Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Agents, and Manuscripts, and Edits! Oh My!

Several of my friends and family have responded to my August 16th "Down the Rabbit Hole" blog questioning what three events inspired the post. While the first two are personal and will therefore remain anonymous, the third event is part of the professional sphere, and now that it’s official, I see no harm in sharing. So, in case you’re interested and have not already heard via my many emails, texts, Facebook posts and phone calls . . .


I met my new agent – Josh Getzler of Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency – at the Houston Writer’s Conference in May 2011, where he very generously squeezed me in as his last interview on the last day of the conference. Lucky for me, he laughed with me over the oh-so-long title of my (then incomplete) manuscript, and asked me to send it his way as soon as I completed it. I assured him, not quite believing it myself, that it would be finished by the end of the month.

After four weeks locked in my room with no outside contact and even less sleep, I finally completed it and sent it his way on June 2. And thus began the waiting game (something which many of my amazingly talented writer friends are still pulling their hair over). But, after two months of torture, I finally heard back. Imagine my shock when Josh (my favorite of the four agents I interviewed with at the conference), told me he was interested in my work and wanted to schedule a phone conference. (P.S. I apologize to my friends and family members who had to deal with me while I waited to hear whether he wanted to represent me or not. To say I was a basket case would be the understatement of the century).  

But, after one amazing phone conference and two days of waiting for the official contract to come in, and as of August 17, 2011, I am officially a represented author!

Needless to say, it still hasn’t quite sunk in. Unfortunately, after the celebrating and haze of jubilation finally lifted, I realized how much editing I have to do before Josh begins sending my manuscript off to potential publishers. We’re looking to have it ready by late fall, so if you don’t hear from me much in the next few months, be patient . . .

But, for those of you who are interested in learning more about my new awesome agent, check him out:

P.S. Check out the names under the heading ‘Leading Clients’!!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Towering (and Ambitious) Bedside Book Stacks

The other day a member of the Houston Writer’s Guild sent me an email with a list of the “top 100 books to read before you die”. As I perused the list, I realized that there are many books on it that I’ve always mean to read but never got around to. There are even more books that I read so long ago that I barely remember them (or "read" for summer homework in high school when I was more interested in going to the beach). So, I’ve decided to take on a new project.

I plan on reading (or rereading) every book on this list that I haven’t opened in the last five years. Even the ones that I really hated the first time (that’s right Hemmingway – I’m talking to you).

For those of you who are interested, here’s the complete list. Furthermore, if there are any books not on the list that someone feels should be, I welcome the addition. I personally find it inexcusable that Dante’s Inferno, Paradise Lost and The Zombie Survival Guide are missing – but that’s neither here nor there. So for now, these are the books that will be adorning my nightstand for the next few months...

Top 100 Books to Read Before You Die:
1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien 
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte 
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling 
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Macbeth - William Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemmingway  
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce 
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt.
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom 
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery 
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole 
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

They say good things happen in threes – and in the past few months I’ve started to believe it. While I won’t say exactly what those three things are (I also believe in jinxes), I will say that three very amazing things have happened to me in the past three (that’s right, three again) months. Maybe the number three really is magical. Like a fairy tale, I’ve been granted three wishes . . .

The truth is, I’ve begun to feel a little like Alice, following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole and stumbling into an amazing new world. It’s hard to believe it’s all real and I can’t help wondering when I’m going to wake up and realize it was all a dream. But until that happens I’m going to enjoy my time in Wonderland. 


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Minority Report Dilemma

The other day my parents sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal written by Brian M. Carney ('Unraveling the Mysteries of Murderous Minds'). The basis of the article is Dr. Theodore Dalrymple’s (aka. Anthony Daniels, a psychiatrist and doctor in Britain’s prison systems for over fifteen years) discussion of the psychological reasoning behind Anders Behring Breivik’s Norway shooting. He explains that there’s a general fascination and desire to “understand” atrocities like this – on both a personal and political level. However, he warns us that an attempt to “figure out” criminals and understand their motivations can lead to a misguided “statistical generality”.

Dalrymple argues that "‘you examine [Breivik] and you come to the conclusion that this, that and the other factor went to create the situation. You wouldn't have any more than a statistical generality.’ But if that statistical correlation could be verified, could it lead to ‘locking up people before they've done anything’?

Hmm . . .

Furthermore, Dalrymple stated that at one point, “the British government . . . wanted doctors to speculate on what people might do” and use this psychological insight to “offer law enforcement their views about who was likely to become dangerous”.  

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

To classical sci-fi (and Tom Cruise) fans it will. The use of psychological mapping to anticipate crime and assist in the pre-identification of criminals Dalrymple discusses sounds remarkably like Philip K. Dick’s Precrime system in the 1956 short story The Minority Report.

For those who are not familiar with Philip K. Dick’s work, the plot of The Minority Report centers around the belief that if we can anticipate crime, we can prevent it. In the story, “Precrime” is a government system set up to eliminate crime before it happens through the employment of three “precogs” (human beings with a talent for precognition). Their ability to forsee criminal events is so effective that Precrime “cut down felonies by ninety-nine and decimal point eight percent”.

However, there’s just one problem . . . the three precogs do not always see the same vision. In the event that differences occur, computers take their precognitions and synthesize them into a majority (the two closest visions) and minority (the dissenting vision) report, so the Precrime unit can proceed in its systematic eradication of crime without concern for the human ability to adapt and change according to their own free will.

Thus the story suggests that the ability to predict and prevent crime before it happens is deeply flawed. In the past when I’ve read Dick’s story (or watched Spielberg’s somewhat bastardized version), I always marveled at this defective penal system. So imagine my surprise – and utter horror – to find that, according to Dalrymple, governments have already taking steps in the same direction. Could it be that our future holds its own version of a Precrime division, headed by a team of government mandated psychologists, sociobiologists and neuroscientists (in place of precogs)?

I’d like to think we’re smarter than that. But I’ve been proven wrong before. Just look at our fiscal policies . . .