Featured From the Archives: What Not to Do When Querying

It’s #WritePit over on Twitter today (for those who don’t know, that means authors are pitching to editors and agents via that hashtag all day long), and in honor of that, I thought I’d re-post what is arguably one of my more popular pieces to date: What Not to Do When Querying.

I originally posted it in January of this year, so it’s not as old as some of the ones I dredge up from the archives, but it is relevant, if not appropriate even, today — ESPECIALLY today, as hundreds of writers flood the query trenches under the banner of a Twitter pitch party. I have a companion piece to this that I’ll be posting next week, but until then, here’s a sarcasm-laced tutorial on everything to avoid while pursuing a book deal. ;)

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As Acquisitions & Editorial Director for REUTS Publications, I’ve been privy to first-hand knowledge of publishing’s “mysterious” acquisitions process.  And over the past two years, I’ve witnessed innumerable querying blunders that hurt the author’s chances rather than helping them. I’m not the first to offer up this kind of advice-oriented post, but armed with personal insight and pet-peeves, I thought I’d add my own thoughts into the mix.

So, with only a modicum of tongue-in-cheek snark (okay, make that a lot of snark), I give you:

What Not to Do When Querying

(aka How to Piss Off an Acquisitions Editor)

By Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 1/23/15

There are plenty of posts out there that explain what you’re supposed to do when querying, the steps that are supposed to lead to that coveted moment when someone offers you representation. There are also posts that tell you what to avoid. But I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone really say the following, in all its blunt glory. Because the truth of the matter is this: there are definitely things you can do as a writer to increase your chances of a book deal, but there are also plenty of ways to blow it. (Also, it should be noted that this information applies to agents as well, not just acquisitions editors.)

So let’s break down some of the worst publishing faux pas you can make, yes?

DO:

Submit to publishing houses and agencies that interest you.

DON’T:

Submit to them blindly, and then ask a bunch of questions about how they operate. That’s something that needs to come first and is a dangerous game to play. Vet the places you’re planning to query before you hand them your work. Not after. That wastes everyone’s time, and there’s nothing agents and editors hate more than wasting time. We have precious little of it as it is. Be courteous and ask your questions up front, please. Most of us are more than willing to answer.

DO:

Query agents and small presses.

DON’T:

Query them both simultaneously, and definitely, definitely don’t use a small press as leverage for attaining an agent’s interest.

This one’s two-fold, so let’s start with the first half: don’t query agents and editors simultaneously. Small presses are fantastic. So are agents. But they lead to two completely different publication paths. And there’s nothing we despise more than falling in love with something, only to discover that the author wasn’t serious about working with us after all. It breaks our literary-loving hearts. So please, know where each publication path leads and which one is right for both you and your project.

Which brings us to the second half. This is a serious faux pas, and one I hope none of you ever commit. Never ever use a small press for the sole intent of gaining interest from an agent. Leveraging an offer of publication from a small press to get an agent’s representation (or even a bigger publisher) is like dangling a wedding proposal from someone you pretended to like in front of the mate you really want. It’s mean, and cruel, and makes you a horrible person. It’s also a sure-fire way to end up on a publishing house’s Black List. Yes, we have those. And publishing is a small world; we talk. So be careful which bridges you burn. Treat all parties involved with respect and professionalism. If you want an agent, don’t query small press editors. If you receive an offer from somewhere else, tell us. There’s a perceived divide in publishing, the us vs them mentality, but we’re all just people. And we all just want a little consideration. Is that too much to ask?

DO:

Research the various agents and editors you’re querying. Find out what they like, personalize your query, follow their submission guidelines, and all that other stuff you’ve seen touted a million times. It’s good advice. We appreciate that.

DON’T:

Spam your submission to everyone at the agency/publishing house. And definitely don’t resubmit the same query, after receiving a rejection, to someone else within the company. Publishing houses are like families. We all know everyone else, and we know what they like. So if we see a submission cross our desk that isn’t a fit for us, but would be for one of our colleagues, we’ll tell you. Better yet, we’ll tell them. (Or, alternatively, acquisitions can be a team effort, as it is at REUTS, and everyone who has a say has already read your work prior to the decision being issued.) Talking about books is one of the reasons we got into publishing, so you can bet our water-cooler conversations revolve around that too. If you receive a rejection, accept it gracefully and move on.

DO:

Keep track of your submissions and the response times associated with each.

DON’T:

Incessantly hound an agent or editor for a decision. Wait until the listed response time has passed and then politely — key word there: politely — nudge for a response. Submission in-boxes are the first to brim over with a plethora of time-consuming tasks. And as I said above, editors and agents are incredibly busy people. Reading actually falls low on our priority scale, as our days are usually spent dealing with the various tasks associated with producing the projects we’ve already signed. So reading the new queries that rain down like, well, rain, is a luxury we don’t have on a daily basis.

We know you’re excited for your work, and that you can’t wait for that glorious day when someone from our side of the fence is equally excited for it, but constantly yapping at our heels like a chihuahua does nothing but annoy us. We don’t appreciate being backed into corners, and if you push too hard, guess what the answer is: NO. That’s not the relationship you want to have with your potential publishing allies, is it? You want someone to appreciate those words you slaved over, to savor the story you carefully crafted, and to join you in screaming its brilliance from the rooftops. Rushing a decision allows for none of those things. The most you’ll get is a half-assed read-through and a reluctant yes. Patience really is a virtue here, people. As much as it sucks, it will benefit you in the long run.

DO:

Follow agents, editors, and publishing houses on social media and interact with them. Forming networking connections is a fabulous way to form relationships that further your career. But be careful. There’s a fine line between creating useful contacts and this . . .

DON’T:

Abuse the accessibility social media gives you. We’re there because we genuinely want to meet the authors behind our next favorite read. We want to support the writing community and foster a kinship that bridges the gap between publisher and author. And we want friends who like what we like. We’re human. It happens.

We’re not there so you can harass our every waking moment with status requests, update requirements, or attempts to pressure us into taking your work by leveraging the opinions of others who have read it. That’s not the best impression to make, so just don’t do it, okay? There are a lot of factors that go into an acquisitions decision, but endorsements from random Twitter buddies isn’t one of them. Now, maybe if your random Twitter buddy is Stephen King or JK Rowling, that might be different. But still, save that for the query letter, or better yet, get them to blurb your book after it’s signed.

DO:

Create an online persona, platform, and all that good stuff.

DON’T:

Parade things you don’t want the world to see. One of the biggest factors in an acquisitions decision is actually whether or not the team involved would want to work with the author. So, in that sense, submitting a query is on par with a job interview. And guess what? We do our research. We may love your talent, falling all over your manuscript with gushing adoration, but if we discover that you’re the world’s biggest Prima Donna on social media, guess what? Your appeal just went down. Don’t get me wrong, opinions are great. Everyone has them, along with a certain piece of anatomy that usually accompanies that phrase. But think about how your opinions may be perceived by someone on the outside.

Shaming other authors, railing against other publishers, responding horribly to a rejection, and whining like an attention-starved kitten are not appealing things in a potential partner. Would you date someone who checked those boxes? Probably not. So can you blame us if we don’t want to work with that person either? Publishing is a long-term relationship, taking months or years to come to fruition, and you can be darn sure we’re not going to want to work with someone who will make that time an ulcer-inducing, grey-hair-creating pain-fest. You could have the most brilliant masterpiece, but if you yourself are a piece of work online, I’m pretty sure you can guess what the verdict will be. So the moral here is this: think about your online persona. Craft one that will be appealing to both your audience and your potential publisher. And generally try to avoid things that would fall under the heading “authors behaving badly.”

The take-away from this candid look at the publishing process is simple, really. It all comes down to common courtesy. Editors and agents are people. As in human. As in we have lives and obligations and families too. And just like you want us to shower you with glowing praise and go to the ends of the earth to champion your project, we want you to understand that your manuscript is not God’s gift to publishing. We may think it’s brilliant, it may be among our favorite reads of all time, but it’s definitely not the only one we’re working on. Show respect of that fact, handle your interactions with poise and professionalism, and you’ll manage to avoid every single one of the querying faux pas I just listed. Sound like a plan? ;)

Encore of My Review for Gambit by C.L. Denault

Happy Friday, everyone! I can’t believe another week’s already gone. Sheesh! Of course, trying to survive it while under the haze of cold medicine probably didn’t help my sense of time. (Yay for the Dreaded Summer Cold. -_-) But that’s okay, because I get to make two people’s days a bit brighter. That’s right, it’s time to announce the lucky winners of the signed Gambit copies.

Thank you to everyone who entered! Your support always means the world to me. And even if you didn’t win, I hope you’ll check out Gambit on your own. It really is a fantastic read. To remind you of that, I’ve posted my review (along with the links to buy it) below. But first, the winners!

Congratulations goes to:

Alexandra P. & Priya K.

Enjoy the book, ladies! <3

All right, now that we’re all on the same page, I bring you the encore performance of my review:

Gambit

by C.L. Denault

Gambit by C. L. Denault

 

In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

Gambit lays the foundation for a traditional coming-of-age tale, following Willow Kent’s journey — metaphorically and physically — as she grows from a young woman into the woman she’s destined to become. However, it’s definitely the beginning of a much larger tale, so don’t expect to see that journey encapsulated in this initial book. It’s a trilogy, and this is only the first third.

What you should expect is to be introduced to a world that is at once fresh and yet familiar at the same time. Set in a future where our current society has crumbled and humans have evolved, Willow starts her life in what feels like a medieval throw-back, a village in the remnants of what used to be Scotland. Infused with all the charm of Pixar’s Brave, we’re shown a snapshot of Willow’s life as a tavern keeper’s daughter.

But that life is soon swept away when an officer from the highly technological Core arrives. He’s looking for a missing heiress, a child stolen from one of the prominent Core families and hidden away in the Outlying Lands. That child is Willow. Suddenly faced with an identity she knew nothing about, Willow is forced to sacrifice everything she knows in order to protect the ones she loves and is thrust into the terrifying, fast-paced, intricate world of high society at the Core’s very center, where your DNA defines your worth.

Denault’s prose is captivating, painting her world with a mastery that instantly had me swooning. (Yes, editors swoon over words. Why are you surprised?) And speaking of swooning, the romance. While the hot and cold relationship between Commander Reece and Willow may bother some, it reminded me of the type seen in the classic narratives of Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters. It evoked a subtler, highly charged and passionate style of romance that is rare in modern literature. The kind where things like differences in social station and perspectives on propriety create tension and subtext that goes beyond physical attraction. Does Willow have a tendency to fall for gorgeous men, feeling pulled in several directions at once? Yes. But you know what? She’s sixteen. That’s what sixteen-year-old girls do.

In fact, that’s one of the things I loved most, that the protagonist, Willow, is actually allowed to be a teenager. She’s sixteen and catapulted into a world she has no idea how to navigate. She throws tantrums and makes mistakes, and it’s okay, because she’s sixteen. Unlike other young adult books that often have characters acting with a maturity well beyond their supposed years, I appreciated that Willow’s struggle felt genuine to her age.

I’ve loved Gambit from the second I stumbled on it on Figment.com (under its then title ofProdigy), and I still think about it, months after I’ve finished reading. It’s engraved in that special part of my brain reserved for all-time favorite titles, and I expect the characters and world will haunt me for years to come in the best possible way. For me, that’s the ultimate goal, finding a book that gives me a book hangover so intense I never truly recover. Gambit fit that bill for me.

One part Pixar’s Brave, one part X-Men, one part Pride and Prejudice, and one part My Fair LadyGambit is a magical debut from a brilliant new author. And all I can say is, “Sequel now, please!”

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | REUTS Publications Bookstore

The 10 Best Things About Being an Editor

There have been a lot of articles floating around the interwebs lately detailing the uglier side of editing, the harsh reality and bitter truth that publishing generally prefers to keep hidden. And I’d guess a lot of you are wondering why anyone would sign up for a job that clearly comes with a large side of misery. Or, if you’re a fledgling editor, you’re probably thinking it won’t happen to you, that those of us “griping” are just jaded old farts yelling “GET OFF MY LAWN!” at anyone who comes near. But trust me, you’re wrong. It will happen to you. I said I’d never fall prey to it either, and now look. I struggle daily to hold on to the passion and enthusiasm I started out with, to avoid turning into that hateful, jaded editor I said I’d never become. Because, you see, being an editor is a lot like being a statue in a sandstorm. Each stressful project wears down a little more of that initial optimism and joy, replacing it with marble-lined walls nothing can get through.

But it’s not all bad. And this isn’t going to be one of those bare-all-the-skeletons-in-the-closet type of articles (in case you didn’t glean that from the title above). No, to counter-act the very valid, albeit depressing, truth behind the editing life, I’m going to show you the good, the reasons we battle our way through the ugly, day after day after day. The reasons, when asked, we’ll still tell you we love it and it’s the best job on Earth.

I give you, the ten best things about being an editor, in no particular order and with just a touch of snark. ;)
 

1. Nerdery Welcome

If you’re an editor, you’re an avid reader. You have to be. It’s literally job requirement #1. Okay, proficiency in grammar is probably job requirement #1, but you know what I mean. You are a self-professed book nerd and you wear that label proudly.

But growing up, you were likely teased for it. A lot. While others spent their afternoons playing video games, sports, or lusting after the opposite sex, you were Belle from Beauty and the Beast, walking around with your nose stuck in a book. Admit it, this was you:

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Well, one of the best things about being an editor is that your unabashed love of all things books is returned and fed by others who also unabashedly love books. All those things that riddled your childhood with taunts are no longer a weak point. The fact that you’re a book nerd is par for the course, and in fact, nerdery in all forms is highly encouraged. They say that nothing beats finding your people, your tribe. Well, book nerds, the land of editing bears its nerd flag proudly, and if you have the skills, you’re more than welcome to add your sigil to our banner.
 

2. Buying Books Becomes a Business Expense

This is legit. Seriously. Part of an editor’s job (especially an acquisitions editor) is knowing the ins and outs of the book-buying market. And how do you accomplish this? By buying books. No joke. Therefore, those extensive receipts from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and whatever other book haven you haunt, become what is known as “market research” and according to my tax professional, that is a deduction. **Note: I’m not a tax professional and make no claims to be. Make sure you talk to someone who is before taking my word for it.

As if we needed another reason to buy books, right?

excited-baby
 

3. Hoarding Books No Longer = Mental Disorder

Ah, yes. This is probably one of my favorites. I am a book hoarder. There, I admitted it. My apartment is crammed to the gills with books, to the point that one of the first comments any visitor says when they walk inside is, “Man, that’s a lot of books!” The second is always “Cool weapons,” but that’s a story for another time.

The point is, I like books. No, scratch that, I LOVE them. I love their smell, their feel, their beautifully linear sqaureness (Don’t ask. It’s been noted before that I have a touch of OCD). And someday, I will own that library from Beauty and the Beast. I will!

Anyway, this habit to collect books in droves has long been considered strange, obsessive, and cause for concern for any who have to help me move. But guess what? No one bats an eye now that I’m an editor. All that judgment I used to have to fend off gets checked at the door. It’s considered normal and, apparently, is completely understandable now that I live my life surrounded by words and literature and the soothing smell of printed paper. Now my only problem is my lack of shelf space. (Thank God for Kindle!)

Books
 

4. You Become a Mystical Rainbow Unicorn with Super Powers

No, not really. But it will feel that way sometimes. I believe I wrote before about how I considered “Editor” to be an unattainable, near-mythical job title when I was younger. Well, apparently, I’m not alone in that. People seriously look at us like we’re some shimmery Fae creature that can’t possibly exist in real life. And I’m not talking about writers, whose reaction is usually more akin to the fangirl/fanboy response of a super-fan at a rock concert angling to get backstage. No, I’m talking about everyday people who have no affiliation to the publishing industry whatsoever. There’s an impressed awe that tends to come across someone’s face when I mention what I do for a living (no, not the Day Job of Doom part). And honestly, who doesn’t want to feel like a rock star, even the literary kind?

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5. Books! Books! Books!

read-all-the-books-meme

I think that’s self-explanatory, don’t you? Moving on . . .
 

6. It’s Intellectually Challenging

Now we’re starting to get into the more serious reasons editors become (and stay) editors. So I’ll try to hold the sarcasm in check.

This one in particular is probably one of the main things I find appealing. Editing is like Crossfit for your brain. It’s often mentally taxing and can leave you feeling like you’re seconds away from having your eyeballs abandon ship, but that’s also part of why it’s fun. Not the mutinous eyeballs part. The mental gymnastics.

The best editing projects are like a massive puzzle, requiring you to shift and move and tweak and tune things until, like a camera lens, the focus snaps into place and the picture becomes perfectly clear. I love that feeling, and for me, it is a visceral feeling. I know the rules and regulations, but honestly, I edit primarily by instinct. I’m lucky to have been born with an innate sense of storytelling (and yes, I have had people tell me its a super-power) and I can actually feel in my bones when a narrative clicks into place. That sensation alone makes all the hard work, all the sweat and blood and tears (because editors expend those just as much as the authors do in this process) worth it.

puma
 

7. Proud Teacher Moments

If the last point wasn’t enough to convince you that being an editor is awesome, this one should. Yes, I just said that feeling a story find its groove makes it all worth it. And it does, but this is the icing on the cake. Completing a project definitely feels good, I’m not going to lie. But there’s one thing that feels even better:

Watching your author step into the much-deserved spotlight, their polished, perfect new book-baby clutched in their hands.

I call it the Proud Teacher Moment, because that’s the only way I could think to describe it. I imagine it’s very similar to the swell of pride and emotion teachers feel when they watch their students graduate. It’s sort of a bittersweet sensation — one part love, one part pride, one part sadness. Most people don’t realize how invested editors become in the projects they work on. Yes, the author wrote the thing, but we helped train it, helped shape it into the perfect piece of literary brilliance flourishing out in the world. And that creates a special bond. We may be relegated to the shadowy corners of Hell writers call the Editing Cave, but we watch from those shadows, cheering our authors on with proud tears glittering in our eyes.

Make Good Choices
 

8. Discovering Hidden Gems of Awesome

Okay, now that we had our little moment of seriousness, back to the fun. This one is a perk that most people automatically know — we get to read (and find) awesome books before they’re published. Boom. Go ahead and be jealous. You know that’s totally awesome.

Bejealous
 

9. Creating Magic

Writing is a magical process. I mean, come on, authors paint fully-realized worlds, characters, and plots that elicit emotions in readers with words. Letters on a page. That’s pretty magical, if you ask me.

Editing may not seem all that magical — it’s more like polishing a car than say, painting one — but it has its own kind of magic. Especially in the developmental phase. Editors are like spirit guides, helping authors find their way when they get lost in a forest of words. The best ones can actually step into an author’s voice, mimicking their syntax, their style, with the efficiency of a Pooka. Which, come to think of it, may be the perfect analogy for editors in general, given the oft touted love/hate relationship writers have with us.

DoctorWho

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that writers create magic, but editors help contain it. And for that, we need our set of spells.
 

10. For the Love of All Things Books

When it really comes down to it, there’s only one true reason someone decides to pursue editing: a genuine, deep-rooted for all things books. The reasons listed above are great, but if I lost all of them tomorrow, I know I’d still have a love for books. Because nothing beats the ability to escape into a million other lives and worlds. It’s even been scientifically proven that reading enhances our ability to empathize. It’s a fundamental human gift, storytelling, and it’s one I will always cherish.

And that, my friends, is why I adore being an editor. Why I strive to look past the gritty, harsh truth of an editing life. I love storytelling. Plain and simple. And I love editing because it lets me pursue that love of storytelling. I enjoy the process, as painful as it may be sometimes, because I love the challenge, and I love helping others achieve their literary dreams. And best of all, I love that I get to spend my days surrounded with all things books.

I can’t sum up this last point any better than with this quote:

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Happy reading!

Featured From the Archives: A Brief Introduction to Demo Teams

Wow, what a week! I don’t know if the planets aligned for you as horribly as they did for me, but let’s just say there’s a bottle of Fireball in my freezer that will soon be empty. ;/

I was intending a different post today, but as the sun is now creeping lower toward the horizon and I have all of maybe two brain cells left, I decided it was time for the back-up plan. Hooray for archive-diving! I have plenty of writing/publishing/editing related posts I could recirculate, but I haven’t touched on one topic in a long time. And I’ve noticed the bio pertaining to this part of my life keeps showing up in my stats feed, so perhaps there’s some curiosity out there as to what I mean when I say I’m a “martial arts demo team expert.” Perhaps some of you are even thinking, “what the heck is a demo team?” Today, you’ll get to find out.

The following post will make the most sense to fellow martial artists, but for those of you who have wondered about my various online bio claims, here’s a glimpse into my martial artist past and my particular specialty in that realm. (You’ll notice it’s again related to storytelling. And yes, some of it translates into my current job choice as an editor.) Enjoy!

Demo Teams: A Brief Introduction

by Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 7/20/12

I’ll be the first to admit that my views on the martial arts — especially demo teams — are a bit progressive. And as such, probably rankle the feathers of the traditionalists out there. For the record, let me just state that I’m not devaluing traditionalism. Quite the opposite actually. There’s something powerful about being a part of a legacy that’s steeped in the history of thousands of years, having been passed down for generations upon generations. That said, I also think that tradition without innovation can cause a style to stagnate and eventually disappear into the dust of ages. So, yes, I’m a progressive martial artist, but it’s not meant to offend.

When you reach Sam Dan (3rd Degree) in Tang Soo Do, there’s an underlying expectation that you begin to specialize in something. You’ve already semi-mastered the basics (no one’s ever perfect, after all), you can competently defend yourself and can adequately pass your knowledge on to others. Now it’s time to find your niche, to declare your martial arts identity, if you will. Some specialize in self-defense techniques, some in empty hand forms, some in specific weapons. Others choose to extensively research the history behind their art, and still others focus simply on the intricacies of instructing.

My specialty is demo teams.

What is a demo team? At their heart, demo teams, short for demonstration team, are a marketing tool. Anytime you give a performance geared toward attracting new students, you’re essentially using a demo team in its most basic form. The vernacular may vary from school to school (I’ve heard them referred to as Performance Team, Demonstration Squad, Creativity Team, etc) but the principle is always the same. And they’re very poorly utilized by the vast majority of schools out there.

Usually, they are thrown together last minute with volunteer students. They’re rarely given much rehearsal, and there’s usually even less thought behind the organization or presentation of the performance. Which gives you, not surprisingly, a highly disorganized group of students milling around looking lost, boring displays of generic techniques, and absolutely no originality. Some of you may be shaking your heads right now, thinking I’m being overly judgmental, but admit it, we’ve all seen these types of demos. Performances comprised of kids in rumpled uniforms who can barely form a straight line, displays of adequate-at-best techniques, poorly practiced routines where students end up flinging their weapons all over the place, absolutely no music except for the chaotic ki-haps of the students or maybe the counting of the instructor, and my favorite: people breaking boards any civilian could flick in half with a couple fingers, they’re so thin. There may be one or two high-ranking students that really dazzle, but overall, I think we can all agree that these types of demos are, in a word, uninspired.

Every audience is comprised of only a few things — the family of the students, who will cheer no matter how bad their person does; fellow martial artists vaguely curious how your style differs from theirs; the hecklers who think it’s amusing to shout horrible impressions of the Karate Kid at you; and potential students. That’s it. Really. So in any given audience, you maybe have 25% that can be enticed into enrolling. That’s a pretty small window in a lot of venues. How do you reach this small minority of potential customers? By entertaining them.

We live in a society flooded by the martial arts. It’s included in every action-oriented movie or TV show. It’s in nearly every video game on the market; it’s even crept it’s way into literature. So the mystique is gone, folks. It’s no longer enough to show the world what your classes look like on a daily basis. We’ve all seen it a thousand times. We’re not impressed. Doesn’t matter if we train in the martial arts or not.

Give us something original, something flashy, something that makes us pause in that parking lot or mall, or gets us in the door to your studio’s open-house. In short, give us a performance. None of this last minute, non-rehearsed, reliant-on-cute-factor, traditional uniforms stuff. What you need is a dedicated Demo Team — the elite of your student body, trained to perform, proficient in things like musicality, synchronization, advanced techniques, and storytelling/acting. These are the people who impress. They’re the ones who will entice new students to walk in the door, who will make the hecklers shut up, get the other martial artists to nod in appreciation and floor their family with their abilities. They are your secret weapon. And every studio has them. Unless you just opened your doors yesterday. In which case you have white belts. And white belts are never impressive. Sorry.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting what I’d call a master class in demo teams à la me (you can find this master class via the Index above, if you wish). I’ll go over every aspect involved in my style of “professional” grade teams, including how to create your team, the principles of musicality, staging, and storytelling, and the intricacies of performing — all in regards to martial arts demonstrations. For those of you more interested in my advice/opinions on writing, don’t worry, those posts will be mixed in too. I even have one dedicated to art, (The Genesis of a Logo Design), upcoming on the schedule, for any who were starting to doubt whether I’d actually tackle that subject. ;)

For now, I will leave you with this video of my most popular demo, “The Dream Sequence.” As with all recordings, there’s something lost in the translation that would have been better experienced in person. But it will still illustrate my particular demo team style, and what I hope to impart to you in following posts. Is it the most brilliant thing ever? I wouldn’t say so. It’s actually rather slow, and I was shocked by the acclaim it received. Is it entertaining? Hopefully. After all, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? To entertain.

(Before you ask, yes, the little boy on Wheelies is part of the routine, not some random bystander. And yes, I am in there, though I challenge you to figure out which performer is me. ;) )

 

 

From the Editor’s Desk: Gambit by C. L. Denault

Welcome to Book Review Wednesday! This week’s edition brings you a post type that I haven’t done in a while and that I will be resurrecting periodically. (I’ve been horribly remiss in posting all the awesomeness REUTS Publications unleashed into the world over the past year. Sorry to all those authors who are still waiting! A review from me is coming, I promise.)

But first, let me remind you what these posts are all about. As an editor, (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors that trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

All right, now that we’re all on the same page, I bring you my review of . . .

Gambit

by C. L. Denault

Gambit by C. L. Denault

 

In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

Gambit lays the foundation for a traditional coming-of-age tale, following Willow Kent’s journey — metaphorically and physically — as she grows from a young woman into the woman she’s destined to become. However, it’s definitely the beginning of a much larger tale, so don’t expect to see that journey encapsulated in this initial book. It’s a trilogy, and this is only the first third.

What you should expect is to be introduced to a world that is at once fresh and yet familiar at the same time. Set in a future where our current society has crumbled and humans have evolved, Willow starts her life in what feels like a medieval throw-back, a village in the remnants of what used to be Scotland. Infused with all the charm of Pixar’s Brave, we’re shown a snapshot of Willow’s life as a tavern keeper’s daughter.

But that life is soon swept away when an officer from the highly technological Core arrives. He’s looking for a missing heiress, a child stolen from one of the prominent Core families and hidden away in the Outlying Lands. That child is Willow. Suddenly faced with an identity she knew nothing about, Willow is forced to sacrifice everything she knows in order to protect the ones she loves and is thrust into the terrifying, fast-paced, intricate world of high society at the Core’s very center, where your DNA defines your worth.

Denault’s prose is captivating, painting her world with a mastery that instantly had me swooning. (Yes, editors swoon over words. Why are you surprised?) And speaking of swooning, the romance. While the hot and cold relationship between Commander Reece and Willow may bother some, it reminded me of the type seen in the classic narratives of Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters. It evoked a subtler, highly charged and passionate style of romance that is rare in modern literature. The kind where things like differences in social station and perspectives on propriety create tension and subtext that goes beyond physical attraction. Does Willow have a tendency to fall for gorgeous men, feeling pulled in several directions at once? Yes. But you know what? She’s sixteen. That’s what sixteen-year-old girls do.

In fact, that’s one of the things I loved most, that the protagonist, Willow, is actually allowed to be a teenager. She’s sixteen and catapulted into a world she has no idea how to navigate. She throws tantrums and makes mistakes, and it’s okay, because she’s sixteen. Unlike other young adult books that often have characters acting with a maturity well beyond their supposed years, I appreciated that Willow’s struggle felt genuine to her age.

I’ve loved Gambit from the second I stumbled on it on Figment.com (under its then title of Prodigy), and I still think about it, months after I’ve finished reading. It’s engraved in that special part of my brain reserved for all-time favorite titles, and I expect the characters and world will haunt me for years to come in the best possible way. For me, that’s the ultimate goal, finding a book that gives me a book hangover so intense I never truly recover. Gambit fit that bill for me.

One part Pixar’s Brave, one part X-Men, one part Pride and Prejudice, and one part My Fair Lady, Gambit is a magical debut from a brilliant new author. And all I can say is, “Sequel now, please!”

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | REUTS Publications Bookstore

And, as a special surprise, the author has donated two signed copies for a couple of you lovely folks to fight over. That’s right, I said SIGNED! Whether you’ve read it and love it as much as I do, or whether you’d just love to get your hands on it, here’s your chance. It is open internationally, and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, June 17th.

To enter, simply click HERE. Good luck!