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Abstract Thoughts has been updated with Just Ask which is my best advice for authors.

March 20, 2009
Just Ask
Howdy!

This month has been lousy, but one of the highlights for me is working with you. I love the piece. I will have it get a final edit, but for me, this is accepted! Great job! I really thank you for putting up with the delay in responses. I cannot wait to see what you do for Plymouth. :)

Thanks,
Richard


Lo, my first completely solo RPG project has been officially accepted by my editor at Rogue Games. It is my PDF setting for Colonial Gothic called "Elizabethtown." It is also the catalyst for today's advice to authors of experience out there and that is to "Just ask."

My first sold fiction was a series of short stories called "Tales of the Hucked Tankard" in Campaign magazine. I sold the series of 8 stories to my then editor, Sean Everette, because I asked him if his magazine would be interested in a series of short fiction about an adventurer whose main tool and weapon was a metal tankard. I made the proposal to him after I had been writing reviews for him for a few months and proved to him that I could write. He checked with his boss (who agreed), got back to me and settled on a flat fee per story. It was my first query and it was accepted.

Since that time, I have made many, many queries. Most of them have been based around the official calls for queries or submissions. One of those acceptances was for White Wolf's SAS product line. I had an idea I had been bouncing around for ages and finally decided that the nWoD would be the ideal place for what I had in mind. In that case, I looked up the guidelines and followed them to the letter. Eddy Webb pulled the query sub from his slush pile and accepted it. I should start working on that product within the next couple of weeks.

Another example of querying an editor on something was querying Shroud magazine about an idea I had. It is ten pieces of flash fiction to sell as a bundle on one particular topic. To put a new piece of flash fiction on the website once a week or a series of the flash fiction pieces in 3-4 of their magazines as short run serial. Neither of these ideas is on the website. This is not what their call for submissions is for. However, after looking at the website, the call and their genre, I thought that this might be a good fit anyway. Shroud's editor, Timothy Deal, said that he would like to look at them. No word on whether or not the bundle of flash fiction will be accepted and, if it is, how it will be used. But, I asked and he was willing to look at it.

The last example of "just ask" I would like to bring up is a conversation I had with Richard Iorio of Rogue Games. I met him at GenCon 2008. We talked for a while about me writing for him and agreed to speak in email after the convention. Shortly after GenCon 2008, I pinged him with an idea. Many RPG companies are putting out inexpensive PDF settings for their games in order to bring new pieces of the world to their players in-between the large book releases. I asked if he would be interested in such for Colonial Gothic. He was. I sent him an example outline with word count and he loved it. From there, a contract was written and signed. Thus Colonial Gothic: Elizabethtown was born.

The moral of the story? If you believe you have a good idea and it fits the genre, theme and setting for the product line you want to write it for, just ask. Write a polite, professional letter or email to the editor of the publication and ask them if they would be interested in your idea. Give them enough information (2 line synopsis, approximate word count) to make a decision on whether or not they want to see more or, at least, open up a conversation with you about the idea.

What's the worst they can do? Say no.

What's the best they can do? Say yes.

So, just ask. You never know what can happen.


In other news, I've been brainstorming an idea for an urban gothic horror novel with my husband and a friend. I am almost to the point that I can start outlining it. One of the things stopping me is my complete lack of knowledge on all things morgue and dead body related. Kind of a problem when my protagonist is either going to be a mortician or work in a morgue.

But, all is not lost. I happened to look up on my bookshelf of reference to see, "Cause of Death" from the Howdunit series of reference books. It's 'a writer's guide to death, murder and forensic medicine.' I adore the Howdunit series of books. I think I have thirteen of them so far.

The book may not give me everything I'm going to need to know about how to process a dead body but it will give me enough research material where I can put a big [SCENE ABOUT PREPARING THE BODY FOR TRANSPORT TO MORTUARY] placeholder in a chapter and then go onto the meat of the matter that I do know how to write about. I can fill in the blanks later.

This new novel idea is for a completely stand alone book--a rarity for me. Usually, I have sequels or trilogies in mind when I write a novel. Not in this case. I think I'm going to enjoy the experience.