Saturday, December 29, 2012

This and that

"Almost Midnight" by Grafixar from 

Collected end of the year notes...

I've posted over on the Crime Lab Project's blog, on the topic of forensic science as a local matter and the need to take action at that level.  I hope you'll take the time to read it.

I have some exciting news that I can't quite announce yet, but hope to give you near the start of the New Year.  Sorry for the tease.  Can't help myself.

January is dedicated to writing, although I will be getting out of the house a couple of times for literary events.  I am so honored and pleased to be returning to the Baker Street Irregulars and Friends Weekend in January in New York City.  Several of the events scheduled for this "annual gathering of the oldest Literary Society dedicated to Sherlock Holmes" are open to the public.

On Saturday, January 26, from 11 AM to 4 PM I'll be part of the "Mystery on the Menu Luncheon" at 
the Cerritos Library.  This event sells out quickly, so visit the library's site to purchase a ticket.

As some of you know, we lost our beloved Belgian Shepherd, Britches, at the beginning of November.  He was eighteen, which is very old for his breed, and every one of those years was one we are thankful for.  He was a big sweet, wonderful dog.

Jan with Britches as a pup. Photo by Steven Cvar.

Wylie, our younger dog, was lonely and mopey without him, and we believe that in general dogs are happier when they are in a household with at least one other dog.
Wylie ©2011 by Jan Burke

So we adopted a one-year-old shepherd mix we've named Jolie (you can hear it pronounced here) from the Seal Beach Animal Care Center, a wonderful facility.  She a sweet and happy soul, and we love this new addition to our family.

Jolie ©  2012 by Jan Burke.

 One last thing before I go back to work on my manuscript -- thank you.  Thank you so much for your interest in my work, for buying the books and coming to signings and events, for telling your friends about them.  I deeply appreciate it!  I hope that 2013 brings you all the best.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Baker Street Irregulars Weekend!

I'm so looking forward to a special set of events to be held in New York City next month, as the Baker Street Irregulars meet to celebrate the 159th Birthday of Sherlock Holmes.  I attended last year (and return) thanks in large part to my friend Leslie S. Klinger, whose amazing New Annotated Sherlock Holmes has provided me with many hours of pleasure and loads of new information about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels and stories.  I will add that these three volumes make a terrific gift for anyone who loves Sherlock Holmes.

I'll be reviewing mine over the next few weeks, happily preparing for this set of events.  Most are open to all Sherlockians.  Some, like the Baker Street Babes charity ball, are already sold out, but check out the BSI Weekend site for the full list of celebrations.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Random Advice for New Writers: Agents

A post today on Facebook by my friend and esteemed colleague James W. Hall — who has shown himself to be very generous when it comes to helping other writers — made me realize that I haven't posted advice for new writers in a while.

So I'm going to mutter random advice for as long as I can stand it, and if we're both lucky, maybe if you're struggling and confused and wandering, I won't do anything to worsen those conditions.

I'm going to talk about writing itself a little later on, but 20 years in this line of work has allowed me to see that many new writers are convinced that they write beautifully and wonderfully and in a fresh and exciting way and so really, they just want to know how to get paid a ton of money in recognition for their genius.  Or at least quit their day job. Never mind the art and craft — "Nailed it!" they say as they reread their first manuscript — they want to know about the business side of writing.

So they ask, as do those with a little less self-assurance, how do I find an agent?

As I've said before, there is no licensing body for agents.  Anyone can say, "I'm an agent," and put it on a business card or Web site.   Some unscrupulous folks figured out a long time ago that about a zillion suckers — each with no head for business and each too enamored of his or her own work — are dreaming of being published writers and famous and so on, and if you could make a buck-fifty off of each of them, you'd be wealthier than any of them will ever be.

Which is my windy way of saying you don't need an agent -- you need the right agent. 

You would not go into the business of selling bicycles without understanding that they have two wheels.  Or stay in that business if you didn't understand much, much more about it.  So if you had a burning desire to sell bikes, you'd study up.  So if you want to be published, and don't want to strictly rely on dumb luck and all the prayers your mother said for you, study up on the business side of writing, too.

This idea may make you feel afraid.  Afraid is the natural state of many writers, so don't let that paralyze you.  Just move ahead in whatever increments you can manage.

So, where to start?

I can't say this often enough:  read SFWA's Writer Beware Website.  Twice.  Don't get hung up on the fact that you may not be writing in SFWA's genres -- seriously, this site is a major public service for all writers.

You can also learn a lot about agents from the best known professional organization for literary agents, AAR, whose members agree to abide by the AAR Canon of Ethics.  Members of AAR agree not to charge fees for reading manuscripts.  They have a section of their site that accurately and succinctly describes how the process of finding an agent usually works:  FAQ about agents -- and answers.

Responding to James W Hall's question, the fabulous Jeff Abbott recommended the blog of former literary agent Nathan Bransford, now a successful author.  I've just taken a quick look at this, but it seems to be well-designed and has accessible and meaningful advice from someone who has been on both sides of the equation.  An A-Z of publishing.  Go to the left sidebar on his home page and look through Publishing Essentials.

And although Miss Snark hasn't posted anything to her blog since 2007, there is still a lot to be learned from her snarky, tough love blog.  Look at the categories on the right.  The crapometer is a teaching tool, ladies and gentlemen.

You can also find an agent at a reputable conference, and I'll talk more about that and other agent info in another post.  But you have some reading to do.  Take a look at the four sites above.  And read books by James W. Hall and Jeff Abbott.  They've been good to you today.  And you can learn to write better novels by studying what they do.