Think I'll take a little time off work this week and try to get more writing in. Last week was kind of poor for productivity.
More agent submissions in, more irons in the fire. A tip for aspiring writers: Some agents don't ever write back. They all claim they will on their website, which is nice of them, but I wouldn't take it to heart. Right now about 25%-30% of the agents I submitted to never responded. I'll take that as a "no."
Let's see, in terms of books I've been reading, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is Free: The Future of Radical Price by Chris Anderson is an excellent read. This is the editor for Wired who also wrote the essential book, The Long Tail. In Free, he lays out a very thorough overview of how the digital age economy got to where it is today, and perhaps where we are going with it. The book offers some solutions as to how one can make money by giving away things for free, which is the core conundrum of the web. Some folks have made a killing doing it right, like Google. And some folks, like YouTube and Facebook, are immensely popular but haven't actually made a dime (unless you count being bought).
The best part is that if you go to Audible, you can get the download of his book for free. So he puts his money where his mouth is on this.
(I always appreciate a good non-fiction writer, because so many of them are full of interesting information but can't seem to deliver it in an engaging way. Science writing suffers from this problem worse than any non-fiction field. Good science writers, like Carl Sagan and Robert Bakker, are a treasure.)
Okay, now the bad news.
Since I've got a book to sell in the Young Adult market, I like to check out some of the successful authors in this genre. I already know enough about Twilight not to touch it, so the next big book-turned-movie story was Percy Jackson. I started up The Lightning Thief and chugged along for a while. It wasn't exactly wowing me—definitely a Harry Potter knockoff, featuring a downtrodden hero with a secret birthright, hints at some kind of big destiny, and a summer camp that was clearly a bargain-bin Hogwarts ("Camp Half-Blood?" The Greek gods create a sanctuary for their offspring and the best they can come up with is "Camp Half-Blood?" Ooookay...). I also thought it was a mistake to choose 1st-person narrative for this story.
It was going along tolerably up to a point, and then WHAM. I'm out of the book.
(Let me see if I can explain this without spoilers. I'll call this a Spoiler Warning, though, so reader beware if you're planning to check out the book.)
Fairly early in the story, something terrible happens to Percy. He loses someone important. This should be a moment of defining tragedy for him. For maybe two paragraphs, he's thinking about this tragedy.
And then he gets a magic milkshake, and it's all better!
Seriously. His friend gives him some kind of energy drink that tastes to him like cookies, and he's all fine again. He's ready for his next adventure. No more tragedy for little Percy. He wanders off into Camp Half-Blood, meets a bunch of people, and even his favorite teacher-friend doesn't even bother to console him on his loss. Why should he? Magic milkshake solved the problem, after all.
Pop! I'm out of the book, just like that. I can't even think of Percy as a person anymore—I can't even dislike him. The story has been ripped away, and all I can see is the author, Rick Riordan, banging along on his keyboard and making a colossal mistake. I put it down and went on to the next thing.
I suppose there's a chance that someone out there has read this thing from start to finish, or has seen the movie, so perhaps you can tell me if Riordan provides any excuse later on as to why the Magic Milkshake basically cored Percy of his human soul and turned him into a Stepford Boy-God. Perhaps Riordan redeems this scene later on in some way, and I was simply too put off by the whole thing to wait around for the payoff. Or perhaps not.
Anyway, if this is the sort of thing that qualifies as a big success story in the Young Adult Fantasy market, it shouldn't be that hard to break in.