So you can read my books

Saturday, June 5, 2010


The Icarus Wind.

It's a lovely song by the equally lovely {and evocative} Thea Gilmore. The Icarus Wind is also the spirit which sweeps us up and hurls us into the misty clouds where our dreams live.

It is a dangerous realm. There is no promise of success. And there is no safety net to catch us should we fall.

The post of yesterday brought back memories of my bookstore and my customers. Yes, I owned a bookstore for a time. I needed an understanding boss who would allow me to accompany my mother on her distant trips for chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I figured I could be pretty darn understanding.

So I emptied my savings, and with the added financial help of two good friends, I started my bookstore. I had not thought of sales as a way to make a living. But luckily, the people coming in pretty much knew what they wanted.

After coming in for awhile, they knew I wasn't going to hard-sell them anything. I got to know them and pointed out things I thought they'd like. I was usually right.

And it's come to me that once again, as with my bookstore, I am back in sales ... in a sense. But only in a sense. Like in my bookstore, I have to get to know my customer {potential agent.} I have to learn her likes and dislikes.

But unlike my bookstore, the agent hasn't gotten to know the wonderfulness of myself. No. I'm coming in cold.

In another sense, I'm also coming in hot : no time to build up trust or to ratchet-up the tension. Like a space shuttle without fuel, I'm flying like a razor through the cyber-void. I have seconds, ten seconds if conventional wisdom is correct, to win the agent's interested attention.

That's not much time to hit a home run.

To follow the trajectory of the baseball analogy, I have to quickly present a winning ...


Line Drive.

Home Run.

Think : Speed. Focus. And ... out of the ball park!

My target agent is eye-weary, computer numb, and conditioned by thousands of terrible queries to expect yet another boring turkey. I have to flash a surprise crack of the bat and get her attention. I'll use my 90,000 word urban fantasy, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, for an example {Yeah, what a surprise, right?} :


A man who no longer believes in God must fight a being who believes himself the Devil.


Doubt. Faith. Death. All three collide in Post-Katrina New Orleans where the dying of the lights bring out the predators from both sides of the darkness.


In post-Katrina New Orleans, an undead Texas Ranger battles inept politicians, Russian mobsters, and DayStar, a being with god-like powers. Helped by a vampire priest, the Ranger faces mounting opposition from all corners of the supernatural realm, all eager to take advantage of the chaos following the hurricane. And in the wings watching the Ranger get weaker and weaker, DayStar sets his last trap for his hated enemy into motion.


Post Script :

Many times we writers don't even get the opportunity to audition for the agent. We get the intern.

Imagine getting your X-ray read. As you hand it in to the desk, you ask, "The doctor will read this, right?"

"No, the intern will."

"She's trained in reading X-Rays?"

"No education. No salary even. But she's optimistic and hopeful."

"Yeah, well that makes one of us."

"Oh, it's always been this way. That's just the way the system works."

"Yeah, they told Lincoln the same thing about slavery."

"Oh, so the intern's been complaining about having to re-arrange the agent's bookshelf, has she?"

"No, I haven't talked to her. So she has to re-arrange the agent's books, too? Where does she find the time to grovel?"

"Oh, there's always time to grovel."

"Words to live by," I smile and walk out the door.


Post script II :

The really great news? You know what the success ratio for a super-star agent is? 50%. Ouch. Or not so ouch. It takes the pressure off. It is what it is. We try our best and enjoy the journey.
Here's the music video of Thea singing "The Icarus Wind."


  1. Up against a mountain...which is also just a vapor. Climb that? (= Why not.

  2. That really is a beautiful song.

    As for the agent business-- I'm in the trenches too. I'll take a 50% success rate to the .05% average acceptance rate to even get my foot in the door. Compared to that, 50% might as well be 100%.

  3. O how strange! I have posted a poem and collage on my blog today in reponse to the Icarus prompt at One Single Impression!

    Icarus ~ Drowning Wings on Fire

    Your post represents wonderful translation of the Icarus phenomenon still alive and well today with a special spotlight on the chameleon elment!

  4. I like your analogy to baseball. I'll have to think some more on that concept in my own query nastiness. Pitch, Line Drive, Home Run.

  5. Your posts are so unique and inspirational, I enjoy reading your every post :D I love the Baseball analogy, and based on your writing, I'd love to read that book!

  6. This song kind of encompasses the whole feel of the process. Love it! Not a bad pitch, not bad at all! It sounds like you have a great premise there. Someone will bite. My fingers are crossed that it will be soon...

  7. I'm enjoying your blog. I'll be a frequent visitor now I've found it. Thanks for the visit :-)

  8. Love the baseball analogy. I need to start thinking about my query soon. *cries a little* Not my favorite all!

  9. I wonder if every writer secretly wishes they owned a bookstore.

    I'm about to embark on the query-quest-for-an-agent fun ride again!

  10. Theresa : My bookstore was a lot of headaches. But it was like CHEERS without the beer but with the wit, jokes, and adventures!

    Anissa : And me not even a baseball fan! Good luck with your own queries.

    Eliza : I'll be looking for your visits. Thanks for liking what you see.

    Heather : Thanks for the crossed fingers on my account. I'll be doing the same for your trip to New York and that conference.

    Kirthi : That you look forward to reading my every post is quite a compliment. Thanks.

    Anne : Good fortune with your own queries. It is quite a journey. But we are hearts much like Tennyson's Ulysses :
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    Gemma : Your blog is lovely as always. Thanks so much for mentioning me in it. Everyone reading this, go visit her blog by following the link above and see a haunting flash of beauty and poetry.

    Amalia : Isn't the song lovely? Neil Gaiman introduced me to her on his blog. Good luck to both of us as we slog it out in those agent trenches!

    Jo : Getting an agent does sometimes like climbing a mountain : long, difficult, with no sure promise of success. But anyone can quit. We're not just anyone. We're us, right?

  11. ...enjoyed the baseball analogy.

    The editor I've been working with once compared the modern writing industry to the early rounds of American Idol.

    Sad but true, the industry's become somewhat of a popularity contest. Even if a project has been deemed the "real deal," it can take years...not to mention a good deal of luck in order for that novel to make anything more than a dent in this publishing world we live in. And worse still, those whose name has already been established, can often times scribble anything legible...and watch their sales soar.

    However...when giving up is not an option, we carry on:) Keep hammering, Roland:)

  12. Wow - you owned a bookstore - how amazing! What happened?

    Anyway - I really like your pitch for French Quarter Nocturne! Actually I really enjoyed reading the first three chapters!

    GOOD LUCK!! I can only imagine how much of a slog it is to find that elusive agent!

    take care

  13. Kitty : My mother died, and the reason for my store died with her. The Mall was starting a campaign to get rid of the small independent stores within it, and I read the handwriting on the wall.

    It was time for a change. My home burned, and my best friend, Sandra, got me this job with the blood center just as Rita hit. Like one of my young customers told me, "Gee, Mr. Roland, you've been everything but a pirate!"

    Elliot : Yes, it does seem as if agents are saying, "If I don't want your autograph, then I don't want your manuscript."

    But you're also right in that giving up is not an option. The ghost of Raymond Chandler and Ernest Hemingway would never let me hear the end of it! Besides, the ghost of Marlene Dietrich likes to sit on my lap as I type.

    Hey, what can I say? We writers have a vivid imagination, Roland

  14. So glad I found this blog, I really enjoy reading your posts.