Monday, November 29, 2010

Query Letters Revisited

Last week I was lamenting my failed attempt at query letters. I spent a good part of Sunday reading through Query Shark's blog, looking back at my blank word page and trying to figure out what to write. This is what I got:

Tommy's not human. He's a vampire. That means his life focuses on one thing: Survival. Despite his need to survive, Tommy can't resist the human world he left behind, curious of all they say and do.

I don't really care for it. It has key elements of my story, but it's just not catchy enough. I don't think it would grab attention like I need it to. In the end, for my sanity, I had to put it aside, relax and focus on something else. I knew I'd have to come back to it eventually, but for now, it was time to wait until my mind was fresh and ready to try again.

Then inspiration hit!

Inspiration hit as I was laying in bed, trying to sleep because I have to get up at 6am for work M-F. (Honestly, when else is inspiration suppose to hit? Besides while I'm in the shower with no pen or paper at hand.) I was wide awake, scrambling for the notepad beside my bed. I furiously scribbled down every word, eager to get it on paper before I forgot. I gave it a quick once over, then exhaled a breath of relief and resumed my attempt to sleep. I didn't look at what I wrote again...

Until now. Now I'm looking at it and I still like it. It's a little choppy and uneven, but it's more than four sentences. It could actually be a real query letter. That excites me to no end.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, is my first draft query letter for Being Human.

Tommy doesn't remember being human. He knows he use to be human, but he's not anymore. Tommy is a vampire and that means his life revolves around one thing: Survival.

And his twin brother.
And his family.
And his friends.

Despite no longer being human, Tommy can't help but feel drawn to the human world. It amazes him in ways he struggles to understand. But the human world is not without danger. Humans know what Tommy is and they hate him for it. Humans hate vampires so much that they will do anything to destroy Tommy and every single vampire in existence.

Tommy just wants to survive and he'll do whatever it takes. But with the human world constantly calling to him, he'll find it takes more than instinct to survive. And when the humans that matter the most to him are put at risk, he'll discover being human means more than being a human.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Query Letters

I have one thing to say about query letters: They're hard.

A query letter is something every aspiring author needs to find an agent. It's the requirement. You don't send an agent a politely worded letter, describing what your story is about and why that particular agent should represent you. What you do is you pitch and you pitch hard. That's what a query letter is. A pitch. A cleverly written summery about who the main character is and what the plot is. No frills or fluff, just basics. It has to be catchy too, grabbing instant attention that makes the agent crave more.

And that is hard.

I wrote a query letter. Thought it got the job done, summerized the story, even added a small hint of humor. I set it aside and went back to work on my story, fine tuning it, forgetting the query. While checking my tweets the other day, I saw a tweet from a blog I follow called Query Shark. The blog is run by an agent who critiques query letters sent by authors who want to improve their chances of snagging an agent.

Advice is given to help improve query letters, stating what is needed, suggesting what to throw out and how to address the agent. An entry on rules to submit to the site is listed along with recommending you read ALL of the entries. There's a lot of entries too, but from what I've read so far, it's worth reading through every entry. After reading only a few, I went and found my old query letter, read through it, cringed and opened a new text document and tried to start a new one.

Four hours later and I had three sentences.

I couldn't figure out what to say, how to describe my story, summerize who Tommy was, what his struggles were in a way I liked even a little or thought would grab an agent's attention. I still only have those three sentences, still not certain what to write, but at least now I know what not to do in a query letter. It's not a great step, but one step closer on my journey.

For more info on query letters and agnets, check out Query Shark's blog, Guide to Literary Agents and Agent Query.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Let's recap! With a list!

I have to admit, this week was a pretty good one. I think I'll make a list.

1) I had my first author guest blog. We had a contest and lots of people commented.
2) My birthday was nice. My boyfriend made me dinner and I got done working early that day.
3) I won a few contests via other blogs and a person I follow on twitter.
4) I had a craft show where I sold my handmade jewelry and knitted items and made a pretty chunk of change.
5) I completely rewrote the ending of my story!
6) I eliminated 9 pages via rewriting and consolidating.

Those last two were new to me and a rush. I had never really rewritten or deleted chapters before. It worked out as I imagine editing does and what I ended up with is much better than the first. It's just the beginning too!

Since the story is written, now my goal is to fine tune. Make sure it doesn't drag, clear up any confusion, fix typos and delete repetition. Honestly, it all can get a little boring. Do I have to reread this part again? Yes, I do. Multiple times. I need to make sure the story stays on track and flows like water. It feels never ending and it's all very necessary. Because when I finally submit my query letter and sample chapters, hopefully the agent reads will be blown away by an amazing story and request the rest and BAM! Book published!

The easy part is done, now comes the hard part.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Merrie Destefano talks her journey to Afterlife

We have a winner! I let Merrie pick a random winner and the name she gave me is Kathy, who commented second. Kathy I will be emailing you soon! Thanks everyone for making my first guest blog a success!

Yeah, so I said I was posting Merrie's guest blog Thursday. Well, I lied... No, I didn't, I changed my mind when I checked my email, (about a minute ago) saw an email from Merrie containing her guest blog and didn't want to wait putting it up.

Also Merrie has offered a signed copy of Afterlife to one lucky commenter and as a bonus I will be throwing in an Afterlife themed bracelet or necklace I made. In the book people can be resurrected up to nine times and my concept was you get a bracelet (or necklace, wearer's choice) with one bead and each time you resurrect you add another bead. Silver nuts are placed between each life bead. The one in the picture is a Nine-timer bracelet. Please leave your email and whether you want a bracelet or necklace so we can contact the winner.

That said, without further ado here is Merrie! Drumroll please!

My Journey to Publication
By Merrie Destefano

Patricia asked me to share a little bit about my journey to publication.

I wish I was one of those people who could slam out a book in three months, whose first draft was pretty near perfect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The truth of the matter is, I drive my writing group nuts. What book is this, they’ll ask after I start reading a few pages for critique. Oh, it’s the same book, I’ll tell them, just completely different.

I have a tendency to write and rewrite and then write some more, changing names and moving characters around and slashing plot lines. While it might seem like I’m having a great time, throwing away thousands of words at a time, I’m not.

I’m driving everyone I know, me included, nuts. They probably all wish that I would take up something meaningful to do in my spare instead of write. Something like playing miniature golf. Or raising bonsai trees. Or studying organic chemistry.

Just in case you don’t believe me, listen to the genesis of Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles.

In the first draft—under the title, White Burn—this story took place on Mars. (Do I hear snickers already?) It was a detective story, where the main character was tracking down a cult leader who had stolen a serum that could raise the dead. Besides falling into the hands of a dangerous cult leader, this serum also happened to be stolen by a gang leader, which led to one grisly gang war—a little bit like The Night of the Living Dead. Only on Mars.

Needless to say, that book didn’t garner much attention from agents or editors.

In the second draft—under the title, Once to Die—the story was moved to Los Angeles. Here, I had a homicide detective, a woman named Addy, chasing a serial killer who could raise the dead. This story must have been tighter and better written, because at least a few editors talked to me at this point. They even smiled. Right before they told me, no way were they going to publish this book. One of them was even kind enough to give me a few pointers. He said something like, try setting it in the future and throw out everything except the resurrection drug.

I confess, I’m the brooding sort, so I mulled and groused over his well-meaning rejection. I thought about it for so long that I actually came up with a story idea based on that simple one-line suggestion.

In Afterlife, I built a future where the technology for resurrection has been around for awhile, long enough for it to have a serious impact on our culture, our major world religions, our family system, our judicial system, you name it. After working on the story for a month or so, I realized that if I removed this one small element—death—from our culture, it changed everything.

Writing the actual book took me about a year and a half, with the prerequisite three-four month period of writer’s block tossed in the mix. Once I found my agent, Kimberley Cameron, she sold my book in a relatively short time period to Diana Gill of Eos/HarperCollins. I think we sold the book in August, 2009, and the book comes out in September, 2010.

Afterlife is a Hydra of sorts: one part urban fantasy, one part romance, one part science fiction, one part mystery. It’s a tale about a man who watches over people during that fragile first week after resurrection, when memories from previous lives are still sifting to the surface. And it’s a story about the woman who has just resurrected, who holds a secret in her subconscious that could change the world.

But for me, it’s a story that tells me that my wild and disorganized writing process somehow manages to work. Even though I drive a lot of people nutty along the way.

I have been waiting for this week!

***Edit*** I originally said I was going to post Merrie's blog November 18th.... I changed my mind and am putting it up..... Now!

Let me repeat that, I have been waiting for this week! Why? Not because of my birthday near the end, possibly because the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out in theaters and mostly because my first guest author will be sending me a blog to post! Rejoice!

Yes, Merrie Destefano, author of Afterlife agreed to be a guest on my blog! Again, rejoice. Before this I had never had a guest blogger, hell, the blogs I had done were short lived and deleted quickly. Hence the excitement and request for rejoicing.

I asked her to talk about what made her want to publish a book and what she went through to get there, including a request to share any resources. I know she'll talk about said book and ask some questions to my readers (so you better comment!) I also sent her an email asking what she thought about a give away because I had a great idea for one. Which means I need to get out of the apartment and to Jo-Ann Fabrics for some clasps if I want to do the give away in mind. (Does that intrigue you about the give away? I hope so.)

(And when I say you, I'm looking at my friends, who for the most part have remained silent concerning my blog.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Did Amazon fail?

I'm sure you have heard by now. There was (it has been taken down,) a book on Amazon that was a guide to pedophilia. It's all over Facebook as groups to boycott Amazon and on Twitter with the hashtag #amazonfail. Many people have voiced their opinions, most of those opinions outrage. I am outraged too. Still, I had to wonder: Did Amazon fail by posting this book? Did this guy have the right to publish this book? Was I right demanding it be taken down?

This incident is a double edge sword. On one hand you have a book about something deplorable that someone could use to harm a child. On the other hand you have freedom of speech and the fact that everyone is suppose to be allowed to exercise it. Add to it the fact that there are plenty of other books out there that could harm others, have questionable content or be flat out offensive. What do we do with all those books? Do we ban each one? Burn them? Make it illegal to write about that subject matter? What's the fine line between censorship and removing something because so many people find it offensive?

I honestly have no answers. I think that book and any like it are horrible. They are just asking sickos to commit a horrible crime, the risk is to high. But on the flip side, I'm against censorship of ideas. Part of what makes America so great is the freedom of speech. The ability to say whatever you want.

I think what I'm trying to say is as much as someone can argue that the book had a right to be published under the freedom of speech, we also had the same right to stand up and protest. We had the right to say, "I believe this book will cause serious harm to a child and it shouldn't be available for sale. I want it removed."

The only failure would have been if no one had spoken at all.

Here's a video of CNN Anderson Cooper on the subject with Dr. Phil and Jeffrey Toobin that discuss the story very well.
Outrage over Pedo Book
Also some blogs on the matter.
Walk with me
Surrender Dorothy
Telling Dad
Tech Crunch  << I think they've done the best of describing what I feel.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Up and over the hills

Two days ago I absolutely hated part one of my story. I was reading through it and it just didn't sit right with me. It felt choppy, badly written and I was in a bad mood. Nothing felt right that day, I didn't even feel right.

Next day, was better I was better. I printed out part one, read through it again and it didn't seem so bad. I rearranged a couple paragraphs, added some sentences, deleted some too. There was only one part I wanted to improve, a chapter in the end I'd like to move to another spot and a new one in its place.

I felt like I was on a roller coaster those two days, going up and down at a blindingly fast speed. This morning as I thought about it, I had some really good ideas on the past two days and what I'd write for this post. Naturally, and because it was 6am when I thought the ideas up, I forgot. Oops. Guess I should have gotten out my cell and typed it all down like I do story ideas.

Ups and downs will be part of the journey, the road is not straight or flat. It curves and rises, sometimes so sharply you can't see where you're going until that moment. Some days I will love everything I write and refuse to change a thing. Others I will hate what I write and what has already been written. Those days are the days to take a break, kick back and relax, watch a movie, read a book (I have a few piles waiting to be read!) Forget I want to publish a story at all. Right now I have that luxury, I haven't contacted any agents and I'm still in the process of refining what I want to submit. I have time. (Although that was part of my bad day two days ago, thinking about my approaching birthday and the ticktock of life slipping by. Growing old can be really depressing when you're almost to 30!)

I guess that is my sage-like advice for the day. When you have a bad day, kick back read a book, go for a walk, draw or even take a nap. It won't last and before you know it, you'll be eager and ready to go in no time. Plus who wants to slave away (even at something you enjoy) all the time?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have part two to print out on my nice new laser printer and some more editing to do, (which a reliable source has told me never ends!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Deeper Insight (and something every author likes to hear)

I was planning on doing a blog about once a week, but something on my mind now and it won't leave until it has had its say. Plus, I want to talk about it. I want to talk about my story, what sets it apart and why I want to do this.

As I've stated before my story is a vampire story. Tommy, our hero, gets turned and embarks on a journey to not only understand himself but humans. With him the whole time is his twin brother, Danny. When Danny goes to college Tommy meets a girl named Fallen that confuses and intrigues him. Later his family grows as Danny ages and continues life by marrying and having a child. Finally, there's one last girl that gets a hold of Tommy in a way he never thought possible. In between danger from Vampire Forces, a special division of the police tasked with finding and destroying vampires, threatens and an older vampire named Amy organizes vampire protests and shows Tommy he's not alone among vampires. That's the story in a nutshell and probably not a good nutshell. I'm horrible at describing my story. It's a love story so to speak, but not a traditional one where boy meets girl. The love extends more, to family and friends and how there's different kinds of love in the world, each one special.

At this point, you might say there's nothing new about vampire stories. They're all the rage now. You see them everywhere. Hundreds of books printed about vampires, covering it all!

Let me assure you though, that is not why my story is a vampire story. My story is a vampire story because Tommy said so.

You see, it all started with a little book called Thirsty by M.T. Anderson. I really haven't even read the book, bought it, was intrigued, scanned through it out of curiosity and loved how it ended. The ending was so dark and hopeless and it made me wonder: What happens to Chris next? As I went to bed that night, my mind kept wondering, extending the story this way and that. Then I forgot about it. I forgot about reading the book, the ending and curiosity and went back to whatever story I was working on at the time.

Then Tommy appeared. With a vengeance. He got into my head, refused to leave as he whispered in my ear. He said, I'm not Chris but I know what he felt, what went through his head as the thirst consumed him. I know what happens. Don't you want to know what happens to someone like me? Don't you want to hear my story? Soon it was all I could think about and I abandoned the story I was working on and started listening to what Tommy had to say (He probably hates me using his name right now!)

As I was listening to Tommy, I was still reading and the book I was reading was Twelfth Grade Kills. When I got done with it I had a thought, a wondering thought. If Auntie Heather (I've been a fanged smiley button wearing Minion for almost a year now,) can have the courage to do this, maybe I can too.

(At that point I felt like I was putting her down, saying that what she did was easy and anyone could do it. Which I'm not. I have been madly in love with her books from the moment I started reading and I'm eagerly awaiting her next one which will be all about Joss! Yay! Vampire hunters just get me like a stake through the heart!)

That's what started it, truly started it. It wasn't because vampire books were the rage (and honestly I think it's calming down,) or because I thought I'd be a best selling author like J.K. Rowling. It was because I felt inspired by another author, one I geeked out about. I want to do this because I want a book in my hands, to say I decided to do this and succeeded. To hell if no one reads the book or likes it. I like it! What other reason is there to write? If you don't love your own words how can it be any good?

This is my journey! My battle! I'll take the rejections and criticism the best I can. I'll crawl up hills if that's what it takes to make this a reality. Anything less would be a disgrace.

Can I get a few friends to cheer now?