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From a Certain Point of View

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You’re not going to like every book you pick up in a bookstore. There are a lot of books there, covering a lot of topics, and you’ll first go to the section(s) that have the kind(s) of books you like . . . In fact, you may never go to any other part of the store. And that’s okay.

Even when narrowing it down to the fantasy or biography or whatnot, you won’t like all the books that are there. You might like a lot of them. But you’re going to put back most of what you pick up. (Well, I’m making an assumption there; you may very well stack up a lot of books, but let’s be honest: Will you ever read them all? Probably not.) You’re going to look at the covers, the titles. You’re going to flip the book over and skim the back, or else you’ll open and read the flap. You’ll glance over the first page or two, then skip ahead to a random page. You’re looking to see if the writing “sounds” right to you, whether the book catches you from the start or if it seems like a slog. You’ll use all this data to decide whether to buy the book or not.

Of course, sometimes it’s something you’ve heard about somewhere, or it’s an author whose name you recognize or whose other work you’ve enjoyed.

But I’m talking random books by people you’ve never heard of. There are thousands of them, and you have to narrow it down to the handful you can reasonably afford to buy and (hopefully) have time to read.

This is what agents do, too.

They are in a virtual bookstore of as-yet-unpublished books. They are skimming the back covers and book flaps (known to them as synopses). They are testing the first few pages to see if these manuscripts are the kinds of books they want to read—more than that, are they the kinds of books the agent wants to work on and with for months and years?

Like anyone in this world, an agent won’t love every book (query, manuscript) he or she receives. They, like you in a bookstore, are just looking for a few to take home. And just because one agent or reader doesn’t love your book, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t. The agent puts your book back on the shelf for someone else to come along and discover.


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The day started with another partial request for my manuscript. That’s seven out now; four full and three partials. Not bad, really.

Nice walk this morning, too, sunny and cool, which is my favorite kind of fall weather: crisp.

1. “Mrs. Rita” by Gin Blossoms
2. “Overkill” by Jimmy Buffett
3. “Real World” by Matchbox Twenty
4. “Runaway” by Maroon 5
5. “Deep As You Go” by October Project
6. “Final Act” (from the Sherlock soundtrack)
7. “I Don’t Wanna Know” by Fleetwood Mac
8. “Robin in the Rain” by Raffi
9. “Miami” (live cut) by Counting Crows
10. “Until I Fall Away” by Gin Blossoms

There’s a nice symmetry to beginning and ending with Gin Blossoms, and those two songs in particular are good for starting and stopping.

And, yes, I keep Raffi’s “Robin in the Rain” on my iPod. It’s so cute and jazzy, and when my son Robert is around, we sing “Robert in the Rain” instead.

As for the live cut of “Miami,” I don’t usually like live albums unless there’s something new and different about the way the songs are played, but for some reason I do really like the New Amsterdam album.


God & Doctor Who

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My 5-year-old son Robert has some kind of insect bites on his back and shoulders. There are no signs of insects in the house, so I can only guess these are coming from school and time out at the park or whatnot. Still, I was stripping his bed, and I asked him, “What do you think is biting you?”

He thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Well, God doesn’t bite, does He?”

“Uh . . . No.”

“So it couldn’t be God,” Rob said reasonably.

I then jokingly suggested maybe it was angels instead, and Rob narrowed his eyes as me and said, “But not Weeping Angels, right?”

I have the best kids.


Monday Mourning & Music

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Two more rejections over the weekend, but I’m still doing fairly well; 11% of the queries I’ve sent have resulted in requests for my manuscript. (Of course, I’m still waiting on 62% of the agents to respond . . . It’s a long process, and I’m terrible at long processes.)

Good walk this morning but I need to invest in, like, athletic pants that have pockets. Songs included:

1. “It’s My Life” by No Doubt
2. “Mexico” as covered by Jimmy Buffett
3. “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul
4. “Tin Cup Chalice” by Jimmy Buffett
5. “Her Diamonds” by Rob Thomas
6. “Heart on the Line” by Richard Marx
7. “Hands Are Tied” by Gin Blossoms
8. “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” by Sting
9. “Southern Cross” as covered by Jimmy Buffett
10. “Why Should I Cry For You?” by Sting

Apparently my iPod is making a last bid for summer by playing a lot of Jimmy Buffett. But I do consider Sting more of a fall/winter kind of music. So maybe we’re in transition here.

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Stats & Tunes

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Woke up this morning to another request for my manuscript. Brings the week into balance: two requests, two rejections. I can live with that.

Doing the math, 10% of my queries thus far have resulted in a request of my manuscript. That’s not too bad.

As for my walks:

1. “Don’t Let Me Get Me” by P!nk
2. “This Is How a Heart Breaks” by Rob Thomas
3. “Exit Wounds” by The Script
4. “Soul” by Matchbox Twenty
5. “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” by Dada
6. “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt
7. “Crush” by Gavin DeGraw
8. “Sweeter” by Gavin DeGraw
9. “I’m the Cat” by Jackson Browne

1. “Everybody Loves Me” by OneRepublic
2. “The End Where I Begin” by The Script
3. “Misery” by Maroon 5
4. “The Apartment Song” by Tom Petty
5. “Go Crybaby” by Gin Blossoms
6. “If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me” by Jimmy Buffett
7. “All Your Reasons” by Matchbox Twenty
8. “Eternity” by Richard Marx
9. “Hit the Ground and Run” by Great Big Sea
10. “I Love You” by Amy Grant
11. “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons


Two Lies & a Truth with Jessica Bell, Author of White Lady: Enter to Win!

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To celebrate the release of Jessica Bell’s latest novel, WHITE LADY, she is giving away an e-copy (mobi, ePub, or PDF) to the first person to correctly guess the one true statement in the three statements below. To clarify, two statements are lies, and one is true:

The novel starts off with a flash-forward of …
a. the very end.
b. the beginning of the last act.
c. the middle.

What do you think? Which one is true? Write your guess in the comments, along with your email address. Comments will close in 48 hours. If no-one guesses correctly within in 48 hours, comments will stay open until someone does.

Want more chances to win? You have until October 31 to visit all the blogs where Jessica will share a different set of true and false statements on each one. Remember, each blog is open to comments for 48 hours only from the time of posting.

If you win, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to download the book.

Click HERE to see the list of blogs.


*This novel contains coarse language, violence, and sexual themes.

Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she’s determined to make it work.

It does work. Until Mia, her lover’s daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia’s back. It isn’t long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.

But is protecting the kids really Sonia’s motive?

Click HERE to view the book trailer.
Click HERE for purchase links.

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online:

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More Good News + Wednesday’s Walk

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So yesterday evening I got another request for the full manuscript of Peter! That means there are now three fulls and one partial in circulation. And it only takes one of them to love it enough to publish or represent it. (Publish = the indie presses that have the manuscript, represent = the agents who have it.)

We also got some much needed rain last night. But the wind here was crazy, and our power went out for a tiny bit. And even though it’s supposedly cooler today, I felt almost too warm on my walk. Must be getting a lot of exercise!

Meanwhile, my iPod apparently thinks I should start drinking early based on its heaping helping of Everclear this morning:

1. “Give Me the Meltdown” by Rob Thomas
2. “Here We Go Again” by Everclear
3. “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce
4. “When the Heartache Ends” by Rob Thomas
5. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty
6. “Where Everybody Knows Your Name (theme from Cheers)” by Gary Portnoy
7. “Sleep ‘Til the War is Over” by Rob Thomas
8. “Thrift Store Chair” by Everclear
9. “Distantly In Love” by Jimmy Buffett
10. “Santa Monica” by Everclear
11. “Long Day” by Matchbox Twenty

“Santa Monica” dovetails remarkably well into “Distantly In Love,” btw. Kinda weird but true. Actually, the whole set did well together, except for going from Croce to Rob Thomas. That was kind of jarring. Reminds me . . . I meant to find “Operator,” which is my favorite Jim Croce song . . .

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The Waiting . . . + Tuesday Tunes

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So yesterday was a whirlwind of excitement, what with the final cut of Adverse Possession and the new audiobook version of my short story.

But I’m still toiling away at trying to get agents and publishers interested in Peter, too. On the up side, I haven’t had any more rejections. On the down side, I haven’t had any more requests for the manuscript, either. All in all, it’s pretty quiet out there.

And not to hit the Twitter button too hard—really, I should just do myself a favor and stay away from Twitter entirely—but all these agents say they’re looking for manuscripts. But then they don’t answer. And I’m pretty disheartened when I see an agent I submitted to tweeting that they just requested eight manuscripts via queries but I haven’t heard anything. (Of course, I don’t know how long ago those queries were sent and whether she just hasn’t gotten to mine yet.)

One agent in particular I had high hopes for. But I waited the 8 weeks (actually, I waited 10) and no response. So I sent a follow-up e-mail. That was 3 weeks ago. I know their agency has a policy of responding, whether it’s a yes or a no, so . . . Actually, I know a couple of the other agents in the agency, but neither represents my particular genre, so I’d gone with the guy I thought was the best fit for my novel. But he’s off on Twitter going on about television shows and concerts and first dates.

One of the senior agents, with whom I happen to have a connection, gave me a different e-mail address for this guy and told me to nudge him again. And she supposedly also nudged from her end as well. That was yesterday. It’s now 5:00 in NY, and I still haven’t heard anything.

At least she told me I could try someone else in the agency if it comes to that.

Anyway, this morning the weather was somewhat cooler. But I had an appointment so also had to curb my walk a little:

1. “Get In Line” by Barenaked Ladies
2. “Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song” by Matt Hires
3. “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat
4. “Candy” by Gavin DeGraw
5. “Put Your Hands Up” by Matchbox Twenty
6. “American Girls” by Counting Crows
7. “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” by Sting

“Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty was just starting as I got home, but I like ending it with Sting. A hopeful note.

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Good News + Monday Music

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I’ve just had a look at the final cut of Adverse Possession, the short film made from my play “Warm Bodies.” Rolling Circle Productions has submitted it to the San Francisco Independent Film Festival; I really hope it gets picked up, since I would love to see it on the big screen!

Nice way to start a Monday the 13th. (Well, and I did cross a black cat’s path this morning on my walk. I hope he believed I was good luck.)

Songs for today’s walk were:

1. “Change Your Mind” by The Killers
2. “Crawling in the Dark” by Hoobastank
3. “Human Wheels” by John Mellencamp
4. “Forever December” by Tabitha’s Secret
5. “Love” by American Authors
6. “Bullet From a Gun” by The Script
7. “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow
8. “Read My Mind” by The Killers
9. “December” by Collective Soul

Oh, and I also received the audio version of my short story “A.B.C.” from voice artist Noelle Messier. You can find a link to it on the sidebar. So flattered she chose to record my story!

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Agents on Twitter

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Every time I send out a query, if the agent has a Twitter account I add him or her to a list so I can follow them. Sometimes this gives me a sense of how long it’s taking them to get through their queries; for example, now and then an agent will tweet: “I’m through all queries sent before 9/1″ or something like that. Gives me an idea of where I am in the queue. Too, following these agents can give me an idea of whether or not my manuscript is something they’ll truly like. Many might say “literary fiction” on their sites, but if they tweet about books they’ve enjoyed or are enjoying, I can sense where I fall on their personal spectrum.

But I have to say . . . Sometimes agents on Twitter give me the notion they aren’t reading much of anything at all.

Wait! If you happen to be an agent, don’t storm off yet. Just hear me out. So many agents tweet about being out at the bar, or partying over the weekend, or attending Comic Con . . . And there are only so many hours in a day, a week, a month. If these agents are out doing all this stuff, when are they reading queries? ARE they reading queries?

Now, I know Twitter is not all of life in one place. Twitter is very small snapshots of things happening. So my sincere hope (and assumption) is that these agents are reading and responding to queries if/when they are absent from Twitter. (Some are more absent than others, though, so if there are no breaks in their tweets . . .)

Then again, some of those absences must be devoted to sleeping, right? Hmm.

And of course I know and acknowledge that agents, like anyone else, have the right to go have fun. So if they’re tweeting about concerts and whatnot, well, it’s only fair they get out sometimes.

It’s only when an agent seems to be out all the time that I start to wonder. And there are a couple of those.

Anyway, this is just an observation on my part. Authors are warned to watch what they post lest it besmirch their image. Accordingly, maybe agents should consider whether all their tweets are making them look flaky. As an author actively submitting queries, I want to believe these agents are hard at work and seriously considering each submission, but thanks to social media the privacy walls have fallen and that mystique agents once held is evaporating. It’s nice to see they’re just people, but it’s less exciting to see that though they spout a lot about being buried in queries, sometimes they don’t seem to be doing much to dig themselves out. How can I believe, “I get hundreds of queries a month, and it’s really hard work,” when your Twitter feed shows me you’re mostly hanging out with your friends, going to bars and restaurants and concerts and movies and comic conventions and the beach? It makes me feel you don’t respect my time and effort as an author and also makes me lose some respect for you as a potential agent.

I’m sure Twitter skews the view. I’m sure many if not all of these agents really do work as hard as they seem to play. But with no other data to go on—with Twitter as my only window into the agents’ worlds—it’s somewhat disheartening.

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