Wednesday, December 31, 2014

THE BITCH is a candidate...

Hi folks,

If you have a chance, you might slip over to the House of Crime and Mystery blogspot where they're having their annual voting for best crime and mystery novels of the past year. THE BITCH is a candidate in the Indie category. I'd appreciate your vote!

Go to:


and the rules, etc., will be there on how to cast your ballot. Really easy.

Thank you in advance!

Blue skies,

Vote Chicago style... early and often...

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Hi folks,
Gonna turn you onto a new book that’s blowing me away. It’s a screenwriting book, but it’s very different from the normal mish-mash of such books and has tons of wisdom that will be helpful to fiction writers as well.

It’s John Jarrell’s TOUGH LOVE SCREENWRITING and I’d recommend every fiction writer add it to their professional library.

Here’s one example that, while aimed at screenwriters, applies also to fiction writers:

“Modern cinematic storytelling has evolved into lightning-quick cuts and tightly framed visuals, shortcuts which compress and collapse screen time with a maximum of brevity while still managing to impart the essential content.

This is also how we live our lives now—in shorthand. All our mind-bending new tech reflects the same dynamic and reinforces  these same expectations. Net-consciousness dominates, dots connect at light speed. People process twice the same info three times as quickly. Readers and audiences not only “get it” faster, they bring shorter attention spans, amplifying their impatience. Bore folks for an instant, the channel’s been changed, a fresh Chrome window’s been opened and the app closed out.

Which is why your screenplay needs to be stylistically in synch with these same times and expectations as well.”

In a nutshell, this also describes contemporary fiction techniques.

The book is chockful of this kind of practical wisdom. Jarrell shows the reader all the mistakes he made and how to avoid ‘em. What’s really cool about what he says is that he’s a working screenwriter who’s sold tons of stuff to the studios. There are an awful lot of books out there written by folks who’ve never sold a blessed thing and yet somehow they get bunch of people to purchase their so-called “wisdom.” Not this guy. He’s the real deal.

Here’s another gem that struck a chord in me as I’d just written a blogpost about the very same thing. Jarrell is describing a process he went through to get the right agent… not just any agent, which is precisely what I’d just written about.

He says:

“Couple weeks flew by before our follow-up. Agent Two told me he’d enjoyed the script, and from his brief notes I could tell he’s actually read it—even more miraculous than the first call-back. In all honesty, though, Agent Two had another client sharing somewhat of the same creative wheelhouse, and servicing one writer coloring outside the traditional lines was already a handful as it was.

This shit happens. Agents don’t need many duplicate clients on their rosters, meaning writers working within the same specific genres or overlapping in the type of material they write. Agent Two was totally cool and gave it to me straight, like an adult—which, at the end of the day, is all any writer can hope for. Very warmly, I thanked him for taking the time.”

This hit home. It was exactly what I had said about a week ago in the post about why Lee Child and Matt Hilton don’t share the same agent and shouldn’t, even though both of them feature the same kind of series character. For me, this bespoke a guy who understands the business.

There are tons and tons of other practical and useful advice within these pages. Jarrell’s the real deal and his book is one of those rare things—a compendium of thoroughly useful and usable advice.

I’d get it if I were you. I think you’ll find it to be one of the best investments in your craft you’ve ever made. Either as a fiction writer or a screenwriter. Or both.

Blue skies,

P.S. Full disclosure--After reading his book, I asked John to take a look at one of my scripts to see if he can help me with his script consulting service. I've passed on these for a long time, but I never had the full trust that I'd encounter a guy with fully-operational bullshit detector before him. Check him out on his blog.

And, tell him I sentcha...

Monday, December 15, 2014

The "logic" of obtaining an agent is sometimes flawed...

Hi folks,

I recently got an email from a writer friend of mine who’s been struggling to get one of his novels repped and published. It occurred to me when I was answering him that this might perhaps be instructive to other writers who find themselves in similar straits so I thought I’d share my comments and see what you folks thought.

First, here’s what my buddy said:

Hey Les,

Hope this finds you well.

Christmas is just around the corner, I'm taking vacation, and plan to be inebriated for as long as my wife will allow.

It dawned on me the other day that I finished the first draft of the manuscript I sent you a year ago this month.

It’s been rejected so many times I'm about to blow my head off - not a good thing to do at Christmas time.
Gets blood all over the decorations.
This last rejection comes from John Gilstrap's agent.
I write the same kind of stuff he does, so I am without a clue.
I've decided to take a different path regarding the novel.
I want you to know I appreciate that you thought to show the manuscript to your agent, but I think that will just produce the same result. What's Einstein's definition of insanity?  
So please don’t spend your time chasing that down.
No need to do that now.
I am going to publish it through Amazon and see what happens.
Sure can't do any worse than I am at present.
Thanks again for your support and your offer, Les.
Can't wait to meet you in the flesh.

Me thinks there are many beers waiting for us in N. Carolina.
Have a great Christmas, and congrats again on the Keynote gig.
Best Regards,
PS. Know a good editor?

Matt Hilton who writes a kick-ass ex-military character and doesn't share Lee Child's agent...

Here’s what I told him:

Hi ___________,
Some thoughts on your notes...

One, look at the position of Gilstrap's agent... if your work is similar, that really puts him in a bind with editors, no? I mean, he's got to look and figure out which author he wants to send the editor he sells John to and who he sends you to. It can't be both of you and I imagine his loyalty will be with the guy who's been paying his bills to date. It seems logical on the surface to have the same agent as a writer who you're similar to, but actually, I don’t think that's a good thing. Make sense? It's like Lee Child's agent taking on Matt Hilton who has a somewhat similar series character--who is he going to be pushing with Random House? See how I think you've been shooting yourself in the foot perhaps? I'd look for the agent who DOESN’T rep someone like Gilstrap or yourself. Then, YOU become THE GUY he takes to editors. No agent with a brain is going to try to corner the market on all the ex-military superhero characters--that would simply be counterproductive.

What does perhaps make better sense is for the agent to go to the editor or house that publishes work like both of yours. Makes better sense I think than trying to get the agent who reps two similar writers and then try to decide who he’s going to promote to that publisher.

Instead of pubbing it yourself, I think I'd look for an agent who doesn't represent a writer too much like yourself. If you look at the lists of successful agents, often you’ll find a fairly large disparity between the kinds of writers they represent. They’ve got their guy who writes thrillers, their guy who writes cozies, their gal who writes romances, their guy who writes westerns… and so on. There’s no  or little competition within the agency for which author the agent is going to be championing for a particular genre of novel. And, that just makes sense to me. Sometimes, I think a writer who is with an agent who has several like writers doesn't realize he may be getting shortchanged when it comes time for his agent to approach publishing houses... might the agent perhaps be pushing someone else within the agency at the expense of himself? Interesting question...

If it helps, I've made exactly the same mistake in my own past. For instance, years ago, I queried David Sedaris' agent for my Kidnapping novel--thinking Sedaris is a funny guy and my novel is funny, so... twisted logic as it turns out! He doesn't want another Sedaris--he's already got the master! What in the world would he do with me? It was a real eye-opener.

Blue skies,

Sometimes, what seems “logical” is anything but. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think a writer should seek out the agent who reps the writer most like himself? Or, is this kind of thinking flawed? I’d really be curious as to what agents think about this!

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Just made another "best of" list for THE BITCH! 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Hi folks,

Some of you know that I just spent some time at RediMed (four hours!) where I had a crisis with my COPD. Really thought this was the big one, Elizabeth! But, turns out I'm too ornery, so bad news for some, good news for others. Anyway, as so often happens along with bad news comes a ray of sunshine. Just notified that my Snippet version of Finding Your Voice is out and for sale for the ridiculously low price of only $1.99.

A snippet is a new form of book and I'm very lucky my agent came up with it for me. What it is, they take an existing book and create a good-sized excerpt of it (an abridged version as it is) and interspersed within the pages are snippets of me on camera explaining and amplifying the points in the text. It's really kind of exciting to watch, imo. We tried very hard to get it out in time for the Christmas market and so if you want to glom onto a copy for yourself or for a gift, just go to https://thesnippetap­­Edgerton and glom onto it. (Just kind of ignore the ugly dude speaking...)  Depending on feedback, we're thinking of doing other books in this format. I think it's going to be a winner and it'll be a form you can consider yourself for your own work. It really shows how the publishing community is continuing to think outside the box and really brings books to a new and up-close-and-personal level.

If you grab one and like the idea, please let me know. Your feedback is really important to me.


Thanks for considering buying a copy. Keep it in mind for those always-needed stocking stuffers.

Blue skies,