Jan 31, 2011

If You Are Looking For An Agent...

You might want to take a gander over to Shelli's blog.

She's offering up a great contest that could land you with an agent referral!

Go, check it out and follow the steps to try for this awesome opportunity!

Writing A Better Novel

Remember! Today is the last day to sign up to win one of the four copies of Duty & Death up for grabs!


I’m a planner.

I like lists.

Though I don't always stick to them...
And outlines.
Though mine are generally more like lists of plot points...
I’m one of those people who enjoys scratching things off of a list as though I’ve killed that particular item of the agenda. Chapter 7: written (aka. Killed) – and then I scribble the crap out of that item, rendering it dead.

It’s a mini victory, I know, but it is a victory all the same.

Today I’m working on a WiP that required two outlines… a writing outline and a final layout outline. This book is not meant to be read in chronological order, but I’m going to write it that way regardless. And that is why extra planning must be done. (Well, that and the fact that I’d like to be able to rewrite as little as possible once the final mix has been put together. It has to make sense after all – something this blog post may not do by the time I’m done with it.)

Some things just require outlining. They won’t work without it. I wrote my first three novels from the seat of my pants. And I love them, really I do… well, number three is on my nerves a bit, but that’s beside the point… but when I wrote number four – a fully plotted and outlined story from the get go – I believe I came out with a better story.

I have beta readers who disagree mind you, they still feel Duty & Death is the Best I’ve written. I think it’s personal bias (they like the characters better) and I can’t blame them for that (I like the characters better too).

But overall, I believe that I write a better story when It’s nearly fully formed from the get-go…

Does anyone else feel this way? Or are you all pansters?

Jan 29, 2011

Over 100!

Woo!

Tuesday I'll get to announce the 4 who've won a copy of my novel!

You can get in on the action until Monday night at midnight!

Thanks to everyone who's following!

Jan 28, 2011

Query Critique #7 - The Jennings Place

The Jennings Place by Nancy

Query:


When Samantha and Fred discover a secret room behind a wall in their newly purchased 18th century Connecticut farmhouse, they believe their house was part of the Underground Railroad. Now they have to prove it.

Finding a cache of letters from Jacob Willard, the last of the Jennings family that lived in the house for more than 200 years, to his fiancée Maggie, at the local library Sam and Fred realize that Jacob and Maggie harbored suspicions of their own. In one, Jacob describes a shipping manifest, which chronicles the voyages of a mysterious woman aboard one of his grandfather’s ships—a woman who always disembarks with more luggage than she set out with.

Convinced that he has found the evidence they need, Samantha and Fred trace Jacob’s journey, rife with personal confusion and difficulties, which takes him from a comfortable medical practice in Charlottesville, Virginia to the battlefields of World War 1 France, postwar London and back home to Deep River as they search for the truth about the Jennings family’s involvement with the Underground Railroad.

The Jennings Place, my debut novel, is complete at approximately 74,500 words. It will appeal to readers of historical and general fiction as well as mysteries.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Cordially,
Nancy Cohn

Redline:

When Samantha and Fred discover a secret room behind a wall in their newly purchased 18th century Connecticut farmhouse, they believe their house was part of the Underground Railroad. Now they have to prove it. [Why do they have to prove it? The way this is currently worded makes me feel like there’s some sort of urgency, but I don’t see the stakes.]

Finding a cache of letters from Jacob Willard, the last of the Jennings family that lived in the house for more than 200 years, to his fiancée Maggie, at the local library Sam[you don’t want to switch between full names and nicknames within your query. It can lead to confusion. If you don’t want to say “Samantha” again, I might ditch the “and Fred” and call them “the couple”] and Fred realize that Jacob and Maggie [I’d especially change the “Sam and Fred” if you’re going to have “Jacob and Maggie” right after.] harbored suspicions of their own. [You have too many names in this, I’d ditch Maggie completely, simply calling her the fiancé and I might drop Jacob’s last name, since it’s not Jennings – that stopped me up a bit] In one, Jacob describes a shipping manifest, which chronicles the voyages of a mysterious woman aboard one of his grandfather’s ships—a woman who always disembarks with more luggage than she set out with. [I get where you’re coming from with this, but it feels like the story of Sam and Fred is just there to frame the story of Jacob and his research…. And, unless that is the case, I don’t think that’s what you want to convey.]

Convinced that he [if it’s both of them who are tracing the journey, this shouldn’t be “he” it’s an inconsistency that makes the reader stop and go back.] has found the evidence they need, Samantha and Fred trace Jacob’s journey, rife with personal confusion and difficulties, which takes him [Jacob or Fred? Where’s Sam?] from a comfortable medical practice in Charlottesville, Virginia to the battlefields of World War 1 I [this should be an I or Roman numeral one] France, postwar London and back home to Deep River as they search for the truth about the Jennings family’s involvement with the Underground Railroad.[Holy sentence, Batman!]

The Jennings Place [Always put the title of the novel in ALL CAPS] THE JENNINGS PLACE, my debut [Pick a Genre, put it here] novel, is complete at approximately 74,500 [if it’s over 74,500 call it 75k, if it’s under 74,500, call it 74K] words. It will appeal to readers of historical and general fiction as well as mysteries.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Cordially,
Nancy Cohn

Notes:

Picking a genre. It’s not always fun – especially when you’re torn between several – but it has to be done. I’m going to suggest you pick Mystery, or Contemporary Fiction. If you use Mystery, you can say “THE JENNINGS PLACE, my Mystery novel, is complete at 75,000-words” if you choose Contemporary Fiction, you can say: “THE JENNINGS PLACE is a work of Contemporary Fiction and is complete at 75,000-words.” If you want to add in the historical qualities (which I think is unnecessary – given the body of the query) you can say “my Mystery novel with historical influences,” but I still don’t feel that it’s necessary.

Long Sentences. 63 words is a long sentence, I’d suggest breaking up that paragraph into at least two sentences.

I broke it into three, here:
Convinced they have found the evidence they need, Samantha and Fred trace Jacob’s journey, rife with personal confusion and difficulties, across the globe. From a comfortable medical practice in Charlottesville, Virginia, Jacob leads them across the battlefields of WWI France, through the streets of postwar London and back home to Deep River, Louisiana(?). As they search for the truth about the Jennings family’s involvement in the Underground Railroad they discover (and then a little tidbit of the things they uncover.)

You have other long sentences in this query that could be stronger if you give the reader some space to breath.

What’s at stake? From this query, I get the gist of what’s going on. But you need to give the reader a reason to care. I’m sure your story is interesting, but I want to know why they need to prove their home was part of the UR. If it’s just an idle curiosity, that’s not very intriguing. If it’s an obsession, that’s something different… If they’re going to lose their special rate mortgage and might end up losing the house because it’s not what it was claimed… even better. What’s at stake?

Names. The problem with Queries is they’re abominably short. But that’s a good thing as well as a bad thing. In this case, the bad of it comes from the fact that you have so much information, and you have to condense it down to a handful of sentences. Because you don’t have the longevity of a novel, you have to cut some of the superfluous things, like names of people other than the MC’s. This is the reason I suggest leaving Maggie’s name out – she’s not integral to the query, so calling her the Fiancé doesn’t hurt it. And leaving out the fact that Jacob’s last name is Willard doesn’t hurt your query either, it only serves to streamline it. When it comes to Samantha/Sam, you need to pick one. I’d call her Samantha throughout, simply so there’s no gender confusion.

Word count. You always want your word count to be a round “thousand” so if it’s at 73,501 – 74,499 – I’d call it 74,000, if it’s 74,501 and above, I’d call it 75,000. If, by some strange happenstance, it ends up being exactly 74,500 words, take your pick of either. But you always want a rounded out thousand.



I hope these notes have helped. Good Luck!



- Amy

Jan 27, 2011

Wreckage

I wrote a little piece of something yesterday – I don’t know where it fits, exactly into the story I’m writing. I thought I’d share it with you… Beware: It has not been edited.



Time ticked by at an aching pace. The spider web fissures across the view screen met his stare in the form of a leering face. The Phoenix would not rise from these ashes. Sparks from the bulkhead above him tore scars of light across the desiccated bridge.

“If they’re not already dead, I am going to kill them.” Jedidiah let his words fill the empty space.

Echo’s of bursting pipes from below deck was his only reply.

Pinned to the deck by the weight of something he couldn’t see, Jed surveyed the world beyond the cracked screen in front of him.

Ahead of The Phoenix’s bow dim light of this world’s starrise filtered through the murky dew of a forest dawn. At least he could breathe.

Chirping echoed in his eardrum. “Cap’n?”

Rina’s voice tore through his brain like searing bullets. He swatted at the sound in vain.

“I’m still around. Don’t go expecting any promotions.”

Wouldn’t dream of it, Sir. We’ve got quite a mess down here. Gill’s sorting through the mucky muck trying to see how bad off we are.” She said.

“Think there’s any chance we can still win this?”

Jed pushed against what he’d discerned was the steerage console. He felt the veins threatening to burst in his neck and let out a defeated sigh.

We won’t lose at this rate. Reckless Abandon is down with us. Rake doesn’t look any better off than we do.”

“Good. Now get up here and help me get out from under this blasted console.”

Rina didn’t answer.

The metallic thud of standard issue boots echoed on a stairwell far beneath him. One of the things he hated about atmosphere. No vacuum to eat away the excess sounds.

Jan 26, 2011

Frigid

Daylight faded beyond the blue frost blossoms as the slurry beat on panes like kitten paws. I looked nervously to the candle stubs. Frozen power lines carried nothing from their icy poles.

Eli poked the smoldering embers in the woodstove sending agitated sparks into their black cave. Cold wind whispered through the flue. That whisper had pervaded our home for the last week. It would have been counterproductive to take bets on which would run out first: the firewood, or my patience.

Setting another log on the fire, Eli returned to the heavy down comforter he nested in on the couch. I turned back to the window. Everything beyond our little refuge was silence.

Silence and white.

“You’re only letting the heat out.” Eli sneered at the heavy blanket I’ve pulled away to look out at the icy landscape beyond.

“What does it matter if I die from the cold, when you’re going to drive me to suicide if you don’t stop being such a Debbie downer?”

He snickered and picked up the worn copy of the Cussler novel he’d read twice since our involuntary vacation.

“I didn’t mean for this to happen you know.”

I rolled my eyes at the blanket as I put it back in place and lit another candle to drive away the dreariness of our rat cage.“I’m not so deluded as to think that you control the weather.”

“Did you call John?” His eyes flicked to me only for a moment before they returned to the pages beneath his gloved finger tips.

“I told him the power is out and my cell service is shady. He won’t expect me back until the storm clears.” I let my glare sink into Eli’s ruddy cheek as he took a swig of whiskey. “He knows I don’t like driving in the snow.”

“Maybe that’s why you married him. And I’m just the one you sneak off with a handful of weekends each year to shag.”

I bit my tongue. He did like being right.

“Next time, we’re going to Mexico.”

(Continued with: Thaw)
*********

This week's Red Writing Hood Prompt was: "You are trapped (alone or with others) in a single location during the fury and/or aftermath of a blizzard of historic proportions."


(I know I usually post these on Thursdays, but I'm mixing it up this week.)

Don't forget to follow me. Win a novel - or help someone else do so!

Jan 25, 2011

I Don’t Fit In


I have a question for you:
What happens if you’re not quite sure what genre you fall into? I’ve spent the entire time I’ve know this particular novel believing it was YA… and now, I have a feeling I am wrong. Besides the fact that it most certainly shouldn’t be YA – New Adult is more fitting – I'm not sure of where it falls…
It’s not a romance – though it has romantic elements.
It’s not a thriller – though there is definitely some intrigue
It could be considered Historical Fiction – if you’re not too particular about the fact that it’s set in the future that’s reverted to cultural pasts….
It could be paranormal – but that’s also a tiny stretch…
What do I do when I can’t figure out where I fit in?

Being Sick = No Productivity

I’ve been sick




So I’ve gotten next to no work done. Ugh. Don’t you just hate that? I do. I feel so unproductive. That makes me antsy. I mean – and I don’t know if you noticed, but I didn’t even blog yesterday! Crazy. I know.

Here’s one of the main reasons I hate being sick: I don’t read. I can’t. It’s like. I feel ill and suddenly the part of my brain that does the reading completely forgets how to translate words on the page to my brain. Okay, it’s not that drastic. But I have no motivation to even pick up the page.

Mostly, I spent Friday through Monday asleep. I had tonsillitis – again – and there’s really nothing that can be done for it (they won’t remove them anymore).


But I’m back today! My throat has decided it’s done throwing itself a pity party and I’m popping Advil congestion relief as often as possible, so I’m back and I’m getting back to work, because I hat being unproductive! And, you know, I’m a very self competitive person, this means that I must beat last year’s numbers!

At least 5 rough drafts must be completed this year!

And now I’m going to get to work on those. Because I want them to be like brick built pig houses – no straw or sticks form me!

Jan 20, 2011

The Dialog, The Whole Dialog, And Nothing But The Dialog.

"Jooooohn?”

“Yes Louise.”

“Just curious. Are you hiding a Christmas present for me?”

“Good lord no, It’s March! You know I can’t pick out a gift for you to save my life anyway! That’s why I always have you go get it.”

“But you haven’t bought me anything… right?”

“What are you picking at woman! I am not a scab. Get out of that durn closet.”

“All right, all right! I’m out. Happy now?”

“If you’ll let me get back to my Clancy without yammerin’ at me every ten seconds I’ll be hap… what’s that in your hand?”

“This? This is a bra.”

“…”

“It’s not mine, John.”

“…”

“I think you need to explain why there is a foreign bra in our closet.”

“I… was going to surprise you for Christmas?”

“Bite me.”

***

This post was brought to you by the Red Dress Club’s Red Writing Hood Prompts!



Don’t forget to sign up for my contest for the chance to win a copy of my novel!

Jan 19, 2011

USBtypwriter

Thanks to Katie, I had to tell you about this: USBtypwriter






(All images from USBtypewriter's Etsy Shop)

I WANT one!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Many of you know that on 1/11/11, this novel was released and the first 111 pages of Across the Universe were on io9 for anyone and their dog to read. I only knew because of the wonderful blog –o-verse and it’s incredible power to market to people like me – those who will read anything they can get their hands on. So, last Tuesday I read the first pages of AtU and immediately went to amazon and bought the book.

I started reading it on Sunday and I’m at page 334. I’ll undoubtedly finish it today. And all I can tell you is you really should find a copy and devour it also.

I’m going to tell you right now. The world Beth Revis created in this novel is a strange one. Claustrophobic in more ways than one, completely maddening at times, and yet – as alien as this setting is – utterly relatable.

Also, I don’t like novels that are in first person, present tense. But I didn’t notice this book was written from that perspective until 108. That right there is some good writing.

If you’ve read the book, just the first 111 pages, or are reading it now, what do you think?

Jan 18, 2011

Contest Update #3 - Win my Novel

It’s Tuesday again. That means you get to hear about the progress on this lovely contest I’m having!



We’re only 21 people away from the 4 copies up for grabs!

Please check out the original post for all the rules, follow me – even if it’s just to help someone else win a copy – and don’t forget to let me know if you want in on the drawing in the comments of this post, the original post or any of the updates (1 or 2).

Next Tuesday is the final update (make me give away more copies!) and it all ends on the 31st! So 2 weeks from now – exactly – I’ll be announcing who the 4 (hopefully more!) winners are.

Let me tell you a little about my writing process... An Update

Shallee at Life, the Universe, and Writing is having a blogfest.
I've never participated in one of these before, but I figured I'd give it a shot, so here it goes!

This is the what's your process blogfest. I'm going to add to a post I put up last april:

My writing process:

Posted April 20th 2010:

I don’t have one. Every book, so far, has been different.

The first book, Duty and Death, was not in any way intended to actually turn into a book until I was well into it. Character development was done on the fly. The word “outline” didn’t exist in the same world as this book. It was 0% planning, 25% research after writing and 75% writing.

The follow up to duty and death will probably be something along the lines of 30% planning, 20% research, and 50% writing. Just because I have to fit things into a constraint now.

The second book, Forfeit Souls, started from a brief moment of madness when I contemplated death (obviously I’m not saying I was thinking about suicide) and wrote extensively on the subject. The resultant pages became the first chapter in that novel, but there was much more character development and research than the first book before the bulk of the writing actually happened. It was 25%planning, 30% research and 45% writing.

Magic is for the Birds, my third novel started with a simple sentence that ended up in chapter 2… I think? (not actually looking at the book right now) This was a strange thing. Because it kept mutating in my mind, even as I wrote it. The world kept expanding and expanding. Causing me to do a lot of mid-step changes and re writes. It was 5% Planning, 7% research before writing, 15% research after writing, 33% initial writing, 40% rewrites.
 
I’m curious to see which book will make me finish it next and what sort of ratio it will have.
 
Today, January 18 2010:
 
Novel number 4 (title still not decided) was something like 60% outlining and research, 30% writing and 10% revisions. It was my first forray into SF and so required a lot of research, not only on the scientific methods used in the book, but also on how to actually plot a fast paced, plot driven SF novel.
 
Novel 5, Ash's Ashes - my second SF - has been 99% writing so far. I wrote it in 20 days and have spent very little time revising it. That's not to say it doesnt need revising. Boy, does it need revising. I just haven't gotten around to that part yet.
 

Jan 17, 2011

Want to Win $100?


Elena at You’re Write. Except when you’re wrong. is giving you the chance to do just that!



All you have to do is write a 100-word sentence to be in the running. For the real rules and to sign up, take a trip over to her post and do what it says!



My 100(+2):
The heme dripped from the broken and bloody blade in my hand, mascara and salty tears comingled in the puddle forming at my feet, glassy grey eyes stared up at me, his face a mask of pain, his dying moments quick enough he did not scream – I was the only one doing that – his jaw went slack with only the faintest gasp and now he was dead, as dead as the dormouse he’d killed – stomped flat in the corner, it’s dull grey fur matched the eyes locked on me in death – the only difference was that I cared that I’d killed him.

Jan 13, 2011

Marshmallow

Sugar, you may be nothing more than fluffed Modified Corn Starch

But I love you for both your Natural and Artificial Flavors.

You might be clingy, but I know that’s just because you’re mostly Corn Syrup

Without your colorful side, things like Tetrasodium pyrophosphate,

You’d just be Water mixed with Gelatin.

When you run out I’ll be Color (blue 1)




RWH: For this week's prompt, grab something out of your pantry and write a short piece - using all the words in the ingredients. It can be fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose.


My initial thought was... does the knife block count?

I don't technically have a pantry. I have this:



And 90% of the things in my "pantry" are single ingredient things. So I ended up going with marshmallows. The words that are bold are the ingredients.

Jan 12, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo



My mother gave me this novel just before Christmas. She and my step father had both read and enjoyed it (she was almost finished with the second one, and he had already finished the trilogy) and so I was handed the novel.

This book has received quite a bit of hype, so needless to say, I was interested to read it – though I had no idea what it was about – and as I try never to read the blurb on the back cover until I’ve finished the novel, I really didn’t know what it was about until around chapter 5.

I’m on page 225 right now and so far… I’m not as enthralled with the story as I was told, or thought I would be. Maybe I’m still trying to figure out why I should care about Harriet’s murder, if she was in fact murdered… maybe it’s because I just don’t like Blomkvist (I don’t care if he’s going to be played by Daniel Craig in the movie). I’m not really sure.

At this point, I don’t intend on reading the second two novels.

Here’s my question… does this book get better?

Jan 11, 2011

Contest Update #2

It’s Tuesday, that means it’s time to update you on where we all stand in the way of winning copies of my novel!

Since I first posted the contest rules, my following has managed to double, but that’s not enough to get to the 4 (+) copies up for grabs!

As of right now, we’re only 34 people away!

I’ve decided to add another possibility for extra credit. All you need to do is follow me on twitter and tweet about the contest.

Don’t forget to let others know!



Thanks to everyone who’s following and everyone who has entered the contest!

Jan 10, 2011

Plotting V. Pansting

If you’re a writer on the blogosphere, you’ve undoubtedly read interviews in which an author (published, soon-to-be published, aspiring or otherwise) has been asked if they are a plotter or a panster.
I’ve asked myself the same thing and I’ve come to a conclusion. While I’ve written novels both ways, I need to be a plotter.
Here’s why:
I talk too much. There’s way too much down time in the plot when I have the opportunity to ramble on about things that aren’t important.
I’m an explorer. I, quite easily, take a road that doesn’t need to be taken just to explore a side thought. It tends to lead to pointless blathering.
Once it’s there, I don’t like to let it go. It’s ten times easier to leave something out of the first draft than to cut it in revisions. I think it’s mostly because I took the time with it in the first place and now I’m trying to justify keeping it because of that time spent.

But when I have a defined plot already set out in front of me I have a defined structure. I have a plan. If I don’t make it to plot point one in time, my reservations are void and I lose my deposit (that was a road trip metaphor if you were wondering.). So I’m going to continue to do more plotting than pansting with any and all future novels. Because, for me, they’re better that way.
Has anyone else found this to be true? Or are your reasons in favor of one method or the other drastically different from mine.

Jan 7, 2011

Candy Cigarette


I'd inhale powdered sugar deeper
If I truly thought you were a keeper

Twirl the white stick between shaky fingers
Everyone knows the sugar high lingers

Intoxicated by its novelty sweetness
I wonder if there's any way to get through this

And take another drag from my candy cigarette
Because I know it's the only answer I'm gonna get.


Amy (01/11)

Query Critique #6 - Silent No More

Silent No More: A Soldier’s Story of Surviving Sexual Trauma by Candy


Query:

Dear Agent;

One in three women in the Armed Forces is sexually assaulted or raped by her comrade in arms.

Since 2005 CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS have reported on rape in the military. The Pentagon investigates, unit commanders try to find a way to stop it but more and more victims still come forward.

I was one of them.

In 1976, at the age of eighteen and fresh out of high school I joined the Women’s Army Corps, right when Congress decided to get rid of WAC’s and make us a part of the actual Army. I wasn’t crazy about firing weapons or running but I loved the camaraderie and the sense of belonging to something bigger than me. Until I was stationed at Fort Riley,Kansas.

Germany had the reputation for "making" or "breaking" a marriage. Fort Riley had the reputation for "making" or "breaking" a person. Everyone equates rape with violence, but no one thinks about the coercion and threats, something as simple as not going before a promotion board, being stuck on guard duty alone in the middle of the night, or desertion. Not all rapes are violent.

I loved Germany for its parties, but hated Fort Riley with its almost nightly rapes in the field. I didn't break until my second trip and the superior I broke it on suffered four broken ribs, a broken foot, a black eye, and a massive goose-egg on his head. Threatened with courts-martial, it was me who agreed to leave after twelve years of service for being three pounds over weight.

I took my oath seriously but rape changed everything for me. It left me quiet, alone, in fear and angry at myself. No longer did I want to die for country, I just wanted to die. I remained silent for over twenty years.

SILENT NO MORE: A SOLDIER’S STORY OF SURVIVING MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA is a XX,XXX-word memoir of my career in the Army and how I went from victim to survivor.

>Nice words, nice words, nice words<

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Redline:

Dear Agent;, [Definitely want to change this to a comma. A query is still, first and foremost, a letter.]

One in three women in the Armed Forces is sexually assaulted or raped by her comrade in arms. fellow soldiers. I was one of them. [The only thing I changed besides tacking that last sentence on here, is removing comrade in arms – I know that you were in the US Army, but comrade always makes me think Russian. That’s why I replaced it.]

Since 2005 CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS have reported on rape in the military. The Pentagon investigates, unit commanders try to find a way to stop it but more and more victims still come forward. [I would move this toward the end.]

I was one of them.

In 1976, at the age of eighteen, and fresh out of high school, I joined the Women’s Army Corps, right when Congress decided to get rid of WAC’s and make us a part of the actual Army. [I would reword this as: “it was the year Congress dissolved the WAC into the Army.”] I wasn’t crazy about firing weapons or running participating in weapons range drills or the rigorous physical requirements, [firing weapons and running seem a little vague and they’re pretty boring. I’d suggest something like what I’ve added to add a little flavor to the query] but I loved the camaraderie and the sense of belonging to something bigger than me I found in the Corps. Until I was stationed at Fort Riley,Kansas.

Everything changed when I was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. [I’d make this a separate sentence, so you really know when things go bad.]

[Things get really confusing in this paragraph and then next – mostly with place, you’re bouncing back and forth between Germany and For Riley and that’s hard to follow. I think you need to break Germany and For Riley apart… perhaps one paragraph for each or, maybe you could get rid of the parts in Germany for the query, I’m going to for the sake of this critique.]

Germany had the reputation for "making" or "breaking" a marriage. Fort Riley had the reputation for "making" or "breaking" a person. [Here you should tell us why, because I’m 70% certain, that F. Riley didn’t have a reputation for rape, what about it was designed for breaking a person?] Everyone equates rape with violence, but no one thinks about the coercion and threats, something as simple as not going before a promotion board, being stuck on guard duty alone in the middle of the night, or desertion. Not all rapes are violent. [You might want to add something to this last sentence about non violent rapes being manipulative, instead of physical abuse, it’s verbal and mental abuse. Otherwise, as you’re reading through it, it kind of feels like you’re negating what you just said, even though you aren’t.]

I loved Germany for its parties, but hated Fort Riley with its almost nightly rapes in the field. [This makes it seem like Fort Riley was in Germany, not Kansas, If I’m totally wrong about that, I apologize. I’d remove the references to Germany entirely. Here I’d reword the sentence to: “Fort Riley brought a new type of fear into my life, as the rapes became a nearly constant occurance each night in the field.] I didn't break until my second trip and the superior I broke it on suffered four broken ribs, a broken foot, a black eye, and a massive goose-egg on his head. [There is a whole lot of breaks and broke in this sentence, if the ribs were cracked, or the foot was fractured, that would sound better – I know you’re going for truth, so I’m not telling you to fib, just think about the amount of broke here. And it’s unclear why your supervisor was the one who was badly beaten for your coming forward. You might want to clarify that.] Threatened with courts-martial, [you and your supervisor?] it was me [I?] who agreed to leave after twelve years of service for being three pounds over weight overweight. [There’s a lot of clarity issues here. Might want to address those]

I took my oath seriously but rape changed everything for me. [What oath – I’m not very militarily informed, but the “oath” without explanation left me confused.] It left me quiet, alone, in fear and angry at myself. No longer did I want to die for country, I just wanted to die. I remained silent for over twenty years.

Since 2005 CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS have reported on rape in the military. The Pentagon investigates, unit commanders try to find a way to stop it but more and more victims still come forward.

SILENT NO MORE: A SOLDIER’S STORY OF SURVIVING MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA is a XX,XXX-word memoir of my career in the Army and how I went from victim to survivor.

>Nice words, nice words, nice words< [“Nice words are nice, but if you don’t know anything about the agent (and let’s face it, there are agents out there who are not “findable” online) leave this part out – never just make something up.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Notes:

I think the biggest issue I’m seeing is in the confusion that arises with the bouncing back and forth between Germany and Fort Riley. If you don’t want to get rid of Germany, go ahead and keep it, but make sure you structure your query in a way that is clear to someone who may not know much of anything about the military or the places you can be stationed. I work with a guy who was in the Army and I just double checked where Fort Riley was exactly (I’m sure I could have googled it) but you don’t want the agent to have to do these things.

Overall I’d just suggest you make sure that things are a little clearer and make sure that your voice is shining thought. Memoirs are a hard sell, you really want to make sure that you’re representing yourself and your story in its Sunday best.

A few notes on memoirs in general:

Memoirs need to be finished before you query as per Miss Snark’s post in 2007, so you’ll definitely want to be able to say you’re “memoir is complete at” and then be able to give an accurate word count.

Even though it’s non fiction, Memoirs read like novels (or they should) so querying a memoir is a lot like querying a novel. You’ll want to give the story and then state the facts and qualifications.

Thanks for letting me have a go at your query.
Best of luck,
 - Amy

Jan 6, 2011

My Query Critiqued

No one is a perfect query writer. I am far from it. So while I help others work toward perfecting their query, I need help too.

I sent the query for my 4th novel over to Phoenix's site and let her have a go at it.

She posted it this morning.

Go check out her site, submit your query to her, or hey, read mine and make a comment. I can take the critisism and I'd love the feed back.

Thanks! Don't forget to check in tomorrow for Query Critique #6!

The Rise of an Empire: A Short Story in Alphabetical order.

A month had passed since the three Silvia girls of Xavier Lyons Preparatory Academy had effectively lead their social coup.

Becky was still the only one who felt poorly about it. Children, she thought as she looked down on her fellow students, cowering against the grey lockers. Doubtless, Zoe Klatcher was plotting her return to the top in some bathroom somewhere, pacing up and down the marble floor with her cabinet of dethroned prima donnas. Everyone knew she’d retaliate, they just didn’t know when.

Fortunately for the Silvia Girls, they had strength in numbers. Gina took care of most of the school – she’d built them a solid foundation of friends – that girl would be a politician. However much anyone liked Zoe, they liked Gina better, and that kept them from all out revolt when Zoe was publicly humiliated and dropped down the ladder rungs.

It was Tess that was the mastermind behind their plot, where Becky was the empathizer and Gina was the social butterfly, Tess was the enforcer. Just because you came into their clique, didn’t mean you stayed. Knowing how to please Tess was what kept you at the highest levels of the social order.

Little did they know, Zoe was not in the bathroom plotting as she had been. Modestly, she had stepped out of the lime light and taken a back seat to her friend’s plotting to reorganize the social landscape of the school. Now she watched and waited, it would be worth the risk to bide her time.

One girl was nothing, toppling the empire of one leader was child’s play. Permeating the wood paneled halls and checkered marble floors was the heavy aroma of change. Quietly it seeped into each student’s souls. Reluctantly, Zoe watched as the power of the Silvia sister’s blossoming reign took over the school.

Soon they would see how difficult maintaining the power was. Trite little Gina would soon see her popularity wane as she had to stand aside and allow Tess to discipline their underlings. Unfortunately, it would wear on Becky too – something that saddened Zoe; they had been friends.

Very soon their empire would crumble. When the first crack in their sisterly bond formed, that would be the beginning of the end. Xavier would see yet another of its social regimes rise and fall. Yet she would have nothing to do with it.

Zoe couldn’t compete with triplets.

***

This week’s Red Writing Hood Post asked us to put our short story in alphabetical order! That means every sentence started with the next letter of the alphabet, A, then B, then C, and so on...



I may have bent some rules of punctuation to make things fit, but I’m not disappointed with the results.

What did you think?

Jan 5, 2011

Duty & Death Teaser: Ariving at Uble


As we neared the fortress, I heard the distinct sounds of the salt mines, the clang of picks and the low moan of slave workers. My stomach twisted into knots. The mines had been the basis for several of my worst nightmares. The tragedy that befell those forced to work there was something I wish I had never borne witness to, and now the haunting sounds of imminent death and profit echoing from the cavernous mines troubled me. It was as though every fiber of my soul was being immersed in ice water. It was an odd sensation when coupled with temperatures well over one hundred and ten degrees.


The black mountains were full of salt deposits; it was one of the few exports Hetia had. My grandfather had located dozens of mines throughout the mountains on the outlying edges of Uble. They were humane places then – my father had changed all that.

The mines were manned by the lowest rung of Vladimir’s society: slaves, prisoners working off their sentences, and former citizens of his many conquests who were unable to pay their new taxes. Their punishment was ultimately a death penalty. To be forced into indentured servitude in the mines held a life expectancy of less than two years, and that was a generous lifespan.

Before we reached the fortress, we passed through the outskirts of the city where the poorest of the poor lived. Their domiciles, huts created from the desert’s sand, were barely able to stand up to the wind. Their pitted walls were visibly crumbling. My father had often toyed with the idea of arresting all of the poor living in his cities – simply for being poor – and forcing them to work the mines as well. I figured he was saving those unfortunate citizens for the day he no longer had slaves from his conquests.

The streets here were void of life with the exception of two figures, and as we neared them, I looked down through the small opening in the linen panels and saw an elderly man and a child. Both were near death. The man’s face was turned up toward the sky, his mouth hanging open, slack. His eyes were covered with a blood-stained cloth and the boy seated next to him had no legs, the mutilated stumps draped in a thin, bloody sheet.

“Why do they sit in the sun?” Impetia asked absentmindedly as she picked a raisin from its pouch and fanned herself. She had not bothered to look too closely at them. “They should return to the shade of their apartments.” She was oblivious to their plight. I doubt she had looked long enough to notice their bloody disfigurements.

“Judging from their wounds, I have a feeling the old man saw something not intended for his eyes, and the boy went somewhere he should have never gone, or perhaps he tried to run away.” I tried to mask the annoyance in my tone. “I would also venture to guess this is their punishment.” By the time the salt crews returned, they would be dead. I looked off into the distance towards the mines. “They are a warning to anyone else who might be inspired by their example.”

I had seen similar punishments in my nightmares. My father liked to rule with a heavy hand. His justice, though some might call it vengeance, was not always swift, but it was most certainly sure.

“Well, you just know everything don’t you?” Impetia said in a snippy tone. The heat was playing on her nerves again.

“It is a guess that they transgressed and that they are being punished, but as their wounds are still fresh, if they do not bleed to death first and they remain in the street, the sun will cook them and they will die of exposure and dehydration in a few hours.” I knew the discomfort the heat was causing me. I could only assume the bulky gown Impetia wore was causing her ten times the discomfort. I decided it would be better if I ended all conversation until we were able to cool down. I had little to say anyway.

Finally, I focused my attention on the red walls beyond the stone buildings of the city. Their disgusting decoration sent a wave of repulsion through my body. I was extremely grateful I would not be in this macabre place for very long.

The fortress was foreboding. The rock walls formed a semicircle outward from the mountains. The effect caused the structure to appear as though it had grown from the mountains themselves, exactly as my father had wanted.

The forty-foot high and seven-foot thick walls were solid. Every crack and crevice between their stones was filled with a glue-like mortar. Made from the bones of the fallen enemies from the many invasions that Vladimir had led – at least, that’s what my father would have people think. The walls, covered with red-stained metal plates and topped by giant bowls of burning oil, intended to discourage any form of attack, though I have a hard time believing another country would ever wish to take this desolate place.

A large archway with a dirty portcullis was the only passage through the wall and into the grounds. Inside the walls were rows of catapults and trebuchets – waiting to be called to the battlefield – lined next to wagons holding the boulders and balls of iron spikes that would serve as their ammunition.

A battalion of soldiers stood in formation, running through drills in front of the barracks while horses were being led in and out of the stable. I had to laugh, though I did it quietly. It all seemed like such a charade. There really wasn’t any reason to protect Hetia. No one wanted this place.

Our destination was at the far end of the yard. The entrance to the castle in the central fortress was similar to the one in the western province, though my aunt’s home was made from the shale quarried near the Great Sea, and the structure before us was as black as the mountains out of which it grew.

As we approached, Impetia and I put on our masks. In the desert there was no risk of being seen, the elephant’s back was much too high for anyone to see into our carriage. However, the high walls of the fortress posed a risk, so we would suffer until we were in the fortress’s cool, dank interior.

The monstrous walls seemed to have grown from the mountain itself. They surrounded the fortress, which sat on the tiered remnants of the quarry. The four levels of the fortress were set into the mountain side as though they were on stairs. The exposed walls were completely vertical to prevent scaling attempts and the roof held several more bowls of the burning oil.

The few exterior windows were small and made of a dark red glass. It allowed for little outward clue as to the structure’s interior, and kept most of the daylight out. It seemed like a place an insidious creature of the night, like Nosferatu, or a demon, might reside. Then again, perhaps that is exactly what was lurking behind those stone walls.

Our caravan stopped at the entrance to the colossal building and our escorts dismounted. I had climbed from the carriage into the lowering basket first and noticed Marko’s lingering gaze on Impetia as she was lowered from her precarious perch. It was a worried, possessive gaze. I knew this would not end well. I just hoped I wouldn’t have to witness any more of it.

The servants from inside the fortress joined those from the caravan and gathered our items from the camels. Soon all of our things had been carted away. As we dismounted, the drilling battalion continued their formations, but I could see they were visibly distracted. I smiled to suppress a laugh when three of them fell over each other, distracted as the ogled us.

*****
This is just a small portion of the novel up for grabs in my contest. Don't forget to let me know you want to be entered into the running!

Jan 4, 2011

Trilogy Contest!

There are so many contests around right now!


I thought I’d let you in on another one, its over at Rach Writes. There are tons of prizes for those of you who are writerly and even some for you who are readerly!

Check it out, follow her and the other two contest holders and then fill out their form! You wont be disappointed if you win this contest!

Contest Update!



We’re 4 weeks and 53 people away from 4 people getting copies of Duty and Death!

Don’t forget to drag people to this blog and force them to follow so that we reach 100 and I can give you books!

At present there are 10 entrants! That means that right now we’re at a 2 in 5 chance of winning (remember, the more followers, the more books given and therefore more chances to win!)

The rules are here, and if you want in you’re welcome to tell me so in this post’s comments, too.

Thanks so much to all of you who are participating and thanks to all my new followers!

- Amy

My Reading List: AKA The 100 SF Novels You Should Read Before You Die

Below is a list of 100 SF Novels that are recommended by Bookstove.com as the 100 SF Novels you should read. I've decided that I need to actually start reading more SF (and maybe you should too) and figured this list was a good place to start. I haven't read most of them. And most of those I've read, I read so long ago I dont remember them well, so I'm going to dive right in.... with a book that's not on the list... because I've added 16 to it. (They're at the bottom)

My first read is going to be Consider Phlebas by Ian M. Banks

Let me know if there are any you've read that you think should be moved to the top of the list - or any I should add.

1. The Postman – David Brin

2. The Uplift War – David Brin
3. Neuromancer – William Gibson
4. Foundation – Isaac Asimov
5. Foundation and Empire – Isaac Asimov
6. Second Foundation – Isaac Asimov
7. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
8. The Long Tomorrow – Leigh Brackett
9. Rogue Moon – Algis Budrys
10. The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
11. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
12. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
13. Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
14. The City and the Stars – Arthur C. Clarke
15. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
16. Armor – John Steakley
17. Imperial Stars – E. E. Smith
18. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
19. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
20. Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
21. Dune – Frank Herbert
22. The Dosadi Experiment – Frank Herbert
23. Journey Beyond Tomorrow – Robert Sheckley
24. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
25. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
26. Valis – Philip K. Dick
27. A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick
28. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick
29. 1984 – George Orwell
30. Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
31. Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
32. The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
33. The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
34. The Island of Doctor Moreau – H. G. Wells
35. The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells
36. A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller, Jr.
37. Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank
38. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
39. A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne
40. From the Earth to the Moon – Jules Verne
41. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
42. Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
43. Nova Express – William S. Burroughs
44. Ringworld – Larry Niven
45. The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
46. The Unreasoning Mask – Philip Jose Farmer
47. To Your Scattered Bodies Go – Philip Jose Farmer
48. Eon – Greg Bear
49. Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
50. The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton
51. Lightning – Dean Koontz
52. The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison
53. The Fifth Head of Cerebus – Gene Wolfe
54. Nightside of the Long Sun – Gene Wolfe
55. A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs
56. Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
57. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
58. The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
59. Solaris – Stanislaw Lem
60. Doomsday Book – Connie Wills
61. Beserker – Fred Saberhagen
62. Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
63. The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K. LeGuin
64. The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin
65. Babel-17 – Samuel R. Delany
66. Dhalgren – Samuel R. Delany
67. Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
68. The Forever War – Joe Haldeman
69. Star King – Jack Vance
70. The Killing Machine – Jack Vance
71. Trullion: Alastor 2262 – Jack Vance
72. Hyperion – Dan Simmons
73. Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein
74. Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A. Heinlein
75. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
76. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
77. More Than Human – Theodore Sturgeon
78. A Time of Changes – Robert Silverberg
79. Gateway – Frederick Pohl
80. Man Plus - Frederick Pohl
81. The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
82. Mission of Gravity – Hal Clement
83. The Execution Channel – Ken Macleod
84. Last and First Men – W. Olaf Stapledon
85. Slan – A. E. van Vogt
86. Out of the Silent Planet – C. S. Lewis
87. They Shall Have Stars – James Blish
88. Marooned in Realtime – Vernor Vinge
89. A Fire Upon the Deep – Vernor Vinge
90. The People Maker – Damon Knight
91. The Giver – Lois Lowry
92. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
93. Contact – Carl Sagan
94. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
95. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
96. Battlefield Earth – L. Ron Hubbard
97. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain
98. Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
99. Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Jack Finney
100. Planet of the Apes – Pierre Boulle

(Teal designates the novels I've read, but long ago. Purple designates those I've read in the past year.)

Additions to the List:

1. At the Mountains of Madness - H. P. Lovecraft
2. Children of Scarabaeus - Sara Creasy
3. Consider Phlebas - Ian M. Banks
4. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom - Cory Doctorow
5. Glasshouse - Charles Stross
6. He, She, and It - Marge Piercy
7. Infernal Devices - K. W. Jeter
8. Kindred - Octavia Butler
9. Newton's Wake - Ken Mackleod
10. Pattern Recognition - William Gibson
11. Perdido Street Station - China Melville
12. Sarah Canary - Karen Joy Fowler
13. The Bohr Maker - Linda Nagata
14. The Mount - Carol Emshwiller
15. The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell
16. Wizard - John Varley

Jan 3, 2011

2010: A Writing Year In Review

In 2010, I wrote 202 blog posts. I read a few books (approximately 34, which is a seriously low number, but I attribute it to the fact that my books were boxed up in the bottom of a closet for 11 months of this year). I wrote a few (4 first drafts completed) and did some major revisions (D&D got a crazy facelift)…

In January of 2010, I was querying my first novel (“completed in the late summer of 2009) and working on my second novel, a project I “finished” and subsequently shelved at the end of that month.

February saw me working on novel #3, a project I’m still thinking of ways to perfect. It also saw the creation of this blog, and with it, the eventual introduction to all of you fine bloggers.

I turned 23 in March, by blooming blog was slowing gaining followers (all 5 of you or so at that point) and I was working my way through getting into the swing of things. I posted the first chapters of Novel #2.

April gave me an encouraging moment when an amazing agent wanted to look at Duty and Death and then sent me crashing back down when she declined to read more. This pushed me into the Revision Wars of 2010. D&D dropped 40,000-words, and became a better novel for it.

May saw the end of the revision wars, and the start of novel #4 – my first foray into the realm of Science Fiction.

June was spent nose deep in SF research. With my other work out with editors and betas, I had little to do other than meet my soon-to be critique partner (thanks to a blog introduction by my biggest fan).

In July I posted weekly status reports on novel #4’s progress and had a conversation with a friend from highschool who’s now a rocket scientist. I also read my first western. And one of my characters had a sex change (not in the book or anything, I just changed them from male to female)

August was my own personal WriMo. I completed Novel #5 in 20 days, having little more than a loose concept in my mind at the get go and a challenge from my biggest fan. Its rough draft was 71,000-words. My critique partner and I also exchanged manuscripts this month and we delved into each other’s work like crazy people.

Toward the end of September I received my ms back from my crit partner and got to work inputting changes. Sadly, it was still not what that agent was seeking. I moved on, focusing on novel # 4 to get it to the best it could be. I also attended a webinar on how to pitch SF&F novels in your query.

In October I gave you a brief dramatization of the query process in six acts, talked about the things that had to change because of the major revisions to Novel #1. I set some goals that didn’t get accomplished. I gave you a little insight into the Space Opera genre and wished you a happy Halloween.

November was spent working through edits of novel #4 and involved a 30-day meme dedicated to my writing. I also began giving query critiques and hopefully helping others out there who are in the same boat.

December brought more query critiques, a new blog lay out and the discovery of ASU’s on demand printing press – perfect for Christmas Gifts. I also posted the first chapter of novel #4 and decided to host a contest!



That’s the gist of 2010 for me. What did 2010 bring for you?