Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

The absence of a war does not guarantee the existence of peace. This is a decent hook. It has my interest.

At first glance, Tymeria is a kingdom of beautiful wineries, fair maidens, and noble knights. But beneath its beautiful vineyards is a graveyard. A graveyard for the nonhuman races and any human who dares to help them. In Tymeria, the only good elf is a dead elf. I like it.

Eighteen-year-old Jevan once thought he had no family. Fourteen years ago, because of the echo from the previous age reference I would rephrase with "At the age of four" he woke up abandoned with nothing but the memory of his own name. Now, his family’s use "family is" a band of mercenaries known as the Knightmares. It’s not a desirable life – assassinations, theft, a bit of butchery, bodyguard service – but a man’s got to eat.

When the Knightmares receive a request from a wealthy family to rescue a young girl from rival mercenaries, they assume it’s just another job. At first, all goes well. However, the kidnappers weren’t mercenaries, but  are members of Tymeria’s religious military organization: the Paladins. And the damsel-in-distress is really part of a rare nonhuman race with the ability to transform into a deadly humanoid wolf creature – a wolfborn.

With vengeful paladins hunting them, and the wolfborn’s presence generating a debate that may tear them apart, the fate of the Knightmares hangs perilously in the balance more than ever before. Because they know the facts – any one of them can be killed at any time. Well, technically this is true of all of us, at all times. Why is their situation different? Killed by who? The wolf born? The paladins? Each other?

Told through several alternating viewpoints, KNIGHTMARE is a New Adult Fantasy novel of 90,000 words with a George R. R. Martin-esque narrative and a unique twist on the werewolf genre.

Overall I think this is a good query. Adjust for some of the awkward phrasing and clear up the vagueness at the end, and I think you're in pretty good shape.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cover Reveal For GIVEN TO THE SEA & ARC Giveaway!

It's time to reveal the cover for the first in my fantasy series, GIVEN TO THE SEA, releasing April 11, 2017 from Penguin / Putnam. Pre-order available now! Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win an ARC, when available.


Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance – an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy – she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.

Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart.

Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra – fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before – are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille.

Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land – and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.

The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

I am seeking representation for my YA historical fiction, THE STONE INHERITANCE.  I chose to submit to you because I read on [insert personal agenty stuff here].  Complete at 77,000 words, THE STONE INHERITANCE might fit your wish list. Good job with this para. Usually I say start with the hook, but you've done a good job of putting together the personalized presentation so I say stick with it.

England, 1912.  Eighteen-year-old Estella has lived most of her life in near solitude, friend to no one, when she is delivered shocking news: she has inherited her beloved grandfather's vast island manor nearly a decade after his death.  So she received it upon turning 18... this would be an easier way to phrase this, less complicated of a sentence. He leaves her but one message: "Trust me." But trust is not a word in her vocabulary, and rightly so, because Estella overhears the estate's enigmatic attorney, Edward Maxwell, maliciously plotting to con her out of her inheritance. But if trust isn't a word in her vocabulary, it applies to more than just the attorney. Does she trust her grandfather? She must discover the real reason behind her grandfather's cryptic intensions sp: intentions before she falls victim to his scandal. Whose scandal? Her grandfather's or Edward's? And how is a scandal involved?

In the depths of a secluded forest, Estella discovers a verdant, celestial glen and gorge a glen and a gorge are two different things inhabited by a community of Irish fugitives, whom she learns harbor old secrets about her grandfather. As the Irish teach Estella to love and trust, she begins to understand who her grandfather was – and how she is not as alone as she'd thought. When Edward Maxwell tries to blackmail her into marrying him, Estella is faced with a choice: comply with Edward's wishes or he will destroy all that her grandfather left her to protect. What did he leave her to protect? The glen? The Irish? Is there actual magic involved in the story, because the 2nd para kind of hints at it. 

I feel THE STONE INHERITANCE might appeal to admirers of impetuous heroines as in Mandy McGinnis's A MADNESS SO DISCREET and Megan Shepherd's THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER Trilogy. I have a master's degree in English education (grades 7 through 12) and graduated with a concentration in writing. This is my first novel. Great bio. It's assumed it's your first novel, or your first attempt at getting published anyway, since you don't have any publishing credentials listed here. I'd cut the line.

Overall this is a great query. The second para is a little vague in terms of whether or not there's just secret things going on or maybe some actual magic. If there is a touch of paranormal that needs to be clear because it adjusts your genre a bit. Still, you've done a great job here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Lunar Chronicles Zip-Up Hoodie Giveaway!

So I promise this blog will be a little more active once fall gets into full swing. I tend to spend my summers doing a lot of not-sitting-in-front-of-the-computer. Making up for my protracted absence by giving away some cool stuff I come by as I move about in my Publishing / Librarian circles.

Who wants a red Lunar Chronicles zip up hoodie? Size L.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 1, 2016

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

The triplet queens of each generation on the island of Fennbirn are expected to kill each other, eventually. First each must develop their gift, separated at a young age so as not to become too attached.

Katherine has the poisoner gift, able to quaff the most deadly of foods and drinks without flinching. Arsinoe is the naturalist, able to make forests grow and call animals to her at whim. Mirabella is the elemental, able to create hurricanes or make the sun shine according to her wishes.

Except, things aren't working out that way. Katherine can't even stand to walk through a patch of nettles and Arsinoe is still waiting for her familiar. Each backed by powerful influencers, their inability has been kept quiet as strong political forces spread stories of their powers, and secretly look for other routes to empower the girls.

Katherine learns to be charming, flirtatious, to make herself amenable to the queen-consorts that will ally themselves with the queen of their choice... but Katherine may be falling in love with the boy sent to teach her these skills, and he's not an eligible queen-consort. Arsinoe begins to dabble in low magic, cutting runes into her skin and soaking lengths of rope in her blood... but low magic can backfire and a botched spell may have ruined her best friend's only chance at happiness.

Mirabella is the powerful queen, her gift slippery but in her grasp. But the one queen meant to rule has memories of her sisters as children, and a heart not bent on murder.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Successful Author Talk with Tracy Edward Wymer & The 100 Queries That Came First

The interview series is back for a summer session today in the form of an SAT (Successful Author Talk). Today's guest for the SAT is Tracy Edward Wymer, a member of the Class of 2k16 whose MG novel, SOAR releases July 5th from Aladdin / Simon & Schuster.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m both, or in between. I plan out with running lists or chapter titles, which I call a “Set List.” However, I don’t do too much planning. Finding out what happens next is what brings me back to every story. 

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

This can vary dramatically. It can take two years, it can take 6 months. I typically take longer than most of my peers, from what I can tell. 

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I’m a multi-tasker. I’m usually working on a couple of projects; however, I tend to research for one project while drafting another. Drafting two novels at once doesn’t seem to work for me. 

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Not really. I’ve been writing since high school. Back then, I wrote poetry about famous athletes. Yeah, it was terrible. But I was writing and it felt good, even back then. 

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

I self-published a book called The Color of Bones. I then found an agent with my next book, which came to be known eventually as Soar.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I have several half-baked manuscripts. I know it’s time when I stop thinking about it. That’s my writer brain telling me to move on. If a story captures me completely, you can find me walking around in a fog, which is then not good for my other professional life. 

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

My agent is John Rudolph of DGLM. I sent a query to him for a novel called Bird Nerd. He loved it and I signed with him. We worked on the book for at least six months, then he submitted it to editors. We received two rounds of rejections. I then changed the title to Might Fly Away, right before the third and final round of submissions. I had reservations about Bird Nerd as the title, because the story was more “literary” than the title suggested. This time, the novel sold to Aladdin/S&S. Once the book sold, with the Aladdin team’s guidance, we changed the title again, this time to Soar.   

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

I sent over 100 queries for The Color of Bones. I had a lot of requests for my full manusc
ript, but no one ever wanted to represent me or that book. With Soar, I also sent at least 50 queries before an agent loved it. 

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Keep querying. It’s a numbers game. Liking a story, or book, is one of the most subjective ideas on the planet. There’s the premise, the writing, the characters, the setting. There are so many moving parts, readers are bound to not like something about your story. Be persistent, but always remain professional. Don’t query the same agent with the same project more than once. That’s just being unprofessional. 

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

When strangers read your book, it is just that… a strange feeling. As far as seeing your book for sale, it’s an out of body experience, one I’ll probably never get used to. 

How much input do you have on cover art?

I asked my editor to not put a kid on the front cover. I’m not a fan of cartoony looking kids on covers. Now, silhouettes of kids on book covers are all the rage. I’m so happy that Brian (Biggs) and the Aladdin team created something different, a kid’s shadow, which also communicates a meaningful action. 

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

It takes a long time. Longer than you will ever think. 

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I connect with educators and librarians all the time. They are my people. I love talking books with teachers. I have a website and a Twitter account. 

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

You should be connecting with people professionally from day one. Don’t wait until you’re published. Entrench yourself in the writing and book communities. It will pay off when the time comes. 

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Yes. Educators and book lovers are all over social media. You just have to spend time finding them. Then once you find them, you have reach out and make connections with people. Social media connects everyone, make it work in your favor. And always say positive. If you don’t have anything positive to say, bite your tongue. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Winners Of The NOT A DROP TO DRINK Resource Kits!

The five winners for the NOT A DROP TO DRINK classroom resource kits are:

Kim Chance
Chris Perkins
Melissa Engels
Rebecca Swartz
Betsy Carpenter

Thank you to everyone who entered!