Friday, October 30, 2009

Guest Blogger: TRAVIS ERWIN

Never give up on something that you
can't go a day without thinking about.
~ Unknown

Current Local Forecast:
Swollen handfuls of

Currently on my iPod:
Strawberry Fields
Ben Harper
"I Am Sam" Soundtrack

Special Announcement:
THE NEW FACE OF JAZZ is available for pre-order NOW on Check it!
Don't make a red-head cry! Buy it, support the poor.

There are few people in one's life here on this great big ball of blue and green that impress me with their dedication as a friend and to their craft as Travis has over the last two...(or is it three?)..years that I've known him. He is one of the great 'undiscovered' talents and I'm glad to say his love and text messages and emails and well placed calls of encouragement have kept me going more days than not. Although I don't quite approve of his meathead diet, I approve of all good people in this world and especially those who can spin a yarn that keeps me smiling day after day after day.
Without further ado, my guest blogger this month is: Travis Erwin.

A rare sighting of Travis and Me, in the same place, at the same time.

Literary Agent Appreciation Day: Year One

Gatsby had Tom Buchanan.

Superman, Lex Luther.

Heck, even the Roadrunner had Wile E. Coyote.

Enemies, rivals, dream killers. Books, movies, cartoons are littered with epic battles between the so-called good guy and the evil doer opposing them.

Yet here in the real world few of us have an enemy or even a steady rival?

Sure there was that dude in college that seduced the girl of your dreams, but chances are that girl gave him chlamydia anyway. Or maybe you have an anal boss that gets ticked every time he catches you on Facebook at work, but even that dude is simply trying to do a job. Chances are he has his won problems and doesn't have time to plot your demise or the destruction of your dreams. And I suppose that neighbor down the street that lets his Shih Tzu squat and leave an Alpo nugget on your front lawn each day could be construed as evil, but still I don't think you can call them a true enemy.

Yet I do know of one demographic that likes to play the blame game. Many in this demographic badly want to think of themselves as the good guy. They wanna believe their is a dark force out there working against them. They wanna think that their dreams would all come true if only their arch enemy wasn't blocking the path to glory.

And who is this demographic?


And yes, I, Travis Erwin solidly belong to this demographic of wannabee novelists. I have submitted query after query. Partial after partial. Full manuscript after full manuscript. Only to have some golden haired literary agent cast their judgment down upon me from their penthouse high above the New York skyline.

I have cursed under my breath.

If only I could submit directly to the editors at the big houses. Surely they would get me. If only every person of power in the business didn't call the big city home they might appreciate my words. If only i didn't live in "fly-over" country I'd have a chance.

Yeah, I'm ashamed to say it but I've had those thoughts. Guess what they are excuses. Nothing more. Asinine explanations to cover up the fact that I haven't done what it takes to break through.

Do I still believe that much of what I've written is good? Dare I say every bit as good as other stuff already getting published. Damn right I do. But nevertheless I haven't done enough. I have created a compelling enough query. I haven't made myself or my pitch original enough. I haven't drawn the reader in quick enough. I haven't patched the holes, the weak spots in the plot. I haven't fleshed the characters quite enough.

Bottom line -- I haven't made it impossible to say no.

Would readers or acquiring editors see things differently? Who knows. I could self-publish, but at this point in my writing I don't think I would feel any sense of accomplishment going that route. I want that validation of having someone else say yes, you are good enough. I could approach small and regional publishers that take unagented submissions and if my work is rock solid they may accept it. But will any one other than my friends and family notice? Will my work find a large enough readership to build upon or will I have a feather in my cap and nothing more?

Of course landing an agent is no guarantee that a big publisher will take on your work. And these days even big publishers are reluctant to put their publicity muscle behind unknown and unproven authors.

So I understand why it's natural to blame the industry, the big houses that won't commit to reading huge piles of unagented slush, and the literary agents who first cast judgment based solely upon a one page query.

But as writers we must understand the rules of the game. If you don't like them don't play. Literary agents did not get into the business to dash the dreams of writers. They got into for the same reason you right, Because they love books, stories, and discovering that next great read. Do they miss. Sure. Are their tastes subjective. You betcha. But to blame them for standing in your way is self-defeating. It's the easy way out.

To foster a better relationship between aspiring writers and literary agents I have declared November 1st as Literary Agent Appreciation Day. I have been gathering stories of agents that have gone above and beyond to help writers gain a foothold or learn about the craft and business. For more info on Literary Agent Appreciation Day or how you can participate visit my regular blog here.

Literary Agents are not your enemy any more than your car is. Yeah, I know it hurts like hell to hit a tree at fifty miles per hour, but keep in mind you are the one behind the wheel. Swerve if you have to, and for God sakes, don't drive, or query, if you've had more than one rum and coke.
~Travis Erwin

Yours in Meat, Merging Blogs and Meandering Through Travis Land...


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Short, sweet and to the point:

You can order your copy now on Amazon.

Go here:


Got it?

Wow. This is pretty damn cool.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

Finding a Quiet Place: Writing Away Retreats Wrap Up

Quote of the Day:
The most important thing in life is to learn
how to give out love
and to let it come in.
~Morrie Schwartz

Current Local Forecast:
Sudden outbursts of kindness
with the first, glorious snow
on the mountains.

Currently on my iPod:
If Tomorrow Never Comes
"Have Guitar Will Travel"
Garth Brooks

Dear Friends, Family and my Family of Friends,

I suppose this is the most difficult day of the retreats. We have an enormous amount of cleaning, clearing and eating to do today. Our well-behaved stomachs are going to have to give in to gluttony today. Period. End of discussion...aren't you feeling the sudden desire to fed ex some tupperware this way?

But today is difficult for other reasons as well. These twelve days have been some of the very best of my life. The emotionally charged release of finally being around those that understand where you are in life, regardless of where you physically are, but the emotional well, simply the very best recharge anyone can get. Even though I'm physically exhausted and need to sleep for a month, I'm recharged in my spirit. Writers from over 10 states and over 8 staff members representing Red Hen Press, Sterling Lord Literistic, Harper Collins, JaBberwocky Literary Agency, Pike Literary Services, Fairbank Literary Agency, Folio Literary Agency came together. I'm dually impressed with staff and writers that attended this year.

But what really happens here? As I did last May I'm posting a few of the quotes from the "book" on the table. Will blog more about the experience later. I'm so overwhelmed by even reading these quotes that I must take a step back to absorb the words myself.

"Cicily, you take care of us as if we, writers, are the beloved. This retreat was a complete success for me, everyday, every moment. I'll always be a better writer for this gift of time." ~S. Hall (Kentucky)

"This was simply the greatest weekend I've ever had. It's such a peaceful, productive environment, the food is heavenly and the potential is limitless." ~B. Pedas (Colorado)

"I can't tell you how much this experience has encouraged me and changed my perspective. This is truly priceless to me." ~J. McQuade (Oklahoma)

"I have been nurtured and supported in every possible way. I have a much better understanding of the world of publishing. I know the contacts, friendships and more I've made here are of real value when I'm ready to shop my MS." ~R. Rues (Arkansas)

"They said it couldn't be done, but you have opened up the byzantine, enigmatic world of commercial publishing to those creatives who were/are baffled by how it operates. At the same time you provided a retreat where everyone can share with eachother." ~R. Fessler (Maryland)

"These past few days have affected my profoundly. They have grounded me, focused me enormously. Often, I have been moved so beyond words that I thought I might have to give the poor things up...."~K. Sucharski (Colorado)

"To borrow from Justin, everything here is the best thing ever." ~S. Fairbank (Massachutes)

"I am leaving refreshed, renewed, and in love with my project again." ~D. Courtney (Colorado)

All I can say is that I've been paid in riches beyond those that could possibly be seen by the world or the eyes of a soul who needed to be opened again to love.

Yours in Pink Panties, Potential and Pushing towards the Down Under in June 2010.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Super Agents: A How NOT to Get One To Save Your Literary Life List

Quote of the Day:
"Writing is the only profession where no one considers
you ridiculous if you don't earn any money."
~Jules Renard~

Current Local Forecast:
Chicken Little was right.

Currently on My iPod:
Sara Smile
Hall and Oates

Dear Family and Friends and my Family of Friends,

Sorry for the delay, my editor hit me up with the expected fly-by first phase of red-ink bombings. More on that later. It wasn't as painful as I had heard it could be, but it's still become somewhat of a Sophie's Choice in the Jazz world and I'm not really enjoying it. Enough of that. Onwards...

This week marks my one year anniversary for WRITING AWAY RETREATS. Not only is this uber cool, but in one year I took it from being a small-ish crowd of coolness over four days to a LARGE crowd of forty peeps coming and going over two weeks. Very excited to meet and greet and more importantly, feed all ya'll. See you all soon. And, for those of you who aren't attending this retreat'o'greatness this year, May will be coming up soon. Contest details and website updates will happen after this one is over. I've already had some folks sign up, so beware. Spots will go fast. Also, we're taking it international in 2011. More details on that soon!

Now...for the meat of the blog. Got your forks and knives? Travis? Let's have a sit down conversation about agents.

First off, let me give a little clip about mine.

Gary Heidt. And, no, not this one:
Yep, you guessed it, Gary is a supah stah agent. I often call him Super Agent G. After all, wouldn't you if he had sold not only your first book, but your first book which happens to be on the impossible non-fiction that Randomish House chock-full-o-jazz fans? Yeah, so ya get it? Gary pretty much rocks, he saved my literary life from an uncertain and seemingly doomed fate.

But that's not what this is about. Ask him, I can go on and on about his Texas twangy pep talks and editing skills and more...but kids, that's for another episode, this is reverse how to list. I can't tell you exactly how to get one to answer your silent cries and beckon call, but I can definitely tell you how NOT TO...So listen up and pay attention and all those sorts of things. Put down the red crayons and magic marker's that you're writing your query letters with, as I believe that yes, they can be a telephone booth change of undies and tights away for you too!

Here's a top ten list on how not to get an agent : (If it doesn't work, I'll refund the money you paid to read this blog, pronto!)

10. Tell them your book is "just right" for Oprah.
  • Really? You know her? Seriously? Can you tell her that I want my book on her list? If you think you're going to be picked out of everyone else in the world to be her latest annointing, then get in line and get a life. Unless, of course, you REALLY do know her. If this is the case, I would have a letter signed by her, and maybe a snap shot of her with you included in your query.
9. Dear Sir/Madam, Thank you for this opportunity to present to you my Raging Hormonal techno-thriller detective romance YA crossover manuscript known as Old Yeller: the first years, the prequel to Old Yeller.
  • A nice, impersonal query letter that doesn't even know the gender of the agent screams, bite me. Plus those "services" that you pay for to query all those agents in those big cities are rip offs. Do your own damn research and find out who's truly right for your project. If you can't do this on your own, then how are you going to do the research on your own when the marketing team from your pub. house sends you a 30 page questionaire for your book's marketing plan? Yeah, good luck.
8. Ring them.
  • After all, isn't it just so much better than that impersonal email and it's soooo much easier to just talk for fifteen minutes or an hour or two about the cool parts of the techno thriller Old Yeller knock off you just wrote that's still in its first draft, but is sooo perfect rather than just shoot over an email that sums it up in five to fifteen lines, right? Yeah, right. Sod off. That's the nice thing about phones, the hang up is such a greater insult than the delete button. It makes a bigger, louder sound.

7. Set up your novel with the weather. OR. A great scene that opens with:
  • He hit the snooze button and a feeling of dread came over him. This is when Little Timmy realized that today would be the day that he would DIE.
  • Little Timmy looked outside and realized that not only he would die, but the sky was cloudy.
  • Little Timmy was not only a schmuck, but he knew he would die and the weather was really cloudy and humid and he would have a really bad hair day on the day of his death and this made him sad.
  • Little Timmy said, wow, you write really bad and should have thought out your writing a smudge better before you submitted that first draft to that agent, eh?
  • Little Timmy realized, just moments ago, before he said that to the writer, that today was the last day of his life. Then a bus hit him and smashed him into little tiny shards of bloody bone and other matter went flying and splattering all over the windows and made a horrendous mess out of what we all knew as this very boring and pitiful life.
  • Yeah, get someone to critique your writing or get an editor or at the VERY LEAST, DO NOT SEND AN AGENT THE FIRST DRAFT. They're like Vampires and blood and stuff. They can smell a virgin draft a mile away and they want to destroy them as soon as they get their hands on them. (sorry, that was very bad.)
6. Fake it! Works in other areas of life...(ref. When Harry Met Sally)
  • I may look like a doctor, but really, I only play one on TV. Yeah, doesn't really help to lie about platform, pub. credits or any other occupation. Go for it...really, I double, no, triple dog dare you.
5. So you nailed me for drinks and I asked for more, I want what?
  • You met the perfect agent. And guess what? He/She gave you googly eyes across the table too! Oh my...text your friends. Text your mom. Text EVERYONE YOU KNOW. Now. Get on twitter. Tell the WHOLE WIDE WORLD that you got a request for a FULL. Follow that with Facebook. Then you cross your fingers that they don't write you back with a, sorry, I found someone else, I was seeing someone else, I think I could be a lesbian and or gay and or bi, or one of those commune dwellers and I'm inviting everyone but you and you wouldn't be the right gender anyway, I think I might just would rather stay home and wash my hair lines or whatever.
  • MOST IMPORTANT HERE: DON'T TEXT THEM OR CALL THEM OR EMAIL THEM UNLESS YOU'RE ASKED TO. You're not official until they ask you to be official. Just because they ask you for a full, doesn't mean they're asking for literary marriage. That's like calling your date after ONE date and asking for a key to their place. Yeah, not cool. (ref. The Rules.)
4. Go into the job interview with the expectation of becoming the CEO right away. (ref. Mr. McFerrin)
  • As the quote up top says, no one expects any of us fools who like to put words in logical order to make money anyway, so what's your hurry. Sure, easy enough for me to say,as I have a contract and this huge lump sum of DEBT from writing my first major book and all the other goodies that come along with it...including the self-imposed pressure of putting another prop. on the market (soon, VERY soon) so I can make up for the last debt and what not. You can't write for money anyhow. Unless, of course, you're already making money writing. Then, by all means, go for it! Share the wealth with the rest of us peons. Regardless, if they take you on, relax, you do your job, let them do theirs and trust them. If they trust you enough to take you on, reciprocate.
3. Get rid of your email, your twitter, become anti-web presentable and what not. After all, the more rugged and believable you are as a "real" writer, the more mystique surrounding your actual presence, the better.
  • yeah, so not true. No communicato via email, no agent.
2. Agent site reads: Taking submissions year round: Historical Romance and Techno Thrillers only. Definitely No Stories about Bambi, was traumatized as a child and have severe PTSD. Please query first as we do not take full manuscripts unless requested. And definitely do not query between August and May each year, we are busy catching up on lunches with other agents and editors and our already established clients. ***Potential client submits: Dear Cool Agent X, I'd like to present my manuscript in full to you titled: Bambi's Mom: Carnage, Conspiracy, Corruption and Capitalists Behind One of Disney's Oldest Full Length Cartoons. The MS is in its first draft at about 9,064,825 words and is ready for publication. THanks for lookin' at it dudes. ~The real murderer of Bambi's Mom...***
  • Agent receives the following letter after sending out obvious rejection letter and having to increase prozac and therapy sessions: Dear Sur, CAn you just send me an email explaining why I don't get acceptance from your agency? I plan long time to be accepted by you and even catered to your excitement for Bambi...MAKE SURE YOU READ THE REAL GUIDELINES and writing them back is an extra special dose of terrible horrible no good VERY bad karma! Remember, they're looking for a reason to reject you...they get hundreds of submissions a week and take only 0.01% of those on as clients.
1. Have simple mistakes on your manuscript and/or your query letter and then fail to follow MS submission guidelines.
  • Dear Mr. Agent,
I have the perfecet querey letter for you. Not only is thsi novel the best thing ever, it falles in line with the last one your agency represented and got your cliente a novel piece prize...If you'd like to see it, let me know. It's realley cool and I thnk you could like it forever.

~Potential client perfecto.

Yeah, not so much.

  • Regardless, in order to get an agent to really pay attention, you need to write well, know your materials, your genre, and act cool. As fun as stalking may be (not that I would know) it's not cool in this situation nor will it win them over as a potential literary love interest.
  • Make a big impression in a small way. Again, play it cool. Give them your very best voice, characters and or proposal. The bulk of your work should already be done before you even THINK about hitting one up for representation. If you're just beginning a proposal or novel, IT IS NOT THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT THE MONEY, THE REPRESENTATION OR THE FAME! (*a note on fame...yeah, right?! Keep dreaming) Take the right kind of time to build your platform and let it fall into place. No one walks into the position of super star without hard work and persistence and years of crafting their craft ahead of me. I'm still WORKING hard at it every single day.
  • Once you land one, they can be your strongest and most trusted ally in this world known as publishing. If they say to keep your mouth shut and listen to them or to let things happen and be cool, then for god sakes listen. If they give you a gaggle of edits to do on the proposal and its the last thing you want to do, do it anyway. Writing is not a job for those who want to only work a few minutes or hours a day. Writing, is well, as G-man says, fun until it becomes work. It's always work, and it's always fun in some way, but sometimes that way is only when you have great people to lean on and those that become an unexpected champion that get you through the tough times.
  • Agent's no matter the personality or the house they land you in or how you got them to say yes to your characters and your writing project, are in the end, people too and need to be treated as such because they work very hard and their success depends on your success and your career can be made or laid to rest by their hands in some cases. It's up to you to cultivate and work that relationship into the place it needs to be from the very beginning on.

Yours in Agents, Auspicious Beginnings and Always Being the Best You Can Be,