Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sub-Genres and Categories of Fantasy at Project Mayhem

It's probably a good thing that I'm obligated to post over at Project Middle Grade Mayhem once a month, since that's the only blogging I do anymore. Please drop by today to read my post about the sub-genre categories of the Fantasy genre.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A to Z April Challenge 2015

The 2015 A to Z Challenge List is Open!


Please read and follow the sign-up instructions outlined below so you sign onto the list correctly!

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. 

The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE

We recommend short posts, turn off Word Verification, and visit five blogs (or more) a day beginning with the one after yours on the list. 

Blogs must be on an open platform – no Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. – and comments enabled. 

To streamline legitimate blogs from advertisement blogs, the Co-Hosts will be visiting each blog on this list throughout the Challenge. Blogs on the list showing no activity once the Challenge starts or miss five days in a row will be removed. 

Please note your blog name and number in all correspondences. Remember that as blogs are removed, your number will change. 

There are categories for those looking for like-minded blogs. Select ONE category code and enter it after your blog’s title/name. The code applies to your blog, not your theme for the Challenge and is purely optional. See the first few blogs on the list for examples. However, if your blog has adult content, you MUST mark it (AC) or it will be removed from the list. Codes are as follows: 

ANIMALS: (AN) 
ART: (AR) 
BOOKS/REVIEWS: (BO) 
CRAFTS: (CR) 
CULINARY: (CU) 
EDUCATION: (ED) 
FASHION: (FA) 
FILM/MOVIES: (FM) 
GAMING: (GA) 
GARDENING: (GR) 
HISTORY: (HI) 
HUMOR: (HU) 
LIFESTYLE: (LI ) 
MEMOIR: (ME) 
MUSIC: (MU) 
MYTHOLOGY: (MY) 
PERSONAL: (PR) 
PHOTOGRAPHY: (PH) 
POLITICS: (PO) 
SCIENCE: (SC) 
SOCIAL MEDIA: (SO) 
SPORTS: (SP) 
TRAVEL: (TR) 
WRITING/STORYTELLING: (WR) 
ADULT CONTENT: (AC) 

Be sure to grab the badge and display it in your sidebar so we know you are participating and link to the A to Z Challenge Blog.

For more information we recommend you follow the A to Z Challenge Blog and the hosts: 

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy @ Hollywood Nuts
Nicole Ayers @ The Madlab Post
Author Stephen Tremp
Heather M. Gardner
AJ @ Naturally Sweet
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian
Matthew MacNish @ The QQQE
Zalka Csenge VirĂ¡g @ The Multicolored Diary
S. L. Hennessy @ Pensuasion
C. Lee McKenzie @ The Write Game
Joy Campbell @ The Character Depot
Susan Gourley @ Susan Says
John Holton @The Sound of One Hand Typing
Lisa Buie-Collard, Author

We also have a Facebook Page
Email address is contactatozteam@gmail.com
Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z

Sign up below and join us for a month of alphabet fun! 



Friday, January 23, 2015

Tanya Miranda's Current Query Critiqued

Okay. Today we have Tanya's revised query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.

The query:

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation No. I have covered this before, but really it's not needed, and kind of looks like a rookie mistake. for Box of Souls BOX OF SOULS, an urban fantasy novel that is complete at 55,000 words. Hmm. I can't remember the word count from last time, but regardless, if it hasn't gone up, or even if it has, it needs to go up, a lot more. 55,000 words is a short YA novel, and it's a really short adult UF novel.

As ancient rules dictate, Not a great opening, as it's vague, but I'll take it for now. a sage sorceress Huh? I think I might know what you're getting at here, but "sage" as synonymous with "wise" is way too loose a connection for a query. Not everyone reads a shit ton of fringe spec-fic, and even if you're querying agents who mostly do, be careful. If you mean something else, well ... then I'm at a loss. must choose a female kin down her bloodline to inherit her powers before she dies. Well that's cool. More like this. When eighteen-year-old Jasmyn's grandmother passes away, SPOILER ALERT: PRO-TIP. Sorry for the ALL-CAPS, but this is where you should start your query. This is CHARACTER. CHARACTER is KEY. (Note: actually, all in all, this is SITUATION, but it's a better sense of character than your current world-building-based opening implies). This is also probably YA, but that's neither her nor there at this point. This is a much more money opening than what you have. it is eight-year-old Katarina who begins to display the gift of sorcery. This newest rejection proves Jasmyn's life-long claim that her family loves Katarina more than they love her, and instead of mourning with her family, she bears her grandmother’s death alone.

Okay. Several decent elements here. But it's all a bit muddled. Who's our protag? Focus on her. What's our inciting incident? Granny's passing? Revelation of the gift? The rejection?

One thing you really need to keep in mind when writing a query is: what's backstory and what's story? Backstory is important, of course, but it has much more place in the manuscript (where it still should barely linger) than it does in a query, which is to say: very little.


I can't tell, from this query so far, which is which.

After the funeral, menacing dragons appear along the west coast of California, Whatever you do, stop right now and read The Story of Owen. the same dragons Jasmyn's grandmother banished centuries ago. Patricia and Regina, two sage sorceresses I really need to know why these two very specific words are combined twice in one query. I consider myself well versed in fantasy, and I have no idea if you mean something more esoteric than "wise female magic user." from their grandmother’s coven, discover that Katarina accidentally read a spell from the Book of Whispers releasing the Gregorn Dragons from their prison. Since Katarina is the chosen one, Whoa. Okay, I suppose this was implied, but still, this is the little one? Can their names be more distinct? she is the only one who can stop them.

When Katarina’s magic fails, Why? How? the sage witches Now there are witches? Are they different from the sorceresses, but equally sage somehow? realize that Jasmyn had indeed shown signs of sorcery, but they were too focused on Katarina to notice. Somehow, their grandmother’s gift is split between both Katarina and Jasmyn, and now the two sisters must work together to destroy the dragons. And ... sadly, now you're in synopsis territory. This is just TMI for a query letter. 

Google "Matthew MacNish Queries" and you'll find a bunch of posts in which I break down the key elements. You're over-length here, probably, already, but even if you weren't, this is already too elaborate.

There's just one problem - Jasmyn ran away when a feud earlier Huh? "When a feud earlier?" No. Watch your syntax. That makes no sense. had the entire family pinned against her, shunning her from her home. Now, Patricia and Regina Who are these characters again? You have too many names in this query. are in a race to get to Jasmyn before the dragons get to her first. The Gregorn The which Dragons? Specificity is always great, IF it makes sense to the readers. Randomly naming dragon phylums or whatever this is ... is, unfortunatley, still just vague. Dragons have magic of their own and can sense the division of power between the two sisters. Good, but too late. They know the two fledgling witches are the only ones who can stop them, and they want them eliminated. Stakes? Maybe, but after this much query, we don't care about the Dragons, we CARE about the girls.

Can Jasmyn and Katarina reunite in time to stop the Gregorn Dragons from destroying mankind? Can Jasmyn put her pain and resentment aside to wield their grandmother's magic? The bond of sisterhood is strong, but so are powers of darkness.

Hmm. This isn't terrible as a wrap-up/sadistic choice line, but so much of this information is so disjointed from the main body of the query, let's summarize ...

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Tanya

In summary: this IS an improvement, Tanya, don't get me wrong. It really does cover all the basics. It's just that WHEN it covers them, and HOW, are still a bit of a mess.

First of all, your story section, the most important part of the query, is 303 words long. That isn't astronomically high, but it is a bit long, and worse, in the amount of words you've used, you didn't tell us very much. Or rather, you told us a bunch, but didn't make much cohesive sense from one element to the next.

Try to be more specific. Specific as to CHARACTER, as to CONFLICT, as to SCENE, SCENARIO, SETUP, PLOT, and STAKES. I know that's a lot to cover in 250 words, but people pull it off all the time. Read their examples. See if it helps you find your own.

That's it.

What do you all think? Would you disagree on anything?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tanya Miranda's Current Query Revised

Today we have Tanya Miranda's current query. The previous version was shared here, and critiqued here.

Here's the letter:

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for Box of Souls, an urban fantasy novel that is complete at 55,000 words.

As ancient rules dictate, a sage sorceress must choose a female kin down her bloodline to inherit her powers before she dies. When eighteen-year-old Jasmyn's grandmother passes away, it is eight-year-old Katarina who begins to display the gift of sorcery. This newest rejection proves Jasmyn's life-long claim that her family loves Katarina more than they love her, and instead of mourning with her family, she bears her grandmother’s death alone.

After the funeral, menacing dragons appear along the west coast of California, the same dragons Jasmyn's grandmother banished centuries ago. Patricia and Regina, two sage sorceresses from their grandmother’s coven, discover that Katarina accidentally read a spell from the Book of Whispers releasing the Gregorn Dragons from their prison. Since Katarina is the chosen one, she is the only one who can stop them.

When Katarina’s magic fails, the sage witches realize that Jasmyn had indeed shown signs of sorcery, but they were too focused on Katarina to notice. Somehow, their grandmother’s gift is split between both Katarina and Jasmyn, and now the two sisters must work together to destroy the dragons.

There's just one problem - Jasmyn ran away when a feud earlier had the entire family pinned against her, shunning her from her home. Now, Patricia and Regina are in a race to get to Jasmyn before the dragons get to her first. The Gregorn Dragons have magic of their own and can sense the division of power between the two sisters. They know the two fledgling witches are the only ones who can stop them, and they want them eliminated.

Can Jasmyn and Katarina reunite in time to stop the Gregorn Dragons from destroying mankind? Can Jasmyn put her pain and resentment aside to wield their grandmother's magic? The bond of sisterhood is strong, but so are powers of darkness.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Tanya

That's it!

Please thank Tanya for sharing this with us, and save your feedback for tomorrow!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Anthony Isom's Current Query Critiqued

Morning. Happy Friday! Today we have Anthony's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.

The letter:

[Insert Agent Here]

My name is Anthony Isom. Not necessary. Sign your letter at the end like any business letter. In an e-query, it's fine to do this by just typing your name. I am seeking representation for Redundant. Your sending of the query in the first place is indication of the fact that you are seeking representation. REAL GOOD, my 43,000-word young adult manuscript, which I view as a cross between David Levithan’s BOY MEETS BOY and Lauren Myracle’s SHINE. While the story contains a hate crime, its clutch and pulse hinge on a love triangle between three boys—the narrator, his boyfriend, and his best friend. The rest of this is pretty good. I love the comparison titles (though BOY MEETS BOY and SHINE should be italicized, not ALL CAPS, but I hear that sentiment might be changing), and I love the phrasing of "clutch and pulse."

Normally, I would recommend leaving word count, comparison titles, and so on to the end of the query. A little personalization up front (I'm querying you because we met at ALA last year, or I'm querying you because I love that you represent Author X) can be great, but isn't always necessary. In the long run, the one and only thing that is going to sell an agent on representing you, is your story. I say get right to what matters.

So let's do that, and jump into the important part, the meat of the story.

...

First of all, let me just say before I even get to the content, I don't like what I see at first glance. This is a large chunk of text, not broken up into separate paragraphs at all. Traditionally, query letters are about 250 words (for the story part), broken up into three paragraphs. There's nothing wrong with breaking the "rules," but if you're going to do it, do it in a way that improves your chances.

Additionally, the paragraph below (before I touch it) is 182 words. That's not so short that I would say you should definitely increase it, but the problem here is that shoving it all into a single paragraph actually makes it look longer than it is.

Anyway ...

17-year-old Adam Sutton knows he should have kissed his boyfriend, Terry Connelly, by now just as he knows it is strange and yet intriguing his best friend, Evan Michaels, kissed him Kissed who? Watch your pronouns here. I'm not sure if Evan kissed Adam or Terry from this sentence. in the front seat of Evan’s Tahoe. This is a nice detail. This is the kind of thing I like to see in queries: specificity. We don't necessarily know for sure just from this one word, but this indicates a lot to me. If a high school kid has his own car, and it's something as nice as a Tahoe, they probably come from a relatively wealthy suburban area. Specific details like this go such a long way in a query. While exploring his newly-disrupted world, What does this mean? It's basically both vague and redundant. "Exploring" is vague, because we really have no idea what that means, and "newly-disrupted world" is redundant, because you just showed us the world was disrupted. Sometimes a little reminder is a good thing, but don't combine it with vague language. Adam receives disturbing news of a trauma that, though impersonal, Unnecessary. Let the reader decide for themselves what's personal. rattles him—a freshman boy named Carter Morreson, Why is everyone FIRST NAME, LAST NAME? Do they attend some kind of snooty prep school where everyone is called Mister Sutton and Mister Morreson? Regardless, you've got a problem here. You've got FOUR named characters in the query. That's probably two too many. Name Adam, by all means, and give his last name too, but Terry and Carter need only first names, and Evan doesn't need to be named at all. "Best Friend" (who I assume is not gay or at least is not out?) is sufficient. the innocent Are there guilty victims of hate crimes? If the victim did something that made him guilty, it's not a hate crime, it's assault or revenge or whatever. victim of a hate crime, was tied to his bed by four junior boys and beaten to a pulp. Man. That's powerful. This is your inciting incident? Or is it the kiss? It's a little hard to tell from this query whether this is a plot based story or a character study type story. Not that a novel can't be both, but I'd like to see a little better indication of where the manuscript goes. From your housekeeping opening, I get the sense that the story is more of a character study about the love triangle, and the hate crime is more of a backdrop (like the bugs in Grasshopper Jungle), which is fine, but try to word the story section of the query in such a way that emphasizes that. Adam wants nothing to do with this Carter Morreson, This helps. even while Terry campaigns for a Gay-Straight Alliance and Evan offers his and Adam’s protection services Unnecessarily wordy. This makes it sound like some kind of mob racket shakedown thing. to Carter himself. One night, while sleeping on Carter’s floor and guarding against any rumored threats, Adam discovers Carter’s not telling anyone the full story. Someone had to unlock that door and, Do they live in dorms? Is this a boarding school? Because this locked door thing makes it sound like it is, and you need to make that clear. of the four boys expelled, none of them had access to a key. Interesting twist. Adam knows he must confront Carter but cannot muster the courage, especially when he’s still so tentative about taking a stand for the first ever Pisgah Heights Academy Gay-Straight Alliance. Pretty good sadistic choice there too.

Okay, so in summary: content-wise, you've actually got a strong premise here. I think the market (I'm no expert, but still) is looking for diverse stories like these, and I think that sets you up for success from the get go.

Structure-wise, this query needs some work. I would recommend re-writing to try to match something closer to this format:

"Seventeen-year-old [One or two words describing him as a character, for example: drama club president, or: shy but friendly trumpet player] Adam Sutton knows he should have kissed his boyfriend Terry by now, but he's been a little freaked out ever since his previously assumed to be straight best friend Evan kissed him in the front seat of his Tahoe.

Still reeling in the emotional whirlwind aftermath of that night, Adam's world gets a little more confusing and a lot more dangerous when [describe the hate crime] at their stiff-upper-lip boarding school, Pisgah Heights Academy." ... Go on to talk about Carter, the GSA, the protection they offer, and then ...

In a final paragraph, focus on the choice Adam has to make of whether or not to confront Carter. I would probably recommend you bring up the locked door, and the secret surrounding it, in this paragraph as well. Ending the query on the note of whether Adam should keep Carter's secret, and protect the victim, or out him, and side with the truth, will leave the reader itching to read the pages, which is exactly what you want to do.

I hope that makes sense. I think you're off to a really good start here, and you just need to rework the form and style of how you have all this information laid out. Let me know if you have any questions.

That's it.

What do you all think? Hopefully you can make sense of my critique, with all that blue in the post. Would you recommend any other changes?