Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shelley Waters/ Victoria Marini First-Page Contest Submission

Here's my entry for Shelley's contest!

My book is a 107,000 YA fantasy entitled The Heiress of Rhiangar. Here goes!

It was, Miles concluded, an awkward position. He was trapped with his back against the north gate, every avenue of escape blocked by the advancing princess. She grinned, winked, and shook a coy finger at him.
"Not thinking of running again, are you?" Princess Brianette asked.
"Actually, I am," he replied, juggling several possibilities in his thoughts. Go left and trample the rare mourning lily his master so prized. Go right and have to fight his way through thorn-riddled shrubs. Going forward would require shoving the princess out of the way, which he did not dare do. Looks like it'll have to be right.
"You odd little flower boy." Little? She did realize, didn't she, that he had two years on top of her fourteen? Leave it to a princess to ignore such details concerning her lowly subjects. "You know, boy, you are the only one in the palace who acts this way towards me? It is not natural."
"Not natural? To want to keep my head on my shoulders, Highness?"
A bubble of frustrated laughter fluttered from her lips. "What, you think my father would have you beheaded, just because of one teensy kiss? You are an incomprehensible fool."
"Better a fool than a criminal, my lady, which is what I would be if someone saw us now." It was easy for her to say. She was the princess here, not him. Apprentice gardeners didn't enjoy the same degree of leniency in the courts of Chrysanthem. It was true Brianette had yet to actually be caught during one of her escapades, but Miles didn't intend to be anywhere nearby when it did happen. 

Here are the details of the contest:

Be a Writer Site Ninja!

There are so many fabulous writing websites out there, and I’m sure I’ve not even discovered half of them. Each one is a little bit different from the others, it seems, and is pertinent to a different stage of the writing process. So wherever you are with that first, second, or nineteenth novel, there’s a site for you!

What I’ve done here is list the websites I’ve found most useful for each of the stages of writing a novel, and the order in which they can be used.

PHASE: Writing

Okay, let’s face it, this is the longest and most grueling part of the process. It involves draft after draft, a pile of scrapped chapters, failed characters, ruinous endings. It takes time, tears, energy, and often you must sacrifice a little bit of every other area of life to it. Your grades fall, your house stays a wreck, your friends wonder if you died and didn’t even take time off from writing to schedule your own funeral. You feel like you’re writing in circles. You’re stuck in the reincarnation cycle, and you can’t find that door labeled “Nirvana” anywhere.

The key to not getting burned out? There are several. The Forum on this sight is small, tight-knit, and friendly. It’s also very helpful. Most Attractive Feature: you post your first 13 lines and get feedback on just those lines, based on the theory that that’s as much time as an agent is going to give you before they toss your ms—and your dreams—into the dumpster. Want to build up those publishing credits before you start querying? Send out short stories! They take a day to write, a day to revise, and a minute to email. Send them out in droves; chances are someone will pick one up. And voila! A publishing credit! And sometimes—and arguably even sweeter—a cool 7 cents per word payment. Those 7 cents add up quick. Just so you can check back every few days and remind yourself that yes, people are selling their books every day, so it is possible, now stop stalling and get back to your ms. Just because its fun to imagine your book on the home page. A sort of private pep rally, y’know. At least, it is for me.

PHASE: Feedback

Your manuscript is finished… but is it any good? You need beta readers, baby! Here’s where you can find them: This site, run by HarperCollins, is going to require as much giving as taking. If you want feedback, you’re gonna have to give it. Best idea is to get connected in the forums on the site and find crit partners through that. But there’s a sweet little reward for those who put in the time and make a lot of connections: If you’re book becomes one of the most-backed books on the site in a given month, you get a free read and review from HarperCollins! This runs on a kind of karma system. You crit, you get credits, you get critted back. For a novel, you can put in an RFDR (request for dedicated readers) which will get you a few faithful readers who will go chapter by chapter and give you their feedback.
***Whatever way you decide to get beta readers, remember you’re going to have to give as much time as you ask for, and sometimes more. It’s only fair. Be prepared to do as much reading as you do writing. And it’s good for you! Critiquing others’ work and making contacts with other writers can be one of the greatest rewards of the writing process. Enjoy it!

PHASE: Query Writing

Ah, the dreaded query letter. They say you should take an entire month just to work on your measly, one-page query. Yikes much? But its true. The query is everything, unless you plan to use the back door of self-publishing. And do not send out a query until you’ve had a lot of feedback. I can only recommend one site for this: A wonderful site with great feedback, and fueled as always by the give-and-take karma principle. These people are nice, but they can be brutal. Good practice for the next phase, querying—toughens up your skin a bit. But take the critiques graciously and with a pinch of salt, and know your query will be all the better for it.

PHASE: Querying

The query is polished, gleaming, riveting… everything you dreamed it would be. Now it’s time to put on the old armor and prepare to do battle with the publishing world. Okay, well, maybe not battle. Let’s be optimistic here. It isn’t You versus The Agent… but sometimes it does feel that way. Be prepared to receive rejections, both helpful and many generic forms. Keep the armor handy and don’t let anything make you give up. The key here is perseverance, just like you learned on those TV shows as a kid. When it comes to querying, it always comes to research. These are the sites you’ll need to be acquainted with:

www.publishersmarketplace.comBoth of these sites have agent directories, and lists of agent contact info, recent sales, preferred genres, and other pertinent information. Are all your agents trust-worthy? Find out here. Great advice on finding an agent and a lot of great agent interviews. Lots of great interviews with agents.

By FAR the most helpful site I’ve found for this phase of the process is:
It lists thousands of agents and publishers, as well as any other sites where additional information on the agents can be found such as interviews and marketplace listings, as well as agents’ personal websites, blogs, and twitter accounts. Plus, other querytracker users will leave frequent and helpful comments about their own querying experience with each agent. You can also run reports on how often an agent asks for partials or fulls, their average response times, and what genres they most often ask to see. There is also a forum on the site which helps you get feedback on your first five pages, your query, your synopsis, and other things. The best thing is that you can keep track of each query you send, the responses you get, and the agents you still want to query. You can personalize your list of agents you want to contact and keep track of the queries as they go out and come back in. Immensely helpful, especially if you are by nature unorganized. And it sure beats an Excel spreadsheet!

Whatever phase you are in in the writing process, there’s probably a site out there that will help. Beware anyone who asks you for money, though, unless it’s a proven service like Writer’s Digest or Publisher’s Marketplace and you want all those extra fancies that come with paid membership.

Have fun, be wary, and write on!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Cover!

I joined today in an effort to find more beta readers (living in a tiny town like I do, they are pretty hard to come by) and when I saw the fabulous covers people had with their books, I decided to make one myself. So I fooled around with a few programs (ArtExplosion Publisher, Manga Studio Debut, and voila! Hopefully one day I'll have a fancy publisher who will make a much, much better one, but for now...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Writers on Writing

Some of my favorite quotes about writing! Enjoy!

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.  ~E.L. Doctorow

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.  ~Mark Twain

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.  ~Anton Chekhov

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood.  I'd type a little faster.  ~Isaac Asimov

A writer and nothing else:  a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right.  ~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Be obscure clearly.  ~E.B. White 

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window.  ~Burton Rascoe (I dare insert "husband" instead :)

The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.  ~Agatha Christie (so, so true)

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.  ~Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 19 August 1851

Write your first draft with your heart.  Re-write with your head.  ~From the movie Finding Forrester

Loafing is the most productive part of a writer's life.  ~James Norman Hall

The best style is the style you don't notice.  ~Somerset Maugham

I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody's head.  ~John Updike

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What I Read This Week

One of my goals while waiting for feedback on my queries is to read, read, read, and in all of that reading, particularly look for obscure fantasy that's at least ten to twenty years old. Like wine. Sweetly aged.

Here's some of what I found, devoured, digested, and loved:

Okay, if you haven't read anything by Lois McMaster Bujold yet, STOP reading this blog, put everything else down, and hie yourself to the nearest library/Barnes&Noble/ and please, please, please start reading the first thing of hers you can lay your paws on. Because, as Anne McCaffrey put it, "BOY, can she write!" This woman is fast becoming one of my literary heroes. Her Miles Vorkosigan Saga (which I discovered while Googling any fantasy with an MC named Miles, just to be sure I wasn't stepping on any toes, and her series is so far above mine I have no worries, plus it's sci-fi) will leave you breathless. Chalion won the Mythopoeic Award--which is one of the awards I myself most covet. Anyway. READ her. She will change the way you write. In a good way. Like, a really good way.

Okay, so who ever heard of THIS guy? Me, either, at least, not until I was idly haunting the local used bookstore and found a very slender little volume tucked away in the corner. This isn't the edition I found, by the way; mine is older, with a unicorn on the front. Anyway, it wasn't mind-blowing or anything, and you could probably read it in an hour or two. But it's like a lost volume of Narnia or something; the voice is so similar to C. S. Lewis as is the structure, plot, and characters. Anyway, it's a fun, quick read, quite refreshing after all the heavy-handedness of today's fantasy literature.

Okay, so this one's not twenty years old. But it's SOOKIE STACKHOUSE! :) Not at all the best of the series, but hey, it's new and fresh, and--whoa, almost wrote a spoiler. Okay, will just say, as ever, I adore Sookie (who doesn't love a Southern gal-small and sweet but made of steel and magnolias) and will remain an avid fan until (heaven forbid) the series should conclude.