Saturday, April 29, 2017

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.

Tired of being different, Ella Farnsworth decides to give her magic away, but all of her efforts to be normal, she exhausts her magic. Hmm... I don't actually think this sentence is sensical. Read it aloud. Ella’s POOFING is out of control. When she ends up with an elephant and nowhere to keep it, she must figure out how to get her magic back.

In THE PROBLEM WITH ELEPHANTS, Ella attempts to forget she is magical, but she cannot. She pretends to be like everyone else, but she is not. The echo here from first sentence isn't working in your favor, I don't think. I would combine the two things that she isn't into one sentence. Still, Ella doesn’t like feeling different, so she attempts to POOF her magic away. That does not work. She attempts to POOF her magic to everyone else. Nope, that doesn’t work either. Ella doesn’t give up easily. She POOFS and POOFS until she is all POOFED out. Ella exhausts her magic, and now her magic is out-of-control. Technically though, if she has exhausted her magic in itself than it could hardly be out of control, since it's non-existent in the moment. Are you saying that the objects she POOFed are out of control? You might want to be more specific about what POOFing is. Anything and everything Ella thinks about starts appearing. But again, that's definitely magic, and you said her magic was exhausted. When Ella makes an elephant appear, she has to get her magic back to fix things. Definitely confused about the chain of events here. Her magic is exhausted, then out of control, then creating a lot, then gone again and she needs it back? Check and make sure that what you have here is a true timeline according to the book.

THE PROBLEM WITH ELEPHANTS is a picture story book comparable to other magic-themed picture storybooks such as “Cow’s Can’t Fly,” “Tuesday,” and the wordless picture book “Journey.”

As an aspiring author and a Master of Arts in English, Creative Writing student, helping children understanding their gifts and the importance of being authentic is part of my journey as a write. I am a member of SCBWI, a member of Sigma Tau Delta’s International English Honor Society, and an inductee in The National Society of Leadership and Success’ Sigma Alpha Pi chapter.

Great bio!

I admittedly know very little about querying picture books, but I do think the repetition of your first paragraph to your second paragraph isn't helping. Your first para encapsulates everything and reads like a summary of the second one, so I'm not sure what the purpose of having both is. I'd work with what you have in the second one, and clarify the question I raised therein.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: A FACE LIKE GLASS by Frances Hardinge

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

In the underground city of Caverna, the only faces people can make are those that they have learned, or have been crafted for them. The lowest workers only wear two expressions - both of them chagrined and obedient. Some of the most powerful people in the city are the Facesmiths - those who create new faces for paying customers.

Neverfell has assumed from the age five - when she fell into a famous cheesemaker's curd vat - that she must be terribly ugly. Why else would he make a mask for her, and caution her to wear it at all times? Not until she is thirteen does Neverfell realize she has a face like glass - all of her emotions show on her face, which means she must have come from aboveground.

Now thrust into a court world of power and intrigue, Neverfell must quickly learn how to defend herself in a world where a spilled drink could mean death and the ruling monarch has taught the left and right sides of his mind to sleep in shifts so that he can remain ever vigilant. With her life - and the lives of everyone she encounters - drawn into a swiftly closing trap, Neverfell must learn her origins to unravel the truth about her importance to Caverna.

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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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately center on my child-thoughts:

1) When I was just a kitten I didn't understand the connection between eating and going to the bathroom. I thought we spent our lives chewing up our food and depositing it inside ourselves, and that death occurred when we were finally full. I thought if I chewed up my food really well, I could extend my life. Too bad I didn't have the book EVERYONE POOPS to clear that up for me. Someone explained the error in my beliefs at some point and so I came up with the new death theory -

2) Quite a few of the elderly ladies in my church had osteoporosis. Since food couldn't kill you I figured out that once you hit a certain age you started shrinking, and eventually faded off into nothing.

3) When I was little bathing, eating and sleeping were three things that took up way too much of my time and pulled me out of whatever I was doing. Think about it - when you were kid, and super involved with your playtime you inevitably heard: "Bathtime! Dinner! Bedtime!" As an adult, bathtime, dinner and bedtime are like the most awesome points of the day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday WOLF

I'm a nerd. I'm in fact such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. 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.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new 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.

Today we're going to talk about horses. I learned a lot about horses as I worked on IN A HANDFUL OF DUST. I've not been in many saddles, but I'm told I "sit a horse well," which makes me feel accomplished.

So you've probably heard the phrase "form the horse's mouth," meant to indicate that the information being shared is definitely true. This saying came about because a horse's age can be accurately judged by looking at its teeth. If you were buying a horse you'd go straight to the horse's mouth to determine it's age, rather than rely on the honesty of the seller.

Now you know! However, I do not advise this approach on humans. It is both misleading and socially unacceptable.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Emily R. King On Splitting Time Between Two Projects & THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN Giveaway!

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?

Today's guest for the SNOB is Emily R. King debut author of THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN a reader of everything and a writer of fantasy. Born in Canada and raised in the USA, she has perfected the use of “eh” and “y’all” and uses both interchangeably. Shark advocate, consumer of gummy bears, and islander at heart, Emily’s greatest interests are her four children. She lives in Northern Utah with her family and their cantankerous cat.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

My second published novel is actually the next installment of The Hundredth Queen Series, so I can’t actually leave book one behind. Second books in series are hard. The author has to meet the reader’s expectations established in the first book and then take everything up a level. The romance, suspense, twists, action, world-building—everything has to ring familiar to the reader yet also be elevated. The most difficult part of the experience is that for the first time I am competing with myself in an open arena. Where before I tried to improve upon each manuscript I wrote, the outcome was mostly private, limited to my critique partners and beta readers. But now that book one will be out for everyone to read, I am striving to retain my readership by one-upping the first book. Tough doings!

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

Working on two projects at once has its challenges. Becoming an author means wearing a lot of different hats. I set aside certain tasks until after I landed a book deal that I wish I had done before. Some ways to help ease the madness of editing book one while drafting and revising book two would be: establish your social media presence where you will interact with book bloggers and other industry professionals; establish your website with your contact information, news/events, and blog; talk to authors about their pre-publishing process and use their advice when you are in the trenches with book two.

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

The second book for is for my publisher, which is weird, because for the first time I am writing a book that WILL be published. But I love the world and characters in The Hundredth Queen Series and am happy to spend more time there.

That being said, between book one and two is the time when an author really has to dig deep and understand why they write. Do they do it for fun? Is it enough to be published? Was that their goal? If so, what is their new goal? What keeps them motivated? I had to really think about and understand why I write, so in the end, whether I am jazzed about my newest story or sick to death of it, fundamentally, every book should in some way fulfill me.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

I am more aware of how much time I spend on social media. When I am on deadline, I delete the social media apps on my phone and turn the Internet connection off on my laptop. This prevents notifications, etc. from interfering with my work. I am also more protective of my writing time. I turn my phone to silent when I am writing, and I write or read every single day.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I understand my emotions better, so when I hate my book with a fiery passion I know it will pass. I can survive hard editorial critique and finish the suggested edits by deadline. I have more confidence in what I do correctly in my writing, and I am more aware of what I need to improve upon. The emotional highs and lows continue to astound me, but they can be mitigated by shortening the amount of time I am on social media and by keeping my eyes on my own paper. No two publishing journeys are alike. No debut author can look at a successful author’s career and be guaranteed theirs will be the same. But because we are all unique, that leaves ample room for unexpected achievements.

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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Monday, April 24, 2017

On Character Movement: I Don't Care If They Have An Itchy Nose

About a year ago I started offering manuscript critique services for aspiring authors. I give the kind of feedback that I want from my own critique partners - a heavy dose of tough love along with a touch of praise. The tough love is what makes all writers (including myself) improve. The touch of praise is there because creating is a difficult job, and even the act of putting words to the page deserves recognition. 

What doesn't deserve recognition is every footfall, head turn, eyebrow rise, nose scratch, and finger twitch of any character. 

This is a hangup of mine, and I freely admit that I often go too far in the other direction and have one (or more) of my trusted critique partners let me know that my characters went from talking in the library to riding in a car without a transition. And no, that's not acceptable. 

What is acceptable?

Movement pertinent to plot and setting.

Is your character shading their eyes from the hot California sun? Bingo - that matters because you just found a way to get setting in there without saying, "I live in California."

Is your character scratching their nose because they're allergic to cats and that fact plays into the meet-cute you've got planned with the manager of the local Humane Society? Okay, cool.

This is the kind of movement that matters because it's relevant. Too much character movement can kill a scene. So if you've got dialogue that reads like this:

"I don't understand," Samantha said, her eyebrows coming together.

It doesn't work, in my opinion. The eyebrows coming together are to illustrate confusion. But the confusion is already there in the words she said. What's happening here (and I was completely guilty of this when I started) is that you're trying too hard to control the picture. You want your reader to see what you see, and that means you're overwriting. The nose scratch shows confusion, or nervousness - but good dialogue will show that on its own. Let your reader fill in the body language. 

A bigger issue with character movement is getting characters from one point to another. 

For one thing, if it's not all that important, throw in a scene break. If they're in school for a scene, and then the next thing that happens relevant to the story is over dinner, scene break. You don't need to fill in with meaningless stuff just to make time pass - your book isn't delivered in real time. We assume stuff happened in between first period and dinner, but that it doesn't matter to the story. You don't narrate every time your character, eats, drinks, bathes, or goes to the bathroom. We assume they do those things.

Getting them from one place to another within a scene can be trickier. You don't want a scene break every time the setting changes or you'll have a bunch of two paragraph chapters. If you start with your character waking up and next thing is them eating breakfast, you don't have to narrate that they went downstairs. We figure that out on our own.

Everything I say above is subjective. This is me speaking about what I prefer to read, and how I like to write. That being said, I do think that shaving down character movement gives your reader more freedom to visually interpret scenes in their own way, pulling them deeper into the book through that very interaction.

And that's where you want them.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: HOW DARE THE SUN RISE: MEMOIRS OF A WAR CHILD by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Sandra Uwiringiyimana was ten years old when she watched her mother and six year old sister be gunned down in front her. A member of a displaced tribe in Africa, Sandra had never found a place to fit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where other children thought she was Rwandan and taunted her for it.

When many of her family members are killed inside the refugee camp, Sandra and what's left of her relations have no money and nowhere to turn. Eventually through a United Nations refugee program, Sandra finds herself in New York as a middle schooler - still unable to find a place to fit in.

In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.

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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