Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Carla Dubrov has fought all her life against the voice inside her head, her father’s true daughter. Confusing sentence structure. Is she her father's true daughter b/c she's fighting the voice, or is the voice inside her head belong to her father's true daughter?

Despite the feud between their families, Carla falls in love with Anthony D’Cartey. When their love is discovered, her father condemns her to death, but Anthony gives his life to save her. His murder turns the smoldering feud into the war Carla’s father has long yearned for. Shattered by Anthony’s brutal execution, Carla’s grief turns her into the very killer her father wishes her to be; a killer he molds into his most lethal weapon, a killer he is proud to call daughter. This para itself is great, but as of right now this could be a fantasy, or a historical. I don't have a grasp on the setting or genre. Also, I don't know what this has to do with the voice inside her head? What is it saying?

Tough thought? she escapes from under her father’s control, her Shadow still resides just underneath the surface. Now, more than ever, she must keep her darkness at bay. What is this darkness? What is a Shadow? Her life has finally porous again. No idea what this means. His name is Jason. He is Anthony’s brother, and the secret son of her father’s sworn enemy. Carla knows her father wants nothing more than to bring D’Cartey to his knees by killing his second son as well. Carla can finally honor Anthony’s sacrifice by saving his brother.

As her father’s assassins close in, Carla realizes her father used Jason to lure her into his trap. If he kills Jason, her heart will be shredded again, and her grief will push her back into the darkness controlled by her father. He will use her against the very ones she's trying to protect.

But before she can face her father, Carla must find a way to overcome her own darkness. The voice that grows ever stronger craves the same things as her father: death and destruction. Her Shadow’s voice.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a young adult urban fantasy novel with series potential, completed at 83,000 words.

I think the biggest thing here is that we don't know much about the setting. Is this in a normal world with magical elements? Or a different setting entirely? Why are these groups fighting in the first place? What is a Shadow and what does the voice in her head that you lead with have to do with anything? 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: MURDER TRENDING by Gretchen McNeil

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest 8/18 citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When eighteen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

BEING FISHKILL Author Ruth Lehrer On Stumbling Into Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Ruth Lehrer whose debut YA novel, BEING FISHKILL, is set against the stark reality of an impoverished rural landscape, and offers a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.”

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Several years ago my partner’s mother was sick and we were commuting to Queens NY every weekend for months. Up and down the Taconic Highway, several times a week. Both ways you see the exit sign for the towns of FISHKILL/CARMEL. “Wouldn’t that be a funny girl’s name?” I said, “Some deluded mother naming her kid Carmel Fishkill ...”  Once she had a name, Fishkill easily stepped out into the world. 

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I didn’t really build the plot. I was lucky enough to have the characters, Fishkill and Duck-Duck, knock loudly on my creative door. I wrote the first sentence in the car outside a writing group and then wrote the first couple pages when I went inside. Fishkill and Duck-Duck were fully formed people who walked up and pretty much dictated their story.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

The plot of Being Fishkill shifted in small ways during the process of writing and editing but my second book, which I am in the process of writing, is a squishy slimy animal and seems to change every time I sit down to write. 

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Poems come to me often, mostly whenever I sit down and let them. (They’re not always good poems, but hey ...) Story/novel ideas are harder to come by. I wish I knew where that particular place was where characters like Fishkill are just waiting to latch onto an author. I seem to have stumbled there once. Maybe it will happen again? 

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Usually I have one main project I’m working on and various stray poems. I don’t seem to be able to juggle more than one novel. I envy folks who can. 

I have 8 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

No cats, no dogs, no birds, no lizards. Sometimes I write with a human friend, either in person or virtually. I have a drawing of an owl on the wall near my desk. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Welcoming Pat Zietlow Miller To The Podcast!

I'm excited today to bring my first ever picture book author to the podcast, Pat Zietlow Miller, who has received multiple awards for her many picture books. Her titles include SOPHIE’S SQUASH, WHEREVER YOU GO, SHARING THE BREAD, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE, and the newly released WIDE-AWAKE BEAR. Pat joined me to talk about how querying a picture book is different than querying a novel, the misleading ease of each project being 700 words or less, and why a children’s book writer who wants to be traditionally published should not seek out an illustrator before submitting their work.



As always, if you find the podcast helpful or just enjoy listening, please consider donating by visiting Go Fund Me or clicking here.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

One sketch from Laurain Hart and two humans fall in love. Oh, nice hook.

Thirteen-year-old Laurain wants nothing more than to continue spending the afternoons with her mystic classmates, drawing pictures that create an enduring romance. Ah, so Laurain herself is not human. Got it.

When an ancient enchanter casts a spell disrupting the order of the calendar days, Laurain’s visions vanish, so it's her visions that allow her to do the drawing? What's the connection there? starting a countdown to the day when humans can no longer discover true love. Paired with a time-traveling leprechaun, who is more interested in stealing gold than helping, Laurain must locate the rogue enchanter and restore the missing day. Slightly confusing in that you said the days were "disrupted" before (I thought, out of order, maybe) but now we learn there's one missing? Why would that cause a chain reaction that has anything to do with love?

She travels across the human and mystic realms battling gruesome ghouls, hostile witches, angry elves and, scariest of all, finds herself developing a crush on a teenage human boy. To make troubles worse, Laurain develops the powers of an enchanter. So being an enchanter is bad? It's not just that one bad apple? If the other mystics find out, she’ll never be allowed to draw her visions again. How long can she keep it a secret?

With time running out, Laurain must learn how to control the gold-hungry leprechaun, come to terms with a new, magical ability that could get her expelled from school and defeat the most powerful enchanter who ever lived—all while lying to a boy she may be falling in love with.

THE STOLEN DAY, a middle grade fantasy complete at 38,000 words, introduces us to the mystic realm, providing a behind-the-scenes look at how much work goes in to (one word) protecting humans.

Overall, this is good. Interesting premise with a fresh take. Clear up the questions I have above about cohesion and you're in good shape.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: DEVILS UNTO DUST by Emma Berquist

Ten years ago, a horrifying disease began spreading across the West Texas desert. Infected people—shakes—attacked the living and created havoc and destruction. No one has ever survived the infection. Daisy Wilcox, known as Willie, has been protecting her siblings within the relatively safe walls of Glory, Texas. When Willie’s good-for-nothing father steals a fortune from one of the most dangerous shake-hunters in town, she finds herself on the hook for his debt. With two hunters, including the gruff and handsome Ben, to accompany her, she sets out across the desert in search of her father. But the desert is not kind to travelers, and not everyone will pass through alive.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

*********************************************************************************



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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Last week I was racing around securing anything that could blow away outside and referred to it mentally as battening down the hatches. Because I'm a major dork, I immediately wanted to know where that came from, even though there was a chance I would freeze to death before learning the answer if I stood outside too long wondering.

I knew it was from sailing (and man do we get a LOT of stuff from them) but I didn't know specifically how it applied. A hatch I've got covered because I watched Swiss Family Robinson a lot as a kid. For those of you who aren't so blessed, a hatch is basically those little wood gratings that flip up, leading down into the underbelly of the ship where the men sleep. It's grated instead of having a solid cover because... well, because men smell bad.

The battening part comes in when a storm is expected. Everyone goes below deck and the grated hatches are covered with a tarp to prevent the water from coming in, and the edges of the tarp were weighted down with wooden strips called battens

After learning all that, my next question is... if everyone is below deck, who does the battening???