Monday, January 30, 2012

R.I.P. (wRite In Peace)


            You may be wondering what in the world that picture is of. Short answer is a tote full of notebooks. Long answer is this is a tomb for lost stories. Does anyone else have their own version of this? A place where your ideas, thoughts, and characters go to rest in peace? Please tell me I’m not the only one! *Sigh* I take it from the deafening silence I may well be…or maybe the silence is because this is a computer screen and not an audience. Hmmmm, anyway.

            See? That’s the problem right there. You get going on one thought, then bam! Another thought makes its way in your head. Then that thought takes over the next one until the next thought comes along to replace that thought, so on and so on. Ugh! There I go again. Another idea totally derailed and off in the ditch. Okay, now to get on track. Let me say a few words for the dearly departed. Ahem. Heads bowed in silence please.

To the stories left behind, the ones started and put away before their lives were done, to you I say I'm sorry. It wasn't you're fault. I blame my scatterbrain on that. It comes and goes, sticks and unsticks from many things before finally starting to settle on one thing. Perhaps I will come back you. Okay I will come back to you...someday.

To the ideas thought up in the midnight hour. Wow, I look back at you and *phew* many of you are so out of the box they seem like a Seuss/ H.G. Wells child threw up an imagination rainbow. And then some are so far out of the box that I can't imagined where I would go with you. Does that mean I don't want to try? Of course not, but will it be worth my time? Of course not. I'm barely making it through the stories I do have a grasp on. You're wackiness is much appreciated and keeps me pressing on to create new things.

To those first drafts. We had a great run, didn't we? Some of you were actually finished. It was nerves, my silly and terrible nerves, that kept you from becoming more. All I had to do was push through on some edits and boom you would have been something. But I'm still dealing with those demons, but believe me when I say I will come back to you.

To the dumb ideas, you know who you are. Maybe it's better you stay in there. Nobody needs to know that idea was dumb. Moving on!!

To the random murmurs, I love and miss you the most. Looking back on you I can picture where I was when I wrote you, what mood, what time of day, heck some of you I can tell what I was eating as the remnants of those meals are on you. LOL

The point I'm trying to make is you make me who I am. Each failure, almost success, each try, and stop defines me. I am scatterbrained. I am a little unfocused. I am an imaginative. I am a writer. And for that I am eternally grateful for you. I will come back to you one day.


            Okay, you can raise your heads now. Oh and say a little pray for your own lost tales. Tell them you’ll be back for them. J

Monday, January 23, 2012

Joys of Querying

I finished querying my second novel last month. Conventional wisdom is not to talk about your querying. You don’t want to sound like you’re complaining or give the impression your work stinks. I know my work is good, and I found the querying process educational. You may have a great story that is just not marketable at the moment. Maybe my results will help someone else and be a reminder of how difficult and fickle an agent search can be. Writing what you love may not be what anyone else loves.

My genre is adult fantasy so I picked agents accordingly. I used both Query Tracker and Agent Query to locate lists of agents that accept my genre. When going down the list, I visited each agent’s website or blog to determine exactly they wanted included with the query letter. I submitted to all agents that take electronic submissions and sent out no snail mail letters. I went through the list in order, sending letters in batches of eight to ten at a time, then waiting for a week or two before sending out more.

(I should probably note that I sent to all agents that accept fantasy. But as fantasy fits into several categories and agents may only be looking for certain categories, it might make my rejection numbers higher. For example: I write epic and the agent might only want urban fantasy or paranormal. I got a lot of rejections saying it wasn’t a right fit which seems to confirm this.)

I finished writing the manuscript in May and used the next four months to edit and revise. Before starting the query process, I posted my query letter on blogs that provide feedback. I sent it to my beta readers for their thoughts. I used the query forum on AQ connect for even more feedback. In total there were twenty-three versions of my letter before I felt it was strong enough to start sending out. I also got comments on the first several chapters of my manuscript from at least twenty beta readers before attempting to query. Thus well prepared, I sent the first letter in August and finished all the agents in December. (Who knows? I may still get more responses.)

I keep detailed track of when I sent the query, what information (chapters and/or synopsis) went with the letter, and the type of response.

Agents queried: 98

Form rejections: 41

No reply: 48

Closed to queries: 1

Personalize rejections (had a personal note that they liked something, but the project wasn’t right for them): 5

Requests: 3

It took anywhere from one minute to never to get a response to a query. The average was about a month. As I started out slow with my queries (only five at a time), I didn’t see clear results until September. The query seemed to be doing pretty well. At first, I got a ten percent request rate. Not bad for fantasy during a recession. It encouraged me to send more.

Then we entered later October and requests and responses dried up. I’m not sure whether it was the holidays or just all the uncertainty in publishing right now, but I got almost nothing back in November or December. You’ll notice the number of no response at all is larger than the number of form rejections. Almost all of those were sent in the later batches of queries. Those are the frustrating ones because you can’t be sure they were received or maybe got lost. Does no reply mean no, or I never saw it.

On the plus side: I got two full requests and one partial. The partial request came back after two weeks with where she thought the story fell short. I sent her a follow up and she allowed me to revise and resubmit. Her final rejection was very nice and personalized.

The first full came back promptly after a month, and the agent liked the story but it wasn’t for her. That agency deals mostly with YA so perhaps it wasn’t what she expected from the query letter. She was one of the agents that only take the query letter and no sample chapters.

The last full was out for four months. The agent sent me a form rejection to the full.

So that’s how it went. It was a regular roller coaster of highs and lows. I was as prepared as possible and tried to do everything right. With the odds and numbers against you, luck and timing seems to be a big part of getting an agent. I didn’t find that perfect connection. I’m still sending the manuscript to publishers that accept submissions. (Most of them dig straight into the pages without a query letter needed.)

In the meantime, I’m working on new material and keeping busy revising another novel. They say it takes several manuscripts and a number of years to break into publishing. There’s one sure way to fail and that’s to give up.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lit To Film: The Wizard of OZ


            It’s that time again for Lit To Film!! To be honest this particular one I debated even trying to do as the movie is a classic in my mind. How dare I think of even allowing a BOOK to taint my feelings for the film? And that movie is *drumroll please, although you can tell from the title and the picture, ugh, just play along* THE WIZARD OF OZ!!  Yes the film that brought you dazzling Technicolor is about to get the Lit to Film treatment J

****SPOILER ALERT!!! ****

                Okay now that that’s out of the way let’s get down to business. When I was growing up I didn’t have a great library thus many children’s classics were unavailable to me. Classic TV and movies however, well, that is a different story. I LOVE the 1939 movie with a passion. Who doesn’t?  Yeah, the Amish, you got me there. But when you hear “Over The Rainbow” tell me you don’t stop what you’re doing and belt out the song line by line in off key glory. So over time I honestly forgot to look up the book…until recently.

                Yes, I finally read Frank L. Baum’s classic novel, thanks to Kindle and their free books. Although I did enjoy the book, I don’t think it’s a classic, and the differences between the movie and book are so astounding they can barely be compared.

                The movie was as bright and cheery as the vibrant as the yellow brick road. Everything led to a chipper song and meeting with adorable people. The book however is…darker. The scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion all tell their own origin stories. My favorite would have to be the tin man who self-mutilated himself because of a spell placed on him by a witch who wished to have the woman he loved all to herself. Well, maybe not that homoerotic but you get the point, nothing like that would have appeared in the movie. If you were frightened of the flying monkeys then my lord the kalidahs, tiger faced and bear- bodied creatures with a taste for our adventurers. There were more attacks and peril abounded in the short read. Certainly if the Dorothy of the book had the opportunity to take a route that included more singing and dancing I’m sure she would have chosen that one.

                So while the imagination is high in the book. The movie is rich with life and fun. Still to judge between the two…I don’t know.  They have the same characters but the way of telling the story is too different. If I had to choose between them I’d have to choose the movie J Sorry Mr. Baum, the film did it better I think.

                If you want something to compare the book to, may I suggest the Marvel Comics adaptation by Eric Shownar with art by Skottie Young. Wow. The book loses again. The art captures innocence from that time period while the story is spot on with the story. I also suggest you continue on with their captivating series. Weeeeeeeellllllllllll worth it. LOL I hope you enjoyed! Sorry for any Baum lovers out there but come on…you know those are better.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: Kiera's Quest

There's something different about Kiera. Something even she can't put her finger on, but she's about to take off on the adventure of her life time, though Kiera doesn't know that quite yet.
All her young life she's been plagued by dreams of a faraway land. A place as strange as it is familiar to her, where danger awaits around almost every corner. And something else...the comforting presence of someone she was destined for. Kiera must race against time to save Zak, the Prince of Zantar, from the evil Witch Queen, and fight to save the two worlds whose survival rests on her shoulder.
Kristy Brown's debut novel is a fantastic story of adventure and betrayal, cleverly blended with characters that will steal you from the very first page.
When it comes to Kiera and her friends, the author does a brilliant job in letting their story unfold the way it was meant to. Her use of imagery and dialogue make this novel a promising start to what is sure to be an amazing writing career.
i highly recomend this book to both adults and teenagers alike.
But Kiera's Quest on Amazon!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bits O' Wisdom: Bye Bye Query

While our previous posts on query letters have covered most of the dos and don'ts, I thought I'd give a quick refresher on the top 7 sins that will get your query tossed out so fast it will make your head spin.

1. Voice
Just because you're writing a children's book, doesn't mean you should sound like one in your query. Or like a teen if you are a YA author. Inauthentic voice will make any agent cringe.

2. Open with a Question
What would you do if....?? The dots aren't for you to finish the question. They're there because the agent/editor is no longer reading.

3. TMI
If there are too many plotlines, characters, etc...the agent might feel like your story is too all over the place. You'll get the boot.

4. Cliches
Avoid them. Especially cliched plotlines. Cynical girl meets the 'right' boy and changes her mind. Or stuff like: "On that day, his/her life will be forever changed." *gags*

5. Word Vomit (not the good kind)
Going on and on won't help you. Don't mistake your query for a long winded synopsis. It's not. Stick to the basics. Hook, MC, What's at stake.

6. Bragging
Don't describe your writing. Let your voice shine through and your writing speak for itself.

7. Vampires
Unless you TRULY have a UNIQUE take on them, most agents/editors nowadays won't even read once they see that word.

Have you committed one of these sins? I've been guilty myself, I'll admit it. What others would you add to this list?

Monday, January 16, 2012

How To Create a Powerful Character Sacrifice

Sacrifice. For such a simple word, it carries a lot of power. And that’s what your own character’s sacrifice should do—be powerful, even if it’s simple; be memorable and resonate with readers long after they’ve closed the book.
But how do you do that?
A question you could ask yourself, while developing your novel, is: What is the character’s goal? Basically, what does she pride herself most in? What does he want most in the world?
A characters goal could be as simple as wanting a specific Christmas gift—like the protagonist of the classic movie A Christmas Story (1983) who, despite his family and his teacher’s claims that he’d shoot his eye out, wants a Red Ryder BB gun. Or the character’s goal could be as difficult and complex as destroying an object to save the entire world from destruction—such as Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring in J R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Once you’ve found your character’s goal, define what stands in their way. What obstacles deter her from her path? What delays him from reaching his goal? This is where the antagonist comes in. Now, the antagonist in this case could also be an object or event—not just the main villain in your novel. In a scene, the antagonist could be your car not starting on an important day, a bad snowstorm, or when a monster appears.
Now, it’s important to have the main villain cause most of the trouble but, sometimes, the hero and villain have to be apart for some time—whether it’s because they are in different areas of the world, have different hobbies, or it wouldn’t work in the novel for the hero and villain to be in the scene together. Whatever the reason, the hero and the villain must deter each other and make things worse for each other—thus making things worse for them both. Which can play a big part in raising the stakes.
You’re probably asking yourself what do stakes have to do with character sacrifice? A lot. Good questions to ask while figuring out your stakes are: How can this get worse? Or, what if?
To raise the stakes for your character, the character must make choices and those choices must have consequences. What if her marriage ended and he got custody of the kids? What if the bomb went off and killed innocent people? To continue raising the stakes, making your character’s story stronger, beliefs must be put into question—and the character has to act against those beliefs. What if your character believes war is wrong and yet must incite rebellion to stop the enemy? What if your character must lie to save someone yet thinks lying is wrong?   
To continue raising the stakes in your novel, the character’s internal conflict must be at odds with the external conflict. The internal conflict refers to to personal, mental, or psychological conflict, whereas external conflict deals with the surrounding world—such as a storm or a war. Success in one conflict may mean failure in the other.
Raising the stakes—making things worse and more difficult for your characters—makes the hero stand out. What your hero must do, what he has to risk, to reach his goal, makes your normal main character worthy of the title “hero.” So, another question you could ask for your character’s development, is: What must my character do—what must he risk—to reach his goal, to get what he wants?       
There’s a reason the most powerful kind of sacrifice is self-sacrifice. Everyone, at some point, is afraid of death or not reaching their goals and, when someone gives up everything—even their goals, it speaks volumes. To create a powerful sacrifice for your main hero, create anything significant for the character, a source of support or happiness—family, friends, a cause, or an attribute. Then let them make a choice: What is most important? What is worth dying for? Put them in a situation where they must give up everything, or at least give up their goal, for their cause or to save those most important. Even if they don’t die, the hero will be changed forever from this act, their sacrifices will be powerful, and thus the book will be—to your readers—memorable.
Thanks for reading!
- HC

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Ahh resolutions. So hastily quickly forgotten. Do you remember what your goals were last year?
To finish your book. Did you?
To send out your query. Was it done?
To create your own website. Read more. Write more. Etc, etc, etc.
Betcha you failed to do at least one of those, if not all.
I don't want to hear your excuses. I'm sure you have some good ones. Not enough time. Too much work. Kids got in the way. Nerves got the best of you. Your laptop broke.
There was a Gone with the Wind marathon on TV!!!
Ahem. What?
Now here we are again, at the start of a new year. Three hundred plus days ahead of you. Endless possibilities. You haven't screwed it up yet. You swear you won't. Where's that list of yours? You know you have one. What are your resolutions for 2012? Are you ready to tackle them?
I'm sorry, I don't think I heard you right. Did you say yes?
Then I have a challenge for you all. And this includes my four fellow FTLOW bloggers.

I challenge you to make 2012 YOUR year.
In fact...I DARE you.
Think of three things you want to accomplish this year and then post them in a comment below. This will create accountability. Be specific! None of that "I wanna write more" crap. That's not going to fly with me.

Then get to it.

I know you can do this.
Now, who's with me?


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