Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Driving through Utah: Sunrise, Sunset

Sarah and Nigel, Arches National Park
This was actually still in Arches.
It's where I took that panorama from last week's post.
But I like to start off with a little human interest: Me & Nigel.

I took about a million photos on my road trip out West. But people ain't got time for that. (Before I deleted any, I did have over a thousand photos. Because I'm crazy. I'm "only" planning to print about 250, and only intend to subject my dear blog readers to about 30 or so.)

My photo posting solution: break up my photos over a few week's worth of blog. That way I get to show off all my most favorite photos without being too annoying. I'm brilliant! ;)

Nigel and I only spent half a day in Canyonlands National Park because, well, Arches was kinda cooler. But it did have a few gorgeous sites:

Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Arch

Canyonlands was also where my one other panorama from the trip was taken:

Canyonlands National Park panorama
I thought it turned out very cool.
Cool enough that I'll pretend the fact it's hanging off the page doesn't bother me.
Not the least little bit.

This was our first night camping on the trip. Because tents aren't the most comfortable thing ever, we were up super early and did manage to get this shot on the way out of the park:

Utah sunrise

I'd say a the lack of sleep was worth it.

The road to Bryce Canyon was quite beautiful, but our favorite part was a quick stop off at the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Sarah Hipple
I look a bit dorky, but, well, I kinda am.

petrified wood
The colors in the petrified wood were gorgeous.
I'm trying to cut back to only my most favorite photos, 
but I couldn't leave this one out!

We arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park pretty late, but not too late to catch the sunset:

sunset, Bryce Canyon National Park
I love this photo for the two beams of light on the mountain tops.

sun set, Bryce Canyon National Park
But then I love how pink and mystical the background mountain is.

I'd say eight photos for one blog post just about does it. Next week: Bryce Canyon. Nigel and I went on a hike just as the sun was rising, and the shadows (and rock formations) are quite gorgeous. I know I'm using that word pretty often in these posts, but, as the photos show, I think it's warranted.

Driving through Utah: Sunrise, Sunset

Sarah and Nigel, Arches National Park
This was actually still in Arches.
It's where I took that panorama from last week's post.
But I like to start off with a little human interest: Me & Nigel.

I took about a million photos on my road trip out West. But people ain't got time for that. (Actually, before I deleted any, I did have over a thousand photos. Because I'm crazy. I'm "only" planning to print about 250, and only intend to subject my dear blog readers to about 30 or so.)

My photo posting solution: break up my photos over a few week's worth of blog. That way I get to show off all my most favorite photos without being too annoying. I'm brilliant! ;)

Nigel and I only spent half a day in Canyonlands National Park because, well, Arches was kinda cooler. But it did have a few gorgeous sites:

Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Arch

This was also where my one other panorama from the trip was taken:

Canyonlands National Park panorama
I thought it turned out very cool.
Cool enough that I'll pretend the fact it's hanging off the page doesn't bother me.
Not the least little bit.

This was our first night camping on the trip. Because tents aren't the most comfortable thing ever, we were up super early and did manage to get this shot on the way out of the park:

Utah sunrise

I'd say a little lack of sleep was worth it.

The road to Bryce Canyon was quite beautiful, but our favorite part was a quick stop off at the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Sarah Hipple
I look a bit dorky, but, well, I kinda am.

petrified wood
The colors in the petrified wood were gorgeous.
I'm trying to cut back to only my most favorite photos, 
but I couldn't leave this one out!

We arrived at Bryce Canyon National ark pretty late, but not too late to catch the sun set:

sunset, Bryce Canyon National Park
I love this photo for the two beams of light on the mountain tops.

sun set, Bryce Canyon National Park
But then I love how pink and mystical this photo is.

I'd say eight photos for one blog post just about does it. Next week: Bryce Canyon. Nigel and I went on a hike just as the sun was rising, and the shadows (and rock formations) are quite gorgeous. I know I'm using that word pretty often in these posts, but, as the photos show, I think it's warranted.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Roadtrippin' Out West: Arches National Park

driving out west
First sights of Utah!

My husband and I decided we were brave adventurers, ready for a trip to Utah and beyond. We did slightly regret not stopping in Colorado, but there was only so much time, and so much to see.

Arches national park
Nigel at Arches National Park

There was actually more green than I imagined there'd be. I mean, it was a shrubby sort of green, but still, it was there. I love the photo above because of the crazy red rock structures that were just plopped down on the plains and the snow capped mountains in the background. Plus, I'm a sucker for dramatic skies.

Double Arch, Arches National Park
Double Arch at Arches National Park

Nigel's one of those people in the foreground. My photo doesn't do the thing full justice. It was quite gorgeously red.

sky and red rock
Inside the double arches.

Nigel went climbing all around on the double arch. I, however, laid down and took a few photos of the sky through the arches. I think I win.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

One of Utah's most famous landmarks: the Delicate Arch. It really is quite cool. There was a whole line of people waiting to stand inside the arch so they could get a photo of themselves in the middle. You can see one of the tiny people in the middle off in the background. Nigel and I figured the photos from a distance would suffice.

flower, Arches National Park
Flower!

And, because I couldn't resist, I'm ending this post with one of my (multitude of) flower photos. Nigel always makes fun of me for my obsession, but I think this one turned out cool. You can even see a little spider web clinging to the edges.

Alright, just one more: a panorama from one of our Arches hikes:


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Reddest of Rocks

Bryce Canyon

I spent the last two and a half weeks traveling through Utah, to Vegas, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon.

Here's one photo as a teaser of what I saw.

But that's all you get because boy is all that travel exhausting. Plus, I've got to do some laundry.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Your Title Matters

And these photos are from the DC zoo. Birds are cool, yo.
This guy in particular.

For me, one of the most interesting things that Kristin Nelson and her team had to say about queries was that a great title can give you a real edge.

This vulture and his friend were chillin', wings out, catchin' some sun.

Great Titles = Query Magic

First they said that if a book has an awesome title, it will catch their eye, and they're more likely to give the query a shot. Obviously you still need a decent pitch, but I think getting their attention is half the battle.

Here's both vultures, catching some rays.

Funny Title Trends

Apparently, titles follow trends. One year, the title "Second Chances" was so popular that they started keeping track of the number of queries they got for different books titled "Second Chances."

Nowadays, the YA trend is a title with the form [Noun] & [Noun] and apparently the nouns are usually one of the following (in any order): ash, bone, shadow, etc. (Sadly, I didn't write down the full list. Those are the only three words I got, but I think it paints a picture.)  I imagine Leigh Bardugo and Laini Taylor are the reason for this trend.

Following the title trend is going to do you no favors. Which is sad because you are supposed to know what books are trendy and how your book fits into the books that are selling like hot cakes (mmmmmmm, cake), but your book shouldn't fit in so much that it starts to blur into all the others.

Ah, the wonderful world of queries and writing. If any of you have any awesome title suggestions, lemme know.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Query Like It's Hot

A few weeks ago I had photos of the National Cathedral from DC.
This week I'm featuring the beautiful mosque I walked through in DC.

A Silly Title

Sorry, people. I don't know what's up with my blog post title. But you do need to sing it to yourself to the tune of "Drop it like it's hot."


The Wonderful World of Queries

Queries are such an oddity. I swear, everyone's got their own formula for what works best, and, as every agent admits, something that they love, another agent might hate.

With that in mind, I'm writing a little about what literary agent Kristin Nelson recommended when I dialed in to her webinar (her blog also has a ton of archived, interesting agenty information and some great query-y info too). If you're actually in the process of querying, I highly recommend the webinar itself because she gives personalized feedback on what is and isn't working in your own query, which is incredibly valuable. And you get to watch her dissect others' queries and ask any questions you've got.

I've seen all this info elsewhere, so I don't think I'm giving away any trade secrets that she'd prefer to keep for her webinars. Just confirming the info I've seen - straight from the horse's (or agent's) mouth.


Query Letter Structure

The basic structure of a query letter (my insights included) should be:

  1. Personalized Greeting. Mild sucking up won't hurt.
  2. Project Summary - title, word count, genre. Including comparisons to other books on today's market would be a good idea.
  3. Pitch Paragraph of 1-3 paragraphs. More on this below.
  4. (optional) Bio, writing-specific, not your life story.


Pitch Paragraph Structure

Ms. Nelson and her compatriot, Angie Hodapp, who helped run the webinar, recommended using James Scott Bell's three sentence pitch structure as the basis for a good pitch paragraph(s).

The link I gave has an interview with Mr. Bell and an example in addition to the pitch, but I'll list the three sentences here for clarity:

Sentence 1: Main character's (MC's) name, vocation, and initial situation, aka, give their role in their ordinary world, describing what their life is like before the plot happens.
Ex. Harry Potter is an orphan who his aunt and uncle force to live in a broom cupboard under the stairs.

Sentence 2: "When"  + main plot problem or inciting incident, aka, the thing that pushes the MC into the main plot.
Ex. When an owl delivers Harry's letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry finds out his aunt and uncle have been hiding the truth about his parents: they were a witch and wizard.

Sentence 3: "Now" + stakes
Ex. Now Harry must navigate an unknown world, full of dragons, giants, and flying broomsticks. A dark power also awaits Harry in this world, one that threatens everyone in the new life he just found.

And there you have it: the bare bones of a respectable query letter.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

One Last Thing about Julia

paris, Eiffel Tower

Embarking on a Brief Tour of France (via biography)

At some point in the near future, I'll have to talk about the Agent-hosted Query Webinar I attended. But right now I'm in the midst of revising the query and a leetle over-queried in the brain.

And so I am way more interested in talking about Julia Child, peeking into others' lives, and taking a trip back through time.

french bread
Photo by Richard Allaway

Heartbreaking Moments

Obviously Julia Child is known for her cooking show and, apparently, cookbooks. Despite being a very loud and outgoing woman (as she described herself), she does seem to have a bit of that emotional reticence we associate with older people (sometimes rightly, sometimes not). Or maybe she just doesn't want to complain about a good and successful life.

At one point in the autobiography, she mentions that she had a stomach bug from India and that at first she thought she was finally pregnant. She doesn't say much more. I thought, "Oh, that's too bad."

Later came the few sentences that made me think there might be more to this story. When Julia's sister gets pregnant, she says:
I was so happy for her now that she was a full-fledged woman...
And maybe I'm reading way too much into her statement. Or perhaps she's reflecting more on society's expectations than her own desires, but I found that to be a very sad statement coming from a woman who was unable to have children. It made me wonder exactly how this upbeat, outgoing lady really felt about her inability to conceive and made me think it might have been a bit heartbreaking for her. Or maybe that was all just in my head.

red wine, paris
Photo by Vassil Tzvetanov

Time Travel and Guided Tours

Anyway, books are pretty amazing. They can give you glimpses into others' lives in other time periods, and that's sort of crazy.

With Julia Child, I toured through the slightly bleak, but mostly exuberant post-WWII France that was just starting to get back on it's feet. I visited kitchens and markets and experimental recipe-making (and got very hungry). I stepped into the Cordon Bleu and stopped by a few very well-to-do dinners.

I experience the suddenness with which McCarthy sprang into power and a tiny burst of Julia's panic and fear for her husband. And I also almost understood, for just one moment, the American fear of a Communist-held Europe.

The odd set of circumstances (and hard work) that led to Julia Child on Boston's first public access television station and eventually led to her famous television show.

Peoples' lives are just so darn interesting sometimes.