Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Crazy Town, Query Stats, The Plan

Kids are home from school. Yesterday I banned them from videogames of any kind for the rest of spring break. It's like the DSIs turn them into banshees, and I can't have that. Not when I'm this hyped up on queries.

Last night the hook on my bathroom wall that holds my hairdryer fell, so I woke up to a loud crash, in a panic. With all that adrenalin, I still might have been okay if I hadn't thought about the queries I've sent this week. Some agent, on the night after Passover, might have sent an email to me at three o'clock in the morning. The thought was killing me.

I fought and fought against getting up, and then my head got really involved in possible fixes in my WIP, Breathings, which project I am excited about again after writing a blurb (per an agent's request about other projects I'm working on!) that makes it sound really... exciting. To me, anyway. It seems like I laid there for hours, just thinking. I finally started counting. Not sheep, or anything, really. Just counting. It worked.

And speaking of counting...
Query stats on WAYS TO FALL-
42 queries sent
15 rejections
7 partial/full requests
2 partials and 1 full out there, possibly being read RIGHT THIS MINUTE

I've gotten one request (for a full!) off of my new query, which I put into circulation last week. I'm starting to query widely and hope to have 70-80 queries out there by the end of the month, and then I'm shifting focus back to finishing the first draft of Breathings. That's the plan anyway. My query finally has that special something it was missing, my first few chapters have been seen by an editor and declared worthy, so I'm not holding back anymore.

I also realized I'd made a few email address mistakes last round. I was going to close out some queries as no response, but I checked the comments on Query Tracker, and it looked like people were getting auto-responder emails that their query had been received. As a result, I checked my sent emails and found that for one query, I'd recorded it but apparently not sent, plus one I'd sent to the wrong address. Point being: it doesn't hurt to doublecheck before marking someone as a no response.

And the partial I've had out there to Ms. Big-time for six months? She just got a new assistant, so I emailed the new assistant, explained I've done revisions and that I'd never heard back, and could I resend my partial? No response yet, but I'm sure that with the pacing problems I've since fixed, it would have been a rejection if they'd gotten to it. *shrugs* We'll see if anything comes of it.

And I'm critting a friend's manuscript, and it's really good. I love that.
Thanks for the support, guys!

What are you up to? Are your kids home from school, too? Pull up a chair and tell me all about it.
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Enclave (Razorland #1) by Ann Aguirre

I loved this book- a great YA dystopian that fans of the Hunger Games will love, plus it didn't feel as hopeless as THG.

Deuce lives in the Enclave, an underground community divided into three groups- Builders, Breeders, and Hunters. And Deuce has always wanted to be a Huntress and go out into the tunnels, fight the zombie-like Freaks (think of the zombies in "The Day After Tomorrow") and hunt food (not described precisely, but I think their main meat source was rats!) Her hunting partner is Fade, a hunter whose always been on the edge of the group because he was born topside and doesn't conform perfectly to the community's group think.

The community leaders set up one of Deuce's friends as a warning to her to stay in line, but Deuce claims responsibility for his supposed crime and is exiled in his place. She thinks she's been given a death sentence, what with the Freaks out to eat her toes, but Fade pleads guilty too, and they are exiled together. Fade leads them topside, where they have to deal with gangs, ever-learning freaks and a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Good thing they're both so handy with their knives.

I LOVED this book. Thanks to "Around the World Blog Tours" for the chance to read the ARC. It's being published in June, so definately check it out.

PS- I also enjoyed comparing how Ann Aguirre wrote Deuce's perceptions of the strange new world topside to a similar situation in my book. Very interesting how familiar it felt.
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

LDS Writer Blogfest: The Atonement Covers all Pain

Welcome to the second annual LDS Writers Blogfest!

This year, I and other LDS writers are sharing our favorite talk (think sermon) from our recent General Conference, a semiannual meeting where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather either in Salt Lake City in person (or in front of their computers/TVs) to listen to inspired words.

Watching Conference at Granna's house with our kids plus some cousins.

I chose Kent L. Richards' talk "The Atonement Covers All Pain", and I'd like to share my impressions on this talk and how the atonement has operated in my life.

Regarding his experiences as a surgeon, Elder Richards said:

I have pondered about the purpose of pain. None of us is immune from experiencing pain. I have seen people cope with it very differently. Some turn away from God in anger, and others allow their suffering to bring them closer to God.
Can suffering really bring us closer to God? Doesn't that sound a little perverse? Why can't He just be close to us without pain?

I think it's because we are prone to get stuck in the day-to-day, to focus on all of the things we have to do, instead of who we want to become. We get busy.

I'm not saying that God causes pain, but that He uses all the circumstances of our lives, good and bad, to reach out to us.

Our oldest son, Isaac, broke his leg when he was almost two--a spiral fracture of his femur that was extremely painful (When I write about the sound of bones grinding, I know what I'm talking about!) As I write this, eight years later, the memory of picking him up and laying him on the couch, calling my husband to come home from work, driving to the hospital while Nathan held our crying child in his arms still brings me to tears. There was nothing I could say to a two year old that would make him understand that this would end, that eventually he would heal. We cried with him. It passed. 

I don't say that that was an enjoyable experience, or one I want to repeat, but it has brought me to a deeper understanding of the Savior's love for us, because for the first time, I really got how deeply the Savior loves us to take our suffering upon himself.

Isaac has grown into a boy with a kind heart, one with enormous empathy for other's feelings, and I believe much of that empathy is a result of this and other experiences in his young childhood.

(Did I mention he was accident prone as a toddler? He broke his arm 5 days after getting the body cast off. Leg muscles had atrophied, so that wasn't entirely his fault. And there was the time he broke his collar bone by rolling off the bed to escape the Tickle Monster. He sure showed Daddy how fast he was.)

Would I ever wish for similar situations? No. But would I give back these traumas if it meant losing these sweet blessings, the tender heart that my son has developed, and my deeper understanding of the Atonement? No. I wouldn't.

Keep in mind, there are many sources of pain. Elder Richards said:
Much of our suffering is not necessarily our fault. Unexpected events, contradicting or disappointing circumstances, interrupting illness, and even death surround us and penetrate our mortal experience. Additionally, we may suffer afflictions because of the actions of others.
And if you're like me, and miss beloved relatives who have died, this account may be one of the most comforting parts of the Elder Richards' talk:

Thirteen-year-old Sherrie underwent a 14-hour operation for a tumor on her spinal cord. As she regained consciousness in the intensive care unit, she said: “Daddy, Aunt Cheryl is here, … and … Grandpa Norman … and Grandma Brown … are here. And Daddy, who is that standing beside you? … He looks like you, only taller. … He says he’s your brother, Jimmy.” Her uncle Jimmy had died at age 13 of cystic fibrosis.

“For nearly an hour, Sherrie … described her visitors, all deceased family members. Exhausted, she then fell asleep.”

Later she told her father, “Daddy, all of the children here in the intensive care unit have angels helping them.”
Perhaps some of you have had similar experiences. Death is not a one way street, it's more like stepping to the other side of a one-way mirror.

I am so grateful to the Savior for fulfilling Heavenly Father's beautiful plan of salvation and peace. Thank you for reading, and you're welcome to ask questions, etc. I'll do my best to answer. Please check out the other posts:
Annette Lyon: “Desire”
Annie Cechini: “The Spirit of Revelation”
Ben Spendlove: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Chantele Sedgwick: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Charity Bradford: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Jackee Alston: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Jenilyn Tolley: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Jennifer McFadden: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jessie Oliveros: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jolene Perry: “It’s Conference Once Again”
Jordan McCollum: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Kasey Tross: “Guided by the Holy Spirit”
Kayeleen Hamblin: “Become as a Little Child”
Kelly Bryson: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Krista Van Dolzer: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Melanie Stanford: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Michelle Merrill: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Myrna Foster: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Nisa Swineford: “Desire”
Sallee Mathews: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Sierra Gardner: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Tamara Hart Heiner: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”
The Writing Lair: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”

Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Query Revision in One Word via freelance editor Cassandra Marshall

In February, I contacted Cassandra Marshall about reading a partial of "Ways To Fall" and helping me figure out where my query was going wrong. I didn't have a referral, but I'd read her blog some and seen her tweets etc., so when I decided to seek professional help, I emailed her. We did two rounds of query revision.

Here's round one, with Cassandra's notes highlighted (and with her permission!). See if you can pick out the magic word!

Dear *agent*,

*I am querying you because of your interview /client/professed love for blahablah* and hope you will be intrigued by my paranormal romance, WAYS TO FALL, complete at 105,000 words.

Lara, an empath, and her emotionally damaged (How are they damaged?)“sisters” were kidnapped by Mother from their Outsider families and given the gift of immortality. Lara never questions Mother’s policy of suppressing their memories until one sister recalls her life Outside and despairs (Why?). Mother curses the young woman with eternal Sleep, insisting there is no other way to protect Lara from absorbing the girl’s feelings. Lara hopes that if she can understand how Outsiders survive their terrible experiences, she can find a way to truly heal her sisters and save their fragile, Edenic world.

Defying Mother, Lara enters the sacred caves and is transported to a sinkhole-turned-crime-scene, where she is arrested by the FBI (You might want to mention the transition into the “real world” or the “other dimension” or whatever you’re using to signify the different worlds. Without it, the premise sounds like “Mother” is nothing more than a brainwashing kidnapper, like the old guy who kept his daughter and her kids in the basement for all those years. Clearly mark her world as not the same as ours.)as a suspected kidnapper. Agent David Hatton, an emotionally detached (Why?) behavior specialist, is fascinated by the way Lara’s skin changes colors in reaction to his volatile partner’s emotions.

He fears Lara will die (Why?) if he can’t isolate her, so with FBI approval he fakes a rescue from the field office (He what? Rescues Lara? Does she need rescuing of the FBI is okay with it?) and orders the squad to keep out of Lara’s perception range. Lara and Agent Hatton hike through the quiet woods of North Florida, and their tenuous friendship develops into a soul-deep attraction. When Lara must choose (Why must she choose? What happens to force this choice? Why is Hatton’s life in danger? Why is being in “mother’s grace” so important?) between freeing her sisters and saving Agent Hatton’s life, she discovers the cost of falling, both from Mother’s grace and into love.
I am a member of the Online Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror and hold a B.S. in psychology from the University of Florida (Does this relate to your book somehow? If not, nix it.)

Per your guidelines, I've included _#_ sample pages [and a synopsis] below.

Thank you,





So, I got that back and was like, where's my miracle? (Yep. I'm impatient that way.) I was hoping for some kind of brilliant insight about what I needed to emphasize to grab an agent's attention. Is it the geroth fruit? Should I focus more on the romance? Should I bring out that Mother is Lilith? What do I include?

Answer: Details. WHY? WHY? WHY?

Which is basically motivation. What is pushing the story? For the characters personally and through their relationship to their world. Brilliant! Even if I didn't realize it at first.

I opened up a new document, pasted in the query and revisions, and answered her questions. It was a page and a half when I was done. Then I started at the top and condensed. I eliminated some sentences, sentences I'd thought necessary, but maybe weren't as important as I thought. It was hard.

I got it down to a page, and Cassandra said, "Oooh, much more clear, well done!" She suggested just a few changes: breaking it up into smaller paragraphs (harder to skim over those, she said.) and put Mother's secret identity at the top. Done. Here's the end result:

Dear *Agent,*

Thank you for your interest in my paranormal romance, WAYS TO FALL, complete at 105,000 words.

Mother, a charismatic immortal once called Lilith, rescued Lara and her “sisters” from abusive families in the Outside World. In their secluded world, the girls nurture the emotionally-fed geroth trees whose fruit grants them all eternal life. Lara never questions Mother’s policy of suppressing their memories of the Outside World until one sister recalls her horrible past. Rather than live with the memories of the terror she endured in the Outside World, made ever more vivid by the geroth fruit, the sister chooses eternal Sleep.

Losing a sister devastates Lara, but Mother is comfortable with attrition, provided enough spiritually pure girls remain to nurture the geroth fruit. Mother can always return to Outside to find more girls to harvest the fruit, after all.

Determined to find a way to heal her sisters, Lara defies Mother and enters the sacred caves. She is transported by a mystical light to the modern world, where FBI agent David Hatton arrests her as a suspected kidnapper. Hatton is fascinated by the way Lara’s chameleon-like skin responds to others’ emotions until his partner’s anger nearly stops Lara’s heart.

He recognizes that Lara’s empathic abilities make her vulnerable, so, with FBI approval, he fakes a rescue from the field office and isolates Lara in the quiet woods of North Florida. Hatton answers Lara’s questions about Outsiders, and as he’d hoped, she offers information about Mother. Lara and Hatton’s tenuous friendship develops into a soul-deep attraction.

When the FBI gets in a bloody turf war with the DIA—a rival agency intent on conducting inhumane experiments—Hatton promises Lara he’ll return her to her world even if it costs him his life. Lara fears that if she returns home, Mother will perceive her untamed emotions as a threat to the geroth trees and force her into Sleep, or worse, make her forget how beautiful love between a man and a woman can be. Caught between the two worlds, Lara discovers the cost of falling, both from Mother’s grace and into love.

I am a member of the Online Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror and the Atlanta Writer’s Club.

Per your guidelines, I've included [#] sample pages [and a synopsis] below.

Thank you,

Kelly Bryson
(contact info)
I'm very pleased with the end product and I'll let you know what the results are!
It was great working with Cassandra, although now it's killing me not to know which agency she interns for.
Gah! Secrets!

And can I say how ready I am to put this novel to bed? Not *under* my bed- in somebody else's bed. There just aren't enough hours in the day. Speaking of which- thanks for hanging out with me even after I've been so distant:) We're moving into our house, and I have a bazillion projects going on. I've painted and unpacked enough that I expect to be able to return to once a week posting.

Any thoughts? Do you have a query break-through to share?

Happy Writing!
Glutton for Punishment?