The picture is from a couple or so years back of my experience at Book Expo America, which will be held this year from May 30 – June 1 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. I haven’t gone in the last couple of years for one reason or another and not for lack of wanting to. If you’re in the Northeast and in anyway connected with the book/publishing industry, it’s a worthwhile trip if you haven’t gone before. Nearly every book publisher in North America is represented, and the place is fairly swarming with editors, literary agents, publicists, and anyone in and around the industry. Not only that, but there are author signings almost from opening to closing, interviews with industry professionals or writers on a couple of stages, special programs for librarians and booksellers, and free books and swag galore. For more information, visit the BEA Homepage.
Okay, I’m a big fan of Outlander. Not only the series on Starz, but of the books, as I’ve been reading them since a few years after the first book (named Outlander, oddly enough) came out. I had met series author Diana Gabaldon years ago at a cocktail party at a New Jersey Romance Writers’ conference, where she was so kind to explain to me just how she wrote one of her more grisly scenes (the memory of it and how my stomach lurched, will be better left unwritten at this juncture thankyouverymuch). She was very charming and personable, and years later I had the chance to encounter her again in New York, this time at a Random House Author Breakfast. It was there she disclosed for the first time that just the night before, she had finalized the contract for the Starz Outlander series, to excited gasps from her rabid fan base sitting in the audience, thrilled that Jamie and Claire would finally come to life. But I wonder ever since that day how many of her readers have been disappointed? Because how much is really lost when characters–and storylines–jump from the page to the screen?
I read a romance once where the author stated in her forward that she based her two lead characters, a pirate and a spoiled and screeching noblewoman, on George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. Really? The debonair Clooney as a peg-legged arrrrgh -ing privateer? The elegant Aussie as a continual pain-in-the-ass? Didn’t help that all they did in the book was fight. Just didn’t wash for me, especially since I saw Clooney and Kidman as having zero chemistry. But that was beside the point. I resented the fact I was being directed to imagine a character in a certain way, rather than to let their deeds and actions unfold in my own mind as to what they really were about. When I read a book, it’s should be my interpretation of the writing, not that author’s. That’s why there are book discussion groups, as every reader has a different impression of the author’s vision. And in when a book jumps to a screen small or large, that vision is then ceded by the author to the screenwriters and ultimately, the director.
Every Monday morning I read the Outlander recap in The New York Times and invariably, there’s someone bitching about how much the show is missing/has changed/has been altered from book to series. There’s some changes I’ve liked, there’s some that I’ve questioned, there’s some that I outright hate. Comments say the book is so much better, and some, who’ve never read the books, suggest avenues the characters can take. Those who are like me, enjoy it for what it is. I can live with both because I’ve experienced both, and I see each for what they are. As a writer, I know when I put my work out there, my characters are bound to be altered by each person who reads my story, as each approach it with different life experiences and expectations.
But that’s the chance we take when we become writers, as it’s nearly impossible for our vision to be transferred unaltered into another person’s brain. The best we can hope for is it’s intact enough to remain enjoyable and worthy enough to read. And that enough people end up reading it to end up transferring it from a Kindle into a more widely-distributed screen. Or so we hope.
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I’ve been told that several “Easter eggs” have been planted throughout Outlander Season Three premiering this Sunday, September 10 on Starz. So what’s an Easter egg? It’s those little hidden gifts the producers like to plant in various scenes that only true fans will know the significance of. Sounds like fun and I can’t wait to look for them. But you’re an old-time devotee of the series, then you’ve already noticed quite a few pieces of coal as well. What I mean is we old-timers have been on the Claire/Jamie team for twenty-five years now since the Diana Gabaldon’s first book of the series, Outlander, debuted in 1992. And as readers of the books–sometimes two or three times–there’s certain things that have veered from the texts. Personally, I’m not complaining, as many variations have either had no significance or even improved the story. And since Diana Gabaldon has had such an active part in the production, she must approve of the changes. Plus ultimately, showrunner Ronald D. Moore is certainly entitled to his own vision and for the most part, I overwhelmingly approve. Still, there are some things that have veered from the written text that stand out for me (and if you don’t want to know what they are, if you think I’m a spoilsport and should just shut up and watch, then stop reading right here):
- Claire, unlike the very talented, blue-eyed Caitriona Balfe, has brown eyes. In the book they are described as very unusual and “sherry-colored.”
- The wedding ring Jamie gives Claire is a silver band decorated in the Highland interlace style, a small Jacobean thistle bloom carved in the center.
- Jamie gets violently seasick, so bad he’s literally unable to come on deck when a ship is in motion. After he is liberated from Wentworth Prison in the book, he’s mostly unconscious and it’s not until France when he’s taken to the monastery to recover. The fact he’s unconscious is a lifesaver. Gabaldon deals with this quirk of Jamie’s in an inventive way with a novel character in Book Three and sailing on a ship becomes pivotal to the plot. Not that I’m telling you here!
- In the books, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, is described as tall and big-boned, size 16 and six-feet tall. There is no doubt that she is Jamie’s daughter, with her height and flaming-red hair. She was also born and raised in Boston, and there’s no doubt in my mind she pahks her cahr in Ha-vahd yahd.
Don’t get me wrong–I love-love-LUFF this series, and I can live with any of these changes and enjoy it tremendously. But I’m not going to deny the fact as a tall and big-boned woman, I would have loved to see an equally tall and big-boned woman playing the part of Jamie’s daughter, especially in this year of Wonder Woman. But if that would mean living without Jamie each Sunday night at eight, well, come on. Life is all about compromise, isn’t it?
Sunday night at eight. You’ll know where I’ll be.
Random House is home to the world’s most acclaimed storytellers, thought leaders, and innovators, and Open House is our signature special event.
Held three times per year, this unique day-long experience brings together the biggest names in publishing for a full day of interactive author panels and book talks in New York. Readers get a behind-the-books look at what’s new at this all-inclusive day. Our tenth Open House will take place on Thursday, December 15.
Featured authors at this Open House include Diana Gabaldon, Jodi Picoult, Trevor Noah, George Saunders, Jon Meacham, Fannie Flagg, Lindsey Lee Johnson, Allison Pataki, Sana Krasikov, and Laura McHugh.
Plus at the end of it — wine. Lots and lots of wine. I’m so there.
Going to this on Friday. I’m so excited I can’t stand myself. You see there’s publishers then there’s publishers. And then there’s (cue chorus of sopranos) Random House!
Open House is a unique semi-annual event that brings together the biggest names in publishing (Anna Quindlen, Debbie Macomber, and more!) for a full day of interactive author panels and book signings at Random House’s New York offices. Readers get a behind-the-books look at what’s new at this all-inclusive day, which includes breakfast, snacks, lunch, a cocktail reception, and a canvas tote bag full of books and goodies!
Author, Something To Food About
Author, THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE
Author, MORNING STAR
Author, THE CITY OF MIRRORS
Author, A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON
Author, MILLER’S VALLEY
Author, THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR
Author, PERFECTLY IMPERFECT
Nirvana comes to New York’s Javits Center for BookExpo America 2015 from Wednesday, May 27 – Friday, May 29, 2015. BEA offers three event-packed days, 600+ authors, hundreds of new titles, hundreds of exhibitors, four Author Stages, and access to the latest digital technologies at the Digital Discovery Zone (D2Z) brought to you by IDPF. Hop to it because the skinny is BEA’s traveling to Chicago next year.
BookExpo America is the leading book and author event for the North American publishing industry. It’s the best place to discover new titles and authors, network, and learn the latest trends during the BEA Content & Digital Conference. See you there, and see you in two weeks!
Last week I was as sick as a dog. (Tell me: where did that analogy spring from anyway? Because if sick = dog, then my neighborhood should be a pandemic site.) My affliction ran the full gamut of misery: fever, chills, aches, head congestion and general all-over-shittiness, and from so much coughing and sneezing, this week I threw out my back. So it’s another week of not being up to a hundred percent, and now it’s thirty-eight degrees out and raining. Add to this one hell of a winter hangover which seemed to put all progress in reverse, and I’m finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone work on the book which I recently started. Put it all together and I’m decidedly in a funk, and wondering how to get my motor started when so much of the world is working against me.
(My goodness, I’m depressing. Now write yourself out of that hole, Gwen. Go ahead. I’m waiting.)
It’s very easy not to write when you’re feeling bad, actually too easy. Your brain gets preoccupied with everything that’s messing up your day, and it become almost mandatory to dis your routine for social media or TV, twin junk foods for the distracted mind. Kind of like when you have a bad day at work and you head right for the Doritos, a balm for the belly that actually works against you, especially after you realize you just inhaled 3000 calories, and you don’t even like Doritos. So how do you counter these counter-intuitive measures? How do you write when writer is the last thing you feel like? One thing I’ve found out about myself is I feel worse when I don’t write, that the act of writing itself gives me a feeling of self-worth unlike any other practice I partake in. The only thing that comes close is teaching, perhaps because both involve the dissemination of information uniquely my own. Maybe because as writers, we are innately messengers, and this need to communicate is what puts us in touch with our reality, giving us validation. Really? Is that what we need? Must be true, because why would I feel so bad when I’m not doing it? I mean, seriously, who feels bad when they’re not hitting their thumb with a hammer?
Man, writers are strange. But that’s why you love us so much, right?
If you fancy yourself a novelist ( as I, on occasion, have been wont to do), and you’d like to see yourself represented, sooner or later you’re going to have to attempt that necessary evil, the Dread Agent Query Letter. Truly, I know people who’d rather stick pencils in their eyes than apply that pencil to the task, but sweeties, it doesn’t have to be that painful if you know the assembly method. So here, in four easy paragraphs, I’ll try to show you how to compose the Perfect Agent Query. Now pay attention…
First, some preliminaries… First and foremost, a query is a business letter. Since most (if not all) agents accept queries only through email, and since that email entails one finger firmly adhered to the delete button, you want your query to be as concise and professional as possible, contained in the body of the email and NOT by attachment. Since attachments can carry viruses, agents are loath to open them unless they know you, so send attachments by invitation only. Most definitely use honorifics (Mr., Ms. etc.) in your Salutation as you should never assume familiarity. If you had previously met with the agent at a conference, workshop, cocktail party, etc, and were invited to query, most definitely write REQUESTED in the subject line as well as the first line of the email. These will get opened first. As a best practice, check the agent’s website or blog for query/submission guidelines. If you don’t have a particular agent in mind, try Jeff Herman’s guide, the library for The Literary Marketplace, or www.agentquery.com, just to name a few resources. Another one is troll the library or bookstore stack of the books of your genre, and see who the author thanks in her acknowledgements. Now, on to the actual construction…
Para One – Howdy! With Benefits – This is your query knock-on-the-door, your literary calling card designed to get the agent’s attention. Introduce yourself, remind her if you’ve previously met and where (we chatted during lunch at the XXXX Writers’ Conference), if you’ve been invited to query/submit, the name of your novel, the genre and word count. You might what to toss in a quick teaser like, A cross between Stephen King and Carl Hiaasen, My Bloody Margarita is a 80,000 word…, to illustrate what your writing is like. But on the whole, keep this para to a five-six line minimum, with just the facts, ma’am, inviting her to the next para to learn more.
Para Two – In which we employ The Hard Sell – this is where you get ONE paragraph to car-crush your entire 80,000 word novel into one easily digestible capsule. Twelve to fifteen lines in all, introduce your main characters, basic plot line, conflict, lessons learned, the conclusion. Remember, although you want the agent to be intrigued, you don’t want to raise her ire. So if you say …but if you want to know how the story turns out, you’ll just have to request the rest of it… you’re just asking for a delete. Be creative, not cagey.
Para Three – It’s all about YOU! – This is where you get your close-up, Mr. DeMille; it’s all about you, you, you. Cite your published works, awards, training, blogs, websites, education (if pertinent), professional associations, jobs or skills that give you credibility for/authority on what you’re writing about. Again, because this is a business letter, remain professional. Don’t take this personally, but no one really cares if you like to raise bunnies and take long walks lakeside, unless, of course, you’re writing about The Killer Hare of Lake Superior. Again, no more than twelve to fifteen lines. A link to your blog or website is also advisable, as most industry people now assume you have a web or social media prescience, and if you don’t, you have to ask yourself why.
Para Four – Wrap it up – This is your shortest paragraph of all. I’ll even toss in examples free of charge: I can send a proposal or the complete novel at your request. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. OR According to your submission guidelines, what follows is the first ten pages (or synopsis or first three chapters, or any combination thereof stated in their guidelines) of <Name Work> Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. THAT SHOULD BE IT. No more, no less, just a salute as you head out the door.
All finished? PROOFREAD AND SPELL-CHECK, then add your email address and your phone number. All in all, a succinct query should never contain more than 400-450 words, and NEVER more than one page. And never query unless you have a completed, fully-polished, proofread and spell-checked novel ready to go. I know of agents who get 200 queries a week, and some substantially more. That’s a heck of a queue, and if you’re not ready to submit at a moment’s notice, rest assured there are hundreds of others who are.
One more thing — good luck!
- Sylvia Day! ~ Keynote speaker, #1 New York Times and #1 International Bestselling Author. Breakfast speaker, #1 New York Times Bestselling author Maria V. Snyder.
- Editors and Agents! ~ Forget that messy query process – speak face-to-face with living, breathing editors and agents. Too many editors and agents to list!
- Workshops! ~ On craft, on children’s books, fantasy, mysteries, blogging – even martial arts, plus much, much more!
- Bookfair ~ Your favorite authors, signing your favorite books, courtesy of Watchung Booksellers.
- Writers and Readers Tracks! ~ Special events exclusively for either or both, with access for all to meals and parties, plus the Bookfair.
And I’ll be there! What else do you need to know? But alas, in case you do, you can always click here for more information.
See you there!