Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Wednesday's Agent Q&A

Welcome to Wednesday's Q&A with agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency. Don't forget to submit questions for next week, either by posting a comment or emailing me at

1) How do you want published authors to submit to you?

I still prefer snail mail submissions with published authors. However, it is very important that they mention in the query letter that they are published. Outlining career plans is another important piece of information to add to the letter. That way, I know where the author is and where she wants to go. Sending along a recent published book also helps draw attention to the submission. Finally, attaching a nice portfolio along with the submission that includes an updated bibliography and reviews helps me to see where the author has been and allows me to see where I think we can go. A phone call or email from a published author letting me know the submission is coming is also fine.

2) What is your opinion on an author writing in more than one genre?

In this tight market, I think it's vital. Previously, authors were told to focus on one genre and to not stray. And, for some authors that still may be the case. But, overall, for prolific authors who can produce 2-3 books a year, I think it's very important to diversify. As the publishers' lists shrink, there are less slots available for new authors to fill. If we can start a career in one genre and convince the publisher to take a chance on a second genre from the same author (sometimes under a pen name), the author will have more "job security." Most of my successful authors do write in more than one genre - Katie MacAlister, Jennie Klassel, Pat Pritchard and our own Stephanie Rowe are a few examples.

3) What happens to an authors interests in the event of the death of an agent? Does the publisher keep paying to the agent's estate or does everything revert to the author? Does it differ if it's a solo agent vs an agency with more than one agent?

That really depends on the author/agent agreement. Most agency contracts spell the terms out in the contract. If the agreement doesn't specify, ask the agent her specific policy.

4) What should an author do if they get a cover that they think is horrible? Does an agent help with that?

First thing first, an author should contact her agent. Maybe the cover isn't as bad as she thinks. But, in any case, her agent needs to know. An agent acts as a buffer between the author and her editor, so yes! An agent will definitely get involved. Our job is to make sure that our authors are happy and are being taken care of. I've gotten involved with cover issues on behalf of my authors. Honestly, a publisher has an author's best interest at heart, and they want to see books. So, they aren't going to stick an author with a bad cover on purpose. And, they may have reasons for going with a certain design, etc. As the go between, an agent can help negotiate a happy medium.

5) How can an agent assist a category author?

There are many ways that an agent can help a category author.

Again, an agent is a buffer between an author and her editor. If any issues arrive, an agent can step in and fight on her author's behalf. For example, I had an author who had a major problem with her copy edits. I was able to step in and help her solve the problem with her editor so she didn't have to broach an uncomfortable subject with her.

And, although the Harlequin category contract is pretty standard, there are a few negotiable points that an agent can finagle.

Since I'm always looking into the future for my authors, and career planning is so vital, I have conversations with their editors on things that they can do for the future. (Online reads, etc.) It helps an author to have someone in their corner pushing for more where an author can't really do that for herself.

6) How would you like authors to follow up after they submit? After how long and what is your preferred method of communication?

I prefer email follow-ups. Our normal response time is 3-4 months on partials, so after about 3 months, it's fine to follow-up. One piece of advice - if you are the type of author who likes to call to make sure that an agent has received a proposal a week after you send, purchase the delivery confirmation. Agents receive so much mail every week, and it just helps with the flow when follow-ups are conducted after the normal response time.

7) What is your process for determining where to submit your client's projects?

Since I've been agenting for five years now, I have a good feel for the tastes of many editors. Before I submit a project, I really focus on the editors who make the most sense - if it's a comedy, I know which editors at which houses prefer that type of submission. However, if a client meets an editor at a conference or has a specific request, I will always honor their request.

Check by Friday for Q&A with debut vampire author Robin T. Popp!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The coolest feeling!

I went into Waldenbooks in North Conway, NH yesterday to see if they had my September chick lit... and they did! I hadn't seen it yet, so when the bookseller handed it to me to sign... WOW! I grinned and giggled and gushed and told her this was the first time I'd seen it. The pleasure never goes away! It was soooo awesome!!! And then my mom (who was with me) ordered 25 copies to give away, so then I felt like a total superstar. 25 copies sold at one Waldenbooks! Wow! I rock!

Moments like this are so incredible.

A Day in the Life Tuesday: I love computers!

I've been making some progress on my new fantasy proposal. Got my arms nicely around the heroine two days ago. Getting ready to try writing again. Making some good headway on an Author Questionnaire for Warner. All is well...

And then, disaster strikes.

I turn on my computer and I get a delightful surprise. In some attempt at computer humor that doesn't translate well to humans, my computer has reverted to its brand new state. It is the same as it was when it arrived at my house, without a single shred of anything I've ever done to it including such fun things as every document ever written, all my emails, all my contacts, bookmarks, settings etc. You name it. Gone! Isn't that fun? After laughing uproariously at my computer's antics for a few hours, I sweetly asked it to end the joke and give me my life back.

Stubborn SOB refused.

So now I'm in a mission to find SOMEONE who can fix it! My BIL and my brother are both computer experts who I'm sure have PC Anywhere and could bop onto the internet and straighten this puppy out, but I can't reach them. I'm in the woods of Maine. Don't know if there are any computer techies hanging out with the raccoons and the moose, but I'm going to go see what I can find! I refuse to believe everything is really gone.

So, if I owe you an email, try bribing my computer to release it. Otherwise, it might be a long time until you hear from me...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Tips for Writers Monday: Dialogue

You know those lists that occasionally circulate that give you about 6,000 synonyms for the word "said?" You know, words like, shouted, whispered, thundered, whined, etc? Well, gather all those lists together, walk to your paper shredder and toss 'em in. Then delete all those lists off your computer. You are never allowed to reference them again. Why? Because that's lazy writing.

Dialogue tags should be used only in the most dire of circumstances, when nothing else will do. They are weak, they are "telling" and any besides "said" can border on purple prose.

Ah, you ask, but how will the reader tell who is talking if I don't have tags? And how will they tell the speaker's attitude? Stephanie, you are such a dork.

Well, maybe I'm a dork, but I do have answers for your questions...

Use action instead of tags. Action will identify the speaker, and they will convey tone far better than a synonym for "said."

Using dialogue tags:
"Where have you been?" Jack thundered.
"None of your business," Missy yelped.

Using action tags:
Jack slammed the door open so hard it bounced off the wall, leaving a deep imprint in the paint. "Where have you been?"
Missy shoved the box behind her back and spun to face him. "None of your business."

See the difference? Dialogue tags in the first example show that Jack is shouting and Missy is yelping, but we don't know why. Is Missy scared or startled or injured or what? In the second example, there are no dialogue tags in the second example, but you know who is talking and you still get the message that Jack is fired up and Missy has issues. but you get far more information about Jack and Missy's emotions than you do in the first example.

In the second example, you also get the additional excitement of action. Action is always more interesting that static dialogue, plus it increases tension: Jack is so angry/upset/worried that he's slamming things around. Is he going to get violent with Missy? Do we need to worry about her? Is he going to break something? And what is Missy hiding? And why is she hiding it from Jack? All of a sudden, you have lots more questions and tension.

Go thru a dialogue scene in your manuscript and get rid of all dialogue tags. Every. Single. One. Then go back and add action tags, or eliminate some tags altogether to facilitate rapid-fire exchanges (as long as it's clear who is talking). See what you think of the difference.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bonus Saturday: The Synthesis of Beer and Insanity

And you thought that just because nothing is scheduled for Saturday that you'd never hear from me on the weekend... as if you could get that lucky! Today's topic: Insanity.

This weekend, my husband is running in a 197 mile relay race from the top of a mountain down to the Oregon coast. They have 12 runners, two vans and run all night long. His first run was down the mountain at around 9pm for about 8 miles at a 5:10 pace. Then he sat in a van with five other sweaty guys for five hours while they dropped off runners and picked up the next one every few miles. Then he ran again at 3am through the woods for about 8 miles at a 5:40 pace. And on it goes until they pull into the coast in the afternoon. By the end of the race, they are all exhausted, smelly, dirty, sweaty, hungry, sleep deprived, dehydrated, and half of them are injured... and all of them are as happy as boys can be. Through the suffering comes the bonding, the victory and the exhilaration of surviving.

Every year before he runs, he says he thinks he might skip next year b/c it's really a nightmare. But every year he run. 18 years he's done it. Eighteen! For 18 years he's put himself through torture, knowing exactly what he's in for. Why does he do it? Because he can't say no. It's in his blood. It feeds his soul to be off running, suffering and laughing with his friends. Through the pain evolves a power and a zest for life.

The name of their team (dating back to the college years)? The Synthesis of Beer and Insanity.

Beer for the bonding. Insanity because it takes a certain level of insanity to be refreshed and invigorated by putting yourself through hell.

Kinda like writing. Perhaps we authors should rename ourselves the Synthesis of Chocolate and Insanity. Or Caffeine and Insanity. Or maybe, simply, Insanity. But like my husband when he finishes the race inspired, exhausted and barely able to wait until the next time, the tougher a book is to write or sell, the more fired up I am and the more exhilarated I feel when I get the victory, whether it's a sale, or a good review or simply being able to write The End.

How about the Synthesis of Words & Insanity? The possibilities are endless...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Kerrelyn Spark's August vampire book, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire.  Posted by Picasa

Ask an Author Friday: Q&A with Kerrelyn Sparks

Happy Friday! Today's guest is rising star Kerrelyn Sparks, whose vampire debut, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire, hit the USA Today list three weeks in a row. What is Kerrelyn doing to be so successful? Read below to find out!

1) Can you give us a blurb about How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire, your August release?

Sure! Here’s a nice, short one--
Welcome to the dangerous—and hilarious—world of modern day vampires. There are vampire cable channels, a celebrity magazine called Live with the Undead, and just like the living, vampires have dental emergencies. That’s how dentist Shanna Whelan, a mortal female, meets the smolderingly undead Roman Draganesti, and finds her life turning absolutely batty…

2) You hit the USA Today list for the first time with this book. Tell us how you found out you made the list, and how it felt. How does it compare to that first sale?

I had just come back from Reno where the booksellers, book buyers, and editors told me that the book was flying off the shelves. So, I was halfway expecting and really hoping that I would make the list. I knew nothing about it, so my agent, the wonderful Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas, coached me on how to watch for it online. It comes out on Wednesday night, giving the top 150 bestselling books for the week ending the Sunday before. When I saw that the list was up, I automatically searched the last group, the 121-150 range. My book wasn’t there. I thought, oh, bummer, I didn’t make it. Then, I thought I might as well check the range from 91-120. What a shock! There was my book! Number 91!!!

To celebrate, I bought a cookies and cream pie which my kids devoured. Okay, I devoured a piece, too! The next week on Wednesday night, we all gathered around the computer again to see if I was still in the top 150. I was number # 107!! I yelped for joy, and the kids asked, “Does this mean we get another pie?”

(note: Kerrelyn's book went on to a third week on the USA today list, which an amazing accomplishment for a book's debut on the list)

3) What is your favorite thing about being an author?

One favorite thing?? Gee, there are so many!
I enjoy the freedom of working at home and setting my own hours. I have a wonderful commute—I go downstairs. I have a lovely work wardrobe—sweatsuits and pajamas. And if one of my kids gets sick at school, I can be there in five minutes (or ten if I was wearing pajamas!)
I love bringing characters to life and watching them fall in love. Aw, that’s so sweet!
I love entertaining people and hearing that I made someone laugh. Laughter is powerful medicine and sometimes, there just isn’t enough of it in the world. I also believe in the power of love. So, I like to think that I have an important job. I try to remember that on days when the writing comes hard.

4) Although vampires are very popular these days, it’s tough to sell them to publishers because there are already so many vampire authors. What unique angle did you take with your series to make it stand out?

I am amazed how popular vampire books are! I didn’t realize it till I saw how quickly my book is selling. It’s been out three weeks, and it’s already gone into a second printing! Vampire readers are downright bloodthirsty!!! And gosh, I love them for it!

I’ve read and enjoyed some fantastic vampire books by Charlaine Harris, Nina Bangs, Katie MacAllister, and Lynsay Sands. From them, I knew vampires could be great fun. But I wanted my vampire world to be unique, so when I started writing about vamps, I stopped reading about them from other authors. That kinds hurts, cause I know I’m missing some great books! But I don’t want to subconsciously take anything from their worlds. I hope my vampire world is an original and fun place to visit. To me, when I’m making it up, it all seems very logical and realistic. After all, my vamps are intelligent, practical creatures, just trying to survive and make a living like the rest of us. That may be the key—the fact that they’re still so human makes them easy to relate to and easy to laugh at.

5) What is the most important thing you’ve learned about the craft of writing that helped take your writing to the best seller level?

Hmm. That’s a tough one. I would say it’s Be Bold. There were times when I was writing Millionaire Vampire that I thought—oh my gosh, you can’t write that! It’s totally outrageous!
But I did write it. I stuck myself out there totally exposed to ridicule. It’s a chance you have to take.

6) Can you give us a sneak peek at your next release?

Vamps and the City releases May 2006. Let’s see, what can I say—it features the same world as Millionaire Vampire, but it has a different hero and heroine (characters you met in Millionaire Vampire though their identity is a secret!) And it will answer that all-important, earth-shattering question—what will happen to Roman’s ex-harem?

Stay tuned for next week's Q&A with another vampire author, Robin T. Popp, whose vampire debut hits, Out of the Night, hits the shelves in September. Let's help make her into a USA Today best seller as well!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Inspiration Thursday: half-naked baseball player.

Mmm... me likey baseball players... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

More Q&A with Michelle Grajkowksi

Hooray! We have more Q&A with Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency!

1) What do you feel an agent’s role should be with respect to career planning?

Career planning is essential. I work with my clients to make sure that every sale that we are making will benefit not just their short term career, but most importantly, will help us meet their long term goals. In fact, a few of my authors have turned down deals that may have looked wonderful today, but would not have been the best move for them five years down the road. As an author, you should always be looking into the future.

My authors and I also evaluate the types of books they are writing to make sure that it makes the most sense for them from a career standpoint. For example, if a client is targeting Desire, and as stockpile of Desires in the que and is ready to work on her next proposal, we figure out what makes sense. Is she close to selling to Desire? Should she continue on that route? Or, would it make sense to step out of her comfort zone and to try something she's always wanted, like romantic suspense. Sometimes an author finds that their voice really fits better with a different subgenre. I try to help them figure that out.

Finally, my best advice is to communicate with your agent - what are your long term goals. How do you want to achieve them? Your agent is on your team. Share your gameplan with her so she can help you reach your potential.

2) What do you look for in a potential client (besides being a great writer, of course!)?

I'm always looking for a fresh voice. In this tight, competitive market, an author with a unique voice is golden.

But, I'm also looking for smart, savvy businesspeople. Writing is a business. So, authors really need to focus on the business of writing. I don't expect my authors to know everything there is about publishing, contracts, etc. But, a basic business understanding - knowing when to turn away from a deal, setting realistic goals, performing for the long haul - is key.

Finally, I'm looking for wonderful people! I like to surround myself with authors who are fun and easy to work with. My authors are all fantastic people - and the editors notice! I've had people comment on how great my stable is. I'm so proud of each and every one of them!

3) How do you feel about author self-promotion?

In this market, self-promotion is key! Coming up with a unique marketing plan is essential. The PR departments in publishing are pretty fluid - there is quite a bit of turnover. So, by working to build your name, you are helping the publishers and they will be more willing in turn to help you promote. It's important to tell your editor what you are doing to promote your work and to build your name. By doing so, you are showing that your career is very important to you.

4) What do you like to hear in a pitch session at a conference?

My favorite pitches are short and direct. I like it when an author comes in, introduces herself and says, "I write romantic comedy, and I have one ready to submit and am working on the follow-up." Then we discuss the hook of her project. At this point, the plot and the conflicts aren't important - I just want to know why I should read the proposal. What makes the project stand-out? What makes it different?

My most memorable pitches come from authors who approach the session as an interview. I like to find out information about them - what is their day job? How long have they been writing? Where do they want to be in five years? The story is important, but in this case, I really want to get a feel for the author - what does she bring to the table?

I'm fortunate enough now to have a wonderful core group of authors. The pitch session to me is a way to see how the author communicates and if she is someone I think I can see working with in the future. Often times I run back to the office and pull a manuscript out from someone I just met and really want to love it because I want to work with that person.

Well, that's it for this week's Agent Q&A. Be sure and send in your questions for next week! And stay tuned for Q&A with vampire author Kerrelyn Sparks this Friday!!

Q&A with Michelle Grajkowksi of Three Seas Literary Agency

See below for market insight from Michelle Grajkowski. This was the only question submitted for her this week. Here's your chance to pick the brain of an agent! Send those questions in (either by posting a comment to the blog or emailing me at with Ask an Agent in the subject).

Is there an area of romance you think will make a reemergence in the next year or so? I've heard faint rumblings that westerns might be on the upswing? What about other American-set historicals? Any types of contemporaries you don't think are being published now that might find a good size audience in the future?

Today's market is very exciting. Publishers are ready to break the mold a bit to find the next big thing. Paranormals, erotica and female focused fantasy are hot, hot, hot right now, and so are light contemporary romances. I've seen a huge flux in submissions in these areas, and they are all selling well.

That being said, I've been approached by many editors who are looking for something different. Something outside of the chick lit and vampire trends. They want fresh, exciting and unique stories. Specifically, they want to go back to the basics. One house in particular asked me to find straight, traditional contemporary romances. Catherine Anderson has done a phenomenal job opening that market back up. Her books take reader straight to the backbone of true romance.

Another area that I've seen a large demand for is straight women's fiction. Houses like Center Street and NAL's Accent line are paving the way for wonderful mainstream women's fiction. Also, Harlequin's NEXT line is also going to be a driving force in the women's fiction market. The stories can be funny or kleenex grabbers. The only requirements - strong, intense characterization and multi-layered plots.

The historical market is also a wonderful place to be. With so much of the focus turning to contemporary topics, it may appear that historicals are on the downward turn. That is not the case. Historical romance is the backbone to many publishing programs. Houses are still looking to acquire strong stories. While the Western romance is a hard sell, there are publishers who do them well.

The key to breaking into the historical market is to write fresh stories. I've heard from a handful of publishers that they are open to time periods other than just Medieval and Regency England, so it's a good time to approach them with American set historicals. Personally, I LOVE American set historicals, so I'm always on the lookout for a great read.

In all, the key to success in any genre today is to capitalize on unique plotlines and amazing relationships. As an agent, I'm always looking for that next great voice.

For more info on Michelle, check out

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Contest Reminder

I just wanted to remind everyone that I have giving away a pair of Nike running shoes on both my websites (two different contests), so pop on over there and enter!

A Day in the Life Tuesday: Starting a New Book Can Be Torture

I'm working on a proposal for a fantasy series right now. I have this complex world figured out, and I know a bunch of the characters. I think I'm pretty brilliant... and then I realize I can't remember one of the secondary (but pivotal characters). So I go back through my notes and realize I have two single spaced pages written on her. Right. I remember now. So I move forward with my brainstorming (working on a plot right now) and now I can't remember anything about the bad guy. What's his deal? Why does he want to kill the heroine? So I go back and look at my notes... ah, now I remember.

I decide I have too much going on and I need to write a synopsis to get my arms around the story or else I'll never be able to keep track of everything.

I start to write the synopsis and realize I have no idea what the plot is, and I need to do more work on that before I can write the synopsis.

So I start brainstorming the plot, but I forget what the heroine's deal is with her parents. Argh! I have so many characters and so much world building that I can't keep track long enough to develop a plot that takes into account all the nuances of what I've created.


I decide to simply start writing. I'll pump out two or three chapters and get a handle on everything, and then I can stop and figure out the plot and deepen all the twists and the characters.

Great. I start to write. Get about three pages done, think I'm brilliant and go to bed.

The next morning, I get up, read what I wrote last night and delete all of it.

I start over, then decide what I had last night wasn't actually that bad, so I restore it. Then I read it and decide that I was correct in thinking it wasn't good. I don't delete it, but I put it aside and start over. Write about a page, then decide it's not quite right either. I go eat lunch, come up with a brilliant opening. Rush back to my computer and write the opening line. Then realize that it isn't quite right and my attempt #2 is still my best shot. Work on that for a while, then go to bed.

While I'm trying to sleep, I realize that my problem is that I don't know enough about my heroine. She doesn't have enough personality in those opening pages because I don't know what makes her quirky.

So today's task is to do some more brainstorming on my heroine and get to know her a little bit better. Then I'll try to write and we'll see how it goes. I have a feeling there are still quite a few starts and stops in my future before this book gets rolling.

I wish I had some organized method for getting a book off the ground, but I don't. It differs with every book and with every day. I used to freak out at this point, declare my story idea completely unworkable and try to start an entirely new idea, only to return to my original idea after a day or so and eventually work it out. Now I realize that banging my head against the seemingly impenetrable wall is simply part of the process. Eventually, I will break through and things will start rolling. When I get to that point, the book will flow fast and furious and life will be good.

For now, I grind my teeth, growl and try to not descend into the pits of despair, moaning that I am pathetically useless and will never write another decent book in my lifetime. Nope. There will be no pits of despair here this morning. I'm off to brainstorm my new gal and see what we can come up with together.

It might be one more day, or two more weeks before this book comes together, but I know it will and I'll keep pushing until it does. And in case you were wondering, the more books I write and the better I become at my craft, the longer it takes for me to get a book going. Why? Because I am more sensitive to flaws now, and I stop myself from going down the wrong path. In the old days, I simply was off and running. Now I see that something won't work, so it takes me much longer to get started. In the end, it will make for a stronger book, but right now? It makes me want to OD on sugar.

And I love every minute of it, even as I agonize over it. This job is the toughest job I've ever had, and that's why I like it.

Don't forget to submit questions for the Agent Q&A tomorrow. Michelle Grajkowski is preparing her answers to the ones already submitted as we speak!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Tips for Writers Monday: Deep POV

Happy Monday! Hope everyone is having a grand day and getting lots of brilliant prose written! I am sitting by a lake enjoying a lovely breeze. Ah, heaven. Isn't wireless internet wonderful?

Today's tip is Deep POV, or my interpretation of Deep POV. I have to admit, I've never gone to a Deep POV workshop so I don't know if what I call Deep POV is what other people do, but I think so...

Anyhoodles, I think Deep POV is when you write as if you are in the character's head. There are no external tags. Just thoughts as your character would have them.

Not deep POV: Jared walked into the room. He's such a jerk, she thought. She wished his smug grin would shrivel up and die. She'd feel so much better if he was miserable.

Deep POV: Oh, great. So glad to know Jared had joined the party. Not. What a scum sucking toadstool. How cool would it be to see his smug grin shrivel up and die? Life would be so much better if he was miserable.

Okay, class, who can tell point out some differences between the two examples? I'll go first.

1) In the second example, there is no reference to the POV character. There are no "she thought" or "she wished." The absence of those tags, my friends, is a prime indicator of deep POV. When you are thinking thoughts, do you ever think "Wow, I thought." Of course you don't. You simply think, "Wow." So delete all those tags and simply have the thoughts.

2) In the first example, the first sentence is an intrusive filler inserted solely to convey information to the reader (that Jared is entering the room). It doesn't reveal anything about the POV character. It's boring. And it's not deep POV. Think about your brain for a second. If you were at a party and an ex-boyfriend walked in the room, would your first thought be "My ex-boyfriend walked into the room?" No. You would absorb his appearance subconsciously and your first thought would be your reaction to him walking into the room. So the trick in writing is to have that first thought be the character's reaction, but have it clear enough that it conveys the additional info you need, like the fact that Jared has just arrived at the party.

3) The first example has complete sentences and is properly written. The second one has fragments and is more disjointed. Why? Because you don't think in complete sentences or proper grammar. You think in fragments and your thoughts jump around. Of course, you don't want to write gibberish, so you need to balance the randomness of thoughts with your need to write something coherent, but don't get bogged down in the grammar lessons from high school. Sit for a moment and track your thoughts. Where do they go? How are they worded?

Writing exercise:
Take a longish paragraph from your WIP and do the following:
1) Delete every pronoun or name that refers to the POV character.
2) Cross off every sentence that is author intrusion where you are simply trying to give facts.
3) Rewrite without using a single pronoun, noun, or name to reference the POV character and without using a single sentence that is info dumping.
4) Compare the two. Can you see the difference? Can you feel the difference in intensity and passion? I bet you can. If it was difficult to do, don't stress. With practice it will become more and more natural until you don't even think about it.

And here endeth the lesson for today. Was this helpful? I've never tried to explain deep POV before so let me know if it helped.

Don't forget to post questions for Ask an Agent Wednesday. Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency will be doing her weekly Q&A starting this week.

Additional author Q&A's scheduled (please submit questions for the authors as well):
8/26/05: Kerrelyn Sparks, USA Today Bestselling author of How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire
9/2/05: Robin Popp, discussing Out of the Night, her new vampire series coming in September from Warner
9/9/95: Toni Blake, talking about her latest book, In Your Wildest Dreams

Until tomorrow...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Confessions of an Almost Movie Star, by Mary Kennedy, this week's Author Q&A.  Posted by Picasa

Q&A with YA author Mary Kennedy

Please welcome Mary Kennedy, accomplished young adult author. Her most recent book, Confessions of an Almost Movie Star is in the stores now.

1) Can you tell us a little about your current book Confessions of an Almost Movie Star?

Confessions is the story about two best friends who get caught up in excitement, romance and danger when a Hollywood movie company comes to their small New England town to film a mystery! Jessie Phillips is the main character, and when she goes to an audition with her best friend, Tracy, she suddenly finds herself up on stage with Shane Rockett, the sexiest Teen Star in America! Sparks fly and Jessie lands a leading role, without even intending to. The whole book takes place on the movie set, and since it's a mystery, I don't want to give away too much of the plot. Let's just say that starring in a movie with someone like Shane would turn anyone's world upside down! Where did I get the idea for Confessions...I went to a private school for girls that was very similar to Fairmont Academy in Confessions. It was a lovely old estate perched on a hill, with acres of rolling countryside. It was awesome and I always thought it would be the perfect setting for a movie!

2) Why do you set so many books in Hollywood, or have characters who are actors?

Because my background is in acting/theatre, I have a Master's degree in Dramatic Arts and have also studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan, which was awesome). I've appeared in about 50 TV commercials and visited lots of movie sets. They are just the most magical places in the world, filled with fascinating people. That's why I wanted Confessions to take place on a movie set!

3) What's the coolest job you ever had (besides writing )?

I was a copywriter for a rock radio station in Nashville. They had just changed over from country music to rock, and I had 90 accounts to write for, from the first day. I didn't know that, of course. I took 3 hours writing and producing a commercial for a local White Castle restaurant, who was one of the station's clients. I picked out the perfect background music, got the DJ's to add sound effects and funny voices. It was like a one-act play! It turned out great, I was so proud of it. I finished at 4:30 in the afternoon. And then my boss walked by and said, "Mary, do you know you have forty-four MORE commercials to do before you leave tonight?

4) You’ve had over twenty books published, which is an amazing feat. What is the coolest moment you’ve had in your writing career?

Confessions is my 33rd book, and the coolest
thing happened when I was in Manhattan. I was taking a Circle Line boat around Manhattan and realized the girl sitting next to me was reading Almost Like a Sister, a book I wrote for Scholastic. I asked her how she hoped it would end, and as she started talking to me, she flipped to the back and saw my author picture. "You wrote it!" she screamed. "I love this book!" I autographed it for her on the spot. It was great to see how much someone enjoyed my writing.

5) You have a background as a forensic psychiatrist, working with serial killers. Can you share a story with us about one your creepier experiences?

One night I was working late, and had a very difficult client in my office. He started to threaten me, and I did my best to calm him down (and remain calm myself!). I pressed a "panic button" under the desk, and it broke off in my hand! No help there! So I called downstairs to the front desk and ordered a pizza. Yes, I know that seems crazy, but we had a secret code arranged with the switchboard. If any of the staff called and ordered a pizza, that meant we were in serious trouble and needed security, right away!But there was a new employee on duty that night, and when I said I wanted a pizza, she said, "do you want Dominoes' or Grotto? I can connect you with either one." I was floored and couldn't even blurt out an answer, so she said, "Well, I'll just connect you with Grotto's. They have faster delivery." The guy in my office was listening to every word I said! Sure enough, a few seconds, a voice said, "Grotto Pizza, can I help you?"I finally got out of the situation by calling downstairs again, and asking for one of the security guards by name, saying that "he would know what kind of pizza I liked." He got the message, and was there in two minutes flat, with two other security guards, guns drawn. The situation ended with no one getting hurt, but it could have worked differently!

6) Can you give us a sneak peak at your next release?

Tales of a Hollywood Gossip Queen will be released next summer. Jessie goes out to Hollywood for the week-end to re-do some of her dialogue, and runs into Shane Rockett again. Nothing can keep them apart. And then Jessie lands an incredibly cool summer job in Hollywood--interning as a teen columnist on a brand new entertainment magazine! She suddenly finds herself going to A-list parties and being part of the whole Hollywood scene, and of course, things heat up with Shane...

Thanks, Mary!

Mary's Q&A will be archived on my website at the end of the month. Stay tuned next week for Wednesday's agent Q&A with Michelle Grajkowski and Friday's author Q&A with USA Today best selling vampire author Kerrelyn Sparks.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Today's Inspiration: Val Kilmer. I really wanted a shot of the volleyball game in Top Gun, but I couldn't find one. Does anyone have a link to a Val playing volleyball image? That volleyball game is still the dream of women everywhere... Sigh.  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wednesday's Q&A with Warner Editor Melanie Murray

I am delighted to present a Q&A from Warner Editor, Melanie Murray, who graciously agreed to guest spot on Agent Wednesday today, since Michelle Grajkowski wasn't available this week.

1) The Girls Kick Ass line has been the topic of many discussions since Reno. Can you give us a little more information about what you’re looking for in this line? Maybe some of the upcoming titles and authors?

"Girls Kick Ass" is a phrase we use to describe our upcoming urban fantasy novels: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn (11/05), Those Who Walk in Darkness by John Ridley (7/05), What Fire Cannot Burn (1/06), Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow (3/06), and Doppelganger by Marie Brennan (4/06). These books all have strong female heroines who can take care of themselves (and a hint of romance). Think Laurell K. Hamilton crossed with Kim Harrison. We're definitely looking to do more of these books: with the werewolves and vampires, but with unique, original characters, too.

2) Many category authors have trouble moving to single title, often receiving the comment that their submissions are "too category." Can you explain from your perspective what that means?

From our perspective at Warner, we want our romances to have developed characters and a plot with conflict; a story that is sweeping and complex and original and has other elements besides the hero and heroine. We love stories with multiple characters, told from multiple points of view. When we say "too category" we usually mean that the novel has a "small" feel.

3) What is the best thing about being an editor?

For me, it's working with authors on their stories, and watching a manuscript become a published book. It's always exciting to get those finished books!

4) Warner Forever is a really terrific program for romance authors. Can you explain a little bit about what makes Warner Forever unique?

I would say the size of our program makes us unique. We're publishing two titles a month at Warner Forever, and are therefore able to give our authors attention and care that we wouldn't were we publishing more. And also, all of Warner Books is very behind the romance program, so we are able to utilize the advertising and marketing resources of a terrific publishing house. And of course, I think our breadth of genre makes us unique. We'll do anything, really, from regency historical to paranormal to light, funny contemporaries, as long as the story is terrific and the characters are three-dimensional and interesting.

5) How would you describe your ideal author (besides writing amazing stories, of course)?

My ideal author? Now that's a tricky question! My favorite authors to work with are those who are self-motivated, who are comfortable with networking and self-promotion, and who aren't afraid to be a little imaginative with their stories.

6) What kind of self-promotion do you recommend authors do?

Meet your local booksellers. Put yourself in front of them, and introduce yourself! Definitely maintain a website, too.

Thanks, Melanie!

Melanie's Q&A will be archived on my website at the end of the month. Stay tuned Friday for author Q&A with YA author Mary Kennedy and please submit your questions for Agent Wednesday next week with Michelle Grajkowski. Paranormal author Kerrylyn Sparks will be doing an author Q&A next Friday, so please submit questions for her, either by posting to the comments or emailing me at

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Day in the Life: Foregoing the Lake

Today I'm on a lake in Maine on vacation. Sun is out. A gentle breeze is blowing. Everyone except me is out on the lake on a group outing in kayaks and canoes. I'm sitting on the porch with my computer. I just finished my website updates, I'm working on my blog, and next I'm off to work on an uncontracted fantasy proposal while I'm waiting to hear back from my editor on the complete manuscript I turned in and a synopsis I gave her for the next book. Line edits are on their way for my January book, and I know I'll be crazy busy soon with revisions. Now is my only window to work on this uncontracted proposal, and I'm not going to miss it.

As I watched everyone float away and tried to keep my dogs from diving in and chasing them, a little part of me wanted to grab another boat and go off with them. But I marched inside, got my computer and sat down to work.

Yes, I would have liked to have gone. But if I'd gone out there, the whole time I was on the lake I would have been thinking about my writing and how I needed to get some work done. Partly out of a sense of obligation, because writing is my job, but also because it keeps me sane. For both reasons, I need to do it every day, no matter what else is going on, even a sunny afternoon on a lake in Maine.

Why do I do it? Because I love it. Because I have the best job in the whole wide world, and I want to be able to keep doing it for another 70 years. It's not a sacrifice for me to forego the lake. It's a honor and I will never take it for granted that I have the opportunity to follow my dream.

Writing is work. It's a job. But what a job. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to have a job that they love as much as I love mine.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tips for Writers Monday: Taking that First Scene up a Notch

Today's tips revolve around that ever important first scene (but can be applied to all scenes).

Okay, you've finished your first scene. You feel like it grabs the reader's attention, sets up the story nicely and has the perfect tone for the story. Before you move on, go back to the scene and fill in these questions:

1) What is predictable in this scene? (You have to answer this. I promise you that SOMETHING in this scene is predictable). Some hints: is your character responding predictably? Is the result of their actions predictable? Is the obstacle that appears predictable? Is the setting predictable? Is the conclusion of the scene predictable? What about the cliff hanger? Read the scene five times and I promise you'll see things each time that you hadn't seen on the last pass.

2) What is cliche about this scene? By "cliche," I'm not talking about "dead as a doornail." I'm referring to larger picture cliches about your characters, your story, your setting, etc. Some hints: is your hero a cop who gets in a fight with his mean boss? Does the heroine worry that she's fat? Does your hero comfort your heroine with a squeeze of her arm? What have you written that you've seen in other stories? Again, you will have to dig deep and go through the scene more than once before the cliches show up. Since this is the first scene, really pay attention to the characters as you are setting them up. What is cliche about your characters? Don't give up until you find yourself able to list some answers to this question.

3) What is unsafe about this scene? In order to create tension, something about the scene needs to be "unsafe," creating an element of unpredictability, of danger, or risk (this applies even in a romantic comedy). If the heroine is sitting in her living room with her best friend complaining about work while they sip lattees, there's not a lot of tension. But what if you have her whispering in the break room at work, knowing that her boss might walk around the corner? Still not super exciting, but the tension has ratcheted up a notch. What if her boss is looking for a reason to fire her, so if he finds the heroine whispering about him, she'll lose her job? More tension. What if the heroine just took out a second mortgage on her home and will lose her house if she can't make the payments? Even more at stake. What if her boss is also her ex-boyfriend and her friend is a very hot guy that her boss is insanely jealous of, and if she knows the boss catches them together, he'll make life hellish for her best friend as well? Hmm... Suddenly alot more things are at stake, but you kept the basic concept of two friends complaining about work. Keep building and building until your simple scene is suddenly loaded with page turning tension. Like the first two tips, you'll have to keep revising what you've done a number of times, because each time through you'll see something you haven't noticed before. Sometimes it takes me three or four passes before I even see ANYTHING that needs fixing.

Look at your scene and decide what's important. Is the important part that the heroine and the roommate are bonding? Or that something is tough at work? Or that they are in their living room? Keep the important part, and then shift the setting to a less safe place. And "safety" is dependent on the heroine's point of view. A rock climber might find hanging upside off a cliff to be a non-threatening situation. But that same rock climber might have a phobia about crowds, so stick her in the middle of a commuter train at rush hour being jostled by a bunch of strangers. She's tense and we're worried about her well-being, and that adds tension to the scene.

Obviously, you can't do this level of review for every scene, but the more you can do it, the more you will start to see your patterns and the more you will instinctively look at scenes and know what needs to be done to amp it up.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Stephanie Feagan's August Bombshell, She's On the Money.  Posted by Picasa

Ask an Author Friday: Stephanie Feagan

Here is a Q&A with Stephanie Feagan, whose brilliant debut book, Show her the Money, blew me away when I read it earlier this year. Her second book in the series, She's on the Money, is out this month from Silhouette Bombshell. Stef was gracious enough to take time out of her busy writing schedule to answer a few questions for her fans.

1) Can you give us a blurb on your current book?

This is the blurb from the back of the book. I have one I wrote for my website, but I like the one the editor wrote for the cover much better!
Her boss gave her the ultimatum - bring in more clients or else. So when the town's stingiest man asks Pink to investigate his mysteriously dwindling oil assets, Pink takes the case.
BAD career move.
Suddenly strangers are asking for her help on "matters of national security" - then dying at her feet. A little dog - which may belong to an infamous assassin - keeps following her around. Add to that two amazing men vying for her attention and a case that's pointing to terrorist activity, and Pink's time sheet is full of things that won't get her promoted, and just might get her dead..

2) I adore your lead character, Pink Pearl. How did you come up with
her character? What do you think makes her so appealing to the reader? Does she get to have sex in this book? (Just kidding! Unless you want to answer it, of course!)

Thanks, Stephanie! I guess you could say that Pink's a mish-mash of several people. I didn't want her to be boring, but I also didn't want her to be too wacky. CPAs aren't wacky - ever. I just tried to make her fun, and smart. And maybe a little like me, but not on purpose. That's just how she turned out! And maybe that's why she's appealing - because there's a certain element of 'real' in there. Some of my anxieties, I gave to Pink.
Oh, and the sex? Yeah, baby! Pink finally gets to end her one and a half years of celibacy. Too bad for her, it doesn't quite make her decisions about men any easier.

3) There are so many hot, totally awesome guys in Pink's life. How do
you write such different men that are all to die for? What's your hot guy secret?

You know, that really wasn't planned. In the beginning, when I started the first Pink book, SHOW HER THE MONEY, the chair of the senate finance committee was a dry, old guy. But when Pink called him, he morphed into Steve Santorelli, a hot Italian from California. Then he wound up being a widower. Her boss, Sam, was supposed to be the funny sidekick sort - the straight man - but he appealed to me so much, he suddenly became a lot more than that. Pink's old boyfriend was supposed to be a possible red herring and seem villainous - but he wound up being okay too. As for Ed - he was the intended hero, all along. But instead of being Mister Upstanding Lawyer, he became a rebel type of guy. You know, I kind of think characters take on a life of their own, and it's a subconscious thing we do - to play off of the protagonist's strengths and weaknesses. So the secret to the hot guys is....I have no idea! Let your imagination run wild, maybe?

4) What are some tips you can offer about writing an ongoing series
with the same protagonist?

I've taken classes that tell us to interview our characters, to know right down to the nitty-gritty everything about them. What's their fav flavor of ice cream, or what type of underwear they have in their drawer. But to me, what that does is take all the mystery out of getting to know them. I like surprises. And these imaginary people keep throwing them at me, much to my delight. Even Pink still comes up with some random thoughts and feelings I never suspected. I'm trying, in each book, to reveal a little more about them, so they don't become stale. It's also a bit tricky to catch people up with what happened before, in the previous story, without it sounding like a grocery list. But the idea works much like any other backstory. I sprinkled bits of history here and there.

5) What's your favorite thing about being an author?

This may sound trite, but I swear, it's true - my most favorite thing about being a writer is...This is, bar none, the MOST fun I've ever had! I'm not one of those who sits down and looks at the blank screen and thinks it's scary. I dive right in. Granted, I hit roadblocks, and twists I didn't think to take, but that's half the fun - figuring out how to go on, and thinking up plot points to totally mess with the reader's thought process.
I love when people say, "I never saw that coming!" I always respond, "Me neither!"

6) Any sneak peeks at upcoming books?

I've got a third Pink book coming out next April, titled RUN FOR THE MONEY.
Here's a blurb:
Pink is honored by an offer to act as accounting watchdog for the Chinese Earthquake Relief Fund, but when she discovers someone is using her identity to embezzle the money, she loses that loving feeling. In her quest to find the crook who set her up, she comes face to face with the Russian mob, a Chinese man with an axe to grind and an annoying habit of getting in over her head. Literally. But Pink's not giving up, because out of all the options she has, including several with the two amazing men in her life, spending her old age in prison isn't one of them. Pink's going global, and the world won't ever be quite the same.

Thanks, Stef! As you can see, Stef is as smart and funny in real life as her books are. If you want more info about Stef, pop on over to her website,

Stay tuned next Friday for a Q&A with acclaimed YA author, Mary Kennedy, as she talks about her books, her experiences working with serial killers and other fun stuff.

Also, we will be having a guest agent do the Q&A this Wednesday. I'll announce it as soon as I finalize who it will be. Check back soon for more details.

Ask an Author and Ask an Agent will be archived on my website at the end of each month.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Okay, Inspiration Thursday might actually be code for Hot Guy Thursday. Today's installment is a shot of Hugh Jackman from Swordfish. Anyone wish that towel would blow away? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ask an Agent Wednesday: Maximizing the Agent/Author Relationship

Ask an agent doesn't officially begin until the 24th, so today, we'll just talk about agents.

Today's topic is: how to get the most out of your agent relationship.

How many of you have asked around about an agent, only to find some folks who rave about their agent, and others who have nothing positive to say about the same agent. How is that possible? How can the agent give one author so much attention and apparently ignore the other?
That's what you need to find out.

When you come across an author who had a bad experience with an agent, ask more questions. What were the author's expectations coming into the relationship? How did the agent fail to meet those expectations? Were those expectations discussed at the start, or did the author/agent just march into the relationship without discussing the small details? When the author began to feel dissatisfied, did she communicate her concerns in an organized, professional way and give the agent an opportunity to either explain, change her approach, or come to a compromise, or did the author simply get aggravated and eventually leave?

These are important questions to ask. No one is perfect. No one is flawless. Including agents. A good working relationship involves the same skills it takes to make a marriage work. Communicate your needs. Let her know when she is doing great, let her know when you feel like you need something different from her. Don't sit and pout. Step up and control your career by being an active member.

I have heard of authors with the same agent. Some say the agent does career planning. Others say she doesn't. When I ask the authors who say she doesn't if they have ever initiated a career planning discussion, they admit they didn't. The ones who have those discussions are the ones who email their agent to set up periodic career-planning phone calls.

Bottom line? The key to an effective agent relationship is doing your research beforehand, and once you've signed on, keep the communication lines open. If you're unhappy, tell your agent why and express what you need from her. Chances are good that if she's capable of giving it to you, she will, and you both will be happy. If she can't, then you'll know soon enough, and you'll be able to walk away with both of you knowing that it simply wasn't a match.

Good luck!

Upcoming Q&A guests: This Friday, the uber talented Stephanie Feagan of Bombshell fame. Next Friday will be Mary Kennedy, hugely successfully YA author with more than twenty books under her belt, most recently Confessions of an Almost Movie Star from Berkeley Jam. If you have specific questions you'd like me to ask them, shoot me an email and let me know!!

Over and out!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Day in the Life Tuesday: Wall Walking

The first installment of A Day in the Life Tuesday, where you get an insight into the crazy life of an author. We're going to start with Tales From Reno, which is where the RWA National conference just took place.

Okay, I'm a writer. I'm an introvert. Large crowds cause me stress and make my already addled brain go a little wacky. Case in point: my bathroom in my hotel room had a mirror covering the entire back wall. No problem. I noticed it, I can handle looking at my reflection everytime I walk into the room. Um... yeah. On night #2 of the conference, when Conference Brain had already set in, I got up in the middle of the night to use the facilities. As I stumbled into the bathroom and started to walk across the floor toward the toilet, I noticed that the bathroom is way bigger than I remembered. I'd walked far enough to almost be at the back wall, but I could see in the dim light that the room continued on for about another ten feet. Huh. Guess I'll keep walking... Bam! I plowed right into the mirror. Full face plant into the glass.

Yep, you guessed it. I was looking at the reflection of the room in the mirror, which is why I thought there was another ten feet once I was already at the wall.

Made for great conversation:

My Agent: "Hey, Stephanie, what'd you do last night?"

Me: "I walked into a wall. What about you?"

Yep. I'm so impressive.

Agent Q&A and other goodies

It's time for a new and revamped blog! I will be bringing you you an agent's insider's guide to the industry, Q&A with your favorite authors, tips for writers, hot guys and other goodies. I decided to give a schedule a try and see how it works. Here's how it's going to shake out:

Mondays: Tips for Writers. Every Monday, I'll post some nugget of insight I've gleaned from my experiences as an author. I'm not promising brilliance, but I'm promising that I'll at least write something down!

Tuesdays: A Day in the Life. Yep, today's the day you get gifted with an inside into my twisted life as an author. It's a scary thing. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Wednesdays: Ask an Agent Day! Every Wednesday, Michelle Grajkowksi of Three Seas Literary Agency will answer questions from authors. Questions must be received by Monday at 5pm PST to be eligible for that week's pool. To submit a question, email me at with ASK AN AGENT in the subject line. Ask An Agent will begin August 24th, so there is plenty of time to send in your questions. In the meantime, Wednesdays will be dedicated to talking about agents instead of having one talk to us.

Thursdays: Inspiration Thursday. You're feeling blah? Unmotivated? Particularly couch potato-ish? Come join us on Thursdays for Inspiration! It might be a hot guy photo. It might be a cool website. It might be a true story that gives you chills. You'll have to stop by and find out!

Fridays: Featured book/author of the week. Please feel free to email me with suggestions about what authors/books you'd like to see featured. As often as possible, this will include a Q&A, so be sure to send questions that you'd like me to ask. I'll announce the authors ahead of time whenever I can.

Saturdays: open forum

Sundays: open forum