Posts Tagged ‘Pitches’

Still working on the blurb for BEYOND THE PROPHECY.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????If beginnings are hard, blurbs (or queries) are even harder.

Here’s what I have so far–on the third try. Still not there, yet.

Being one of a handful graced—or cursed—with both kinds of magic places Vatar at the center of turmoil. In more ways than one.

As power shifts in his adopted city, Vatar must choose. Support the traditional rulers for the sake of stability, even though their rule is based on a lie. Or reveal that lie and help those who would create a new order. Only Vatar, with ties to both sides, is in a position to decide which is best.

But that choice will have to wait while he tries to find a way to deal with enemies gathering on the border. Foes that could mean disaster for both his city and the plains-dwelling tribe who raised him. Only magic can provide a reliable defense. Magic the plains people fear more than any enemy.

But when he’s captured by one of those enemies, Vatar will have to prove his boast that it’s impossible to imprison anyone who can do what he can—or die.

Now, if I can just find a way to work in some of the unique aspects of the world without driving the word count up.

Yeah, blurbs are hard.

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Not in the data protection sense, although I do that, too.

No, this time I mean backing up as in going back a little for the start of this story (Book 4, currently untitled, of the Dual Magics series). I said in my last post that beginnings are hard. And they are–until you find the right place to enter the story.

In my first stories, I more often had to cut from the beginning, because I’d started the story too early. A couple of times now I’ve had to back up and put the beginning a little earlier. I guess that’s a kind of progress.

Anyway, I backed up to, among other things, start with a little more urgency–and a tiny bit of action. I like this beginning much better. Of course, I won’t really know if it’s the right place to start until I write THE END at the bottom of the first draft.

Meanwhile, I’m also trying to iron out the blurb for Book 3, BEYOND THE PROPHECY, which is much harder.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Blurbs, pitches, and queries are an art form unto themselves. And they take a lot of revision to get right–or close to right.

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First, let me say that the release of THE VOICE OF PROPHECY is still scheduled for December 15th.


Second, I know I said that I was targeting November 17th for the pre-order. That may not happen for a couple of reasons.

  1. I’m still assessing what information I can gather about Amazon’s pre-order system. I notice that people who generally know a lot more about how these things work than I do have chosen shorter pre-order periods. There’s a reason for this. (Maybe more than one.) It has to do with the way Amazon helps with the discoverability of some books. This was a huge factor for me with THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, and I don’t want to screw it up with this one.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The thing is, Amazon has several lists. One of them–the Hot New Releases–is only available for thirty days. As far as I can tell, that could expire before the book is ever released if I start the pre-order to early. I’m not sure about that, though. I may have to contact Amazon for a final answer. It wasn’t in their FAQs.
  2. The second reason is more practical. Before I can expect anyone to order it, I need to have a good blurb. And, like everything to do with a sequel, that’s harder than it was for the first book. Trying to balance enough information, potentially for people who didn’t read THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, with an enticing peek at this story. Well, let’s just say I may not have that by the 17th. I’m leaning toward this:

When the two kinds of magic combine, unexpected things happen.

Vatar overcame his tribe’s superstitions to accept his own magic. That doesn’t mean he’s prepared to tell them about it. He’d rather keep that secret forever. Especially when unprecedented things start to happen that even the experts in magic can’t explain.

Even more when a mysterious voice only he can hear starts volunteering information Vatar can’t possible know.

After enduring an Ordeal to prove he wasn’t possessed by an Evil Spirit, Vatar now thinks he may be after all. Or losing his mind. Or cursed. It’s enough to make him want to give up on magic altogether.

But he’s going to need all his wits—and all the magic he can muster—to defeat those who want to use him and his magic for their own ends.

But that’s not right yet. For one thing, the word “magic” is used five times in as many paragraphs. For another, it lacks enough specifics to grab a new reader. And third, some of hte references are probably confusing for someone who hasn’t read the first book.

Oh, and I also have to whip a couple of chapters from the first draft of Book 3 (probably to be titled BEYOND THE PROPHECY) into shape to include as an excerpt.

Yeah, nobody said this part was going to be easy.

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A few weeks ago, I entered the Pitch Plus 5 Contest over at Adventures in YA Publishing. Then, life being what it is, I lost track of when the first round of results were due. Apparently it was yesterday. Now, the way this contest works is that the first 50 entries make it into the contest. (Actually, the first 25 at an impossibly early–for the West Coast–entry window and the first 25 for a window 12 hours later.) Then, those entries are judged on a standard form by respected book bloggers on a standard scorecard. Based on those scores, the top 25 entries make it to the next round.

This time, entrants also get a short critique from that first judge. Email being what it is (newest on top), I read that critique before the announcement of who got in to the next round. The first sentence is “The opening didn’t hook me.” So, naturally, I thought that I wasn’t going any further this time. Then I get down to the list–and DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING is on it.

Here’s the initial entry, by the way.

So, now I have two days to make revisions and also do a little work on the query and get it in by midnight (9 p.m. my time) tomorrow night for the next round, judged by authors.

Yeah, that means that the first draft of BEYOND THE PROPHECY (book 3 of the DUAL MAGICS series) will be put on hold until Tuesday. (I have written a new first chapter for it, that does a better job of telegraphing the kind of story it will be.)

Meanwhile, I’m in the middle (exactly) of painting the final wall in what will be my new writing space.

Digital CameraWhat I want to know is: who had the bright idea for all those louvers?

Going to be a busy couple of days.

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I probably should be writing a mentee bio for Pitch Wars, but . . . well, that’s not really the kind of writing I’m best at–writing about myself–and, anyway, I feel that I’d like my story to stand on its own. Still, fingers crossed for MAGE STORM everyone.

Instead, I’m going to write about using stories as an escape. It’s one (only one) of the primary purposes of fiction–to take us away from our day-to-day lives and problems for a little while.

This post was inspired by a quote by Dorothy L. Sayers (who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries) I read somewhere:

Lord Peter’s large income… I deliberately gave him… After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.

It’s pleasant to share time–either writing or reading–with a character that doesn’t have to worry about the same things we do. As a writer, I have more scope for this than my readers. I get to spend more time with the characters as I write and revise the story than readers ever will. Plus, I get to determine the backgrounds–privileged or impoverished–from which my characters come.

Of course, those characters do have to have problems or there isn’t much of a story. This wasn’t too much of an issue for Lord Peter, because his problem was almost always a mystery to be solved. Only a few times did those mysteries really impinge on his life.

For other kinds of stories–quests, for example, which are common in fantasy and even some science fiction–that won’t work. We have to put the characters in real danger, chase them up trees and throw rocks at them.

But, you know, even that is a kind of escape. Going along, from our safe arm chairs, on hair-raising adventures or romantic adventures, takes us out of the here and now temporarily. Some days, we all really need that. 

Good thing those stories are fun to write, too, isn’t it?

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A little of this and a little of that, today.

I have started  looking for potential reviewers for BLOOD IS THICKER. Not nearly enough yet, but sometimes just getting started breaks the log jam. It’s certainly the first step.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

I got my proofs for the paperback version. I might make one change before launch, but I haven’t decided, yet.

Meanwhile, my first review for FIRE AND EARTH went live. Check it out, here. There’ll be a giveaway on that site next week and an author interview in early September.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

In other news, I’m extremely excited that my middle grade fantasy, MAGE STORM, got second place in the pitch+250 contest on Adventures in YA Publishing. I’ve just started querying this and I find this a very auspicious beginning. Besides, I get a critique from one of the judges. Who knows?

I’m almost finished with the paragraph-by-paragraph rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. If nothing else, this has been a great learning experience. I’m confident this story will see the light of day one way or another before too long.

As always on Sundays, a new chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER is up on wattpad for free. This one is one of my favorites. What if a couple of dragons in disguise arrived in our world just before Christmas, and had to go shopping for clothes? Well, take a look and find out. Or, of course, you could just buy the book. (Click on the pretty picture of the cover above.)

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 First, let me say Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

 Saint Patrick

And fingers crossed for a little of the Luck of the Irish. (I am part Irish, after all.) I made it in to The Luck of the Irish Pitch Fest. We’ll see what, if anything, comes of that next week. And I have to wait a couple of weeks to find out if I make it into Pitch Madness. In both cases, I’m pitching my YA alternate history, THE BARD’S GIFT.

Next, a small announcement:

Chapter 2 of FIRE AND EARTH and Chapter 5 of BLOOD WILL TELL are now available on Wattpad. It’s free, so go check them out.

Now, back to the topic, stories taking on a life of their own:

I just passed 20,000 words on this story I’m working on now–and it’s starting to veer off in an unexpected direction.

This was supposed to be a short story or maybe a novella. I picked it up to fill the time (productively) while I figured out which of my novels-in-waiting to take up next and do a little more prep work on the chosen novel. This one is looking more and more like it might decide that it needs to be a novel, too.

That’s–I won’t call it a problem, let’s say interesting (as in the Chinese curese “May you live in interesting times”)–because I deal with short stories and novels a little differently.  I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m a discovery writer by nature and a modified discovery writer by experience. I’m willing to freestyle (fly by the seat of my pants) with a short story or even a novella. After all, it’s only a few thousand words. If it doesn’t work out, well, no writing is ever wasted. Hopefully, I always at least learn something. Maybe I try something that I’ve never done before, like first person or a different genre. Short is the place to experiment.

But when I plan to start a novel, I do at least a little planning. I want to know the inciting incident (obviously), the central conflict, and if possible the try/fail cycles. I don’t outline, exactly, but I do usually have a separate file with a paragraph or so about key points that the story will hit. Most importantly, where the story is going to end. I have a plan.

I had an idea where this story would go, but it left a lot of room to explore. Well, now I’ve introduced a new character who has decided that he’s going to be a second love interest. I’ve never written a real love triangle before. Not as in there’s real doubt about who she’ll choose in the end. Now this new character is turning out to be maybe the better choice. Which wasn’t in the plan at all. Stinker.

Oh well, I better fasten my seat belt. I’m already on this rollercoaster. There’s nothing to do now but ride it to the end–and hope.

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The first part of my revisions for this next phase of Pitch Wars was all about deleting. My mentor made me realize that there was too much foundation in those first few chapters–too much space dedicated to letting the reader know how things worked. The reader needs enough of that to make sense of the story, but not quite as much as I had put in. I may be fascinated by world building, but that doesn’t mean it will engage the reader.

So, the first thing I did was to delete approximately 10,000 words. Ouch.

As I went through, there were small places where I could add a little more. Mostly, these were places where I could do a better job of showing a character’s emotions, for which I remain indebted to The Emotion Thesaurus. That adds up gradually, because showing generally takes more words than just saying that a character is sad or angry, etc.

Now, though, I’ve come to the first place where I’m adding back serious word count. It’s a place near the middle of the manuscript where I can do a lot more showing–as in scenes, not just paragraphs–about how this character begins to move from one state to the next. It’s an important point for this character and I think it not only can support, but that it needs the extra foundation.

I’m really happy with this.

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You think trying to sum up a whole novel in 250 words for a query is hard? Try a 35-word pitch. They’re evil, I tell you.

This is what I’ve got so far:

Casora was raised as a warrior. Tiaran can barely swing a sword, but he knows palace intrigue. To win the war and make a place for themselves, they’ll both have to stretch beyond their limits.

I have to get this and the first 250 words ready for the alternate round of Pitch Wars by Sunday.

The first 250 words have changed, too. Sometimes, you just need someone to slap you on the side of the head. After getting the revision notes from my mentor and taking a couple of days to digest them, I realized that there was too much world-building in the first few chapters. Not that the world-building was bad, just misplaced. It got in the way of letting the story really get rolling. Just because I love world-building doesn’t mean it’ll draw a reader in. Well, sometimes . . .

Anyway, here’s the new first 250 words:

Casora restrained the impulse to get up and pace across the floor of the command tent. She couldn’t show emotion, not even frustration, in front of her troops, but the continued silence from home was troubling. She reached up to rub the little scar above her right eyebrow.

She glanced up at the mountains visible through the open tent flap. The snow crept lower every day and so did her hopes of a recall order to let the troop over-winter at home. Casora dreaded the prospect of a winter stuck in camp with a troop made up entirely of homesick teenagers and every one of them carrying the potential of the berserker curse. She’d better start planning a lot of training exercises.

“Riders coming!” The shout came from the lookout to the east, toward home. After a pause, the lookout added, “Two of them.”

Only two riders? She’d sent three out.

Casora walked to the front of the tent and cursed under her breath. They were her scouts all right, but whatever orders they brought had better be end-of-the-world urgent. There was no other excuse for abusing the horses like that. Then she realized that Varana’s braid was redder than it should be–blood red. Casora took off running. So did others from all parts of the camp. Varana fell off the winded mare just as Casora reached her.

“Report,” she said, but more quietly than her usual command voice.

“Stumbled into a scouting party just inside the pass. Ambushed.”

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few days–and will be for the next couple, too.

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Well, it was nice while it lasted, but it looks like I’m leaving the first draft behind for a while and heading back into revision land.

I think I mentioned here before that I’m a first alternate in Pitch Wars with FIRE AND EARTH. I got the revision notes back from my mentor on Friday and I’ve been digesting them for the last day or so. Some of them I completely agree with, but one in particular has taken me awhile to come around to. She says I started the story in the wrong place–by about eight chapters. Yikes. And then use some of the saved words to further develop the characters, side characters, and their goals and conflicts, as well as more showing of emotions.

But, you know, she has a point and what she identifies as the inciting incident may be a better choice than what I thought was the inciting incident. Now, I don’t know yet if I’m going to be able to delete all of that. There are some things in there I really do believe the reader needs to know to understand what’s driving the characters. But I’ve already identified–and cut–quite a lot that isn’t really necessary. I might be able to work in some of the rest later in the story.

I’ve got a lot of work to do on this. And I have to try to do as much as possible by the 20th, because where the story really starts will determine what the first 250 words are. Duh! (Also, you know, it’s just good form to have a completed ms for things like this just in case an agent makes a request.) Plus I need to write a 35-word pitch. I have about four possibilities right now and frankly, they all suck. This is not the part of writing I’m good at. I really like the description by a critique partner (thank you MattLeo) that trying to boil the story down to 35 words is necessarily like trying to decide which blind man had hold of the most interesting part of the elephant.

Plus, the reader critiques of THE BARD’S GIFT are starting to come in much earlier than I expected. (I was planning on the end of the month.) I think that’s good. It takes longer to read a story to critique it and I only sent it out on (I think) the 30th of December. I’m taking that to mean that the story kept them reading.

Back to work with a vengeance.

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