitude 2.0. Sorry for the unexpected turbulence. I’ll do my utmost to keep it level from here on out.



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