Downtime. I do not has it.

I shouldn’t complain, I got like three weeks of downtime last month, which we used on the Great Stoffice Migration, and I made a little art. This week, however, it has all come home to roost–art edits on Book 5 today, text edits on the next book at the end of the week, a Digger to do, and by the way, they’d like a sample chapter for the next project after Dragonbreath. (Dragonbreath is currently slated to go seven books, and then I’d like to start another series, tentatively called “The Platypus Files,” but before they buy it, they would like to actually see a sample chapter, which is TOTALLY REASONABLE but as I cannot pull sample chapters out of thin air,* this adds substantially to my current workload, but of course I have to do it and relatively quickly or I am going to be staring at an abyss of non-money-coming-in-ness about this time next year. (I mean, there’d still be royalties, but I worked in RPG illustration too long to actually believe in the existence of royalties–I budget around advances only, and am always pleasantly surprised to learn that someone has bought the book.))

And I still have this other thing I’ve been noodling around with, and the story is LIVE (I seen to have to write the first quarter of the book to tell if it’s alive or not) but I want to get it dragged to a point where I can actually maybe sell it to somebody, and that requires me to go off to the coffee shop for an hour every other day or so and beat my head on it. (Hmm, although maybe I should use my coffee-shop time today to script the Platypus thing instead…) and I realize that on some level this may count as insane productivity but in my head it is merely A Whole Lot Of Stuff I Have Promised To Get Done That Isn’t Yet.

And also I need to go get on the exercise bike.

Once more into the breach…!**

 

 
*At least, not if they include art. I can actually pull a sample chapter of script out of relatively svelte air, but you want it illustrated and that’s a whole ‘nother ball of hornet wax.

**I know that’s not how it goes, yes.

So Many Announcements!

First of all, KUEC #18 — the breakfast show — is live! We drink before noon (because we love you!) and eat some odd foods, and I pet a bagel.

Also available on iTunes

Second, and I know you’ve been waiting awhile on this one–Black Dogs 2: The Mountain of Iron is coming out January 21st! Finally, closure!

Sofawolf will be re-releasing Volume One at the same time, under new covers–the very talented Talenshi did interior art and cover art for Volume Two, and since they needed to reprint more of Volume One anyway, they’re doing it under matching covers for snazzier shelfification.

I’m very grateful to both Talenshi and Chris Goodwin for their interior art on this project–leaving aside the time constraints, I cannot seem to do art of these characters, and I think it’s because they mostly started life as words, rather than as images. (Digger and Danny Dragonbreath started life as pictures, so they’re no problem, but apparently once I get somebody nailed down as words, they are words in my head, and drawing them is no easier for me than it would be for anybody else.)

So I think that’s all pretty exciting…

How I Got An Agent, Revealed!

Okay, since a couple people asked, I will tell you the story of How Ursula Got Her Agent.

I will say first, however, that this is not normal.

In fact, it was such a stroke of stupid dumb luck that I kinda feel bad telling this story because it’s sort of like telling the story of how you found a suitcase full of small unmarked bills and went out and bought a car with it–it’s amusing, but it’s also such bizarre and undeserved good fortune that anybody in the audience is more than welcome to hate me for it, and I will understand and sympathize and add that I probably deserve it.

It is, however, rather typical of how my life goes, particularly since the dominant note in the whole thing is my profound ignorance of what was going on.

Way back in 2006 or so, Sofawolf Press was publishing Digger collections, and I was paying the rent as an illustrator. They were also working on publishing Black Dogs, but–I want to stress this–I had no plans of being a writer. I was an artist. I had done a little writing in my youth–didn’t we all?–and I had written my Obligatory Fantasy Novel back then, but I was not a writer. I had done nothing to seek publication from anybody but Sofawolf, who I’d known from doing cover art and generally being buddies. I did not know anything about mainstream publication. I had heard of literary agents in much the same way I had heard of garials and king-of-herring–I knew they existed, but I didn’t know anything much about them.

I knew writers. My buddy Deb, aka Sabrina Jeffries, was a writer. I knew a couple more people who wanted to be writers. It seemed like a nice job, but, y’know, I could sort of draw and this comic thing was kinda workin’ for me, and I was very clear on what writers did, which was write a lot, which I did not do.

One day Deb goes to a romance writer’s convention, where at a high-powered dinner of authors and agents, she tells an amusing anecdote about her Wacky Artist Friend.

She is sitting next to a very nice woman* named Helen, who, after the laughter dies down, says something in passing like “Artist, eh? Does she do graphic novels? That’s what everybody’s asking me for right now…”

Deb wracks her brain, remembers something about a wombat, and says “I think so. I’ll send you a link to her website when I get home…”

A couple of weeks go by, and Deb calls me up as I am in the middle of packing the house to move and says “Ursula, do you want a literary agent?”

I said–and I know I said this, because Deb has never once let me forget it–“Huh. Sure. What the hell.”

Deb facepalmed on the other end of the line and said “Ursula, when somebody offers to get you an agent, you do not say “Sure, what the hell.” You say “Wow, Deb, that would be amazing! Thank you so much!”

I repeated this dutifully, and then asked “What do I do with an agent?”

“We’ll worry about that later,” said Deb. “You do that webcomic, right? Have you won any awards?”

It had. I named them.

“Anything else?”

I wracked my brain and said “Uh…it was mentioned in the New York Times?”

There was the sound of another facepalm. “The New York–you never told me–that’s huge!”

“So I’m told,” I said, another line which Deb (who tells this story given any shred of opportunity, and has much better delivery) has never, ever let me forget. (Look, I was trying to pack at the time!)

“I’ll put all this in the e-mail,” she said, and hung up.

I thought “Huh,” and went back to work and thought no more about it, because what was I going to do with a literary agent? What did they do, anyway? Also, as I said, I was packing, and you have to wrap each of the plates in newspaper, and you KNOW what that’s like…

A few weeks slid by, we moved into the new house, we did a lot of re-painting and one day I got an e-mail from Helen saying “I have been to your website, I love your art, the little descriptions are so zany, can I call you, do you have an agent?”

I sent back a polite e-mail saying “I’ve never even spoken to an agent, but here’s my number.”

About thirty seconds later, the phone rang, and when I picked it up, she said “You are now speaking to an agent.”

“I will update my resume!” I said brightly.

There was a brief pause while she down-shifted her expectations of my intelligence.

Then she explained that she really really liked the art, she particularly liked the weird little stories, they were vastly entertaining and quirky, and had I written anything longer and could I send her samples?

So we went back and forth for a bit, and I sent her Digger and I think Irrational Fears. She found them interesting. She would call while flipping through my gallery and throw out random questions involving what we could do with this or that idea in the way of turning it into a book of some sort.

This was all very flattering, and it was an exciting couple of conversations, but I had no real idea what to make of it.

She was particularly interested, however, in the painting I did ages ago of Nurk the shrew, though, and I’d said I was going to write a children’s book about it someday–had I?

Well, no.

Could I?

“Sure!” I said, with the optimism of the completely ignorant. I still had no idea what you DID with an agent, but this woman seemed extremely excited and she had called THREE TIMES and had a very forceful personality and was also extremely complimentary and I hated to disappoint her, since apparently there was a chance she could be my agent, and I had picked up from Deb that this was probably a good thing even though I still wasn’t real clear on what they did.

“How soon can you have it?” she asked.

I panicked. Um. What was a good time frame? How long did it take to write a book? Oh god, what if I asked for too long and she got bored or got hit by a truck or I proved that I was some kind of irrational prima donna with no work ethic?

“Can I have six weeks?” I asked finally.

There was an unidentifiable noise from the other end of the phone, and she said, very generously, “Take eight.”

I wrote it in six weeks, and then spent the next week having neurotic fits about it, and then finally sent it out at seven weeks, in case she wanted to make any revisions, because that’s what you do in the illustration biz, which I was used to–optimally you send it in before the actual deadline so that the revisions also come in under deadline. (This was really not that super-human a feat–Nurk is a VERY short book. I wouldn’t try to do a regular novel in that time frame. Probably. Well, if Helen asked, I might try.)

Then I fretted for about two days, and she called say that it was great and she was very happy with it and would send it out and I plucked up my courage and asked “Does this mean you’re my agent now?”

There was a splutter on the other end of the line and she said “Yes! Of course I’m–WHY? Did another agent contact you?” (I think that’s the tone she uses on recalcitrant editors. It is alarming.)

“No–no, I’m just–I wasn’t sure…I mean…is this how it works?”

There was another pause while Helen again down-shifted her notion of my intelligence. “Yes,” she said. “I am your agent. If anybody asks if you have representation, you send them to me.  I can write up a contract if you want, although generally I don’t, since we both know it.”

“Cool!” I said.

…and that is how I got an agent, without having actually written a book, based on Deb’s anecdote, weird little blurbs at the bottoms of my art and a couple of samples of Digger, and despite my own absolute and total ignorance of what they did, what they were for, and why I wanted one.

Helen has been my agent for four years now, has sold nine books for me, flew me out to California for the Eisners, and has generally been very kind about my continued abysmal ignorance of normal author-agent behavior, and has not taken more than minimal advantage of my frequently unrealistic work ethic, although I hear that she once told an editor “You don’t understand! If you tell her to write a book, she goes home and writes it!” which apparently is not how it normally works, although I’m still not clear on alternatives, but apparently it surprised the editor too, so god knows how other authors do it.  (If you can do this, though, it’s a good thing! I think! I have no idea!)

I eventually went on-line to research how you get an agent and that’s when I learned that this is absolutely not how you get an agent, and then I started to feel guilty, like I’d jumped the line, but about that point she sold Nurk and then I was too busy revising and getting divorced and moving all over hell to worry about it again for awhile, and Deb made a lot of soothing noises, and has also been very helpful in unraveling the vast mysteries of publishing. And also other friends of mine got agents by conventional means, so, y’know. It’s possible.

I still feel a little guilty, now that I try to tell the story, because this is totally NOT how you get an agent. (It’s a lot easier when I’m telling this story in front of a live audience–it comes up a lot in Q&A, and my delivery is better and I can do funny voices and I know people are laughing at it because I can HEAR them, so I don’t feel like one of literacy’s greatest monsters.) But that’s how I did. I am aware that it was an absurdly unlikely stroke of luck. And now that I have one, I am very glad I do, because she has totally and utterly changed my life, which I tell her now and again, and if you can get an agent by whatever method, they are absolutely worth it.

And now I guess I’m a writer.

So, y’know.

*This is true for the value of “nice” that defines agents, which means that in the line of duty she is ruthless, savage, and has the tenacity of a terrier, but is generally quite a decent human being.

Odds ‘n Ends…

If you are an unpublished author and wish to read articles about how you actually get published,  this is a very good post.

I am not good at writing posts like that, because my success was a deeply bizarre series of events that could not be duplicated on demand, so this is a much better post, and the only thing I could add is A) get an agent, get an agent, for the love of god get an agent, and B) don’t ask published writers with agents you know if they will introduce you to theirs, as this is generally a social faux pas unless you are best and dearest friends and have, on at least one occasion, saved them from being eaten by weasels. As with many things, they are allowed to offer–and if they offer, leap on it!–but you probably should not ask, and if you DO ask, be willing to take “Um. I don’t think she’s taking submissions right now” for an answer and do not keep digging. Your friend is a writer, not an agent herself. If she wanted to be an agent and send people’s work to other people while feigning enthusiasm, she would have gone into that line of work in the first place.  (As you may guess from this, I had a few people who I knew vaguely in passing suddenly become very interested in bein’ buddies the minute I got an agent and a book deal and made no attempt to disguise the reasons.  It was tiresome, and I still feel awkwardly about the whole thing years later.)

Also, and totally unrelated, I had a fan recognize me in the grocery store yesterday! It was awesome. I have never been recognized at random before–I mean, one time when I handed over my credit card, and she actually read the name, but never just cold before–and I was thrilled. I hope the fact that I was caught largely flat-footed and probably babbled like an idiot or leaving Awkward Hanging Pauses did not make her feel too awkward. (Should you randomly recognize me in a grocery store, feel free to say hi! You will feed my ego for a month! I’m just, err, kind of a dweeb, so…y’know.)

…I just hope that she didn’t see the bit where I was surreptitiously fondling toilet paper to see if the stuff made from sugar cane fiber was going to be as much like wiping with burlap as I thought it would be.  That was perhaps not dignified.

We Are Living In The Future…

…and it’s not always a good thing for sales.

I was at the book store t’other day–the real brick-and-mortar one, to sign a couple of my books, and I was browsing through the SF/Fantasy section, and I tripped over a trilogy*

It was a big set of books. It would be a substantial cash investment for yours truly. And reading the back, the premise was…whimsical.

I am all for whimsical. My career is largely founded on whimsy. Whimsy is a Good Thing.

It’s also easy to do badly and slide over into saccharine and twee.  I have slid across this line more than once myself, I can judge no one for it…but I don’t necessarily want to read it. (Don’t ask me where the line is, I don’t know, and my opinion is skewed to one side anyway, as I am possibly the only person on earth who hated the Little Prince and thought it resembled the magic of childhood about as much as it resembled a dead mackerel wearing a top hat.)

In the olden days, I would have had to buy the first book and see if I wanted to throw it across the room after a few chapters. But we live in the future now! I have an iPhone! Blind trial-and-error are no longer required! So I pulled out my phone and googled the author’s name.

The first thing that came up was the author’s website.  I poked the search result, and up it came.

Sure, it wasn’t optimized for iPhone, but that’s a forgivable sin in this day and age (though in a few years, it won’t be) and as I un-pinched and dragged my finger over the screen, looking for a clue–writing style, reviews, links, whatever–I found…”The Daily Blessing.”

Sigh.

And that was pretty much the end of the chance I’d buy the book.

Not entirely because it was Christian. I was in fact standing in the book store with a Christian and a Unitarian, so I showed it to them and the Christian winced and the Unitarian said “Oh, that’s unfortunate.”  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was part of it–religious fiction that doesn’t beat you over the head savagely with the Jesus-stick is rare stuff, and I wasn’t about to plunk down trade-paperback money on the remote chance that I’d found the next G.K. Chesterton. (Go ahead and tell me I’m a horrible person if you have to get it off your chest–but I also don’t read military sci-fi, legal thrillers, westerns, or contemporary romance, for the exact same reason. The genre doesn’t work for me. If you are in that genre, it doesn’t make you a bad author or a bad person,  it just makes you an author I’m not reading.)

Now, it’s possible that the author has strong religious principles and didn’t feel obligated to rub the book-reader’s nose in them. Absolutely possible. Unfortunately, the whole thing was also…hokey. And if you are splashing hokey across your webpage, and I am searching to see if you can do whimsical well without descending into mawkishly sentimental, this is going to be a deal-breaker and I am going to click the little button on top of my phone with my thumb and stick it back in my pocket and put your book down and never look at it again.

The funny thing is that if they hadn’t had a webpage, that would have been fine. I was actually thinking vaguely about Amazon reviews when I pulled out the phone. I don’t require authors to have webpages. But if you have one…well, we live in the future now. People can find that, not just at home but when they’re standing in the aisle with their hand on the spine of your book, and what yours says on that first main page may be the difference between picking it up and putting it down.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t talk about your principles on your blog or whatever. Clearly I am the LAST person who could tell you do that with a straight face–we’ve hashed out just about everything here, with frequent guest appearances by my love live, my adventures in intimate grooming, and the state of my colon. But in practical terms, we’re nevertheless living in a world where what people see on your home page is suddenly a sales issue up there with cover design.

And y’know, it’s an interesting thing. Used to be you went to an author website to learn about an author you ALREADY liked–now I can see it rapidly sliding towards checking the website BEFORE you ever buy their book.

Now, I doubt people are doing much serious browsing in the book store–can’t imagine they’re scrolling through the backlog of blog posts on their phones. It’s probably the main page and that’s about it. Although Kevin whips out his iPad and checks author things, also on the spot, and I have grabbed it from him and looked up game reviews while standing in GameStop, which does involve some digging…

And now I’m wondering what you could do to optimize that landing space so that people were more inclined to buy the book, without turning into vile screaming ad-space with “BUY MY BOOK” in vibrating neon letters.

I suspect bad web design would turn off a lot of buyers. I know it’d turn ME off. And probably “optimized for mobile phones” is gonna be really important in the not-too-distant future.

I wonder if good reviews/quotes prominently would be a good idea, or if it would look egotistical? And do author photos help? People like to see faces, it’s a primate thing, but some of us do photograph very badly…I’d pay money to get that horrible con photo of me off the web where I am slumped exhausted in a chair under nasty industrial lighting, and thus appear to be three hundred pounds and three days dead. (Gang, don’t snap photos of artists on the last day of a con, I beg of you. Hardly any of us look good at that point.)

I’d say it’s a whole new world out there, but it’s really been a whole new world for years, and I’m only now paying attention because I can stand in the bookstore with my iPhone and look at it.

*Don’t ask me the name–I am not protecting the innocent, I have totally forgotten.

Sweet, sweet contract!

Oh frabjous day, we finally got the contract. Only four months of waiting!

I kinda want to print it out and rub it all over my body, but that’d probably be weird.

Actually, it’s not perfect yet, we have to go BACK to get another phrase or two changed, but they at least sent something. Which is a big step forward from where we were.

Just as a commentary for writers who may be wondering if this is normal or if this will happen to them…every now and again, you wind up waiting on a contract. A LOT. This one was attended by madness, apparently, and we waited a REALLY long time. The agreement’s made, the money’s set–those are the important bits–and you’ve both agreed that yes, there’s gonna be a book…but the details take forever. And it’s not necessarily that you’re hammering out the details between agent and contract, it’s that the contract department is horribly busy and then sometimes it goes into a thing called “routing” which means, according to my buddy Deb (who once waited three months for a contract and says that, while not NORMAL, it’s not horribly ABNORMAL either) that pretty much everybody in the company has to sign off on it and it turns into one of those complicated little spatial puzzles about how you cross every desk from here to there without recrossing a desk or getting eaten by wolves.

This doesn’t mean they hate you. If you are an author in position, let me assure you that this doesn’t actually mean anything at all, except that they are very busy and understaffed. Do not try to read meaning into this. I know this is hard, but trust me–trying to determine your career future by the contract department’s timetables is kind of like the meter reader determining how much you like him by how promptly you pay the electric bill.  Save yourself some grief, go work on the next book, or the garden, or a model plane or something.

Sadly, they don’t pay you until the contract is signed–and actually, generally not for a while after that–so I was seeing the level of my bank account sink until the pilings were exposed and there were nervous little crabs clicking claws made of loose change.  And this is where an agent is handy, because she can call people and utter menacing phrases about “if you ever want to see this book” where the best I could do would be to send passive-aggressive notes about how I’d love to work on the book but I’ve had to get a job as a Wal-mart greeter because I have no money.

But we have a contract! And god willing, soon it will be the absolutely correct contract! And they will send me money just in time for me to send half of it back out again for NEXT year’s taxes! It’s the circle of life! (Cue singing, lion cub held aloft over savannah, etc.)

Nano…thing…mo.

Well, boys and girls, we are headed towards November at a truly shocking pace, and that means it’s time for Nanowrimo!

I have never understood the hate for Nanowrimo in some quarters.  Editors, yes. Editors, as my buddy Mur points out, have every reason to despise Nanowrimo because come December 1st, their slush pile swells to the size of New Zealand. I would therefore suggest that anybody attempting to write a book in November spend a coupla weeks revising before you inflict it on anyone else.*

But that aside, I think Nanowrimo is great. It gets people writing who would otherwise just maunder about wishing they’d write their book some day. It’s a manageable chunk of time. It’s a manageable chunk of words. There is passionate enthusiasm in the air. And anybody who says it’s not how professional writers write can kiss my ass.

As it happens, I myself write in furious spurts of thousands of words over the course of a week or two, and then I stare out the window for awhile and put a coupla hundred words here and there. Then I shove the manuscript in a file and go work on a painting. I find the manuscript again six months or a year later, go “Wow, this was actually good!” and then write in furious spurts and add another ten thousand words or so, and then I stare out the window so more and shove it back in a drawer.

If I am intelligent, at some point in this process, I send it to my agent and say “Can you find somebody to pay me to finish this?”

The answers so far run along the lines of:

1) Yes, I love this.

2) You’ve definitely got something here, give me an outline for the rest of the book.

3) Hmm…I like this, but I have no idea how to sell it. It may have to wait until you’re famous. I’ll see what I can do, though.

4) I’m very, very sorry, but this freaks me the hell out and I don’t want to work on it. (Hey, it happens!)

and my personal favorite:

5) I could probably write “Option Proposal” on this e-mail and have the movie rights sold before Penguin gets us the contract for the next Dragonbreath Book.

So my system actually serves me very well, half-assed as it may be.  (Two of those described books sold, that last one will likely be the post-Dragonbreath project, and I may wind up releasing those others as e-books or something if I ever get them done.)

But I’m tired of having so many unfinished books. It makes me a trifle neurotic to have all those stories hanging there undone.

Thing is, I can finish a book on a deadline without a problem. Five Dragonbreath and one Nurk down, and I grant you, they’re short-short books, but nevertheless, you give me a deadline and I will work methodically to meet it and turn it a script by the end. And I can write a book, and finish a book, and there’s at least a mathematically possibility that it will be a commercially viable book, if not a runaway bestseller.

So this year, with that in mind…I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo.

Instead, I’m gonna invent NaNoFiMo. National Novel FINISHING Month.

The world doesn’t need me to slap words on another book for awhile and then shove it in a drawer. I already have over a half-dozen third-of-a-book scripts in my hard-drive. Some of them I know I’m not the person to finish (the thing with the barbarian gynecologist I can’t do yet…maybe in ten years…) and some aren’t worth finishing or would require more rewriting than I care to contemplate, but there’s still three or four or five that I could DO something with. The one Bluebeard story with the hedgehog, say, or the kid with the armadillo familiar, or maybe the thing with the goblins, because Kevin really wants to read the rest of that one.

That DO something might be “give it to my agent” or if she has no interest in it, it might be “release as e-book.”  I’m not gonna worry about that bit. I’m just gonna set myself the deadline and FINISH one of those suckers already.

So. NaNoFiMo. For those of us who don’t need to START another damn book, we need to knuckle down and finish one of the ones we’ve got.

*I say this as a person who’s had a character’s eye-color change ten times in three chapters. Do as I say, not as I do.

Talking Shop

Went out to lunch with my buddy Deb yesterday.  We don’t get together nearly often enough, but it’s always fun to do, because Deb is one of the few commercially published authors I know that is also a great friend of mine AND local enough to have lunch with regularly, and who is willing to talk shop enthusiastically.

There was a thing that went around the writing blogs not that long ago about the difficulty of acquiring good mid-career advice. Part of it is that is just that everybody’s mid-career is weirdly different, and part of it is that the internet is chock-full of  stuff about GETTING published–manuscript preparation and query letter advice and any number of people who will happily read the entrails of your latest rejection letter to try and eke obscure meaning from it*–but it drops off rapidly after that.

(Not that you could say either Deb or I are mid-career–my first large-press book was published three years ago, by which standards I am barely a puppy, and Deb has had three different names, has hit the bestseller list on multiple occasions and you could fit the advances for all seven Dragonbreath books into what she gets for a single paperback. )

I honestly kinda wonder if it’s because many blog writers don’t want to offend their readers. For so many people, publication is the great goal, and it seems almost unkind to say “Yes, yes, I’ve achieved the dream, but this bit still sucks!” The my-diamond-shoes-are-too-tight problem.

And partly, of course, it’s just boring. I suspect that many people think writers get together and seriously discuss the craft of writing. Maybe some do, I dunno, but I’m not one of them. Far as I’m concerned, the actual writing is between you and your keyboard and your god. Deb and I, out at lunch, spend the whole meal discussing our print runs vs. advance vs. earning out, gossiping about who jumped publishers, why they did it, why that may or may not have been a horrible mistake, which publisher’s got the best royalty statements (Answer: Penguin)  what idiots we’ve dealt with lately, obnoxious editor X who seems to believe that writers get paid to do absolutely nothing, how hard it is to find good health insurance, heavens this waiter is cute, stupid people who think that if they can properly manipulate social media, they will somehow become an amazing bestseller, whether talent is enough (it isn’t) or if dumb luck is crucial (it totally is) name dropping at recent conventions, who bought Kirkus, do authors realize that Library Journal and Publishers Weekly are run by a pair of lovely older Jewish ladies, publishing hardcover in romance vs. kid’s comics, and who do we have to blow to get the check around here?

Discussion of the actual CRAFT of writing consists mostly of “Plotting this one is killing me. I’ve done four 1000-piece puzzles.” (Deb’s plotting method involves doing jigsaw puzzles and working it over in her head. Four puzzles is quite dire.) and “Okay, I gotta get home, the book’s not gonna draw itself.”

I don’t think we’re unusual. Every author lounge I’ve been in at a book festival is full of discussion of cats, taxes, how could so-and-so have been such an ass to Peter S. Beagle, is that an open bar? Really? Dude! Swanky! and occasionally “Check out the cover on my new book!” You want to talk about actual writing, go to a workshop.

I imagine this probably holds true for other careers, too.  (Hmm, probably not EMTs. I bet they get together and tell the worst scraping-off-the-pavement stories they can think of…mind you, I could be wrong.)

*Don’t do this. Save yourself the grief. An editor is a human being, generally overworked, almost always pressed for time, and odds are good that they are honestly not putting that much thought into your rejection letter. If they say “It’s just not for us,” all it means is “it’s just not for us.” There is no hidden meaning lurking in the space between sentences. If you keep poring over it, you will not discover the secret code that unlocks the halls of publishing.  I swear.

Deerform

I return!

It was quite a whirlwind trip. The Florida leg was on the beach, and I saw terns and willets and sanderlings and lots of dead moon jellyfish. The Southern Independant Booksellers Association was a great bunch–my table had a line! We ran out of books in twenty minutes! I had to turn people away! (I felt bad about that.) But the enthusiasm was awesome, and it was great to get out there. The Baltimore leg was on the harbor, and I spent the morning at the aquarium, which was unbelievably amazing and awesome and oh my god, the little blubber jellies! And the mudskippers! And the paradise tanagers in the aviary, and the razorbills in the alcid bird exhibit and, and…

Well, it was all awesome. And I found myself wedged on a couch between Esther Friesner and Nancy Springer, talking about cat rescue, and wondering when my life took such a peculiar turn. But anyway.

All this leaves little time for art, but there’s this, anyway.

4 x 11, pencil on brown paper

Unlike other spirits of this type (for lack of a better term) the deer do not merely appear and fade away. Instead they will act as guides for anyone brave or foolish enough to follow them into the forest.

Where you wind up may bear no resemblance to where you thought you were going, and I can’t even claim that it’s where you’re needed or supposed to be. But it’s usually interesting, anyway.

Original is for sale, we have prints, drop a line as always.