For Writers

Prologue

Agujero de Almas

Well of Souls—South America

She had come to him again that night—stretching her pale, slim body over him, purring as she mounted him, just as she had for two hundred years.

In his fevered sleep she stroked him, urging his heat as she moved, hot and wet around him. And the song, soft, sweet and aching, somewhere in the distance, always the song …

He could see her—feel her as though she was real—her soft pale skin caressing the hard ridges of his tanned belly. Her honey-blond hair skimming feather-soft over the muscles in his chest, teasing the tips of his nipples as she moved, claiming what was hers.

A dark growl rumbled inside him and she was one with him, felt the fire flash deep in his belly, she must have, her hips quickened, softness tightened around his cock and she threw her head back, hair flashing gold against the moonlight as the song swelled around them.

“Yes,” she whispered. Moving with and against his rhythm, she leaned back, riding him harder, urging him deeper, faster. Her breath caught and her body shook and she screamed and he answered her cry with one of his own, a guttural sound not of this earth.

Moving with her, his jaw clenched hard, teeth grinding as he fought for control

Inside her, his swollen cock shuddered, blinding light burst in his brain. He was there—he was there—he was almost there . . .

Her back arched hard, her breasts swelling as she bucked, riding him harder, faster, her nails digging into the dark pelt of his chest and he heard the moan—her call, primal, that rose from somewhere deep inside her.

His blood quickened, rushed until there was no beginning and no end, just him and her and oh God, this was it, this was it, and in the rush he reached for her, his palm aching for those perfect, round milky breasts, and just as he his fingers grazed the tight pink bud of her nipple, the explosion was there—almost there . . .

His teeth ground, jaws clenched and he roared in the agony of the release that was there, just there . . . and escaped him. Again.

She was gone.

He jerked up, awake, from his sweat-dampened pillow, breath coming hard, nostrils flaring at the scent of honeysuckle—her scent.

She was gone, but her scent clung softly, caught in the hot night air.

He was still hard. There was no release. There would be no release.

Grief threatened to bury him as he scraped his damp, dark hair back from his face.

It was then that he noticed the moon, it’s betraying silver light slicing through thick, velvet curtains.

Pain, sharp and hot slashed as his pupils dilated.

Muscles in his arms and legs began to swell, flex. Ache.

The change was upon him.

A growl grew in his belly as he dismissed the cursed moon with the flick of a switch. The thick, sheltering blinds closed the bedroom in the cloak of a tomb.

In the utter darkness, he padded into the bathroom to splash cold water on his face.

The chill of the water brought no relief.

Bleary eyed, he reached in the darkness, and by memory, found the lever located under the cool marble sink.

The wall behind the mirror groaned as it gave way and he closed his eyes, resigned.

The low growl born of centuries of grief clawed inside his belly, and the melody went on, moving along his body like silk.

She was close.

He knew it, because the song lingered—stronger now and he could still hear it.

His jaw muscles clenched and he shoved a hand through his dark hair, wondering, had the others heard it too?

He stalked into the dark antechamber to wait out the coming storm.

He cursed as the wall rumbled, closing behind him.

He didn’t have time for this.

His people were waging a hidden civil war that was making its way into the realm of the humans. It was a miracle they had remained hidden since before the reign of the Maya.

Leopard Prince,” he scoffed.

In the velvet darkness, he stretched out on the cushion and thought of her. She held the key—the old Mayan bruja had told him so when he was just a boy—had shown him in a waking dream.

She was real.

And she was near.

She had to be.

Time was getting short.

She was the only one who could save his people.

The only one who could save his soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

“Are you sure you know where we’re going?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Brenna MacKenzie said, tossing back her sweat-dampened blond bangs, her long, slender fingers delving deep into the inner pocket of her khaki jeans, probing for the cool, diamond-edged reassurance of the palm-sized emerald stone that had brought them this long distance.

She inhaled a deep breath, full of green and wet rainforest, studying the lacework of vines, high branches and leaves above.

Well, she was pretty sure. “We just need to get to the village—find the interpreter.”

Ahead, she watched as the lithe, bronze-skinned guide moved nimbly through the thick, wet foliage,

She ducked one of the many low-laying vines, taking mental notes she’d need when she sat down to report this story.

“Tell them we need a new guide, too,” Ethan grumbled, stumbling as he tried to keep up with the guide. “You notice his teeth are pointy?”

“Shh,” Brenna hissed, “He’ll hear you. And I think the teeth are a tribal thing—it’s like a custom, you know, like tribal tattoos and piercings.”

Ethan nearly tripped over a large, gnarled root. “Doesn’t matter, he can’t even speak English.”

“How progressive of you,” Brenna said. “And just because he hasn’t spoken English doesn’t mean he can’t.”

She smiled at the Sentinel’s crack photographer.

Ethan was preternaturally beautiful, and like most beautiful men in Austin, he batted for the other team. Back home, Ethan and his partner, Stephen, were more fun than a basket full of kittens. But here, in the wilds of South America, it was clear that if there was any trail blazing, bug killing or snake stomping to do, she and their guide, Sapo, were going to have to do it themselves.

Even as he grumped, the photographer uncapped the lens of the ridiculously complicated Nikon tethered around his neck. He paused, snapped a shot of a tiny, neon-green tree frog.

Sapo stopped, arms spread wide, “Vamanos,” he urged, gaze sweeping nervously over the dark forest.

“He wants us to hustle up,” Brenna translated.

Ethan adjusted the camera and backpack, and sighed. “It seems like we should have been there by now.”

She tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear, extracted her GPS from her own backpack and shook it, as if rattling it would make the darn thing capture a signal. It didn’t matter. She may not know exactly where they were, but she knew where they were going.

Her great aunt’s stories of the rainforest had been so real—shimmering with the brilliant colors, the chaotic chorus of birdsong, rustling leaves and roaring river.

Closing her eyes, she dragged in a deep breath, soaking in the scent of green. Pure, forever, summer green, tinged with the heavy, damp odor of decaying vegetation and the sweet scents of orchid and mango.

Aunt Kat used to say it was the smell of heaven.

Above, a colorful commotion of chattering birds swooped in a complicated mating dance, darting through the lace of vines that draped the high shelter of limbs and leaves.

She smiled, amazed. She had never set foot on this lush, fertile ground, yet somehow, she knew it, felt it singing in her blood.

Sapo grunted impatiently, “Vamonos,” nodding his head southwest, presumably toward the village of their destination.

They were in the forest to investigate a murder—a string of murders really—but somehow, the rainforest set off some sort of internal compass that surprised, nearly frightened her with its familiarity. She knew there was danger lurking behind the lush foliage—large, life-constricting snakes, poisonous frogs, jaguars, and closer to the river, the ancient, armored crocodiles.

The rain forest, she knew, had eyes.

With more grumbling, Ethan tightened his backpack, and the three continued.

The deeper the guide led them into the forest, the more her excitement grew. Her belly tightened, like the rise of a rollercoaster— thrilling, frightening in anticipation of the heart-stopping plunge.

Something about the forest sharpened her senses. She lifted her face to the dappled sunlight and breathed deep as hot, wet wind caressed every inch of her body, made her aware of the curve of her breasts, the length of her legs, the heat between them . . .

She shook her head. What on earth had gotten into her?

She shivered, and out of habit, returned to the soft, haunting tune of her childhood as they moved through the jungle.

“Knock it off will ya? You’re creeping me out with that weird song.”

“Hm?” she said absently.

The old Celtic melody was such a part of her she hadn’t realized she’d been singing aloud. She shrugged. “Sorry—it’s just something my great aunt used to sing me to sleep. Said it kept bad ju ju away.”

Ethan panted as he kept pace. “The same aunt who danced naked in the backyard and screamed at crows to Go tell the devil?”

“The Naked Sugar Dance.” Brenna smiled. “Only at Summer Solstice.”

“Yeah, well I’ve about had it with this place,” Ethan grumbled, smoothing his usually perfect, sandy blond locks gone curly in the humidity. “We’ve been hiking for hours, we don’t know where this village is or even if it really exists and the humidity is messing up my hair. Well of Souls. Who ever heard of such a thing?”

“There’s something,” she said, eyes searching the forest. “Those bodies didn’t pile up by themselves.”

“But they’re really old, right? Like part of some kind of ritual?”

“We’re falling behind,” Brenna said, gaze searching the dark tunnel of trees. Something in the darkness had the small hairs on the back of her neck rising.

“Ah!” Ethan yelped, he stumbled, falling forward over a fallen limb.

“Sapo!” Brenna yelled, rushing back toward her friend.

Suddenly, the forest was quiet, dead quiet, no birds singing, no frogs chirring. Something inside Brenna went very still.

As if he’d shifted time, Sapo appeared next to her.

His gaze locked hers, glittering as he took her face in his hands.

“Querida,” he said, his voice low, silky. “Such a pretty face.”

And then he was gone.

A shriek sounded overhead and a shadow swooped so close she could feel the breeze on her cheek.

Ethan’s head jerked up, he gasped, “What the hell?”

Brenna stood, eyes wide, body frozen. A chill skittered up her spine and she motioned Ethan to be quiet. She stood, listening to the forest.

“Do you hear that?” she said.

“What?”

“Nothing,” she said slowly, eyes panning the length and breadth of the jungle. “Absolute nothing. It’s like the whole world suddenly went quiet.”

Ethan’s throat moved as he swallowed, scanning the now silent jungle, straining to hear something—anything.

Panic pooled in Brenna’s belly.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said, reaching for her arm, “We don’t need that guy, we’ll just go back the way we came . . .”

Bam!

A shadow crashed through the underbrush, flashing teeth, glinting yellow eyes.

A beast, not dog, not man, leapt at Ethan, claws slashing, knocking him to the ground.

A scream tangled in Brenna’s throat, eyes wide, frozen.

The creature raised his muzzle to the canopy of trees, flinging blood from his teeth—Ethan’s blood!

The animal’s tongue lashed at the blood, a feeding frenzy, and he lowered his snarling snout and seemed to stop—his mouth poised just above Ethan’s face . . .

In horror, she saw a thin, silver stream of smoke—no—more like fog, slipping from Ethan’s lips—was the beast doing that?

He was taking the air right of Ethan’s lungs.

“Jesus!” Brenna screamed. Fury erupted, twisted her belly, clenched her fists and she sprung, slammed her fist into the soft flesh beneath the neck.

Stunned, the creature turned on her, and just as he leapt at her, a blow smashed her from behind.

She reeled, slammed face first into the mossy earth.

The other beast.

She jerked to her left and and the beast rolled with her, razor-sharp teeth gashed her cheek, hot, rancid breath filled her nostrils.

The creature pinned her to the ground, pressing against her, his skin like dried leather spiked with wiry hair. Sharp pain, his claws dug into her arms, his legs pinning hers and he ripped at her, shredding her clothing, exposing a bare breast.

She couldn’t move.

The beast raised its head and howled.

The world shifted, and in a moment of clarity, she thought, So, this is how I’m going to die. In the jaws of what? Not dog—not wolf— man?

A terrible grin with too many teeth, the beast lowered his head, spittle with the stench of death dripped on Brenna’s cheek.

She wrenched her face away but his muzzle grazed her mouth, his breath like rotting flesh, and just inches away from her lips, he sucked, his thin, black lips quivering as he inhaled, deep, and her breath—her very life—wheezed from her lungs.

The silver fog she’d seen was her own, now, and black dots danced before her eyes, and in her head she whispered, Don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t open your mouth, don’t faint . . .

Fists clenched, she willed away the dizziness, clamped her teeth shut. The beast roared, grinding his body into hers. His thin, black lips stretched over jagged teeth into a nasty grin. “Breathe,” he rasped. “Scream for me.”

Brenna did scream then. Not of fear, but pure, red rage. Leaning back on one hip, she gathered her pulsing adrenaline and kneed him hard in what had to be his groin.

He yelped, and he was so close she could feel his belly muscles knot at the impact.

Rolling hard right, she delivered a sharp elbow to his ribs. She scrambled to her knees, panting for breath and spitting blood.

“Ethan!” she wheezed. The first beast hovered over her friend’s limp body, bloody muzzle to Ethan’s lips.

A sharp jerk of her hair sent her tumbling backward. “Punta,” the beast hissed, and he was again on top of her, the sound of ripping flesh and cracking bone, sharp, bright pain, and he placed his horrible, thin lips over hers and sucked, and oh God, she couldn’t breathe—this was it, this was really it . . .the breath left her body in a silver stream and—Crash!

A large, dark man burst through the bank of ferns, a golden jaguar on his heels.

Like a hard, swift wind, the man slammed into the beast on Brenna so hard the three of them tumbled to the edge of the clearing.

With a bone-cracking blow, the man struck the creature’s skull, sent the hulking body arcing into the air. It landed with a sickening thud, staggered into the other beast, who had scooped Ethan’s limp body over its shoulder.

The jaguar circled, snarling, shrieking a horrible cry, watching Brenna, watching the man.

“Ethan,” she whispered.

With the jaguar pacing, watching, guarding, the man leaned close, his green eyes glinting hard, angry.

Brenna couldn’t breathe and a single tear spilled down her cheek.

She fought for breath, tried to shake off the stars exploding behind her eyes, tried to fend off the darkness that crept close.

The man leaned close, his lips parted and he moved toward her open mouth.

“No,” she choked. “Not again . . .”

Then his lips were on her, firm and unyielding, and he sucked.

Hard.

And the last of her breath left her body, and she was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Marketing Plan–what you need to do right now

July 12, 2011

Writing is a business, and if you’re serious about being a successful writer, you need to have a business plan. There are all kinds

Back cover copy for the hardcover edition SCOOP, available e-book for $2.99 

of business plan models for starting a small company–finding info on how to create a writing marketing plan can be a bit more challenging.

Uber Agent Jenny Bent who’s writer roster is a Who’s Who of NYT Bestselling authors, recommends having an innovative marketing plan in place before you’re published, and to demonstrate your ability to use social media for marketing.

Why?

With a sagging economy and the publishing world getting hit in the pocketbook, publishers are increasingly looking for a Sure Thing, or at least the possibility of a Sure Thing,. If you show you are a professional and can present a plausible marketing plan that you can implement on your own, you’re way ahead of the game.

Think about it. Most publishers marketing bucks go to authors who don’t need it ie James Patterson–have you seen his latest commercials plugging his latest two books on cable? I believe this is wasted money–Mr. Patterson has a strong readership–minions who would pay to read his vitamin list.

Since most people don’t care about our vitamin lists, we’ve got to be interesting, grow a readership and make it work.

Here’s a good start . . .

Writer’s Marketing Plan

About the author. This information will be used for publicity and promotional tools, as well as in the front matter of your book. Please do not provide any information you would not like to see in print!

In 100-250 words, tell us about yourself.

· Who are you and what is interesting about you?

· What are your credentials–what makes you qualified to write what you write?

· What is your best publicity medium (i.e., where and how do you feel you would best represent your work)? What strengths do you possess that we can use in promoting your book? Experience in media interviews? Willingness to travel? Please list the following specifics.

· Membership in any significant organizations or associations, including offices held and dates, that may be help us develop promotional material or establish your “value” to the media.

· Any significant periodicals in which your work has been published.

· Media or broadcast interview programs that you believe will be particularly interested in this book (including names of personal contacts).

· Have you appeared on media shows or in print? Do you have copies of the interview(s)? Do you have contact names and numbers?

· Recognized authorities on the book’s subject matter whom you believe might be willing to read galleys and write comments for publication, including cover and advertising “blurbs” and reviews. Please include addresses, if known, and indicate whether the person is known to you personally.

· Are you fluent in any languages other than English? Could you effectively participate in that language in foreign media interviews, seminars at international gatherings, etc.? Are you able to write in a second language?

· Bookstores or other pertinent sales organizations where you are known and that may be responsive to personal promotional opportunities (book signings, lectures, workshops).

· Do you have a professional photograph that can be used on the back cover of your book?

About the book. In 300-500 words tell us “Why You (the consumer) Should Read This Book.”

· What makes this product unique?

· What do you consider as comparable titles on the market?

· List the major points of value about this book. Think in terms of the points you wish us to emphasize in developing advertising and promotional copy, including back cover copy.

As an example of back cover copy, I’m including what I created for SCOOP, which went on to win several awards, including a Mystery Guild Pick,  and Edgar Nominee and a 41/2-Starred Review Pick in Romantic Times.

Back Cover Copy for SCOOP:

Cauley MacKinnon is staring down the barrel of thirtieth birthday, certain the only things standing between her and certain doom are instinct, pure dumb luck and a kick-ass hairdresser.

Starting over after a truly bad marriage and armed with a freshly minted journalism degree, Cauley is disappointed to find that the only job she can get in her hometown of Austin is as an obituary writer—something that only happens to interns who’ve been very good, or reporters who’ve been very bad. Somehow, Cauley’s managed to do both. And of course, being the Obituary Babe wreaks havoc on her already disastrous social life.

While on the hunt for a story that will get her off the Death Page, Cauley’s life takes a turn for the worse when hapless childhood friend, Scott Barnes, threatens suicide and barricades himself in a dilapidated old shed where he phones Cauley for help. Cauley manages to talk her friend out of the shotgun and the shed. But Cauley is soon devastated when she discovers Barnes dead at his computer with an empty bottle of bourbon and a computer-generated suicide note. Soon, Cauley is up to her eyelashes in dead bodies and everyone wants to know what Barnes said in the shed—the last time anyone saw him alive.

Soon Cauley is on the run from an earless homicidal maniac and in search of the mysterious, hot FBI agent who she is certain has all the answers, all the while dodging her martini-drinking mother and her well-intentioned gang of girlfriends.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about getting your name out there, and some good ideas for building your publishing platform.

Good luck, and get writing!

Big, scary questions agents & editors will ask you

July 13, 2011

The first time an editor asked me the question,”Who are you and why are you interesting?” I was stricken speechless (not an easy feat for me). My first thought was, “Me? Interesting? I don’t even know where my car keys are!”

Some days, this is about as interesting as it gets . . . 

It was easier when I lived in the city, where I worked at a major newspaper,  had friends in the FBI, hung out with SWAT guys and was involved in Search and Rescue.

Now I spend my days keeping books on the ranch, weighing and keeping track of cattle, mucking cow poo for fertilizer and shooing deer out of the kitchen garden. Which I suppose is a different kind of interesting.

But I still know what my books are about and what makes them interesting.

When you know who you are and what is interesting about you, and  what your book is about and who will be reading it, it makes it easier to get an agent, an editor, and believe it or not, it also frees you up when you’re writing–it gives you a framework to help build your book.

Knowing your book and how editors will present it to the marketing department, and how marketing will present it to readers are key, and here are a few questions to add to your Marketing Plan:

What are comparable titles to your book?

What do you believe distinguishes your book from comparable titles?

Develop some advertising blurbs. You are the author; you know the book better than anyone else. How will the book be sold? What will motivate people to buy it?

Develop some “sales pitches,” one-sentence blurbs that will make people want to know more–Some of mine were:

  • SCOOP is a mystery about the three kinds of men in your life: The ones you play with, the ones you stay with, and the ones who just need killin’
  • SCOOP is the sassy, sexy story of an obituary writer’s life, love and the occasional dead body
  • SCOOP is the story of an obituary writer who finds herself up to her eyelashes in dead bodies and surrounded by more hot guys than she can shake a stick at.

Describe the audience, including age group, to whom this book is directed, and why you believe this audience will be responsive to your book, and, more importantly, buy the darn thing that you have slaved for, bled over and given up all hopes of ever having sex again . . . okay, I made that last one up for dramatic license.

Other than through bookstores, how do you believe this audience can best be reached?

List any previously published works, sequentially, with title, publisher, year.

List any works that are forthcoming, with title, publisher, and anticipated publication year.

List any books you are now working on or planning, and have a short, TV Guide version ready to go.

My blurb for SEARCH, the second book in the Cauley series:

FBI Special Agent Tom Logan is back in town, and he’s got a proposition for obituary writer Cauley MacKinnon. He needs somebody dead. And who better to help fake the death of a weasel-y informant than Cauley, aka the Obituary Babe? But things go awry when the snitch is gunned down on the way to the courthouse, his sister is nabbed by a mysterious cloaked figure and soon Cauley is up to her eyelashes in dead bodies, and on the hunt for the missing sister with her search and rescue dog, Marlowe.

So how’s that for a game plan? When most of us get into this business, we mistakenly believe that we will write a Masterpiece, lay it on the front doorstop and people would fall all over themselves to get it. Ah, if only it was that easy.

Who was that knucklehead who said, “If you build it they will come?” I’d like to introduce him to the business end of a very nice Ferragamo strappy sandal.

More accurately is the Tom Hanks quote “Of course it’s not easy–if it was easy, everyone would do it!”–that, and “There’s no crying in baseball!”

Yeah, the marketing end is a big pain in the ass, but getting a good marketing plan will help.

Perfect Pitch–How to get an agent’s attention

June 20, 2011

The first thing to know about pitching to an agent or editor is, “Don’t panic.” I know getting an audience with an agent or editor feels like your entire writing career, your life and those of your pets and children are at stake. I assure you they are not.A pitch is only one small shot. In your career as a writer, if you write hard, educate yourself on the bizz and put yourself in places where you’re likely to run into agents and editors (i.e. conferences, classes, etc.), you will have plenty of shots. The main thing to keep in mind is that agents and editors want to love you and your work. They are actively looking for The Next Big Thing. Having said that, a pitch is one of many important tools to help you get the attention of an agent or editor.1. What is a pitch? It’s a short interview with an agent in which you get to know each other and give a mini-synopsis of your book. It usually doesn’t make or break a career, but it does give you a very important connection to the publishing industry. There are several types of pitch formats, including an elevator pitch, one-on-one, and group pitch.

1. An elevator pitch is often “High Concept,” i.e. Julie Kenner’s bestseller, Carpe Demon, with an elevator pitch of “Ten years after hanging up her pom-poms and wooden stakes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is forced out of retirement as a suburban soccer mom to kick some suburban demon tail.”My elevator pitch for Scoop was, “Janet Evanovich meets the Ya Yas.” High concept elevator pitches are usually a one-sentence description using visual words with icons we already know and relate to. These should be catchy and concise, and will usually lead to, “Tell me more.”

2. That’s where the more extended, or one-on-one, pitch comes into play. My extended pitch for Scoop was: Cauley MacKinnon is staring down the barrel of thirtieth birthday, certain the only things standing between her and certain doom are instinct, pure dumb luck and a kick-ass hairdresser. Starting over after a truly bad marriage and armed with a freshly minted journalism degree, Cauley is disappointed to find that the only job she can get in her hometown of Austin is as an obituary writer—something that only happens to interns who’ve been very good, or reporters who’ve been very bad. Somehow, Cauley’s managed to do both. And of course, being the Obituary Babe wreaks havoc on her already disastrous social life. While on the hunt for a story that will get her off the Dead Beat, Cauley’s life takes a turn for the worse when hapless childhood friend, Scott Barnes, threatens suicide and barricades himself in a dilapidated old shed where he phones Cauley for help. Cauley manages to talk her friend out of the shotgun and the shed. But Cauley is soon devastated when she discovers Barnes dead at his computer with an empty bottle of bourbon and a computer-generated suicide note. Soon, Cauley is up to her eyelashes in dead bodies and everyone wants to know what Barnes said in the shed—the last time anyone saw him alive. Soon Cauley is on the run from an earless homicidal maniac and in search of the mysterious, hot FBI agent who she is certain has all the answers, all the while dodging her martini-drinking mother and her well-intentioned gang of girlfriends. This can be longer or shorter, and remember, save part of your ten minute interview to ask questions about your agent, and to let them ask questions of you.

3. If you discover your dream agent or editor has only signed up for group pitches, don’t fret. It’s often easier, because it takes the pressure off of you when others are in the same boat, and agent/editor will often ask all in the group for a submission. Think of a group interview as an extended elevator pitch or a shorter extended pitch. In closing, remember that if the agent/editor has requested proposals, make sure yours is in tip top shape and ready to go prior to the meeting. Ask how the agent/editor prefers submissions, i.e. via e-mail or *gasp* snail mail.

Make sure you know how many chapters–usually three–how long the synopsis should be, etc. Then, get e-mailed or snailed as soon as humanly possible. When sending in requested material, mark the subject header (or envelop) with “Requested Material” unless other instructions were given. And remember, be sure to send agent/editor a thank you note via snail mail regardless of the outcome. Small courtesies go a long way in this business.Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions! –Kit

 

Agent Quest, Cute Kitties, and some of the best advice I’ve ever received

June 22, 2011

I woke up late last night to an unfamiliar sound–Rain! Not enough to end the record-

breaking Texas drought, but welcome and lovely, and I went outside and raised my face to the thundercloud and let the wind and rain soak into me as it soaked into the dry ground, and I listened to the cracked, parched earth as it sighed beneath me and seemed to relax into the rain. A lovely break, and an excuse to get out of writing.
But if you’re serious about getting published, excuses are for sissies.One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever received was imparted from the great Sue Grafton. I had been writing for a major newspaper in Central Texas for 10 years, and squeezed my fiction into the slices of time after work, before supper, and after everyone had gone to bed.Grafton said “That’s backwards. Use your first, best creativity on your fiction–you’re going to have to go to work, so you’re going to get paid anyway, and besides, if you make enough money from writing, you can afford to send your children to therapy.”
Even Ninja Kitty enjoying a drink from a
rain bucket is no excuse to not get to writing
So, no excuses. It’s back to the digital grindstone, because we’re working on our query letters and as my daddy used to say, “We’re burnin’ daylight,” which, for those not accustomed to Southern bits of wisdom, means get your ass outa bed and get busy.So before you sit your rear-end down to write your query letter, you need to know who you’re writing it to–otherwise it’s like blind online dating–you don’t know what you’re gonna get, and it’ll likely be a troll who lives in his mother’s basement playing video games and eating peanut butter out of a jar.Let’s talk about researching agents and what to do once you’ve found a few that you like.
Agents are so important, and I’ve had more than my fair share of nightmares. Choose carefully, because this person will be getting 15% of your money years after you’ve parted–it’s kind of like having an ex-husband who will never, ever go away, which is why before I got my new agent, I researched her, talked to her, asked questions, even went up to New York to meet with her–it’s that important once you’ve been burned.So, based on my experience with the Agent from Hell, I researched how to choose wisely, talked with successful author buds, and came up with this advice on how to get a good agent, which I will now impart to you.
The first thing to remember about agents is Aim High. Make a list of your dream agents, start with #1 on your list and work your way down–I did mine five at a time (but wound up with #3, so I didn’t have to move on). A writer pal of mine once said she would never start at the top because she knew they wouldn’t take her. Are you kidding me? That’s like agreeing to a date with Peanut Butter Boy.
The odds are 50/50, so why not aim high? What’s the worse thing that could happen? They would say “thank you but no thank you,” and you know you at least tried. And even better, what if you get a “Yes!”  from Dream Agent and have to recover from a triple-coronary and get your butt back to work, but in a good way.So, how do you choose your very own dream agent?
There are several ways you can go about this, and it depends on what your version of “dream agent” is.1. I chose my shiny new Dream Agent by looking at authors who write in similar genre and vein as my writing. I found her on Publisher’s Marketplace. You can sign up for their daily Pub Lunch for free, which keeps  you on top of the latest and greatest news going down in the pub business.
Idid a bit more research on agentquery.com (this site tells you a bit about the agent, what they’re acquiring, if they’re accepting queries and if so, email or snail mail preferences).
Then I hit up Preditors & Editors then asked the Google-gods what they thought. After that, I asked around to see if my writer friends had heard anything about her, then, happy with what I heard, I sent her a query.
You can go the cash route by looking up agents with Top Deal Makers on Publishers Marketplace. These are the top agents, in order, according to 6-figure deals recently, which is what I did.
Go to your local bookstore and sit in the aisle and read the acknowledgments page of your favorite authors–many authors thank their agents, especially if said agent got author-girl a heckovadeal. Which I also did.So you have our homework for the day–tomorrow we’re going to get writing. Happy hunting–Now I gotta go feed the cows.

JK Rowling was rejected 12 times–Get a good agent&up your odds

June 21, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first booksigning at Book Expo, my debut novel SCOOP!

This workshop is an interactive To Do List from agents, editors and bestselling authors on how to get your foot in the door and what to do with your foot once you’re in. It’s the long, arduous journey about how I got SCOOP published, which you can buy here . . .
Why am I qualified to talk about this? Because I know from my own experience how important having a GOOD agent is, and what happens when good agents (or circumstances) go bad. Before I started this workshop, I interviewed Super Agents, Wonder Editors, and bestselling authors who are way smarter than me, and I’m here to pass on this information.Before we begin, you may ask yourself, “Do I really need an agent?” The answer in most cases if you’re trying to get to a major publishing house is, “Yes.
”To this day, agents have lunch (with martinis I hope) with editors, and they sit and talk about, what else? Our books. Most of us will rarely have this kind of access. The odds of getting published are hard enough as it is, why make it even more difficult?Agents are the gatekeepers to the Golden Door of publishing.
Their job is to sell editors good books that will, in turn, sell to readers–agents help weed out mediocre (or outright bad) material, and editors know that agents will bring them the best of the best.DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THIS PART– it only takes one “yes,” to get your book published.Remember, JK Rowling was rejected by 12 publishing houses until a small publisher picked her up, but told her she probably wouldn’t make much money.*’scuse me while I snort ice tea on my monitor!*
According to Rejections of the Written Famous (2003) by Joyce Spizer  (“Tony Hillerman’s agent told him, ‘Get rid of the Indian stuff’”), and Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected a whopping 30 times.So how many of agents and editors are pounding their heads on their manuscript-strewn desks with much biblical style gnashing of teeth and renting of fabric, shrieking, Arrrrghhh! I had her and I lost her!So–pluck up your persistence and put on your Big Girl Panties and get your book out there.
Yes an agent will take their 15% of your earnings until after the day you die, but ask yourself this…is someone taking 15% of something better than you taking 100% of nothing?“I’m an attorney, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just go over my own contracts and save myself some cash,’” said Bestselling Author & All Around Wonder Woman Julie Kenner. “But after really reading the fine print, I decided I needed someone who did this for a living.”
And, Julie realized she could be making a lot more money (and getting a lot more contracts) when people who negotiated contracts all the time were involved (ie, agent).“Plus, I realized I’d much rather spend my time writing than reading contracts.”
Some people will insist that if you’re writing category, you don’t need an agent. “Not true,” said Julie. “An agent may not be able to get you a lot more money for Harlequin, but they can get you other things, like inclusion in anthologies, placement, etc.”
“Agents can also help you with things like deadlines and any kind of communication issues that pop up with your editors,” said Award-winning Writer and Super Mom Emily McKay. “It’s so worth it not to have to worry about time and money negations.”
So, that said, let’s get started.If you’re going to National or any other conference, the best advice I ever got was from Julie Ortolon, and it’s that you need to stop what you’re doing right this minute and shoot a letter of introduction to the editor or agent with whom you are meeting. Mark the outside of the envelop * Conference Material Enclosed * (This will flag the letter and get it to the top of the proverbial slush pile)

 

A Book by it’s Cover

Potential buyers judge books by their covers, making cover art important in today’s fast growing indie market. My cover for SCOOP was indicative of the story, and tells you right away that the book is about a young woman with a mind for writing and mystery . . . It says we’re in for a snappy, sexy rideDEAD COPY, with its image of a young woman near the outline of a dead body, keeps with that theme.

Scoop, a Mystery Guild Pick of the Month is now $2.99 on Kindle Buy it Here Now!

When considering cover art, make sure the art you choose answers these tips:

1. What audience are you targeting?
2. What appeals to that audience?
3. What is your book about?
4. What is the theme of your book?
5. Does what appeals to you personally appeal to your targeted reader? Sometimes it doesn’t . . .
6. Does your cover design have a professional presence?
7. The most important thing is to do your homework. Market research into colors, themes and eye-catching art is the foundation of a good book cover that will appeal to your audience.

Remember, your cover not only represents your book, it represents you and your career. Choose wisely . . .

 

Conference season and the Secret Weapon

In the interest of time, I wanted to pass along one of the very best pieces of advice I ever got when starting out in this business—if you’ve got an Agent or Editor Appointment, take a moment, right this minute, to shoot them a note, and do it ASAP.

I swear to you, this is The Secret Weapon. Send them a short query in advance of the conference.

Getting your short, pithy query out ahead of time shows you’re a professional, and allows you to go into your meeting with a clear game plan.

The agent/editor will remember you, because you are one of the only writers seeking their valuable time in appointments who bothered to introduce yourself ahead of time.

If you send your short little letter in advance, you’ve already broken the ice (believe it or not, it’s just as uncomfortable for agents as it is for you).

Because you’ve given Agent/Editor a brief introduction of yourself and what you write, you can both relax in the meeting, and you’re free to ask the super important questions of the agent, such as What do you look for in a client? and Where did you get those shoes?

PREP WORK

1. When you send your letter, make sure you mark on the outside of the envelope in big, bold Sharpie Marker–“RE: RWA Conference.” This lets Agent/Editor know the correspondence is time sensitive.

2. Research your agent/editor ahead of time. Know what kinds of writing they represent, know what they like, dislike, know the format they accept, etc. You can find this information by looking through:

a.      Publisher’s Marketplace

b.      Google

c.      Agentquery.com

d.      Book Acknowledgements

e.      Preditorsandeditors.com

And–Asking around!

THE SHORT LETTER

1. Tell Agent/Editor why you are interested in them as a representative, ie, they rep your genre, they rep Ms. Author Brilliant-Girl, and you admire their work with that author.

2. Give the short and sweet on what it is you’re pitching, including genre, approx. page count, and then go into (very briefly and pithily):

The Heroine (and why we’ll love her)

The Hero (and why we’ll love him)

The Horrible Thing that’s keeping them apart

3. End your short letter with a brief on who you are, the most significant contests you’ve won, and why you are the one person who could tell this story.

4. Finally, thank Agent/Editor for his or her time, and tell them you look forward to meeting them at the conference.

5. Offer to buy them a drink at the bar, or a cup of coffee at the café.

It’s that simple. You’d be surprised how such a little bit of prep work can change your pitch meeting for the better, and potentially, change your life . . .

I’m still going to do the the free query-letter-pitch online workshop, but Writers’ League of Texas asked me to hold off another week, because they want to be involved.

If you have any questions, or are interested in signing on for the free workshop, stop by and see me tonight at the meeting, or email me offlist.

 

More on Agents & Advice from Sue Grafton

I woke up late last night to an unfamiliar sound–Rain!

The Secret Weapon

Not enough to end the record-breaking Texas drought, but welcome and lovely, and I went outside and raised my face to the thundercloud and let the wind and rain soak into me as it soaked into the dry ground, and I listened to the cracked, parched earth as it sighed beneath me and seemed to relax into the rain. A lovely break, and an excuse to get out of writing.

But if you’re serious about getting published, excuses are for sissies.One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever received was imparted from the great Sue Grafton. I had been writing for a major newspaper in Central Texas for 10 years, and squeezed my fiction into the slices of time after work, before supper, and after everyone had gone to bed.

Grafton said “That’s backwards. Use your first, best creativity on your fiction–you’re going to have to go to work, so you’re going to get paid anyway, and besides, if you make enough money from writing, you can afford to send your children to therapy.”

So, no excuses. It’s back to the digital grindstone, because we’re working on our query letters and as my daddy used to say, “We’re burnin’ daylight,” which, for those not accustomed to Southern bits of wisdom, means get your ass outa bed and get busy.

So before you sit your rear-end down to write your query letter, you need to know who you’re writing it to–otherwise it’s like blind online dating–you don’t know what you’re gonna get, and it’ll likely be a troll who lives in his mother’s basement playing video games and eating peanut butter out of a jar.Let’s talk about researching agents and what to do once you’ve found a few that you like. Agents are so important, and I’ve had more than my fair share of nightmares.

Choose carefully, because this person will be getting 15% of your money years after you’ve parted–it’s kind of like having an ex-husband who will never, ever go away, which is why before I got my new agent, I researched her, talked to her, asked questions, even went up to New York to meet with her–it’s that important once you’ve been burned.So, based on my experience with the Agent from Hell, I researched how to choose wisely, talked with successful author buds, and came up with this advice on how to get a good agent, which I will now impart to you.The first thing to remember about agents is Aim High.

Make a list of your dream agents, start with #1 on your list and work your way down–I did mine five at a time (but wound up with #3, so I didn’t have to move on). A writer pal of mine once said she would never start at the top because she knew they wouldn’t take her.

Are you kidding me?

That’s like agreeing to a date with Peanut Butter Boy.The odds are 50/50, so why not aim high? What’s the worse thing that could happen? They would say “thank you but no thank you,” and you know you at least tried. And even better, what if you get a “Yes!”  from Dream Agent and have to recover from a triple-coronary and get your butt back to work, but in a good way.So, how do you choose your very own dream agent?There are several ways you can go about this, and it depends on what your version of “dream agent” is.

1. I chose my shiny new Dream Agent by looking at authors who write in similar genre and vein as my writing. I found her on Publisher’s Marketplace. You can sign up for their daily Pub Lunch for free, which keeps  you on top of the latest and greatest news going down in the pub business.I did a bit more research on agentquery.com (this site tells you a bit about the agent, what they’re acquiring, if they’re accepting queries and if so, email or snail mail preferences). Then I hit up Preditors & Editors then asked the Google-gods what they thought. After that, I asked around to see if my writer friends had heard anything about her, then, happy with what I heard, I sent her a query.

2. You can go the cash route by looking up agents with Top Deal Makers on Publishers Marketplace. These are the top agents, in order, according to 6-figure deals recently, which is what I did.

3. Go to your local bookstore and sit in the aisle and read the acknowledgments page of your favorite authors–many authors thank their agents, especially if said agent got author-girl a heckovadeal. Which I also did.So you have our homework for the day–tomorrow we’re going to get writing.

Happy hunting–Now I gotta go feed the cows.

 

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