Monday, November 7, 2016

A review: The Snowglobe by Jenna Nelson

In an effort to keep myself excited about the young adult novel trilogy I'm writing, I've also been reading a lot of that age category fiction. I have to admit that I've read a lot of novels that I've not been impressed with. I've put some down, or dragged myself through one.

This is not the case with Jenna Nelson's THE SNOWGLOBE.




It's been on my GoodReads to-read list forever, and then I discovered Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, much to my husband's concern.

With beautiful writing and an unexpected plot, this YA novel was a refreshing take on a hero's journey with a dark side. The prose reminded me of Juliet Marillier, and hooked me from the first page. 

There were a few things that sort of just happened to the main character, and I wanted her to take the initiative and use her magic a bit more or even consider it as an option. Other than that, I think this book is well worth the money. I hope that there will be a series that comes out of this story! I gave it 4/5 stars.

Looking for a smart, quirky epic fantasy? Grab a copy of this book!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

5 Reasons to sign up for National Novel Writing Month (and giveaway announcement!)

Wow, okay so an update: This summer was insane in all the right ways. Lots of editing on my fantasy trilogy novels, and roping a few new (fantastic!) critique partners. I also helped put together a local writers conference in September, and did my first official speaking engagement related to writing. It was "A Self-Starters Guide to Freelancing: How to Get Started." All those nerves slipped away as I hit all my speaking points and people had some great questions. I might have to do that again some day.

I'm also proud to say that my Freelance Editing Services got a tremendous boost this summer. I'm so thankful to all my clients, old and new, for making this dream a reality. Not to mention, it helps with life's expenses, not dis-cluding the tuition for my girl's school this year.

I've been reading  researching for my fantasy trilogy, and sliding a few new shiny ideas in a drawer to focus on my current monstrous project. Did you know that the always debated pantser versus plotter theory has actually been debunked? I've in fact found out that I am actually a plotser or something like that, meaning I actually do some plotting just on a minor scale and usually in my head. Go figure!

Also, I've discovered Amazon Unlimited. To my husband's exasperation, poor guy.

GUESS WHAT? A short story that I submitted and was paid for over a year ago is finally going to be printed in 2017! I got the official word this week via email, so keep your eyes on my social media for when it releases. It's for the story "Wearing Teresa's Boots" that I mentioned months and months ago!

Okay onto my favorite writing topic this time of year.....

NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH IS UPON US!!!


I can easily confirm that #NANO has singularly made my writing career possible. I've won for three years in a row and intend to keep up the tradition. This year will complete the draft of my fantasy trilogy. I'm throwing out about 15k words from last year to rewrite now the first two novels are in better shape.

WHY should you join the world-wide wackiness that is NaNoWriMo? Here are five good reasons!

  1. International Event: You won't be alone! We're talking thousands of people committing to the same insane goal of 50 thousand words in 30 days. 
  2. TONS of support: Forums to post in, blog and vlogs, virtual write-ins, local write-ins... if there is a will there is a way, so just do it.
  3. Cool swag before, during, and after, plus winner discounts and freebies...... example A below: 
  4. What you really get out of it: Writing habit, creativity flow, networking, word counting convenience, and just plain writing the words down. No pressure, right?
  5. IF you need one more reason: #thequeryhelper be giving away three (3) query letter critiques at the end of the month for anyone that wins NANO! So be sure to follow my blog, network with me, and come on back on December 1st once you've crossed that finish line!


Are you participating in NANO this year? What's your favorite part of NANO or what are you most looking forward to?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

#FicFest Fables #4 - Common Issues In Contest Entries

I need to apologize to those on my "give feedback" list who still haven't heard from me. Some health issues have clogged up life since #ficfest finalists were announced. My mentees have been patient with my delayed responses and I'm grateful for that. I will still be sending that feedback as soon as I'm able.

It truly surprised me how many of the same issues popped up in the #FicFest entries that didn't make it into my favorites list, and some of those issues existed in my favorites, too. Here's a brief list. I hope that this can help those who walked away from FicFest disappointed recapture not only their love for their story, but also with their future projects.

Passive Voice - I said it multiple times on Twitter as I read the slush, as did other mentors. Picture books only have so many words. Don't waste them on passive verbs (is, am, are, was, were) when you can use active, fun, meaningful verbs to entertain your readers. There are so many out there. Check out these great blog posts and resources to help you:





Incorrect rhyming - This was my biggest pet peeve and also the most frustrating of the common issues for me. SO many great premises got buried under horribly written rhymes. Meter and rhythm help make rhyme work, and a children's book can rhyme but it needs to be creative and interesting, not just rhyming for the sake of rhyming. I could easily pick out a dozen stories that had rhymes that could have been written better without it. Also, there are dozens of literary devices besides rhyme that could make your story fun to read. Repetition of word, refrain, or structure, alliteration, hyperbole to name a few. 





High Word Count - This is a debated issues among mentors and mentees alike. A few years ago, the picture book word count sweet spot was 250-350 words, with a maximum of around 600. There are always exceptions to these rules, but at that time attention span seemed to rule the industry. However, in the last twelve months, some longer length amazing picture books have reset this way of thinking, bringing longer, more lyrical manuscripts back into vogue. Of course, word count will depend on your audience and your writing style. 



Unfortunately, in the Ficfest slush, many books were way to long and it was obvious they could be reworked into a shorter, more focused and interesting manuscript to read. (My FicFest query contest winner was one of these!) Again, if you're going to write a long piece, every word needs to have a purpose to drive the story problem and paint a tight, interesting picture for your audience. Removing passive verbs, redundant phrases, and expressive, unnecessary words can help. A note: a few entries were also too low in word count, needing to give the reader just a little more to paint the full picture.)



Query Not Ready - Despite the thousands of query workshops and resources on the internet about how to write a query letter, it is still a highly personal endeavor that is difficult for most authors. By and far, it seemed almost every entry's query needed a little help. I'm going to throw out a few tips using the made up query I used for the query mentorship contest.

- Simple salutation

- Don't focus on the story's inspiration

- Don't give the story's ending away in the query. Instead, give them a stakes sentence to entice them to read it to find out the ending.

- Always give a little bit of info on yourself, even if you have no literary experience.

- Other PB manuscripts can and should be mentioned in picture book queries. Agents of PB want to make sure you aren't a one hit wonder. Offering up info on at least 2 other COMPLETED manuscripts is advised by several of the FicFest mentors. (I actually didn't know this, as my getting-an-agent journey focused on my entire age spectrum of children's works.)

- Always end with "Thank you for your time and consideration," NOT "I look forward to hearing from you" or "I can be reached by phone or email". Leave that ball in their court and expect nothing from them, at least in your letter.

Example:

Dear agent name;

Mattie and John are playing hide and seek but the storm outside is loud and scary. Passive first sentences. The lights go out and they don’t know if they should keep playing or stop and ask mom for dinner. There are lots of hiding places, and the storm is making lots of don’t use same words in so small a space sounds like crashes, booms, and bangs. Maybe they can make similar sounds in their game?

A better story query paragraph:

BOOM, BANG, CRASH! As John and Mattie play hide and seek, the storm outside takes out the lights. The darkness makes finding each other hard and the once-familiar angles and hiding places of their house scary. Now, they must find each other by mimicking the sounds of the storm and decide whether to keep playing their improved game or find their way to Mom. Either way, they soon realize it will be more fun if they do it together.

Crash and Seek Book names in all CAPS CRASH AND SEEK is a picture book submission with about 800 words  way too many words, you probably shouldn’t be submitting this yet in the manuscript. It is similar to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom great compand will be as famous as Harry Potter bad assumptionI don’t have illustrations but I’m sure you could help me find someone to create my vision before we send it to publishers.   No, no, no! Don't put anything that makes your manuscript seem like more work to the agent. Plus, editors and publishers have more control over 
illustrations  anyways.

I am a writer and have been for about five years. My family says this is a perfect and fun book that any child would love to read.  The agent won’t care what non-industry professionals think about it. If you have any questions, please feel free to calll me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Don’t ever provide a phone number unless the agent asks for it. Even then, reconsider. I just know you’ll love it since I read on your personal website that you love thunder storms.  While its good to do research, only mention things they like in their professional capacities, or things they’ve asked for on manuscript wish lists or in the contest you’re entering. Also, include a couple other PB manuscripts pitches that you have ready to go here. It's better to submit when you have at least three completed, ready-for-an-agent manuscripts.

Sincerely, Thank you for your time and consideration,

Emily Moore

The #QueryHelper learned almost everything she knows from reading EVERY. SINGLE. EXAMPLE of query letters and the critiques on  Query Shark, as well as reading blogs with great examples like Nathan Branford's blog. This is one place you don't want to short cut. The query can make or break your submission.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

#FicFest Fables #3 - 5 Big Trends in the Slush

Through out my #FicFest teasers as I perused the slush, I noticed several trends. Some of them followed the industry ones while others hinted at up and coming ones. I actually chatted with a local writer friend and one of my mentees about a few of these on Thursday and Friday nights, and both of them had some input on why the trends might be around.

Trend #1 - Diversity

This is a no brainer trend that's at the forefront of the industry, since #weneeddiversebooks has become a leading campaign and demand, as well it should be. The slush was heavy with not only cultural diversity, but also family dynamics, physical and mental disabilities, and even non-fiction characters breaching diversity gaps. It also makes sense that so many diverse books made their way into the slush because many of the participating picture book agents asked for it as well.




Trend #2 - Man's Best Friend

Whether they brought a forgotten item, became a hero, or just got into trouble, dogs abounded in the Ficfest entries. I actually learned that pets in general, and dogs especially, make up a large portion (nearly 50% according to a source!) of characters in picture book submissions. So it only makes sense that the special animals in our lives also make it into our stories!




Trend #3 - The Wild Jungle

Though less often then a dog, jungle animals appeared in at least half a dozen of the more then 50 entries I read. Some were in the wild, others in a zoo, all of them offered up fun dialects, silly points of view, and loads of laughs. Just like dogs, however, this trend really makes the writers that write well to stand out.



Trend #4 - Art

In many ways big and small, with strokes of genius and expression of self, art took a lead in the Ficfest slush. I found it surprising and strangely rejuvenating. In years past, it seemed that music and art got pushed to the way side, but in recent years the call to return to the arts for their mental stimulation and stress relief have made it important again in schools. Perhaps this is the reason for the influx in art in picture books? This was my favorite trend! I loved many of the stories that included it, especially one about murals.





Trend #5 - Japan

The Japanese folklore and ancient culture came up in several of the Ficfest entries. Some of them only mentioned it in the "Where in the world" portion of their email, while others based their story upon it. I really have no ideas on why this trend is happening, but I want to do some more research or discussion on it. (If you have any ideas, I'd love you to leave a comment below!)




Please come back for our last #FicFest Fable post about common issue I saw in the slush, and a sample query letter from the #QueryHelper!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

#FicFest Fables #2: Slush As Told in Tweets

Has it really been two weeks already since the big #FicFest reveal? I've been so busy with critiques and getting to know my mentees and LIFE that I nearly forgot to continue my #FicFest Fables series. Here is part two where you get to know exactly what the slush held, what I thought about as I perused it.

Did you see all the fun stats on the first annual #FicFest submissions? 

Was that tweet about my entry???

I've been a hopeful entrant in contests past, so I know how every tweet with a hashtag of the contest name or your category can leave you wallowing in self doubt and strangely hungering for more. I'm going to do what I always hoped the mentors in the contests I participated in would... tell the entrants which posts were about what entry. (Please note, this is not meant to hurt any feelings or call anyone out. Totally subjective. I am a single voice in a large and diverse publishing/agenting/mentor field!)


How Do You Love?





21 Sandwiches

 Pomeroy Tours the Jungle

 Mario Defario



Dog Show Dropout

Bear's Winter

Jack's Packed

Lighting the Way

Tiago de Lupolo En (Tiago Hops On)

Story Box

Consuelito

Drac Lets in the Light

Mabel Fairbanks: Rising Above

When the Paint Runs Out

Sneakers are not Food

 Finn, The Misunderstood Shark

Get Set Rufus

 The Witch Babysitter


Bedtime Kiss for Little Samurai

Sandwiched between a brother and a baby (so real)

Ticka Ticka Tap

She's Not my Mom




 Whatifs


Lighting the Way

Humpty Dumpty Decree

Give This to Daddy 


 Push, Poof, Pop!

 Mina and the Monsoons

ZZZs at the Zoo


 A Wallful of Murals

Operation Photobomb

Anton Takes a Walk

Twirl Bella Twirl

 I Am Famous


 Whatchamasaurus

A Meaty Trick or Treat

Trailer Park

Armstong and Sputnik

One Drip One Ocean

Drawing Ayoka Wild

Wanted:  A Friend for the Queen

Granny has a Secret

One Drip One Ocean 

The Claustrophobic Caterpillar

The Last Letsgoboy


The Artist and the Carp

 T-Rex Troubles

I am Not A Unicorn


Be sure to come back for part 3 of #FicFest Fables on the trends I saw in the slush!