Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Irene Goodman Auctioning Off Critiques to Support Blindness Research

Hello, fellow writers. I'm passing along some information that came to me from a colleague — one of the many talented writers who make up the community at Agent Query Connect. His name is Robert K. Lewis, but this post is related to the agency that represents him.

Irene Goodman is auctioning off critiques of partial manuscripts via eBay (i.e., critiques of the first fifty pages or so of a complete manuscript), with the proceeds going to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the Deafness Research Foundation, and Hope For Vision. She's doing this every month; the next auction will begin on December 1.

Mind you, this is not a gimmick. It's a real cause being supported by a real agent who's volunteering her time in order to raise money and awareness of diseases that cause blindness. Why? One major reason is because her 23-year-old son has Usher Syndrome, which is causing him to lose his hearing and vision.

So, take another look at her guidelines for what she'll critique, but again, this is a cause worth supporting regardless of whether or not you write in the genres she represents.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Book Review: The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee

I know Halloween is over. I've already qualified for the free turkey at my local supermarket. But I still like a good scary story, and almost as good is a well-written review of a good scary story. I found one of these not too long ago at the blog of one of my followers, Brian James who's a pretty darn good writer himself. With his permission, I'm reprinting his review of Lewis Buzbee's The Haunting of Charles Dickens. Feel free to post a comment here or on Brian's blog. And if you have a review you'd like to see reposted here or posted here for the first time, please contact me. You can do so via or via

The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee
(Feiwel & Friend 2010)

Sometimes there are stories that float around in my mind that I want to read, but know not within what pages they lie. As soon as I began this book, I knew it was one of those stories I'd been searching out for a long time.

This book is so wonderful on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin praising it. But I'll start with what is always the make or break for me and that is character. The main character, twelve-year-old Meg, is one of those characters you don't want to leave off and who keeps you reading. She's smart, courageous, and altogether real. I love when the child characters are real heroes in middle grade novels. And though set in Victorian London, Meg is not unlike a modern character. After all, a twelve-year-old is a twelve-year-old no matter what scenario you drag them through.

The story moves at great pace, always leaving the reader wanting to push ahead. The central mystery is full of adventure that unravels perfectly. And the book doesn't talk down to the reader. Even at its most complicated, it's direct but never condescending. This is something that I think young readers will really respond to.

The themes of this book are incredibly relevant to our world. In many ways, I think our world has reverted to the industrial and corporate greed of Dickens's time. Child labor is as much a problem today as it was in Victorian times. Just because it's not happening in the streets of Western Civilization's shining cities, it shouldn't be ignored. It's important for children today to be reminded of the cruelty that comes with this practice, especially when the very same practice is partially responsible for enabling most of us to have cheap electronics and clothing.

There isn't anybody I wouldn't recommend this book to. It's one of those rare stories that can transport you into it's world and make it so you want to stay. I can't imagine any reader not cheering Meg on and feeling proud of her each time she succeeds.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thoughts on Branding, Voice, and Dedication

I'm not sure if this is something that comes with age or it's just a facet of the age we're living in, but I'm finding it more and more difficult to meet my many goals. For example, just to write a blog post each month has proven to be a major challenge. Of course, that's not nearly enough to maintain a consistent following (and I thank all of you who do come back post after post.)

Earlier this week, I pulled out a book about writing nonfiction book proposals. It's from 1995. To be sure, a lot has changed in the past fifteen years. But then again, many things remain the same. A writer still needs to have a saleable idea, a marketable product, and the dedication and enthusiasm to see those ideas and products brought to frution.

That's not exclusive to nonfiction. Fiction writers, too, need to have those elements in abundance. My fiction tends toward "literary fiction" and with that often comes slow, character-driven plots. There simply aren't as many people willing to spend their time reading the work of an unknown writer whose story is slow-paced.

But if a writer can sell his product 𔄤 fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry — and become virtually synonymous with his own style of writing, he can develop an audience who loves his work. That's not easy, but I think that's what separates the wannabe's from the superstars.

I used to hate Stephen King. I hadn't read his work, but back when I was in high school, it seemed that he could put all his disjointed nightmares on paper and sell a few million copies. What kind of writer would allow himself to descend to such levels, I wondered. After I saw the movie Stand By Me, which I later discoverd was based on his novella The Body, I softened on Mr. King. I softened further when I met the woman who is now my wife and who loves King's work. And I softened even more when I read his work On Writing.

What happened while I was getting all squishy is that I realized what I thought I knew about King was completely wrong. He wasn't a horror writer — not that I have anything at all against horror. He was a masterful story teller. He wa not always a great writer, but he could spin a yarn as well as spider could spin a web. First and foremost, he wrote about people. But he also wrote to, knew, and appreciated his audience. Read his forewards and afterwards. You can't help but get to know the guy. And like him.

I wouldn't call myself the biggest Stephen King fan in the world, but I've read enough of his work now to say that he's got a definite style. The marketing folks would talk about his brand of story. Others would reference his voice. To me, his work shows that he's put his time in and still does.

How about you? Are you able to put as much time in as you need to your writing? What would you need to sacrifice to meet your goals for yourself?