Posts Tagged ‘how I met my agent’

I’m pleased to bring you the fourth installment of How I Met My Client/How I Met My Agent, featuring Michelle Belanger, author of CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS and HARSH GODS (coming August 30th)!  Michelle is running a giveaway right now with swag packs and signed copies of HARSH GODS, so you might want to check it out if you haven’t already!

Conspiracy of Angels

How I Met My Client 

I met Michelle in the usual way—she sent me a query.  Her name rang a bell and as I read her query, I realized why.  I’d seen her before, probably more than once, but almost certainly on the History Channel’s The Secret Lives of Vampires.  Although it could have been from Vampire Secrets (A&E) or Truebloodlines (HBO) or any number of shows in which she was called upon to provide her expertise. I didn’t watch Paranormal State, but that was a big one for Michelle, and in her query letter she described herself as, “that psychic lady from the show — the really tall one all in black”.  Sure enough, she was.  Michelle is a little hard to miss.

Her experience and the way in which the Shadowside series came about really intrigued me.  Also from her query: “This series grew out of my work on Paranormal State as we traveled the country investigating possession and driving out angry ghosts. So many strange and breathless things happened both on camera and off, I wondered what kind of powers we might have if our lives were part of somebody’s novel. Eventually these thoughts blossomed into a world close to our own where all the paranormal elements that appealed to our fans (and to us) were given free reign. The Shadowside Series, starting with CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS, was the result. Fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Kat Richardson’s Greywalker Series will find a lot to love in these books. My main character Zack is tough, witty, and speaks fluent geek (like any too-smart-for-his-own-good fellow raised in the 80s). It doesn’t hurt that he’s got some magic he can sling as well.”

She wasn’t kidding about Zack.  I fell in love with him right from the start.  CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS opened:

They were after me.  I didn’t know who, and I didn’t know why, but I had to get away.

Classic way to start a novel, right?  Jump right into the middle of things.  Hook the reader.  Well, I was hooked.  She continued…

There was no other thought.

I fell through darkness till direction lost all meaning.  My seizing lungs burned.  When I fully breached the surface, I saw water and no shore. Pain chewed my awareness—pain and a wrenching sense of loss like a freshly severed limb. I groped for meaning, but it fled.

I had to keep reading.  Now, Zack has some serious issues going on, not least of which is the identity crisis to end all identity crises, but his voice, his character came through loud and clear.  I connected with him.  It’s not just that he lives in a place full of shelves overstuffed with books.  Or that he decorates with pages of illuminated manuscripts. Or his endearing Starbuck action figure (the Katee Sackhoff era). It’s his warmth and his smarts.

And he has to be strong not to be upstaged by Lil, who is beyond a force of nature and who could alone “tip the cosmic scale of snark”.  Yup, you sort of have to love Lil…or else.

So yes, I fell for Zack and Lil and the rest of Michelle’s crazy cast of characters, as well as the wonderful, rich mythos presented in the Shadowside series.  And we found a great editor at Titan Books, Steve Saffel, who shared our love and our vision for the books.  Now, I’m pleased to say, CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS is on shelves and the sequel, HARSH GODS, is coming out at the end of August (though hint, hint it’s available for pre-order now).  A third book is forthcoming, along with shorter Shadowside stories that will be released electronically to whet the appetite between times!

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How I Met My Agent by Michelle Belanger

I came at all of this backwards and upside-down.

Like so many, I’d tried the get-an-agent dance before and given up. This was back in the late 80s and early 90s, when I was an impatient kid hungry to share my stories with the world — not an ideal recipe for surviving the industry grind.

It was my impatience that did me in. Back then, everything went through snail mail, and while I stalwartly weathered the rejections when they arrived, the waiting itself ate at me. It could take as long as six months to hear back from anyone, and I often had a new book written before I learned that someone hadn’t liked the first one. Mostly, I got told to stop writing about vampires and the paranormal (which is hilarious now, in retrospect), but those were the things I loved writing about. Young me quickly hit the point of “fuck it,” so I started publishing things myself.

Little did I know at the time, that decision would land me here — albeit through a long and circuitous route.

The 90s saw a profusion of underground presses and amateur magazines, off-beat labors of love often copied at places like Kinko’s, hand-assembled, and distributed through the mail. We called them ‘zines. My offering to this movement was Shadowdance, a Gothic literary journal that published all the vampire fiction and dark fantasy stories that my rejection letters kept telling me the big publishers didn’t really want.

We had a blast. Shadowdance ran from 1991 through 1996 and through it, I met a number of professionals I continue to work with to this day. One of them was Dr. J. Gordon Melton, whose inclusion of my work in his Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead lit the tinder of my unintended career as a writer of non-fiction. All the research I’d done into the folklore and mythology of vampires, as it turned out, held interest for a great many readers.

Half a dozen books later, I found myself getting invited to speak on paranormal topics for documentaries on the History Channel, A&E, and even HBO. That lead to my stint on A&E’s hit Paranormal State, where I often wandered haunted houses and abandoned prisons blindfolded and in high heels.

All of this was rewarding, not to mention great fun. But I never lost the itch to tell stories woven from the rich fabric of my folkloric interests. Several ideas for novels got jotted down in between flights to new and interesting hauntings as I worked with Paranormal State, MonsterQuest, and Monsters and Mysteries in America, but little came of them until this one scene got me in its teeth and wouldn’t let me go. It was a lone guy speeding at night toward the Cleveland skyline — nothing but him and his motorcycle and a soul-wrenching need for answers. His name was Zack, short for Zaquiel. He was the angel of memory — and he’d forgotten everything.

I had to tell that story. But I knew, if I wanted to share it with the world, I’d have to do the grind again and try to find an agent. All the non-fiction books in the world wouldn’t sell me to a publisher of fiction.

And here is where I feel like I cheated a little, even though I know I paid my dues through those twenty years of other work that led me to this point.

Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency was the first agent I picked after my initial research to relearn the shape of the industry over on the novel writers’ side of the fence. Totally cold, I shot her an email with my pitch — and I heard back fast enough to make my head spin.

She recognized my name from The Secret Lives of Vampires.

I wasn’t expecting that, and I frankly hadn’t intended to use my appearances as my platform. Chasing ghosts on reality TV for four years was hardly proof I could write a good book. And, ultimately, it was my pitch for the Shadowside Series itself that opened the door — dour Zack on his search for answers, the sharp-tongued Lil with her spirit menagerie, and over-the-top Saliriel in all her Machiavellian glory. But that name recognition made my knock just a bit louder — loud enough that it got the right attention.

And, thanks to that, I get to share Zack’s story.

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Select series quotes:

“A darkly vivid world… Her characters are intriguing, her pacing swift. More, please!”—Jim Butcher, creator of The Dresden Files

“Horrors that will send a chill up your spine.”—The Absolute

“A singular reading experience.”—Laurell K. Hamilton, bestselling creator of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter

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Other Installments of How I Met My Client/Agent:

Christie Golden

Amy Christine Parker

Carol Berg

 

I really love this new How I Met My Client/Agent series on the blog and hope you do too! One of my favorite things about it is that it illustrates the many paths to finding representation.

I first met Carol Berg at a pitch appointment at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in 1999. Now, I’m going to tell you a secret—I met a lot of people at that conference. As I remember, they worked their guests pretty hard, with hours upon hours of back to back appointments day after day, so that by the time it was over I’d have been lucky to put any face to any name or pitch. However, I very cleverly asked Carol to send me her material. Full disclosure—as long as a pitch is in a genre I represent and doesn’t sound too off the wall or done to death or glaring with logic gaps, I will ask to see a portion, because some people are amazing writers and poor pitchers or vice versa. It’s the material that truly tells you what you need to know.

song of the beast And Carol’s material was incredible! As you might guess, I was swamped with submissions after the conference and also in general, because this was back when I was the first reader for everything at the office, not just my own submissions. So, I read always and everywhere. In bed, in the bathtub, on trains, planes and…well, not in automobiles. I get car sick when I read in the car. Except…well, my husband and I had to take a road trip and he was driving and I had so much to read that I thought maybe I could knock out a few submission reads on the way. I got to exactly one. Carol Berg had sent me synopses for four books and sample chapters for two of them.

Those chapters absolutely blew me away. In fact, I was so impressed that I read pages out loud to my husband, interjecting with pithy commentary like “Wow” and “She’s incredible!” He agreed, of course, because he is a man of perspicacity and taste. So, I read and read until I was stopped by the state of my stomach. It was worth every second.

As soon as I was back in the office, I requested fulls and was thrilled when they lived up to the promise of the partials I’d already seen.

As Carol says in her piece (up next), it wasn’t long before we had offers and a deal. Not too long thereafter, we had covers and release dates and amazing reviews pouring in.   I’m so thrilled the world has gotten to see what Pete and I knew right off the bat—that Carol Berg is a force for fantasy. We’ve been together now through her Rai-Kirah series (TRANSFORMATION, REVELATION, RESTORATION), her stand-along SONG OF THE BEAST (winner of the Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy), her Bridge of D’Arnath series (SON OF AVONAR, GUARDIANS OF THE KEEP, THE SOUL WEAVER and DAUGHTER OF ANCIENTS), the Lighthouse Duet (FLESH AND SPIRIT and BREATH AND BONE, Mythopoeic Award winners), the Collegica Magica series (THE SPIRIT LENS, THE SOUL MIRROR and THE DAEMON PRISM) and, most recently, the Sanctuary duology (DUST AND LIGHT and ASH AND SILVER).

She’s written some of the most memorable characters in fantasy (the tortured Seyonne from the Rai-Kirah series arguably my favorite, but there’s some very stiff competition here!). I’m so thrilled that every time a new Carol Berg novel comes in, I get to read it first!

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How I Met My Agent by Carol Berg

I was a latecomer to professional fiction writing—a software engineer with three mostly grown sons, an exceptional spouse who bleeds hardware, and an omnivorous reading habit. But a friend had seduced me into writing letters “in character” to feed her own writing hobby, and I fell in love with writing fantasy novels for fun. I call it the hobby that ate my life. In 1998, I started a new story which felt different from those that had come before. It was as if I got itit being a notion that I was sitting inside the head of my hero, knowing exactly what he was feeling and experiencing. Either I had stepped to another level of writing, or I was going slightly crazy – or maybe those are really something the same.

My friend and I decided to try out the Pikes Peak Writers Conference to see what we could learn about the publishing industry. And wow, did we get an earful. Besides craft workshops, we listened to actual agents and editors talk about what they were looking for and how the publishing process works. We also met our first Real Published Author, who sat and talked to us about her career, all the good, bad, and elsewise. This generous person was Christie Golden – who, as it happens, appeared in this very column not so long ago!

That conference also introduced me to the Friday afternoon Read-and-Critique session. The R&C, aka the “split your chest open in front of the whole world session,” is where eight or ten writers read the first few pages of their work for a pro and get a critique on the spot. I tried it, and truly thought I was going to bleed out before I’d ever read a word. But the reception was positive, so I came back a year later and tried it again. By this time, my breakthrough story had won the first novel contest at Pikes Peak, and I had started a new story to read for a fantasy/science fiction editor from Roc Books.

The editor hardly said anything. I didn’t think she liked it. But when my friend shoved me into a ten-minute pitch session with her, in which I babbled incoherently for eight minutes, the editor said she wanted to see that book when I was finished with it.

Amid stunned incoherence, my ever trusty friend and I retreated to our computer and started researching agents. And what did we find out? One of the guest agents at Pikes Peak that year was Lucienne Diver, who not only had a stellar reputation, but represented Christie Golden, who had been so kind and open the previous year! So I squeezed in an appointment with Lucienne, and immediately decided that this was the person I wanted to help me through this new adventure. Calm, professional, exuding smarts and common sense, she agreed to read some chapters of my completed book, the contest winner. A few weeks later she offered representation, and when I finished the book Roc had requested, I sent it straight to her. Six days later we had an offer, and was I ever delighted that I had Lucienne in my corner.

On that day, and many days since, I have appreciated her knowledge of the market and the industry, and her support for my writing. Despite my initial, let us call it incoherent exuberance, I was a grown-up, and she has never treated me otherwise, providing the necessary information and context for me to make my own decisions. I love that, and Lucienne!

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Other Installments of How I Met My Client/Agent:

Christie Golden

Amy Christine Parker