Don’t take this request!

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a literary agent who expressed interest in my work. Specifically, they said they were interested in my ‘trunked’ novel, “A Dream Before Dying”. I thought the request odd, but when I mentioned it to a fellow writer, they suggested I follow up on the interest.

So, as the agent requested, I sent off the first three chapters, expecting to hear nothing. A few days later, I received a follow-on message from the agent. They were interested in my novel, and wanted to read the rest of it. At this point, I thought ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ and sent the bulk of the novel out.

Based on the severe critiques of the story I’d received, I expected, at best, to hear that I had an interesting concept that needed significant work. In less than a week, I received a request from the agent for a conversation via Facebook Messenger regarding my novel. Now, I knew something wasn’t quite ‘kosher’. Why? Because even with the first three chapters not attached, “A Dream Before Dying” is not a light read. My word processor said it totaled 420 pages, and possessed a word count of over 146,000 when I formatted the second section for sending. But expecting a ‘Thanks, but it needs lots more work!’ response, I agreed to take the call.

The appointed time rolled around, my laptop chimed, and I took the call. The voice was friendly, welcoming….and it proceeded to tell me what a great novel “A Dream Before Dying” was. The agent wanted to represent me, his agency was eager to take my novel on, and he predicted that it would draw a great deal of favorable attention from the big publishing houses. There was even mention of a ‘book auction’ to draw several presses into competition for my novel. There would, of course, be an audio book release, e-books too, even possibly a request for movie rights.

Before anyone asks, yeah, I figured out it was a scam about the time the ‘agent’ said he saw no reason to make anything beyond ‘minor spelling changes’. By the time he started blabbing about movie rights, it took a major effort not to start laughing. But to be fair, I did some further research. I had tried, before the call, to find the ‘literary agent’ online, but beyond a web page for the ‘agency’, there were no references. So I dug deeper….and still found nothing.

It wasn’t until I did a search for a review of the literary agency that I found any reference to it…and that reference was far from glowing. ( The agency had registered its domain name (the Web maintains a list of all the site names connected to it, and to keep a domain, you have to register it) less than a month before, and the reviewer found out the primary (and seemingly only) agent, the person I had been contacted by, had been the prime mover in a vanity press that had bilked numerous authors out of literally millions of dollars.

So if you’re contacted by a guy named Don Phelan, or if a message pops up on your Facebook feed from a literary agency called AMS Literary Agency, just hit “Ignore”.

Feeling under the weather? Join the club!

I hate colds.

If you get the flu, or pneumonia, or even Ebola, it hits you hard enough that you feel justified in not doing anything.

But a cold?

A cold makes you feel miserable….but it doesn’t really hit you hard enough to make you feel comfortable putting everything off. Complain to your boss that you’ve got a cold, and what do they do? Your nose is acting more like a leaky faucet than a part of your body? Blow it and move on! Sinuses so stuffed your head feels like it’s about to explode? Take something and get on with life! Your cold’s settled in your chest, and you feel like you’ve got Dumbo sitting atop you? Pffffffffttt! Deal with it!

If you’re a writer, you’re your own boss, so you don’t have someone physically telling you to get busy. No, you’ve just got that nagging voice in your head telling you pretty much the same thing a real boss would say to you, and in a way, that’s even harder to ignore than a boss. Right now, I’ve got the ‘big three’ of colds going on: runny nose, stuffed head, and a stuffed chest. A full night’s sleep is a fond memory, so I find myself struggling to keep my mind focused enough to get daily chores done. Worst of all are the pains and discomfort a cold brings with it. Right now, my neck that feels like my car was rear-ended by an Abrams, and every time I get into a coughing fit, my head feels like there’s this little man inside it swinging a mean 16 lb. Maul.

And for all of that, I still feel like I should be writing. So I’ll let the impulse out on this little piece. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel human enough to dig back into “The Haunted Blade”…or maybe not. Right now, I think I’d be happy just to get a good night’s sleep.

I hope none of you who are reading this are suffering something similar, and if you are, you have my sympathy.

More offerings from “The Occasional Okatu”

I’ve recently found a few more anime I thought I’d recommend. Each one offers something interesting, and I think all of them worth checking out.

The first offering is a movie that caused something of a stir when it wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Film, “Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms” (Japanese: “Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazarō”). At an one hour, fifty-five minutes, this isn’t some movie you can just sit down and turn your brain off to watch. Maquia, the title character, is a young girl of a nearly immortal race, the Iorph. Her people weave the tale of their years into fabric, the patterns of which they can read as we would a book. As the movie opens, she is alone, with no family, but her loneliness is to become more profound. A group of mortal humans invade, seeking to gain the immortality the Iorph possess by stealing women to breed with. These humans attack with the aid of dragons they hold in captivity, and when one of them goes mad during the invasion, Maquia become entangled in the cloth her people wove and is carried away by it.

When she recovers her senses, she is in the woods, alone, and seeing the flames of her homeland in the distance, is prepared to leap from a cliff to her death. At that moment, she hears a child crying. Maquia follows the sound to a village who’s inhabitants have been slaughtered. In one structure she finds a dead mother still clutching her living child. Maquia saves the mortal child, vowing to protect it and do her best to be a mother to it. She finds humans who takes her in, and despite her young age, helps her as she undertakes the raising of the boy she names Ariel.

I won’t go into the details so as not to spoil the movie. I will say that I enjoyed it because it examines a lot of themes I find interesting. Immortality, and the strains such a life would impose on someone who possessed it. Tolerance, or more precisely, humanity’s unwillingness to tolerate those who aren’t ‘normal’. And most of all, the danger of those who grasp for power without understanding the consequences of their actions. Sadly, it’s out of the theaters now, and not all that easy to find available online. But it is available on DVD/Blu-ray, so if you can’t find it online, I would highly recommend buying it.


The next two anime I’d like to bring to your attention are currently being streamed via Crunchyroll, so if you choose to watch either, they’re not hard to find. The first is “Magic Girl Spec-Ops Asuka” (Japanese: “Mahō Shōjo Tokushusen Asuka”). The ‘magic girl’ concept is something of a sub-genre in anime. It usually involves a young girl, usually not out of her early teens, who is suddenly endowed with magical powers that she uses to fight monsters and other evil. Normally, there is little of the actual horrors of war and fighting, and “Magic Girl Spec-Ops Asuka” steps into that void to ask the question what happens to the little girl who has to face all that? Asuka, the title character, was among a group of eleven young girls from around the world who were given magical powers to fight the Disa, a group of extra-dimensional invaders. While they look like over-sized stuffed toys, the Disa are ruthless killers, and of the original group of 11, only five survive to see the invaders driven off. Asuka leads the group of survivors in the final battle, and with the war over, she tries to go back to a normal life. Unfortunately for her, just as for many warriors coming back from our own wars, the things they saw, the things they were forced to do in combat, are never far from the present day. Dealing with PTSD is the battle she fights at the beginning of the series, but it soon become clear that just like the nuclear ‘secret’, the ability to turn magic to evil purposes has escaped into the world. Asuka is forced to return to her role as a warrior to face the growing threat. This is no laugh-a-minute comedy. Asuka’s made friends, and they are soon dragged into the conflict. One nearly dies in a confrontation with escaped criminals armed with magical abilities. Another is captured and tortured because her father had helped catch those same criminals. It’s dark stuff, but the series deals with it not for the shock value, but because modern warfare is filled with horrors as bad or worse. Well worth checking out.


On a far less serious front, I’d like to offer “Kaguya-sama: Love Is War” (Japanese: “Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai – Tensai-tachi no Ren’ai Zunōsen”). Another sub-genre in anime is school romance. Often, these are comedies about the confused emotions of high school students, and this one takes that notion up several notches. Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane the top students at their high school, and respectively the vice-president and president of the student council. Each one is in love with the other, yet both of them are too proud to speak up for fear that such a confession would be a sign of weakness to the other. What results is a series of attempts by the two protagonists to get the other person to actually confess their feelings. Some of the humor is decidedly low-brow (like when Chika Fujiwara, the student council secretary and generally clueless noob who acts as a comedic foil to the main characters, discovers that Kaguya laughs uncontrollably when the word ‘wiener’ is said), but then again, the entire premise is to strive for a good innocent laugh at the expense of the haughty main characters. Watch it if you’re in need of a good chuckle.