Friday, October 29, 2010

Technical Writing

I won't really be blogging today because I have to author a few process documents and workflows for the client who is in town. BO-RING.

It's not that I hate it that much, I mean I AM a writer. But creative writing is so much more fun than technical writing. I mean yes, it can still be work, and it should be, really, if you're doing it right, but it still can be fun too. Technical writing? Not so much. At least not for me.

I might feel differently if I were being paid to be a technical writer, but no, this is just another responsibility they're heaping on top of my normal duties. That's business for ya ...

... sorry to depress you all. I don't intend to leave you feeling that way. I want you to have a great weekend, so I'll just leave you with this:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Guest Post for Halloween!

Not much to report today, but I do have a really creepy, highly disturbing flash fiction piece for Halloween today. I've shared it with Jeffrey Beesler from World of the Scribe.

It's up on his blog now, so please be sure to visit, read, and comment, and don't forget to follow his blog as well. You can find the story here, but it will also be added to my "My Writing" page across the top of this blog here.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Piedmont Writer's Query for Remembering You Critiqued

Before we get started just a couple of personal/announcement things:

  • Go Celtics!
  • Glee rocked last night, literally.
  • Congratulations Kylie (my daughter) on an excellent performance in her first high school play.
  • I can't take much more of this Georgia weather. It's nearly November. I want to cuddle up beneath the comforter, not lay in my boxers and a tank top under nothing but a sheet, and still wake up with a pillow moist with sweat.
  • End rant.

And a little bit of interesting literature news that I heard, where else? On NPR this morning:

Henry Austen once said that "Everything came finished from her pen," regarding his sister Jane, and suggesting that she was such a polished writer that she never had to revise, or be edited. Some newly discovered original manuscripts of some of her work may indicate differently. You can read the story here, audio should be available later today, and it even links to a site where you can see pictures of her original handwriting.

I think it's very appropriate that this story broke today, don't you?

Anyway let's get down to business. Before I critique Anne's query I want to thank everyone for their comments yesterday. I agree that Anne's current query is very good. It's already been through many changes, and with the help of Rick and everyone at the PQS it's very well
polished. I think that if she sends it out as is she will probably have a lot of requests, especially when allowed to include her first pages. Anne's writing, especially her dialogue, is very good, and I can't see a query this good holding her writing back.

BUT ... there is almost always room for improvement. I don't claim to be an expert, but I do think about queries a lot, so what I am going to try to do is be as nit picky as possible, and try my best to improve this query. It makes me feel a little pretentious to suggest changes to something that's already been worked on so much, but Anne asked me what I thought, and as writers I think we all owe it to our community to be honest with each other. So here goes:

When Genna goes home to Rhode Island to spend a long-awaited vacation, she finds that her family is falling apart and she has only twenty-one days to put them back together.

This is good. One thing that I do think is missing though is a better sense of Genna as a character. Right now she could be a kid, a grandmother, or a transexual transvestite from Translyvania (sorry Rocky Horror is on the mind). I realize that your next paragraph gives us a pretty good sense of character, but I really think you have to give more in the hook. Your first sentence is your most important. Make it sing.

Perhaps my readers can suggest a better opening pitch?

I am also tripping over the verb spend a little bit. This could be a regional/colloquial thing but where I come from you don't spend a vacation, you take one. Probably not a big deal.

Otherwise I think the last half of this sentence is very good. It has high stakes, it has the surprising but also intriguing twist of the twenty-one days, and it gives us a hint of conflict without giving it all up right off the bat.

Her new promotion as Executive Chef at the posh Crestwood Country Club in Delaware is a dream job. It’s more than the pay and benefits, she has the chance to achieve what she’s always wanted – her own kitchen – and Genna can’t wait to get started when she returns after her Fourth of July holiday.

I think that this paragraph is very good. It tells us a lot about Genna in a few words. I just think that you need to work this all into you opening hook. I know it's tough because you can't get away with using so many words, but if you can combine all this (her hopes/dreams, her love of cooking) into the first line or two, you'd have a more powerful pitch.

However, her vacation is far from relaxing. Two men are vying for her attention, an ex-fiancĂ© who wants to fix the mistakes of the past, and an old school chum who finds her irresistible…and inspires mutual feelings in Genna. Her aunt is also clearly showing signs of mental illness. The family is in denial; her cousins are unable to cope with their mother’s changing behavior and her beloved uncle, dealing with all the stress, has a heart attack.

This is where it gets a little foggy for me. As I've said I'm no expert when it comes to women's fiction so I could be wrong, but this feels like too many different conflicts here. I mean they all sound interesting, and are surely important to Genna and her story, but I think you could achieve a more concise query if you could cut even one of these. It's really only 3 different things, 4 if you count two separate romantic interests, but if you count the romance as one, as the mental illness as two, you can probably get away with that.

I know the heart attack is important (we're talking about Uncle Tony here, right?), but it sounds from this query that the mental illness and the damage it is doing to her family is the real conflict. I'll defer to my female readers on this point, but you may not need the heart attack in the query.

On the other hand, the parts that you should keep are done very well here. I think you've presented the love interests and the mental illness very succinctly. Other than possibly cutting the heart attack I wouldn't change much in this paragraph.

Genna steps in to keep his diner open and the family together while he recuperates and she questions what’s more important – breaking the glass ceiling or remaining with her family. The clock runs out and Genna finds she is needed at her new job, she is needed by her family, and she is needed by lovers old and new. Now Genna must search her soul to find out what she needs.

You could also just move the heart attack part to this paragraph. I don't mean to harp on it, because it's not a deal breaker, but I think it fits better here, rather than in the previous paragraph where it muddies up the sense of what the clear confict is, for me at least.

I also think these last two sentences are very good. Excellent summary.

Now ...

In general there are three things I want to go over. Yesterday some people mentioned length and humor. I know that with queries the idea is to tell just enough, and this query may look a little long here, but keep in mind that this is a blog, with thin margins for the text (or is it wide?) and if you put this query in a word doc in a 12 point font there's plenty of room for the housekeeping info.

When it comes to humor I'm a little ambivalent about it. Essentially it all depends on the story. If your novel is pretty funny, or even just has funny moments, then you may need to inject a little more of that kind of voice into your query. If it's more serious, with some element of tragedy, then this kind of factual description may be just right.

Finally is something Anne and I discussed based on some comments she has received: the concept of cliches in a query. Anne removed some phrases from this query that some readers considered to be cliche. The only one she kept is the glass ceiling idea. I would argue that the glass ceiling idea is not cliche, and even if it is I think it works. It's a very real issue for women, and there is really no other term that can be used to convey it.

Please fogive me for the ridiculous length of this post. This is a tough query for me to critque because I don't really read these kind of books. Also, Anne and readers, please remember this is just the humble opinion of one dumb guy who doesn't really know what he's talking about. Feel free to disagree with me, and please say so if you do. Also feel free to follow or ignore my advice as you see fit. The nature of feedback is that some of it won't fit. Hopefully I've suggested at least one change that resonates for you, and will make your query better.

Readers? Please help us out here. Let me know if I'm an idiot, or just partially deluded, or (not likely) a complete genius. The one thing I think Anne needs most is a stronger, more colorful hook, with more voice and a better sense of character. If you can suggest something that actually works I will heart you like Brett Favre hearts crotchless Wranglers ... er, wait a minute.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Piedmont Writer's Query for Remembering You

This week I'm going to be sharing Anne Gallagher, AKA Piedmont Writer's current query with you all. It's the query for her Contemporary Women's Fiction WIP REMEMBERING YOU.

If you don't know Anne, please make sure to visit her blog and become a follower.

I'm sure you all remember how this works but if not for today I'll just be sharing the query, so that you all can get an idea of it. Tomorrow I will share my feedback. Please remember to save your own critiques and advice for tomorrow as well.

Before we get to the actual query I want to point out a couple of things. This query has been through the ringer at The Public Query Slushpile. I think this query is quite good as is, and I would never presume to overrule any advice Rick Daley or the folks at the PQS had given a writer, as he is far more experienced and wise than I am, but Anne asked me what I thought, so I had to give it a try.

The other thing is that I (probably obviously) don't read much Women's Fiction so I'm not really qualified to compare this query to what I would expect for other books like it, but queries are sort of universal, so I don't know that that should be a deal breaker.

Anyway on to the query:

When Genna goes home to Rhode Island to spend a long-awaited vacation, she finds that her family is falling apart and she has only twenty-one days to put them back together.

Her new promotion as Executive Chef at the posh Crestwood Country Club in Delaware is a dream job. It’s more than the pay and benefits, she has the chance to achieve what she’s always wanted – her own kitchen – and Genna can’t wait to get started when she returns after her Fourth of July holiday.

However, her vacation is far from relaxing. Two men are vying for her attention, an ex-fiancĂ© who wants to fix the mistakes of the past, and an old school chum who finds her irresistible…and inspires mutual feelings in Genna. Her aunt is also clearly showing signs of mental illness. The family is in denial; her cousins are unable to cope with their mother’s changing behavior and her beloved uncle, dealing with all the stress, has a heart attack.

Genna steps in to keep his diner open and the family together while he recuperates and she questions what’s more important – breaking the glass ceiling or remaining with her family. The clock runs out and Genna finds she is needed at her new job, she is needed by her family, and she is needed by lovers old and new. Now Genna must search her soul to find out what she needs.

So that's it for today. I do have a couple of personal/blogging type announcements to share soon, but I'm probably going to wait until Thursday of this week. Otherwise, in real life, the VP of the client is going to be in the office today, so there won't be much time for me to read and comment on my favorite blogs, sorry for that.

In the meantime please say hello to Anne, and thanks for visiting!

Friday, October 22, 2010

So Yeah ...

So yeah ... I had a great story I wanted to share with you that I heard on NPR this morning, but I'm not feeling well and now I can't remember what it was so ... eff it.

Problem is I'm not feeling well this morning (I just said that, didn't I?). Don't worry, I'm not sick, I'm just hung over. We got some good news recently so we went out to celebrate last night, and I had a few too many beers. I wasn't like wasted or anything but the problem is that I work at 6AM, which means I get up at 5AM, and five hours of sleep when you go to bed tipsy is really no sleep at all. Your liver's working overtime and you don't get any rest.

So now I have a headache ... and I can't even remember the awesome NPR story I wanted to share with you guys.

Shame on me.

Have a great weekend though!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Step Seven

Hi. My name is Matthew and I'm a blogaholic.

I don't have much to share today, but I'm ready to listen.

Today I am on Step Seven.

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

That's the official step. I haven't actually gotten there just yet. I'm still in a re-write, but once it's done I will definitely query Him, Nathan Bransford, and ask Him to suggest how I could remove all shortcomings from my manuscript.

My biggest writerly shortcomings are a tendency to over-describe, which really fouls up pacing, and not staying true to my characters, especially in my current WIP in which I tend to inject my own views into my MC at times.

Soon I may share about Step Eight.

Disclaimer: This post is satirical. It is not meant to offend anyone, or to belittle the integrity of 12 Step Programs anywhere, which have saved countless lives since their inception.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Lenny Lee!


I'm sure most of you know Lenny by now, but if you don't, let me assure you that you are missing out. Big time. Visit his blog and become a follower, now please. It's not my place to tell you anything about Lenny's personal story here, but I will say that this is the smartest, bravest, friendliest, most inspiring young man that you could ever meet.

Lenny turns eleven years old today and he already wants to be a writer! How cool is that? He's already quite good at it and he especially writes wonderful stories about animals. You can read a beautiful post he wrote for Jen's Guess that Character blogfest, here. You can read the post where he revealed the answer, here.

Directly to Lenny (assuming he eventually finds the time to make it here, which I wouldn't blame him if he didn't) I would like to say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LITTLE DUDE! You're officially not a kid anymore. Eleven is an awesome age and I really hope you enjoy it! I especially hope you have a great time with your family today and I hope you enjoy lunch and the movie with Alex.

You inspire me daily to be optimistic, to love life, to care about animals and the planet, and to be so thankful that I have the privilege to write.


P.S. Here's a really adorable photo, just for you Lenny:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Heart Joy Part Too

Today I just want to focus on one of the coolest contests ever!

There isn't a whole lot to say. This is a great contest, run by one of the coolest people ever,
and it's for a good cause. There are t-shirts, tickets to rockin' shows, and there's cash. There's actually lots of cash to be won.

So come on. Head over to Candace's blog. Read about the cause. And donate. Or buy a shirt. But do something. Today it only takes a buck for you to change the frickin' world!

Monday, October 18, 2010

CassaStar Blog Tour

I'm really excited to be taking part in this blog tour today because Alex is a good blog buddy and he has a really exciting book coming out soon. Plus, it gives me an easy post that I barely have to think about!

Just kidding. Most of you probably know Alex, since he is one of the most prolific bloggers out there, but just in case any of you don't, please go stop by his blog now and become a follower, you won't regret it!

So without further ado, here is some info about both Alex and CassaStar:

Alex's Bio:

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Book Info:

CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
October 19, 2010 Science fiction/adventure/space opera
ISBN 9780981621067 Dancing Lemur Press LLC

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship …

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal


Links to purchase:






Friday, October 15, 2010

The Trickster

Today we're back to a fundamental Jungian Archetype which is of course also quite prevalent in literature and film: The Trickster. This archetype has its roots in mythology and religion, but as a character type it permeates nearly all culture. The Trickster can be anything from chaotic evil to lawful good but generally must have at least some of these characteristics:
  • Fundamentally ambiguous and anomalous
  • Deceiver and trick-player
  • Shape-shifter
  • Situation-inverter
  • Messenger and imitator of the gods
  • Sacred and lewd bricoleur
The Trickster is quite common throughout folklore, such as the Coyote from many Native American Creation Myths, or Hermes from Greek Mythology. Some might also consider the Serpent from the Garden of Eden to be a Trickster.

Keep in mind that a Trickster can also fit another archetype, such as Fizban from the Dragonlance Chronicles who was also a Wise Old Man/Sage, or Aang from Avatar who is also a Hero and a Child (not just literally, but also as far as the Jungian archetypes he fits into).

Some other good examples might be Spider/Anansi from Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, El-Ahrairah from Richard Adam's Watership Down, or Jareth, the Goblin King from the Labyrinth played by David Bowie with the impossibly exaggerated junk.

These would all be great examples. For my pick I'm going with Loki the "god of mischief" from Norse Mythology and the Prose Edda. Sometimes Loki is referred to as a god, sometimes as a Jotunn, which is like a supernatural giant. At times he serves the other gods and at times he causes major problems for them. He is also the father of many important mythological creatures and even the mother of Sleipnir, the eight legged horse I mentioned yesterday.

So who would you pick as an example of a Trickster? It doesn't have to be your very favorite, or even all that well known. Feel free to pick from folklore, literature, or film.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Steadfast Steed

I was going to say loyal, but I already used that term for sidekicks. This is definitely not a Jungian Archetype, but it is a pretty common character in film and literature and besides, my good friend Leigh T Moore convinced me to do this one just so that she can pick a certain character. So she better get here quick to be the first one to comment about him.

I should clarify. This doesn't have to actually be a horse. This is sort of like a sidekick/mount/animal companion category. I'll even accept Chewbacca even though Han doesn't ride him around (as far as we know, at least). Gurgi from the Chronicles of Prydain would be another example of an animal companion that no one actually rode. You could also go with actual classic horses, like Rocinante, Red Hare, Shadowfax, Hasufel, Arod or Bill the Pony, or even mythical horses (with eight legs no less) like Sleipnir, Odin's horse from the Poetic Edda.

I'm going with a character from a film today, slightly different from my other choices, but probably not a huge surprise to most of you. I have always loved Artax from The Neverending Story. He was noble. He was swift. He was Atreyu's only companion on the greatest journey of his life. Well ... at least until the Swamp of Sadness that is.

I can tell you I wept like a crackhead without a rock when I first saw that scene and I still cry freely today whenever I watch it with my family. My one daughter calls me a tear-dropper and the other calls me sentimental. I'm not afraid to admit I cry during movies, hell, I don't really enjoy a movie that much unless it makes me cry. I'm an emotional writer, remember?

So who is your favorite steadfast stead or loyal animal companion? Did I give way too many examples and left nothing for you guys to come up with (except for Leigh)? I hope not.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Wise Old Man/Sage

As you've probably noticed I've been going over some of the most common archetypal characters in literature and film this week. Not all are Jungian archetypes, but this one certainly is. Today I would like hear who your favorite Wise Old Man/Sage is. This archetype is slightly different from the Mentor, though of course in certain tales one character can fit both roles (think Dumbledore from Harry Potter).

I'm betting by now you can guess who may favorite is. I do love TLOTR and OMG (Olorin/Mithrandir/Gandalf) is certainly an awesome Wise Old Man but I'm getting a little tired of picking characters from Middle Earth every day, plus it feels a little lazy. I could go with one of two great examples from Star Wars, but instead I'm going to go with something a little more obscure today.

One of my favorite Wise Old Men is Dallben from the Chronicles of Prydain. I haven't actually even read all five volumes but I did read the Book of Three and the Black Cauldron when I was young. These books are not that famous but some of you may remember a rather well done animated Disney adaptation of the stories from the 80s. I can still remember exactly how Gurgi sounds when he talks about crunchings and munchings.

Anyway Dallben is a sort of sorcerer who acts as both the guardian of and mentor for the protagonist Taran. Dallben is 379 years old at the beginning of the Book of Three, and has one of the most interesting back stories I can remember (paraphrased from Wikipedia):

In a manner similar to the Welsh legend or Gwion Bach, one day as a boy he was helping three enchantresses by stirring a potion they were making when it boiled over and scalded his fingers. When Dallben put his burned fingers into his mouth, he accidentally ingested some of the liquid. It was a potion of wisdom, and immediately Dallben was able to see the enchantresses for what they really were, and to understand everything around him. Deciding they couldn't have so much wisdom living under one roof, the enchantresses sent him out into the world, with three gifts to choose from before leaving.

The first gift was a sword, which would have made Dallben the most powerful warrior who had ever lived. The second gift was a harp, which would have made him the world's most famous bard, had he chosen it. Instead he chose the third gift, a book called the Book of Three. Orddu told him it contained everything that was ever known or would ever be known, and knowledge was something Dallben valued more than power or fame.

So who is your favorite Wise Old Man/Sage? Don't be afraid to pick OMG just because I've already mentioned him, and don't be afraid to pick Y or OWK just because I've already alluded to them. Choose whoever you like!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Loyal Sidekicks

Today I would like to hear about your favorite loyal sidekick, and no please don't ask me anything about pro sports from last night. I'm not too torn up about the Vikings loss, but the Braves losing to the Giants and thus ending the wonderful career of Bobby Cox is pretty sad.

Anyway, let's move on to more literary pursuits.

Who is your very favorite loyal sidekick? You can choose someone from literature if you like, but I'll allow film and TV as well, after all, those are just other ways of telling stories. You can select a courageous warrior, or a cunning wizard. You can pick a steadfast friend or a loyal pet. Or you can pick an irritating but hilarious dirt eating dwarf like Mulch Diggums from Artemis Fowl. No he's not the main sidekick, but he is fun as hell to read about.

You probably won't be that surprised to hear who my favorites sidekick is. If you know me well you know that I am an absolute fanatic for all things Tolkien and Middle Earth. Can you guess where I am going with this? That's right.

Samwise Gamgee.

Has there ever been a more loyal, courageous, humble, and un-assuming hero? Yeah, sure, Frodo is the one who bears the real burden and the one who endures the agonizing weight of The Ring as it weighs upon his mind, but in the end [SPOILER ALERT] it's Sam who puts Frodo on his back and carries him up the slopes of Mount Doom and into the bowels of Mordor.

What a brave little fellow. I'm not afraid to admit the Mount Doom scene makes me cry every time. There are a lot of literary theories about Sam and Frodo's relationship being an allegory for the relationship between an officer and his sergeant in the British armed forces, and they are very interesting, but I won't go into them here.

Who is your very favorite loyal sidekick?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sympathetic Villains

Today I would really like to hear from everyone who your favorite sympathetic villain is. They can be an antagonist, an anti-hero, or just a supporting character who happens to be a real bad guy, but also one that you feel for, for whatever reason.

I'll allow you to select from film as well, just so that someone can pick Darth Vader, because even though he doesn't seem very sympathetic at first, once you know his whole back story how can you not pity poor Anakin Skywalker? [SPOILER ALERT] Driven to the darkside by fear and manipulation, forced into the killing younglings and attacking his mentor? Is there a more tragic tale out there?

The character you pick doesn't have to be completely evil, in fact it's best if they're not. They can even be a red herring, like one of my two favorites: Severus Snape from Harry Potter. Professor Snape certainly is a tortured individual, and one who we spend thousands of pages essentially despising on Harry's behalf. [SPOILER ALERT] But once we discover the truth about his past and the full depth of his courage, we really begin to admire him, in spite of some of his distasteful personality traits, or at least I know I did.

Or your character can be even more pathetic, like my second favorite sympathetic villain: Smeagol/Gollum from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit. Like most sympathetic villains it takes quite some time to discover Gollum's past, [SPOILER ALERT] but once we do we certainly feel for him in his experience of being twisted for centuries by the addictive power of the ring.

So who is your favorite sympathetic villain? Try to pick just one but if you must break the rules like me and go with two, I won't really mind.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nightshade City Cover Lover

I just started reading Nightshade City last night. I'm only through the prologue and the first chapter (I was busy) but I can already tell I am going to enjoy this story. I know I am an adult and this is a MG novel, but there are several things to be excited about. I haven't really read enough to talk about the writing yet, but I will say that I can already tell that this charming story is going to win me over with its subtle prose. I'm loathe to compare it too quickly to The Rats of NIMH or Watership Down, as I'm sure those comparisons are many, but I will say that I can already tell that Hilary Wagner has Richard Adam's skill for taking something simple and making it grand.

What I would rather concentrate on for now is the production quality of the first hardcover edition. The cover is beautiful. As a sort of online friend of Hilary's I have talked about this book more than once and I know most of the photos I've shared don't really do it justice. I've shared the best one I could find here but just in case I would like to describe the scene.

A rat who I can only assume is Juniper graces the front cover, filling a cobbled earthen tunnel choked with roots and shiny brown worms. He bears a torch and dons a leather pouch and a dark blue cape or cloak around his neck. His most prominent feature, his eyes, appear as plain black globes at first, but at a closer glance there is cunning and intelligence behind those milky orbs. Behind the featured rat and curling earthworm is a room that probably is not clearly visible on most online representations of this cover. The revelry occurring in the background says more to me about this story than anything else.

There is a golden room, likely lit by open flame, full of rats in several different states of celebration. Some hold spears. Other hold flagons of ale. But all appear jubilant and hint of a society that is beyond your everyday expectation of rodent culture.

If I had to voice a complaint it might be that the rear cover is simply a close up and reverse of the front, but I'm guessing that there is a poetic reason for this choice within the story. Needless to say I expect the mass market paper back may feature a different cover.

The fonts, both the beautiful gold letters of the title that graces the front cover, and the typeface within, are both lovely. Unfortunately the copyright page doesn't tell us which font was used to set the type for the text. Perhaps I can get Hilary to stop by and tell us what it is.

Finally we come to the blurb on the back cover. This may be the most exciting thing about this edition. The blurb is written by Rick Riordan. You might have heard of him. One of his books was turned into a little movie recently. Here is what he has to say about Nightshade City:

"Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love
this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean
society of rats. The world of the Catacombs is
so compelling readers will wonder if it really
might exist under our city streets. Expect
great adventures in Nightshade City."

Can you imagine having someone like Rick Riordan write that about your novel? Awesome.

Well done Hilary. I'm really looking forward to getting into this story and enjoying the entire ride!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Step Six

Hi. My name is Matthew and I'm a blogaholic.

Sorry I've been missing so many meetings this week. I've been really sick. Not like dope sick, but actually sick. I'm back now though. Hopefully I'll be all right.

Today I am on Step Six.

I am entirely ready to have Him, Nathan Bransford remove all these defects of character.

These Nathan jokes are starting to be not that funny anymore. Or is it just me? Maybe I should focus on re-writing my novel more, so that I can have a project that is actually ready to query him with. Or maybe I'll just keep blogging instead.

I've missed you all a lot this week.

Soon I may share about Step Seven.

Disclaimer: This post is satirical. It is not meant to offend anyone, or to belittle the integrity of 12 Step Programs anywhere, which have saved countless lives since their inception.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Location, Location, Location

Serena Stephen, whose blog I found through Jen Daiker, held an awesome blogfest last week.

As usual I'm a little late for it, but I had an awesome guest on Friday, and I stayed home sick yesterday, so there is a decent reason (unlike most other times). Please be sure to visit that post linked above to see all the other entries.

In the blogfest Serena asked that we describe a place, and that we pick one of these: Woodsville, Kingshire, Douglas Mannor, Letham Grange.

I know I don't usually put my own creative writing up here on the blog, usually saving it for sharing in other places (namely Bryan's blog) but today I've made an exception since I thought this blogfest sounded rather cool.

I've selected Letham Grange, though technically I suppose Douglas Manor could be part of it as well:

Letham Grange stands in a hollow betwixt the moors of Northumberland. The morning fog collects there like beggars outside of Mass in the longdark hours just before the dawn. Its swirling mists are ever prepared to leech all warmth and comfort from any living being caught within their bone-cold tendrils.

The main building is a manor house of stone. The round rocks seem to defy all Newton's laws as they cling precariously to each other and rest, one atop another, in a fashion that boggles all interpretations of the idea of gravity. The ivy that clings desperately to all but the south wall reaches ever toward the thick thatched roof with about as much chance at success as the tower of Babel had of reaching Heaven. The roof itself is soft and comforting, home to birds and critters of all manner, looking soft and puffy from a distance, and encompassing all twelve gables of the windows of the upper floors. Smoke rises from the chimney constantly, inviting the weary traveler in from the cold.

The outbuidings are of wood, and though kept up with as much care as can be mustered, are worn by time and wind and weather and so do not bear the sense of invitation that the manor does. There is a barn, a stable, and a granary, along with the millhouse down by the stream. Its water wheel turbine turns pleasantly with the current on a fine summer day, squeaking harmoniously along with the singing of the babbling brook.

All in all Letham Grange is a good and decent place, standing, as it does, on the borders of the north and the dangers of the hinterlands beyond.

So that's it! Please do be sure to visit and read all the other entries, you'll most likely be pleased and may even meet a new blogger or two.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Today's guest blogger is Christina Lee, from Write-Brained. Please be sure to go visit her blog and become a follower.

You all know how this works by now, but just in case Christina's thoughts will be in blue and my stupid jokes at my own expense will be in red.

Now, take it away Christina!

Thanks for having me, Matt! I queried my first novel unsuccessfully in 2009 before totally ditching it. I realized I needed to move on in order to improve my craft (and my mental health). I started two more novels that I never finished until my idea for HANDS TOUCH grabbed hold of me. I actually wrote my query first and that helped keep me on a straight path (mostly). My final query, below, had been ElanaJ-afied and LiLa-afied before being sent out. My point in telling you that is, if you feel stuck, ask for help. It’s out there. We are all part of a wonderful, giving writing community. Without further adieu, here’s my query for HANDS TOUCH:

That is great advice. Elana and LiLa have actually helped me a BUNCH with my own query as well. Small world.

For most fifteen-year-old guys it’s no big deal to brush hands with a girl. But Callen Frazier wears gloves to school every day for a reason. And when he forgets to pull them on one morning there is hell to pay. Or a murder to solve. Depending on how you look at it.

(It took a lot of playing around to get the voice right. Callen is a mostly-serious kid who has a dry sense of humor and I wanted to reflect that.)

Awesome. What a great opening. It gives an idea of the sarcastic/snarky but also kind of dry voice that the narrator is going to have, while also giving us a great look into what kind of character this kid is, all in a few short, concise sentences. Great opening hook.

Because when he makes skin to skin contact he can literally see inside a person. And then the bad stuff happens. He can see which organ causes their death. And in his classmate’s case, it’s her windpipe. Because it’s going to be crushed. At the end of sophomore year.

I wanted to show what happens when Callen touches someone but not drone on about it. Also I needed to tie that to the conflict he faces, pretty quickly.

Interesting concept! Here we have the conflict and the choice (implied if not fully defined) laid out very cleanly, and we now have all the three big Cs laid out right off the bat (Character, Conflict, Choice, in that order), which is key. I also love the style here. The short, choppy sentences feel right and true for this kind of kid who probably cuts himself off from the world a great deal.

To make matters worse, he’s got a crush on a girl named Clair. Big Time. And he knows for certain that Clair’s boyfriend is involved in the murder. So Callen has some substantial decisions to make—the biggest one being whether his gloves will finally come off.

Ah, the love angle ;--) I could have said more and named Callen’s best friend, who is very involved in the plot, but I’ve already named three people and it would have been overkill. I wanted to make the stakes and consequences clear without going into too much detail. I wanted to pique the agent’s interest so they’d ask for more pages.

And here is the perfect ending to a perfect query. A possible romance angle and a murder? This has raised the stakes quite high, all in three short paragraphs, well done!

HANDS TOUCH is a 50,000 word young adult novel, with elements of paranormal and mystery.

I didn’t really know what to call my YA novel - a paranormal or a mystery. But on the phone with my agent, she said, “it’s not paranormal, it’s magic realism.” I had never even considered that -- and then had to go Google it!

Well now that is interesting. I know what magical realism is, but had never considered it a genre. I always thought paranormal was how you referred to a story with fantasy elements in a real word setting (which is an oversimplified explanation of magical realism), but this is good to know. Now I need to do some further research on paranormal and urban fantasy though!

So there you have it. Not perfect, but it did the trick!

I queried for about three months and sent out over 40 queries (5-10 a week) and got 18 requests for partials and fulls.

My agent (one I chose after a mind-numbing week of decision-making) asked for my full five minutes after receiving my query. She even tweeted about the “great query” she just received which made me grin. And then I got her offer about a week later.

I'm really not surprised. This is an excellent, text book query.

But just because I have an agent doesn’t mean it stops here. I’m still completing my third (a YA ghost story) because you never know what’s going to happen, at any stage. The key is to keep writing and continue moving forward. Sometimes, easier said than done!

Great advice, thanks so much for sharing this with us Christina! This query ought to be used in writing classes, it is a perfect example of how to get across exactly what you need to, without any extra unnecessary words or ideas.

Readers, any questions for Christina?