Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vine Leaves Literary Journal

I'm not posting today, because I'm up to my eyebrow in revisions, but you should visit my dear friend Jessica Bell instead. She is posting about a new literary journal she and another friend Dawn Ius have started, called, you guessed it: Vine Leaves Literary Journal.

Head on over to Jessica's blog, but you can also find Vine Leaves on Facebook, and at their website.

Comments are off, because seriously? Just go where I told you to go already, sheesh. Just kidding, have a great day, friends!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Project Mayhem Post

Today is my day to post at Project Mayhem, and since we took the kids to their first NFL game yesterday, I'm asking you guys about books and sports. Head on over, to see if you can answer my question.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tangled Tides: I Choose Gorgons!


HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO TANGLED TIDES!

Karen Amanda Hooper’s young adult novel, TANGLED TIDES, is officially being released into the world today. I’m joining the celebration by fighting in the war--the underwater web war between the sea creatures!

Karen’s story contains battling merfolk, selkies, sirens and gorgons. She says she loves all of them, but she wants everyone else to choose a side, so…

I choose Gorgons, because they're awesome. Also, both my daughter and I were born in the year of the snake. Off topic, I know, but still fun!

I'm going to let Karen break down the creatures for you guys, as they appear in her novel:


MERFOLK: of the sun, need warmth, gifted singers, can control water. Fun fact: in my story merfolk are ranked by color. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet (yes, the rainbow. And yes, my MC makes fun of it.) Each rank has a designated role and duties to their kind. Also, they must smoke C-weed to survive. You'll have to read the book to find out what C-weed is.

SIRENS: of the sun, need warmth, seductive singers, can control the weather. Fun fact: There are 3 siren sisters, one for each of the original gorgon sisters who were eternally banished to the dark and cold gorgon grotto. The sirens fly and swim between the worlds doing the gorgon sisters' dirty work, but the sirens evolved to be feisty rebels who do whatever they want most of the time--including stealing memories from humans.


SELKIES: of the moon, need cold, phenomenal dancers, can control human minds. Fun fact: selkies need the cold to survive but they're trapped in warm FL weather, so they hang out at Jack Frost's, a bar that is freezing cold and everything (seats, tables, walls, etc) are made out of ice. Their chic fur coats also help keep their bodies cool. They smoke seagarettes and have lots of scars that are invisible to humans.


GORGONS: of the moon, need cold, seductive dancers (though that doesn't get revealed til book 2 ((SHHHH. No one knows that yet but you guys!)), can control the sea creatures (the original 3 are like the gods of their world). Fun fact: Just like Medusa, the gorgons can turn any living thing to stone, but they aren't the heartless evil monsters that are portrayed in most legends. They are wicked smart, fast, and powerful. The male gorgons are tough as rock.

So I'm sure you can see why I selected Gorgons, Medusa aside. Now I want to give Karen a chance to tell you guys about her book. I haven't finished it yet, because I'm very busy, but I have read the first few chapters, and so far it's awesome!

Take it away Karen:

Yara Jones doesn’t believe in sea monsters—until she becomes one.

When a hurricane hits her island home and she wakes up with fins, Yara finds herself tangled up in an underwater world of mysterious merfolk and secretive selkies. Both sides believe Yara can save them by fulfilling a broken promise and opening the sealed gateway to their realm, but they are battling over how it should be done. The selkies want to take her life. The merfolk want something far more precious.

Treygan, the stormy-eyed merman who turned Yara mer, will stop at nothing and sacrifice everything to protect his people—until he falls for Yara. The tides turn as Yara fights to save herself, hundreds of sea creatures, and the merman who has her heart. She could lose her soul in the process—or she might open the gateway to a love that’s deeper than the oceans.

Now let me announce the totally original contest she's running:

Wanna learn more or join in on the fun? Go check out the details at Karen’s blog:

http://www.KarenAmandaHooper.com

Karen is giving away a signed copy of her book and some other sea creature themed prizes. To enter, join the underwater web war on Twitter. Tweet which sea creatures you’re rooting for and why. Include the hashtag #TangledTides and you could win.

Karen will be on Twitter all day celebrating and answering questions, so stop by and say hello.

@Karen_Hooper

And finally, here's where you can find Karen, and her book:

Karen's blog: http://www.karenamandahooper.com/
Rhemalda Bookstore:   http://tiny.cc/BuyTangledTides

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jenny Morris' Current Query Critiqued

All right, my lovelies. Here we are, the day before Thanksgiving, and I'm at work, awake long before any sensible person ought to be. But I'm here for you, my friends, because I care.

Anyway, today we have Jenny's query again. If you somehow missed yesterday's introduction, scroll down. You can find a link to Jenny's blog on yesterday's post. Yes, your scroll wheel is working.

This time, the query is undergoing my blood red pen. There's not a whole lot else to say, so let's get to work:

Dear Agent:

I am pleased to submit for your consideration my completed 65,000 word young adult fantasy novel, THE GUARDIAN TRIBE.

I think you should skip all this, or rather save it for the end. There are agents who want housekeeping and/or personalization up front like this, but if you're writing to one of these agents, you need more housekeeping and/or personalization than this. If an agent doesn't specifically ask for it up front, I advise getting right to what matters most: the story.

Kella never tells anyone what she is, this comma could be a colon, a freak, to be dissected. Whoa. So on the one hand I really like this line, it's full of voice, and sort of jumps off the page and grabs you by the throat, but on the other hand, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I assume you don't mean literally dissected, and under that assumption, I basically can't figure out what it should mean metaphorically. Unless, I suppose, this is a slasher thriller. If so: cool. She did once and her drug addict mom went crazy. I get that you're trying to hint at backstory, and that's good, but this feels completely disconnected from everything else. Her secret…her best friend, Gabrielle, is her guardian angel. Interesting. That’s not all, Kella can fuse her body to Gabrielle’s angelic form and they become one being. Usually I would want to know more about how something like this works, but I think I'm okay with a bit of vagueness here, because this just sounds so cool. Words never pass between them, only feelings and powers. And besides, you tell us a little about how it works. These angelic powers allow Kella to fly, kick the crap out of boys, and sometimes bring people back from the brink of death. If the query ended here, I would request based off of this one line.

Asher convinces his dad to take him to Haiti, so can prove himself. But then you start to wander. If you've got two alternating POVs in the novel, that's fine, and you can even make that clear in the query, and write a bit about them both, but not like this. It's too sudden, and it makes it seem like you might be talking about two different books. Instead, he finds Kella. She lives in Haiti, or she just happens to be flying by? We need to see a connection here. She’s smart, sexy, and can jump off buildings. Send pages. Life completely changes. The guardian angel Asher stared at for eighteen years, now allows him to fly through the air like a superhero, and sense people’s feelings, especially Kella’s. You're jumping back and forth too much, from sentences with great voice and specificity, like the last one, to ones that make no sense, like this one. Does Asher have his own guardian angel, or are you talking about Gabrielle/Kella again? Why has he been staring at her for 18 years, if he just ran into her in Haiti? Or is this some other angel?

Asher must use every power he has, when Gabrielle is kidnapped. Kella is left afraid, helpless, and very, very human. They must find a way to bring Gabrielle back, or Kella will lose her guardian angel forever. This isn't bad, but you don't even clue us in to the conflict until your final summary sentence. Try to focus on the three Cs: Character, Conflict, and Choice. Give us those three things, as quickly as you can, while still making sense, and you're good to go.

THE GUARDIAN TRIBE appeals to readers who love it when girls kick butt or have ever wished they could fly. Yet, this novel goes beyond most supernatural tales and creates a relationship between humans and angels that will make readers ache to be a member of the Tribe. You don't want to word this kind of thing this way. It sounds a little pretentious. Don't say things like "appeals" say "might appeal" or at least "will appeal." And don't tell an agent that your story will make readers ache, show her, with your writing. Otherwise there are some good lines here, just reword them a little, and it will sound better.

If you would like to consider THE GUARDIAN TRIBE, I would be happy to forward the complete manuscript at your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Jenny Morris

Okay. So this query does one thing well: it makes it clear you've got some awesome characters, and a kick-ass premise. Sometimes that's enough.

What you need to do is focus on connecting everything. As it is now your query meanders around too much. You jump from one cool thing to the next, without making sure they are logically connected. You also take too long to get to the conflict, and then never explain it properly. I love the paranormal/supernatural element of your story, and I think I get well enough how it works, but I really would like to see more about what happens.

You're off to a good start here, you've got plenty of voice and a good sense of character, which are hard to do. See if you can rewrite this so the conflict and choice are as good as the rest, and you'll be in great shape.

That's it.

What do you guys think? What would you change? Am I making any sense? What would you like to see more of in Jenny's query?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jenny Morris' Current Query

Here's another query for you guys.

Before we get to the letter, you have to go visit Jenny's blog, and follow her. I'm serious. The scroll wheel on your mouse is now locked until you get back from your new tab. You are using tabbed browsing, right?

Now, the query:

Dear Agent:

I am pleased to submit for your consideration my completed 65,000 word young adult fantasy novel, THE GUARDIAN TRIBE.

Kella never tells anyone what she is, a freak, to be dissected. She did once and her drug addict mom went crazy. Her secret…her best friend, Gabrielle, is her guardian angel. That’s not all, Kella can fuse her body to Gabrielle’s angelic form and they become one being. Words never pass between them, only feelings and powers. These angelic powers allow Kella to fly, kick the crap out of boys, and sometimes bring people back from the brink of death.

Asher convinces his dad to take him to Haiti, so can prove himself. Instead, he finds Kella. She’s smart, sexy, and can jump off buildings. Life completely changes. The guardian angel Asher stared at for eighteen years, now allows him to fly through the air like a superhero, and sense people’s feelings, especially Kella’s.

Asher must use every power he has, when Gabrielle is kidnapped. Kella is left afraid, helpless, and very, very human. They must find a way to bring Gabrielle back, or Kella will lose her guardian angel forever.

THE GUARDIAN TRIBE appeals to readers who love it when girls kick butt or have ever wished they could fly. Yet, this novel goes beyond most supernatural tales and creates a relationship between humans and angels that will make readers ache to be a member of the Tribe.

If you would like to consider THE GUARDIAN TRIBE, I would be happy to forward the complete manuscript at your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Jenny Morris

That's it.

Remember: today is just for introductions. Please save your feedback for tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blog Chain: Greatest Accomplishment

Today is my turn in the blog chain.

Michelle started this one, with the topic:

This is the month in creating writing goals and making big accomplishments. What is your greatest accomplishment -- in writing, your life or perhaps something incidental that had a big effect on you?

Be sure to check out Sandra's post, who is the link in the chain before me, and Kate, whose post will come tomorrow.

Now, to my greatest accomplishment. Others have written about real life things, like parenthood or marriage, and those are certainly worthwhile accomplishments, but I'm going to keep my post writing related, although I am proud to be a father, and to have somehow survived my teenage years.

I think my greatest accomplishment when it comes to writing, is simply getting to type "the end." At least so far. Hopefully in the long run that won't seem like such a big deal, but for now, just finishing a novel, even a horrible, convoluted first draft of a novel, seems like a pretty big deal. It took a lot of patience and perseverance to get there, and it's something most people will never be able to say they've done.

Writers are a unique breed of individual, and even if you never get published, finishing a novel is no small task.

What's your greatest accomplishment?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Become: Ali Cross Blog Tour

Today is my stop on Ali Cross's blog tour for her debut novel: Become. I asked Ali to write about how she manages it all, because as I watch a friend who is as busy as I know Ali is release a book, I have to wonder how one finds the time.

I could probably go on about this for a while, but instead I'll just let Ali take it away:

There's a lot I could say about how to juggle all the balls we each have in the air. But none of it would really matter, because my story isn’t your story.

All I can say is this: We all have our priorities and our own choices to make. And your priorities, your choices, will be different from mine.

Think of yourself as a juggler, keeping a bunch of balls rotating in the air. I think if you took the time to examine what your priorities are, then you might find you’ll do a better job of keeping those balls moving right along.

For me, my first priority is myself. This was a really hard one to accept. Nowhere in any self-help book or parenting book does it say to put yourself first. And yet, this is what feels right for me. My health and happiness are paramount—without those things I lose the strength to launch each ball into the air. Without the juggler, the balls won’t be launched or caught at all. Because I am the juggler, I come first.

Next, comes my relationship with God. And this doesn’t include my church activities or the service I do. This is just me; in prayer, in scripture reading--whatever shapes my relationship with God. He brings the skill, the patience, the awareness, and the knowledge to get those balls moving in an orderly fashion.

My husband and children represent most of the balls. They include being kind, loving them, serving them. The nice thing about these balls, is that once I get them going and I pay attention to them, they return the favor by imbuing me with strength and happiness each time they pass through my hands.

And finally, my writing--which is really back to me again. Because I am my writing. Writing is an essential element in my care for myself. If I’m giving priority to myself, then I’m giving priority to my writing as well.

Notice, I didn’t include errands or housework as any of my balls. Of course I have them, and they do take their turns whirling among the other colorful balls that I swing through the air. But they come and go.

It isn’t necessary for me to juggle all the balls at once. I am not always serving my husband, so I can throw up the service ball during those times. I am not always taking care of my children or writing, so I can replace those balls with housework for a while.

Really, the only balls that I try to keep going all the time are the ones that represent my love and care for myself, and the ones that represent my love and care for God.

I never have all my balls up in the air at the same time, and I think this is how I manage everything I have to do—by making my priorities, and then building my life around those things. Also, I try never to expect perfection. If a good juggler drops a ball, he doesn’t drop all of them in search of the one rolling away. He simply keeps going, knowing that when he stops he can gather up the dropped ball and include it in his next round.

The same holds true as I juggle all the things I’m responsible for. I’ll drop a ball from time to time, but that’s okay. I just keep going with the balls I have until the day is done. Tomorrow is a new day, my balls will all be assembled and ready for me to animate them, and because I’ve taken care of myself, my hands and mind will be all the more nimble, and perhaps I’ll do a better job of keeping my balls in the air.

It all comes down to the priorities you set and the choices you make. Each juggler is different, and so are we!

Now I want to give Ali a chance to plug her book, since that's kind of the point of the tour.

BLURB:
Sixteen-year old Desolation Black wants nothing more than to stay in Hell where it’s cold and lonely and totally predictable. Instead, she’s sent back to Earth where she must face the evil she despises and the good she always feared.

When Desi is forced to embrace her inner demon, she assumes her choice has been made—that she has no hope of being anything other than what her father, Lucifer, has created her to be. What she doesn’t count on, is finding a reason to change—something she’s never had before—a friend.

BIO:
Ali Cross is the sensei of the Writer's Dojo where she holds a black belt in awesome. She lives in Utah with her kickin' husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, two sumo dogs and four zen turtles.

You can find her:

On her blog.
At the Writer's Dojo.
On Facebook.
Or Twitter.

Thanks so much for letting me take part in your tour, Ali!

You're the best, and I wish you nothing but success.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kristen Wixted's Current Query Critiqued

It's raining in torrents here, and my office has a metal roof. So I can barely hear myself think.

Who comes up with these clich├ęs? Thinking is silent, of course you can't hear it.

Anyway, the point is, I'm just going to dive right in, and get to work. You all met Kristen yesterday, and if you didn't, just scroll down to the post beneath this one.

Today I'm featuring her query again, this time with my thoughts, in red text.

Here we go:

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent:

I’ve read your profiles and interviews on xxx blogs/web-sites, and I am impressed with your sincerity and your passion for good quality children’s writing. I hope you will consider my middle grade novel, SILVER POOL OF LIGHT, for your list.

I'm not going to cover this first part. I mean I could say this is too short and too generic to really qualify as true personalization of a query letter, but I get the feeling you were just giving an example, and wouldn't intend to write your personalization this way for every query you send in.

Eleven-year-old Eve Tilton, a self-proclaimed “blossoming” celebrity, YES! This is the kind of thing I always try to fight for in the queries I critique. In 7 little words (okay, yes, some are hyphenated), you've given us a wonderful idea of who our character is, showed us why we should care, and done it with voice.  NOTE TO READERS WHO QUERY: This is how you introduce an MC. has been afraid of the ocean since living through a horrible I'm not sure you need this. I can't imagine surviving a deep ocean accident that would be anything but utterly terrifying. If there is a key plot reason for this, get more specific. sailing accident at the age of five. So maybe she's can't fully remember the details? Just the paralyzing fear? When she spends the month of July on Martha’s Vineyard that sounds like torture for someone with her fears. with her step-siblings and great aunt, she hopes for privacy. Privacy? That seems odd. I can't remember thinking about privacy at eleven, and I'd be picturing Eve hoping not to drown. Lately Eve’s been forced to share so many personal details on celebrity blogs and the ever-growing iGirl website…it’s becoming tedious. Okay. Now I'm confused. Forced by whom? I get that she's some kind of eleven-year-old iCarly or something, but who is forcing her to do this, and what details is she sharing?

So your opening paragraph starts out strong, with incredible character, and decent hook, but it soon gets muddled for me (subjectivity). I don't have a clear idea of what the plot is going to be, which isn't necessarily required this far into the query, but it's giving me a sense of "I thought it would be about this, but it's actually about that," which is not usually good.

Plus, Eve has a secret friend—don't use em-dashes in queries. It works here, because I pasted from your word doc, but email clients do funny things to advanced formatting like this. Besides, this works better as a sentence. she doesn’t want her step-sibs snooping around in Aunt Tibby’s attic when she’s writing to eleven(-)year(-)old Jane Mayhew. Because Jane lives in 1874. Eve doesn’t know how it works—em-dash maybe the diary they write in time-travels, or maybe the sea chest the diary is kept in. But if she writes in the diary and places it in the chest, and waits…Jane writes back. From 1874. I really like this. It sounds like a fascinating premise, but the problem here is that your plot is only getting more muddled as things go on. Right now I get the feeling that the plot is the correspondence between the girls, and the fear of the ocean and the iGirl stuff is all backstory. I obviously could be wrong.

This paragraph suffers from much the same problem as the first. It's well written, with good voice and cool ideas, but it's not cohesive, in the big picture sense, with the rest of the query. Right now I have no clear idea what the main conflict in this book is, and I've read too much not to know that by now.

It’s pre-occupying, technically this verb makes sense (though as a word preoccupy does not need to be hyphenated) but I don't think it works here. I think you want something stronger. writing back and forth with a girl from more than a hundred years ago. They write about what they have in common: funny aunts, clueless fathers, acquaintances with more interesting lives than their own. But just as Eve is invited to hob-nob with film stars, Wait. What? So the internet celebrity stuff is not backstory? Now I'm really confused. It's not that you can't have subplots in the novel, and I'm sure they work well there, but your query needs to focus on one main conflict. she discovers that Jane is going to board a doomed whaling ship. Eve enlists Liam, her twelve-year-old, slightly smelly step-brother, to help her keep Jane off the ship. Can they time travel? Or do they have to convince her with a letter? As they plot and plan, she tries to focus on Jane, but it’s so hard to concentrate on tempests, malaria, and whale blubber when you’re invited to a movie star’s private beach…. You only need three dots in an ellipsis. Eve faces difficult choices, knowing that if Jane boards that ship, she will die in an accident eerily similar to the one Eve survived the day her mother died. I do like the way you sum this up. Well done on summarizing.

SILVER POOL OF LIGHT is complete at 48,000 words. How do you fit all this plot into so few words? Last summer I completed the advanced novel workshop at the University of Iowa, isn't this one of the most prestigious writing programs in the country? Good stuff. and have attended numerous SCBWI writing workshops. I hold a certificate I didn't even know you could get certificates in writing. I may have to look into that myself. in Children’s Writing from Emerson College and am a member of SCBWI. Please visit my writer’s blog: Don’t Forget the Samovar, at blogspot.com. Excellent bio. I wouldn't change a thing.

Per your submission guidelines I have pasted in the first 5/10 this is like your personalization I think, just an example. pages below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Okay. So the pros are that you've got great writing, great voice, and great ideas in this query. That's good news, because those are harder to fix.

The problem is that this query lacks focus, and may be too long. Without the to and from lines, it's 390 words. Now I'm not going to tell you there are rules about query length, because I don't believe in that crap. I've seen a query that had less than 50 words and it blew me away just as much as it did Janet Reid. I can't think of an example, but I'm sure there are longer queries that work too. As long as it serves the story, don't worry about length. Problem is: I worry that your length here doesn't serve the story.

Try to focus on one plot line, one conflict, and the one choice that must be made. I think it's the correspondence with the historical girl, and the need to save her, but I can't quite tell for sure.

Sincerely,

Kristen Wixted

That's all, folks.

So what do you guys think? What would you change? Do you think she really needs to cut as much as I think she needs to cut? How would you write a better opening hook for this story?

A NOTE ON ELLIPSES: There is actually apparently some debate about the point I made about three dots in an ellipsis. Some manuals of style describe a terminal ellipsis that can use four dots, but only if it ends a sentence or a paragraph. There is also debate . . . on how to space ellipses. When I write them in fiction, I always surround each dot with a space on either side, because I prefer the way it looks, but there are publications out there that will tell you that is wrong.

I'm going to continue to suggest to Kristen that she only use three dots (you'll notice some of hers do only have three dots, so the one with four may have been on purpose), but I would like everyone to keep in mind that like all the advice I give, it is highly subjective, and should only be followed if it resonates for you (the author).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kristen Wixted's Current Query

Good morning friends. I'm not really here, I'm revising. Shh, don't tell my book. I just wanted to drop in quick and share a query with you guys. It's not really blogging, because all I have to do is paste it, like Zuzu's petals, and then I can get back to work. The hard part is tomorrow, with the red ink.

So anyway, before I get to the query, please go follow Kristen at her blog: Don't Forget the Samovar. Go on.

Back? All right. I'm sure you remember the rules. Today is just for introductions, please save your feedback for tomorrow.

The query:

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent:

I’ve read your profiles and interviews on xxx blogs/web-sites, and I am impressed with your sincerity and your passion for good quality children’s writing. I hope you will consider my middle grade novel, SILVER POOL OF LIGHT, for your list.

Eleven-year-old Eve Tilton, a self-proclaimed “blossoming” celebrity, has been afraid of the ocean since living through a horrible sailing accident at the age of five. When she spends the month of July on Martha’s Vineyard with her step-siblings and great aunt, she hopes for privacy. Lately Eve’s been forced to share so many personal details on celebrity blogs and the ever-growing iGirl website…it’s becoming tedious.

Plus, Eve has a secret friend—she doesn’t want her step-sibs snooping around in Aunt Tibby’s attic when she’s writing to eleven year old Jane Mayhew. Because Jane lives in 1874. Eve doesn’t know how it works—maybe the diary they write in time-travels, or maybe the sea chest the diary is kept in. But if she writes in the diary and places it in the chest, and waits…Jane writes back. From 1874.

It’s pre-occupying, writing back and forth with a girl from more than a hundred years ago. They write about what they have in common: funny aunts, clueless fathers, acquaintances with more interesting lives than their own. But just as Eve is invited to hob-nob with film stars, she discovers that Jane is going to board a doomed whaling ship. Eve enlists Liam, her twelve-year-old, slightly smelly step-brother, to help her keep Jane off the ship. As they plot and plan, she tries to focus on Jane, but it’s so hard to concentrate on tempests, malaria, and whale blubber when you’re invited to a movie star’s private beach…. Eve faces difficult choices, knowing that if Jane boards that ship, she will die in an accident eerily similar to the one Eve survived the day her mother died.

SILVER POOL OF LIGHT is complete at 48,000 words. Last summer I completed the advanced novel workshop at the University of Iowa, and have attended numerous SCBWI writing workshops. I hold a certificate in Children’s Writing from Emerson College and am a member of SCBWI. Please visit my writer’s blog: Don’t Forget the Samovar, at blogspot.com.

Per your submission guidelines I have pasted in the first 5/10 pages below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Kristen Wixted

That's it.

So please tell Kristen hello in the comments, thank her for sharing her query, and then bite your tongue until tomorrow. Thanks!

Monday, November 14, 2011

LuLu Short Story Contest


I've entered some of my stories in the LuLu Short Story Contest. The pieces I've entered are ones I refer to as flash fiction, because they're so short they don't really contain a plot, and I don't consider that to be a short story, but it doesn't really matter.

You can enter pretty much any piece of fiction, as long as it's less than 600 words long (not counting title or byline), and you can win $500 or a Nook, or some other stuff. It's very easy to enter, all you have to do is convert your story to the epub format, which LuLu let's you do for free.

I've entered three stories, and I would really appreciate if you guys would go download them, and read them. I don't think it makes any difference in the contest whether or how often they're downloaded, but the editions I made are free, and you can read them on any device that can read an epub file. Plus, I hope you'll enjoy them.

You can get them here:

Babysat by the Man in the Moon.

A Deafening Silence.

Lake Argo.

Please give them a read, and let me know what you think! If you prefer to just read them online (I've made some tiny edits since they first went up), you can just check the links on the My Writing page. If you do that please be sure to leave a comment. Thanks!

I also encourage all of you to enter. It's very easy to put your story on LuLu, and who knows, maybe one of us will win. Otherwise, have the best Monday you can. I know, it's hard.

Friday, November 11, 2011

String Bridge Amazon Chart Rush

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit
the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack
Melody Hill: On the Other Sidewritten and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is
purchase the
book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and
then email the receipt to:


jessica.carmen.bell(at)gmail(dot)com

She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you are
not familiar with String Bridge,
check out the book trailer:



Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my
veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page, yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.
~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout, seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world begins to unravel … String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic.” ~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion Thrust and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel.
I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.” ~ Karen Jones Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Please TWEET and/or FACEBOOK this post using #StringBridge!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

String Bridge (The Album) Review

Today is my stop on the launch tour for my dear friend Jessica Bell's debut novel. I'm not actually reviewing the novel though, I'm reviewing the album that goes along with it. Before I get to that, can I just say: I think this is such a brilliant idea.

I've never heard of this being done before. I mean sure, I bet there's been a band biography that was accompanied by some tired old greatest hits compilation album, but I've never heard of a novel, a debut no less, being accompanied by an original album, performed almost entirely by the author, and inspired by the main character. I think that's cool as shit.

Anyway, the album is not actually called String Bridge. I just made that the title of the post so it wouldn't get confusing. The album is called Melody Hill: On the Other Side, by Jessica Bell.

Before I start to talk about it, let me tell you where you can get the album:

It can be purchased on iTunes
Or bought from Amazon.com
Or Amazon.co.uk

Now, before I review the album, I just want to point out that Jessica is a good friend of mine. Not only is she a lovely personality, but she's a great writer, who is hilarious, and incredibly supportive. We've exchanged work before, and she is also an excellent, professional editor.

I received this album for free, as promotional material intended for advanced review, but that doesn't mean I'm going to blow smoke at you about it. Jessica understands that I only "review" books I love, and I told her I wouldn't do this post if I didn't care for the album. Thankfully, that's not a problem.

I think this album is the perfect companion for this novel. Jessica's voice is at times haunting, at times joyous, and at times devastatingly sorrowful, which is much like life, and much like String Bridge. Jessica sings just as she writes: with brutal honesty, and a fearless desire to face the intricacies of a life full of passionate suffering, as well as graceful bliss, with truth and courage.

I've never been very good at reviewing books, let alone albums, but I did used to own a small independent record label, and from that experience I can tell you that the production on this album is top notch. You might have thought an author recording an album to "promote their book" (not that Jessica did that, she's a natural) would be some kind of hack job with a singer howling into a cheap drum mic, with weak guitar and no other kind of backing tracks, but you'd be wrong. Jessica plays acoustic/rhythm guitar for the entire album, as well as bass guitar for On the Other Side. Lead guitar is performed by George Priniotakis, who also arranged, produced, and mastered every track at Artracks Recording Studios, in Athens, Greece. The sound engineer was Alex Bolpasis, who is a cat who obviously knows something about microphones, and their placement. The vocals, the acoustic guitar, and even the drums, which could theoretically be digital, sound crisp and clear, and yet do not lose the analog warmth that comes from properly micing those kind of instruments.

Jessica truly has the voice of a siren, and this album would be a joy if that's all it was, but it's very nice to see highly professional production to go along with it. I think my favorite song is the fifth track, Famous. Yes, it does have an ill breakbeat that kicks in at the end, and I'm a sucker for beats, whether they be live drums, or from an 808, a 909, or even a 303, but that's not why I love this song. I love Famous, because it speaks to the fundamental questions we all ask ourselves about our lives, regardless of what we do for a living, or who makes up our families. I've been given permission by Jess to reprint the lyrics here, but you've got to get the album to truly have a feeling for the meaning of this track.

Famous

so you want to live the life of a star
and you want to be at peace with mankind
really want to be a mother and father

so you want to know the meaning of life
want to be the ripple and wave
really want to know yourself completely

so you want to start your own revolution
and you want to teach your daughter it all
and you really want to fight this depression

do you really want to hold emotions to ransom
do you want to be cruel to be kind
do you really want to lose precious intentions

so you really want everyone to hear you
and you want everyone to see
but do you really want to be this famous?

I could go on about the album, but this post is long enough, and you really ought to just hear it for yourself. Plus, I think I would be remiss without saying something about the book.

You might be surprised to find that a guy who loves stories about sword fights, magic, dragons, and rogues would get into a novel like this, but every once in a while, you want to read a story not for what it's about, but for the way it's told.

Jessica tells us Melody's story with such style and poetry that the prose grabs you equally by the balls and heart, and does not let up as it throttles you, caresses you, and throttles you again. Jessica has a gift for language that is as impressive as it is inspiring.

Let me show you the places where you can find Jessica, and her debut novel from Lucky Press: String Bridge:

Jessica's blog.
Jessica's website.
Jessica on Facebook.
Jessica on Twitter.
The String Bridge website.
String Bridge on Goodreads.
String Bridge Trailer.
String Bridge Merchandise.

And you can purchase String Bridge as an ebook, at:

Amazon US.
Amazon UK.

Or as a paperback, at:

Amazon US.
Amazon UK.
Barnes & Noble.

For a better, full on review of the book, from a much less hairy, sweaty, manly point of view, please visit the lovely and most slippery of bloggers: Karen Amanda Hooper, at Eternal Moonshine of a Daydreaming Mind.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Announcement, and One Last WFC List.

Good morning, friends (Monday, you can suck it). How is everyone?

So I'm still thinking about all the changes I want to make to my blogging habits, but I do have a new schedule tentatively worked out, for now.

You'll see a new page up there, across the top. Blog Schedule, I think I called it. I published it last week, so I can't remember exactly what it says, but I'll paraphrase it for you, and hopefully I'll be close. Basically I'm going to use Mondays and Fridays as my main blogging days for now. Mondays will be about whatever and Fridays will usually be a query critique, unless I don't have one scheduled. These will also be the days I read your blogs.

I will sometimes post on Wednesday or Thursday (Thursday for query critique intros, Wednesday for other random stuff) but I won't be reading blogs those days. I wish I could, and maybe I'll get back to it more, when I finish these revisions, but right now I have to finish this book. I have an agent waiting on the full, but I told her I want to cut it to a reasonable length first.

So anyway, like I said, nothing is set in stone right now, but that's how it's going to work for the next little while.

Now I want to introduce you to the writers I met at WFC who I haven't had a chance to mention yet.

Rob Ziegler is a friend of several of my friends, and it's funny, because we hung out a few times before I realized that he had a huge book release going on for the con. His novel Seed was the featured release at the Night Shade Books party on Friday night. It was a pretty big deal. I'm reading it now, and it's incredible (blurbed by Paolo Bacigalupi, hello). The only thing that sucks is I never saw Rob after Friday night, so I didn't get my copy signed. you can find Rob at his website, or on Twitter.

Another friend of all my friends (and another Night Shade Books author) Bradley P. Beaulieu is the author of the epic fantasy series: The Lays of Anuskaya. The first book is called The Winds of Khalakovo. I got to hear him read from the second volume, The Straits of Galalesh, and it was very good. If you visit his website, you'll see that his novels have some incredible covers. You can also find Brad on Twitter.

I just happened to end up at Frederic S. Durbin's reading, because some friends were going. I'm glad I did, because the short story he shared with us was very entertaining. Frederic's first novel, Dragonfly, was released by Arkham House in 1999, but he has a new MG novel, The Star Shard, that will be out in February, next year. You can per-order it an Amazon. You can also find Frederic on his website, or his blog.

So that's it. I've got something special coming up later this week, but until then, have a good one!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sheri Larsen's Current Query Critiqued

All right. Let's do work.

Today is Sheri's query again. I love saying that. Anyway, this time I'm critiquing it, and my thoughts will be in red.

Let's get right to it:

High school is a mishmash of viable energy, I don't understand what this means. Viable energy? Why is it viable? For what purpose and for whom? and if sixteen-year-old ANA TATE I love the spelling of Ana, but you don't have to capitalize character names in a query letter. senses the wrong kind she could lose her mind.

Okay, so I have to say that on the one hand (assuming you mean what I think you mean here) I really love this opening hook and premise. The problem is: I can't be sure that it means what I think it means. After reading on I see that you explain it better in a moment, but you can't leave your opening hook (which is the most important part) vague and ambiguous like this.

Being tomboyish and emotionally I would cut emotionally. I'm not sure it's needed, because being jaded is pretty much always a combo of thoughts and emotions. jaded, that being said, I LOVE the characterization "jaded" gives us. with a secret I think you can cut secret too, it becomes obvious when you describe the power. ability to sense the energy and emotions of others, makes Ana not the best at blending in. Do you see why I added "being" to the front? After a recent encounter with a sinister energy is the energy sentient, or just sinister because of the person it came from? that caused her to panic and pull the fire alarm, damaging the school’s gym floor, she’s shipped off to attend a class for troubled teens at a new prep school. Troubled teens? Reform/prep school? Yes, please. Here, she meets Victor—I would suggest not using em-dashes in query letters. If you can make it work, you're better with HTML than I am. the gorgeous yet irritating campus recluse, you're really good at these one or two word characterization phrases. who stirs her ability like she’s never felt before. Unbeknownst to her, she rouses a curse that hungers for her sanity. Sentient energy, hungry curses. I basically love the rules of the world you're building for us here, but I think you need to explain it better. How does this stuff work? Why would it hunger for her, sanity. Her powers?

Viktor is a Lycan poisoned by psychic Vampire blood. Holy amazeballs. This is getting good. Also: more specific. He’s cursed to feed his sire the sanity of mortals, until one can resist him. And now, his sire wants Ana's sanity. So it's not the curse, but a character. Or is the character the curse? But, Viktor has his own inner demons he's battling and doesn't want to harm her. That doesn't sound like a demon to me. Not even an inner one. That sounds like compassion (or attraction). When he double-crosses his sire, causing more trouble than good, I would cut this, because if Ana ends up surviving all of this, that's actually more good than trouble, in the long run. Ana must accept her abilities and challenge the curse to free Viktor and herself. Only, her quest unearths a family secret and deeper connection to Viktor she didn’t see coming. One that calls for a high payment, found hidden…in the last beat of her heart.

Hmm. So this last "meat of the story" paragraph is really good. High stakes, specific conflict, tough choices. Some minor tweaks could be made, but basically if you made the whole query more like this paragraph, you'd be in great shape.

MARKED BEAUTY, a paranormal romance for young adults complete at 85,000 words, travels beyond the paranormal elements and into the inner struggle of a feisty female lead I might change this to "protagonist." A lead is an actor in a film or play. Not a huge deal though. who finds herself in the midst of a world she never knew she was a part of.

Other than potentially changing that one word, this is a good summary.

I am a published freelance and short story writer. My work can be found in local Maine newspapers--the Town Line Publication, The Two Cent Times, Highlands, and Capital Weekly--and also in Pill Hill Press. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a moderator for YAlitchat.org—I would cut all these dashes. First of all, you're using double hyphens in some places, and em-dashes in others. Keep it consistent, or even better, cut them all. Commas would work fine here (or a colon for this last one). an online writing community.

Other than the punctuation, great bio.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Okay. So to summarize, I think this query is in decent shape already. It's obvious you've got a unique premise, one that is full of interesting creatures, characters, and powers.

Your query gets better and better as it goes on. Your one big problem is that your hook does not make sense right off the bat, and I think if you could fix that, you'd be off to an excellent start.

I'll give it a try:

Ana Tate is a sixteen-year-old jaded tomboy, but her problems run much deeper than normal high school drama. She can sense the energy and intent of those around her, and if she senses the wrong kind she could lose her mind.

I know, pretty lame, but I think you get the idea. Be more specific, give more information, and don't worry if your "one sentence hook" has to actually be two.


That's it.

What do you guys think? Surely one of you can give a better example of a good opening line for this query, right?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sheri Larsen's Current Query

Okay. After all the boo-hoo self pity talk from yesterday (all me) it feels good to get back to work. Or, well, to start to get back to work. The real work comes tomorrow when I'll critique Sheri's query (yes I made that rhyme on purpose, I'm cool like that).

For now, if you don't know SALarsen, you need to go visit her blog, Writer's Ally, and become a follower. Do it. Now. We'll wait.

Anyway, today is just for introducing Sheri, and her query letter. Please save your feedback for tomorrow, so I can have a chance for all my thoughts to look original.

The query:

High school is a mishmash of viable energy, and if sixteen-year-old ANA TATE senses the wrong kind she could lose her mind.

Tomboyish and emotionally jaded, with a secret ability to sense the energy and emotions of others, makes Ana not the best at blending in. After a recent encounter with a sinister energy that caused her to panic and pull the fire alarm, damaging the school’s gym floor, she’s shipped off to attend a class for troubled teens at a new prep school. Here, she meets Victor—the gorgeous yet irritating campus recluse, who stirs her ability like she’s never felt before. Unbeknownst to her, she rouses a curse that hungers for her sanity.

Viktor is a Lycan poisoned by psychic Vampire blood. He’s cursed to feed his sire the sanity of mortals, until one can resist him. And now, his sire wants Ana's sanity. But, Viktor has his own inner demons he's battling and doesn't want to harm her. When he double-crosses his sire, causing more trouble than good, Ana must accept her abilities and challenge the curse to free Viktor and herself. Only, her quest unearths a family secret and deeper connection to Viktor she didn’t see coming. One that calls for a high payment, found hidden…in the last beat of her heart.

MARKED BEAUTY, a paranormal romance for young adults complete at 85,000 words, travels beyond the paranormal elements and into the inner struggle of a feisty female lead who finds herself in the midst of a world she never knew she was a part of.

I am a published freelance and short story writer. My work can be found in local Maine newspapers--the Town Line Publication, The Two Cent Times, Highlands, and Capital Weekly--and also in Pill Hill Press. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a moderator for YAlitchat.org—an online writing community.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

That's it.

Please visit and follow Sheri's blog, say hi to her in the comments, thank her for having the courage to share her query with us, and save your feedback for tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lessons from WFC


Before I get to the bad news, I want to highlight some other writers I met at the Con, who I didn't get photos with, or who don't blog.

  • I saw William Alexander on a Kidlit panel that I missed the first half of, because I was at a reading. I thought he was brilliant, but didn't have the balls to introduce myself until the last day. What? I'm shy. Anyway, you can find Will's book at the Goblin Secrets website, or you can check his writer website, or you can follow him on Twitter. I haven't read his book yet or anything, so I can't tell you it was amazing, but the guy had some great philosophies about reading, storytelling, and salamanders.
  • Sandra Wickham is actually a friend of Simon's, but I somehow didn't end up with any photos of her (which is a shame, because she's a beautiful lady). More importantly, she's a writer, and an editor for inkpunks.com. I got to talk to her about my book, and hear about some of the short stories she's had published. She was very nice. You can visit Sandra's website, find her on Twitter, or just click through to the inkpunks' site, above. And yes, that photo on Twitter is oh her on the Iron Throne, does it get any cooler?
  • Okay, so admittedly I did have a photo or two of Jane Kindred, but I want to mention her again because not only was she very cool, and a friend of several of my friends, but she was on a panel with Charlaine Harris, Nancy Kilpatrick, Kate Elliot, and Malindo Lo, which is a table full of literary rock stars, and Jane absolutely killed it. You cane find Jane on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

All right. That's all the highlights I have time for. I'll try to share some more next week.

Now I have to get to the bad news.

This biggest lesson I took from WFC is that I spend too much time blogging, and don't take my writing seriously enough. Maybe seriously isn't the best word. I do care a lot about my writing, and when I spend time on it I take it very seriously, but the problem is I don't spend enough time on it.

I spend a lot of time every day writing blog posts, and reading and commenting on other blogs. A LOT of time. I love it. I love connecting with other writers. I love helping people with their queries. I love getting comments on topics I care about.

But what I realized at WFC is that it's writing books that really matters. Actually, not so much writing books, but finishing books. Nearly every person I met there was published. Published, or at least involved in publishing in some professional capacity.

I may be a prolific blogger, and I'm not saying blogging hasn't made a huge difference in my life and in my writing career, but it's also taken up a lot of my time that could have been spent writing and revising.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. I'm pretty sure I won't give up on blogging, and I'm not going to stop helping people with their queries, but it's become clear to me that my writing has suffered for the sake of my blogging, and I just can't allow that to continue.

Maybe I'll reduce the days of the week I post. Maybe I'll post every day, but not read and comment on other blogs. Maybe I'll just take a hiatus. I don't know. I have to let myself process it all a bit more, but there is one thing I know: I need to finish this book.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What I Learned at WFC 2011

  • A Conference is not a Convention.
A convention like ComicCon or DragonCon can be a lot of fun, because it's mostly a casual gathering of fans, all dressed up, with a few serious panels here and there (this isn't completely true, but I'm trying to illustrate a point here). A conference like WFC (which is technically called a convention, if you look at the website, but I'm changing it, because, again, my point) is a much more serious affair. Almost no one dresses in costume, and everyone is carrying business cards and other promotional materials. Writer, Editor, Agent, every single publishing professional there is well prepared to promote themselves and their work.

I don't have a book to sell yet, so I didn't get any business cards made up or anything. Note to self: next time, come prepared.
  • Macallan 10-year-old Cask Strength Scotch is probably the most well crafted and high quality spirit I will ever imbibe.
Maybe it was the company, but when Andrew Smith shared some of this very special Scotch with me and my friends, Simon Larter, Jessica Corra, Sara McClung, and Carolina Miller, it made for the best conversations, and my favorite moments of the Con.
  • Neil Gaiman is brilliant.
Yes I met him, briefly. He was eating breakfast with his friends at the table next to Simon and me on the last day, and we took a moment to shake his hand and tell him we loved his work, but I also got to see him speak a few times and have a conversation with Connie Willis (I wasn't stalking, it was a kind of panel), and the man is the perfect character to play a rock star writer. Funny, brilliant, kind and honest, he rocked the Con.
  • The San Diego Town and Country Resort.
Is not actually another dimension based on 1972 Miami washed of any color saturation by too much alcohol and sleep deprivation, but it sure as hell seemed like it.

All right. So I could go on about things I learned, but this post is getting too long, and I need to just get to the pictures. Here we go:


If it wasn't for the fact that we only have half of Ricki Shultz's lovely smile, this would be the best photo I have. We had a waitress at the bar take this, and she cut Ricki off (not from booze, from the photo). As far as everyone else, in case you don't know these people, from left to right this is: Kiersten White, Sara McClung, LK Gardner-Griffie, Shannon Messenger, Andrew Smith, Carolina Valdez Miller, me, Derek Molata, Ricki Schultz, and then Simon Larter is squatting in front of us so you can't tell how short he is.


You should recognize Simon and myself (in spite of my ridiculous facial expression) by now, so I'll only link you to Jessica Corra, even though I already did once, above. This was at lunch at Taste of Thai on Saturday.


This is everyone at lunch, the same day. The only person in here I have not linked to yet is Jane Kindred.


This was outside the British Wine and Cheese party on Saturday. It was not as glamorous as it sounds.This is Ricki Schultz, Amber Van Dyk, Alexia Chamberlynn, me, and Holly McDowell.


This is the ladies at the Taste of Thai. You already know who they are, even if you didn't know they could get this happy. It was because of Jess, Simon and me.


Last photo I'm putting up, because I just didn't take that many good ones. In case you can't tell, that's Simon, Ricki, Derek, and me. Simon and I are inebriated. Three sheets to the wind. Drunk as lords. I could go on.

Anyway, that's it for today. I'll try to share a few nuggets of wisdom with you tomorrow as well.