Book Review: The Hunger by Michael D Young

The HungerThe Hunger by Michael D. Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: I received an ARC from Future House Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thanks FHP.

This is another book which is probably around a 3.5 rating for me. It’s good, but not amazing and it makes me kind of frustrated because it had the building blocks for amazing.

In The Hunger readers are thrust immediately into a complex magical world. The magic is complex (And reminds me more than a bit of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn magic system). The politics are complex. The society is complex. The religion is complex. I don’t mind any of those things, and I don’t mind being dropped into the world and then having things explained. However, and this is a big however, if I’m dropped into the world that way I must have characters who I immediately latch onto, then I’m willing to take the ride with them even if there are problems with pacing or unanswered questions.

In this case while the characters, and there are at least 5 playing at main characters, are unique none of them really stepped up as someone whose story I just HAD to know. At least one was only on the quest until something better came along. One was a non believer who was going along on the word of his friend. One came along because she insisted and there had to be a sort of romantic angle. When I don’t have a character to really connect to then I find myself reading more analytically and under that all the things we didn’t know became annoying.

I did like the glimpses we got into the world and the magic. I liked the uniqueness of Sarhah’s knife work in particular and Evelet continually came up with surprises. Azil and his obsession with clothing and fashion was fun. I just needed MORE of all of it to come through and really carry me away.

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The Easiest Way to Stay IN the Slush Pile

red penIt’s a funny thing to think about wanting to stay in the slush pile, but really your goal is to stay in the slush pile long enough to be published. This means you don’t want to do anything which would get you kicked out of that pile before your desired agent or editor even looks at you!

So, here’s the secret. The easiest way to stay in the slush pile? Do your research and FOLLOW the submission guidelines. Every agent or editor or publishing house or anyone who wants to see your work (from flash fiction to epic series) will have submission guidelines. Most of them will be associated with the business webpage and will be very easy to find. If you can’t find the guidelines you can also look on Query Tracker or Absolute Write or Manuscript Wish List or one of the many publications which go out with agent and editor information in them (This isn’t even CLOSE to a full list, there are lots of ways to find the information). This really and truly isn’t hard and publishing professionals WANT you to be able to find them. They won’t hide their submissions or otherwise try to trick you.

Now, I’ve heard the argument from various writers that they shouldn’t have to follow the guidelines because they don’t agree with them. Another argument is that if you follow the guidelines you won’t stand out from the crowd. The truth is that it doesn’t matter if you agree, it’s not your agency or publishing house, and you will stand out from the crowd, but not in a good way, in an auto reject way. Very very rarely do gimmicks and efforts to get around the rules to be special work, and for the once in a blue moon that an oddity does work there are thousands of similar attempts which didn’t.

Publishing folks have guidelines because they are busy and because they often hand over the first pass slush responsibilities to interns/juniors and to late nights. I know we all want to feel like a priority, but these folks have clients and businesses to run. Clients represent real money, a bird in hand. New authors represent only potential money, and may not even be a bird in a bush but an octopus. They must attend to the real money first, no matter how much they LOVE finding new talent. A lot of slush gets done on the weekends, vacations and late nights and they have to make the process as simple as possible for THEM, or they have to close to subs.

One of the other factors in submission guidelines is that publishing professionals aren’t only looking for an amazing story, but also amazing people to work with. The guidelines are also a test to see if you can follow instructions and are good to work with. If you can’t be bothered to create a double spaced format, or send in exactly what they ask for it’s a sign you may be a nightmare to work with and it’s better to boot you now.

Back in my college days I read slush as the Executive Secretary for The Leading Edge. One of my jobs was to open the mail, respond to non submission letters, log the submissions and break them into groups of thirty. Then myself and the Executive Editors would each take several piles and read every story looking for pieces which shouldn’t be passed on to the rest of the editorial team.

I had a stack of submission guidelines and form rejections at hand and in any stackĀ  I would reject 10-15 submission out of hand because they were: the wrong genre (we only published SF/F), too long or too short for what we could print (when the whole magazine has to be under 100 pages we cannot print your 300 page novel), too badly formatted to be read (I got one written in what looked remarkably like eyebrow pencil. It smudged.), or broke our content rules on language and sexual content (seriously do not send your erotica to a magazine run by a religious school. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, not that shocking, and will not get published). Each of those subs got a form rejection letter and a copy of the guidelines, usually with a note or a highlight of the guideline which had been broken. We encouraged folks to resubmit within the guidelines. It rarely happened.

Is it possible that in those stacks of rejections there was golden material missed? Sure. It’s possible. However, we got hundreds of submissions every week and the material which was passing the guidelines was amazing. We really had no need to go digging after the hard stuff in order to fill our magazine with fantastic material, and we had a lot to do besides slush reading to put out two issues a year.

This same process still happens everywhere that submissions are accepted, though now most houses have moved to electronic subs and rejections. Increase your odds of staying in those submission piles by making life easy for publishing professionals. Make sure you know what their specific submission guidelines are and then follow them to the letter. No pictures, no phone calls, no food, no scents, no weird paper, just no… Play within the rules and you’ll have a better chance of winning the game.

You Can Go Your Own Way

When Fleetwood Mac wrote about going your own way they were referring to love, but I find there are a lot of places where this idea applies to writing. But here’s a link anyway, because…Fleetwood Mac on a Wednesday.

You Can Go Your Own Way

This subject came to mind this morning as I was scrolling through FB and watching the posts of many writers who stay up until all hours to get their word count in. There are funny comments about staggering around on too little sleep and missing their beds in exchange for word count. And for a moment, I felt bad. I felt like I might be doing it wrong, because I don’t stay up late save on deadlines and other occasions where the book really grabs me and demands a late night write.

Then it occurred to me that I have no reason to feel that way because there is no one path to success, or word count. For me a 10 pm bedtime means I’m capable of being a good mommy (Including being up from 4-5 singing the toddler back to sleep because she dreamed there were spiders in her bed.), and a better wife as the hubby and I get up at 6 so he can head to work. It means my body feels better and works better while fighting fibromyalgia.

So I get my count done in other ways. I’ve worked out a system with the husband for 2-3 nights a week when he watches the child and I write from dinner until bedtime. I ponder stories while we go to the park and weed the garden. I write dialog in my head while I do laundry. And yeah, I take the laptop up with me during bath time and write while the toddler pretends she’s a fish. 15 minutes here. 20 minutes there. Technical writing. Editing. Creative writing. It all gets done. It works and I get the sleep and exercise and family time I need to be a whole person.

Remember the idea of the starving, crazy artist isn’t something to aspire to (except where crazy is the fun kind of crazy, go with me here). So find your own way, but in a way where you take care of the writing and you take care of you and those who are most important to you. The writing will be better for it.

So crank up the Mac and boogie on down, Your Own Way.

League of Utah Writers Spring Conference

One of the funnest part of being a writer is being together with other writers. If you live in the SLC area there is a great conference going on this coming Saturday, April 9, 2016. Sponsored by the League of Utah Writers this Spring conference is a great chance to attend some amazing classes and meet amazing people. And it’s affordable too! I’ll be on the Revision panel in the last hour, so come on by and say Hi!

LUW Spring Workshop flyer