Friday, February 13, 2009

FINDING BALANCE AND WINNING: Thoughts for Valentines' Day

Yesterday we finished reading a large stack of chapters and wrote many "no thank you" and a few "please send more" letters to some very impressive authors. Today I'm working on a backlog of emailed queries. What I should be doing, I keep muttering to myself, is calling editors and selling books. It's a matter of balance.

Agents, like authors, are pulled in so many directions, it's hard sometimes to know which fire to put out first. I heard a speaker once address this dilemma by using the term, "What's Important Now?" WIN. Corny, but it often works for me.

What's Important Now? For me? First, writing this post--the blog needs attention. Next, my brimming inbox dictates attention to the queries. Yesterday it was chapters. The day before that I worked on contacting editors about current projects.

Often, these plans get changed when the phone rings, the email dings, and an important opportunity or crisis surfaces. But using the WIN method, I can usually get on track again.

Try it. Do you need to polish a chapter or make your query sing? Or, more important, does your daughter need some time with you? Ask yourself, "What's important now?"

Maybe the chapter can wait until tomorrow and your query can be fixed tonight. Right now, your daughter or husband or wife or mom or best friend may need you. It's Valentines' season. Lighten up on yourself. Eat some chocolate, give some hugs and enjoy. Your writing will be all the better for it!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 9, 2009


Lorri Lynch in USA Weekend's popular "The Who's News Blog," talked to Stephen King last week. I love King's comments about popular writers:

"Somebody who’s a terrific writer who’s been very, very successful is Jodi Picoult. You’ve got Dean Koontz, who can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he’s very very successful. People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it's not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet."

When Jon was in graduate school he took a course in children's literature. Many of his classmates were librarians and teachers. These educators told how Stephen King's books were literally "used to pieces" by their students. Most of these educators loved King's writing--some did not. What they all agreed on was that Steven King GOT KIDS TO READ. For that , he should be canonized.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Editor's note: We'll wind up our conversation with Patrice in this post. But first, let me praise this author to the skies. She not only writes well and with passion, she's dedicated to the craft and business of writing. She has educated herself by reading, attending writing conferences, talking to other writers, editors and agents. And all along the way she has been learning. She is also very helpful to fellow writers. Visit her website

Do you plan to continue your focus in fantasy, or will you venture into other genres?
I think Gordath Wood holds clues to that. It combines fantasy, romance, and mystery because I love all those genres. I have been developing other projects that take these elements and toss them together in different ways.

How do you bring your characters to life?
Connie Willis once said at a convention, "People! Your characters are not real!" Which is true of course, and hey, it's Connie Willis, she should know. But if writers do their job right, then characters bring themselves to life. I actually don't know how I do it. Some people go through those personality profiles for their characters, but I think that would suck the life right out of them. As in so many things, I'm winging it here.

[Kae’s note: Sounds like Patrice, like Stephen King, may have some “boys in the basement.”]

Who are your five favorite authors, and why?
My influences are Jane Austen. J.R.R. Tolkien, and Alexandre Dumas. Then there are the contemporary writers who I love and in absolutely no particular order, Barbara Kingsolver, S.M. Stirling, Jane Smiley (Horse Heaven, of course). Sharon McCrumb for her giddy Elizabeth books and her gorgeous Appalachian mysteries. Stephen King -- no one can touch him when he's at the top of his game. Neil Gaiman. I could go on, but I think you said five. Oh wait! Michael Crichton! Can't forget him.

How did you come up with the idea for Gordath Wood?
I used to ride horses in the part of Connecticut and New York where the book takes place. It's the best place to ride in the world. You could get lost on those trails. And so...I wrote a book about getting lost on those trails.

What do you like best about writing?
I get to make up worlds and people for readers to enjoy. I have heard from a couple of readers that they couldn't put the book down. I love that. That's so cool.

What's the least favorite part of your career?
Well...the actual writing part. Whoever said that writing is sitting at the typewriter and opening a vein is absolutely correct. It's not easy and it can be extremely painful. Also, rejection letters suck. But it's part of the gig.

What advice would you give to new writers?
Funny you should ask that! I'm doing a once-a-week series on my Web site called Writing Lessons about what I've learned as a writer. I hope I can pass along some words of wisdom to writers young and old about getting the words down and whipping them into professional shape.

What do you do for fun?
I like to go hiking, go to movies, cook, rollerblade. I do yoga but I wouldn't call it fun (I have a complex relationship with yoga). I enjoy hanging out with friends and family. I'm starting riding lessons soon, after being away from the horse world for far too long. I would like to say that I knit and do crafts, but I'm really the most uncrafty person in the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


We sold Gordath Wood by Patrice Sarath to Ace/Penguin two years ago. The second book in the Gordath series, Red Gold Bridge, will be published in a few months. We thought it was high time that we gave our blog over to Patrice and allow her to share her experience with our readers.

Fairy tales, horses, romance, and adventure figure strongly in Patrice’s work. Her short stories have appeared in several top science fiction and fantasy magazines, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and Black Gate. She has sold stories to the anthologies Such a Pretty Face and Low Port and the British anthology CafĂ© Ole. Her story "A Prayer For Captain La Hire" was reprinted in Year's Best Fantasy 3. Her short story, "Ice," appeared in the June 2006 issue of Realms of Fantasy, and her stories have appeared in Weird Tales, Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest. Many of her stories have been favorably reviewed on Tangent Online, SFSite, and other genre markets. She lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children.

When did you realize that you were a writer?
There wasn't any actual realization. I always wrote stories and poems when I was a kid. When I was a teen I wrote a bunch of novel starts and fanfic and really heartfelt poetry and all that stuff when you are figuring out your voice and your identity. When I was in my twenties, I became a reporter and editor but continued to write my fiction.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?
I was four or five. I think it was a very Richard Matheson piece -- science fiction horror, something about how machines were coming alive. I couldn't actually spell and I didn't really know that many words, but as I remember I was very absorbed in writing this scary thriller.

Can you describe your first published work?
"The Warlord and the Princess" appeared in Beyond the Rose, a little Irish chapbook. I got $5. It was a great feeling. I loved that $5 (I spent it, don't get me wrong, but I loved it.) I framed the acceptance letter. The story was about a warlord and -- you guessed it -- a princess, neither of whom is exactly what they appear to be, or what they present to the world. It was reprinted in Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, a wonderful Australian magazine.
(Editor's note: You can read "The Warlord and the Princess" on Patrice's site:

Do you hold to a writing schedule? How do you balance family, a full-time job, a website and a professional writing career?
I'll answer these together. It is vitally important if you have a family and a job to have a writing schedule. When my children were little, I wrote after they went to bed. Later, as they got older and were a little more self-sufficient, I could loosen up a bit, but in the early days it was every night after the dishes were done, the kids did their homework and had their baths and got their bedtime stories, then I wrote from about 9:30 to 10:30. That may not seem like much but I wrote a ton of short stories and a couple of novels.

Now my daughter is in college and my son is in middle school, so my writing schedule has loosened up. I'll still write at night but I can also set aside Sunday for a marathon writing session and no one will die or anything.

In my day job, I don't bring work home and don't work past eight hours a day, so that makes it very easy. I don't know how people who work long hours can still find time to write. They're the admirable ones!

When did you begin to gravitate to fantasy?
Obviously, from a very young age. ;-)
Stay tuned--Part II of Patrice's interview to come....