Jan 27, 2015

Query Letter Support Group

I received a comment last week asking for me to write more about query letters.  So, I took a day or two to think about what I had to offer on this topic.  What do I have to contribute that is not already available to you?

I'm no expert on query letters.  I have sent out 77 queries, received 32 rejection letters and one request for full.  My query letter has changed a countless number of times and is still being critiqued and altered all the time.  To be honest, even after all of this, I still feel like I have no clue what I'm doing.

So, here's what I can offer: support.

Let's face it, this is a lonely business.  And you already have plenty of people out there who will tell you what you are doing wrong.

I've made plenty of mistakes, and I think I have learned from them.  I could give you that.  We're running in the same race so we might as well team up.

So, here's my idea.  Each Tuesday, I will share something I've learned or experienced with the query letter writing.  I'd like to really get the conversation going.  I don't want to talk at you, but with you.

In fact, I'd like to hear from you as well.  Maybe we can get a link-up going, or guest blogs.  If nothing else, leave me some comments so that we can work up a discussion.  You learn from me, I learn from you.  And at the very least, we can commiserate together, share some war stories and enjoy the camaraderie that is query letter misery.

What do you think?  Would you like to join the Query Letter Support Group?


Jan 21, 2015

Write or Die: Regret

Today's Write or Die prompt is "regret."

What a powerful prompt and emotion regret is.  Although it is an entirely useless torment, regret is like an illness.  People will suggest you live without regret, but is such a thing even possible?

This idea of regret and overcoming the grief it brings was such a major concept in my novel, The Hereafter.  In the novel, two teenagers find themselves on the other side of death, left with only their regrets that led to their demise.

Ultimately, they are faced with a choice.  Would they change the decisions they regret the most, even if it means losing what they have found together.

Writing the novel, I became obsessed with this idea of regret and the price we pay to grow and move forward.

So, today I want to share an excerpt from The Hereafter.  This scene is a flashback from Nin's life, a pivotal moment when her worst regrets would become the catalyst for even more regrets to come.


Nin stood in front of the window of a fancy hotel on Congress street.  A giant chandelier illuminated the lobby and was reflected back by the shiny tiled floor.  It bustled full of visitors and families all moving in or out, speaking to staff and waiting to be seated in the restaurant.  A cluster of rich-looking young men sat in suits at the bar.  Nin watched from the window dressed the nicest she had been dressed in years.  She had on a knee-length sable-black dress with a lacy slip peaking from the bottom.  She adored the dress with its boat-line neck that flattered her tiny shoulders and flat chest. Complimenting the dress, she carried a velvet black clutch which held only her dead cell phone, a debit card and two copies of her father's funeral program.  
She didn't know why she was there or what she would do next.  She felt like shit but she looked amazing, and hated the thought of it going to waste.  Nin went into the bar because she wanted to be somewhere that felt fake.  She wanted to be in a world where emotions were hidden away like ugly shoes in the back of the closet.  She wanted to pretend for a moment that it wasn't a world where her father was dead.  She didn't want to be the hummingbird that day.  She wanted to be a swan or a nightingale.  Anything but a hummingbird.  
She gathered her courage and walked into the hotel and straight up to the bar.  Normally, she would be too terrified to attempt something so insane, but she couldn't fathom a reason not to.  What's the worst that could happen?  They tell her to leave?  They arrest her?  Her father would still be dead.  Nin looked the bartender straight in the face and ordered a gin, her father's poison of choice.  The bartender looked her up and down, and she casually held his stare.  Her makeup and dress aged her enough, but it was more likely the fierce look of grief that seeped from her pores that convinced him to serve her.  He placed a napkin on the bar and followed it with a short glass which he filled a quarter of the way with the copper liquid.  Nin nodded to him, then relaxed as he walked away.  
She drank the first one quickly and the second one slowly.  A dense fire rested on her stomach.  She was only moments from walking away from the shiny, fakeness of it all when a smiling boy emerged from the cluster of men in suits down the bar and walked up to her.  He looked so promising.  He was only slightly taller than her.  He had brown hair, combed to the side, but appeared tousled as if this were his casual mode.  His teeth were perfect and his eyes were bright. 
"Matthew," he said with his hand outstretched.  He offered his introduction before she even had a chance to deny him.
"Nin," she said as she put her hand in his.  Rather than shake it, he floated it to his lips and pressed a kiss to her knuckles.   
"Can I buy you another drink, pretty Nin?" He was clearly already a few drinks in.  He didn't look much older than her, but he was probably old enough to buy drinks legally.  He pushed a soft curl behind her ear with ease and a charming smile.  She couldn't look him in the eye, but she just nodded.  There was no reason in her mind to refuse him.  
"Tell me truth," he whispered when their glasses were near empty, after they had spent an hour with flirtatious small talk. "How old are you really?"
He had brought out something in her, or maybe it was the alcohol, but she couldn't stop smiling at him.  
"Old enough," she replied as she leaned in, nearly sitting in his lap.  He pressed his mouth against hers.  It was a careless kiss that Nin didn't stop.  His hand rested on her neck under her blond waves.  She leaned in farther.  
When the kiss came to an end, he spoke into her ear, "lets get out of here."  She didn't hesitate or second-guess the invitation.  She no longer thought about tomorrow or the next day.  She only thought about the image of her father being swallowed up by the cold, dark earth.

It only took that one drink to get her to leave with him.  She wasn't Nin anymore.  She didn't make choices Nin would make.  She didn't think about discretion or modesty.  She didn't care what she was about to lose or if she even cared much about the boy she would lose it to.  If Nin had any innocence left in her, she wanted it gone.  

Thanks for reading and thanks to Vashelle and Mia, hosts  of Write or Die for the inspirational prompt this week.  For more information on The Hereafter, please click the tab up at the top.   And go check out the rest of the submissions for this week's Write or Die link-up.

Write or Die Wednesdays



Jan 20, 2015

Book Review: The Bronze Horseman

About a month ago, I put out a request to friends and family for a good book.  But I didn't just want a good book, I specifically wanted an epic, heart-wrenching, take-me-away story.  I just needed something to swallow me whole and I didn't care how much it would hurt.

Have you ever just needed that?

Well, after some recommendations and research, I found The Bronze Horseman.  And it totally fit the bill.

First of all, this book is a monster.  It's like 700 pages.  It begins at the start of WWII and the invasion of the Russia, the same day that the young and naive, Tatiana, meets the mysterious and brooding soldier, Alexander.

The book follows them through the transition from daily life in Leningrad to the devastation of war and starvation, losing everyone you love and feeling imprisoned by communism.  Beneath all of that was the most torturous romantic tension I have ever read.

This book taught me that good writing and strong characters trump everything else.  The plot was drawn out and a bit misshapen.  There was more than one story arc meaning that the book could have ended in many different spot.  Did I care?  Heck no.  In fact, I think it made it better.  Life doesn't happen in escalating drama/climax/resolution.  It happens in moments, big and small, drawn together through experience and relationships.

The love story in this novel is built, carefully and patiently.  They don't love each other on day one, but the connection is there, so by page 600, it is epic and all-consuming.  The payoff is huge and totally worth the wait.

Tatiana and Alexander are two of the most well-developed characters I've come across, at least in a romance novel.  They reminded me a lot of Claire and Jamie of Outlander, and not so much in behavior, but just in how realistic and consistent they are.  In romance stories, it's easy to make your characters perfect and "easy to love" and it's usually the reason I can't read Romance novels.  However, these characters are so flawed and real.  Tatiana is naive and foolish.  Alexander is bull-headed and short-tempered.  But they are real, and I think it makes the love between them so much stronger.

As a writer reading this book, I admired the way Simons really pulled me in.  She brings out all of the detail without boring you.  She has a way of describing the emotional landscape that I can't even get my head around.  Her writing is just exquisite.

“It wasn't this soldier's uniform that affected her, and it wasn't his looks. It was the way he had stared at her from across the street, separated from her by ten meters of concrete, a bus, and the electric wires of the tram line.” 
-The Bronze Horseman, Paullina Simons

The Bronze Horseman has two sequels.  I did not know this when I turned the last page as I cried my eyes out.  If that had been a stand alone novel, that ending still would have been brilliantly beautiful.  But I'm sure glad it wasn't.  I'm about 20% into the sequel and so far, I'm not feeling as drawn in as I was with the first, but that's okay.  As long as I have Tatiana and Alexander, I'm happy.

These characters will be in my heart forever.

“Not bombs nor my broken heart can take away from me walking barefoot with you in jasmine June through the Field of Mars.” 
-The Bronze Horseman, Paulinna Simons

Clear your schedule.  Get comfy and ready this book.


Jan 19, 2015

January


There is something about January.  It's the first month of the new year, when resolutions are made and goals are lofty.  It's also the time to recover from the holidays.  Everything you put on the back burner is calling your name.  The weather generally keeps us indoors, or at the gym as resolutions go, and the kids are back in school.  January can be overwhelming, but also exciting.  So much possibility in January.

For many of us writers, January is also revision month.  For me, I let my NaNoWriMo project collect a little dust over December.  The first draft is complete, but I let mind forget about it for a little while  before I tackle revisions.  It gives me the opportunity to read it with fresh eyes.  Surely, you've heard this by now.

Are you revising your NaNo project this month?  

Many of us also took a holiday break from Query letter sending. As much as I love tossing that bait out in the pond, or sea, it was a nice break.  Again, fresh eyes are beneficial here.

And then, there's blogging.  My poor, dusty blog.  I'm not quite sure what you even are anymore.  This space has gone through so many coats of paint.  My goal this month is to make some sense out of this domain.

Is there anything about the writing process you want to hear about?  Query letters? Revisions? The project itself?  

Perhaps I should also mention that I have another blog. I started a family travel blog as a little side project.  It's not intended to become a priority over this one, but I figured with as much traveling as we do here, it's a good idea to use that experience to good use.  Share everything we've learned with the world.

  

So, on a personal level, life is good.  I'll be teaching yoga again soon, which is important.  I had to take a break from volunteering because it was just taking too much of my resources (read: money).  We have some travel plans for Ireland in the spring which I'm just obsessed with right now.  Our time here has flown by and we're down to a year left which means a race to see everything we can and returning to the states at the end with more memories than money.  

Well, this post was a bunch of nonsense.  Thanks for letting me air that out.

Tell me.  What is January like for you? 


Dec 3, 2014

Breaking Twitter #PitMad

For those of you who are not aware, tomorrow (Dec 4) is the #PitMad (Pitch Madness) event on Twitter.  In short, it's why your Twitter will be acting a little funny tomorrow.

Why is everyone posting book synopses? 

I've only recently discovered this event.  You learn something new everyday in this business, I swear. 

So, how it works is: authors with polished manuscripts and shiny query letters pitch their project in 140 characters or less, in hopes that an agent or publisher will "Like" it.  And if they do, it's an invitation to submit a query and get that baby out of the slush. 

You can tweet your pitch twice an hour, and you can't tweet the same thing over and over or Twitter will think you're a internet-hacking robot and kick you out.

I like to think of it as an opportunity for an opportunity (for an opportunity, and so on).  Apparently, quite a few people have landed agents going this route.

I have my tweets planned, for the most part.  My query letter is practically sparkling.  The Manuscript is a veritable Beta Reader whore.  I'm ready for liking of my tweets.

(this blog post is going in a strange direction, let's get back on track.)

Anywho, if you are interested in participating in this event, assuming you are at this phase of your project, I've found a ton of helpful info here at Diana Urban's blog (one of the #PitMad hosts). 

I'm excited to do something other than send out query letters.  It can get stuffy here in this office sending out "please love me" letters all day.  I'm sure the agents and publishers feel the same way.

Let's party, Twitter.

Are you participating in #PitMad?  Have you had success with this before?  Do share.