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Posts Tagged ‘queries’

Yesterday was my birthday. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one.) We’re actually doing the dinner and cake thing tonight. It’s a rule in this house: all birthdays happen on Sunday. It just simplifies things.

birthday cake

birthday cake (Photo credit: freakgirl)

However, since yesterday was my real birthday and since one of my New Years goals is to make (or take) more time for me, I gave myself the day off. There are some things I can’t avoid doing, but other than that, I didn’t do anything if I didn’t want to–and for the most part, I didn’t.

I slept in and then made myself a birthday brunch of Sour Cream Pancakes–absolutelty the tenderest, most melt-in-your mouth pancakes you will ever eat–and bacon.

Sour Cream Pancakes:

1 egg

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. sour cream

1 c. flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt.

Mix all that together until the batter is smooth. Let it rest at least 10 minutes. And then cook like any other pancakes. Yummy.

Then I watched movies pretty much all day–mostly movies I got for Christmas–with a few breaks to get up and move around a little and occasionally indulge my internet addiction.

I watched:

“Ice Age Continental Drift” — fun, made me laugh.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” — good, even though I’m not a great fan of Kristen Stewart. I didn’t like the slightly ambiguous ending, but that’s me. I tend to like my stories tied up properly.

“Robin Hood” — I’m not a great fan of Russell Crowe, either, but I’ve always been a Robin Hood junkie. Unfortunately, despite the title, this one hadn’t gotten around to being a Robin Hood story more than an hour in, so I quit. I’ll probably watch the rest of it sometime.

Birthday gifts will be tonight, along with the dinner. I did get one thing via email though. Another query rejection. Which might have stung a bit, being my birthday and all, except that this is one I’d already marked down as “No reply means no.” After all, I’d sent the query back in July. Obviously, they’re just doing a bit of New Years house cleaning.

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I gave up making resolutions a couple of years ago. No one keeps them. Instead, I try to make goals. Goals–good ones, anyway–are concrete and are able to be broken down into achievable steps. There’s a much better chance of at least making progress toward a goal than there is of keeping a resolution. At least, there is for me. So, here are my writing goals for 2013:

  1. Get THE BARD’S GIFT in shape to start querying it. It’s going out for critiques this month. Then revisions and polish. Plus, of course, getting the query in shape and writing the evil synopsis.
  2. Get MAGE STORM into shape to start querying it again. It’s been off the market since last March. This one is still in the hands of a very thorough critique partner.
  3. FIRE AND EARTH, too. This one is currently in the hands of a mentor from Pitch Wars. Once I hear back, beat it into shape and get it out there again. If I haven’t found an agent for one of the above by the end of 2013, I’ll e-publish FIRE AND EARTH.
  4. Whip BLOOD IS THICKER into shape and e-publish it.
  5. Enter Writers of the Future at least one quarter.
  6. Write the first drafts of two new novels. One will be the rewrite of MAGIC’S FOOL (which I have outlined and ready to go). The other will likely be one of the two shiny new ideas that came to me in the last couple of months. I’m excited by both of them, but I have more world building and prep work to do before either is really ready to go.
  7. Learn and improve.

I have a list of personal goals, too, but this post is already long enough.

Happy–and productive and successful–New Year!

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Well, it’s that time of the year. Time to look back and see what was–or wasn’t–accomplished in the last year and declare goals for next year. I’ll do the first in this post and blog about next years goals in my next post, which will actually be next year.

The full post of my goals for 2012 is here.

Teen and Young Adult Fiction

   Writing goals:

  1. BLOOD WILL TELL was e-published during 2012. It’s original cover wasn’t very good, which I’m sure affected sales. It has a new and much better cover now.
  2. I did query MAGE STORM during 2012, but I currently have it torn apart for revisions with the help of a very thorough critique partner. I expect to give it another go in 2013. I believe in this story. Plus, I have at least three potential sequels for it that I’d like to write.
  3. SEVEN STARS, which is now titled FIRE AND EARTH, has also been queried. It got chosen as first alternate in Pitch Wars this month and I’m waiting for the feedback from my mentor so I can make revisions and see what happens.
  4. MAGIC’S FOOL will never get beyond first draft, I’m sorry to say. I learned in this year’s WriteOnCon that the age of my protagonist is poison. Too old for middle grade and not old enough for young adult. I can’t make him any younger, so I’ll give the story a rewrite as young adult, including material that was planned for the sequel (MAGIC’S APPRENTICE), possibly in 2013.
  5. Keep writing. This was an unqualified success. I finished three drafts of THE BARD’S GIFT, which is now ready for readers in a few days.

As for the personal goals, well, let’s just say I did better with my writing.

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Not to send them. Not yet. This is, in my opinion, a really bad time of year to be sending queries anyway.

No, it’s time to start writing the query for THE BARD’S GIFT, which I hope to start querying in about six months. Yes, in my experience, it does take about that long to come up with a good query. Not solid work for six months of course. Writing the query, closing it, coming back to look at it with fresh eyes, several rounds of seeking feedback from critique partners. Queries are hard. (And I haven’t even started the dreaded synopsis, yet.)

Without further ado, here’s the current (and very preliminary) version of the query:

Sixteen-year-old Astrid keeps mostly to herself, amusing herself with the stories her grandmother used to tell. She’s too shy even to talk in front of the young man she secretly dreams of, Torolf. Then the Norse god of eloquence appears in Astrid’s dreams and forces her to drink from the Mead of Poetry. Suddenly, she’s compelled to tell her stories. In public. Even in front of Torolf.

 This has the unexpected benefit of allowing her to actually talk to Torolf–and find out that he’s interested in her, too. Things are looking up, until her father consults the seeress, who proclaims that Astrid’s gift for knowing the exactly right story to comfort, inspire, instruct, or warn is the key to leading her people from starvation in Greenland to a new future.

Astrid must sail to the part of the map labelled “Here be dragons”, while Torolf makes a hazardous voyage in the opposite direction, to Iceland, to supply the fledgling colony. Without his support, she has to learn to trust herself and her stories to keep her people from repeating past mistakes and hold off a take-over attempt that could doom their only chance.

 Ultimately, the new settlement will need both her stories and Torolf’s inventiveness. Astrid has to believe that Torolf will overcome all obstacles to find his way back to her.

THE BARD’S GIFT is an 80,000-word young adult alternate history. I have enclosed [whatever the agent wants].

Thank you for your time.

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Just a (relatively) quick status update today.

Monday, I finished the first draft of THE BARD’S GIFT. Yay! I took longer with that than with any first draft since my first novel. Now it rests for a while before I go back for revisions. I have it slated to be read by my writing group in January.

It’s good I have something to celebrate because my chances of getting into the second round of the GUTGAA (Gearing Up to Get an Agent) agent pitch contest aren’t looking too good. That’s a disappointment, but with four anonymous judges making the picks, you just can’t ever tell what particular kinds of stories will appeal to them–just like with agents.

Meanwhile:

Yesterday, I went through and outlined the existing version of that first novel, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, as a way to help me decide what direction I want to take with this story. That was a very interesting exercise and certainly exposed some of the weaknesses. It also proved to be a pretty good way to get the last story out of my head and clear it for the next. Whatever I do with this will be a rewrite, but I need to decide on audience first. After I play around with it some, I may just submit this to my writing group for some brainstorming.

Now, it’s time to get back to the revisions on my middle grade fantasy, MAGE STORM. I know exactly what I want to do, so once I get into it it shouldn’t take long. 

Then I think I’ll get to the revisions on BLOOD IS THICKER (paranormal romance). I might even squeeze in a couple of short stories that need some attention.

And then it’ll be time to go back to THE BARD’S GIFT.

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First, a little status.

I made it into the first round of the GUTGAA Agent Pitch! Yay! Man that was competitive–in the sense of being able to click on send really, really fast. Now it’s fingers crossed that I make it through to the second round.

Also, I’m within a chapter of writing “THE END” at the bottom of the first draft of THE BARD’S GIFT. Whew! TBG will be my ninth completed novel. (We won’t talk about the first three, okay? I’ve got to work on revisions of two others while TBG cools. And one has been tabled for the time being.) It still feels great to get to “THE END”–or even close to it.

Now to the main topic.

I’m currently contemplating the possibility of working up–and polishing–another version of the query for FIRE AND EARTH. Not a new version to replace the current one (version number seven), but a whole new and separate query. After all, you do it for resumes, rght?

See, FIRE AND EARTH has two point-0f-view characters. I’ve consciously written the query from Casora’s story but, if I’m honest, Tiaran has a strong story, too, even though he didn’t even show up until Chapter 5.

And now, as I research agents to query, I find that at least some are actively looking for boy stories. Well . . . but to get their attention I’d have to write another version of the query. And then the fact that Ti doesn’t come in until Chapter 5 could be a problem. He probably wouldn’t even be in the sample pages.

Hmm. Probably not. I’ll just wait until I get the revisions to MAGE STORM completed. That’s a legitimate boy story, with a single point-of-view character.

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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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Well, I only have a couple more days of indecision. On Friday, the next phase of Gearing Up to Get an Agent starts up. Time to try to get my query in for the Pitch Polish part of the event. And I have to decide which story to send in.

I’m currently querying FIRE AND EARTH, a young adult fantasy.

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.

But I’m also making some revisions to MAGE STORM, a middle grade fantasy, and getting ready to start querying that one again.

Rell doesn’t want magic. He doesn’t dream of being a hero or a mage out of old legends. Certainly not a mage, after they all incinerated each other at the end of the Great Mage War. He’d just like not to be in his big brother’s shadow for a change. Someone should have reminded Rell to be careful what he wished for.

Mage storms, composed of the ashes of the wizards killed in the War, are the scourge of his world. The embers that fall like rain burn and destroy everything they touch. When he’s caught out in one, Rell is struck by a strange blue cinder that infects him with magic. That’s when the real trouble starts.

His father expects Rell to bring back the useful magic Da remembers from before the war. Rell wants to make his father proud, but his magic responds more to his emotions than his will. He can’t figure out how to make it do what he wants and the frustration only brings out one of its most dangerous aspects: fire.

Blowing apart the cave his family uses to shelter from the mage storms makes it clear that he’s never going to figure this out by himself. The next thing that blows up may be Rell himself, if he can’t find a better way to learn than trial and error. Turns out he’s not the only one–and not every solution to their problem is what it appears to be.

So what do you think? These aren’t posted for critiques at this time. That’s next week.

On another front. I think I’m within sight of typing the end on the first draft of my YA alternate history, THE BARD’S GIFT. Realistically, that one won’t be ready to start querying probably until next summer. But it’ll still feel good to type THE END again. It always does.

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A discussion on one of my onling writers’ groups this week prompted me to think about this.

Sometimes, if you stack up all the rejections–and you will get rejections in this buisiness, even the pros do–it’s easy to think that it signifies failure.

Maybe I’m a cockeyed optimist, but I prefer to think of it as steps along the learning process. There’s a lot to learn and not just about the craft of writing well and telling a great story. That’s a great start, but then you’ve got to brace yourself and send your work out into the world. That means learning to write query letters and synopses–a whole other kind of writng craft. It may mean learning how to e-publish some of your work. It means learning how to market your stories. No matter how far you go, there will always be more to learn. That’s actually a good thing. This will never get boring.

So, yes, if i just look at the rejections, I might get depressed. I prefer to look at it another way. From each project that has fallen short of my hopes, I’ve learned something. And each project takes me a little closer to my goal. If I just keep on doing what I’m doing and learning with each step along the way, I will get there eventually.

My motto has always been, “Never give up. Never surrender.”

Apart from improving my craft, things that I’ve learned so far on this journey:

  1. Don’t send out a story too soon. This is a big one for me and I’ve sabotaged myself more than once this way. The old saying is true for stories as well as people: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I just get so excited about my stories that I want to share them. I’ve instituted a new rule. After I finish the “final” revision, I allow a story to sit for about six months before I send it anywhere. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.
  2. This applies to query letters, too. When I think it’s perfect, it’s probably about three months away from good enough. That means I’m going to have to start working on them earlier.
  3. Some stories may just not fit the mold of traditional publication, by the nature of the story or its length. But we’re very fortunate to live in a time in which we have the option of e-publication for those stories.

There are plenty of things I still have to work on. Marketing is a big one. I’ve done a little more work on book trailers. Here’s the trailer for BLOOD WILL TELL. The audio is not quite perfect yet.

Never stop learning.

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Seriously, sometimes in this business you just feel like you’re beating your head against a brick wall. It’s so hard to break in. But I’m nothing if not stubborn. I’ll keep banging on that wall just as long as I have to.

I’ve been querying FIRE AND EARTH–a story I love maybe more than any other I’ve written so far–since April. I’ve had three requests for partial, two of which are still out. But that represents only about a 10% request rate. Not bad, but hardly great. I’ve recently overhauled the query. Too soon to tell how well that’s going to turn out. On the other hand, if I choose to look at the glass as half-full, I had three requests on MAGE STORM in a little over a year and more than twice as many queries sent out. So, my current request rate is actually progress. (And nothing says that I can’t requery some of those agents with the revised query in four or five months. What’s the worst they could do? Reject me again? Been there, done that, survived.)

Recently, my mind has been going back to MAGE STORM. I still really, really like this one. I keep hearing that agents and editors are crying for middle grade boy adventures. Well, that’s what MAGE STORM is, darn it. I just may have to take another pass through this one, revamp the query, and send out some more queries. I’m half inclined to use this one for the Christmas in July contest. Hmm. I wonder if it’s allowed to submit more than one book to that contest. I might have to ask.

I did get “The Music Box” e-published, but it’s going to languish just the same as “Heart of Oak” and BLOOD WILL TELL unless I start figuring out this marketing thing. It’s out of my comfort zone, but that’s part of the whole point. I need to learn how. Skin in the game was supposed to force me to do that. That hasn’t been too successful so far. I may just have to force myself to schedule in some time for that exclusively in order to make this work.

I don’t really write enough short stories to make much progress on that front. I’ve only written one and an abandoned partial so far this year. I should try to write more, but novels are just so much more satisfying. On the short story front, I’ve got two out on submission. One has been out for 147 days and a response on the other should come back any day now, assuming the publication keeps to their stated response time.

I’m making good progress (not roller-coaster, nanowrimo type progress, but good steady headway) on THE BARD’S GIFT again. That actually feels great. I’ve got my two characters close enough to begin depending on each other. Now it’s time to drop the axe and separate them for awhile. Have to make your characters suffer. And I think the opening of this one is the very best first page I’ve ever written.

So, even though sometimes it feels like standing still, I really am making progress. Sometimes, you just have to stop and remind yourself of that. It makes banging on the wall a little easier.

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