The Fun Stuff

Finally ready to start querying agents for CB! That's right, the manuscript is ready. I think. I hope.

As terrifying as the query process is, I actually think it's fun at the very beginning. You know, when you send it out, full of high hopes and dreams. Before the soul-crushing phase begins.

And I know that a truckload of soul-crushing is on it's way, so just let me have this one day. One day to enjoy the thrill of sending off my baby into the big wide world of literary agencies.


Query Time

I recently tinkered with my query for CHARM BRACELET. Since Marlowe's voice is kind of wryly funny, that's what I initially went for in my query. Except I think it was setting a skewed expectation for the tone of the book as largely comedic. And while there's definitely funny bits--well, people actually die in it. Unfortunately for them. So clearly some not-so-funny bits. I think the new version gets that across better. Have a looksie.

Marlowe Thomas is gifted, but not in the way most people think. Sure, her 4.0 grade average comes easily. And she’s one of the top gymnasts on the Devil’s Den High School varsity team. But Marley’s really special talents are ones she can’t put on her college application essays. Unless Georgetown is now offering courses in divination and telekinesis.

Marley’s halfway through her junior year, and she just found out she’s a witch.
So she’s going to tackle it like she does everything else—with hard work and diligence. Except there are the distractions…

Gabe Connelly is aloof and cautious, while his brother Fin thinks being a witch is all fun and games, no toil and trouble. Despite her overachieving personality, Marley gravitates toward fun-loving Fin after Gabe refuses to help her learn the Craft.

Until things get serious.

It began with the suicide that left the medical examiner scratching his head; and then the murders followed. All connected. All unexplained by modern medicine. Meanwhile, the entire cheerleading squad is acting like a bunch of brainwashed puppets. But who’s pulling the strings? Turns out, there’s another witch at school; one whose motivations are considerably darker than scoring beer underage. One by one she’s picking off the people she holds grudges against. And Marley is one of them.

CHARM BRACELET is contemporary YA—in the spirit of Mean Girls with a magical, murderous twist. The manuscript is complete at 55,000 words.


Not "The News," but News Nonetheless

A little while back I posted on not quitting your day job (and here's the part where I'm supposed to link to it, but that would be ridiculous considering I only have like 10 posts up here).

So much for following my own advice.

So I quite my job. Or tried to. And then they went and dangled a carrot in front of my face. A copywriting position.

Here's the thing. I've been an editor the past 5 or so years b/c it's one of those "hard but easy" jobs. Your day is crazy, there's deadlines, sometimes your eyes feel like they're about to drop out of your skull. But for the most part the creative part of your brain gets to stay shut off, takes a nice nap while the analytical side is working overtime.

This is good and bad. Good because I've always felt I could save up my creative "juice" for my personal pursuits. Why would I want to spill a drop of that on actual "work" when I could be using it on my novel? Bad because I've gotten bored of my job over the past year or so. Which, among many other reasons, is why I quit.

And then they go and bring up this copywriting thing. And I go and take it.

Because you know what? Why put your happiness on hold? I really believe, one day, I will be the published author of a novel (dare I say novelsss? Sure, what the heck). But I'm not foolish enough anymore to believe it will happen overnight. So in the meantime, I figure it's time to start challenging myself in other aspects of my life.


Strike That

About the edit going great. Ugh. Just had one of those "what was I thinking all of this completely sucks I should just trash the whole thing" moments.
Hopefully it passes...



Final edit is going great! About halfway through, and added a new opening "chapter." It's just one page, I guess you could call it a prologue. But I've heard agents hate prologues so I'm not going that route. I think it really adds some punch to the opening and sets the tone better for the book. There are some dark moments in the book that I don't think you'd expect based on the original first chapter. With the new addition, I think the reader knows what they're getting into right up front.



So I pulled a rookie move. I feel like I probably shouldn't even admit it, but seeing as I'm the only person who probably has ever laid eyes on this blog, I suppose I can treat it like a diary.

I haven't quite completed my final edit--and I submitted to 3 agents over the weekend anyway. I know, totally unprofessional. But they were 3 "yeah, right--in my wildest dreams" agents. The kind where you figure you have a better chance winning the lottery than getting a partial request from them.

So I wasn't shocked when I got a form rejection from Kristin Nelson today. But I have to say it stung a little more than I expected, just the same--I thought the query was pretty snappy. But then again, it's not the most original book idea so I can see how a lot of agents would pass. I mean it's basically Mean Girls with witches. Hopefully at least one agent will give it a chance and fall in love with the characters like I have, and enjoy my own personal twist on it.


Destruct vs Construct

I was an English lit major in undergrad, but always have had a tiny artistic streak in me (well, let's just say I've found out I'm better at appreciating the aesthetic than actually creating it), so I took a design class.

I actually did fairly well in the class, having not much background in art to begin with. But there was one assignment I failed miserably at. Whereas all the other projects were constructive (ie, putting items together to create a finished product), this one was destructive.

We were all given a cube of plaster, about 4x4 inches. We were supposed to cut away and whittle down this cube into a 3-dimensional abstract piece, demonstrating our knowledge of lines and planes.

I briefly tried to sketch in pencil on each of the faces, trying to envision what the final, 3D piece would look like. Unable to do so and frustrated, I just started hacking away. Does anyone want to guess how that approach worked out?

The problem with working in a deconstructive art form is that there are no take-backs. Once you cut something away, the piece is changed forever in that respect. It's not like clay, where you can stick it back on, add a little bit here, a little bit there, to build something up. If you make a mistake, you may have to rethink your entire strategy, change the overall end goal entirely.

I think there are both constructive and deconstructive aspects of writing. That first draft is like the clay. You start throwing words at the page, they're coming to you so fast you can't type/write fast enough to keep up. Ideas come to you when you're falling asleep, when you're in the shower, when you're in the middle of a conversation. They just start piling up in this massive lump of raw material.

That's the easy part.

The second part has to be a little more thought out. You can't just dive in there and start hacking away. You have to have a better idea of the goals of the characters, a clear direction for the storyline. And you have to ask yourself when you're weighing each scene, each paragraph, if it contributes. If it has a meaningful place in what you envision to be the final piece. And somewhere in the process, you'll inevitably stumble upon a new idea, so fantastic you can't leave it out--yet it completely changes a main story arc. And then you have to rethink your finished piece entirely.

Yeah, that's the hard part.



Finished the new ending to CB over the weekend. Now it's time for a final line edit and then hopefully will start getting some agent submission updates up here.


Sample Time

This isn't a selection from Charm Bracelet; it's actually a paragraph from the untitled Gothic Horror piece I have simmering on the back burner. I meant to enter it into Natalie Whipple's "Dark & Stormy" contest and missed the deadline. (Probably for the best since the winners put me to shame.) So lucky you, you get to read it here!

The peculiar thing about the house wasn't the notable and constant absence of cars from the drive. Nor was it the lack of footprints on the unshoveled sidewalk; either leading to or away from the house. Nor that everything inside the wrought iron gate, in fact, was draped in a pristine blanket of snow, untouched by any evidence of humanity whatsoever. No, the oddest thing about the old mansion was the curl of smoke escaping from the chimney on bitter evenings such as this. Odd because it contradicted all of the aforementioned evidence that the house was unoccupied.

The funny thing about this piece is that it is wholly unlike CB. The MC is a man in his mid-late thirties, and his narration has a sort of old-fashioned feel to it because he's kind of an aloof guy. CB is very contemporary, with a first-person MC who is a 17-year-old girl. The interesting thing is, I can see a little of myself in each of these disparate characters.

Despite the fact this manuscript is in very rough and early stages, I really love this project a lot. But it's one of those pieces you don't want to rush--I can picture working on it for the next couple of years, in between other projects, crafting it until it is just right.


So I'm, what, 5 posts deep? I guess it's time I tell you a little bit about my current project, Charm Bracelet.

Now I'm a bit of a private person, and don't like to give out too many details on projects I'm working seriously on, but I will say the following:

High school. Teen witch trying to cop mad magic skills in between gymnastics practice and maintaining her 4.0 average. Cheerleader cult. Cute, tragic boy(s). Misunderstood bad witch from the trailer park. Mysterious homicides. (Because just plain ol' murders just don't cut it.)

P.S. Witches are the new vampires. Dig it!
P.P.S. Perhaps if I'm feeling brave, I'll get a sample up here soon. (I worked 60 hours this week at my day job, so it's quite possible I'm delirious enough to do such a thing.)


Be Your Own Fan

A couple years ago when I was writing my first honest-to-God attempt at a book, I kept encountering the same problem. I'd go through writing the parts that excited me, and put placeholders for the parts that I knew I wanted in there, but didn't necessarily feel like writing.

At one point I lamented to Hubby about a particular scene I was procrastinating on because I thought it would be boring to write. His response? "If you think it's boring to write, maybe it'll be boring to read."

Duh. Why didn't I think of that? Because I didn't. The thing was, I thought of these scenes as necessary to move the plot forward. I didn't look at them as having any value themselves. Just segues between the "good" scenes.

Here's the thing. Every scene should count. No, wait. Every paragraph--hell, every word--should count. There shouldn't be a point in your manuscript where the reader gets bored, wants to skip ahead, decides it's a good time to put the book down and have a snack, etc. And the best way to judge this is to truly love what you're writing. Be your own fan. Laugh at the funny parts, cry at the sad ones. Go ahead and fall in love with the romantic lead, give your MC a mental fist-bump when she does you proud. Because to paraphrase from Hubby: if you don't want to write it, you can be sure as sh#t that nobody is going to want to read it.

(See how much I've learned? And I'm documenting it all for you, so you don't make the same mistakes, fellow scribes!)


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Query…

We all know about query letters and why they’re dreadful and, therefore, why not put it off until I absolutely HAVE to write it?

Well, turns out there’s an upside to writing it before you’ve completed your WIP.

When working on my first WIP ever (I don’t think I have to mention how much of a stinker that manuscript was and where it ended up*), I was of course the typical newbie, telling my family I was working on a book yadda yadda. And the thing about telling people you’re writing a book is—people ASK you what it’s about. I should have expected this, yet somehow was completely unprepared to answer the question. No matter how many times someone asked, I could never really put together a succinct or remotely coherent response. I would mention themes and aspects that were involved in it, but somehow could never come up with the actual PLOT.

Of course I ignored this problem.

When I wrote the final words on my first draft and decided it was time to subject the world, ie, agents, to it (Rewrites? What rewrites?), I went about the business of trying to get a query letter together.

I guess I don’t have to tell you I failed miserably. I faced the same problem I had when asked by my friends and family what my book was about. I couldn’t identify a HOOK.

Now that I’m better informed and (hopefully) a better writer, this time around** I attempted a rough draft query letter on my current WIP when I was probably about 2/3 done with the first draft. I asked my husband to give it a look as an impartial reader, since I never let him read any of my work. He admitted it had him hooked until the end, where I tried to squeeze in one aspect of the plot that I couldn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the query naturally. After two paragraphs of talking about my kick-ass MC, I tried to tack on a sentence about the romantic storyline.

Well lo and behold, when I got my critique comments back on the first draft, the aspect of the book my reviewer took largest issue with was that my kick-ass MC became slightly less so once her romantic interest stepped on the scene. This came as a shock to me, although it shouldn’t have if I’d really thought about my hubby’s feedback and applied it to my manuscript. It was one of those “duh!” moments you experience when you get a really great editorial suggestion (followed by excitement about how much more awesome the change will make the book, followed even more quickly by the despair that comes when you realize how much work it’ll take to change an entire story arc).

So a round of edits later, I have a stronger MC. And now I actually am looking forward to (gasp!) revisiting my query and making that stronger, too.

Moral of this story? Queries are more than a torture device designed by editors and agents. They are a tool. LOVE IT!

*I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the good people at Levine Greenberg, who took a chance on a partial and got 50 pages of utter crap sent to them.
**Current WIP is Book 3. Or if you want to get technical, Book 2.5 since I put Book 2 on the shelf about 20K words short of finished. Perhaps to be revisited at a later time, with a wiser eye.