Saturday, December 29, 2012

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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!


Valora can end the nightmarish hallucinations plaguing the world, but to do so, she will have to join the enemy. Good hook, I'm rather interested. So the whole world is being plagued by scary visions? Awesome. I'm in. The only slight problem I have with this hook is that it doesn't allude much to what the genre is. This could be anything from SF to straight F to magical realism to dystopian. But - the hook is good enough that I (and other people who matter more) would keep reading anyway and figure it out on their own. Good job.

At seventeen, Valora remembers nothing of her past, but that doesn’t stop her from moving forward. After all, reality is a gift given to her by the Potesters who freed her from dark visions. I'm curious as to whether freeing her from her visions is why she can't remember her past. I want to know if there's a connection, or *why* she can't remember her past. Adjusting to society, Valora knows it is forbidden to provoke their enemies, the Spurons, who are to blame for the nightmares. Again, I'm still not clear where / when we are, and I feel like I should probably know that by now.

The only problem is that Valora would like nothing more than vengeance. She would do anything to repay the Potesters’ kindness of giving her freedom. Attacking the Spurons would be the perfect act of gratitude - laws be damned.

Haunted by her unknown past and a newly freed mind great phrase, she grows restless with her life and accidentally I need more detail here. "Accidentally" is what happens when you roll down a hill and land in dog crap. I don't need to know the details but give me a little more here - Does she go on long walks and meet a stranger? Something, just a little more, to illustrate that there's a good plot point behind the accidentuncovers secrets more powerful than the terrifying delusions themselves: the Spurons are not the enemy. The Potesters created the dreams to enslave the people, building a fully subjugated army of suppressed minds. OK cool - but why free a chosen few?

Now Valora has to warn the Spurons, who are preparing for a war to end the hallucinations. But it’s not easy, because she must sacrifice the impossible to win the war. Herself. Cool, but why? Is there some reason why she must die in order for the good guys to win? Right now it just seems like yes SHE MUST DIE because that's dramatic. But, no - why? 

Besides the big question of why she has to sacrifice herself (and why her, after all?) I think the plot sounds fun. The problem is that right now dystopian is kind of a bad word (think vampires two years ago), so you need to show why you can cut the mustard. Tell us more about these hallucinations - this is what makes you different from every other dystop query out there, so give that angle some meat.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bring on 2013! - A Guest Post by Tara Dairman

by Tara Dairman

Greetings, readers of Mindy’s blog!

By now, we all know that the world didn’t end on December 21. Not only does that mean that I had a pretty good birthday (I’m a solstice baby), but even more importantly, it means that there’s a pretty good chance that 2013 is really going to happen.

I’ve been looking forward to 2013 for most of 2012. There are plenty of reasons for this—not the least of which is that Not a Drop to Drink by our very own Mindy McGinnis gets published in the fall, hurrah!—but the biggest one is selfish and has to do with my own to-be-published novel. Starting on January 1, I get to switch from saying “My book is coming out in 2014” to “My book is coming out next year!”

This may not sound like a huge difference, but it feels pretty big to me. There are so many steps in the process of trying to publish a first book—writing and revising, querying agents, submitting your manuscript to publishers, waiting for editorial notes, etc.—and for most people, each step takes months, if not years. I started drafting The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby WAY back in 2005 (which, now that I think about it, was probably before most of the book’s target middle-grade audience was even born!).  When it’s published, the story will have been knocking around in my head for almost a decade. What’s one more year of waiting compared to that?

Also, one of the best things about being part of a community of writers (and having friends like Mindy who are going through the debut process ahead of me) is that I have some idea of the excitement that 2013 itself is likely to bring for my project. By this time next year, the hard work of editing will be done; my book will have a cover; there will probably even be some advance copies printed up. I’ll have something to show people, something to hold in my own hands. By that point, the once long-distant finishing line of publication will probably feel like it’s hurtling toward me quite fast.

So, yes, I’m looking forward to 2013 as a gateway to 2014, but I’m also pretty excited about 2013 itself. As Professor Trelawney teaches us, predicting the future is an inexact science…but now that this year’s fauxpocalypse has passed, I’m feeling confident about taking on whatever the world throws at me next.

What are you looking forward to in 2013? Happy holidays and new year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Icy Waters of the Self-Publishing Pond - A Guest Post from Scott Seldon

by Scott Seldon

To slog it out with agents and publishers, or to go it alone? That was the question I was faced with over a year ago. What tipped the balance was the nearly half a million words I’d written.

I should introduce myself since I am intruding on Mindy’s blog on Christmas Eve. I’m Scott Seldon, a science fiction writer. I’ve been writing for a long time, but was only in 2001 that I tackled something that turned into a novel. I have written four publishable novels and amassed a sizable collection of short stories. I write in a sparse, character driven style and the stories I’ve written don’t involve large galaxy spanning conspiracies, wars, or other major conflicts. The main character of my four novels is Ven Zaran, a recovering drug addict and smuggler. Something about that has been a hard sell to agents which led to my dilemma. I took the leap into the icy waters of self-publishing with a collection of short stories at the end of January 2012.

There are a lot of things that can be scary about taking such a leap. For some it is the document formatting. With my background as a former monthly newsletter editor (I even won an award for it), that part was a piece of cake. What scared the you-know-what out of me, was selling. I couldn’t sell water to a thirsty man in a desert. And here I am trying to sell ebooks.

But the thing is that when you self-publish, you aren’t selling anything. You are looking to draw traffic to your books and then they have to sell themselves, reader by reader. So after writing/compiling good books, I had to craft book descriptions. Having spent endless hours drafting query letters to agents, that was surprisingly easy. It’s the same short summary format designed to peak the reader’s interest. Then they can preview the first part of the book. For those who have queried agents, it should sound like a very familiar process. I have my books sitting on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes and a few others, just waiting to be found and go through that process.

I won’t say just when I figured it out, but marketing your self-published book does not involve selling. It is all about visibility. That’s why the most ridiculous of celebrities can put out a best seller. They have the visibility. That involves a great deal of not talking about your books in as many places as possible. My plan for 2012 was to learn how to self-publish and get my work out there. My plan for 2013 is to get me out there. That’s how the big guys are doing it. David Brin has a fascinating blog and pops up on TV from time to time. He doesn’t usually say a word about his books. I have plenty of things to say myself and other topics, I just need to start saying them.

That is the real secret to being a successful writer. You need to go places and do things, be they in the real world or online. It is perhaps even more vital if you want to be successful at self-publishing where you don’t have any publisher/bookseller support behind you. Even for those writers they give minimal attention to, it is still a boost up from the nothing most self-published authors start with.

This journey over the past year has been a learning experience. The four and five star reviews I’ve gotten so far have made it worth it. It justifies that decision a year ago to not to let the books I’d written go to waste.
_____________________________

Scott Seldon lives with his family in Colorado and works as an IT administrator. Visit his website for the latest updates and to find where his books are sold.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!


Chloe Olivetti was just weeks away from her 18th birthday when she was struck by lightning on a clear summer day. Now her whole world has turned upside down. She has developed strange new powers – enhanced vision, the ability to move instantly through space and time, even astral projection. But as her powers grow, so do her problems. This is a pretty great hook. I think one of the most interesting points is right there in your first sentence - she was struck by lightning on a clear day? Hmm... that definitely raises all kinds of questions. Good job on the first para.

The lightning was actually an Army experiment gone wrong, an experiment echo here with "experiment," you can easily rephrase to eliminate it run by Colonel Rafael Garcia – why I think you mean "who" just I'm noticing you like to use "just," which technically is perfectly fine, but if you re-read most sentences w/out that word included, they still make sense. It's filler happens to be the father of Chloe's girlfriend, Vanessa.

Now Col. Garcia wants Chloe so he can study her, and he'll stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means kidnapping Chloe, her family, and his own daughter, whom he despises because of her romantic relationship with Chloe. But does he despise Chloe as well? If he has a problem with homosexuality I'd think it'd be reflected onto both of them.

But Chloe's abilities are still growing, still echo with "still" which again, technically is not a bad thing, but it does show a tendency to overuse unnecessary words and might make an agent wonder if you do this in the ms as well. I'd rephrase to eliminate changing, and Awkward here, I'd start a new sentence she escapes from Garcia's from Garcia's what? Army base? home? BBQ tent?, taking Vanessa and her family with her. Except their problems don't end there. They're on the run now, with no money and no place to go. So Chloe tries a desperate move, sending herself back in time so that she never got hit by the lightning. Everything goes wrong, however, and instead of returning her world to normal, she ends up injured and lost in a limbo where she can only watch as Garcia's men kill her parents and Vanessa. While this is all compelling and well-written, it's reading more like a synopsis than a query at this point, especially when you take the next para into consideration. Skip the details, focus on the idea that her family and Vanessa are killed, and she has the option of going back in time to fix that but at the expense of super-Army at Garcia's command.

Chloe recovers from her injuries, only now she's faced with a desperate echo with "desperate" from above para choice: save her family and Vanessa why not try "those she loves" instead of the echo again of family and Vanessa? by moving them all through time to a place where they'll be safe but Garcia will have created an Army of super-powered soldiers to take over the country, or risk all their lives by going back in time once more and destroying the experiment and killing Vanessa's father. Very long run on sentence here. Give each of these bad options their own sentence. 

Lightning From A Clear Sky is more than just a science fiction-adventure story, it is the story of a young girl forced to become a woman under the worst circumstances, a girl who finds out life is more than just clubs and school and going to the mall, and there are worse things than being made fun of by classmates or having to come out to your parents who can't understand your life choices.
As Chloe would say, the whole thing majorly sucks to the extreme. I like this para, as you're showing how the story has depth as well as adventure, I'd cut the last line, however. 

Overall this is a strong query for what sounds like an original story. You do slip into synopsis mode in the middle, and you need to cut down on the word count - but fixing the first will address the second. Make sure you're conveying the *idea* of the story, not the story itself in the query. You mostly did that very well right up until the last two paras. Boil down and rephrase, cut out your echoes (there are a few) and watch out for "just" - it's a killer.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately are baby-centric. No, I'm not pregnant. No, I don't want one. It's more about how I want to be one, but me-sized.

1) I want one of these adult sized. Dangle books above my head, put me on slow rock. I'm good.


2) I want one of these too. Think of the energy I'd save at work. I can roll around and spontaneously sit if I feel like it. I can also bounce exuberantly without injuring others. Put some easily digestibles on the tray in front of me for constant snack time. It's a win-win.


3) Admit it. You kind of think that eating off of rubber covered utensils would be awesome. No more teeth clacking, no more enamel getting knocked off with that one-second-too-soon bite down. And you get that satisfying give every time you bite a little too hard. Go ahead, don't be ashamed to want it.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fake Cover Fun

In case you missed my post over on The Class of 2k13, I wanted to share my fake cover for NOT A DROP TO DRINK with everyone.

Every author knows that comp titles are a great way to get the idea of your book across, and I like saying that NOT A DROP TO DRINK is something like if HUNGER GAMES met LITTLE HOUSE ON THE ON THE PRAIRIE. Survival against the elements combined with the threat of other humans, all in a nice, tidy Midwestern mile.

Enjoy my fake cover, courtesy of Lynn Philips over at Femboost.





Monday, December 17, 2012

Insane Writing: Dig Deeper - A Guest Post from YA author Alexandra Tys O'Connor

by Alexandra Tys O'Connor

Shaun T, creator and driving force behind the Insanity exercise craze, is my new best friend and my biggest nemesis. He’s a slave driver, loudly encouraging peeps through their television sets to push themselves to their physical limits six days a week. His sixty-day program is guaranteed to give results.

If you push play, you will see results. Guaranteed.

“Dig deeper” is Shaun T’s motto—a motto that can be applied to the writing life in many ways.

If we dig beyond the surface of a story, we are guaranteed to find the unique slant. If we dig deeper into our lives with dedication and motivation, we will find the time to write—even in the midst of a busy week, month or year. If we plug away at our writing each and every day, we will hone our craft. If we push ourselves, we are guaranteed to see results.

But my question becomes, “What’s next?”

What happens AFTER we’ve sculpted insane abs or written that amazing manuscript/gotten a publishing deal/appeared on Oprah’s Book Club list? What happens when the goal has been reached? In essence, what is beyond deeper?

Insanity—the workout program, not the medical condition—is grueling. It’s forty-five minutes of intense physical activity. It’s a guaranteed sweat bath each day. It is sore muscles stretched to the limit and lung capacities taxed. Heck, I nearly vomited during the fit test, and I quiver to think of busting my behind six days a week for the rest of my natural life.

I suppose writing is much the same way.  If we want to mold our ideas into something marketable, we need to stick to a writing schedule that produces results. We need to dig beyond the writer’s block, beyond the rejection and beyond the success—because succeeding as a writer is grueling, too.

It is pressure to promote. It’s a need to sell-through the print run and put money back on the publisher’s bottom line. It’s a necessity to satisfy your readers each and every time your work comes out in print. It is insanity.

So you wrote a book. What comes next? What lies beyond deeper?

That, my writer friends, is a question only you can answer.

___________________________________________

Alexandra Tys O’Connor has an insane desire to succeed in the writing world. She digs deep while raising her family and advocating for at-risk youth in the court systems, squeezing in time each day to work on her Young Adult novels. Her debut byline can be found in The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. She also blogs at Whispering Minds and curses Shaun T with great regularity.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Seventeen-year-old Tabitha Holt refuses to believe her sister was killed by wolves. I know from reading further that this is not a paranormal story, but the immediate jump my brain wants to make is to werewolf / paranormal. Lara trained dogs all her life, and was too wildlife-savvy to go anywhere near a hungry pack. Without any proof something or someone else ended Lara’s life, Alaska state troopers go after what they believe are rogue wolves, killing the animals unmercifully. To put a stop to it, Tabby has to prove Lara's killer was human. But it sounds like this book is actually a wildlife / environment-centric story. Mash the idea of the last two sentences here into the hook - this is what makes you original. It's a murder mystery wrapped up in a pro-wildlife setting. Tell me that right off. 

When a serious injury prevents Tabby’s dad from running because of the fact that it's *his* injury that prevents him from "running" gave me a logic jump before I got to the word "Iditarod." I know what the race is, but the words used before that injury / prevent / running / race immediately had me thinking Track and Field so the Iditarod threw me. Get the dogsled out front so we know what we're looking at. the 1100-mile Iditarod dog sled race, the family’s finances are stake. Wait - don't they only get money if they win? So technically their finances were already at stake and they were running the race to see if they could prevent that from worsening. Tabby's mom has no choice but to take her husband’s place in the world's most dangerous race. Tabby volunteers to help, intending to balance the demands of dog handling with her search for a killer whose stomping grounds eerily follow the race route. She soon discovers that tracking a murderer is much riskier than facing a pack of wolves. In her race for the truth, there is only the winner...and the dead.*

*Second option: But she soon realizes that pursuing justice will lead to a confrontation more deadly than a pack of wolves, and a finish line she may never cross.

You've got two good sinkers here, but I like the first one better!

RUNNING WITH WOLVES, an 80,000-word YA mystery, will appeal to fans of Gary Paulsen, Peter Abrahams and Gemma Halliday.

Good comp titles, too! You need to rearrange the ideas in the hook and get your originality front and center: a YA murder mystery set on the Iditarod? Cool. But... we kind of lost the point from the first para. I thought we were really worried about saving all those packs of dogs? But then we lost them when we started talking about the race. I understand that finding the human killer will absolve the dogs, but that train of thought is dropped abruptly. It needs tied back in, or not mentioned in the hook. If wildlife rights aren't a main focus of the plot, stick to the murder mystery and the dogsled race.

I think the biggest problem here is that I have no grasp on the MC from this query. I hear about dad, I hear about mom stepping up, I hear about how sister was smart enough to know better. But I don't know a lot about our MC other than she's.... the MC. She's got guts because she's out there tracking down a killer during a grueling race, but because of the prevalence of her family members in the query I can't say a whole lot about her. Take a look at the query and literally count the amount of words you've dedicated to each character and see where your MC ends up. She should be the one we're talking about - not the others.

Think about what's most important to the story here - the murder mystery and the race. Does it matter that Dad got hurt and now Mom is the one manning the sled? Does it matter that they are in financial trouble? Does it actually matter about the rogue wolves being killed? Sure, for the plot of the *novel* it does, but for the query do you want to give your word count over to subplots?

Get the MC out front. Get the murder out front. Get the grueling high-stakes race out front. You've got a great setting and original plot, figure out the absolute most important aspects of the book and give your word allotment to them, not the peripherals.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2013 Reading Goals & A Chance to Win a NOOK

Well, I managed to fail at something.

I know, you're all shocked, right? But I did. I failed like the way Polyphemus failed to eat Odysseus and his crew. So what's my crime? I set a goal and didn't hit it. The Dusty Bookshelf challenge of 2012 kicked my but like a stick sharpened in a cave fire, and yes, that is the residual goo of my eye trailing down my face while I weep my shame.

OK - none of that is actually true. I still have both my eyeballs and I haven't cried in like, a long time, but I DID fail my Dusty Bookshelf challenge of 2012. In a big way. I only read 5 of the 13 books on my Dusty Shelf.

Shame and shunning, I know.

So I'm going to go ahead and move those dusty books on over to the 2013 Dusty Bookshelf Challenge - and I highly advise you book-hoarders go ahead and do it, too. I'm registering as a Dust Bunny, which means I'll read 5 - 10 books on my dusty shelf.


But hey! I DID make my Debut Author Challenge of 2012. I think there may be a conflict of interest if I sign up for the 2013 Debut Author Challenge, but I advise you go ahead and do that. And if you feel like putting NOT A DROP TO DRINK on your list, it wouldn't hurt my feelings.

What were my Debut Author Challenges for 2012? Click on the Debut Author Challenge in the word cloud to see my picks and book talks!

And in case you do decide to join any sort of reading challenge next year, a NOOK just might help you accomplish that, right? Would you like a free one? I think you might. The Class of 2k13 is giving one away this month. Hop on. We're fun.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately:

1) Why do we say "Hey there?" to people? It makes no sense, as it's usually used when walking towards someone. Technically you're using the same area. Shouldn't it be, "Hey here?"

2) What about "Hey you?" I think they "you" is implied. No one ever says, "Hey me."

3) For that matter, why do we say "Hello" at all? Isn't that implied too? Yes, Hello. Can we move on now?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Goodreads Giveaway

So I have a short story in an anthology from Elephant's Bookshelf Press titled The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. I kinda like it, and I think you might too.

The great news is that if you're not so sure, you might not have to pay any money to find out. There's a handy-dandy Goodreads giveaway going on until Jan. 1


Goodreads Book Giveaway


The Fall by Matt Sinclair

The Fall

by Matt Sinclair


Giveaway ends January 01, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

And if you like free stuff, you might consider downloading the free Kindle version of the first offering from EBP, Spring Fevers. I'm in that one as well, and it's pretty okay, too. In my opinion.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On Revision by Guest Poster Jenny Martin author of TRACKED

by Jenny Martin

I have a confession to make. I hate to admit this, but I’m a recovering, repentant reviser. I’ve always loved the clean start of a first draft, the fever joy laying down the bones of a novel. But until recently, I wasn’t so good a taking things apart and stitching them back together, and very often, I was in too in love with my own mistakes to recognize them on the page.  And for far too long, I let that hurt my work and hold me back. I was pretty much blind to the true nature of revision.

Sure, I’d listen to criticism and think about it and nod my head. I’d even internalize the feedback, admitting the truth in my heart. I just didn’t have the courage or the insight to take that feedback and run with it. Instead, I’d take the path of least resistance, trying to preserve as much of my old words as I could. Mostly, I cut a few things out and made other scenes longer. I tinkered. I asked the wrong questions. How can I minimize the changes? How can I do what they’re asking, but still keep this thread? I turned my books into Franken-drafts, and the crude scars and quick fixes were all too evident on every page. I was just too immature a writer to see them.

It may seem hard to believe, but all that changed in a moment. I was at TLA in Houston, and I heard Maggie Stiefvater speak on a panel about writing. When asked about revision, she said, “I’m not afraid to cut 15,000 words.” And then she told the story of her first published novel, and how much she completely rewrote, more than once, to make Lament a much stronger book. And then she talked about meandering drafts, and about finding the core of your story and how nothing else matters. Nothing.

It sounds really corny, but I actually got a little choked up. I didn’t cry, but I felt the lump in my throat and I’m surprised no heard the sound of the scales falling from my eyes and shattering on the floor. How much time had I wasted and how many chances had I thrown away because I was clinging to previous drafts like they were life rafts? How long had I been pretending to revise, asking all the wrong questions?

As crazy as it seems, that panel changed my writing life. After it, I was able to look back and see many of the mistakes I’d made. I was finally able to hear and appreciate some of the best advice I’d gotten in the past, but had subconsciously ignored. At the time, I was chest-deep into a draft of TRACKED, and at long last, I started asking myself the right questions:

What is the core of my book? What do I want my novel to say? 

I faltered at first. It was hard to break old habits, but I kept at it, risking bigger changes and rewrites. TRACKED began to evolve. It’s still evolving, but now I welcome the shift. I know that the next time I type ‘The End,’ I’ll be that much closer to making the book the best it can be. One that isn’t a Franken-draft, but something that truly, honestly, finally speaks for me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Contest With Agents, Friends, And a Reminder to Go to the OB-GYN

I know what you're thinking.

Another contest? Seriously? But I absolutely despise all these chances to expose my work to agents!

Well, don't worry. Because I'm me, when I decided to do a contest I knew I had to make it Mindy-Style, which means it had to be different from everyone else and slightly offensive. I wracked my brain about how to do this, as there are a plethora of writing contests out there. And I came up with something that I think fulfills the Mindy-Style requirements.

Introducing the Pitch-A-Partner Festival! Yes, that's right, it's the PAPfest. Coming at you during the month of February 2013. Why February? Well, because you want to show your partner you love them, and also because I have a badly timed reoccurring annual exam that makes me think February = PAPfest.

When it comes to my writing I value my Critique Partners above all else. My CP's deserve a lot of credit for helping to improve my craft, and I'm sure there are a lot of aspiring authors out there who feel the same. So what better way to show them you love them than to pitch their project? Don't worry, there's something in it for both of you.

I dragged my CP's, MarcyKate Connolly and RC Lewis, into the PAPfest as co-hosts, because it's only fitting. In our model, writers will pitch their critique partner’s project, and our team will decide whose pitching abilities are so strong that we’re interested in seeing their own project. And of course, if the premise of the partner’s project is so enticing that we can’t help ourselves, we’re free to request material from them as well.

The blogging team will narrow the final hopefuls down to 30 entries, at which point we’ll ask our participating agents to cruise our blogs to bid on projects that catch their eye. We've got an excellent team of agents lined up, both established and brand-new hungry types.
  • The PAPfest is open to completed MG & YA projects of any genre
  • Be sure to have your CP's permission before pitching them
  • If CP-X successfully pitches CP-Y, we will ask for the query and first 5 pages of CP-X's ms to use in determining who moves on to agent judging
  • 100 initial entries accepted
  • 30 finalists move on to agent judging
  • Finalists will provide query & first 200 words for agent judging. Their partner CP-Y has the option of requesting a query critique from the PAP team of myself, MarcyKate and RC.
Are you confused? That's OK. We're planning on walking you through the process as February gets closer. All kinds of fun things are in store to clarify all your questions. I mean that. I intend to amuse the hell out of you while explaining this contest.

Why am I telling you this now? Because I want you to stress over the holidays.

Not really. I'm telling you this now because it's important that you have your CP's permission to pitch their project - they'll be getting a query crit out of the deal (and possibly a request for more if we're hooked by their concept, pitched by you). And of course in order for you to pitch something in the first place, you need to have read it. So polish off your WIPs or breathe new life into a trunked novel and get that ms in front of your CP!

Stay tuned to Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire for more details! And feel free to ask questions, always. Comments here are open, email me, or tweet me using the tag #PAPfest

And yes, I'd love to see that trending. :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Seventeen-year-old Fiona Archer has always found sanctuary deep in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest. Until the day it's invaded by a psychotic woman who attacks her, and uses magic to invade her thoughts, leaving Fiona temporarily blind. I like the hook here we get a good sense of isolation and genre, and also being temporarily blind is an interesting concept. However, it also raises questions - temporarily blind as in, she was blind for a little bit but is better now? Or is she blind for the remainder of the story? I also think it's bit wordy - does the woman have to be "psychotic"? Also, if she uses magic to invade Fiona's thoughts and blinds her, I think you can take out the phrase "attacks her." That's kind of assumed. Overall the hook just needs some cleanup.

In the wake of the vicious attack if the attack is "vicious" we don't need the "psychotic" in the hook, also eliminating "attack" above will get rid of the echo here, her family reveals that they know the woman responsible – only, she's no ordinary woman. Phaedra's an evil Queen, with a personal vendetta of her own. If it's a personal vendetta, it's assumed it's "her own." Fiona's family are Guardians to an ancient and unique breed of beings: A warrior race who bear swirling tattoos upon their skin as marks of their courage and bravery. Okay, that's cool - but why in the world to warriors with swirling tattoos for bravery and courage need people to guard them?

And now Fiona's expected to protect them. But Fiona is no ordinary Guardian. We're assuming here that Fiona never knew her family had any magical elements? I'd consider putting this element into the hook - something like, "Fiona never knew her family wasn't normal, until blah blah blah." Obviously don't write that, but you get the picture.

With the powers of the elements at her fingertips, Fiona's abilities as a Guardian soon surpass anything her family has ever encountered. But these new powers come with a price, and Fiona's sacrifices won't matter if the ancient war spills into the human world. So what can Fiona actually do? The powers of the elements are at her fingertips - ok great, but what does that mean? She can cause forest fires and then make it rain to put them out? What's the price that these powers come with? What are the sacrifices she's making? Why would the war spill over into the human world anyway?

Now, she's caught in the middle of a war between Phaedra, who wants to use her as a weapon - and the handsome warrior who holds her heart, and a powerful secret of his own. How is she caught in the middle if she has no ties to Phaedra? When someone is "caught in the middle" I assume it's b/c they have loyalties on both sides. But here I assume she hates Phaedra, so how is she in the middle? The handsome warrior is coming out of nowhere here, and I need to know more about this powerful secret rather than use it as a teaser.

The concept is definitely here but I feel like the stage isn't totally clear. We start very woodsy and isolationist, and we touch on the elements being important, but we don't really know what this war is about or how it could spill over into the human world in the first place. Tell me more about what they're fighting for, and what our MC's powers are. Also, I'm really intrigued by the temporarily blind issue, but it's dropped like a hot potato. How long is she blind? What's that all about? Why did Phaedra want to invade her thoughts in the first place and why does that matter enough to put it into the hook?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I bought myself a nice, big HDTV to replace my old TV which was -
    A: Square shaped
    B: 200 lbs.
    C: If you walked into the room on your heels nice and hard (like I do) the picture went    
         out.

So I've entered the world of High Def and I have a complaint. It looks too real. Everything looks like a home video. I don't know *why* this is, but I'm not sure I like it. The Walking Dead looks like I know zombies personally.

2) I'm trying to eat better and am OK with spending a little more money to do so. I made the leap to Greek yogurt. It tastes like bile. I'm sorry, but it does. So what I've learned this week as a consumer is that the more money you spend, the more frightened you are of TV and you get to taste vomit without the inconvenience of actually vomiting.

3) I stepped on a rake this morning and hit myself in the face. Yes, really. I'm now on high-alert for discarded banana peels and ACME products.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Release Date!

And so I have a release date! Or rather, NOT A DROP TO DRINK has a release date. It has been decided that for the good of the public I shall never be released.


So, write it on your calendar, get a tattoo, shave it onto your dog's back. 

Also, make sure you know your month numbers so that you don't do what I did and say, "That's awesome! I love August!" and then have your editor say... "Um, that's great Mindy, but your release date is in September."

And remember, release dates are subject to change. So maybe skip the tatt.

Monday, December 3, 2012

When Three Wheels Are Better Than Two - Guest Post by A.G. Howard

by A.G. Howard

Today's post isn't really about the cute and peculiar little German car with its odd number of wheels. Although three can make for a much more interesting ride. Take love triangles, for example.

Yes, the dreaded TRIANGLE. Lately, a lot of readers (especially in YA) are down on love triangles. I’ve heard some say that authors need to quit using them, that anyone who does is just following the pack or trying to emulate Twilight’s success. Personally, I love *triangles* (when they’re well-done), and am baffled by how anyone who’s an avid reader can think Stephanie Meyers invented or trademarked a trope that’s been around for centuries.

Case in point, there's literature dating back as early as the 1500's that utilized this same technique before any of today's famous authors were ever even born. One of the most unique triangles of its time was in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, where a woman dressed as a man, falls in love with a man, who's in love with another woman who falls in love with the first woman (thinking she's a man).

Confusing? Yes. But who could turn away from such a hot mess of unrequited love and wire-taut tension?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847) is a more traditional triangle, yet there's a paranormal slant. Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar were caught in a crossroads of passion that in the end transcended death itself. There was also The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1909) with both the dark Phantom and the equitable Vicomte of Chagny vying for the lovely and innocent Christine DaaƩ's affections.

I'm not going to explore why love triangles work. It's obvious they do since they've been a literary staple in gothic romances and the like for as long as there have been stories (there are even examples in the Bible).

In my debut, SPLINTERED, I wove in my love triangle as symbolism for the yin and yang aspects of the story, and the choice that Alyssa has to make at the end of the book. In all honesty, without that inner conflict for Alyssa, my book would lose something. Each guy brings out and complements different qualities in Alyssa—not just her light and dark sides, but how she makes decisions, either cautiously or spontaneously; or how she views the world, either as a canvas or as a playground. And when the time comes for a choice, it’s more than just choosing a guy. It’s choosing which way she wants to live her life.

For me personally, the best love triangles are either when the heroine is attracted to both men for different reasons ... when somehow they are the two halves to her perfect soulmate's whole, in which case she'll always be questioning who she chooses for they only have half of what she's looking for; OR, when one of the heroes realizes who the heroine is truly better off with and sacrifices his own happiness for hers.

Mmm. Nothing hits the spot like a broken heart. ;)

Here's a short list of some my favorite literary love triangles to date, in no particular order, from classics to present bestsellers:

Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, and Peeta Mellark - Hunger Games
James Potter, Lily Potter and Severus Snape - Harry Potter
Stefan, Elena, and Damon - The Vampire Diaries
Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar - Wuthering Heights
Jace, Clary, and Simon - Mortal Instrument series
The Phantom, Christine DaaƩ, and the Vicomte of Chagny - The Phantom of the Opera
Sidney Carton, Lucie Manette, and Charles Darnay - Tale of Two Cities
Sophie, Nathan, and Stingo - Sophie's Choice

Are some of your favorite third wheel love stories up there? Do you have some favorites in films? I'd love to hear of any that I've missed!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!


Justin and his brother Tom share one life: They feel each other's physical pain and emotions. Are they twins? I feel like if they were that would be mentioned here. Also, I'm getting no indication of genre here, this could be anything from contemporary to hardcore SF. It's not *imperative* that we get the feel right off, but it helps. This is definitely something that makes your concept original, but the hook itself needs more spice.

At thirteen, Justin gets phrasing - "is shot" shot with a poisoned arrow. In a last attempt to save his life, a healer works dangerous magic to forever link him to Tom. OK - so this is a step backward in time from the hook, right? The hook is a statement of their linked status, but this is telling us how the link happened, so there's some confusion here. Also, the poisoned arrow, healer, and magic tells us more about genre, so get the "how" of the linking up with the fact of the linking with your hook. But living with the constant echo of someone else's feelings isn't easy, especially when Justin knows Tom can't stand him. Even better - forever linked and they hate each other? There's your hook.

As farm hands, the brothers both want more from life than hauling grain and shoveling manure. After Justin finds out his father has lied to him his whole life about what? The price of tea in China?, the brothers run off to join the military. When the brothers become soldiers in a global war, they must learn to work together because their bond makes them vulnerable. Oh, nice twist here. If one dies, the other will too. But it also makes them powerful. They can bend elements to their will, sending waves of scorching hot flames, shards of ice, and bolts of lightning upon their enemies, How does this bond give them special superhero powers? Is it residual magic at work? who counter with blurring speed and a taste for torture.

Years of war leave the brothers exhausted. Neither side is winning, people are starving, and the ground is covered in blood. Justin and Tom will do anything to stop the war, and they might just be their country's last hope, because of the one thing they never wanted. Their bond. Decent sinker here, but how does their bond and super powers make them so special? It sounds like magic is fairly common in this world, so what's so special about them? Exactly how can this bond make or break the war?

You've got an original concept here, and overall the query is pretty good. You need to address the timeline issues and get the idea of them not liking each other up into the hook. That's your hook - bonded to someone you hate, not just the bonding itself. Also, I need to know more about this war. I get that the main idea of the story isn't necessarily the war, but I think an idea of Who and Why are very important in the query. Otherwise, it just sounds like the war only serves as as backdrop for the brother's story. And yes, that might be the case, but right now the war doesn't sound fully fleshed out because of the wording of the query. Tell us who is fighting, and why, otherwise the reader has nothing riding on hoping that a war ends if they've got nothing invested in it, plotwise.