Agent Monday: On Writing and Fear

Yvette from her facebook profileHappy Agent Monday, everyone! Today, I’m excited to feature a guest post by my client, extraordinary author Yvette Ward-Horner. It’s all about writing and fear. Yvette has plenty of experience facing fear both on and off the page. Her stunning debut novel LOOK WELL tackles the realities of climbing; the glory, the fear, the bonds that emerge from suffering. It also examines the choice that some of us make to abandon the mainstream blueprint for success and instead pursue a different type of life. Yvette writes with true authority. In real life, she happens to be a climber herself (that’s a picture of her on that icy mountainside). So, take it away, Yvette!

ON WRITING AND FEAR
guest post by Yvette Ward-Horner

“Doubt and uncertainty, fear and intimidation are at the heart of the novel-writing process.” – John Dufresne

Fear.

It’s there with you when you write those first words; it’s still there later when you type The End and blow your nose and think Is it really over? And all the way through your story or novel, as you coax and smooth the words out (or are charged and trampled by them), fear will twist your thoughts and crumple your hopes.

This sucks.

I’m a hack.

No one will like this story.

And then there’s the flip-side, of course; you know that too. If you write, you’ve surely spent hours or days or weeks with the words rushing out, high on your talent and the sheer raw joy of writing.

This book will be huge.

How could it not sell?

It’s a page-turner.

But it never lasts. Maybe you get a new rejection, maybe your spouse is thoughtless, or maybe you just eat too much hard salami. You re-read your work and it’s suddenly not quite so clever. Your metaphors flop, your plot twist rattles, and why would anyone care about your protagonist?

No one will like this story.

This book is awful.

And there you are again.

As a writer and climber, I know fear well, in all its forms and stages of intensity. It may seem that the fears of the writer and the fears of the climber have very little in common, but under the fraying nerves, there’s a common message. Stop what you’re doing. You won’t make it. Give up now.

And so much of the danger is simply imagined.

I might fall.

I might fail.

That whisper in the back of the mind.

But what can be done? How can you make yourself brave? You’re hoping right now that I’ll teach you some magic; a Zen trick, a swift path to courage. You want to cling tight to that muse-fed bliss when it comes, joyfully streaming your visions onto the page, secure in the knowledge that your talent is strong, your prospects rosy, your novel a thing of beauty.

But there—you feel it already. That rustle of doubt. Sit still for a moment and let it rustle, feel it twisting: yes, it’s deep and ugly. Now turn away and get on with what you were doing.

That’s all you can do.

The stark fact is that fear is just part of writing, like seductive adverbs and wayward commas and plot threads that lead you miles in the wrong direction. And it can’t be escaped. It makes you doubt everything sooner or later – your characters, your scenes, yourself. It sits in your chest and whispers give up and it can make you abandon a book before it’s finished. If you let it.

And that’s the key to this whole thing: If you let it.

Because fear will never kick you free, no matter how much you scold it or wring your hands, no matter the quality of your positive self-talk and the inspirational quotes you post on Pinterest. Getting published won’t get rid of it – if anything, it makes it slightly worse. All you can do, then, is learn to abide with it; let it be part of your writing and your life. On the days that your book is singing to you, write. On the days that fear is darkly muttering, write. Finish that beautiful novel you’re writing; surge on your flows of hope and ebb with dignity. Let fear ride with you, but don’t let it dictate your actions.

And never let it decide the course of your life.

 

Yvette headshot from websiteYvette Ward-Horner is author of the debut novel LOOK WELL. Her short stories have been published in print and online literary journals and several have been reprinted in anthologies. Her short story THE NOMADS won first place in the Literary/Mainstream category of the Writer’s Digest Magazine’s 78th Annual Writing Competition. An avid mountain climber, Yvette lives in the Rocky Mountains, where she climbs as much as possible and is a member of the local Search and Rescue team. You can connect with her on her website here and friend her on Facebook here.

 

Agent Monday: On New Clients!

MP900386332Hi gang!  Happy New Agent Monday to you all (though a bit belated today…sorry). Even though I’ve been slightly crazed dashing around traveling the past few days, I just had to make a quick stop here and share some thoughts on what it’s like getting a new client.

First thought: Exciting!

Many queries I get just aren’t up to snuff, or are perfectly fine, yet not for me.  Then I’ll get a query that makes me sit up and think, hello!  So I’ll eagerly read the attached first 20 pages I request in my guidelines. And all too often those 20 pages just don’t do it for me.

But once in a while, those pages really sing. That’s what happened a week ago when I got the opening pages to a debut novel titled LOOK WELL.  Holy smokes. The writing was riveting. I requested the novel immediately. That was on a Friday. Got the full 2 hours later, loaded it onto my Kindle, and dove in, reading it throughout Saturday, finishing it in the wee hours of the morning. YES!

So, exciting! Exciting that the book fulfilled the promise it’d set up. Exciting that it made me eager to jump up and grab the phone and call the author immediately. (But I had to wait a few hours first…we are in different time zones.)

Second thought: Hopeful!

Okay, so far things are going along smoothly, but now I have to hope that when I talk with the client, we’re on the same page (ha-ha) about what our working relationship will be, about possible edits, about promotion. And I’m hopeful that I can convey just how special I feel the writing is, and what I in particular as an agent can do for her work…stuff like helping with any in depth editing cuz I’m a writer too, offering my experience in book promo, my unending enthusiasm, plus the backing of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, a fabulous group that includes its own film and foreign rights agents.  Also, I’m hopeful that the author and I communicate well with each other, since we need to be able to work positively together for the long haul.

So I call and we talk and everything is AWESOME, but, like many great manuscripts, this full manuscript is being looked at by several other agents, so that leads us to…

Third thought: Anxious!

Here’s the part you never hear about. The part where the tables are turned, and the agent hopes that you, the writer, will choose me, the agent as your representative. I’ve basically made my pitch, and I’m ready to go, but I also want the writer to make the choice that she feels is best for her. That’s what a good working relationship is about. (Of course I know I’m the right choice.) ;) So I suggest she get back to me in a week and give those agents already reading the manuscript notice that she has an offer of representation and give them till the end of the week to let her know.

This part of the gig can go different ways. Sometimes the author tells me right away I’m going to be her agent, and simply lets the other agents know. Sometimes the author gives the other agents a time frame to also make an offer (which I absolutely understand). And then I wait to see if I will rep this author that I’ve fallen in love with or not. Kinda like college admissions where students spend years trying to build up an application worthy of an offer, then, once they get multiple offers from colleges, the colleges have to hope the student now will choose them. It doesn’t always work out, and that can be disappointing, but I always tell authors that whatever they decide, I know they will do great and I thank them for the opportunity to read their work. They should be very proud of the level of writing they’ve achieved. Which brings me to my final thought…and an announcement.

Final thought: Yes!

I’ve just signed my newest client Yvette Ward-Horner, author of the breath-taking debut novel LOOK WELL, which is about a woman obsessed with blazing a new trail up one of Alaska’s most treacherous peaks, and the two men who risk their lives and hearts for her. Yvette has had a number of short stories in journals and anthologies, and her story The Nomads won first place in the Literary/Mainstream category of Writer’s Digest Magazine‘s Annual Writing Competition. She’s an experienced climber who also is on a search and rescue team. No wonder her writing is so believable!

I’m thrilled to have her join my list of incredibly talented clients. You can check out my list of fabulous authors here.

Agent Monday: Best Part of Being an Agent?

Recently I did an online interview where I had to answer the question: What is the best part of being an agent?  That was an easy one to answer: Making a talented writer’s dream come true.

Writers are huge dreamers.  They dream up stories, forming tales from wisps of ideas, fragments of memories, touches of creativity. And their dreams for their future should be huge, too. Finishing that novel. Getting the right agent. Creating something an editor will feel passionate about. Seeing that novel published and set into someone’s hands. Touching a reader with their words. Perhaps even changing a reader’s life.

I’m so grateful to play a part in making those dreams happen.

IMG_0462At the start of this month, I was thrilled to meet my client Carmella Van Vleet in person.  But really, I felt like I had met her the very first time I read her wonderful middle grade manuscript ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER. The novel is about a girl with ADHD who must prove to others (and herself) that she can stick with something to the end. I found the author’s voice strong and funny and warm. I fell in love with this manuscript immediately, and connected with the writing. When Carmella and I spoke on the phone when I made “the call” to her, we connected right away, too.

So no surprise that she and I had a great time when we finally met up in New York. And for such a happy occasion. Her debut novel has been accepted for publication by Holiday House, and we got to meet the publishing staff.  Carmella and I chatted with warm and welcoming Mary Cash, the editor-in-chief, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone who works so hard to make Holiday House a high quality press.  And everywhere, there were books. Shelves and shelves and shelves of glorious titles.

Shelves and shelves of dreams come true…  Dream big, everyone. Make your own dreams happen.  And congratulations, Carmella!

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Write in a Different Genre: Guest Post by Donna Galanti

Today I’m thrilled to host a stop for the blog tour celebrating the launch of Donna Galanti’s debut paranormal suspense novel A Human Element (Echelon Press). Here’s a quick synopsis:

One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. With the killer closing in, and terrifying secrets revealed, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Readers who devour paranormal books with a smidge of horror and steam will enjoy A Human Element. To purchase A Human Element click here. And you can read my positive review by clicking here.

Now onto Donna’s guest post.  Welcome, Donna!

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Challenge Yourself to Write in a Different Genre
by Donna Galanti

If you are a writer have you challenged yourself to write in a different genre? I tried it in my Write a YA Novel in 9 Months class. I like to write dark fiction for adults and this class forced me to find my own natural young adult voice. My teacher and NY Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry said he never backs down from an offer to write something new. He promotes that as writers we should not be bound to any one genre or point of view, but as writers we should write anything. I agree.

In researching how to write a young adult novel, I realized that I had already written young  voices in my adult novel as I propelled two characters into adulthood. But I took it a step further. I challenged myself to also write in a different point of view – the first person, rather than my comfortable third person. I found out how difficult it is to stay in the mind and view of one person through an entire book. And that of a twelve year old boy!

Here’s an excerpt from seven year old Laura in A HUMAN ELEMENT, contemplating what her real mother looks like:

All she knew about her real mother was she had been a runaway who showed up one day. Laura dreamed up many scenarios about where her mother hailed from. Once her mother was a trapeze artist from a traveling circus who got left behind on a tour, another time a royal princess who ran away to escape marrying an evil prince. And one time she was even an alien transported to Earth on a secret mission to see how humans lived.

Wesley often told Laura it was good luck to have two mommies. Fanny watched over her as her “Earth mommy” while Sarah was her “angel mommy” looking down from Heaven.

Laura was afraid some days that her “Earth mommy” would be taken from her too. 

Today felt like one of those days.

And here’s Laura at eleven spending time at her favorite spot to write, the lake:

She spread out her blanket on the grass and sat cross-legged facing the lake with her notebook and pen in hand waiting for the sun to hit the water. She wanted to capture in words the beauty of the summer morning all around her. The sun burst out of the treetops and shot shimmering jewels across the water. Laura shielded her eyes and her heart leaped with a thrill. She had made it just in time. The cool morning air blew off the water and embraced her. She closed her eyes for just a second to feel the warmth of the sun on her face, but instead a slobbery snout nudged her cheeks and hair.

“Hey,” she shouted in surprise and scrambled up to find an old, chocolate Labrador sniffing her legs. He had white whiskers around his jaw and a pleading, sad look. He became her friend instantly. She fell back down on her knees and wiggled his ears.

“Where’d you come from?” Laura scratched his head “You’re so cute!”

She laughed as he tickled her with his nose.

“Scooter,” a gruff voice called. “Come here, boy.”

Laura looked up to see a trim, old man whacking through the brush in the woods. She knew it had to be the hermit people talked about. She had seen him from afar, with his gray cap, but never up close. The old man twitched, startled to see her there with his dog. He stopped a few feet away from her. He didn’t look like a hermit but a nice, normal grandpa dressed in jeans and a green plaid shirt. He leaned on a crooked, black walking stick. He looked in good shape for an old geezer.

It was fun to realize I already had found my natural young voice in my adult book, and fun to “grow” with Laura as she grew up in A HUMAN ELEMENT. I also know I get bored with an author once a formula has been applied to their books, over and over. This happened with a favorite author, Dean Koontz. After some time I could pick up his book, read the beginning, and know how it would go about and end. That greatly disappointed me (I even wrote him a letter to that effect, but he didn’t respond :)). Sometimes we read an author because we know what they’ll give us, but sometimes we read an author because we want to be surprised.

John Grisham surprised me with two books that I fell in love with. THE LAST JUROR, written in first person, and THE TESTAMENT, written in third person. Both tell a story from the deep perspective of one person different from Grisham’s legal-thriller styles novels.  However, his try at non-fiction, THE INNOCENT MAN, did not work for me. Too dry and dull. But his book, THE PAINTED HOUSE, a coming of age book did draw me in. Again, a book in a different voice and point of view. Whether I liked it or not, bravo to him for trying new styles!

So do you like it when authors please their loyal-fans and continue to write in the same vein? Or do you want them to try new voices, new genres, new points of view? It’s exciting to be an author today as it’s become more acceptable to write across genres and in different points of view. It also gains you a crossover wider audience. John Grisham, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, James Patterson. They’ve all done it. As for me. I’m game for trying something new. What about you?

LIKE Donna’s Author Facebook  page for news and updates! Her tour runs through April 11th with book giveaways, more guest posts, and interview fun, and a chance to win the big prize giveaway! So pop over to her blog to see the full tour schedule.

Donna Galanti is the author of the dark novel A Human Element (Echelon Press). She won first place for Words on the Wall Fiction at the 2011 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. Donna has a B.A. in English and a background in marketing. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and Pennwriters. She lives with her family in an old farmhouse in PA with lots of nooks, fireplaces, and stinkbugs. Visit her at: www.donnagalanti.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DonnaGalanti
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DonnaGalantiAuthor
Blog: http://blog.donnagalanti.com/wp/

Stephanie Winkelhake is Golden Heart Finalist!

Some news is just too great to keep to yourself, right?  In addition to being an author, I’m also an Associate Literary Agent for the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, and one of my awesome clients is Stephanie Winkelhake.

Stephanie’s debut YA novel, THE MATTER OF SOULS, caught my eye right away. The voice is incredible: smart and insightful. And the novel is intricate and passionate and heart-breaking.  So I can’t say I was completely surprised (though very excited and proud!) when Stephanie told me the wonderful news that this manuscript is a national finalist for the 2012 Golden Heart Award.

This is a prestigious award offered each year by The Romance Writers of America to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance manuscripts. Each year, 1,200 manuscripts are entered for the award, and Stephanie is one of 8 finalists in the YA category.  She’ll find out if she wins the award during a special banquet held at the RWA National Conference, but she’s already a winner to me!

Here’s a little bit about Stephanie’s debut manuscript:

Sixteen-year-old Riley Andersen must come to terms with the inevitable: she’ll never graduate high school, never go to college, and never become a wife or mother. With only three months to live, she abandons all hope of a future. What she doesn’t realize is that death isn’t the end. In fact, for Riley, it’s only the beginning. As soon as Riley sees Hayden, her ex-boyfriend, she’s convinced her mind is playing tricks on her. He is, after all, dead…

Okay, can I just say that when Hayden leans over and whispers, “Riley?” in her ear, it makes me shiver? Their story seized me by the heartstrings and I was absolutely glued to this manuscript as I found out more about Hayden’s death, as Riley had to loosen her own grip on life, and as the souls of these two star-crossed lovers teetered on the edge of love and of doom.

Keep your eyes peeled for this rising star, and follow her website by clicking here.

And congrats, again, to my wonderful client!

Marie

Book Review: A Human Element by Donna Galanti

I just finished reading a great paranormal suspense novel, A Human Element by Donna Galanti (Echelon Press), and found it to be a page-turner filled with fascinating twists and turns!

Galanti’s debut novel features Laura Armstrong, an endearing heroine with a mysterious past, a big heart and a future filled with dread and peril.  Although gifted with unusual skills, including mind-reading and healing ability, she is forced to endure having dear friends and her adoptive family members murdered one by one. Galanti’s skill at building character and making us care about Laura and those she loves, makes these deaths particularly painful. When we discover the killings aren’t random, and that a savage killer haunts Laura’s dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next, the reader becomes completely invested in this fight to the death.

There is much more going on in this clever novel than death and destruction and evil.  And a crashed meteorite, a government science experiment gone wrong, combined with a dying planet blend together to really amp up the stakes.

Add to the mix the wonderful character of Ben Fieldstone.  Here’s a boy who lost his family the night the meteorite struck, a boy who grows into a troubled and lonely man, and whose own personal demons lead him to Laura, and emotional salvation and love.  But first they must face the monster who hunts Laura. The last third of the novel is a race to the finish, and I was glued to the pages, hoping the characters I’d grown to love would finally find the peace they deserved.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  Galanti’s debut is a thrilling ride full of believable characters, a terrifying villain, an epic battle for survival, and a love worth killing for.  Highly recommended!

*Want to know more about this book and author?  I’m happy to be part of  Donna Galanti’s A Human Element Blog Tour which will be making a stop here March 27!  So keep your eyes peeled for her guest post.

Book Review: The Dust of 100 Dogs, by A.S. King

Pirates — scurvy foul creatures with a greed for gold and a thirst for blood.  An innocent girl born into war-torn Ireland, who views the world with caution, who finally finds love, and who then has everything violently ripped away.  A teen in Pennsylvania, biding her time, and hiding her secret.  And a curse.  Oh, and some dog care tips.  If this all sounds like an unusual combination, you are dead on, and this is what makes the young adult novel The Dust of 100 Dogs (Flux) by A.S. King a fresh and original hit.

King’s main character Saffron, is a brilliant teen born into a needy family that see’s Saffron’s brilliance as the ticket to a bright future.  But what they don’t know is that Saffron is actually the soul of Emer, an Irish girl who had turned to pirating many centuries ago, and who was cursed to embody the souls of 100 dogs before she finally found herself human again.  Along with teen angst, Saffron must tamp down the savage instincts of her pirating past, and wait just a bit longer until she is 18 and has the money and the freedom to pursue the treasure buried on a Caribbean isle long ago.

The author does an amazing job of grabbing the reader by the throat, and pulling you through this epic adventure.  As we travel with Emer’s soul through her past lives, there is heartbreak and triumph, blood and gore, history and humor.  Because of some disturbing scenes, I would restrict this read to older teens and adults.  It’s a fantastic novel, but there is a rape and one seriously disturbed villain, so be advised.

That said, I now say grab this book and read it.  Share it with others. Channel your inner pirate. Yo-ho!