Saturday, September 27, 2014

5 Reasons Why an R&R Isn't Bad News By Rachel Brooks

 An R&R (revise & resubmit) request from an agent can at first seem disappointing to writers. But even though it’s not an offer of representation, it is still taking a big step toward one. Embracing an R&R, rather than getting bogged down that it wasn’t an outright offer, can shed new light on your story.

Here are five good reasons why an R&R isn’t bad news:

1) You receive valuable feedback from an agent, for free, about how to make your manuscript better. Strong points, weak areas, and overall issues could be highlighted (depending on how detailed the notes you receive are) to help take your writing to the next level.

2) You get to do a “test run” of what the agent’s style is with feedback and email communication (although it will probably not be as detailed, or identical, to if you were a client). But it can give you a general idea of whether you click with the agent’s vision or not.

3) You are not committed to become the agent’s client if you’re not seeing eye to eye with the R&R. If you, or the agent, don’t feel you have the same idea for revisions, you can part ways.

4) You get a chance to show off your revision skills, commitment to honing your craft, ability to take constructive critiques and more. This can impress a potential agent, since agents like writers who want to improve and aren’t against revising.

5) You know an agent saw enough potential in your manuscript to look at a revised version of it once you finished the next version, which should be encouraging! You should feel proud your manuscript stood out and that you might still get an offer from the agent requesting the R&R.

I hope these 5 points help the “R&R glass” to appear half full, rather than half empty

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sandy Lu Loves Murder, Mystery & Mayhem

Murder, Mystery and Mayhem—Why I love Suspense and Thriller

It all started when I was in fifth grade. A publisher in Taiwan, where I grew up, released a new translation of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories for young readers. I begged my parents for the whole set for my birthday and devoured them all within the month. Next came the entire collection of Maurice LeBlanc’s Arsene Lupin mysteries, which I bought with my own savings. I was hooked for good.

I consumed every mystery and suspense novel I could get my hands on after that: anything by Agatha Christie, G. K. Chesterton, Georges Simenon, Erle Stanley Gardner, Philip MacDonald, Ross MacDonald, and John Dickson Carr, all before I turned fourteen.

For years I knew Edgar Allan Poe only as the creator of the world’s first detective, C. Auguste Dupin, Gaston Leroux as the author of The Mystery of the Yellow Room (until I discovered he also wrote Phantom of the Opera after seeing the musical fifteen years later), and my ideal man was a composite of the charming gentleman thief Arsene Lupin, Leslie Charteris’ suave adventurer Simon Templar (a.k.a The Saint), the hyper-intellectual professor Ellery Queen, and S. S. Van Dine’s bon vivant sleuth, Philo Vance.

Come to think of it, this explains my youthful attraction to mild-mannered guys with glasses (Johnny Depp), sophisticated older men in tailored suits (Pierce Brosnan), and wise-cracking bad boys with a dry sense of humor (Robert Downy Jr.).

My parents started to worry when I began to talk about how death by carbon monoxide would leave one with rosy cheeks, how pure nicotine was colorless and could kill in an instant with no trace, and how movies never portrayed death by hanging realistically since the dead man’s tongue should have been sticking out of his mouth in reality. They decided to send me to a boarding school so I could learn to socialize with other girls and live in “the real world” for a change.

As I grew older, my reading list expanded to include horror, science fiction and fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction, and non-fiction, but mystery/thriller/suspense is still my first love and favorite genre. Reading about murders is a great escape from my otherwise very ordinary life. No matter how gruesome they are—whether the victims are stabbed, shot, poisoned, bludgeoned, drowned, hung, burned, frozen, gassed, buried alive, or mawed by an animal—they are as comforting to me as lullabies.

The violence and blood do not bother me because I know they are not real (I can never read true crimes unless they’re about events far removed from recent history.) I see them as great intellectual exercises, separating clues from red herrings and solving the intricate puzzles before the truth is revealed by the author the ultimate satisfaction. Many of my clients tell me I have a very analytical brain, which helps them see the holes and flaws in their books. They have my mystery novels to thank.

Another reason why I love suspense fiction is that the best of them are all about character and motivation. What makes people kill? Do certain situations people find themselves in force them to take drastic measures, no matter who they are? Given the same circumstances, why are some people driven to destruction and not others?

Character and motivation are the foundations of any good novel, but they are especially important in mystery and thriller. Not only must the plot make sense, the motive behind the crime also has to be convincing. No matter how tangled the plot, if the motive is weak, the whole thing will fall apart. More than any other genre, a good crime novel must lay each building block just right to achieve the domino effect, and one misplaced tile will be the premature end of the game.

After I became an agent, I realized that this fascination with understanding what makes us tick must have been the reason why I majored in psychology and sociology in college and later went on to pursue a Ph.D. in social and personality psychology. While I never discovered the answers in grad school, I found them once and again in every good crime fiction I’ve ever read.

Here are a few of my favorites--some are richly atmospheric, some dazzle with evocative prose, some inject new life into a tired set-up, and some might not even be considered crime fiction in its strictest sense—but all of them introduced vividly complicated and damaged characters who haunted me long after I turned the last page.

Max Barry                  Lexicon
Dan Brown                 Angels & Demons
Caleb Carr                  The Alienist   
Lee Child                    The Killing Floor
Michael Connelly       The Poet
Jeffrey Deaver            The Bone Collector
Bret Easton Ellis         American Psycho
Gillian Flynn              Gone Girl
Frederick Forsyth       Avenger
Tana French                In the Woods
Robert Galbraith         The Cuckoo’s Calling
Robert Harris              The Ghost
Mo Hayder                  Birdman
Rupert Holmes            Where the Truth Lies                         
Dennis Lehane             Shutter Island
Laura Lippman            What the Dead Know
Jussi Adler-Olsen        The Absent One
Marisha Pessl              Night Film
Jed Rubenfeld              The Interpretation of Murder
Scott Smith                 A Simple Plan
Tom Rob Smith          Child 44
Donna Tartt                The Secret History
S. J. Watson                Before I Go to Sleep

Friday, September 12, 2014

Agent Tish Beaty on What Kinky Means to Her

I was born and raised in the Bible Belt of America. I'm talking - pick any corner of any town in a hundred mile radius - and you will find a church of most any denomination. And we're not talking small country churches, we're talking HUGE churches. I also happen to be the granddaughter of a Southern Baptist pastor.

As you can imagine, I lived a slightly sheltered life (not as sheltered as some...but sheltered all the same). We weren't the "go-to-church-three-times-or-more-a-week" family, but we did go on Sunday mornings. I also participated in youth group as a teen. I was not one for partying in high school or college for that matter. I guess you could say that I was an average American girl, living a very VANILLA life - with little knowledge of what KINK was.
Vanilla: Lacking adornments or special features; basic or ordinary.
Kink (as in the sexual kink): Peculiarity or deviation in sexual behavior or taste.

More often than not, when those who practice vanilla sex hear the term kink, they connect it with BDSM (sadism/masochism first) because, just like anything - there are those who have tainted the term with their uneducated, risky, and sometimes horrific behaviors.  But not all of those who participate in kink/BDSM enjoy or take part in sadism/masochism. For my purposes, I am not including sadism or masochism in my definition of kink (because this girl does not do the extreme pain thing). I'm talking about sex...with a twist of lime and a cherry on top.
BDSM: bondage/discipline dominance/submission sadism/masochism - for more information, go HERE.
Sadism: Sexual pleasure obtained by inflicting harm (physical or psychological) on others.
Masochism: Sexual pleasure obtained from receiving punishment (physical or psychological).
Sex...with a twist of lime and a cherry on top - defined by me.

Did you know that fur-lined cuffs aren't scary...they're furry and fun?  Restricting touch is considered a form of sensory deprivation - as is the reduction or removal of a any other of a person's five senses.  In the bedroom, this could be something as simple as blindfolding or as complex as binding.  Blindfolding can be made sensuous by adding feathers, ice, wax, flavored oils, etc.  Be a little adventurous by using those furry cuffs mentioned earlier and/or ropes to immobilize your partner along with blindfolding him or her.*  With each sense that is "taken," the others become heightened - this can lead to an amazing experience for both partners.

Pleasure enhancers are another easy way to add that twist of lime, aka - kink, to your relationship.  There is a huge array on the market - from floggers to nipple clamps to a variety of "stimulators."  And in this day and age, you can research and order them from the comfort of your own home - HERE is an example.  Passion parties can be a fabulous way to do some hands on toy research for those women with like-minded friends and have become very common over the past few years.  Or perhaps you and your partner are bold?  A trip to the local adult store is probably one of the best ways to shop for a pleasure enhancer.

Finally, the cherry on top - role play and positions.  Role playing is a fabulous way to act out your fantasies in the safety of your home, with someone you trust.  And switching up positions allows for the body to be stimulated in more than one manner.  Not sure where to start with regard to role playing and/or positions?  Books some books and look at the diagrams - then TRY IT*!

Kink doesn't have to be dirty or painful or deviant (unless that's the way you and your partner roll).  It should be a means to an end - exploring your likes and dislikes in the name of intimacy and pleasure.  Don't settle for plain ol' vanilla sex...have sex with a twist of lime and a cherry on top.

 ~A word about AFTERCARE - aftercare can be anything from a cuddle to a massage with some arnica cream and/or any other pain relieving type cream, depending on the fun you've had and what your partner requires.  Arnica cream can help prevent bruising.~

*Warning and Disclaimer:  the things you do in the privacy of your home are your business, however, you should always maintain open communication with your partner before trying anything new.  Open communication is the key.  It is recommended that partners who partake in more adventurous activities have a "safe word."  A safe word is a word that is decided on prior to engaging in said activities.  It is the STOP sign of the bedroom (or kitchen or bathroom or well, you get the point).  Keeping a key and/or scissors close by when using any sort of restraint that would require quick removal is always a good idea.  Finally, my posting stories, commentaries, links -embedded or not, and/or any other fun stuff does not, implied or not, necessarily express or endorse support of such posted material or parts therein.  Read at your own risk ;)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Fantasy Fan by Leon Husock

People always group science fiction and fantasy together like they’re one genre, and while I understand it (there’s a lot of overlap in audience appeal), for me it’s always been fantasy and fantasy alone at the top of my list.  I wrote my college thesis on fairies in English literature, and I’ll probably be talking about it a lot more and in more depth in my future posts, but suffice to say my mother read me the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was five and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Fantasy offers a purity of story and of imagination that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else, and to that end I’ll give you a list of some of my favorite authors and books by them, both new and old, in no particular order.

-J.R.R. Tolkien (The Silmarillion is an underrated gem, but not for the fair-weather fan)

-Garth Nix (Abhorsen Trilogy, Keys to the Kingdom series)

-Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell)

-Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles)

-Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising)

-Nancy Bond (A String in the Harp)

-Tamora Pierce (The Circle of Magic quartet)

-E. Nesbit (Five Children & It, The Phoenix & The Carpet)

-Edward Eager (Half-Magic, The Time Garden)

-Roger Zelazny (The Chronicles of Amber)

Next time I’ll be talking about the progressive de-ghettoization of fantasy, and what it means for the future of the genre.