The Graphic Audio adaptation of Vamparazzi (Esther Diamond #4) goes on sale April 5! Available for pre-order now.
Meanwhile, here’s a 5-minute sample of the production.
While you’re waiting for the April 5 audio release of Vamparazzi (or for better news about the book publication of Goldzilla than, “I’m way behind schedule and still working on it”), check out the podcast interview that Colleen Delany and I recently did for Graphic Audio.
That’s the Graphic Audio site link. Here’s the iTunes link (and then look for my name; date of the interview is Feb 17, 2017).
Colleen is the actress who plays Esther in the audio versions, as well as directing the productions. We talked about audio, Esther Diamond, writing, my working relationship with my editor, Hugo Award winner Betsy Wollheim, my (fun!) part-time job as a historic walking tour guide, and other stuff.
If you haven’t explored the Graphic Audio adaptations of the Esther Diamond series yet, check out this series trailer to get an idea of how cool these full-cast audio productions are:
That’s (obviously) an audio sample from Graphic Audio’s adaptation of Unsympathetic Magic, which is now available in audio download and CD formats.
As explained in my previous post about this project, Graphic Audio’s format, which they describe as “a movie in your mind,” narrates the whole novel, as a standard solo-reader audiobook would, but they include sound effects and background music, and they have all the different dialogue roles read by a full cast of actors—as you can hear in the audio sample posted above, where Esther and Lopez, played respectively by Colleen Delany and Thomas Keegan, are talking.
I think Unsympathetic Magic is one of the more difficult of the Esther Diamond novels to adapt this way. For one thing, there’s a lengthy Vodou ceremony with singing, drums, dancing, prayers, and spirit possession. There’s also some Creole dialogue, a snake, a dog, zombies, baka, fire, storms, spirits entering this dimension, incineration, a romantic interlude (arrived at in Esther and Lopez’s habitually haphazard way), and various other story elements that aren’t necessarily a cakewalk to translate credibly from the written page to audio performance.
They did a great job with all of that, and I really enjoyed listening to it—so I think people who didn’t write the book, and therefore perhaps won’t listen to every moment of the audio adaptation quite as judgmentally as I do, are very likely to enjoy it.
Above all, I’m really pleased with the acting. Although these adaptations are well-directed (Colleen Delany, who plays Esther, is also the director), and the sound production and engineering are very good, I have always found that no amount of production quality or technical virtuosity (or Hollywood special effects) can make up for a bad script (and if you don’t like the writing here, that’s on me, obviously) or mediocre actors–or even a good actor who’s been badly mismatched with a role. (I’m having flashbacks to seeing a weary, stiff-limbed, hard-drinking, grey-haired Richard Burton in the twilight of his life reprise his early-career stage role as the young, energetic, idealistic King Arthur in Camelot.)
So I’m very excited about the quality of the acting in this project. I think Delany is delightful as Esther—which is crucial, since she’s the first-person narrator and the protagonist. If she weren’t engaging, convincing, and pleasant to listen to, this whole thing would flop, no matter who else was involved. Colleen has done some screen acting and a lot of voice acting and stage performance. She’s done a lot of work with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and she has been nominated multiple times for the Helen Hayes Award. (And here’s something for Star Trek fans: a few years ago, she played Othello’s Desdemona opposite Avery Brooks, who led the TV cast of Deep Space 9 in the 1990s. As recounted in Unsympathetic Magic, Esther and her now-ex, Jeff Clark, also once did this play together.)
I’m also delighted by the performance of Bob Payne as Dr. Maximillian Zadok, local representative of the Magnum Collegium. He brings together Max’s erudition, befuddled dignity, and bravery, he’s got a lovely light comedic touch, and he does an excellent job with Max’s expository dialogue—those long speeches where Max explains the nature or history of various strange and mystical phenomena to the other characters.
Two other performers who hurdled that obstacle very well in Unsympathetic Magic are Dawn Ursula as Puma and Julie-Ann Elliott as Dr. Livingston, both of whom have to do a lot of Vodou-splaining to Esther. Ursula is a two-time Helen Hayes Award recipient who does a lot of stage work, and Elliott has an impressive résumé of stage, screen, and audio work.
The men in Esther’s life also do a great job in these productions. Thomas Keegan as Detective Lopez has an attractive, no-nonsense voice… that inevitably winds up shifting many gears as he deals with his wacky love interest, his volatile family, and the bizarre cases he keeps wading into. Lopez has many scenes throughout the series where he gets pushed, pulled, and shoved through more conflicting emotions in 20 minutes than most of us have to deal with in a week, and Keegan pulls it all off seamlessly. Meanwhile, KenYatta Rogers, another cast member with a long list of credits and awards recognition, brings Jeff Clark to life wonderfully, finding little moments in the dialogue that I didn’t even hear in my head when writing the book. This actor makes me glad I’m planning to include this character in more of the upcoming books, because I’d love to hear him play Jeff again.
The rest of the cast was also excellent, and the whole story came across so well that, despite (obviously) knowing exactly what happens, I couldn’t stop listening—which I hope is the reaction every listener has.
They’ve released this, as well as Disappearing Nightly and Doppelgangster. The next four Esther Diamond novels are also in production at Graphic Audio: Vamparazzi (release date, April 3), Polterheist, The Misfortune Cookie, and Abracadaver. (And, yes, I am writing more Esther novels. I’m just behind schedule.)
This series trailer, using sound clips from Disappearing Nightly, gives you a good idea of the overall feel (multiple actors, sound effects, music) of these productions.
Graphic Audio is releasing audiobook adaptations of the first seven Esther Diamond novels!
Vamparazzi will be released in April, and the next three audiobooks in the series are planned for May, June, and July release. (And by then, I should have better news about my next regular ED book release, Goldzilla, than, “I’m still working on it.”)
Graphic Audio’s format involves multiple actors and sound effects. They describe their format as “a movie in your mind.” Click on the above links or images, and you can hear 5-minute samples of their productions of the first three books.
I was delighted when Graphic Audio approached us about producing the Esther Diamond series in audio. I was familiar with their format from having listened to some of their other productions, and I thought it would be an excellent way to present the Esther Diamond books in audio.
I’m a huge audiobook fan (I listen to audbiobooks while cooking, cleaning, gardening, doing chores, walking, driving, exercising, balancing my checkbook, medicating squirming cats, soaking in a hot tub, etc., etc.). It doubles the number of books I get to read (or “read”) in a year. And I’m an even bigger fan of radio plays. I have a huge personal library of BBC radio dramas, comedies, and adaptations, and I probably listen to those even more often than to audiobooks.
Graphic Audio combines those two formats. Instead of completely adapting the novel to script format, the way a radio play does, they still narrate the whole novel just as a standard audiobook would, but instead of the narrative telling you “Lopez said irritably,” you hear the actor playing Lopez say that line of dialogue irritably, and instead of Esther’s narrative just telling you there’s a lot of noise as she, Max, and Barclay tumble down the stairs at Magic Magnus’ shop, you hear the clatter as they tumble down. And so on.
It’s always a gamble when a writer’s story is transformed into another format, one that involves interpretations by lots of people (such as actors, directors, and sound engineers) who are not the original author. So I knew there was a possibility I would be disappointed with the result, and I braced myself for that. But I thought it was worth taking that chance, since this is such a good format for Esther Diamond. I figured in the worst case scenario (the adaptations were a big disappointment), I could always, at a later date, reclaim the rights and personally produce some standard single-reader audiobooks.
Fortunately, though, the best case scenario came to pass. Actress Colleen Delany, who plays Esther and who’s also directing the whole audio series, is doing a terrific job with these productions. The sound engineering, the other actors, the whole overall experience is very high quality and I’m genuinely thrilled with the results and love what they’re doing. (Seriously. I’d still need to promote these audiobooks even if I didn’t like them, but I am tediously honest and would never use such enthusiastic phrases if I didn’t mean them. I would say neutral things like “they’ve worked really hard” and “if you’re an Esther fan, give these a try,” etc.)
I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Disappearing Nightly in full, and I loved it. I actually forgot at times that I had written the book; in many places, I was just enjoying it as its audience. And keep in mind, it’s a book I’ve rewritten twice and subsequently re-read three times (to make sure I don’t start making continuity errors in later books), so I am heartily sick of this book. So a production has got to be good to get me to listen to that entire novel—which I did, over the course of two days, enjoying it the whole way.
Now I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Doppelgangster discs, so I can listen to that one, too.
* * *
My newest short story, “Achilles Piquant & the Elsinore Vacillation,” is in this month’s (November 2016) Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, edited by Mike Resnick (my dad). It’s available free online this month, and will be available in ebook and print editions of the November issue for the foreseeable future.
After publisher Shahid Mahmud got the old man to agree to edit the mag, Pop asked me to submit a story for the second issue…. But as you may have noticed from the cover here, I am making my debut in issue #23. Oops.
I meant to submit a story 21 issues ago. Truly! But, as so often happens, time ran away from me…
Also, despite having written about 70 short stories, I am not a natural short fiction writer. With only a couple of exceptions (and this story is one of them), I have written all of my short stories for themed anthologies where an editor gave me a deadline (and not meeting it would mean not being in the book) and, more to the point (for me), story parameters.
Sometimes the parameters are simple, such as “write a fantasy story of 3K-6K words about a horse or equine creature” (Horse Fantastic, for which I wrote “No Room For the Unicorn,” now available in my Highway To Heaven collection). Sometimes they’re very specific, such as “write a science fiction or fantasy story about Sherlock Holmes” (Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, for which I wrote “The Adventure of the Missing Coffin,” now available in Maybe You’ve Heard of Me?). And sometimes they’re complex (I wrote “Your Name Here,” a satire about population control, for How To Save the World, a 2013 edition of Fiction River Magazine, for which editor John Helfers established detailed parameters about the sort of science fictional challenges he wanted to see tackled).
I can do that kind of thing. I’ve done it 5 or 6 dozen times, after all. But my natural “lean,” as both a writer and also a reader, is much more toward novels than toward short fiction. And so I tend to stall when the only parameter is “write a science fiction short story one of these days for this bi-monthly magazine.” Hence the passage of many issues of the mag before I submitted a story (and during which time I wrote short stories for several themed anthologies).
Anyhow… around the time I was trying to think of a short story for Galaxy’s Edge, I read a passage in Christopher Hitchens’ memoir, Hitch-22, in which he described a dinner party game of inventing Robert Ludlum-style titles for Shakespeare plays. My sort of game! I love Shakespeare, and I love spy novels (and have enjoyed Ludlum novels like The Bourne Identity, The Rhinemann Exchange, and The Matarese Circle). I also love word games, and I even enjoy brainstorming titles (some writers hate it).
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children, was one of the diners playing this game with Hitchens, and he suggested The Elsinore Vacillation for Hamlet. I thought this was a delightful title, especially since Hamlet’s vacillation drives me crazy (it is not among my favorite Shakespeare plays). So I decided to use that title (crediting Mr. Rushdie, of course) and write a Hamlet parody.
I’ve also lately become a big fan of Agatha Christie, whose writing I only tried for the first time a few years ago, and I have been gradually working my way through all her books—I’m about halfway there. So my Shakespearean tale cross-pollinated with a cozy murder mystery, set aboard a starship, in which an indecisive and ambitious Lieutenant Hamlet secures the assistance of an investigative android, Achilles Piquant, to investigate the sudden death of the ship’s captain.
I had fun writing it, and I hope people have fun reading it.
I recently read a couple of delightful books that my dad gave me, Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops and More Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops, both by British bookseller and writer Jen Campbell.
They’re collections of short dialogue vignettes, real things that real people have said to real booksellers (most of which bookstores are identified in the book). I found many of them laugh-out-loud funny. There are also a lot of amusing illustrations throughout both books.
Long ago, I got a seasonal job at a local Barnes & Noble for the Christmas holidays one year. The store was approximately 30,000 square feet (for everyone outside the US, Google tells me that’s 2787 square meters), and we had tens of thousands of book in stock. And it was a daily routine for customers in the store to say things to me like, “I’m looking for a book–it’s blue. Do you know the one I mean?” Or: “I saw an interview the other day with the author of a book. I don’t remember the writer’s name. Or the book’s title. It had something to do with families. Do you have it?”
On one occasion, a couple came into the store who knew exactly the book they wanted–title & author–but they had no idea where in our immense store to look for it, so they asked my help. It was a book that a radio psychologist had recommended to married people who wanted to enliven their sex life. I helped them find the book–and the section of the store where they could find similar books. About 20 minutes later, the store manager interrupted my lunch in the back room, saying someone at the cash register was asking for me. When I went to the register, the couple was very apologetic about cutting into my break; they wanted to buy the book now, and they were too embarrassed to deal with a different clerk. (They were nice people, and I hope they enjoyed their book!)
Anyhow, author Jen Campbell also has a new book out which I’m looking forward to trying, The Bookshop Book.
* * *
If you, like me, are not slim, you might have body image issues. (Actually, in our culture, even if you’re as trim and toned as a Hollywood movie star, you might have body image issues.) You might also have a lot of misconceptions, as I have had, about the health issues so noisily associated in our society with weight.
Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession With Weight–And What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown and Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail To Understand About Weight by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor have been eye-opening reads about how much the extremely lucrative multi-billion dollar diet industry influences the medical community, how much of what is conveyed to us as “facts” about weight is based on blatantly skewed studies (and often funded by the diet industry), and how much of what the media and even our own doctors tell us about our own weight-related health is misinformation.
* * *
I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, and I’ve also become a huge Agatha Christie fan in recent years. Many talented actors narrate Christie novels, but I think Hugh Fraser (who played Captain Hastings on the long-running Poirot TV series) probably does it best, and I particularly enjoyed his rendition of Taken At the Flood. Another favorite narrator is Emilia Fox, who narrates They Came To Baghdad, whose heroine is one of my favorite Christie characters.
Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Scottish actor Alan Cummings is, in part, a mystery tale. On the eve of Cummings participating in a British TV show that will delve into his family background and heritage, the actor’s estranged father, with whom he has not been in contact for years, tells him he is not really his son–and won’t say more than that. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that there is also an untold story surrounding the death of Cummings’ maternal grandfather. Balanced against these dark family stories and Cummings’ story of surviving his abusive father’s terrifying violence are amusing and engaging tales of the award-winning actor’s international career in film, television, and theatre.
My late-night winter drive home from ConFusion (an sf/f convention in the Detroit area that I usually attend–because who doesn’t want to go to Michigan in January?) this year passed more quickly than usual thanks to Cary Elwes’ delightful As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride, narrated by the author–with guest narrations from many of the actors who appeared in the movie, as well as from the director and other key people involved in the production. A very engaging book–and it made me eager to watch the movie again.
Since nothing! slips past me, I noticed today that I have not updated this blog since… um…. November.
And there are things I must tell you–8 of them!
So here goes:
1. Sorry, no, still no release date for Goldzilla, Esther Diamond #8. This is on me, not my publisher, as I am running well behind schedule. No, I have not quit the series, forsaken writing, been dumped by DAW Books, or any of the other things people have anxiously asked me. I’m just tardy.
2. A couple of new interviews with me have been posted online.
(1) Raymond Bolton interviewed me at The Write Stuff. We talked about writing and publishing: http://www.raymondbolton.com/tag/laura-resnick/
(2) Carl Slaughter at SF Signal interviewed me about the Esther Diamond series: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2016/03/guest-interview-laura-resnick-esther-diamond-series/
3. I’ve sold a short story to Galaxy’s Edge, which online magazine is edited by some guy named Mike Resnick. The story will be released in a few weeks or months (actually, it’s possible the old man has told me when and I’ve forgotten…). I’ll post a link when it goes live. The story is called “Achilles Piquant and the Elsinore Vacillation.” It’s the product of my love of Agatha Christie’s Hercules Poirot, and also of a few paragraphs I read by the late Christopher Hitchens; he wrote about a conversation in which he and his friends came up with Robert Ludlum-style titles for Shakespeare’s plays.
4. I’ve also sold a short story called “The ∏ Files” (aka “The Pi Files”) to Unidentified Funny Objects, coming out later this year from UFO Publshing. Agents Mully and Scalder investigate a UFO sighting in which they encounter characters you may recognize from some of your favorite sf movies or TV shows (as well as from my favorite movie, which is not sf/f, Casablanca).
5. I’ve got a reprint story in a just-released anthology called Funny Fantasy, also from UFO Publishing. The story is “Dave the Mighty Steel-Thewed Avenger.” Here’s the cover:
6. I’ve also got more foster kittens in the house! I volunteer with the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.), which is where I adopted my 3 cats, the infamous Hector, the mighty Achilles, and the elusive Poe. Last year the organization adopted out some 350 cats and kittens. It’s a small all-volunteer group run entirely on donations, so if you’d like to donate to a good cause, check out the website. Anyhow, I’ve currently got 5 fosters in residence: the notorious Airy, who has been here a few months, and the French girls (Piaf, Chanel, Simone, and Colette). The French girls are still babies, but they’ll be available for adoption in about a month. Airy, who was rescued from the street as a feral kitten, covered in flea bites, survived surgery in December to remove an ear polyp (which caused disorientation, pain, and recurrent infections, and would probably have led to deafness). He is 9-10 months old now and has grown into a handsome, healthy, and very mischievous lad. Some photos:
All 5 kittens will be at C.A.T.’s next adoption event, which is on Saturday, May 21, at the Wags To Riches in Blue Ash, OH, on Kenwood Road, right next to Marx’s Bagels. Wags To Riches is a consignment shop that benefits the United Coalition for Animals, a high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic for animals here in the greater Cincinnati area.
7. And I’ve taken a part-time job as a historic walking-tour guide. I’ve finished training and start work this weekend. The company, American Legacy Tours, does a number of tours. I’m starting out guiding the Queen City Underground Tour, in which we explore some 19th century subterrean tunnels, as well as a crypt.
8. Finally, I’m ambling slowly through an overdue update of this website. In particular, if you’re interested in the Writers Resources page, I’m adding a lot of new links to that page, so have a look.
Goldzilla, the 8th Esther Diamond novel, will not be released until sometime in 2016. So there is no Esther this (2015) November. I’m sorry! It’s entirely my fault. I’ve fallen way behind schedule. As soon as there is a release date, I’ll post it on this website.
A few other quick notes, since this blog is another thing on which I have fallen behind schedule:
- I will be doing some updates soon to the Writers Resources Page. If you’re wondering about an item I told you I would add, I have not forgotten! I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
- The four foster kittens who arrived here in June (the last time I blogged) all got adopted! I’ve had updates on all of them, and they’re all doing well.
- And I have two new foster kittens, Ghost & Frankenstein, who arrived about 2 weeks ago. They’ll be available for adoption as soon as they’re neutered. I’m taking them to the clinic this week to find out whether they’re ready for that.
Last year I adopted my 3 cats, Hector, Achilles, & Poe, from the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.). Teenagers at the time, the lads have grown up to be very handsome adults, as you can see.
I was so impressed with the work C.A.T. was doing, and the good spirits with which they do it, that I started volunteering for the organization. This includes doing a shift or two each month at the adoption center, occasionally doing some errands, and fostering once in a while.
This weekend, 4 foster kittens rescued by C.A.T. moved in with me, and they’ll be here until they’re ready for adoption (which will be after they get spayed/neutered–probably when they 12-14 weeks old). They’re currently about 5 weeks old, too young even for vaccinations, so they’ll be here a while. Since they haven’t seen a doctor yet or been tested, they have to be kept isolated from my cats for several weeks. Hector, who is very gregarious and playful, is Not Pleased about this, as you can see. (However, health issues notwithstanding, he’s also too big to play with them until they’ve grown a little more.)
These kittens have been living feral, and their mother (recently caught, vaccinated, and spayed) has clearly been taking good care for them. They seem healthy and lively, with good appetites and good temperaments. You can tell they’ve been living wild, since as soon as they hear an unfamiliar noise or feel at all threatened, they all instantly disappear into hiding places–and they’re good at hiding. They’re living in a walk-in closet for now, and I sometimes can’t find them! (I’ll expand their quarters to include my office in a few days, once they’re feeling more secure. For now, they’re more anxious than curious when I open that door, and they prefer remaining in the smaller space.) They were quite afraid of me yesterday, but are starting to relax more around me today. They’re young enough that I think they’ll soon adjust to being handled, and they have outgoing temperaments.
There are 3 girls and a boy. The boy has black paws, face, and ears, and then a gray-frosted coat over the rest of his black fur, like a silverback gorilla. He also has only a partial tail. One of his sisters has no tail at all. (This seems to be congenital in both cases; there are no signs of injury.) One of the females is a beautiful pewter gray, and the other two are black (one of these is the one with no tail). For whatever reason (maybe it’s the male’s frosted gray overcoat), they look to me like characters out of Chekov or Tolstoy or Pasternak, so I’ve given them all Russian names: Boris, Natasha, Katya, and Sonya.
If you’re interested in helping C.A.T. from afar, it’s a nonprofit charity which runs on donations (which are tax deductible), fundraising, and volunteer efforts. So please consider donating to C.A.T. or sponsoring a foster–C.A.T. was able to rescue these four kittens because a kind donor has sponsored them (sponsorship helps C.A.T. cover the medical cost of fostering; these kittens are currently taking meds for worms and diarrhea, and they will all be blood-tested, vaccinated, and spayed/neutered before being eligible for adoption).
If you’d like to follow C.A.T.’s activities, they’ve got an active Facebook page. And if you’re local to the Cincinnati area, they can always use more fosters and volunteers, if you’re interested–as well as “furever” families for their rescues, if you’re thinking of adopting!
And if you’re specifically interested in Boris, Natasha, Sonya, or Katya, let me or C.A.T. know, and fill out an adoption application. These kitties will probably be ready for adoption by late August! Meanwhile, here’s a first peak at these little rascals. (They’re dark kittens in a dark closet and constantly dashing around, so it may be a while before I post any good photos of them.)
June 4th update: This deal for 11 DRM-free ebooks ends at midnight tonight (EDS time)!
My book Rejections, Romance, & Royalties is in an 11-ebook bundle this week at StoryBundle, all DRM-free books on the craft & business of writing professionally.
Pay $5 and get a 6-book bundle, including my book; pay at least $15, and get the additional 5 bonus books and a 40%-off coupon for Jutoh ebooking software. You can also allocate part of your purchase price to foundations that encourage young people to read and write.
The bundle includes books by award-winners, bestsellers, and career writers, and there’s a lot of great information in these volumes.
And here’s a sample chapter from Rejection, Romance, & Royalties:
Orphans of the Storm
Once upon a time (come on, who doesn’t love a story that begins that way?), I sold my first book, a romance novel, to Silhouette Books, a division of Harlequin Enterprises (a.k.a. The Evil Empire).
As first sales go, it was a fairly painless process. Several months after I sent them my manuscript, I received an encouraging letter from an editorial assistant saying she liked my book and was passing it higher up the food chain. A few months after that, I received another letter from her saying that the book was getting favorable readings, but acquiring a new author was a lengthy process at Silhouette, one which required patience and time. Then, about eleven months after I’d mailed in the manuscript, I received a FedEx letter from an editor at Silhouette; they’d been trying to reach me for several days, but there was no answer at the phone number I’d given them, and so they wanted me to call them.
(This was back in the spring of 1988. I didn’t have a computer, I had never heard of e-mail, and I didn’t own an answering machine.)
So I phoned them. The editor who’d signed the letter answered the phone, gushed nicely about my writing, and made me an offer for the book—an offer that was roughly the advance sum which, based on my research, I expected from them. The editor (whose name I’ve long since forgotten) praised my talent and said she would like to see everything else I had written. She explained that she’d be interested in buying several books per year from me.
I was, needless to say, thrilled!
The editor’s revision requests on that first book were neither arduous nor unreasonable. I completed them easily, turned in the final manuscript, and got paid. And, as requested, I sent her the rest of my work: two more complete manuscripts, and one partial.
The next time I heard from my editor was when I received a letter from her announcing she was leaving Silhouette and, indeed, leaving the publishing industry entirely (which is why I don’t even remember her name anymore). Her last day in the office, to answer questions or deal with her writers, was the day the letter was mailed and (obviously) several days before I received it. Her letter assured me I would soon be assigned to a new editor. She didn’t make any mention of the manuscripts that I had sent her at her request.
When I finally received another letter informing me who my new editor was, I phoned her so that we could get acquainted, talk about the book that I had in production there, and talk about the manuscripts which were now presumably sitting on her desk.
I only remember her first name, and only because it was so comically unsuited to her personality: Joy. She was a listless, sour person who told me that I’d been shoveled onto her already too-heavy workload along with a bunch of other writers whom, like me, she really didn’t want or have time for.
I asked when my first novel was scheduled for release. Joy didn’t know and was “too busy” to find out.
I asked about the three manuscripts which I had submitted at my previous editor’s request. Joy didn’t know and was too busy to find out. I reminded her of my option clause; Silhouette had sixty days, from submission, to give me an answer on those manuscripts. She coldly informed me she had no idea when she’d have time to read them.
A couple of months passed with no contact from Joy. So I phoned her. She never phoned back. I phoned her again. She still didn’t phone back. I phoned yet again—and caught her at her desk this time. She hadn’t looked at my manuscripts, had no idea where they were, was too busy to look for them, and didn’t really have time to waste talking to me. I reminded her that the option period had now expired, so an answer would be appropriate. She responded with irritable indifference and ended the conversation.
I had been (perhaps you’ve heard the term before) orphaned.
This is one of the many pitfalls of publishing that you don’t really think about (and perhaps don’t even hear about) when you’re trying to break into the business. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s nonetheless a typical enough experience that a writer should be aware of the possibility.
Being “orphaned” usually means that your editor leaves the publishing house, for one reason or another, and the editor who gets you in her place doesn’t particularly want you or care about your career. She didn’t discover you, didn’t acquire you—she’s merely inherited you, and she clearly wishes she hadn’t.
Some writers wind up leaving publishing houses (involuntarily) after being orphaned; because it’s not just the publisher who buys and believes in your work—it is very specifically and importantly the editor. Without an editor interested in your work and championing you within the house, you probably have no real future there.
Now, let’s clarify: Being orphaned does not necessarily lead to problems. There are numerous instances where your new editor is just as enthused about your writing as your old one was, perhaps even more so. There are many instances where you are just as compatible with your new editor as you were with her predecessor, perhaps even more so. There are editors who inherit you and automatically call you up to tell you how excited they are about working with you hereafter. There are editors who, before making that call, spend all weekend reading everything you’ve published with their house so they can chat intelligently with you about your work. So let’s not panic. Being orphaned is not always a disaster. It’s not even always an awkward or difficult thing.
In my case, however, it was a genuine career crisis. I knew no one at Silhouette Books, and none of them knew me. I was a brand new writer with one modest sale under my belt. It’s very common for writers to disappear after just one or two sales, so no one at Silhouette would have ever wondered why I had never survived beyond my first book with them. I was powerless and friendless, and I had been inherited by an editor who very clearly just wanted to get rid of me. An editor who wanted me to disappear, because I represented nothing to her except extra work that she didn’t want. An editor who, just by stalling me, rejecting me, and dodging my calls, had the ability to make me disappear.
This went on for five months. The closest Joy ever got to reading my work was to farm out one of my manuscripts to a free-lance reader who, she then told me, gave it an “unfavorable report.” Joy explained to me that, based on that reaction, she herself didn’t expect to like any of my work, and she doubted that I would make another sale to Silhouette.
Wow, can’t get much clearer than that, can she?
I panicked. I knew that in order to save my fledgling career, I had to do something to get past this (I use the word loosely) editor. She was a serious impediment to my professional survival. So I did something I almost never do: I sought the advice of my father, science fiction writer Mike Resnick.
At his suggestion, I wrote a carefully worded letter to Joy’s boss. I praised Joy effusively… and remarked on how terrible I felt about the way she was so overworked. I commented on her tremendous work ethic and personal charm… and mourned that she was so busy, she’d gone five months without having a chance to read any of my optioned manuscripts. I expressed tremendous admiration for Joy… while reflecting that it just seemed unfair that she was afflicted with so many writers she didn’t even have time to return my phone calls. And I nobly volunteered to be assigned to another editor—someone who, while perhaps lacking Joy’s warmth, brilliance, and efficiency, might actually have a chance to read my submissions.
In other words, I asked for a new editor and explained my reasons, while being careful not to openly criticize the one I was with. I also copied the letter to Joy herself, so that I wouldn’t appear to be going behind her back or trying to stir up trouble.
It worked. Joy’s boss phoned me personally for a long, friendly chat. She never criticized Joy in our conversation, but she clearly understood that it was a bad situation and I needed to be moved. Within a week or two, I was reassigned to another editor—one who spent the weekend reading the book I had under contract there and all of my new submissions, then phoned me, made me an offer, talked about how enthused she was about working with me hereafter, and did all the other things that a good editor does when she inherits a writer. She and I worked together for several years at Silhouette, and we have remained friendly ever since those days. So the story has a happy ending.
So, when your editorial relationship isn’t working out, you can ask for a new editor. A smart publisher knows that editors and writers work better when they’re teamed with the right individuals. (Unfortunately, not all publishers are smart; but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.)
However, if you’re going to do this, your editorial problems need to be real problems, not just a case of an editor who didn’t buy a book you wanted to sell her, or whose personality you’re not that crazy about. Also, remember that although most publishing houses will humor this request once, they’ll rarely do it twice; if you have problems with your subsequent editor there, then you are likely to be regarded as the problem. So before asking for a new editor, make sure that you’re positive that any change would be an improvement. (In my situation with Joy, I was quite positive.)
Asking for a new editor, while well within your rights as a writer, is a delicate political move. You may have many good reasons to hate the editor, but she is an employee (possibly even a favored and longtime one) of the house. So it’s best to be as tactful and non-accusatory as possible, while nonetheless making your needs known to your editor’s superior.
As for Joy… she left publishing forever only a few weeks after I got reassigned, so you’re in no danger of running into her. (A lot of editors you’ll meet along the way leave publishing forever. Really. It’s not just the ones who work with me.)
And remember the editorial assistant who kept sending me nice encouraging letters before my first sale? She later became my editor for a couple of years. She eventually left the business, but we’ve remained friends all these years. (And just to clarify: She did not leave the business because of me, okay?)
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