I have an agent
July 30, 2014
It has been a long time coming, but I am thrilled to be able to say “I have an agent.”
I have been a fan of the Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency since they sent their first rejection letter to me about 12 years ago. It was one of those great rejection letters – one with a personal touch that showed me she had actually read my work and liked it (but it didn’t have a market) – and I found it more encouraging than frustrating. Since then I’ve sent the agency everything I’ve ever written. Maybe they just got tired of hearing my pleas for representation, I don’t know, but Carolyn Swayze emailed me personally to make the offer.
I had pitched “A Matter of Time” which, under the working title “Death at the Iron House Lodge”, had been short-listed for an Arthur Ellis award. Carolyn was already familiar with the manuscript, having been a final judge. So after 15 years of applying myself to my passion – writing – I have been rewarded with a contract from my favourite agency, and a Canadian one at that.
Thank you to everyone who sent their congratulations and happy thoughts, and a special thanks to my friends and relatives who have never wavered in their support.
Now we just have to sell the book!
Death at the Iron House
I am delighted to tell you that my novel “Death at the Iron House” has been short-listed for an Arthur Ellis award. Crime Writers of Canada awards the “Unhanged Arthur” to the best unpublished mystery novel, and I am in the company of 4 other writers in the running. The prize includes a possible publishing deal with Dundurn Press, who is sponsoring the competition. The winner will be announced on June 5 at an event that will get the ball rolling on Bloody Words, a festival of books related to mysteries, thrillers and the like, being held in Toronto.
I feel like an Oscar-nominated starlet when I say this, but it really is an honour just to be short-listed. It may lead to publication, but one benefit has already been realized. One of the other contestants, Kristina Stanley, reached out to me, and we hope to meet at the Arthur Ellis Awards Ceremony in June. I love that I’ve made a new connection with another mystery author. We can offer support and encouragement to each other as we move forward, and this is something all writers need. Writing can be a solitary pursuit, and heaven knows we’re a strange breed - only another writer really ‘gets’ us. Just ask my family.
I am honoured to be included in the acknowledgements of Carla Norton’s break-out fiction novel, The Edge of Normal. If you haven’t read it, do so. It’s a gripping, well-paced thriller about a survivor of abduction who helps another young girl after she’s freed from her ordeal. That’s all I’ll say about the plot – no spoilers from this quarter! Norton manages to convey horror and terror without graphic images that will haunt you; the story is told with a perfect blend of sensitivity and steel. The author is working on the sequel and I’m delighted to be included in her circle of beta readers once again.
I want to say a little something about Algonkian Conferences here, because it was the tough-love teaching method of Michael Neff that made me a much stronger writer. And it was through his Author Salon that I connected with Carla Norton, and I’m happy to say she and I have become friends. We met in September when I drove to Albany, where Carla was promoting The Edge of Normal at Bouchercon. (Did I mention you really should buy her book?)
The other wonderful (and surprising) thing that came out of my association with AS is that I’ve discovered another passion – editing. What’s more fun than finding the perfect word, the precise turn of phrase, to turn simple prose into pure poetry, to create a picture in the reader’s mind? What a rush! Doesn’t matter if it’s for my own novel or someone else’s – I love doing it.
Back to the whole shameless self-promotion thing: turns out I’ve got a flair for editing, too. People I’ve worked for have been generous in their compliments, and I believe I have found my niche. Oh yes, I will continue to write my own stories, but I hope I can continue to help others and earn something of a living from it at the same time.
It’s amazing how, no matter how much you think you know about a particular subject, you can always learn something more.
A couple of weeks ago I took an editing workshop, put on by the Editors’ Association of Canada. The first couple of hours were fairly dry, and I was trying to think of a way to extricate myself when the teacher passed on one of those nuggets that gave me an ah-hah moment. Actually, it was more of a Homer Simpson “doh!” moment; something that was so perfectly obvious, so perfectly sensible, that I wish I’d thought of it myself. Of course I stayed till the end of the day, but it’s that one tidbit that I’ll carry with me and use forever. It made the trip into downtown Toronto on a snowy winter day all worthwhile. (For those of you who don’t know me well, I live on a hobby farm about 100 kilometres from the city, and would rather pick my way through a herd of rampaging sheep than manoeuver my car down Avenue Road on a Saturday. )
Every time I hem and haw about taking a course, attending a conference, signing up for a workshop, I must remember that there will be an ah-hah moment that will only serve to make me a better writer, a better editor, critiquer and beta reader. Yesterday I registered for a 14-week course at Sheridan College on how to structure a novel. Sure, I already know everything I need to know about that – don’t I? After all, I’ve penned 5 novels so far. So why spend all that money and put myself through it?
Because it’s the nugget(s) of wisdom that I’ll bring home – the one thing I can do better, the knowledge I can then pass along to other aspiring writers – that will be priceless.
Dec 10, 2013
For a girl raised to be modest and self-effacing, the concept of shameless self-promotion makes me shudder. Really? It’s okay to admit out that I can write, and write well? Ouch. That’s gonna pinch just a bit. But I’ll deal.
In the past couple of years since I started (and subsequently ignored) my website, I have penned a couple of mysteries. I’m not sure how I moved from women’s fiction and romance to murder - and I should probably feel some sense of alarm - but I’ve had great fun thinking up ways to off people and, more importantly, how to get away with it.
My first novel, A Twisted Little Plot, does not fit the mold so it has been turned down by agents and editors alike, despite it being a darn good tale (hey, I’m really getting the hang of this self-promotion thing!). The log line “In order to write the perfect mystery, Rebecca commits the perfect murder” sounds promising enough, but apparently it’s a no-no to have the protagonist and the antagonist be one and the same person, so that manuscript may be headed for self-publication.
The working title of my second ms is “Death at Iron House” but I am toying with “Murder, Anonymous” since it’s about a group of mystery writers who try to solve a real crime. After all, most of them can kill off a character before morning coffee, and they all know the ins and outs of crime scene investigation. You’re welcome to comment on which title you’d pick off a bookstore shelf.
As you might well guess, humour pops up in my writing. It’s what I do. But, being a murder mystery and all, of course there are dark moments when scary mwa-ha-ha music runs through the reader’s head.
Stay tuned for more thrilling moments in the life of Lois Gordon, Writer. It’ll be fun to hang out with you.