Thursday, June 28, 2012

Author Interview: James Funfer

Today we have the oppurtunity to interview James Funfer, author of Crystal Promise (reviewed here). James, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
It's odd how this was the most difficult question for me to answer. Let's see...I was writing since I was old enough to read, and I knew from a very young age that it was something I always wanted to do. I find that some people express themselves more easily through the written word than they do in conversation, and I'm certainly no exception. I'm also a little bit of a nerd (aren't most writers?) and my main nerdy passion is role-playing games. I do a lot of hiking and barefoot-style running, and I love to cook. I'm a bartender at a local pub, where I make a mean whiskey sour. Ok, I lied before. I'm very nerdy.

Where did your inspiration for Crystal Promise come from?

My primary source of inspiration was early 20th-century European history, primarily the rise of socialism and fascism and their influence on the political climate. The Great Depression became a part of my research, too. My biggest source of material was William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, but I was also interested in the story of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia (and the later pretenders to her title), as well as the Roman culture (particularly Roman Catholicism). A bit of inspiration came from a video game called Valkyria Chronicles. Finally, I wanted to write about passionate, angst-ridden, hormonal adolescent relationships, but I wanted to make the stakes higher and add some class struggle, and, knowing that young adults might eventually read the book, I didn't want to present young love as something 'pure' or 'simple', but frame it in a more realistic fashion.

You chose a small press for your debut--what led to that?

It was certainly a conscious decision for me to start small. Instead of seeking an agent or sending the manuscript to bigger publishers, I wanted to get my feet wet in the industry and get a feel for how my writing would be received. Originally Crystal Promise was the winner of a writing contest and was supposed to be published through a group called 'Vicious Writers' (also known as 'Key Publications') but when that on-line community folded I was left with a manuscript I really liked and I didn't want to rest on my laurels. Fortunately I'd made a lot of good contacts through Vicious Writers, and two former members, Genie Rayner and Jim Vires, had started up a small press called Branch Hill Publications. The rest was the usual query process, then editing and so on.

What was your favorite part of Crystal Promise? What scene did you struggle to write?

It's tough for me to choose a favourite part of the story, mainly because I don't really have a favourite character either...I love them all. However, my favourite scene in Crystal Promise is probably the 'big reveal', which is also somewhat of a love scene. The best part of almost any novel, to me, is the twist - the crossroads of choice upon which the story rests.

Writing is often a struggle, I think, even for the dedicated and successful among us, but for me the toughest chapters to write were Julio's. The love letters were easy, but writing about a war is challenging when you've lived a life of peace in a first-world country that doesn't involve itself much in foreign conflicts, except in a peacekeeping capacity. Even with help from personal and literary sources, living through a conflict such World War I or II and serving in the military are experiences that change your very outlook on life.

Did publishing with a small press live up to your expectations, why and why not?

Absolutely. It's a compromise between self-publishing, where you do all the work, spend all the money and take all the risks, and working with the big publishers, who take a bigger cut and allow you less creative control. My expectation is to get my name out there, and through consignment and internet sales I should be able to do just that. The great part about working with a small press is that the editing process is still very professional, and the relationship with the publishers becomes one of trust. There aren't any hard-line negotiations. One of the best parts about publishing Crystal Promise was being able to choose my own cover artist.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Well, I wrote most of Crystal Promise in a basement suite in my old brown housecoat. Nowadays I mostly do the stereotypical thing and take my laptop to a cafĂ©. I like the white noise. Honestly, my writing process is fairly linear. I start at the beginning and work my way to the end. I don't write outlines because I like things to be mutable and have a sense of fluidity. I let my characters take control of the story. They do unexpected things if you let them express themselves as you've imagined them, rather than forcing them to make pre-determined choices. I find that my writing becomes more organic, and I know that if I'm enjoying it because I don't know what's going to happen next, a reader will be even more thrilled.

I try to write two thousand words a day. Usually I work a little bit on something else first just to loosen up, like a blog post, poem or short story.
What's next for you in your career?

Well, the publication of Crystal Promise means a lot of pavement-pounding on my part, keeping up with social media and trying to do as many book signings and readings as possible. I'm currently working on the sequel, Crystal Empire, and once that manuscript is finished I'm planning on seeking out an agent.

Favorite dessert ever?

You know, I don't often eat dessert. My sweet tooth went away some time ago and left me with a deep-seated hunger for salty foods. Sometimes I enjoy a plate of sweet fruit, without whipped cream. I've never liked cake that much, but ice cream cake doesn't count as real cake, and I could never say 'no' to a piece of that.

Last question (everyone gets this one): One piece of advice you wished you had been given when you started writing?

Network. I always knew that you have to be dedicated to be successful, but nobody ever expressed to me the importance of knowing people in the industry. I'm only just catching up now. Things have changed with the rise of big social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but there's a value in having industry contacts that you can count on to answer difficult questions or help you with your career. Go to events like conventions and writing festivals, book signings by other authors, or volunteer to be a slush-pile reader for a publishing company. Make contacts and make friends. There is a false perception that, as a writer, you're a glamorous soloist, but in this industry nobody is an island.

Thanks so much, James, for answering our questions. And if you'd like to read Crystal Promise, it is available tomorrow from Amazon and Barnes and Noble! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday

So in my agent search I stumbled upon Natalie Lakosil, but for the record I’m been following her blog since she was Natalie Fischer. (Dream agent right there) Sorry, enough with the side note. Anyway, I stumbled upon her client, Jessica Souder’s book, Renegade, and I fell in love with the concept. The book is expected to be released on November 13th by Tor Teen.

Let me put it to you this way. It’s The Little Mermaid meets Divergent meets The Matrix.  Three things attracted me to this title. 1) The utterly gorgeous cover 2) The unique plot. Let’s be honest how many Underwater utopias have you encountered in books that had nothing to do with Atlantis or The Little Mermaid? 3) The elements. Whose mind has ever been a ticking time bomb? And who doesn’t love a good boy from the wrong side of the tracks story (or in this case wrong side of the ocean).

I also met this author at a Central Florida event. Yeah, I asked for her autograph. Why? Because I feel this book has a unique air. Here’s hoping I’m right.

Here’s the Goodreads Summary:

Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie. Her memories have been altered. Her mind and body aren’t under her own control. And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.

P.S. I ordered an ARC--really hope I get it! 


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: Crystal Promise

Crystal Promise
By James Funfer
Published by Branch Hill Publications
The country of Novem is in a dire state of affairs. Still recovering from a great war in which they were the aggressor, an economic depression has swept the continent and leaves Novem in the throes of poverty. The republic struggles to hold back a revolution, but strong socialist sentiments threaten Novem’s stability, and many seek to return Novem to its former glory as a powerful totalitarian empire.
Novem runs on crystals mined from the ground, but many consider them to be more than just a power source. The Church of Novem worships a ‘Great Crystal’, which is thought to be a liaison between the gods and humanity. Those who can alter crystals at will, known as crystal-speakers, are an important part of that link between the earth and the divine.
For finishing school students Jacoby, Timori, Racquela and Crystara, concerns about revolutions and the church are overshadowed by school, dances, sports and summer vacations. But when the Great Crystal selects its arranged marriages that year, a chain of events is set into motion that threatens to upset the entire nation. Betrothal promises are made with rings of crystal, but if they shatter, hearts are not the only things that will break…
One of my favorite things about Crystal Promise, the urban fantasy by debut author James Funfer, is how all the relationships blossom into newlywed style bliss, only to be pulled apart slowly and painfully. At first it really seems like the holy relic known as the Great Crystal put together the perfect teen couples. Rich and poor were matched as Timori and Racquel, and they’re both romantics. Jacoby the rags to riches lady’s man was placed with Crystara, the blonde wallflower with a brain. And the inert Paulo was joined with the fun loving and kind Lenara.
Then the love triangles start, and even though I know the story just isn’t going to end well, I can’t help but keep watching. It’s like that morbid curiosity we all get as we drive by a horrific car accident. And it’s not just the interactions between the couple that work well. Even the scenes with odd ball teachers and certain high officials within the world clergy are both imaginative and believable. My heart, however, remains with a certain couple that is destined for destruction.
Even though the interactions are great, the novel does take a moment to get into and it’s not helped with a few of the more pronounce seguing issue. Luckily this is really only seen in the earlier chapters. The other things that could hinder this novel are Funfer’s word choices. There are times where he goes for the more eloquent word like ‘regaled’ and phrases like ‘bell pealed’ or ‘foreboding sense of gravitas’, and these could cost him some of the more younger audience that simply want an entertaining book and not something that’ll teach them new vocabulary. I am glad that the author put in more of an international flavor with the mention of football that needs goal tending (soccer).
           There is some really good stuff here for the adult reader that wants more than just teen nonsense. The political story is well built into the world and easily identifiable with our current economic state. And some teenagers might like it as well. 
The last thing I’d like to touch upon is the ending. As this is the first in its series, we’re expecting some sort of to-be-continued ending, which it does have. However James works a great feat here by allowing the story to feel complete for the reader despite its cliff hanger ending. That’s not easy folks.
Score  3 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pinterest and Inspiration

I love Pinterest. Despite the fact that I'm on a diet and most of the delicious recipes on there, I can't eat, I still love it and spend a fair bit of time procrastinating and repinning.
But here's the thing. I'm *sorta* being productive.
 Inspiration--for me at least--comes from anywhere, and for my new WIP, which I'm starting next month, I've been compiling a playlist that accurately convey's my characters mood, and also...a pinterest board. 

My board contains things that might not show up in the book--like this volcanic eruption and sunset from a church. 

And it has scenes of coastlines, which will play heavily in the story I'm telling.

And of course, there is clothes, like this gorgeous and over the top gown, and the etheral beauty of the wind-blown dress. 

 Mostly, though, I'm not picky. As long as it pushes my creativy, I'm happy and will repin it. So even as I'm sitting in the car wasting time on Pinterest, I can hold up my phone and wave it in Mike's face and say, I'm being productive, babe!!

Do you use Pinterest? If so, feel free to follow me 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Editing & Revising Step-by-Step

Find a cozy spot and let's get revising!

As I write this I’m doing it to avoid that thing called revisions. I’ve read through and edited my manuscript but now it’s a matter of implementing those revisions. So since I’m currently in the process I thought I’d share how I work.

Editing & Revision:

Step 1: Buy yourself a pretty notebook. You’ll be using it often. Why? Because it’s an easy place to keep any ideas, subplots you may have dropped, or notes to yourself while revising. I love the spiral notebooks B&N has.

Step 2: I recommend buying a highlighter and colored pens. Also, make sure your margins are wide enough for editing preferably 0.5” all around.

Step 3: Complete a full read-through. As you comb through the manuscript look for typos and grammatical errors, awkward sentence structure, overuse of exclamation points and comma splices. Now, be careful to make sure that character hair and eye color hasn’t changed. (With this manuscript I kept switching from green to brown to hazel with two characters. Talk about frustrating).

Are there chapters where you take severe detours from the main plot? Is this necessary? Should you cut? Do scenes need to be lengthened? Does that witty, awesome, super imaginative scene really hold a purpose? If not, chop that sucker out.

Make sure your chapter and scene markers remain the same throughout. Does the dialogue feel too modern (if you’re writing fantasy)? Is the world building enough (this applies even to contemporary stories)? Does your character grow throughout the book? If not you’ve got a problem and need to work on character development. How are your main characters relationships with other characters? Do you have too many minor characters? Do some appear at the beginning and never again? Can you lump two or three together to make one character? Is the plot believable? How’s the ending? ClichĂ© or original?

Step 4:

Once you’ve evaluated all these things and more, depending upon what applies to your story, then you’re ready to begin implementing these changes. Be creative in how you approach a problem scene.  You may find the fix is very complicated or can be as simple as changing a few words or scenes around here and there.

Step 5:

Once you feel the manuscript is shiny. Send it off to CPs (critique partners). If you don’t have them. Find some. You can find some on the Absolute Write forums, YaLitChat, Writer’s Digest Community, or any writers groups. Also, the awesome Krista at the Mother. Write. (Repeat) blog recently has done a critique partner connect. Ya'll should check it out :)

Step 6:

Once you get their feedback. Implement those which makes sense. Sometimes it is a tough pill to swallow but we must learn to be objective with our work. If something isn’t working, a critique partner's job is to tell us. Although, you’re not bound to use everything one suggests. Still, wade through the feedback and find out what will work best for the manuscript in the end. Also it's best to have more than one critique partner. They are not the same as beta readers. A beta reader can be within your target audience (age-wise) or a fellow writer or reader doing an overall read-through other than an in depth critique. Both are great but a critique partner is invaluable.

Good luck!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kids and Writing

So, not that this is a news flash, but it's summer vacation. And may I just say, I adore summer, with sticky fruit salad, playing with my daughters, Mike grilling more than I cook, and loooong afternoons writing outside while the kiddos splash about in the pool.
And the beach. And beach reading. (Okay, reading in general.)
You get my point. Summer equals good.
But it also means less time for writing. I've finished the draft of ACROSS THE STARS (everyone watch N~ happy dance) and I'm editing. Which brings me to today's point. (Look, I'm a novelist. Long winded is in the job description)
Yesterday, Liz asked me how I liked my surroundings while I edited. I laughed and said anyway I can get them. With three kids, three pets and a husband, I work when I can and don't even mind much if I'm working to a soundtrack of Backyardigans.
Later, I started thinking about it though. I haven't always edited like this. And I didn't write ACROSS THE STARS the same way I wrote any of my previous manuscripts. Every time, it's been different.
Which brings me back to children. My girls are different from each other. There's sensitive Princess with a strong will, mischievous Monster who likes dress up more than ANYTHING and baby Bug who isn't afraid of anything and wants nothing more than to play with her sisters. Each one is different, and parenting them is different for each one. And no one way is wrong--just like there is no WRONG way to write my books. (aside from, ya know, plagerisim). And the fact is, I might think I know what I'm doing, but when I start the next WIP, it'll be like having a first baby. And that's okay.

Q4U: what is writing (or editing) like for you and does it change project to project?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: Froi of the Exiles


Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.


            Froi of the Exiles is the second novel in the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta, who does a wonderful job with bringing strange characters to live in such a interesting way, it’s hard not to love them. Froi, our novel main protagonist, is a hard headed and yet very loyal Lumaterian warrior who’s sent on an assassination mission in the kingdom of Charyn. Here he meets Quitanna, the whore princess, and she could very well have a few other people living inside her head. Melina weaves a subtle master stroke when she brings these two together, letting the reader root for the odd couple to survive against any odds. This is a good thing too because things get pretty ugly really quick once the King is assassinated.

            The biggest issue that the novel has is that it falls prey to the curse of the sequels. If you’re new to the series, you’ll be a bit lost at first. This is forgivable and Melina really does do a decent job of catching the reader up. However the to-be-continued ending could make a new reader annoyed enough not to continue. It’s only because of this issue that I can’t really give Froi that great of a review. It’s simply not complete.

            This is not to say that Froi of the Exiles wasn’t a good read. On the contrary, every chapter that had Froi in it, I was captivated by him. That alone makes this a book to pick up for any fantasy lover. Until the next in the Lumatere Chronicle comes out, this will have to remain, at best, only average.

           Score: 3.5 of 5

Friday, June 15, 2012

Making pivotal choices matter more

            George Moore once wrote the difficulty of life is in the choice. As writers we love to make our protagonist make that all important choice. Lots of times it’s about the characters life and death. It could be their life or someone they love. Have you ever wondered why some of these decisions failed to cause a tear? The answer, as George so wonderfully articulated, is in the difficulty of the choice.

            What does that even mean?

            See if this helps a bit. Our protagonist’s name is Mike. His whole life he was taught to kill with a cold heart. He meets a girl, Sara, during his latest mission, and for some reason he can’t get this girl out of his head. She has no idea who he is or what he does, but Mike is fascinated with her, so much that after every kill, he spends time with her. Every time he’s with her, there is something new he learns. His latest visit, Mike tries to kill the multi hairy legged spider that has her so frighten, but she won’t let him. She tells him everything has the right to live and who are we to decide when anything should die. Mike is red-faced, unable to look at her, and then takes off. Later he finds out that she is his next victim. Mike immediately goes into his training and turns emotionless, but when he has her, she begs. Not for her life, but for his.

            Mike cries out, and all his anguish and hatred for what he has to do is coated in it. Then, after the unbearable moments that seem to take a lifetime, Mike points the barrel of the gun directly between her eyes, begins to squeeze the trigger. He can’t follow through though. Instead he buries the barrel inside his mouth, and as Sara screams in protest, Mike splatters his brains all over the place.

            Our protagonist just make a very difficult decision and it was hard because he had both the compassion to save a life and the coldness to take it away.  What would happen if the first time he met Sara was when she became the target? Mike would still have the same decision, kill or commit suicide. But it’s not a terribly difficult choice. I mean, why kill yourself for someone you don’t know?

            So that’s my apple of knowledge folks. The choice is now in your court. You can be delightfully evil by taking a bite and damning an entire race, or be unlawfully good so we don’t have any more zombies running around.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

Let's talk about a book I'm REALLY excited about.


Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of retellings, and I adored Peter Pan as a little girl--there was a five month period I toyed with a retelling myself--and that someone is offering up Tiger Lily's story has me crazy excited with anticipation. It releases on July 3 from HarperCollins and I'm already planning on buying it that day. 

Q4U: What book are you looking forward to reading soon? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Goodreads Summary:

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

My Take:

First let me talk about the world building. The Girl of Fire and Thorns has the voice and style of a historical with magic lightly sprinkled throughout. It’s not exactly in the vein of the traditional fantasy. No dragons or elves, just humans, godstones and war.  What truly piqued my interest is that the author, Rae Carson, used Spanish words throughout when it came to names and even a foreign language. It had a feel similar to Isabel Allende’s work, author of City of the Beasts. This incorporation of Spanish (or possibly Latin) traditions seemed to give it a new setting, so different from traditional fantasies set in a middle ages England backdrop. She painted a rich and believable world.

Now, the heroine. At first I had a hard time relating to her, but Princess Elisa will surprise us all. Told in the first person point-of-view we delve headfirst into Elisa’s life as a plump and curvaceous princess who prefers to know when the next meal is than deal with anything to do with the court. She knows she’s not as beautiful as her sister, nor is she as charming when it comes to court, but somehow Elisa is the bearer of the godstone, a chosen one. We get to stumble along with her as she tries to find where she belongs and what path will make her a legend or a coward. Personally, this was a great read and I can’t wait for the second. My only complaint was that I felt certain relationships between characters could have been strengthened. Overall, definitely worth a read.

My Rating:

4.4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The End of Days

Okay, so maaaaybe a little dramatic. But, seriously? It has taken me forEVER to write my WIP, Across the Stars. How long forever? I started it last September. Usually I take a month, maybe two, to write a book. This one is going on nine months.
But, it's long and it's awesome, and I wrote it with a baby who hasn't yet turned one. So there is that.
For me, it's such a relief to know by Saturday, I'll have a working first draft. Does it mean I'm ready to run out and query? Well, no. It's a FIRST DRAFT, after all. There is a lot of editing and revisions needed, and I'm excited about that, too.
But I'm looking forward to the break from this world, the three day trip I have planned with my daughters while Mike is working, and the books I plan to read while they splash in the pool (or nap, as the case may be). I'm looking forward to my next project, which I'm going to work on while I give myself a month of distance from Across the Stars before I start editing.
I'm looking forward to the chocolate (okay, not really, cuz I'm dieting) and the happy dance and the omgit'sdone!! feeling and twitter updates.
What do you look forward to when finishing a book?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Winner!! Michelle Zink Giveaway!

Thanks everyone for entering our giveaway, and be sure to check out Michelle's new novella, Whisper of Souls, which released yesterday!

The winner of the signed copy of A Temptation of Angels and a $25 gift card is:
Raquel Romero!!!! Congrats! :)

Sparking Creativity

            In case anyone doesn’t already know, I’ve been working on building the world for my latest novel entitled Isle of Exiles. It’s the part of the writing process that I thoroughly hate. Currently I’ve gotten stuck on the setting of my novel and doing everything I can to figure that out.

This has brought up an interesting question: What do we do to spark creativity?

            I have a few tricks that usually work for me. A lot of the things are simply done to get my mind off of the story. Things like reading, watching a movie, or blasting some bad guys on the PS3.

            There are some others that I’ll do while I’m in the middle of writing a scene. Stuff like taking a nice hot bath or an extended shower.

            So now that you guys know some of my tricks, anyone else have  trick that works for them?


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

5 Tips I've Learned From Book Publicity

1) Nonfiction is easier to promote. Why? 
-You can easily relate it to something current like an event, a new study etc.

2) Publicity is time consuming.
-Make sure you're able to devote the time. If you can't then hire someone who can. Publicity takes time and sometimes nothing comes of it, other times you can reap major benefits. It's all about time and persistence. This is something big to consider when one goes the self-publishing route. You will have to promote your book with a traditional publisher, but there may be more work involved on your end when you self-publish.

3) One press release does not make a campaign.
-In fact, for those familiar with publicity, there is some talk that a press release's role is evolving. I personally prefer to formulate a pitch. (Very much like a query). I consider a press release secondary. Something that quickly provides information for say an event, or quick facts one can use to get a quick background on a book or specific subject.

4) Not all methods work for everyone. You must try to find your built-in audience.
 a) Let me give you an example. Say we have a MG author whose books focus on Greek mythology. The people this author should be targeting is not just the 8 to 12-year-old readers, but teachers, librarians and parents. The ones who have a say in what their child can and cannot read. These are the people who put the books in front of the children, the ones who stock them in the libraries. This can easily be done by sending a copy to school librarians, speaking with them and hosting presentations in the classrooms. For a MG author, an elementary or middle school already has their built in audience.

b) Now, for a nonfiction author whose book deals with the civil rights for African Americans and a famous case, an elementary or middle school is probably not the best audience. Instead his built in audience is within colleges. With that famous case he can target law schools and because of the intense historical aspect he can contact history departments. By promoting his books through speaking engagements you never know if a professor may want to use his book in a classroom. Those are instant book sales if each student in the class must purchase a copy. But that's not the main reason to host these events with colleges. Instead, it's merely a way to find readers who would be interested in the topic or topics he has written about. Just like a MG author shouldn't target a bunch of 21 something year olds with no kids for a middle grade book.

5) The traditional media is still viable.
 -Many authors have taken to using bloggers as of late, most even believe it's easier than getting the traditional media. The traditional media, like TV, radio and print are still viable options. There are some who prefer to follow industry blogs, while others are still with traditional media. In order to reach both audiences one must seek to utilize both. Think about it. If you have something truly news worthy then the media will be interested. Let's take Jennifer L. Armentrout for example. Entangled Publishing has a whole publicity campaign going on online about Jennifer coming to Georgia and Florida this June. Sure, another author is coming to town. What's the big deal? Well, they're bringing along the book cover's Hungarian models, which have grown in popularity since they've been used on other book covers, actual magazines and even the company European Wax has them all over their promotional material. Within the literary world, this is buzz. This is so fun and out there that for traditional print or TV it could make for a fun human interest or community piece. It's just a matter of finding the right newsworthy aspect of whatever "news" you have to offer the media.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review: Kill Me Softly

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release Date: 4/10/12
Rating: 4 Stars.

True loves kiss just may prove deadly....
Mirabelle’s past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents’ tragic deaths to her guardians’ half-truths about why she can’t return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.
In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who’s a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.
But fairy tales aren’t pretty things, and they don’t always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy-tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy-tale curses of their own ... brothers who share a dark secret. And she’ll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

I should go on record as saying I ADORE fairytale retellings. A whole city where fairy tales are walking around? Yes, please! And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fun light read, predictable in parts but still enjoyable. And it was a slightly darker look at fairy tales than the traditional happily ever after, which I particularly liked, because original fairy tales were a bit on the dark side.
Mirabelle, I will admit started off a bit weak willed and naive for my personal taste, but I was okay with that as I watched her grow as a character, from a quiet obedient girl who never questioned anything to a feisty smart young woman who needs no saving by a prince. I also really liked the romance here. I suppose it could be called a love triangle, since there are two boys she’s torn between, but as its fairly obvious who she’ll be with from the start, I’m more inclined to call it a bumpy romance.
There was a lot of stories left open—supporting characters in this book, that I’d enjoy learning more about, but I suppose we’ll have to wait to see if that happens. In any case, if you enjoy a light read and twisted fairy tales—or even a blue-haired cutie with a bad attitude—I highly recommend Kill Me Softly.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

N's Working Query.

Yesterday, Liz shared her old, not successful query. I got the easier (and less embarrassing) task of sharing one that DOES work. Now, this query isn't perfect--and it's landed me a good bit of form rejections. But it's also landed me more than my fair share of requests, and that means it's doing the job it's meant to. It makes the agent want to read more. 
So lets look at what works:

EDGE OF THE FALLS, a young adult dystopian retelling of Beauty and the Beast, is complete at 79,000 words. This isn't the story, true, but it does start with my hook--which is the mashup of dystopian and fairy tale retelling. 

Sabah has lived her entire life with the Mistress, exiled from the nearby Shielded city. She’s content there as the lover of Berg, and caretaker of the Mistress castoff children. She’s familiar with danger--acidstorms and genetically-altered animals and the Commission's soldiers. Even the Mistress poses a threat. Twice a year, she forces a child over the edge of the waterfall in search of starrbriars, a rare flower with healing properties. But Sabah has always believed the risk she lives with is better than the control of the Commission. This gives us both worldbuilding and the initial conflict, without bogging the reader down in the needless. One thing I've gotten a bit of flak for is Sabah's age. I don't include it because I never specify in the book what her age is. However, that's up to you and most queries do include a YA age. 
When she learns that Berg is having an affair with the Mistress, Sabah is furious. As the Mistress pushes her to accept an offer of Citizenship, Sabah escapes into the wilds. There she is rescued by Arjun, a human genetically altered into a ban-wolf. While with his pack, Sabah learns secrets about the Mistress’s obsession with starrbriars. Arjun offers her a future—a precarious one if the Commission ever learns about the ban-wolves’ hidden city. Now Sabah is forced to make a choice: return to the safety of the Mistress and Berg, or live with the dangers of  Outside with Arjun. And here we have the inciting event, the action she takes, and the stakes, without handing over the ENTIRE story. It's also briefly stated--even a busy agent is likely to finish a query that is only 228 words, and stated in three brief paragraphs. 

Thank you for your consideration of Edge of the Falls. I look forward to hearing from you. Again, a lot of folks include useless info here. I don't. I usually add something personalized but I keep it BRIEF.  Add a bit of contact info and off it goes. :) 

So that's it, y'all. A query that works. Like I said, it's not perfect. There are rules I broke (not starting with the story, not including the age) but it WORKS because it makes you want to read on. And at the end of the day (or in our case, the end of query week) that's what the point is. Make your audience want to read on.
Good luck!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Liz's Old Query Mistakes

I'm going to show you guys samples of my old queries. This will show you that you do get better with time. Note these were written in early 2009 and 2010. And I actually enjoy query writing now. Go figure? (Also, this is severely embarrassing)

My first query from sometime in March of 2009:

 A cursed Evvie struggles to survive in a world where her mere birth is
an abomination. Motherless and tormented by a truly sinister skeletal
goddess that plays host within the depths of her mind, Evvie must
embark on a journey to discover the secret of her heritage and why she
is cursed.  Tainted contains all the original fantasy elements
expected of the genre, but entwined within the story is a heroine who
embodies both good and evil.

Right off the bat you know it's far too LONG. As mentioned in yesterday's post. It's best to be below 250 words. The closer to 200 words the better. Agents are all strapped for time. Make their lives easier with shorter queries.

Tainted is a 52,000-word young adult fantasy novel, inspired by
mythology and folklore.

Evvie spends the first twelve years of her life in hiding, raised by a
man she believes is her true father. Cursed by the gods themselves for
being the first of her kind, a mixture between light and dark elf,
Evvie is hunted by light and dark elves alike. She leaves home after a
friend is murdered and the truth about her father revealed. Struggling
with magic she cannot control, Evvie vows never to love Matthew, her
childhood protector, in an attempt to protect him from her unstable
powers.  Here I introduce way too much in the beginning. In fact I probably could have covered my bases in about two sentence and omitted the extraneous details.

Evvie will aide a young man she barely knows, in order to forget the
pain that persistently strikes at her heart, only to come face to face
with an evil aunt bent on killing her and a royal secret about her
heritage that she never thought possible. Right here--too vague, especially in the beginning. This doesn't segue well with the previous paragraph. An agent will always want concrete details and not abstract language like my first couple lines in here.

Evvie suffers from the same insecurities that all young adults her age
go through. She is the fantasy equivalent of today’s teenage girl,
even using the same language and phrases. Evvie is an insecure yet
stubborn heroine merely trying to fit in a world where she was never
meant to exist. (THIS is so NOT necessary. Why did I add this? Non-writing folk told me to. Sometimes AVOID the advice of non-writerly folk.)

I began writing Tainted at the age of fourteen. I have taken several
creative writing classes. I am currently a senior in high school and
have won several poetry and prose competitions, including the Creative
Writing award at my high school, which is one of the largest in the
country, publication in “A Celebration of Young Poets”, and
recognition for a fictional essay in the Miami Herald. (NONE Of this is relevant except maybe the classes)

Tainted is the first of a three book series. I have begun the planning
for the second book. I have also included the first 2 pages in the
email body. I hope to hear from you soon (For a series you should merely state it has series potential but make sure your book can stand alone. This one could as long as I tweaked the last chapter.)

Another Version for the Same Story:

(This one is much better and way shorter, but what it lacks is an actual voice. I'm writing for Upper MG/early YA here and it reads like an annoying synopsis, which is another beast entirely. There is potential yes, but what this one lacks is giving more of the character's personality to the query. It reads like this happened, then this happened, with some telling thrown in there.)

KEEP THIS IN MIND: A writer's query improves just as their writing improves. This first novel just wasn't ready. Sometimes if a query isn't getting requests or for some reason you can never seem to write those stakes out in an enticing way it could be cluing you into the fact that that novel isn't ready or something needs revising. Remember not every story will sell. But to give yourself the best possible chance you need to write a rockin' awesome query.

TOMORROW we'll show you a query that has gotten loads of requests and we'll tell you why it works :)

Evvie Nyx has a secret.

She knows the rules; never let the village children see her, keep within the forest, and keep her secret or end up like her dead mother.

For Evvie, an elf of mixed races and the first of her kind, she never considered hiding in the brush to watch the village rule breaking, not exactly. But when she is faced with the choice of being discovered and saving a village boy from drowning, breaking the rules is exactly what she must do.

Her existence is revealed to the village, putting everyone in peril. A mage is sent to kill Evvie, but instead kills the boy she saved. Plagued by grief after the death of the child, Evvie sets out for vengeance, but quickly finds herself in a dangerous political trap set up by her own aunt, which could end her life.

I am currently a Creative Writing major at the University of Central Florida and read requested manuscripts for a literary agent as a learning experience.

Tainted is a 55,000-word Upper Middle Grade fantasy. It is a standalone novel with series potential and should appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce and Philip Pullman. Because you enjoy imagined worlds set in another time, and especially since a favorite of yours is His Dark Materials series, I feel this may be up your alley.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I have included the first ten pages in the body of the email as you requested.

How to Write a Good Log Line

            For any screen writer, the log line is what will make you or break you. This is because the movie moguls will only buy a script that they’re sure a mass target audience will pay to see, or in other words, a High Concept story. It’s a very smart way to do business, and lately it seems the book publishers have caught on to this nifty trick. That means that not only do we need to write a kick-ass query letter, but we also need a log line that bangarangs.  
            A lot of what we need to write a great log line can be learned by watching Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, and once the laughter dies down a little bit, I’ll explain. There is a scene in the movie where King Arthur and his knights have to cross the bridge of death, but only if they can answer three questions. These three questions are:
1.    What is your name?
2.    What is your quest?
3.    What is your favorite color?
These questions are quite brilliant for the writer to ask when writing the log line. Don’t believe me. Okay, lets’ take them one by one, shall we.
Question 1, what is your name? I’m sure we can all agree that a good log line will need the protagonist’s name in there somewhere. Would you read a novel with a log line of “The world is about to end and only one person can stop it”? Not likely.
Question 2, what is your quest? This is the conflict. What is the protagonist’s main goal for the story? Will they need to survive a deadly night of vampire attacks or do they need to master their ability before they cause the end of the world? Figure out the quest and we’re almost done.
Question 3, what is your favorite color? Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What’s so important about a characters favorite color when writing a log line? Look at it from another point of view. The color that the protagonist prefers does tell us a bit of their personality. We want to identify with the protagonist, and that’s easier if we know something about them.
With these questions three, we almost have the basics. Only thing missing now is what’s at stake, because let be serious, every story needs something at stake. Add that in, and we have a nice, clean, and simple log line.
When (insert hero and include personality) is forced to (insert quest), they have to (insert opportunity for growth) or (insert what’s at stake).
Of course we can put more in it. We just need to remember that it gets more complicated with everything we add. In fact, the only thing that should never be in a log line is the ending. This is a rule that should never be broken. Remember we want to tease the agent in to wanting to read out story.
Now that we have a few rules, anyone want to take a stab at writing a good log line?