Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Query Nightmare (Humor)

What happens when you've spent the last couple weeks reading Query Shark and a few dozen other query letter websites? You wake up from weird dreams about the worst queries someone could possibly write. Here's the one I came up with, and the really scary part is that I can imagine it might not be the worst one some of these agents might have to read. (Or have to delete.)

As someone who was originally headed towards the path of editor/agent until life made a wacky turn, I've got a lot of sympathy for the folks who do this for a living. Man O man, the patience it must take! Yes I'm sure it may be worth it, but hot damn, if I had to crawl through the slush pile like these folks do, I might be in a fetal position right now.

Dear Agent:

Since email queries are boring, and don't give the true gist of the work, I, Fabulous Unpublished Author am offering you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear my novel in person.
I'll be reading my novel at Starbucks tomorrow night, and I know you'll want to be there. Every decent agent in New York will be there. I know because no one will want to miss out on this. And only one of you will get to represent me!
My wonderful sexy, stimulating novel titled THE AUTHOR NEEDS A CLUE combines the magic of Harry Potter, the suspense of Elmore Leonard and the joy and heartbreak of My Sister's Keeper. It's a YA fantasy true crime thriller romantic suspense about a dog and a horse (everybody wants to read about horses, right?) and a narcoleptic cop with flashing emerald eyes and raven-black hair, and I know you'll LOVE it!
Everybody who's read it thinks it's going to be on the Best Seller List. My mother said, "Umm...nice honey". My optometrist said, "Wow." And my writing buddies said it was, "Unbelieveable." It was also entered in a contest sponsered by Romance Writers Who Fondle Rabbits. There were 20 entries and mine came in 19th!
So be there at Starbucks tomorrow night at 8pm on 555 Delusion Street, or you'll miss out on the chance to represent me. Don't be late because I'm going to start reading promptly at 8:05. I know you don't want to miss my opening scene where the dog eats the cat's hairball--it's so funny! Also it's important that you bring a pre-prepared contract and a pen (cause I can never find mine) for me to sign it.
My 347,821 (approx) fiction novel is absolutely perfect for your line and needs no editing. The last person who suggested edits isn't very happy right now. I know that YOU are my perfect agent, and that's why I'm extending a special invitation to you to be there. Of course if you say you can't make it, I only live three blocks away from your office, so I'll be happy to stop in tomorrow morning to let you have an exclusive reading before my gig at Starbucks.
But you should really want to come to the reading I called CNN and Fox News and told them to be there, and it should be real fun.
I look forward to hearing from you right away.
Fabulous Unpublished Author
9876 Wacko Blvd.
Room 101
NY, NY 12345

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't Want to Be a Twitter "Twit"

So I'm at the point where I think my novel's ready enough to start sending out, and I actually got up the nerve to send to the first agent.

Meanwhile I'm reading as much advice as I can on marketing. Most agents these days want you to have a "platform" already. Meaning you should have a gazillion folks who read your blog, have crazy numbers of friends on Facebook. A roiling mob just waiting to buy your book the moment it's published.

And as part of that you're supposed to tweet.

Now, I used to consider myself a geek. I fixed some major issues on my PC Junior (yeah that's how old I am) just by reading the technical manual. It was only my second day of even owning a computer. It was a weekend and tech support was closed, and my only buddy who knew anything about computers was out of town. So I got myself a glass of chardonnay and dug into the 1000 or so page manual, hours later I had a running computer again.

Since then I've learned HTML, CSS, even some minor PHP programming, and a few other acronyms. I've built and run websites, learned to focus on keywords and stuff in the Header text. Recently I've started a blog or four and even accosted the dreaded Facebook.

But this Twitter thing is beyond the scope of my understanding, and I can't figure out how I'm supposed to use it. I must be getting old.

So here are some of the questions I have:

Do I have to use a phone? Out here in the middle of nowhere I don't have cell access. There seems to be a website, so can I just do it on my computer?

I'm terrified of info overload. Right now I spend time working on my blog (even when it's fun) or posting to Facebook when I should be working on my story. It feels like Twitter will just quintuple the problem.

Really, seriously, I don't want to know that you had Cheerios instead of Wheaties for breakfast. I don't need the excruciating details of your conversation with Mom about your third romantic breakup of the week. (Unless it gives me good dialogue for my next scene.) I certainly don't want to know about your latest wet fart. And if you tell me you're bored I'm liable to take a lesson from MY mom and assign you homework.

It's not that I don't care about you. As a High Priestess and counselor I spend a huge part of my time listening and counseling and caring. But I have a farm to run, 8 critters and a hubby to tend to, students that need my time, and my own writing. Somehow I don't think your latest mental bowel movement matters.

Maybe I've got the whole idea wrong. Maybe Twitter isn't like that? Why does everything suggest it is then?

How can I narrow down my field of input so that I get the tweets that are interesting and important, and weed out the everyday nonsense that I don't care about? Can I edit the input?

Where do I find the feeds that I truly want to be a part of?

So I don't want to be a "twit" and I don't want to be the old-fogey I'm starting to feel like. How do I become a Twitter marketing genius instead?

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Emotion Thesaurus - An Awesome Writing Resource

If you've ever been working on a story, and wanted a more original way to show (rather than tell) your character's emotions, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide toCharacter Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is the book for you! It's full of gestures and physical, mental and internal cues that give the reader an idea of what your character is going through. The book covers 75 emotions, from Amusement to Worry.

Here are a few of the cues listed under "curiosity":

  • Repeating a statement as a question
  • Leaning in, sliding a chair closer
  • A small, delighted smile
  • A shift from mediocre conversation to pointed questions

Not only that, but their blog, theBookshelf Muse has a (FREE) Thesaurus for Weather and Earthly Pnenomena, Colors, Textures and Shapes, Character Traits and Settings and even Symbolsim. These should probably be books in their own right! Scroll down their page on the right side the Thesaurus links.

You'll find entries like:

  • Drought
  • Prejudice
  • Elevator
  • Pride
  • Gritty

Here's a partial sample of the entries for "Hurricane/Typhoon

Touch:  the house shivering and trembling as winds buffet it, rain pelting and pouring through holes in the roof or broken windows, steadily warming air as the power and a/c go off

(There are entries for other senses such as sight and smell.)

and then a section on:

Mood: There's nothing quite like being enclosed in a boarded-up house that's being pummeled by 100mph winds. This situation quickly becomes claustrophobic, especially in the heat of summer when the power goes out. Hurricanes create an atmosphere of fear and worry as people sit in the dark and wonder how bad it's going to get. The mood becomes very tense and oppressive very quickly.

The authors also cover symbolism, possible cliches, and other notes to consider in using that weather phenomena (or character trait, setting, etc) in your writing.

Be sure to check the Emotion Thesaurus, you might:

  • Do a victory dance
  • Give a slow smile
  • Hug yourself
  • Look over your manuscript and make it better!

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men

"Hostility toward human males marrying into were clans is to be expected and taken seriously. Potential sons-in-law may want to carry wolfsbane or silver items in their pockets. Weres find both substances to be extremely irritating. -- Mating Rituals and Love Customs of the Were." (from Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men)

Some sequels don't live up to the first book. This certainly isn't one of those! Nice Girls Don't Date DeadMen is a rollicking and funny adventure. Jane Jameson, vampire and former librarian is the Maid of Honor at her buddy Zeb's wedding to werewolf Jolene.

Between her off-and-on romance with her sexy vampire sire, Gabriel, Jane has to help with preparations for the Titanic themed wedding - including the ugliest bridesmaid dress on the planet - and keep Jolene's pack from "accidentally" killing Zeb before the wedding. Werewolves like to play rough and Zeb is in danger from bottle rockets, falling chainsaws and other shenanigans. Meanwhile Zeb's Mama Ginger is insistent that Jane is the girl for Zeb.

At the same time Jane is dealing with her own family troubles. Since she came out of the closet, her sister Jenny's decided that since she's a vampire, she doesn't deserve to own the family Bible and is suing her for that - and maybe even her home, River Oaks. Mama wants her to help with the funeral reception of Almost-Grandpa Number Five.

About the only thing going right in Jane's life is her job at the occult bookstore and her friendship with the elderly owner, Mr. Whittaker. And the fact that the guy she had a crush on all through High School has suddenly taken notice of her. Which doesn't help relations with Gabriel.

Now Zeb's acting strange and insulting his beloved Jolene, and Grandma Ruthie's dating a guy who just doesn't feel right.

Hilarious and moving at a relentless pace, I devoured this book. Jane is just as sarcastic and witty as in the first book.

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men is the sequel to Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs, another triumph by Molly Harper. Next up, the third book, Nice Girls Don't Live Forever.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs

Jane Jameson's having a bad day. She gets fired from her job as a librarian. She doesn't even get a severance check, just a $25 gift certificate to a local pub. There, she meets the gorgeous and mysterious Gabriel. Her evening starts looking up, but as she drives home (alone) her car breaks down.

Who should come by just then? Gabriel? Nope. It's a drunk redneck hunter who mistakes her for a deer and shoots her.

Lucky for her, Gabriel does come by shortly after, draining her blood and replacing it with his own to save her "life".

Facing her new vampire un-life, she must now navigate the challenges of the newly undead, such as where to find Faux Type O and 500 SPF sunblock, and get a job so she doesn't loose her historical family home, River Oaks.

Meanwhile she must repair her friendship with her best friend Zeb (who she almost tried to snack on) and she's in the closet (or is that "in the coffin"?) with her family. And what a family!

Big, sister Jenny is out to take River Oaks away from her (it was willed to Jane by her beloved Aunt Jettie) and to steal any family heirlooms that aren't nailed down. Nosy and overbearing Mama is trying to force-feed her with pot pies, and wants her to 1) get married already and 2) come to more family gatherings, not realizing that Jane is now allergic to solid food and the presence of her grasping sister. Grandma Ruthie, the town's Black Widow is siding with Jenny and creating general havoc; while her Aunt Jettie, is now haunting her house in ghost form and spooning on Jane's couch with Grandma Ruthie's deceased Husband Number Four.

Zeb is in freakout mode and joins the Family and Friends of the Undead (FFOTU) where he meets the gorgeous Jolene, a werewolf. Now on top of everything else, Jane has to contend with the change in her relationship with her BFF from childhood as a new lady begins to take priority in his life.

Then there's her sexy sire Gabriel, and their tempestuous romance, which is threatened by a new friendship with another vampire, the flirtatious and completely inappropriate Dick Cheney--who just happens to be Gabriel's childhood rival.

As if all this wasn't enough for Jane to contend with, now someone's framing her for a series of fires and murders, and the local vampire Council wants it explained before they decide to subject her to a Trial that includes dangerous, nasty things like sunlight and silver.

I tore through this book in a day or two's time. Jane is snarky and hysterically funny. Her adventures make a brilliant read. My hubby got tired of me interrupting his research by howling with laughter and insisting on reading him quotes from the book.

Molly Harper is an absolutely brilliant writer. The plot lines are tangled and ludicrous but believable at the same time. I've read quite a few vampire novels that were "meh". This isn't one of them!

Of course I immediately went out and got the sequel to Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs, Nice Girls Don't DateDead Men.

How to Write Fast (While Writing Well)

One of the challenges of writing is that we talk ourselves into believing that writing is "painful and frustrating and slow. Those are lies," author David Fryxell says. "You can write. Writing is joyful and liberating and fast."

Fryxell was one of those annoying kids who always turned his homework in on time. (His teacher made him an example for the class--and must have REALLY made him popular with the other students.) Later he became an editor and writer for several newspapers and magazines. As of the time this book was published, he'd authored at least a thousand magazine and newspaper articles, including Playboy and Travel & Leisure and other biggies, and had won over 80 regional and national awards for his editing and writing. So yeah, I guess he'd have to write fast, wouldn't he?

In a witty and self-deprecating tone, Fryxell teaches you how to evaluate your story and slant it for fast writing, how to make the best of library time, prepare for interviews, and more. How to Write Fast shows how understanding and streamlining the process behind these can get you writing at a pace that will help you push writer's block aside and enjoy meeting deadlines (whether your own or your editor's).

But his book isn't only about research and outlining. He spends some excellent chapters on archetectonics (the structure of your article or novel), and on creating leads that will entice your readers as well as make your writing job easier. His techniques aren't just for non-fiction writers, either. The same principles apply in novels and short stories.

The book is full of case studies of his own articles and information on how some of the most prolific writers have made their writing process efficient. He shows how he managed to write an entire profile on Malcolm Forbes with only a 30 minute interview; and turn an almost non-interview with Garrison Keillor into an article. Fryxell even shows how an article on Maggot Farming (ugh!) can become a structural marvel and an enjoyable read.

I'm the semi-controlled clutter type. I was pulled into the idea of outlining kicking and screaming. "Nooo! Please don't tell me that's your secret!" Less than two hundred pages later, I'm a believer! With my first novel, I agonized the plot for years, waiting for my characters to tell me what they wanted to do. Yesterday, while reading this book, I outlined the sequel in just one day.

You can do things the slow, hard way; maybe even suffer from writer's block (what he insists is merely bad preparation). Or you can use Fryxell's methods to make writing fast, fun and easy.

And more output means more checks in the mail, right?

Ouch! After I wrote this article, I found out that How to Write Fast (While Writing Well) seems to be out of print. There are a few copies left on Amazon, though, so get it while you can. Also Fryxell has another book out, Write Faster, Write Better, so you'll probably want to check that out as well!