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Posts Tagged ‘Pitches’

My novelette, “Becoming Lioness” will be e-published next week. Here’s the cover:

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And the blurb (subject to editing):

Living among a people who distrust magic in any form, Kiara has a secret. She can sense magic in others and she’s maddeningly sure that she has the potential for magic, too. She just can’t quite reach it. Considering the way her people react to magic, that might be just as well.

 When her people are threatened, Kiara must make the choice whether to reveal her hidden talents in order to save them. And to trust the one man who can help her learn to use her magic–the same man who betrayed her trust once before.

By the way, this story takes place in one of the worlds you can find on my “Worlds” page. Look for the Dardani for some insight into the background of this story.

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Well, since I completely forgot to even try to enter the Pitch Polish portion of Gearing Up to Get an Agent, I did the next best thing and signed up for the blog hop. Actually, this may work out just as well.

My revisions to MAGE STORM have been delayed. (I’m withing smelling distance of “The End on my WIP, and I’m not going to slow down now.) Therefore, by default, I’ve chosen my other completed work, FIRE AND EARTH, for the pitch polish. 

Query:

Thanks for the feedback so far. Here’s a revised version:

Seventeen-year-old Casora loses her battle against the berserker curse she was born with when her country is invaded. The curse turns her into an unstoppable warrior, but that’s no use to her people when she must be exiled for the ferocious temper that goes along with it. She turns mercenary while searching for a way to tame the berserker and go home. Hope comes in an unexpected form when she’s sent to rescue the scholarly Prince Tiaran from the same marauders that vanquished her home. 

The rescue leaves them stranded on the wrong side of the city walls by the besieging army. Now they–and Casora’s mercenary band–are the only ones in a position to stop the invaders. With Tiaran’s special knowledge of the enemy, they devise a plan to stop their common enemy by taking out the warrior-king who seems bent on conquering their world.

 A battle against the odds isn’t the only thing Casora has to deal with. It’s become much more personal than defeating the enemy or freeing her people. Tiaran is the only one who’s ever called her curse a blessing or been able to calm her berserker rage. If she has a prayer of finding the serenity to conquer her curse, Casora must decide if she can believe that there’s any future for a battle-scarred warrior and a prince.

FIRE AND EARTH is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING will enjoy FIRE AND EARTH.

Thank you for your time.

When her country is invaded, seventeen-year-old Casora loses her battle against the berserker curse she was born with. The curse turns her into an unstoppable warrior, but that’s no use to her family when she must be exiled for the ferocious temper that goes along with it. She turns mercenary while searching for a way to tame the berserker. Hope comes in an unexpected form when she’s sent to rescue the scholarly Prince Tiaran.

The rescue leaves them stranded on the wrong side of the city walls by the besieging army. Now they–and Casora’s mercenary band–are the only ones in a position to stop the invaders. Casora teaches Tiaran how to fight. His special knowledge of the enemy allows them to devise a plan that just might work.

Even with Tiaran’s plan, the odds will be against them, but the situation becomes still more complicated for Casora. Now it’s more personal than defeating the enemy or freeing her people. Tiaran is the only one who’s ever called her curse a blessing or been able to calm her berserker rage. If she has a prayer of finding the serenity to conquer her curse, Casora must decide if she can believe that there’s any future for a battle-scarred warrior and a prince. 

FIRE AND EARTH is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING will enjoy FIRE AND EARTH. 

Thank you for your time.

First 150 words (more or less):

Casora stepped into the practice circle and grinned as she saluted her opponent. The sword was not her best weapon, but the chance to spar with Marcian was too good to pass up. The only sanctioned time they could touch at all was during such training duels. Oh, they could hold hands occasionally, but anything more would have to wait until they’d completed their required service in the war band known as the Deathless.

Of course, there wouldn’t be much chance to touch in a sword match, either. On the other hand, if she disarmed him, he could turn it into a wrestling match. He’d win, of course. Her speed and agility wouldn’t be much use against his size and strength in that kind of fight, but there’d be plenty of touching. Every inch of her skin tingled just at the thought.

Marcian returned her salute and took up his stance, giving her the first move.

Okay, so that’s 156 words. I went to the end of the sentence.

Bring on the critiques and I’ll return the favor.

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This is a day early, but, well, Sundays and Wednesdays are my usual posting schedule and this way it’ll be up earlier than it would be if I waited until tomorrow to post it.

Mini bio:

Professionally, I’ve been a financial analyst and a visual basic programmer. I also have a paralegal certificate, although I’ve never worked in that field. It’s anybody’s guess what I’ll be when I grow up.

Imagining stories and writing have always been an important part of my life. It’s one I’ve finally gotten to spend a significant amount of time on while I care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease.

Questions:

  • Where do you write?

Currently, at my desk in one corner of my bedroom. I have plans eventually to set up a real office space, but can’t do it just yet.

  • Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?

Hah! I cleaned off my desk and actually dusted and polished it last week or the answer to this question would have been different. Right now, there’s a pewter unicorn figurine in that spot.

 

 

  • Favorite time to write?

Hmm. I write on and off all day, but my most productive time is probably late afternoon or early evening.

  • Drink of choice while writing?

Usually water or tea in the morning.

  • When writing, do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?

Complete silence? Where do you find that? And would you want it if you could find it? I think complete silence is a little bit creepy. Usually, I have the tv on as a kind of general background noise. Sometimes, I’ll play instrumental music while doing revisions.

  • What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?

Ah, long story. Let’s see. About two and a half years ago, there was a trigger challenge on Hatrack River Writers Workshop. The trigger was “slave to the flame”. I wrote a fable about a little dragon who outmaneuvered his larger tormentors by learning to breathe fire, but then I didn’t quite know what to do with the fable. (It had an unhappy ending by the way, partly because I couldn’t do anything else in the space allowed for the challenge. Everybody hated that ending. And a lot of readers didn’t really like the fable quality, either.) So, I wrote a framing story about a girl who had the gift of telling the right story for any occasion. I submitted that to a few places without any success. Some readers thought it felt like the beginning of something (a common complaint about my short stories) and I had some ideas about what else might happen to that girl and how she came to be in that position in the first place. So, now I’m writing a young adult alternate history. That original story will be near the end, though. Not the beginning.

Interestingly, to me at least, the manuscript I’m about to revise (a middle grade fantasy) also grew out of a trigger challenge on Hatrack River. The trigger for that one was “Cinders of the Great War”. Maybe I should do more of the challenges.  

  • What’s your most valuable writing tip?

Never give up. Never surrender. There’s going to be plenty of rejection and disappointment along this road. You’ve got to believe in your own writing and your own stories, even when nobody else does. Perseverance is the only way to succeed.

Oh, and find a great critique group. (I have two.)

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Query letters are incredibly important and very hard. Your first introduction to an agent you hope will want to represent your work. As I struggle with revisions to my current query letter for FIRE AND EARTH, I thought I’d take a look at how it evolved. Fair warning, this is going to be a long post. And, at that, I’ve left out a couple of intermediate queries. There are currently six versions of this query on my hard drive.

This is what I started with back in November, five months before I actually started querying:

At seventeen, Casora has spent nearly all of her life either training to be a warrior or fighting in someone else’s battles. That’s the fate of anyone born with the mark of the berserker curse until they prove they can fight without losing control. The alternative to such discipline is exile for those who let the berserker out. 

Then her homeland is overrun by a fierce enemy and the young man she loves is killed in the retreat. This news reaches Casora just before she goes into battle. In grief and rage, she triggers the curse and goes berserk. When she comes back to herself, she’s filled with regret. Now she can never go back to help fight the invaders or even find out if her family is still alive. Instead, she becomes the leader of a band of teenage warriors with no options but to turn mercenary. They’re united by a hunger to avenge themselves on the marauders that destroyed the homes they can never return to. What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse and go home.

Eighteen-year-old Prince Tiaran is the youngest and least of the princes of a neighboring country. He’ll never be the warrior his two bigger and older half-brothers are, and they take every opportunity to remind him of it. When the raiders turn to attack his country, Tiaran knows he must take part in the fighting, but no one will take him seriously. His brothers exploit his desperation and gullibility to send him off on what they think is a wild goose chase.

Tiaran is on the wrong side of the walls when the capital city is besieged. Casora rescues him from certain death. Tiaran, by default the leader of the resistance, must rely on Casora to help him become the warrior he needs to be to save his kingdom. In helping him, she discovers knowledge that might help to manage her curse.

It’s just possible that they may be the answer to each others’ prayers.

Well, you shouldn’t expect the first one to be good. For one thing, there’s way too much back story.

By April, when I actually started querying, I’d brought it down to this:

Now that she’s lost it and gone berserk, seventeen-year-old Casora is doubly cursed and there’s no going back.

Born with the mark of the berserker, she’s been sent away to learn war craft. Those skills are no use when her home is invaded while she’s far away. She turns mercenary, leading a band of teenage warriors looking for the chance to avenge themselves on the marauders.

What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse so she can go home. When she prays for an answer, she’s told to rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs.

Tiaran, third prince of a neighboring kingdom, is considered more a scholar than a warrior, but he’s determined to fight for his home. When the raiders attack, he’s trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Casora and her band are sent to rescue him. With the capital city now besieged, there’s no option but to keep him with them and teach him to be a warrior.

But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It’s just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others’ prayers.

This query actually got a couple of partial requests, but then there was a long drought with nothing but straight rejections. My request rate was only about ten percent, so it was time for a revision. Version 4:

Born with the mark of the berserker, seventeen-year-old Casora has been sent away to learn war craft. When her native land is invaded, she’s not there to do the one thing she’s been prepared for all her life–to use those skills to protect her family and home. Learning that the young man she loves was killed in the fighting is the final straw. She releases her curse and goes berserk.

Now she’s doubly cursed, because she can never go home to find out what happened to her family. With no way to help the ones she cares most about, Casora turns mercenary, leading a band of teenage warriors looking for the chance to avenge themselves on the marauders. She prays for a way to cure the curse and gets a mystifying answer: rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs.

Tiaran, third prince of a neighboring kingdom, is considered more a scholar than a warrior, but he’s determined to fight for his home. When the raiders attack, he’s trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Casora and her band are sent to rescue him. With the capital city now besieged, there’s no option but to keep him with them and teach him to be a warrior.

But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It’s just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others’ prayers.

This query got sent out to half a dozen agents. The responses weren’t encouraging. But, I’d gotten a few positive responses on a pitch contest (more like an elevator pitch than a full on query pitch) that had a slightly different approach.

Start revising again. At every step along this process, I’ve sought other opinions on my query. I got a really good one, here and discovered that there’s still too much back story.

The next version is at least pared down to just Casora and Tiaran. Agents can find out about the mercenary band in the synopsis. Plus, have you noticed one line that stayed the same in all versions? Something about being the answer to each others’ prayers? It may just be time to kill that little darling, too.

The new query will look something like this (no guarantees it won’t be revised again . . . and again.):

When her country is invaded, seventeen-year-old Casora loses her battle against her berserker curse. Being a berserker turns her into a ferocious warrior, but that’s no help to her family when she must be exiled as a danger to everyone around her. She turns mercenary while searching for a way to tame the berserker so she can return home. Being sent to rescue Prince Tiaran gives her hope.

No matter how hard he tries, Tiaran will never be the kind of warrior his brothers are, but he still feels compelled to fight to defend his homeland. When the raiders attack, he’s trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Rescued by Casora from his first disastrous battle, he learns from her that there’s more than one way to be a warrior.

Tiaran has something to teach Casora, too. He’s the only one who’s ever been able to calm her berserker rage. The only one who has ever called her curse a blessing. Together, they may be able to shake off the expectations of others and find a future neither of them ever dared dream of. First, though, they have to stop the marauders from destroying everything in their path or there won’t be any place for that future to unfold.

That’s it for now. I have query fatigue.

 

 

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It’s amazing the power a simple request has–as in a partial or full request for a manuscript. I swear a request makes me feel like I’ve lost 30 pounds. For a little while, I can float.

I’ve had a few, now, on various projects. They always make me feel the same. I got one yesterday from the Pitch Slam over on YALitChat. So did a fellow member of the Pied Pipers. Another Pied Piper actually got an agent (from a different contest, not Pitch Slam). It can happen.

For the most part, we send our queries out into the void. Often we never hear back at all. In the subjective nature of the business–and given the difficulty of drafting a really good query–the most common response is “No, thank you.” But we keep sending those queries out because one of them, sometime, is going to be the one that works, the one that gets us an agent and one giant step further along in this process.

And that’s what makes requests so wonderful, because every once in a while, the response is “Please send more.” And maybe this will be the one. One of them, sooner or later, will be the one that says “Yes.” And it’s very nice to float in that maybe-this-time space for a while.

Hurray for requests.

Now, back to writing.

 

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Pitch Contest

If you follow the blogs of other writers, agents, and others in the publishing business, you’ll inevitably find out about contests and on-line workshops. Many agents are very generous about helping those of us trying to break in, both on their own blogs and through these contests.

One contest that’s running now is a Pitch Contest, judged by agent Natalie Fischer:

http://yatopia.blogspot.com/2011/04/pitch-contest-with-natalie-fischer.html#comments

You can’t beat that. A chance to have a real agent judge your pitch–and maybe even request more from you.

There are other opportunities out there, too, that I’ll probably blog about in the near future.

As a side benefit, I often discover some really good blogs by following these links.  That’s a hint, folks.

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