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Guys. Queries are hard. This is an undisputed fact of the agent-acquiring process. These days a lot of agents ask for the first 5-30 pages of your manuscript when you query, because it’s so much easier to tell if a story is good by reading, well, the actual story. But the query is the hook—the bait that gets the agent past that first page and into your story.
I read queries on the daily. A lot of them. As a literary assistant, it’s one of my many responsibilities. I need to be able to tell, just from that one page, if your book is something the agent and I will want to read. I need to see just how I would pitch it to an editor. And I need to see that you know your stuff. Have you done your research? Or did you scribble off a quick note and hit SEND ALL?
The queries that stand out are either very good, or very bad. But there are a lot of queries that get stuck in the middle—that strange wasteland of almost-there, but just not quite. Chances are, a lot of you are in that boat. Most of us, even those who have agents, have written blah query letters. And I know PubCrawlers are smart. You have done your research, much of it on this very website. I don’t need to tell you not to send attachments, or not to write your bio in the third person. I don’t need to tell you not to call your manuscript a future bestseller, the most unique piece of fiction ever written, a story that will apply to all of the audiences that ever existed!
So I’m not going to talk about the basics. You guys KNOW the basics. I’m going to talk about those little things that maybe don’t seem problematic at first glance. But fixing these can go a long way toward helping the viability of your query overall
1. Don’t start your letter with all the details about how you came to write this book.
Writing is exciting. How you came to be a writer is exciting. The fact that it’s your first, or second, or millionth novel ever is exciting. But they are most exciting to you—in a query, these things clog up your first paragraph and waste valuable space. Before he or she has ever met you or read your work, an agent doesn’t care how you got started writing. As much as it matters to you (and it does matter!), it’s best to leave it out. It will not change how he or she feels about your story.
2. Be careful creating “atmosphere” before launching into your hook.
It can feel gimmicky. Unless your setting is basically a character itself, it’s best to stay away from this method. For example:
Castle Pelimere is deep and dark, inhabited by angry spirits and on the verge of certain doom. For a hundred years it has stood, and now, thanks to the Everlasting Nothing that has circled its walls for centuries, it is all about to come crashing down.
Jody Brody is a teenage pickpocket with no other skills and no other prospects. When Castle Pelimere needs a hero, Jody steps up to the plate.
I know, I know—this is a very obvious example. But it serves the point—character is story, and when I’m scanning through queries, I’m more interested in Jody Brody the pickpocket than the plight of Castle Pelimere.
3. Don’t relate two unrelated ideas in your hook.
You would be shocked how often I see this. Shocked, I tell you. An example:
Marty Schmarty is not your typical jock—he’s been taking ballet since before he could walk, and he’s better than half the girls in his class. But when he’s offered a football scholarship to his dream school, he learns what it really means to be part of a team.
Again, another extreme example. But writing a good hook is a huge part of the battle when it comes to queries. A good hook can make me perk up and pay attention. In this case, the writer has written something that “sounds hooky” and “adds character”. It makes me pay attention—then has no pay-off. Marty’s a pro at ballet, and this is set up as a key quality—then is not mentioned again.
4. Be confident…to a point.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of the story you wrote. It takes a huge amount of confidence to query a book (we’re all writers here, we can admit this). But it’s not up to you to decide whether your writing is of the same caliber as authors you have emulated or been inspired by, or if it’s beautifully lyrical or powerful and gritty—that is for your readers, and that includes any agents you are querying, to decide.
5. Be wary of the false choice.
Technically, a false choice refers to a situation where two choices are given as the only possible option—even though more choices may be viable. In this case, I’m using to describe it as a situation given in a query, wherein a character has what appear to be two choices—but only one of those choices is actually viable. Still with me?
Okay, so you’ve laid out your hook, given a short synopsis, and now it’s time to present the dramatic question. Your character must do x or y. But when you present a false choice, it becomes clear right away which path your character will and must choose. At first glance, it isn’t always clear you’ve presented a false choice. For example:
Jake must choose between saving the woman he loves from the mob and escaping to the Bahamas, or turning himself in and confessing to his crimes, even if it means her death.
Maybe turning himself in might be the right thing to do, but unless this is a morality play, the choice here is not actually black and white. When questions like this are presented at the end of a query, I can’t help but roll my eyes—I know what Jake is going to do. He’s going to choose the Bahamas. And if he doesn’t, then you need to do a fantastic job of setting up the why within your query. Again, the above is extreme example, but I encourage you to take a look at the stakes in your own query and find out whether what you’ve presented is a real dilemma, or a false choice. I want the questions you present to make me go, “MUST READ AND FIND OUT THE ANSWER!”
So the gist of these suggestions comes out to: Make me want to read your book. Seriously, give me no other option. You wrote a whole book. You know how to put words together on a page—this is just a different kind of writing. One that forces you to think about how to condense what you’ve written, and lay it out in a way that is tight and enticing. I promise you—it is doable. It’s hard, it’s often confusing, and sometimes it can take multiple drafts to get right. But it can be done!
I hope this is useful, and I wish everyone who is currently writing their query, Good Luck!
It really feels like things are shifting in many ways, changing for real. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to keep thinking about the issue. And that doesn’t mean many wonderful titles won’t still fall through the cracks.
So help me out! What are the women-illustrated books you love best this year? I’ll start off with a few of my own favorites. The only limits are that the book must be published in 2015, and it must be illustrated by a woman. (Oh, and no self-nominating, please. If your book is awesome, rest assured someone else will think so too. Spread the love! Okay?)
We found our new farmers market! And how spoiled are we that we have several to choose from? We know. It's a 15 minute walk from our flat to the Stockbridge Farmers Market. It's the closest we've experienced to the Blois Farmers Market. There are more vendors, it's crowded with local folks, and its a lovely destination if you want to pick up things for a few days or just have lunch. Here's the eye candy:
I can't do the gluten, but dang, I can drool...
If you ever wondered about Scotch Eggs, this is what they look like. Also not gluten free although I feel my resistance faltering...
Course, there are restaurants throughout the area that we also want to visit.
Choices, choices and only one stomach to hold them all! It's a good thing we don't have a car - we have to walk all this off! And then there's the excuses not to walk at all... Last night we ate at Pickles - a little underground dive which only serves wine, cheese and preserved meats - and why not, when they do that so well? This is within stumbling distance from our flat...
We didn't feel like cooking, but didn't want a huge dinner. "A charcuterie tray would be nice," we thought. Um, YUM!
Our Red Light Green Light competition has been going on for weeks now, and it's finally come time to announce our winners! After voting closed on Monday night, we tallied the votes from our judges and you, our fabulous community, and pulled out our Top 10. The entries below had the highest score overall, and will all receive a critique from a published (or soon to be published) author, or an agent.
Our overall winner and two runners up will be revealed next week. The runners up will be receiving critiques from some of the industry's most sought after agents, and our overall winner will receive a partial request from the amazing Ammi-Joan Paquette.
Congratulations to our finalists (in alphabetical order) below!
This month I'd like to chat about nurturing yourself. With all the pressures of work, home, family, friends, etc., do you take the time out to nurture your body and soul?
For the longest time I would put my needs last (like so many) and would take care of everyone else. And where did that get me! Absolutely nowhere, except absolutely exhausted, both mentally and physically. And when this happens I feel like a frazzled Bugs Bunny!
Over the course of the last several years, I'm proud to say I don't say "yes" to every request or need so fast. I typically count to ten silently and ponder quickly if saying "yes" would be in my best interest. I've become more of a 50/50 to others needs. Not that I don't love my "circle" ~ I feel it's important to see them fly on their own.
Make sure your priority is healthy eating, exercise and plenty of sleep. This way you nurture what inspires you... the choices are endless... writing, art, knitting, photography, etc. You name it the sky is the limit.
Like my Nana would always say, "happy mama and daddy, happy family!"
Best wishes, Donna M. McDine Multi Award-winning Children's Author
A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist
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First let’s, bask in the restoration of the mountain’s original name of Denali, shall we? So happy about this – so so so so happy!!!!! (I took this picture from the window of an Alaska Airlines flight that was captained by an old friend; he gave us the “Denali tour”. It was awesome – perfect day to see forever.)
Now, moving on to what was accomplished this summer on a personal level, here’s what I did in July & August:
1. For Booklist, I reviewed Boundless, Jimmy Bluefeather, Jewel (memoir by author of the same name), White Eskimo, Howl, Greening Death and What We’re Fighting For Now is Each Other. (Whew! That was a lot!)
2. For Locus, I reviewed the Twinmaker series by Sean Williams, Hollow Boy (the new Lockwood & Co book) by Jonathan Stroud and The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey.
3. I have several articles pending with ADN, (lots of things are delayed due to coverage of the President’s visit), but the biggest one that ran was a piece on the four companies who operate on Denali. It was in the Sunday supplement for the paper, “We Alaskans”, which is the first time I’ve made it in there.
4. An essay was accepted and edited for Narratively – it should run sometime this month.
5. Editing on our upcoming book from Shorefast Editions: From Cannery Row to Sitka, Alaska.
6. And a lot of conversations and emails for my current work-in-progress. The biggest accomplishment there was that I completed the first draft chapter and turned it in to my agent early in August. There is still a lot of research I need to do but I’ve been getting a lot of leads and pretty amazing results so far. This month I’m working on the second chapter which includes some geography/history of Denali and I’m able to do that without the kind of archival access I will need for later chapters. The biggest thing for me on this project is momentum; I can’t lose sight of the goal which is a very good book about a small but significant and interesting and tragic piece of history.
All in all, this summer has been one of the most significant for me writing-wise in a long long time. I have to stay on top of it all and keep my priorities in order but I’m sure I’m not the only writer with this issue. I also have to stay off the damn internet – I think one of the things I will do this month is sign up for Freedom and just accept that I don’t have the willpower otherwise.
I ‘met’ Joy a couple of years ago through her FB page Got Story and love her contributions to the kid lit community. She has been curating a fabulous exhibition in Southern California and it is open for another ten … Continue reading →
देश भर में आज अलग अलग संगठनों द्वारा हडताल रखी गई. जिससे जन जीवन मे बेहद असुविधा हुई. वो अस्त व्यस्त दिखाई दिया. कही बैंक बंद रहे तो कही ओटो तो कही सडके बंद रही. कई जगह पर तो तनाव भी बहुत हो गया.. ऐसे माहौल में ये महाशय अपनी मोटी श्रीमती जी को खाता देख कर उनके पति को बोलना पड रहा है कि बेगम कभी कभी तुम भी भूख हडताल कर लिया करो …
Strike hits normal life; Bengal, Kerala among most affected – Navbharat Times
Trade unions’ nation-wide strike: Clash between auto rickshaw drivers in Delhi.
Trade unions’ nation-wide strike: Protesters block railway track in North 24 Parganas district (West Bengal).
Trade Unions’ nation-wide strike: Clash between TMC & CPIM workers in Murshidabad (West Bengal)
Trade Unions’ nation-wide strike: Clash between TMC & CPIM workers in Murshidabad (West Bengal) navbharattimes.indiatimes.com
जहां नेट हमारा भरपूर मनोरंजन करता है वही गूगल डूडल भी हमेशा प्रभावित करता है. आज भी यही कुछ देखने को मिला.GOOGLE DOODLE में
गूगल के स्थापना दिवस 4 सितंबर से महज दो दिन पहले गूगल ने इस नए LOGO को अपने होमपेज पर एक डूडल के तौर पर लगाया है। गूगल की स्थापना चार सितंबर 1998 को लैरी पेज और सर्गेई ब्रिन ने की थी। बीते 17 सालों में गूगल ने कई सेवाओं को शुरू किया जिनमें जीमेल, यूट्यूब, गूगल मैप्स और एंड्रॉइड चर्चित हैं।
ये वाला गूगल डूडल भी बहुत प्रभावित करता है .इसमे LOGO क्लिक करने पर डूडल की शक्ल में एक हाथ आता है जो गूगल के पुराने लोगो को मिटाता है और फिर मोम के रंगों से गूगल का नया LOGO बनाता है जो बाद में पूर्ण रूप से नए लोगो के रूप में दिखता है। नए लोगो में मुख्यतौर पर गूगल के दोनों ‘जी’ में सर्वाधिक बदलाव नजर आता है जो बाद में सम्मिलित होकर अंग्रेजी के बड़े ‘जी’ के रूप में बदल जाता है। इस नए लोगो में भी गूगल के मूल चार रंगों को ही रखा गया है।
इससे पहले गूगल ने वर्ष 1999 में अपने लोगो में महत्वपूर्ण बदलाव किया था। तब इसने एक उभार वाला (थ्रीडी लुक) लोगो बनाया था जिसमें पीछे उसकी परछाई थी। इसके बाद वर्ष 2010 में इसी लोगो के पीछे की परछाई हटाई गई थी और दो साल पहले सितंबर 2013 में यह लोगो उभार वाले लोगो से बदलकर सपाट (फ्लैट) लोगो हो गया था। कई बार बदले जाने के बावजूद गूगल के लोगो में अंग्रेजी के वर्ण का प्रकार नहीं बदला था लेकिन इस बार नए लोगो में अंग्रेजी के अक्षरों का प्रकार बदल गया है।
गूगल के आधिकारिक ब्लॉग पर लिखा है, ‘पिछले 17 सालों में गूगल बहुत बदला है। एक समय ऐसा होता था जब केवल डेस्कटॉप पर गूगल इस्तेमाल किया जाता था लेकिन आजकल लोग मोबाइल फोन, टीवी, घड़ी, कार के डैशबोर्ड से लेकर डेस्कटॉप तक पर गूगल की सेवाओं का प्रयोग कर रहे हैं।’ ब्लॉग पर लिखा है कि यह नया लोगो न सिर्फ आपको आभास कराएगा कि आप गूगल का प्रयोग कर रहे हैं बल्कि यह भी बताएगा कि गूगल आपके लिए काम कर रहा है। गूगल ने सर्चबार में दिखने वाले माइक को भी रंगीन बना दिया है और गूगल का यह नया लोगो जल्द ही उसकी सभी सेवाओं पर नजर आने लगेगा।
Passion. Seduction. Pleasure. These are the qualities of any courtesan worth her salt. As owner of The Starling Club, London’s most notorious house of ill-repute, Madame Philomena McGrattan has seen it all, heard it all, done it all. There is little that surprises her anymore, and even less that excites her. So when she is presented a chance at an irresistible seduction, she can’t help but rise to the challenge.
A Dangerous Game
Studiousness. Practicality. Discipline. Such are the attributes of a good scholar, and such are the principles Lord Spencer Hornsby has built his life around. Alone in the Welsh countryside, with only his wolfhounds for company, Spencer has thrown himself into his work. There is little time for the pleasures of society, not even to think of the joys of the fairer sex. But when an unexpected guest arrives at his isolated hunting lodge, Spencer cannot help but be baffled by the presence of this dangerously beautiful woman. And when he discovers the reason for her arrival, and the pleasures she promises, he cannot help but find himself irresistibly intrigued . . .
Finally, he asked, “And who are you, her replacement?”
Her? A housekeeper? Should she pretend to be a servant? Bugger that. “Hardly. I believe the old hag had plans to leave anyway as her bag was packed and at the ready. I’m here at the invitation of two of your acquaintances. Mr. Jacob Williamson and Mr. Clive Christopher.”
The professor frowned. At least she thought he did. It was hard to read his expression under the wiry thatch of hair surrounding his mouth. He rifled through a pile of unopened correspondence. “Oh? I do not recall any recent note from those gentlemen.”
“I believe I am to be a surprise present for your birthday tomorrow.”
His owl eyes blinked rapidly as if he could not process what she said. “I do not require a maid, though you tell me Mrs. Brickell has departed. It appears I could use a housekeeper…”
He had absolutely no idea why she came to him. His mind did not even consider the fact it could be for carnal reasons. What a sheltered life he must lead. “I’m no servant, though you need tidying up as much as your home does. You bear a striking resemblance to a painting of a French Canadian trapper I saw in a book once. All wild and shaggy—all that is missing is the plaid coat and the beaver pelts.” She gave him a sweet, smug smile.
With his lips pressed into a straight line, he sat back and regarded her. “Oh? You read a book once?” His elegant voice dripped with self-righteous sarcasm.
“Touché, Professor. Well aimed. A direct hit.” Phil pointed to the dogs who still stared at her. Their unblinking attention followed her every minute move. “Should I be afeared for my life? Your animals are intimidating.”
“Justinian. Theodora. Easy.” The hounds relaxed at his command, laying their heads on their paws. “They are Irish Wolfhounds. ‘Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.’”
Phil placed a hand on her hip. “Does that saying apply to you as well, Professor Hornsby?”
Did he smile slightly? Again, hard to tell under the facial hair. Phil pulled a chair toward the desk and placed it a few feet away. She raised one leg to the chair.
“Now, I don’t claim to be a blue-stocking, but I am able to read.” Phil grasped the hem of her green striped gown, and with a slow, deliberate movement, raised it past her ankle boots. She glanced at the beast behind the desk. His gaze remained steady as it slid down to where she continued to raise her petticoats to reveal one of her shapely legs. At least she’d been told they were shapely. No matter. Running her hand over the sheer white stocking, she lingered near her silk garter. “I do not think they are blue. You better come closer and inspect the shade of my stockings for yourself…Professor.”
He coughed and looked away. She made him uncomfortable, and she would wager to guess–a little aroused. No sound could be heard in the room except a whimper from one of the dogs and the huge clock in the corner ticking away the awkward minutes.
Hornsby faced her. “Who are you, madam, and why are you here?”
She continued to fondle and caress her leg, and having the unkempt man watch her caused a slow roll of heat to travel through her. Again, his voice. Like molten gold or a cello played by a master that vibrated with life, power, and resonance.
“My name is Philomena McGrattan. I am indeed a madam and hired to relieve you of your virginity.”
There was no further reaction from the professor whatsoever. This did not bode well.
Karyn lives in a small town in the western corner of Ontario, Canada. She whiles away her spare time writing and reading romance while drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea. Tortured heroes are a must. A multi-published author with a few bestsellers under her belt, Karyn loves to write in different genres and time periods, though historicals and contemporaries are her favorite.
As long as she can avoid being hit by a runaway moose in her wilderness paradise she assumes everything is golden. Karyn’s been happily married for a long time to her own hero. His encouragement keeps her moving forward.
Row 1: The Dewdroppers at one of Worthington's concerts on the green. The clarinetist, Joe, sold me my bike! From my garden: Indigo Rose cherry tomatoes, and a crop of small beets with yummy beet greens (sautéed in bacon grease, of course).
Row 2: Our crazy cat drove us nuts for about a week not being able to keep food down. When we switched up his food, he was so happy he started sleeping with his head in his bowl! Columbus food truck festival -- yum. The huge piles of weeds and branches from the...
Row 3: ...Land Lab reclamation. I was gone all of July and the constant rains were quite encouraging to the weeds! MONARCHS! The mother of one of the parapros in my school gathered lots of monarch caterpillars, raised them, carefully placed the chrysalises in Solo Cup viewers, and donated them to my classroom, along with a caterpillar to watch through the entire process. What a gift.
Row 4: New glasses. No one has noticed, so that must mean they look perfect on my face. (Plus, they are still purple, so no big change there, but I can SEE! Yay!) The first butterfly emerged on Sunday. I found the clear chrysalis when I went in to feed the fish, and I brought it home. We missed the moment of emergence, but not by much.
Row 5: I took it outside to the snapdragons, and we communed with the bees as it prepared to fly free.
Row 6: This is a DIFFERENT monarch that came to the zinnias about the time our fledgeling crawled onto the snapdragons. Welcoming committee? Yesterday I found one ready for release when I got to school (and another emerged for the AM Latch Key kids to watch). I released both in the Land Lab, and when examining our milkweed there, saw that we have at least one monarch doing its thing in the wild. YAY!
Just the one post on P&P today whilst I sort through yesterday's book entries. Today we have a celebration of all that's new at the Land of Nod. This season they are working with some great designers, all of which are familiar to us having been featured in the Print & Pattern books or blog. I love the way they seem to commission artists rather than produce designs 'in the style of'. We begin
William Shakespeare's The Clone Army Attacketh. Ian Doescher. 2015. Quirk. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I did enjoy reading Ian Doescher's The Clone Army Attacketh. It was a pleasant-enough way to spend two evenings. I haven't enjoyed any of the adaptations nearly as much as the first book in the series--Verily, A New Hope. Perhaps because Verily A New Hope retains so many memorable lines, only slightly adjusted to come from the pen of Shakespeare. Perhaps because it was the first, the concept, the premise was so new, so novel. It was like trying a new dish for the first time and discovering that you love it. I have to confess that the second prequel movie is one of my FAVORITES. I adore this one for so many reasons. And I was hoping that the flavor of the original movie dialogue would shine through. I was a bit disappointed in that. Though probably Doescher's changes are for the better. Most of the changes focuses on Anakin and Padme, and their romance.
If you've enjoyed the previous books in the series, chances are you'll enjoy this one too.
BVA surveyed French reading habits in Les Français et la lecture and offer some of the summary-results there.
That Victor Hugo remains the most popular author isn't that surprising; that Marcel Pagnol ties him perhaps is.
But domestic tastes are often ... idiosyncratic.
And the double bill of Jean de Florette and Manon of the Springs (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) certainly has more than just name-recognition even in English (helped by the film versions ...)
Interesting also that Emile Zola is cited as the next-most-popular -- ahead of the similarly prolific Balzac, and also Flaubert .....
Jules Verne, on the other hand ... no surprise.
(And as far as the foreigners go: Agatha Christie, followed in popularity by Stephen King, and Mary Higgins Clark.
Which reflects the bestseller-lists pretty well, so at least the respondents seem to be honest with their answers (always a question with these 'who do you read'-surveys).)
I first heard of Henry Miller, perhaps fittingly, when I lived with two other guys in East Vancouver. One of the guys had a friend who was a postman, the other guy was having an affair with the postman’s wife. There were a few awkward moments when he snuck her in for a night or an afternoon quickie, but, all in all, things went well and I saw a book which the postman had lent to his buddy, my housemate. It was a compilation of the letters between Henry and Lawrence Durrell. I became interested and then obsessed with Miller’s writing, read everything of his I could get my hands on. I still have a worn copy of Tropic of Cancer by my bedside along with Flann O’Brien’s, The Poor Mouth. For some reason which I don’t want to analyze, both books are places of refuge for me when I just want to relax and enjoy the language. At times like that I don’t think as much about the content of what I’m reading as much as how the words are strung together. Finding Henry’s writing was like the moment when Shakespeare made sense to me in high school: a light bulb shone. In all my travels after that I kept a sharp eye open when books by Henry were displayed. Krishnamurti, Durrell, Arthur Rimbaud, Anais Nin and others were introduced to me by Henry’s writing and their books were ones I watched for too. Of course, I was watching for cheap versions of their works. When my friend, Robin, arrived to visit me in Crete he brought a copy of The Colossus of Maroussi, written when Henry visited Lawrence Durrell and his wife in Corfu. Surviving in a tiny room in Paris on croque monsieurs, cheese, baguettes and red wine, I planned a novel using the Paris metro map as structure. Needless to say, the novel became as confusing and mixed up as my understanding of the Paris subway system and was abandoned. I made a pilgrimage to the street where Anais Nin lived when she and Henry were having their affair. Their conviction that analysis was necessary and their visits to Otto Rank, a student of Freud, revealed the notion that psychoses are the products of frustrated or blocked creativity. Frustrated writers can take comfort in the idea that writing is at least healthy if not profitable. By the time I was there, the bars mentioned in his books were too expensive for me to patronise but I lingered outside the Coupole and the Dome. I walked endlessly around Paris, imagined what it was like then, wondered why Henry was never mentioned in the list of writers who lived in the city in the 30's. There was irony in the thought of him existing from meal to meal as he worked on Tropic in the arts capital of the Western world, poor, reviled and rejected. I didn’t know then that he and Anais Nin wrote pornography for the money of their rich patrons but I knew there had been an overwhelming rejection of him in the States and that he was involved in the debate about pornography and obscenity. It looks like the descendants of those moral Americans who banned his books for so long have, seventy or eighty years later, taken over the government of the USA. He described his trip across the states in The Air Conditioned Nightmare. The title pretty well demonstrated Henry’s attitude toward the system. It gave me hope. Here was a man with great curiosity about the world and other people and sex who ignored all the warnings and temptations which were placed before him and followed a singular path of his own. It led him to another continent, through years of poverty and piles of rejection slips. But he kept going and kept laughing. “Always cheery and bright” was his motto and the most depressing situations could be changed for the better just by reading his books. I know that a generation who thinks the 60's is ancient history has a hard time understanding his relevance now, but then he was like a beacon. He personified the rebelliousness and questioning which was rumbling underground. I often wonder what he would have made of this internet, instant world. I like to think he’d revel in it. It would be so much easier to spread his subversive ideas and plead for sanity. A literary website reminded me of him when they put out a call for submissions on “money”. He had written Money and How It Got That Way years ago though I don’t know where I saw it. He would enjoy, as Kurt Vonnegutt Jr put it, “Poisoning them with a little humanity”. Henry believed that the best education it was possible to get was available to anyone with a library card at the same time as he relished the quote ,“When I hear the word Kultur, I pick up my pistol”. Henry wasn’t published until he was almost forty and that was always a prod for me when I started feeling sorry for myself. He’s been called racist and misogynist but, in my opinion, almost always by someone with an axe to grind. After all, Anais Nin’s lover must have been more than just a male chauvinist pig. The worst was online when a critic (critics are paid to criticize, we shouldn’t forget that) said he was boring. Of course, the critic, who seems to be trying to make a name for himself by attacking famous writers, used much of the language which Henry and others like him forced into literary acceptability. He couldn’t express himself without those words but he seemed to have no idea that the very words he used were allowed in the English writing world because of legal battles fought over Henry’s books. I don’t know what the penalty was for getting caught with a Tropic or a Rosy Crucifixion book in the 60's but that there was a penalty at all seems ridiculous. As ridiculous as excoriating Elvis, The Beatles and The Dixie Chicks. Sex was the same then. It hasn’t and hadn’t changed. He had the audacity to describe the act itself and men and women’s bodies without apology and, many times, with great humour. He didn’t gloss over the sweaty, intimate details which weren’t supposed to be mentioned in polite society. It’s not just that Henry wrote about sex like no one else. He described it in the first person often and didn’t avoid branching off into other personal thoughts which occurred to him while he was engaged. His style of using his own personal experiences for the creation of fiction and nonfiction became the roots of my travel writing. Henry seemed to be painfully honest even when he was making things up. I was working on the rigs in Alberta, living in Edmonton, when Henry died. I happened to be in town and not in the bush on that occasion and made my way to the nearest hotel. The bars in Alberta are huge and busy. Others at the table had no idea who Henry was and why I should be there to drink a farewell toast to him on the occasion of his death. I did the same at the same bar when John Lennon was shot. They didn’t know, any more than I did, that I would carry around his books and lean on his inspiration for many years. Here is Henry’s description of one of the many jobs he took to survive in France. “Here was I, supposedly to spread the gospel of Franco-American amity- the emissary of a corpse who, after he had plundered right and left, after he had caused untold suffering and misery, dreamed of establishing universal peace. Ffui! What did they expect me to talk about, I wonder? About LEAVES OF GRASS, about the tariff walls, about the Declaration of Independence, about the latest gang war? What? Just what, I’d like to know. Well, I’ll tell you-I never mentioned these things. I started right off the bat with a lesson on the physiology of love. How the elephants make love-that was it! It caught like wildfire. After the first day there were no more empty benches. After that first lesson in English they were standing at the door waiting for me. We got along swell together. They asked all sorts of questions, as though they had never learned a damned thing. I let them fire away. I taught them to ask more ticklish questions. Ask anything!- that was my motto. I’m here as a plenipotentiary from the realm of free spirits. I’m here to create a fever and a ferment. ‘In some ways’ says an eminent astronomer, ‘the universe appears to be passing away like a tale that is told, dissolving into nothingness like a vision’. That seems to be the general feeling underlying the empty breadbasket of learning. Myself, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe a fucking thing these bastards try to shove down our throats.” Tropic of Cancer
This morning I have a review of Jodi Thomas’ Ransom Canyon, but first, Jodi dropped by the virtual offices with a special greeting for all of you!
Greeting from Jodi:
The idea for RANSOM CANYON came from living in the Texas Panhandle. I wanted to write about the real west of today. I wanted my people to be like the men and women I grew up with, honest and true. Not the cowboy on a book cover who has never been on a horse, but the cowboy who gets up at five to load his own horse and make it to the ranch before dawn. He doesn’t work by the hour, but by the day.
As I began my first book in the series Staten Kirkland jumped off the page. He’s strong and good, a rancher everyone looks up to, but he’s broken and only one woman can calm his heart. Shy Quinn asks nothing of him. She offers understanding amid the storm of his life.
Their friendship develops into a gentle, loving affair that grows to rock both them with its depth. Staten will have to learn to love again and Quinn will have to open up to someone. The whole town watches the birth of passion and love as Staten stands beside her letting her be strong and quiet Quinn discovers one man’s love can wash away all the pain in her past.
Readers will feel, not like they came to visit, Crossroads, Texas, on the edge of Ransom Canyon, the town will start to feel like home. My goal as a writer is to keep you up late reading because you have to know what happens next.
So come along with me on a series set in today’s West. You’ll love it.
One of the aspects of a Jodi Thomas novel that I enjoy is getting to know all of the characters. There are usually 5 or 6 major characters, and their personal stories are told from alternating points of view. Because of the small town setting, their lives often intersect, so we get so see how others perceive them, too. Ransom Canyon takes place in Crossroads, Texas, a tiny town that most people just pass through without a second glance. Staten Kirkland’s family has lived there for generations, running a large cattle ranch and investing their time and money supporting the small, close-knit community. The story is mainly Staten’s struggle to learn how to live again after the tragic deaths of his beloved wife and teenage son.
Staten wasn’t my favorite character. He’s emotionally detached because of his heartbreaking past, and I thought he was just taking advantage of Quinn, a childhood friend who has become his buddy with benefits. Quinn was his wife’s BFF. After Staten’s wife succumbed to cancer, and his son died in an accident just a few years later, his world crumbled. He found himself seeking comfort from Quinn, a reclusive woman he’s known all his life. Whenever the weather turned dark and stormy, just like the night his son was taken from him, he visits Quinn. She never turns him away, and more times than not, they end up in bed. Then Staten steals quietly from her small house and heads back home, firmly putting any feelings or deeper meaning to their hookups out of his mind.
Quinn has loved Staten since grade school. She has kept it a secret, because her best friend and Staten had already formed an unbreakable bond. After Staten loses his family, Quinn is content to give what comfort she can, knowing that Staten will never return her feelings. When unplanned complications arise, their friendship is put to the test. This is when I decided that I really didn’t like Staten all that much. The guy is completely clueless. Quinn lives like a hermit, and she is uncomfortable around other people, so for him to voice his doubts like he did got him exactly what he deserved. While he eventually manned up, I wasn’t completely won over by his contrite apology.
The other characters are Lucas and Lauren, high school students who both have their stuff together. Lucas wants to make something of himself, so he works on ranches, moving the cattle from one pasture to another, riding fence lines, and saving every penny he earns. He has big dreams, and he’s not going to let anything get in the way of them. He has a crush on Lauren, the sheriff’s daughter, but because she’s younger than him, and because the timing isn’t right, he decides that their friendship is going to be more important, right now, than dating her. Lauren’s also an intelligent, caring young woman, and she agrees with Lucas. They both have things to accomplish before they can even consider a romantic relationship. Sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time, and that is the theme of their relationship. Of all the couples in the story, though, I thought they have the soundest foundation for a lasting relationship, and I hope we see more of them in later installments.
Yancey rounds out the cast. He’s a young ex-con, in town looking for an opportunity to score a little cash and move on. His plans are interrupted when his backpack and all of his meager possessions are stolen, and if it weren’t for the kindness of the small local retirement community, he’d be up a creek without a paddle. Yancey is a fun character because he has so few practical life experiences. He’s spent most of life on the wrong side of the law, in and out of jail because he can’t catch a break. When the seniors take him under their wing, he finally discovers a sense of belonging that had been missing in his life. It helps to ground him, and finding steady employment and a group of people who care for him make all the different in the world. He’s goofy, naïve despite his rough edges, and he was probably my favorite character.
If you are a fan of Jodi Thomas, Ransom Canyon won’t disappoint. If you haven’t read her yet, give it a try. I find her books fast, soothing reads. Despite how messed up a character’s life may appear at first, you can be confident that they will find the right person to love them and give them their HEA.
Review copy provided by publisher
About the book:
From New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas comes the first book in a compelling, emotionally resonant series set in a remote west Texas town—where family can be made by blood or by choice
Rancher Staten Kirkland, the last descendant of Ransom Canyon’s founding father, is rugged and practical to the last. No one knows that when his troubling memories threaten to overwhelm him, he runs to lovely, reclusive Quinn O’Grady…or that she has her own secret that no one living knows.
Young Lucas Reyes has his eye on the prize—college, and the chance to become something more than a ranch hand’s son. But one night, one wrong decision, will set his life on a course even he hadn’t imagined.
Yancy Grey is running hard from his troubled past. He doesn’t plan to stick around Ransom Canyon, just long enough to learn the town’s weaknesses and how to use them for personal gain. Only Yancy, a common criminal since he was old enough to reach a car’s pedals, isn’t prepared for what he encounters.
In this dramatic new series, the lives, loves and ambitions of four families will converge, set against a landscape that can be as unforgiving as it is beautiful, where passion, property and pride are worth fighting—and even dying—for.
I love what Stephen King said about not waiting for one's Muse to show up.
“Don't wait for the muse. As I've said, he's a hardheaded guy who's not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn't the Ouija board or the spirit-world we're talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you're going to be every day from nine 'til noon. or seven 'til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he'll start showing up.”
I've been following Lan Chan's blog, The Write Obsession, for some years now. We've even met, since we both live in Melbourne. And I have to say, I really admire someone who manages to write a novel a year for NaNoWriMo. In the end, the only way to be a writer is to write, which makes Lan very much a writer.
Isn't that a great cover? Unlike those of us who write for regular publishers, Lan got to choose her artist and commission exactly the kind of cover she wanted. I have had some wonderful covers, but some not so crash hot, so I'm kind of envious!
I am giving you the blurb below. Lan was too modest to do a guest post, but the offer is open any time. Congratulations on the birth of your literary baby, Lan, and I hope it sells masses of copies!
Since the night her mother was murdered, sixteen-year-old Rory Gray has known one truth: There are no good Seeders.
In post-apocalyptic Australia, the scientists known as Seeders have built a Citadel surrounded by food-producing regions and populated with refugees from the wars and famine. To maintain their control, the Seeders poisoned the land and outlawed the saving of seeds.
It’s been six years since Rory graced the Seeders’ circus stage as the Wind Dancer and still the scars on her body haven’t healed. Even worse are the scars on her heart, left by a Seeder boy who promised to protect her.
Now the Seeders are withholding supplies from Rory’s region for perceived disobedience. Utilising the Wanderer knowledge she received from her mother, Rory must journey to the Citadel through uninhabitable terrain to plead for mercy.
However, the Citadel isn’t as Rory remembered. The chief plant geneticist is dying and rumours fly that the store of viable seed is dwindling. The Seeders are desperate to find a seed bank they believe Rory can locate, and they will stop at nothing to get it.
To defy the Seeders means death. But Rory has been close to death before--this time she’s learned the value of poison.
Recommended for fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, strong protagonists, minority characters, circuses and nature!