At long last! The piece of fantasy fiction I posted in serialized form on my blog is now collated, edited, and Kindle-i-fied! If you haven’t kept up with Bloodlines of Epheria, Book 1 of The Bloodlines Trilogy, or are interested in how I edited the entire piece based on reader (that’s you!) feedback, now is the perfect time to get a copy…
…especially since I’m currently working on the its sequel! This project has been a joy and refreshment to me – punchy, spirited and intriguing without trying to be too epic. I’m finding, despite my better business sense, that I enjoy novella length more than short story or novel length, so a trilogy of novellas is right up my ally for this point in my life, as I mother a 20-month-old, take care of my 20-week-old unborn child, and write as a means of relaxation when my wonderful and supportive husband gives me a sanity break!
You may recall the “best rejection letter ever” I received from Linn Prentis Literary Agency awhile back. Well, I responded with a question to which I didn’t necessarily expect an answer.
Thank you for your serious consideration nonetheless! As this is my debut novel, I was afraid that might be the case, particularly in the first portions of the book. My writing has progressed quite a bit since I began “The Thief’s Throne,” so I hope to submit stronger material to you in the future.
I do have one question: I’m currently working on a trilogy of novellas, and the first one is almost finished. Would you even consider representing something as unorthodox as that? I certainly won’t waste your time with a query if not.
However, Amy Hayden was kind enough to shoot me an email back when she finally saw it.
Were it up to us we might but the truth is, the market is not kind to novellas. They aren’t easily picked up by publishers and normally don’t perform particularly well in general markets. And often if one doesn’t perform well once published, this can become another obstacle when one tries to get something else published trying to rep authors to the publisher. We really only take them on if a client already on our list has written one. I would say try very hard to find a specific pub that specializes in the novella format. You may want to look into boutique publishers. That might work.
That response might have been discouraging if my goal were to publish my novella, “Bloodlines of Epheria” (which of course you can read on my blog page), through traditional means. Instead, I wrote the first book with the intention of publishing the collated version on Kindle after posting it first in serial form. So, no worries there.
Anyhow, I hope that information is helpful to you writers out there who have thought about writing novellas for the New York market.
Well, I got another two agent rejections, but they were form and boring, so from here on out I’m only going to post the interesting/potentially beneficial ones. I will say, for the sake of your general awareness of which agents I’m soliciting, that they were from Shana Cohen of Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, Inc., and Jodi Reamer of Writers House, LLC.
Due to various events and life getting in the way, I’ve missed my last few writing days and am therefore still in the midst of writing the concluding battle scene of “Bloodlines.”
That’s all for now, though I should mention that a writer acquaintance commended the essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” by TS Eliot, to me. Sounds good, and after I read it, perhaps I’ll post my impression or some takeaway here.
Hey, all. I just want to assure you that the rest of Bloodlines of Epheria is still coming! I’m writing the last large chunk as a whole, so that I can have my favorite beta reader (my husband Chris) give me feedback on it. Then, I’ll make the necessary plot and style changes, and post it in smaller pieces as usual. That means you’ll get a new installment every day for several days running.
I really want the ending to have some punch, and don’t want to leave you feeling unsatisfied by a ho-hum first draft. So, stick with me! The end (of Book One) is near.
P.S. Keep in mind that when I’m done, I’ll be asking for your feedback before I write the second draft (the one I’m going to send to Harriet McDougal. I KNOW, RIGHT??). I’ll also post the feedback I’ve already received via blog comments and email. Thanks for the help you’ve given me thus far – it means a lot!
Nothing terribly interesting in this post; just another pair of form rejections. The only thing worth noting is that Jabberwocky Literary Agency is the agency that represents Brandon Sanderson, though Sanderson’s agent is not currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to consider your query – thanks for sending it.
Alas, the query wasn’t quite intriguing enough to inspire me to offer representation or further consideration of your project. I have read your query letter myself; I wish I had time enough to respond to everyone personally and with constructive criticism, but it would be overwhelming, hence this form response.
This business is highly subjective; many people whose work I haven’t connected with have gone on to critical and commercial success. So, keep trying!
I am grateful that you have afforded me this opportunity to find out about you and your project, and wish you the best of success with your current and future creative work.
All best wishes,
VP, Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Thank you so much for your query. Unfortunately, however, this project
doesn’t sound right for me. I encourage you to continue to submit
elsewhere, and I wish you every success in your writing career. Thanks
again for thinking of me.
Trodayne here hijacking Amy’s email. She wanted me to read your sample.
Your writing has a lot going for it and your query was quite strong. As
I read your synopsis and query I found myself intrigued. But as I
finished your sample I was left hesitating on requesting more. The plot
seems to work well enough. From what I can tell the characters work as
well. I know you can write a strong action scene. That much you clearly
demonstrated quite effectively in the prologue. But then you
demonstrated it again and again in the pages following it. As much as I
did like the premise and the first part of your sample, I found myself
feeling a sense of repetition as I continued to read. I believe the
contours of the writing didn’t progress as much as I’d hoped. I must
trust my instincts in this case and pass but Linn Prentis Literary
would welcome, no, we would encourage future submissions from you,
I think this is perhaps as good as a rejection gets, at least in my world! Though disappointment was inevitable, I am (obviously) quite motivated to send my next project Mr. Northern’s way.
I was fairly kicking myself after reading this particular email. The beginning of my novel – sans the prologue, as I wrote that after I finished the first draft – is probably the weakest part of the book. I knew that, and many beta readers told me so in so many words, but I didn’t want to scrap the whole thing and rewrite it. Now I wonder what my fate would’ve been had made the extra effort to do so.
But, as they say, what’s past is past. I am certainly aware of my tendency toward slow beginnings, as that is one of the critiques I’ve received about my ongoing “Bloodlines of Epheria” serial. The next time around, I will pay special attention to wholly grabbing the reader’s attention from the get-go.
As to your material I’m afraid I will be passing — I’m just not
enthusiastic enough about the concept of your story to feel that I’d
be the right agent for the project. I realize it is difficult to judge
your potential from a query; nevertheless please know that I give
serious attention to every letter, outline, and writing sample I
Sorry I couldn’t give you a more positive reply. Thanks for thinking
of me, though, and best of luck in your search for representation.
Though this seems like a personal reply at first blush, look closer and you can see it’s a form rejection. I only say that as a point of interest, because this is the only thing I am really allowed to expect in the way of negative responses. Ms. Jackson seems like an excellent agent for sci-fi/fantasy, and her form rejection is kind and respectful, which makes me want to query her again in the future if I don’t end up with someone long-term before then.
It was a disappointment to receive this, to be sure, but a more minor one than you might expect. The Lord has been working on my heart a lot in this area. As I reevaluate my priorities, I remember that first in my life is Him, second is my husband, and third, my daughter. My career, as it were, comes at the very end of the list, even after taking care of the home. And lest those who don’t know me think me a quiet, mousy push-over (my husband will laugh when he reads that), know that I am anything but, but wouldn’t have my priorities any other way. Of course, I still value my writing career and will continue it (for I passionately love to write and always will!). I am simply able to rest in my lack of immediate success, because I know I am being faithful in the things that matter even more.
And now – with the evening breeze sweeping over the porch and a latte at my side – to write.
It came to my attention – via a reader – that the last installment of “Bloodlines of Epheria” was a touch confusing. It was unclear whether or not Sifani was going to talk to Ileniel right then and there, or if she was going to wait, and why she would even choose to wait in that case. Therefore, I’ve composed a second version in which Sifani converses with Ileniel immediately after he arrives. This is a taste of what the writing process looks like for me – lots of small yet very significant adjustments, often made according to the feedback of a reader I trust.
If you didn’t read the original version in the first place, go back and read that one first, as it contains the first half of the following scene, which is integral to the story.
That said, here is “Bloodlines” part 11, version 2.
“Whatever you say, Len.” Immediately, Sifani was seized by the impulse to put her father’s old friend to the question, right then and there. She warded it off – it took more willpower than she expected. “Has Jatan seen you, yet?”
Ileniel wagged his dark head irritably, sparing a sidelong glare for Lorin. “No. This brute decided to waylay me before I could even dismount Rush – the heavens alone know why.”
Lorin met Sifani’s eyes significantly. She raised her brows, suddenly understanding. He wanted to give me the chance to talk to Ileniel before anyone else got to him! A warm smile overtook her expression of surprise. Deities bless you, Lorin!
Lorin, abruptly seeming embarrassed, took Rush’s reins in hand and let the mare nuzzle him as he walked her back to the stable. “Whatever my reasons for ‘waylaying’ you,” he told Ileniel, “the moment I saw you I remembered you weren’t worth the trouble.”
Ileniel sniffed disdainfully, glancing between Lorin and Sifani. In the awkward silence, he brushed at the stiff sleeves of his tunic, lips twisted in distaste, as if Sifani’s hug had soiled them beyond cleaning. “You’re in a fine mood today, Sifani a-vinna Leyone. What’s put the extra sprig of mint in your tea?”
She stood still, staring at him ingenuously, her hands folded in front of her.
Abruptly, Ileniel narrowed his eyes. “You want something from me, don’t you?”
“I need to talk to you. Now.”
“Bah, the dust that Rush kicked up hasn’t even settled! Can’t this wait?”
“Lorin and I have been doing some thinking, Len.”
“Well, now, that’s something n—“
She cut him off. “I need to know: why did you run?”
For a moment, Ileniel looked genuinely confused, so she elaborated. “After I tore down the Head Counselor’s home, why did you leave the band, Len? And don’t try to tell me you were tired of it. Our work was only becoming more involved, and we were just getting a true grasp on the nature of the epheria. Yet, you ran scared.”
At this point, Len’s eyes darted back and forth. “That’s ridiculous,” he asserted, but he looked a cornered animal, deciding whether or not to bolt, or whether or not he could. He never had been good at hiding his feelings.
Sifani opened her mouth to ask about her pa and mother, but found that the words caught in her throat. She had imagined this conversation many times in the past days – she was always speaking with confidence and force, wresting the truth from Ileniel with the skill of a veteran soldier. Now, however, such an approach seemed…inappropriate. This was, after all, her family.
There must have been a shift in Sifani’s demeanor, for when she asked Ileniel to sit down with her on the water barrels nearby, he did so without protest, though caution and suspicion remained wavering on his brow. Lorin had chosen to stand several paces away after stabling Ileniel’s mare, but Sifani waved him over.
“I don’t suppose you know – Jatan would’ve waited until you arrived to inform you.” Sifani began. “A Deity tried to kill me.”
Ileniel made a strangled sound. His hand went to his chest involuntarily. “What—?”
Sifani just nodded. “At least, that’s the best explanation we have. Lorin and I were in the epheria, and these creatures, monsters the likes of which don’t – er, didn’t – exist, just manifested there.”
Sifani proceeded to explain what had happened from beginning to end. It was a different experience, recounting the story to one who hadn’t been there when it happened. She had expected it to take on a tinge of the ridiculous in her telling of it, but instead it became more tangible and weighty as she watched Ileniel’s expression melt into slow horror.
“Gods above,” he whispered when she had finished.
“Perhaps you can guess why I’ve been waiting to talk to you, then,” Sifani said, heart beating rapidly. “I need to know why a Deity might want me dead. It could be because I’m a Reehler, though Lorin is, as well, and wasn’t specifically targeted. When I look at all the facts…well, my pa once told me that my mother was one of the most powerful Reehlers who ever lived. I know so little about her that it’s more likely something to do with her than with me.”
Her voice quieted. “You knew my father so well, Ileniel. I remember how closely he kept your company – how you would talk by the fireside late into the evenings. Friendly arguments, philosophical musings.” She could see Pa’s face, laughing, the pleasant grey pepper of stubble covering his strong neck and square jaw. She missed him – how long had it been she had last visited him? “You must’ve known more about my mother than I ever did. I only know that she was dangerous, and my guess is that when you witnessed my breakdown at the Head Counselor’s home, you thought I might pose the same danger my mother did.”
Sifani leaned forward. “What?”
“The same danger she still does, Sifani.” Ileniel would not meet her eyes, but kept them on his folded hands. “Your mother lives.”
Sifani suddenly felt as if she couldn’t breathe. Silence stretched for long moments.
“Deities,” she finally murmured, running her hands through the top of her hair. “I thought…I always guessed… Tell me.”
Can I see 50 pages and a plot synopsis as attached word or pdf files please?
I would call this a promising response, but it actually promises nothing. It was progress, though, for Ms. Blasdell to be interested enough in my query letter to request a piece of the manuscript. I’m beginning to see that writing a captivating query makes a tremendous difference in an agent’s general response. It’s the “inside cover description” of your novel, if you will. Does the description of your book really pop in the humdrum sea of queries an agent must wade through each day?
I’ll probably post my original and improved query side by side at a later point so you can see the stark difference that complete restructuring made.
Second answer received: December 30, 2012
Read as follows:
This is not for me, but thank you for the look.
Succinct, as most rejections are. Particularly disappointing because Ms. Blasdell is a staunch advocate of sci-fi/fantasy, rather than one who merely tolerates the genre as part of her job.
Anyhow, you may have noticed that my writing has come to a complete standstill of late. To make a long story short, in addition to having been engaged in holiday busyness, our little family is in the middle of a cross-country move. We’ve been packing up our house, shipping our things to the East Coast, living out of bags and tending to our sick selves/a sick baby meanwhile. I assure you, after we settle down in our new state come mid-January, writing will re-commence.
I hope you all had a warm, restful Christmas and a happy, hopeful New Year’s celebration. Until next time!