Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stella Telleria's New Title and Cover

Every once in a while, a friend updates a book they have out, and I like to try to help spread the word when that happens. Stella is a friend of mine from back in the day when I actually used to still blog a lot, and her book, ACROSS THE WIRE, has a great new cover:


Isn't that an awesome cover?

Here is the summary:

When Mia Mitchell, a hardcore but lonely former Marine, steps into an alley to pull some thugs off an unlucky foreigner, she walks into a fight she expects. What she doesn’t see coming is the foreigner making her a job offer any sane person would refuse. So, she takes it. She thinks she’s headed for some third-world country; instead she’s mysteriously transported to an Earth-like parallel world. That’s a mad left-hook.

Mia discovers a matriarchal dystopia where freedom doesn’t exist and fighting for it means execution. Lethal force bends all to the law; women fear for their families and un-wed men suffer slavery. Mia’s job is to train an underground syndicate of male freedom-fighters for a violent revolution. However, the guys don’t want a pair of X chromosomes showing them the way.

Eben, an escaped slave, is encouraged by Mia to become a leader among the men. But when he turns his quiet determination on her, it spells F.U.B.A.R. for cynical Mia. Their unexpected connection threatens more than her exit strategy; it threatens the power struggle festering with in the syndicate.

Haunted by nightmares and post-traumatic stress, unsure who to trust or how to get home, Mia struggles to stay alive as she realizes all is not what it seems.

And here is some more info about Stella:


All my life I’ve dreamed of stories or have had my nose buried in one. I live in Edmonton, Canada with my husband and my weird sense of humor.

I love old war movies, dystopian fiction, and any story with action, a good plot, and characters I'd get into a fight at the pub for. Not that I'm a brawler or anything. Unless you think that out-of-print book or vintage piece at the thrift shop is going home with you instead of me. Then, my friend, the gloves are off.

And here are some links:

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/374686

Blog: http://www.stellatelleria.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Across-Wire-The-Male-Amendment-ebook/dp/B00GEUMY0E/ref=sr_1_22?ie=UTF8&qid=1383603440&sr=8-22&keywords=across+the+wire

Author page on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7373984.Stella_Telleria

Goodreads page for novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18752667-across-the-wire

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Villainous Archetypes

I completely forgot to mention that yesterday I was at Project Middle Grade Mayhem, blogging about villains, mwah ha ha ha hah!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kurt Dinan's Current Query Critiqued

Today we have Kurt's query again, this time with my notes, in blue.

Here's the letter:

Dear ______,

Sophomore Max Lewis is living in a world of suck: he’s considered a nobody for quitting the lacrosse team, he’s just pissed off a tyrant - err - vice principal, and now he’s been humiliated in the latest epic prank by the mysterious Chaos Club.

And that’s just his first day of school.

So, this whole opening looks pretty good to me, but when Kurt emailed me, he explained that he'd been seeing a lot of rejection with this version of his query, so I thought maybe let's see if we can dig a little deeper.

Some of you will have seen all this before, but for Kurt's benefit, I'd like to link to some posts I've written about queries, and what they need to do. Here is a good place to start, but this is also useful (great - looks like this one was removed - blogger tip - if you ask someone to write a guest post for you, don't delete it later).

Anyway, what I always tell people to focus on when crafting queries is the three Cs: CHARACTER, CONFLICT, and CHOICE. The first two are absolutely required, and the third is what can make a good query into a great one. After that, the next key is specificity. Any vague language is a killer of good queries.

Now, focusing on Kurt's query, or at least this opening hook, we've got a decent sense of character. I mean Max is a sophomore boy, so right there we can infer a lot of things. He's a lacrosse player, but he's also just quit the team, and that tells us some more about him. Furthermore, we know what he's just pissed off the VP, and he also refers to him as a tyrant (or at least the narrator of this query does). That all clues us into a lot of great hints about his character, but ... there might be a reason this is falling flat. 

Don't get me wrong, this is a good opening. It hits all the required notes: character, voice, specificity, hook, but we're not shooting for good. We're shooting for great. So, what could make this better? Well, for starters, we could use a little more CHARACTER. Like, who is Max before his story starts? We've got some of that already, which is good, but even more would be better. What kind of person is he? We know he's athletic enough to make the lacrosse team, but what about some other defining personality trait? If you look at my own queries, you'll see that some detail of the protagonist's personality from before the story begins is always shared. In addition to character, I'd like to see a stronger hook here. How? Specificity. What is this epic prank? I'm sure it's absolutely hilarious and embarrassing in the book, why hold back from that in the query? Be specific, make it zing, and make your opening hook stand out from the other hundred queries the agent's assistant reads that day.

Angry, embarrassed, and tired of being victimized, See? This stuff would all hit the reader so much harder if we knew what the prank was, and why it hurt Max so deeply. Max recruits four other misfits to form The Water Tower 5. Why are they called that? Seems important since it's the title. Their goal? Destroy the Chaos Club. But how do you wipe out an organization with an anonymous membership capable of trapping cows on the school roof See? THIS is what I'm getting at. THIS is an awesome example. More like this please. and assembling stolen desks into a giant phallus on the football field? Brilliant. Easy, by relying on what Max does best – scheming, scamming, and swindling.

Well, maybe not that easy.

I would cut this. I get that you're going for rhythm, but sometimes you just want to let things flow. You just punched us in the gut with some very interesting, specific details, so let us sit with that while we move into the next paragraph.

Furthermore, I like that this is starting to sound a lot like a modern THE CHOCOLATE WAR, which is a great, great book.

The Water Tower 5 lures the Chaos Club into the open by framing them for a series of pranks involving precision vomiting and indecent pictures of the school mascot. This is getting really good. I can't believe you're getting rejected. Unfortunately, they also succeed in attracting the attention of the school’s administration and security team. And it’s not like the Chaos Club is going to let a bunch of underclassmen take them down without a fight. Soon, Max finds himself arrested, suspended, and even worse, dealing with an angry girlfriend. With summer only days away, can Max devise a caper ingenious enough to clear his name and expose the Chaos Club? (Hint: It’s possible, but he’s going to need a hell of a lot of weather balloons to pull it off.)

I don't know man, all in all I think the body of this query maybe starts out a little flat, but it sure ends with a bang. Sometimes subjectivity is just a bitch. This ends on a very high note in my opinion, so I think maybe you just need to fix the beginning. You could always add the sadistic choice that usually ends most great queries, but the last line you already have is pretty damn good as is.

THE WATER TOWER 5 is a contemporary YA novel (94,000 words) Why the parentheses? fusing the offbeat relationships of The Breakfast Club with the capers and cons of Ocean’s 11. These are some pretty good comparisons, but I would try to find a novel to fit in here, if possible. Maybe THE CHOCOLATE WAR (unless your book isn't as dark in tone). I'm a nineteen-year veteran of teaching high school English who has had various short stories published online and in print. My short story "Nub Hut" appeared in 2010's Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. Make this a link if possible.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Okay, in summary: you've got a great query here, so I can understand your frustration. But like I said, there is almost always room for improvement. I recommend you focus on that opening hook. Kill us with a CHARACTER so bold and well imagined that we immediately care about him, sympathize with his plight, and root for his victory. If you can pull that off, everything that comes after will automatically shine brighter.

After that, you've pretty much nailed all the high points. Get specific about that opening prank, and then you can probably drop some of the details of the later ones, in the interesting of trimming so that the agent gets to your pages quicker. 

Other than that, I think you finish really strong. Let me know if you have any questions.

That's it!

What do you all think? Disagree with anything I said? Hello? People still read this blog, right?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kurt Dinan's Current Query

Yes, I still blog. And yes, I'm still open to critiquing queries. I know, it's been a while, and yeah, writing and blogging has been tough for me so far this year, but that doesn't mean I'm done or anything.

Thank you very much.

Anyway, Kurt is a referral. I don't know him, but he was pretty cool in his emails, so I'm hooking him up. You can find him online, on his blog, here.

Here's his query:

Dear ______,

Sophomore Max Lewis is living in a world of suck: he’s considered a nobody for quitting the lacrosse team, he’s just pissed off a tyrant - err - vice principal, and now he’s been humiliated in the latest epic prank by the mysterious Chaos Club.

And that’s just his first day of school.

Angry, embarrassed, and tired of being victimized, Max recruits four other misfits to form The Water Tower 5. Their goal? Destroy the Chaos Club. But how do you wipe out an organization with an anonymous membership capable of trapping cows on the school roof and assembling stolen desks into a giant phallus on the football field? Easy, by relying on what Max does best – scheming, scamming, and swindling.

Well, maybe not that easy.

The Water Tower 5 lures the Chaos Club into the open by framing them for a series of pranks involving precision vomiting and indecent pictures of the school mascot. Unfortunately, they also succeed in attracting the attention of the school’s administration and security team. And it’s not like the Chaos Club is going to let a bunch of underclassmen take them down without a fight. Soon, Max finds himself arrested, suspended, and even worse, dealing with an angry girlfriend. With summer only days away, can Max devise a caper ingenious enough to clear his name and expose the Chaos Club? (Hint: It’s possible, but he’s going to need a hell of a lot of weather balloons to pull it off.)

THE WATER TOWER 5 is a contemporary YA novel (94,000 words) fusing the offbeat relationships of The Breakfast Club with the capers and cons of Ocean’s 11. I'm a nineteen-year veteran of teaching high school English who has had various short stories published online and in print. My short story "Nub Hut" appeared in 2010's Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

That's it.

Please save your feedback for tomorrow, but feel free to thank Kurt for his courage in the comments.