Thursday, May 04, 2006

Queries, Queries Everywhere

Hands down best part of having an agent? Never having to write another query letter.

Okay, and my agent is a pretty nifty sounding board for story ideas, a great motivator and a fabu margarita buddy, too. But for my money, one of the best reasons to pursue a good agent is that they know what a winning query looks like and how to write one for your masterpiece.

For everyone who is in query hell (or query heaven--does that exist?), today's column over at Romancing the Blog has a fantastic list of resources for writing good queries. Don't you love the Internet?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fine, I Give Up!

So, I wasn’t going to venture into the fracas about Kaavya Viswanathan and the Novel that Ate New York Publishing. But as more and more allegations surfaced this week, I found some disturbing posts on some of the blogs I frequent across the Internet. Most bloggers are united in their disgust with Viswanathan for plagiarizing, with the industry for saddling a seventeen-year-old kid with the pressure that comes with a $500K deal and with the media for eating this up like a fresh pint of Chubby Hubby. I sympathize with all those concerns, and have ceased to be surprised at the new developments that come out of the case.

What concerns me, however, is the comments being made in response to some of the blog entries. More than one reader responded with weariness about the issue, and a few even wondered aloud whether there weren’t more important topics to tackle. Short answer: on a writing-centered blog? Nope.

Plagiarism is theft, plain and simple. Writers make their living by honing and selling their plots, characters and voices. For any plagiarizer to “lift” story elements, scenes or even just voice-related things like a nicely-turned phrase or character description is to infringe on that tiny spot one particular writer has carved for himself in the bookshelves of stores and readers. Forget the legal ramifications—which are serious enough on their own—morally, plagiarism is a slap in the f ace to every other writer on the planet. Readers should be insulted as well; a plagiarizer is hoping you will spend your money on a book that is merely a copy of one you may have liked before. Any instance of plagiarism, great or small, should be an affront to writers and readers alike.

Hopefully, the Viswanathan case, as well as the case of Raytheon CEO William Swanson (which would be big news if business books sold like women’s fiction), will serve as warning lights about the publishing industry. As writers, we need to be aware that intellectual theft is a threat. As readers, we should be as vigilant as the fans who blew the whistle on these and other cases and hold writers and publishers accountable for what they sell. Without help from all the parties that make the literary industry work, this kind of scandal will run rampant.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Recommendation Tuesday - Espionage Edition

For obvious reasons, I’ve had spying on the brain lately. Most of what I was going to rec for you today was intelligence related anyway, so I decided to just run with that. Here you go—recommendations for the spy-on-the-go:


John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Okay, so the Cold War is over. But it really was the ultimate espionage setting, wasn’t it? Revisit ultra-scary dictators, Soviet double agents who are not Irina Derevko, and cutting-edge technology like transistor radios and microfilm in Le Carre’s classic story of the search for a Soviet mole in MI-5. Bonus fact: If the action seems realistic, that’s because it is. Le Carre was an operations agent for British intelligence.

Listen to:

Evans Blue’s “The Melody and the Energetic Nature of Volume”

Today’s spies aren’t so much hiding microfilm in tuna fish cans as using high-tech devices to capture information via computer. Clearly, they need a kick-ass soundtrack to back them up. This album’s goth rock-ish lyrics and licks are just the thing. Check out the cover of Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” and see how long it takes you to realize that yes, you do know this song.



This British intelligence drama is a little like Alias, only it exists in something approximating reality. The spies on this show confront terrorist threats that could actually happen, and use their brains instead of goofy gadgets and lots of improbable martial arts fighting. At the same time, they’re dealing with very real personal issues including, “How do I tell my girlfriend that I’ve been lying to her since the day I met her?” and “Why do these government jobs pay so lousy?” Also, Matthew McFayden? HOTT. I’m just saying. If you’re not quite ready to commit, Netflix has all three seasons available for rent.

Monday, May 01, 2006


This weekend, having finished the edits on my spychick novel, I pulled out my paranormal WIP, brushed off the month’s worth of dust that had accumulated and chucked most of the climactic scene I’d written at the end of chapter ten. Yeah, it had to be done. I knew before I took my editing hiatus that the scene wasn’t working, but going back to it after a month made it all the more clear.

Going back to a manuscript after some time away usually changes my perspective on the writing. When I’m not working on a particular project—that is, when I’m not actually sitting down at a computer and adding to it—I generally spend time thinking about the story in larger terms. Arc terms, character terms, theme terms. . .sometimes it’s as simple as tagline terms. That often changes my thinking about the way I write the story when I go back to, and it is usually a much more directed, tighter story because of it.

I’m on a deadline for the day job today, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet. An occasional hiatus from the WIP—good, bad, nonexistent? Discuss.