Thursday, July 1, 2010

Squee! My meetings in NYC!

So: about a year after my agent picked me up out of his slush pile, I finally got to meet him! My wife and I met Evan for noodles at Soba Nippon under the watchful eye of an attentive waitress who wasn't afraid to instruct us how to eat. Evan was "doing it wrong," I guess, and after placing a mystery liquid down on the table and leaving, she came back and poured it into his bowl for him and mixed it around so that he'd enjoy it properly. I found this both highly amusing and very sweet of her to be so concerned with Evan's gustatory delight. Besides trading personal stories, we spoke about my current series and how it was going and also spitballed ideas for an epic that I want to rework down the road.

Apart from being an incredible agent, Evan is almost unspeakably cool. He knows a lot about New York and where to go eat before you see a show. He rattled off about twelve places (complete with directions) that we should try to visit. We forgot all of them and wound up eating at a rather disappointing (for me) Irish pub around the block from our hotel. Their fish and chips were out of the freezer, not fresh at all; it was nothing less than a complete abdication of their responsibility to provide good pub fare for their customers. But things got so much better after that!

We went to see American Idiot at the St. James Theatre and found it to be unexpectedly cathartic. I was already a fan of Green Day's American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown albums, but it's hard to see them as anything but genius after watching the Broadway production. It captures the youth of 2000-2008 perfectly—I know because I taught 'em. The lead eerily reminded me of a student who just graduated, in fact. The songs were connected together with a narrative and rearranged beautifully in some cases, and the wirework they did during the dream sequence of "Before the Lobotomy" was stunning. Highly recommended.

The next day, I got to meet my editors at Del Rey, Tricia and Mike, at the Random House building on Broadway! They have lobby security kind of like that scene in The Matrix where Neo and Trinity have to go rescue Morpheus. I meant to ask why, but I never did, so now I will guess: without the security, crazed would-be writers would overwhelm the editors like a horde of zombies with hand-delivered manuscripts. "Just look at this!" they'd say, waving a sheaf of papers in 12-point Courier, "It's a tender military sci-fi tale about a race of furry reptiles who fetishize automatic weapons! A plucky orphan fursnake and his mollusk friend must stop the Dark Lord Uzi from shooting up the planet with demon gunsauce!"

Once past security, everything was remarkably tranquil. We went almost all the way to the tippy-top of the building and stepped into scifi/fantasy nerd heaven. The 24th floor of Random House is currently enchanted to make everyone and everything appear as it would in an epic fantasy. They rotate the enchantment for variety: last week was steampunk week and they looked something like this, and next week everyone will look like Warhammer 40K Space Marines. Tricia and Mike were dressed in flowing robes of shimmering samite, just like I expected, while my wife and I wore homely tunics stained with grease and mustard. They greeted us courteously and then led me to a treasure vault guarded by two gnome paladins who grudgingly stepped aside once Mike uttered the password. The password changes every day, so I can safely tell you what Mike said: "Argyle is curiously in vogue at Tor headquarters."

The vault was a treasure indeed. It was full of Del Rey's books. Like, all of Tolkien. And Alan Dean Foster. Anne McCaffrey. Terry Brooks. Everything good, basically. And my editors said unto me, "You may take whatever you want, thou good and faithful author. One day soon, your books will be added to this sacred vault." I knelt and wept and showered them with gratitude, and they allowed me to kiss their rings.

Left, Tricia's Lucent Pearl Ring of Editorial Savvy. Right, Mike's Doomcloud Diamond Ring of Smiting.

I took a first edition of The Ruling Sea by Robert Redick and counted myself the most fortunate man on earth. Next, I met the editor of said book, Kaitlin Heller. She assaulted me with her champion, an ensorceled Silent Bob action figure. We sparred—silently—until I was forced to yield. I also met David Moench and editor Anne Groell. The latter was not clad in her customary editorial robes, but rather fully armored for battle. Her office was a field tent and she greeted me like so:
I gave her a hearty salutation and she bade me good day, though a warning flashed in her eyes. I bowed and scraped before I fled, and then I asked Tricia why yon editor kept such a grim aspect.

"Verily, she is besieged," quoth she.

"In what way? I saw no forces marshaled 'neath her tower."

"She must gird herself to meet the constant queries about the release date of Ser George R.R. Martin's book, A Dance of Dragons. She is the good ser's editor, you see."

(Note: To hell with Kevin Bacon, I now have two degrees of separation from George R.R. Martin! Yes, his next book was a topic of conversation over lunch, but no, I can't tell you anything about its release. Sorry. Anne was actually quite cheerful, though, if that tells you anything.)

I was then privileged to meet the High Priestess of Del Rey, Betsy Mitchell. She was gracious and kind and apparently in on all of The Plans for Lunch. I knew only one of The Plans, and Tricia knew only one of The Plans. Betsy and Mike were in on both of The Plans.

We left the 24th floor and looked like normal nerds as we walked to Hell's Kitchen—well, at least I did. I give you proof of my rampant nerdiness with a quoted snippet of our conversation:

Tricia: "This neighborhood is called Hell's Kitchen."
Me: "OH! You mean where Daredevil lives?"

Yes, I really said that. I embarrass myself all the time. There is no cure.  

The Plan for Lunch I didn't know about was choosing this particular pub for our luncheon:
HOW COOL IS THAT! The perfect place to take a guy who's written a series of urban fantasies about a Druid. They had exposed brick walls inside with spiffy paintings hanging on them. Navigate past the bar to the back, and there's a wee patio outside with sunlight and growing things. We sat there and I ordered the fish and chips and a Smithwick's.

I learned several very important things on that patio: 1) I'll get to take a peek at some preliminary cover sketches in about a month! 2) Brooklyn is nicer than Manhattan. 3) Del Rey is still seeing tons of vampire stuff from agents (they only accept agented submissions). 4) Tie-ins with movies are difficult to write, edit, and negotiate. 5) Mike likes "dirty water" dogs. But don't judge!

Our food came, and since I've embarked on a lifetime quest to find the best fish and chips, I took a picture:
And now a brief review: These were extremely good. Druids' fish & chips get high marks for being fresh. The chips weren't frozen wedge fries like I had at the other place, but rather homemade, lightly fried tater chunks. The fish batter was also a fresh beer batter rather than the heavy breading you get on frozen stuff, and you can tell by its light golden color that this a delicate coating with new oil in the fryer. It was very good, some of the best I've had, and the salad on the side was an unexpected bonus. Now, is it the equal of Rula Bula's in Tempe? Not quite, but it's very close. Here's where it falls short: you can't really eat this with your hands; it's cooked and presented in such a way that you need to use a fork. If you tried to pick up the fish, it would fall apart on you. Also, the tartar sauce was a bit thin—I prefer it chunky—though it tasted just fine. These are minor quibbles, though: in terms of taste and freshness, this was a superior plate and I'd recommend it to anyone who finds themselves abruptly hungry in Hell's Kitchen as they search for Daredevil.

Okay, so after we ate and downed a couple of pints, it was time for The Plan that Tricia didn't know about. The Plan was simple: get Tricia to wear a luchador mask (that's a mask worn by Mexican wrestlers, if you are uninitiated in the joys of Lucha Libre) and document it photographically. We were careful not to execute The Plan until Tricia had consumed a couple of beers. It was the linchpin of our strategy, honestly. And it worked! Ladies and gentlemen, here is a picture of our Luchador Lunch:
Literary Luchadores at Druids in Hell's Kitchen

I'm the guy in the mask.

Besides being silly for the sheer fun of it, I do have A Point To Make with this blog. Occasionally one hears that editors & agents are mean people who are out to crush your dreams if you aren't well connected or "know someone." That is absolutely untrue. The number of people I knew in the publishing industry was zero before I sent out Hounded last year; I was (and still am) just a random dude who writes when he's home from his day job. Now I finally "know someone," and it's funny how they don't look anything like dream crushers. They are spectacular people who have action figures in their offices and hurl marshmallows at each other with miniature catapults (no lie) after they've read their thirteenth emo vampire query of the day. And they're only too happy to make your dream come true if you write a book they want to read.

Mucho peace and luchadores (they are not mutually exclusive); I'll post some more stuff from upstate NY in a few days.


  1. Oh man! Anything to do with George R.R. Martin is awesom!

    I didn't know guys were allowed to use the word 'squee'.

  2. I meant 'awesome'. I wish there was a way to edit comments sometimes!

    Green Day! I just saw them at Wembley stadium last week. They were great, except that they only played 4 songs from the new album.

    Your agent sounds great. Maybe you'll let me borrow him someday!

  3. Send him a query, Ted! If he likes your book I bet you'll squee. ;-)

  4. I keep worrying that my book isn't ready yet. Personally I think it is and I love it, but my mind keeps nagging me to change some more things...