Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fall Flowers for Spring, Plus a Writing Update

bee on flower

In cleaning up my photos, I re-found some photos I took on a visit to Longwood Gardens (in the fall). So - more flower photos for you.

dessert theft
Nigel steals my delicious dessert!

This isn't actually much of a writing update because my news is that I put six queries out into the world. I'd been holding off on queries until I got some help from a critique partner in sprucing mine up. So, they're out there. We shall see.

water lilies
So many cool water lily ponds.

In writing my new YA sci fi, I'd set a goal for myself to get to the 50k point by the end of April, but with the query-storming session in the middle of the month, I'm currently at the 40k point. (I started at 20k.) I still have a little hope that I can crash through the last bit on Saturday, but I'll admit it's not likely.

But Longwood Gardens sure was pretty:

And one more:
conspiring orchids
These two look like they're conspiring together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Magnificent Mane

To be honest, I forgot all about this post, but I actually have the perfect photo to post this week:

Sarah and Nigel: the Wink

This weekend I was cleaning out my photo files and found some scans of a few old and wonderful photos.

There are many things I enjoy about this picture.

Firstly, I, obviously, look adorable.

Secondly, Nigel has utterly magnificent hair.

Thirdly, Nigel is an idiot, and it's hilarious.

Really, that's everything I could ask for.

Well, I guess to show off the true magnificence of Nigel's hair, I will tack on one more photo:

Sarah and Nigel of the Magnificent Hair

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring Was Here

So it was gorgeous outside. Things were blooming. The sky was blue and brilliant . . . and then it decided to snow.

daffodils and snow
This is my favorite photo from the day after, when most of the snow was gone.
It was a crisp, clear morning, and my hands got very cold down in this snow.

I was all excited that Spring had finally arrived, and then Old Man Winter decided he'd show me. I'm pretty sure it was the teenage equivalent of shouting, "You don't know me!"

spring snow
The day of the snow.
I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I'm a little obsessed with photos of flowers.

On the writing front, I'm processing a query critique that a friend of mine gave me, re-polishing my first few chapters, and working on my new project, but nothing all that new or exciting. And you know what's super pretty? Daffodils. I love daffodils. These poor daffodils were even knocked to the ground by snow, and they still manage to shine.

ivy, snow, daffodil, moody
The ivy leaf and snow are really the centerpiece here.
Doesn't it look all moody and fraught?
See, Mr. Winter? I've got my moments too.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Revisiting New Zealand

I don't think I've done a post that focused on one of the wonderful spots we visited in New Zealand: Lake Wanaka (pronounced wah-nah-kuh). For some reason, the pronunciation makes me think of Fozzy the Bear. I think he'd enjoy it.

Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
This lake was gorgeous. We kayaked across it.

I've been working on a new book, letting the book I was querying breathe and giving myself a bit of a break from rejections. I considered posting about my new book, but I thought it'd be more fun for me to search through my honeymoon photos for this week's post. I really enjoy putting together posts like this because it gives me an excuse to look back through those photos (and reminds me that it's a fun thing to do).

lonely tree, Lake Wanaka
I think this tree is famous.
I've seen several gorgeous professional photos of this tree on Reddit.
I didn't do it justice. You should see it in proper lighting.
Like, my gosh, in these search results.

Lake Wanaka sunset, New Zealand
Sunset from near our hotel.

Sarah Hipple, New Zealand
My husband and I after kayaking out to the little island in the middle of the lake.

It was autumn in New Zealand, and, I might add, not really all that cold yet, but the hotel people looked at us like we were crazy when we asked to borrow the kayaks for the day. We showed them!

Although I will admit we got a bit damp. But since we'd brought all sorts of long underwear for some Serious Hiking later on (or Tramping as they called it), we were pretty well outfitted to triumph over a little bit of dampness.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Evil Editing

The Art of the Query Letter

street art
Searching the Creative Commons for "Art," this is my fav.

As I've mentioned a few times, I'm not so great at writing query letters. Now, I would like to say that I've tried. I read through much of the advice from Nathan Bransford, Ms. Reid a.k.a. The Query Shark herself, Writer's Digest articles and their Successful Queries series, and Jane Friedman's advice. Not to mention quite a few articles from other agents and various internet resources.

There's a lot of rules about what to do and what not to do, but in the end it really seems like it's all about what makes your book sounds interesting to the agent in question. In other words: purely subjective.

The Failure of My Query Letter: A Two Part Harmony, er, well, Cacophony

frustration, art, TaniART
Image by TaniART

One of the places where I think I'm failing is in making my book stand out from your generic Middle Grade Fantasy. I think my book is different, but within the space of 250-300 words, it's hard to use Voice to get across the plot, personalize the letter, and include all the essential information.

And so I submitted my failing query letter to the Evil Editor. And then I submitted my revision. And then I wrote another letter that I'm sitting on for a little while to look at again later.

Evil Advice: Actually Quite Helpful

Nate Merrill, bored reading boy, art
Image by Nate Merrill

The Evil Editor is not for those with a thin skin. He (or she, I suppose, although the elderly cartoon man with evil glowing eyes at the top of the blog leads me to believe the anonymous editor is a he) gives very constructive criticism, but his criticism comes in the form of mocking my letter. When I submitted to the Evil Editor, I signed up for his particularly form of humor, so I was a little sad that he didn't love my letter, but I was prepared.

And I think he helped. Actually, the advice that I found to be the most helpful, I will share with you:
I suggest telling us the plot in three paragraphs. First the three-sentence setup: Who's the main character, what's his situation, what's his goal? Then three sentences about how he plans to achieve his goal and what goes wrong when he puts his plan in motion. Then a three-sentence wrap-up: How does he handle the chief obstacle. What's plan B? What will happen if he fails?
That gave me the basis of my latest query letter, and I do think it is my best letter of all. However, as I mentioned, I am taking a bit of a break from sending out query letters until I've had time to come back to my letter with fresh eyes and give it one last going over before sending it out into the cold, cruel world.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Some Appalachian Trail Views

My husband and I did a little hiking on a piece of the Appalachian Trail this weekend, and I wanted to share a few of the views.

Appalachian Trail, river

It was a bit chilly, but the bare winter trees gave my photo a nice, gnarled frame.

Susquehanna River

There's my river view, un-tree-obstructed.

winter forest, Appalachian Trail

Somewhere around this point on the trek, I decided it might be a good idea to jog a little for warmth (and to chase after my husband). The trail was pretty flat and even, but, being the spectacularly uncoordinated person that I sometimes am, my foot was kind enough to find a lovely rock in the middle of the path. I went sprawling, so until the next rain storm, there's a Sarah's Knee-sized indent in the Appalachian Trail.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Blogs: Slightly More Relevant Than Soda Fountains

soda fountain, 50s
Photo by Stanley Sagov

Blogging into the Great Wide Open

The internet is a fickle friend. You think you know it, but then it goes and changes on you. It reminds me of that funny yet accurate quote from Grampa Simpson:
I used to be with it, but then they changed what "it" was. Now what I'm with isn't "it," and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me! ... It'll happen to you!
-From Season 7, Episode 24 "Homerpalooza"
Fortunately, I'm not terribly concerned about being with "it," but, as this article from literary agent Jessica Faust points out, if I ever actually publish a book, not only will I have to do research on current and effective means of publicizing that book, I'd have to keep an eye out for changes, and every few years I have to stop and think about whether the stuff that used to work still works.

All that's a bit far fetched for me right now, but I still enjoyed her short walk through the transition to blogging as the be-all, end-all for internet connection to Facebook and Twitter being the best way to reach a captive audience. And I'm sure that'll change again in a few years.

old Wang computer
I enjoy the fact that this computer says "Wang."
Photo by Taryn Domingos

In the Beginning

I'm pretty sure I got into blogging once it was already past its prime. I just kind of prefer the format. For some reason I go through phases where I just can't stand to look at Twitter (perhaps because I never feel like I'm capable of being clever in 140 characters or less).

And I got out of the FB habit because I already talk to the few high school friends I want to keep in touch with, and I have no desire to see the political and social views of people I barely know. It just didn't seem like a recipe for fun.

I do browse Reddit, but I rarely post comments, let alone actual new content. Again, I'm not sure I can contribute much cleverness to that world.
I tried out Tumblr and did enjoy the pretty pictures, but I got pretty bored with that after a while, and posting photos from the Creative Commons didn't feel like it was actually much of a contribution to that online world.

But blogging . . . that I can handle.

typewriter graveyard
Photo by Filipe Miguel

Why I Blog

Here on my own blog, I can say whatever I want (although I try to keep it within reason) and I get enough space that I can be as clever as I'm capable of (not that I manage to be clever all that often).

And if nobody reads it, well, at least nobody can down vote me here either. It's my own space, and I like it.