Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “literary agents”

Julie Gets Sappy About Living the Dream

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Cappuccino Something or Other

By Julie

Work/Life Balance is this unicorn everyone is always chasing, correct?

I finally have it.

I almost said I “think” I finally have it, but no. I do. I have it. At least for now. I might lose it again, but looking for it is fun, too. Trying to achieve is never a bad feeling. Exhausting, sure. But not bad.

Last night a book club in my neighborhood that’s been meeting for twelve years brought me to dinner (lobster ravioli and harvest sangria), and these wonderful women not only read RUNNING HOME, but loved it. We talked books, and the neighborhood, and kids, and I talked shop about being an author and that it’s what I’ve always wanted to do my entire life, and that I went to school for it, and that I had a great job and I got rid of it and we laughed and I was so happy. So grateful.

It’s one thing to be recognized in the world of publishing as a solid author. It’s another thing when your neighbors and the community you live in recognize that this is YOU.

Yesterday afternoon after school one of Bennett’s classmates came up to me and said, “I learned today that you’re a writer and you’re coming to talk to my class.” My heart stopped as it does every time one of these kids finds this out.

Friday I get to go to Bennett’s class and talk for an hour about drafting. They came home with packets about how a particular author they’re reading developed her novel through five drafts. I get to show these incredible kids and their incredible teacher that there’s not just one way to write the story you want to write. Everyone has their own process, everyone finds it on their own by trying. That getting it “wrong” in the first draft is an illusion–that the first draft is telling yourself the story, and every draft after that is about making it what you want it to be. Drafting, editing, revising–it isn’t about fixing what’s wrong. It’s about knowing what you want it to be and shaping it to be that. By your standards and nobody else’s.

I do a lot in a day. It’s not always easy, but greatness rarely is. Greatness by my standard–no one else’s. I get to bring my babies to school every day and bring them home. I got to carve pumpkins with Sam’s class on Friday, and host a giant trick or treating parade Saturday night. I learned that a novel I edited was nominated for the Bath Novel Award. I made scrapbooks with my kids and watched movies all weekend and write in short spurts, making every word count. Every single day we go to the park after school and my kids and their little troupe leave the swings behind and play in the woods, and their parents and I have made these amazing friendships while our kids play together. And while I worry about Christmas money and car inspections and new tires and rent, I remember that amazing literary agents are reading my latest novel, one that I believe strongly in, and growth comes with growing pains. And I remember that living the dream is exactly that–living it. Not getting it. But getting there. I want all these things: the bonding, the creativity, the time, the comfort. I’ve worked for it, I’ll work to keep it, and I’ll work to make it better all the time. Success for me comes in succeeding, and in all the steps it takes to get there. Feeling all the rocks underfoot in the road and smiling at the potholes. The potholes are deep, but my strength runs deeper.

Work/Life Balance isn’t just about time for me. It’s about meaning. Doing something meaningful myself, showing my family and community that they’re a part of that every step of the way. Seeing all the parts form the whole. The whole is my standard, and no one else’s.


Relishing Rejection with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Target brand anything. It’s my favorite morning coffee.

By Julie

This week begins the dreaded querying. This is the process by which a writer boils down the book they’ve poured their heart into for a bunch of months into a letter that is one part storytelling, one part ass kissing, one part making yourself sound like you somehow enjoy writing query letters.

Yet, this is not what writers seem to overall hate about querying. That actual letter, that is the thing that makes me cringe. For most others, it’s the inevitable wait of six to eight weeks as you watch a thousand other books be born, all to be told nine times out of ten (or more appropriately 59 times out of 60) that:

  • while your storytelling is unique, I didn’t quite connect with the character
  • the story seems too much like XYZ book
  • in a crowded genre, the story and character would not stand out enough
  • it sounds wonderful but isn’t the right fit for me at this time
  • I wish you the best of luck

Rejection is the reason why writers generally hate querying. It’s disheartening to say the least. It’s not only a matter of “I didn’t like your book,” it feels like, “I don’t like YOU.”

I feel like a jerk saying that rejection doesn’t bother me. It really doesn’t and it never has since I began querying RUNNING HOME years ago. I’m not bragging. I hope to give you some of the same outlook for when you get that sonofabitching email in your box. This is my mindset:

I expect it. Rejection is part of the game. Just is. It’s low-level hazing. But know this as the rejections continuously roll in… only takes one agent to love it.

I wrote the strongest possible book I could write. This is more helpful when it comes to getting reviews. I just got a one star review a week ago. I harbor zero resentment. It wasn’t that reader’s cup of tea, but it is mine. If I wasn’t confident in my book, I’d hurt over every bad word said against it, but I love the book, know that it was the best book I could have put out then, and that’s why I write. Not to please everybody else. (Sorry, everybody else.) Now, when it comes to querying to agents, you really want them to love the book. Not just any ol’ reader but this specific person who you’re trusting with your life’s work. With that in mind, I submit the strongest book I can, and I listen to alllllll the feedback I can get. I take what works for me and I apply it. And what I don’t find useful for me, I discard. This isn’t a yes/no test. You won’t ever just GET IT RIGHT. There’s always something that can be tweaked in a concept, the delivery, the writing style….it’s evolution for every writer. But in the end, same rule applies…..the book is YOURS. Make it to suit you, nobody else. Be confident in what you’ve done and that means knowing when to listen to how it could be better as well.

Querying is a process of elimination. This is the most important element for me. This is the one thing I remember above all else, to the point now that I don’t have to remember it, it just IS.


The agent is round one. If I don’t pick up an agent, or if I don’t find the right one for me, I go to small press. If I don’t find a small press (highly unlikely, as I love small presses and one in particular WINK WINK), I will self-publish. The book is coming out. All of the books.


Having an optimistic outlook doesn’t just mean that you think, “This is the agent that’s going to love me and they’ll land this publisher that I’ve wanted all my life and I’ll get the biggest deal and I’ll be on the red carpet in two years.” That’s the dream, and don’t get me wrong, LOVE THE DREAM. FANTASIZE ABOUT THE DREAM, STRIVE FOR THE DREAM. But I don’t make my dream my measure of success. If it happens, it will be the most lovely thing that I can ever, well, dream of. But success comes in steps and it comes in hard work. It comes with mistakes. It comes with burnt bridges. It comes with trouble and sadness and small victories and excitement and exhaustion. To me, success means I worked for it until I was absolutely satisfied with what I’ve made and I feel as though I’ve grown. Rejection can’t touch that feeling. The best part? You can feel that over and over and over again until you achieve the dream, or the dream changes.

Don’t reject yourself. Looking at that rejection letter, do not take the words “not for me” and make them in your tired little mind into “not for anybody.” Don’t turn “crowded genre” into “not a chance in hell, little person.” Don’t make “characters I couldn’t connect with” become “I couldn’t connect with YOU and nobody ever ever will.” Be honest with yourself IN BOTH DIRECTIONS….if the criticism is that the characters seemed one dimensional, ask yourself if it’s true for you. Do you think they could be deeper, really? If it’s not quite a standout concept, is there something you could do to make it MORE STANDOUT? But also, be honest in your own favor, too. Maybe the characters are deep enough by your standard. Maybe the concept is solid enough, and this just isn’t the right agent or publisher for you. Be a good friend to yourself. Be honest.

The triple bitch. I use this in everything that has to do with a book. IF I HEAR THE SAME CRITICISM THREE TIMES, I WILL FIX THE PROBLEM. If I hear it once, unless it really rings true, I don’t change a thing. I made the mistake before of listening to EVERY opinion and catered to them. It violated my honesty rule: I didn’t honestly think the changes made the book better and so I ended up going back to my original plan. And yeah, the majority can still be wrong, you could still feel absolutely the same about the way you did whatever the thing is that nobody likes. Again, be honest with yourself….would it hurt you to change it to be more appealing to the masses? Maybe. Maybe you want it your way and you’ll defend it. Or maybe it’s a little thing and if you change it, it might mean one less rejection and it didn’t affect the story or the characters for YOU in a bad way. I might be repeating myself here, but THE BOOK IS YOURS. MAKE SURE YOU’RE HAPPY WITH IT OR YOU’LL NEVER BE HAPPY WITH WHAT HAPPENS WITH IT.

Now get out there, writerlies. Be brave. Be ready. Be awesome.

Making Rejection Easy With Your Host, Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Target brand Candy Cane. It was less than $3.

By Julie

Writers put themselves through the ringer. We beat ourselves to hell getting words on paper to give to critique partners and welcome their line by line shredding. Then we do it all over again. And as if finishing the book isn’t enough, now we have to put it out into the world and seemingly beg for rejections. From advanced readers, from agents, from editors and publishers, and eventually readers. This thing that you’ve bled into, and you’ve sent it out to be


I watch writers sob, question their talent, their self-worth, all of their choices over ten or twelve pints of ice cream and booze after those rejections start rolling in. It kills me to watch. I have to say that one thing I am wildly proud of in myself is my ability to handle these rejections. I never let them get me down, and can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve cried over them. This is how:

    • I prepared to be rejected. Rejection is part of the process. Not everyone is going to love your work the way you do, and querying takes practice. You’ll think that your query is perfection and look at it in a month and think what in hell crap is this that I’ve conjured up? Knowing that, I didn’t query my dream agents first. I had practice agents, if you will. So when those rejections showed up, they were part of the plan. I felt in control. Those first queries are the pawns in this game of chess. I viewed that first wave of rejections as Step One, and I checked off that I’d done it. Easy.
    • I don’t give my work ultimatums. I of course have dream agents and dream publishers. But if they don’t like my stuff, or if they do but can’t sell it, I refuse to see it as the end for my book. I stand behind my work unfalteringly, and have had this attitude from day one: My books are coming out, one way or another. So shoot for the stars, the dream agents and publishers, but don’t hit the ground if they don’t catch you. Write what you want and if you believe in it, it will find its way out into the world.
    • Don’t take the rejection as a personal blow. Sure, some of the rejections baffle me. I have publishing houses on Twitter that follow me and rejected my books. But it isn’t ME they don’t connect with, it’s that they don’t think the project is safe enough for them to make money off of. That’s okay. Watch Shark Tank. Those folks like a lot of people and products but know when they can’t do the project justice and pass on it.
    • See the thing that gets you rejected and make it your point of pride. I’ve got a list of these bitches. Vampires. Paranormal. Abrasive female characters. Risky. Too cerebral. “Dangerous.” Well hell yes! All of this sounds like my favorite stuff. So if I do this to the point that it overtakes the tone of the book, then boom, I’ve done exactly what I wanted and you’re scared of it. I’m not. This is the voice I want to see in the world; mine.
    • Have backup plans from the start. This is important part for me, so listen, because I feel like it’s helped me keep my sanity. I’ve known from the first day I started querying that my book was coming out because I’d make it come out. The dream was everyone’s: Get an amazing agent, have said agent sell you to an amazing publisher, become famous. But this was the dream. And dreams can come true, but if they don’t I plan on creating my own reality that looks pretty damn close. I queried a million agents, and I knew that if I never landed one, I’d go to small presses. If small presses wouldn’t have me, I’d self-publish. My safety net was that the book was coming out.
    • Don’t let them tell you anything you don’t already know. I got rejected by all of my dream publishers, even the one that I was really sure would love me. But all of these big press rejections told me something I already knew and I took great pride in it: my work is too different and unsafe to be a sure thing. So when those rejections came, it was just what I needed to show me that indie was probably best for me anyway. If they’d come back saying the writing was poor, I would have been surprised. But I looked at my work from every angle and knew that it might just not be right for traditional publishing as it is right now. They more or less agreed with me. Know your work well enough to not get any surprises.

So this is all my stuff. Rejection is a sure thing in the publishing industry. Know you aren’t above it, and you’ll learn to work around it. But always remember: Write what you have to write, and that will show through in the manuscript. A book like that always finds its way into the world.

Dry those tears and make a path for your work. Look past the trees to see the forest.

How I Got My Agent: The Hutchings Way

TODAY’S BREW: More champagne! This is getting to be a habit! Okay, it already was.

By Julie

So, um, it looks like nobody has figured out I’m a hack yet, because I HAVE A LITERARY AGENT. It’s not just any literary agent. It is ERIC FUCKING RUBEN, ESQUIRE. He’s an Esquire, for the love of God and we belong to each other now.

You want to know how I got an agent? (I do love phrasing it this way; I “got him,” like he’s some sort of disease or large fish.) All right, I’ll tell you but you might not like it.


I didn’t formulate a query that appeared to be made by the hands of angels and deliver it to him with a manuscript that I claimed would save the world. I didn’t suck up, chase down, play by a bunch of stupid frigging rules to do it. I was me, and we connected. I always knew I wanted an agent that I connected with on a personal level, or I couldn’t really be me. And yes, Eric was the dream agent.

I DESPISE the rigamarole of querying. Trying to tell each individual agent what makes them bright, shiny and special for you when you’ve queried 43 of them that day, and they’ve read 9887 queries is superficial and senseless. Catering to the individual tastes of an agent who you don’t know from a hole in the wall when you come right down to it, is just plain kissing ass. It has nothing to do with your ability.

My queries flopped, every one of them. I had my query read out loud on a projector in front of dozens of other authors and agents and Donald frigging Maass. I live pitched by phone, I did it all. But it wasn’t until I put my work out there in snippets and made a buzz for myself the way I knew how, the way it worked for me, that I caught the attention of the few agents I truly WANTED, and Eric in particular. Being genuine is still the best way to do business.

If you’re looking for tips, I will give them to you. I want you to know that there’s more out there than writing the Golden Query. There’s more than yapping to any agent you can find all day on Twitter. So here are some things I did that made this not a happy accident:

  1. MAKE YOUR BLOG OR WHATEVER IT IS HAVE PURPOSE.  Deadly Ever After was a business plan. We commit to having it say something about us. We watch what our readers like and we post accordingly. If your readers don’t care about your day at the farmer’s market, why do you write a post about it every week? Show that you understand your audience. And plan the thing. If your blog reads like a phone call to your mother, what reason does anyone have to believe that your novels read any better? Also, ASK PEOPLE TO BE ON YOUR BLOG. Writers you know, writers you don’t quite know. Not only have these people become some of my most dear friends in the universe, but I learned from the way they write, and each and every one of them was there for me when I needed help to promote Running Home, which helped to catch the attention of my new agent. All from reaching out and asking them to help out on the blog.
  2. WRITE THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO WRITE, NOT WHAT YOU THINK AN AGENT WANTS TO READ. Don’t tailor yourself to fit into a niche. Write what you have to write, and make the niche fit you. You are the niche. You have the product. Don’t make it what someone wants, make it what you have to give them, and it will stand on its own.
  3. TWEET LINES FROM YOUR WORK. There’s plenty of #amwriting, #waswriting, #hadbeenediting, #willbeoutlining, #editedthenrevisedthenwroteandamwriting hashtags. TELL US WHAT YOU’RE WRITING. Give us something. Trust me, make it the right thing, and it catches the right eyes. I have a habit of making one line at least in every writing session that’s strong out of context, and tweeting it out with the hashtag of the novel’s title and #amwriting. THIS WORKS, PEOPLE.
  5. 5.       ASK PEOPLE TO READ YOUR WORK. Don’t make it top secret. I tweeted out that I had just written the grossest thing I ever wrote, and my good friend, Jessie Devine, one of Eric’s clients, wanted to read it. It was just a chapter, out of context, but it caused a stir on Twitter with a couple of the right people, and before I knew it the man himself was asking to read it. TRUE STORY.
  6. 6.       FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, BE YOURSELF ON TWITTER. This does not mean be the ugliest side of yourself consistently. Don’t tell us forty times how much you hate Monday. Don’t complain constantly. Don’t be dull. You swear? Go ahead, swear. Give us a little of the person that throws themselves into that manuscript and comes away feeling like they just made magic. BE THAT PERSON ON TWITTER. Make people listen.
  7. 7.       GET INVOLVED. Eric was speaking about the state of publishing at a Mystery Writer’s meeting. So we crashed it. And we took notes, and spoke to him. We treated him like a regular, awesome guy, which he is. Be the face that’s remembered if you have the opportunity, and learn something along the way.


I hope this helps all of you looking for that perfect agent to find them. Know the rules of querying, but know when you fit outside them. Know that there’s more than one way to skin an agent. Figuratively.




Welcome Back to Vampire Week 2.0!

Today’s Brew: Julie is swilling some something out of a can with a mean looking pumpkin on it, and I am drinking water since I have to be up at ass o clock.

by Kristen and Julie (bear with us as we change POV)


Picture it. Last year at this time, Kristen’s living room, which was still a hotel room at HoJos.  Shark Week just ended, and we came up with the idea to do vampire week on the blog. We wanted to make it an annual tradition, and you know we are good to our word.  Vampire week is back.

A lot has changed since last year’s event.  Julie and I had just started querying, and God, were we bad at it.  We’d just started meeting people on Twitter.  We didn’t know what to do about this vampire thing, since apparently, they were the literary equivalent of Mom Jeans.  I mean, we thought they were cool, but everyone else….meh.   So how the hell were we ever going to get these things published?

10 months ago, during Hurricane Sandy…yup, DURING, not after….Kristen and I went to Backspace Writer’s Conference to pitch our vampire books. Well, not really. Kristen had already landed herself an agent (and couldn’t believe someone wanted to represent a book about vampire rockstars! and was excited about it), but she DROVE THROUGH A HURRICANE FOR ME ANYWAY so that I could do the same. That’s a different story. When we got there, we were the girls trying to find any way we could to mask that we had written vampire books. Vampires books were the Voldemorts of publishing. The market had been saturated, vampires had been done too many times. My query got ripped to shreds in front of a room full of people, including Donald Maas and a handful of amazing agents. But I kept my chin up, that was what I was there for, and I learned something. Something that had me scribbling wildly at lunchtime about Japanese mythology: DO YOUR VAMPIRES, BUT DO THEM DIFFERENT. MAKE THEM UNIQUE. MAKE THEM SOMETHING THAT NOBODY ELSE COULD FUCKING DO. Then make all those people who turned their nose up at your vampires eat their words.

In May, I attended the New England Chapter RWA conference and chatted with a couple of editors from publishing companies.  One of them was really into the concept of my book.  I asked her if the vampire thing was a problem.  Her reply?

You can never be too rich, too thin, or publish too many vampires.

Whaaaat?  In a span of six months, that happened?  It just shows you how quickly things change and how subjective the business is.  Books are like music.  Not everyone likes it all, but there’s something out there for everyone.

We might have mentioned a few times that Running Home is now available, and now Because The Night is coming soon. But we have more news.  If that is possible.

Julie has an agent!  Not any old agent, but THE Eric Ruben, Esq.

Kristen has another book coming out. Soon!  Seasons In The Sun, the prequel to Because The Night, is coming from Fast Foreward Publishing this fall.  Release date to be announced soon.

Point being, WRITE THE BOOK YOU NEED TO WRITE, and vampires are fucking cool. No matter when it is or where, vampires are icons, steeped in history, and there is more to be made.

Kristen and I look forward to making vampire history.

The Nightmares Are Coming! Love For Our Writing Friends

TODAY’S BREW:  Green Mountain Eggnog. Delish.

The Nightmares Before Christmas short story non-contest, in which there will be no prizes, is nigh!  I, Julie, speak for us both when I say we are especially psyched out of our minds for this.  The response has been fantastic already, and the “rules” that Kristen made up say submissions don’t even really start till tomorrow.  Awesome.

I read all the submissions as soon as I got them.  Did I mention I am excited?  I am absolutely blown away by the talent of the people we have gotten to know.  That may sound like general blog reader pat on the back, but I assure you, I have been raving to everyone around me how bloody fantastic the group of writers we run with is.  Also, if I have nothing nice to say, I just won’t bother.  I am greatly impressed by the minds of the people who have submitted so far.  You know who you are.

This being said, all but one of the writers who have submitted to us included some clause of sorts that said, “If it’s not good enough, just say the word, oh you who has no right to do so, and I will scrap all of my hard work and feel bad about myself to make you happy.”  Then we have other writers, some of who I personally asked to write for us because I am so enamored of them and their work, that are afraid they are not good enough to submit.  I AM APPALLED, PEOPLE!

Yes, we asked you to write for us, but always, always write for YOU.   Be confident in your work because you made it.  Stop being your own worst critic.  Reserve that right for those who are not as good as you that will point out your every flaw, because, like your mother said, they are just jealous.

And another thing!  Scary is in the eye of the beholder.  You don’t need to write with blood, guts and gore to write a scary story.  Think of the thing that you never want to become, the thing that terrifies you to lose, the thing that stands to hurt you the most.  Then become it, lose it, and get hurt by it.  Now write it down.  Not that you need me to tell you what to do, because you are writing for you, remember?

What I find truly frightening is the idea that the writers I have had the great pleasure of getting to know, and I would love to mention by name here but won’t, may not write something one day because they think it  isn’t good enough.  I offer facts now. Our very own Kristen Strassel, now complete with representation, almost didn’t write Immortal Dilemma, or the fantastic novella she has finished because she thought it might have been a dumb idea.  Heard that from her a lot.  A good friend of mine from Authonomy. com almost stopped looking for an agent to self-publish because he thought an agent would tell him he sucked.  Then, just like I told him, he got one because his book is incredible.  Never doubt me.  This is not to say that the word of an agent is the word of God, but they represent the reading world, and know what appeals to them.  To think, we were almost denied these great works because of needless self doubt.

I cannot WAIT to introduce you all to the amazing writers we have come to know, and hope you all are as eager to support each other.  Because if you aren’t you will see something very scary.  Angry Julie.

Did I mention there are no prizes?  Need the scoop on participating?  Click Here.

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