Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Best Reads of 2010

Five best books I read this year in no particular order:

Everything Matters- Ron Currie Jr.
This book took over my life for a few days.  I was at the lake this summer, and the rest of my family couldn't figure out why I wouldn't leave the bedroom.  It's so good, it hurts to read because it makes me face my own limitations as a writer.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter- Tom Franklin
I loved Poachers, Smonk, and Hell at the Breech, but Franklin's latest may be his best.  Small town Southern gothic murder mystery wrapped in a dual past-present narrative.  Did I mention the flawless writing?

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth- Kevin Wilson
Read this:
Most of the stories are that good.  Nuff said.  If you want more, I have a more in depth analysis here.

We're in Trouble- Christopher Coake
Read my thoughts here.  A stunning collection.  Can't wait for this guy to write a novel.

Looking for Alaska-John Green
Much like Everything Matters, this book held me under its spell for a few days.  I talked about it so much with my wife that she read it and even tried to get her book club to read it (no go; most of them had already read it and didn't like it).

Seek these out if you haven't already.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Year in Review (2010)

It's been a good year.

Or at least a good five months.  From January to July of 2010, it was shaping up to be one of the most frustrating years since I began writing nearly a decade ago.  I was struggling to finish the novel that was supposed to be "the one."  As in the one that would get me an agent, get me published, and launch my career.  I finally finished it in April and then began the frustrating process of querying agents, some of whom requested partials or fulls, but no matter how enthusiastically an agent raved about my potential or how he or she wanted me to send them my next book, I didn't get any real bites.  At the same time, I had this short story collection sitting on my desktop and in the slushpile at one place (Chizine Publications).  It was frustrating because I kept hearing the same old mantra- Nobody buys collections.  Because of this, and because they'd had my collection for over seven months, I didn't hold out much hope that Chizine would buy it either.  And if they didn't, I had no idea where else to send it.

Enter August.  I was still querying agents, mostly those who handled young adult.  Since my novel had a 14 year old protagonist, I believed I had written a young adult book.  Yet, most of the responses I got from agents were along the lines of "if you decide to rewrite this in the kid's voice think of me."  See, I had a 14 year old protagonist but the voice was that of a thirty year old man remembering his fourteenth year.  I was frustrated and about to give up when I received an email from an agent that I didn't even query.  Her name was Beth Fleisher and she said she'd like me to send the whole manuscript to her as well as some of my short stories.  I did a little checking and saw that she was with BG Literary, and I had queried Barry Goldblatt, so I could only assume he'd passed the query and the first fifty pages onto her.  I sent her what she requested, thinking it would be another long wait followed by another positive rejection (if you're a writer, you know a positive rejection is like kissing your sister).  But lo and behold, Beth got back to me the next day with one of the most exciting phrases I think I've ever read in an email.  "Can we set up a time to talk next Monday?"

And we did.  One of the first things she told me was that my novel was not young adult.  It was literary horror.  After some reflection, I agreed, and a few weeks later, Beth was my agent.  She's been outstanding so far, offering advice and counsel on both the manuscript and all aspects of the business.  Landing Beth alone would have made 2010 my best year ever.  But it gets better.

Remember that collection?  The one I thought Chizine would never buy?  In September, I heard from Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi and they said they loved the stories and wanted to publish it.    I informed Beth and she immediately went to work ironing out the contract, which at this date is actually still being tweaked (I also learned the publishing works really, really slowly this year), but I do have a tentative release date- April 2012.

As if that wasn't enough, I also found out that one of my stories "The Water Tower" was selected for inclusion in Paula Guran's Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror (Prime) and another story "Long Fall into Nothing" was a finalist in the Crime Factory sponsored contest and will appear in a future issue.

So yeah, it's been a pretty good year.