Friday, July 22, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons Falstaff Books Rejects Your Work

Ever since becoming one of the main editors at Falstaff Books, I've come to appreciate the difficulty of sifting through the slush pile in search for that one gem. I've rejected a good bit by now, and the reasons for myself or another of Falstaff's editor rejecting work usually falls the same way surprisingly often.

The reason surprises me because I've been published since 2009 and not a lot has changed in terms of how they want work submitted to them, but then I realize that not everyone is involved or has the knowledge of the industry that they need to get their work out of slush and into the considerate hands of an editor. Hopefully this list helps people in that situation.

ATTENTION: IF YOU CURRENTLY HAVE A SUBMISSION UNDER CONSIDERATION AT FALSTAFF BOOKS DON'T PANIC! If you are guilty of some of these points that is okay--we judge the work first. These are just general observations to consider.

1. Your query letter lacks

Admittedly this is a debatable point, but I still see the value of a query letter in today's publishing landscape for the plain and simple reason that it reveals three very important things:

First, your query reveals that you know what story you are selling. I cannot tell you how many query letters I've come across that are a hot mess of jumbled ideas that don't feed necessarily into each other, or worse, they conflict. There are a lot of different ideas about how you present your work in the query, but here is my general advice: give me the protagonist and the villain, give me the plot, and raise the stakes immediately.

Second, your query tells Falstaff about how we go about selling you. One of the biggest mistakes I see when authors submit to us is that they provide us little in the way publishing history and instead try to wow us with the opinions of others. Speaking for myself, I don't give a royal shit about what a blogger or your family had to say about an unpublished manuscript when it comes to deciding whether or not it is right for Falstaff. They're not the ones who are going to be out there selling it at cons or trying to get it distributed in bookstores. What I do want to see are your credits, self-published or traditionally released. What I do want to see is the highest Amazon ranking and you patting your back about it. What I do want to see is someone that has been trying to build a platform for themselves or a list of credits to be proud of.

Third, a good query letter shows that you did your homework. It is simple: Salutation, statement of purpose, pitch/SHORT synopsis, brief bio, concluding paragraph starting with "Thank you for your time and consideration" (USE THOSE EXACT WORDS), and a Sincerely go a long way in showing us that you knew what you were doing when you submitted.

2. There's no story in the first three chapters

So the story really does need to start immediately from Page One. We will let you build to "the happening" to the end of chapter One, Debut the plot in Chapter Two, but we need to be well into a story by Chapter Three. And if that doesn't happen you will need to rely on writing so captivating that we ignore it. And then we still might reject you.

I've already read GREAT writing that I've rejected. What Falstaff wants is a GREAT story.

3. You did not follow the guidelines

Here they are. Follow them.

4. Your submission is not right for us

This is where people usually get mad, but as I've discovered a lot recently, this is not out of the norm of genre publishing. The Big Four-Five-Six and Amazon are in a really difficult place where they have kinda decimated their own economic models. Small presses are surviving and growing, a few are even thriving, but until distribution is much more open it is a toss-up. Micro-Presses, magazines, and e-zines are great places to go and get experience, start building a list, but they are never going to give you a livable income like they did back in the 1970s and 1980s. With the mid-list gone because of the disappearance of the small to mid-sized bookshop and the continued withering of the big box stores, digital is a bit of a Wild Frontier still.

We consider a ton of things at Falstaff when we get a submission. The work needs to be great, it needs to be in a place where we can provide enough time and effort for developmental and copy edits, but also time to produce a book wrap, e-book file, social media posts, distribution channels, pay those involved (which we do), and then create a timeline toward a manuscript's release. If a submission has a great story but the writing needs a lot of work to get there, we pass. If the writing is great but the story needs work, the severity of the the development might make us turn it down as well.

I also let you in on a little secret: Falstaff says that we take Urban Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy, but we have too much of it coming out right now. I would bend over backward to read about time travel, or a Sword & Planet novel, or a non-European Epic Fantasy. I would love a great mystery involving space aliens or a romance between two lesbian sorceress' that doesn't have a happy ending. But right now we have too much Urban and Contemporary on our plates. And we love them. But we want to love other things, too.

5. You haven't learned the rules of writing

Seriously, join a writing group that offers critique. I don't care if it is online, among your friends, or meets every Saturday. I don't care it if is made up of amateurs or bestsellers or just self-pubbed gurus. Get writing and get better. Self-publish, but get your work out there so it gets tested. Strive for publication with a great small press or The Big Four-Five-Six, and go try your skills out at the magazines, e-zines, and anthologies. Keep striving to spell better, tighten your grammar, try out new storytelling elements to your work, read wider, write more, submit more, and keep building momentum. One day you might crash through my screen and demand a contract.

Go learn the rules, then learn to break them, and then learn to grind. Grind yourself into your voice, your characters, your settings, and your plots.

Become the best writer you can be.

Monday, May 30, 2016

CONCAROLINAS 2016 and Falstaff Books

Hi all,

So I've been away from the blog for a bit. The reasons for that are myriad, but the biggest among them is that I took a position as the founding Editor as a small genre publisher called Falstaff Books, the same publisher that released my recent eBook, Thief of Shadows - Manwe The Panther Volume I.

During that time I've sank knee deep into more reading that I've ever had to contend with and that has caused me to put the blog to the wayside while I work on other authors's work, getting Manwe II out, and also working small freelance gigs here and there while I search out a full-time job. I'm doing fine, all things considered, but it has forced me to look at the blog as something different than it once was. I don't necessarily have the time to go out and interview, though I do have some lined up that I will fulfill before DragonCon 2016. I also have one or two reviews, as well as a lot of stuff lined up for Falstaff. This is all the while working on getting a website up for our publishing company and making good on the contracts we have signed authors to. There are also two podcasts in the works that are going to be very cool.

There's just a lot to do.

That being said, I'm going to try to do more around here more often. Things at Falstaff are going great, when all is considered, and I'm currently editing some of the best work I've ever read. Thief of Iron - Manwe The Panther Volume II is almost ready to go to the proofreader, and then Manwe III will hopefully be out before DragonCon, plus something else that is coming down the road that I can't speak on until it is a done deal. I feel like this is the year my career as an author really kicks off, and there are some really exciting things ahead for Jishnu, as well as the other projects I'm working on. I've rediscovered a love for The Craft that I think had flagged for a bit.

Business aside, ConCarolinas is just around the corner and this year I will be appearing as a guest! Below is my panel schedule! (Panels that I am moderating will be in italics! Exclamation points!) 

FRIDAY

6:00 PM - Afrofuturism - Carolina C

SATURDAY

10:00 AM - Small Press Spotlight: Meet The Publishers - Carolina A/B

3:00 PM - RetroRetrospective Podcast - Blue Ridge Room (upstairs!)

6:00 PM - The Business of Marketing Your Writing - Carolina A/B

7:00 PM - In The Towers' Shadow - Carolina C

10:00 PM - Race as Race in F/SF - Carolina C

SUNDAY

9:00 AM - Epic Questing - Carolina C

2:00 PM - Are We Working Too Hard? - Carolina A/B

See you there!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Green Dreams by Jay Requard

As you all know I sometimes post poems here because I know I'm not a poet, but in the tradition of my literary grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien, though he was a master of the epic poem and his more folkloric ditties about Christmas and all that. I just have these things come to me and this one seemed good enough to share. It is in a free-form style.

Green Dreams by Jay Requard

Morning's first lucid light hearkens,
elderitch memories sparked by the grass,
where emerald scents mingle and fly,
ghosts upon a fresh day's breath.

Oh, how I've faltered,
lost in the ever-shifting, ever-changing,
cycle of Awen, where dreams hold fate
and doubt forges the shadow.

And yet a fresh day's breath,
a moment of illumination,
emeralds burn and become ghosts.
I find the everlasting.

Long lost is the shadow,
sent far to travel and sow
in the lands where green dreams grow
and holies shine in other-light.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

On Yojimbo


What can one say about Akira Kurosawa and it be anything other than "this is the most brilliant film maker ever"? He is credited by directors George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, John Milius. and Francis Coppola as one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, a masterful screenplay writer in his early and middle periods, and a director of such degree that his accomplishments cannot be overstated. Without Kurosawa you would not have Fistful of Dollars or STAR WARS.

Yojimbo is the samurai film that sparked spaghetti westerns and a visual style that is lush among the bleak and barren towns and wilderness where Kurosawa's samurai epics often takes place. One of Kurosawa's greatest influences on me is his view of space in storytelling. Space is something that continues on as the characters converse, love, hate, fight, and die, so it is always important to highlight movement within the setting. To put this into context, you pay more attention to movements when given space as the action taking place within the area reveal a more defined sense of how things happened on a more emotive level. It allows for still moments that breathe as the story progresses so that when there is a flurry of movement we are focused on it. We have to appreciate how stark in measure Kurosawa uses movement to progress his story, and more importantly, when to use it. 

In some ways he always dares us to have assumptions with movement: Instead of clean-cut, polished heroes, his protagonist are often scruffy swordsmen for hire or agonized samurai, middle-level knights who are struggling with the chaotic world around them. His rogue's gallery is varied but always has one real badass armed with an obvious advantage, and it is with creativity that Kurosawa gets us to a climax where we watch the hero finesse his way through, not on simple gravitas and predictability. Movements are made without consideration for the audience, and when those movements end there is a stillness where we are left to interpret what happened. 

Just like movies, it is up to readers to interpret what they are reading, not what they are told to read in it. Great storytelling requires attention to letting the actors turn the setting into the stage to address their issues within the self and society. Yojimbo never offers a black and white ending, but something equally tragic yet hopeful with justice served. This is an aspect I often find so compelling about Eastern storytelling. They have taken a lot from us in recent years, but they also have their own corpus that is equally beloved and novel as ours that we should be lucky to borrow from.

Yojimbo conceptualizes how movement goes hand in hand with great storytelling.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Pepper Spray

For all of the celebration and joy that has taken place during the lead up to the release of Thief of Shadows - Manwe The Panther Vol. 1, it is often easy to forgot that this short story collection was born from something that isn't to be celebrated and something that is the anti-thesis of joy.

My name is Jay Requard, and I believe firmly in living for revolution. My reading of history and my political perspectives fall in line with one of the greatest Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, and in my heart of hearts I truly hold his opinion of revolution to be valid:


"Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our Indians. 2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in a great one. 3. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 1st. condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppression of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.1 Unsuccessful rebellions indeed generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government." - Thomas Jefferson to James MadisonParis, January 30, 1787

We live in a time and place where we live under "a government of force", and the moment I realized this was during the Occupy movement. At the outset of the movement where much of my generation who make up a group called "Millennials" marched on New York City, right down the middle of Wall Street, to protest what they saw as government corruption and the rising of an immoral oligarchy that devastated the overall economy while those same oligarchs made out with HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS (if not trillions.) While I completely agreed with Occupy's view of what had happened, I disagreed with their methods of organization and disliked their inability to actually effect elections on a local and state level. They were co-opted, 

And then this happened:




Society often has to make decisions--sometimes unconscious ones--on how it reacts to popular uprisings that threaten to destabilize the status quo, and at a moment where those protesters were justified, the police that were sworn to protect the constitutional rights of protesters in general became the foot soldiers of a small class of unimaginably powerful people who have the ability to determine the fates of billions around the world. In submitting to them, we have allowed the poor to suffer, minorities to be disenfranchised and slain, and the less-able among us, including the elderly, to endure indignity after indignity.

Those women could have been my fiance, or my sisters, or my mother. They could have been your loved ones. They could have been the protesters in the #BlackLivesMatter movement who were beaten by the cops in Ferguson or murdered in New York, or the protesters in India who are fighting right now against a caste system where young Dalits feel that suicide is a better option than living in subjugation. They could have been the Iranians clamoring for freedom in 2009 when the US failed to support them when the call for democracy and support was given.

Manwe The Panther is more than one who thieves, an act of criminality that is often caused by poverty for those hung at the bottom of the social-economic ladder. He is more than a black man. He is more than a gay man. He is more than a poor man. The Gypians who have invaded his homeland have declared his race, his manner of preserving his life, and his political and personal outlook as taboo to society.

They have told him that to love who he loves is wrong.

He, like so many of us, is among the disenfranchised.

And he's not me. I think this is an incredibly important fact to point out: while I am and have been poor, there is no denying my privilege. 

Yet let us also be clear: I am not apologizing for my privilege--far from it. 

I believe my privilege requires me to be duty-bound in a pursuit for the betterment of others, where in the end my privilege is negated when all will be free in our society as we are in the eyes of God. Whether it is Noam Chomsky who said "the more opportunity you have, the more responsibility you have", or John The Baptist telling his followers in Luke 3:11 that "anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same."

We live in a world that has forsaken John's idea, a world where people are judged harshly for who they are, for whom they love, and for how much they don't have. We suffer a system where the impoverishment of people is tolerated if it creates capital that has no inherent value beyond the belief we pin to it and yet it can bring down empires. We invade other counties for their resources under the pretense that democracy is a simple process that all peoples have an ability to adopt when we all know that it is a difficult system that must be organic for the sake of those who use it, further tarnishing a beautiful gift of humanity that has been abused and distorted for the sake of a ruling class.


It's time to stand against this. I'm choosing to write about it, but I implore everyone reading this blog, everyone who decides to go and pick up this book (or not), to take the time and really look around. This world around us can be better for everyone, not the few who want more power than everyone else.


I believe in revolution, and all revolutions start in the darkest times. We only need to decide what kind of world we want when we turn the lights back on.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

THIEF OF SHADOWS Preorders!

Hey all,

I'm at Connooga right now in Chattanooga, TN as an author guest of the convention, but I wanted to stop real quick and let you all know that my new short story collection from Falstaff Books, THIEF OF SHADOWS: MANWE THE PANTHER VOL. I, is available for preorder!

Go pick it up here!