Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last Meals, Querying, and Ninjas

Here are half the questions today, some of which are making me wonder if you know of my impending doom or something. The rest will be answered tomorrow, and after that there will be a post about one of my areas of extreme expertise. Get excited, guys.

Falen said: What would you like to eat for your LAST MEAL ON EARTH... (i don't know why you'd be eating your last meal... let's assume you're 109 years old and still have all your teeth and a strong GI tract).
As a major fan of food, this is a really mean question. It changes constantly, but right now I’m on a bit of a Japanese kick. So I’d pretty much want a full spread of ramen, gyoza, sushi, yakisoba, teriyaki, perfect sticky rice, miso, etc.

Candyland said: How long before you landed Nathan Bransford when querying?
Roughly two years of querying. I queried my first project in October 2007. Eight projects, four rounds of querying, and more rounds of revisions than I want to count later, I signed with Nathan the Fall of 2009.

And that doesn’t count the time I wrote before querying, which was about two years of writing seriously (as in I’d made the decision to try to get published [I’ve always written as a hobby]).

So all in all, about four years of work before an agent.

Lisa said: 1) Is your book on submission? Which one? Both sound super awesome.
I’m sorry I’m gonna have to be vague about this. Yes, something of mine is on submission. That is all.

2) I'm paranoid. I don't know why. I'm querying right now with an idea I love. Agents seem to like it too until they get to my partial. Obviously my writing needs work. But do you think an agent would pass along the idea to one of their clients who is more up-to-speed and polished with their writing? I don't think you can copyright an idea or a hook. I don't know why I think like this, maybe because I just really love this idea so much. Am I only the one who thinks this way? I'm crazy...
First, you are a little crazy—but we all are. Don’t worry about that.

About passing on your idea, I really don’t think that’ll happen. Agents, as far as I’ve experienced, are really professional. And their clients have ideas enough of their own. There is so small a chance that will happen. And even if it does, the idea will be a totally different beast in the hands of another writer. You could give 100 writers the same premise/idea and they’d all write vastly different stories.

You should worry more about why they are connecting with your idea but not your writing.

I hope that doesn’t sound harsh, but it comes from a place of, well, experience. The project I queried before the ninjas—yeah, exact same feedback. “Great idea, writing isn’t there yet.” I got a lot of partial requests, but never made it to a full.

Ideas are wonderful, powerful things, but they really aren’t much without execution. I’ve botched a lot of ideas. Seriously. Like, 14 of my 14 manuscripts I’ve utterly ruined in first drafting. The others are only perfect because I haven’t written them yet.

I would suggest really looking at your book, seeking feedback, and targeting the real reasons for these rejections. An agent saying the idea is great, but ultimately rejecting, is kind of a nice way of saying the writing isn’t “there.” Work on that, and rest assured that your idea is safe.

Jeff said: You are about to die. What are your epic last words?
Last meals, final words…sheesh, are you guys trying to tell me something? I’m not really sure about what I’d say if I were about to die. I’ve spent my life talking. What more could there be? And it would definitely depend on the circumstances. If I were in a car crash I imagine I wouldn’t be able to say anything, and there’d be no one to hear anyway.

But if I were on my death bed, with my family around, I imagine my last words would be as simple as “I love you.” Maybe not even that. Maybe I wouldn’t say anything, but instead hold out my arms and hug everyone there. And if Nick were alive, I’d want to give him one last kiss. That would definitely be the best last thing to experience.

Carolyn V. said: Why don't ninjas wear unitards? They come in black too. Plus they are very stretchy and comfortable. Just sayin'. =)
No pockets. Ninjas need lots and lots of pockets, Carolyn. LOTS. That, and unitards don’t make for quick wardrobe changes. They say that ninja gi may have been reversible (often white for snow), so that a person could switch camouflage when they needed. Also, they speculate ninja may not have worn black at all, but instead an indigo blue. Black can actually be too dark in some cases.

Stephanie L. McGee said: Let's see...Going along with Jeff's question, you're about to die but you're given the option of selecting your last meal. What is it? And why?
See Falen’s question.

Abby Stevens said: What is a 'typical' day like for you?
“Mom! I need insert-any-number-of-items-here! Now!”

“Mom! Ninja Girl is kicking me!”

“Mom! I went potty!”

“Mom! Can I watch Star Wars?”

“Mom! I love you.”

That comprises about 80% of my day. When I’m not burned out and taking a writing break, about 10% of my time goes to actually writing (usually at night or during nap time). The other 10% is comprised of cooking, exercising, reading, and hanging out with Nick.

L.T. Elliot said: You've mentioned, casually, that you like sushi a lot. Why? And does it taste fishy?
Oh, sushi. I need to tell a story to explain why I’m so excited about sushi these days, because I’ve been “training my palate” for a decade.

When I was 16, I took Japanese in high school. I was kind of obsessed. Okay, totally obsessed with all things Japanese. But I had not yet had sushi. My teacher invited this sweet Japanese lady to show us how sushi is made and then we’d get to taste it.

I popped that little California Roll in my mouth, sure I’d love it like I loved all things Japanese. And then I proceeded to dry heave, run to the bathroom, and make out with the porcelain god.

It was really depressing, not to mention mortifying. How could I not like sushi? I felt like some kind of fraud. Dramatic, but true.

But I didn’t give up. Anytime sushi was offered to me, I would try it. But I stayed away from the raw stuff because “that’s just gross.” I thought the rolls were safer or something.

My dad finally convinced me to try nigiri (rice ball and fish) instead of a maki (roll), and to my surprise it was AMAZING. I discovered it was the seaweed—not the actual fish, etc.—that was causing my gag reflex. I’ve since been working on my reaction to seaweed (with great success).

It’s the seaweed that has a “fishy” flavor (there is even fish flavored seaweed, if you can believe it), not the actual raw fish. Raw fish? You’d be shocked to find that it actually tastes less fishy than cooked fish. Tuna in particular has almost a tender, steak-like texture.

If you’ve tried sushi rolls and not been a fan, I highly recommend trying a type of sushi that doesn’t have seaweed and see how you feel about that. There are rolls made with rice paper or where the seaweed is on the inside so you don’t get that taste first thing. There is also nigiri, and I recommend trying the shrimp nigiri if you are nervous about raw things because the shrimp, of course, is cooked.

Sushi, like certain cheeses and even wine (so I’ve heard), sometimes takes time to develop a taste for. Once you become accustomed to the flavors, they are unbelievably appealing and addicting.

I am just getting to the point where I can handle seaweed without auto-gagging. I’m very excited about this, since it opens up so many more things for me to try.


  1. Love this post!!! I guess people love to ask the "If you were on your death bed" type of questions a lot!!

    Love Carolyn V.'s question! That's my girl!!!

    Oh and the sushi story... excellent! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love the blog header! It's got moxie.

  3. Jen, thanks:) I hope people just like those questions and it's not some omen, heh.

    Marie, moxie! Dude. That means a ton coming form you, since your blog is the definition of moxie.

  4. The only gag-reflex I've had with sushi is when hubby and I adventurously ordered Ikura, having no clue what it was.

    Imagine our surprise when we were handed to huge rolls brimming with giant orange salmon roe.

    We did a 1-2-3 count and ate it.


    I always order salmon (sake) nigiri when I go to a sushi bar. It is divine! I wish I could just eat the salmon raw from the grocery store. So much better that way!

  5. Yay! Great answers! I have been trying to train my palate to like fish for YEARS. It isn't working. :(

  6. Your sushi story was awesome. Have you been to Japan yet?

  7. Summer, oh, ew! Roe is something I definitely do not have a desire to try.

    Larissa, I'm so sorry! Some people just don't like fish, but that's okay. For me it's mushrooms—not only does the texture kill me, but they do bad things to me, heh.

    Christine, sadly, no. I've never had the money, but would go in a second. My husband lived there for a while, and someday we will go.

  8. Gosh, I leave you alone for a few days and look what to do with the place. I love it!

  9. My boyfriend gets grossed out by the seaweed flavor, as well. Our solution was to find a sushi place that uses mild, non-fishy seaweed. Now he loves sushi!

    I love unagi. People always seem to wig over the fact that it's eel, but almost everyone I've convinced to try it loves it.

  10. Fun questions and answers :)

    Love the new look of the blog too!

  11. OK. Gotta leave the sushi to you, but at least you'll have MY share and yours.

    Hey, my daughter thinks a comment like that makes PERFECT sense. :-)

    Interesting answers, and good luck with the vagueish thing you can't really talk about!

  12. I'm assuming you would be on Team Ninja in the pirates vs. ninjas debate...lol

  13. Fun post! I'm not a huge sushi fan, but I'm trying to incorporate fish into my diet. I had a major victory over the weekend when I ordered salmon over pasta. Pretty sure I shocked my husband. :)

  14. I've never even tried most of the foods in your last meal pick. Makes me wonder what I'm missing.

    Great blog! You books sound awesome too!

  15. lol, but I love epic last words!

    Wouldn't it be awesome to have to scream, "Leave me, dammit! Save yourselves!"(Provided of course, that you didn't actually, you know, die.)

  16. Your new custom blog page is very cool. Four years? That's a lot of drive.

  17. Great answers.

    I'm still not a fan of sushi, and I'm pretty sure that I've tried just about every kind there is.

    On occasion, I have to eat it with my workmates. But you'd be surprised how easy it is to not actually cross paths with sushi in Japan. It's kinda special occasion-y.

    -Claire Dawn

    PS I'm thinking about doing some vlogging about the Japanese writing systems. I'll give you a heads-up.

  18. I love the new layout, Natalie :)

    Not surprised you're a little freaked by all the death questions. . . next time you do a blog Q&A, I'll come up with something really vital and life-affirming to ask you. Promise!

  19. Seaweed doesn't make me gag; it's the slime of the raw fish that does. I did give it an honest effort and I found the only way I could stomach it using a little wasabi to mask the gross texture :P Don't know if I was supposed to do that but it worked.