Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Evolution of My Query Letter

Strahov Monastery Library, Prague, statue
See how upset this dude looks? That's me writing query letters.
Photo by Curious Expeditions

Unlike most of my posts of late, this one is going to focus purely on writing. That was, after all, the original purpose of my blog.

Query letters are my nemesis. I've studied them, their moves, their quirks, and their weaknesses. But at every turn, they've dodged and parried and defeated me. I read blog post after blog post. Even my kindly CPs' suggestions only seemed to send me spinning down rabbit holes.

This time around, I consulted Naomi Hughes to get her experienced editor's eye on my query letter. And for my peace of mind, I went with her "brainstorming" option so that I could continually edit my letter based on her feedback and make sure I was headed in the right direction.

Note: Naomi is an editor. She is an awesome and very helpful editor, but her job is to tell me when things aren't coming across right and send me in the right direction. I want to make it clear that an editor won't write the query letter for you.

national library of sweden, books, columns
Photo by National Library of Sweden

Hmm, I just realized this post could get very long, so I decided to break it up into a post per query letter iteration.

I'm going to start with the final product because why save the best for last? I personally believe in instant gratification. (Ok, so, no, I don't, but we'll pretend I do for the sake of this post. If it's any consolation, my husband's all about instant gratification. When I was in grad school, we waited in a long line of children on release night to get the last Harry Potter book because my hubby couldn't wait for it one minute longer than necessary.)

admont library, austria, mural, statues
Admont Library, Austria
Photo by Christine McIntosh

Here it is, the polished product:
All twelve-year-old Eric Ortega wants is to make his guild the envy of every gamer on his Hooves and Halflings server . . . until his real-life body is taken over by an ancient being. Eric’s forced to watch as this creature steamrolls through his world, threatening the people he loves. Luckily, Eric’s sister realizes he’s not acting like himself, but the help she can get comes at a high cost.

Nikias is an ancient human-wind hybrid who only has a body when he steals one, and the power of Eric’s aura is too tempting for Nikias to pass up. With that aura fueling his powers, Nikias plans to launch a full-scale attack against the leader of the Sentinels. Sentinels are the bird-human hybrids who police the world’s hidden peoples, and their leader has been after Nikias for centuries. When the Sentinels help Eric’s sister free him, Nikias is infuriated. He’s not letting that aura go.

Eric wakes up stranded in a mountain lair, surrounded by unfriendly Sentinels. He’s free of Nikias, but the Sentinels don’t trust humans and have erased half Eric’s memories to protect their secret world. However, Eric’s determined to get back to his family with or without their help. As he uncovers more of his memories, he also unlocks the ability to use his aura and wield Nikias' power. But Eric doesn't want anything to do with that creep or his abilities.

While Eric searches for a way home, Nikias searches for Eric. When Nikias finds him, Eric's new powers are the only thing that might save his life – if Eric can learn to control them in time.

Complete at 66,000 words, ERIC ORTEGA AND THE DEMON WIND is a dark, contemporary upper MG fantasy. The story is told primarily from Eric’s POV, but approximately one-fifth of the chapters are from the point of view of Nikias and his new, scheming host – until the characters all come together. This book will appeal to fans of the Underland Chronicles. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Biblio-envy: Fantastic Libraries and Far-out Bookstores

Strahov Monastery Library, Prague
Strahov Monastery Library in Prague
Photo by "His Noodly Appendage"
I'm guessing this guy (or girl) is a Pastafarian.
I finished my most recent draft of my book, Eric Ortega and the Demon Wind. Yea for me! I'm working with someone on the query and have sent the book out to CPs. Now I wait.

And while I'm waiting, I browse the internet day and night - leading to fun discoveries like this post about gorgeous libraries. This one about the Prague library. And this one about beauteous bookstores.

Which lead me to surf the Creative Commons for awesome photos of some of these libraries. I picked one library and one bookstore so this post doesn't get ridiculously long.

Not sure why, but I was drawn to is the Austrian National Library in Vienna:

Austrian National Library, fresco
Photo by Nicolas Emmanuel-Emile
The people in the fresco look like they're going to fall down on your head while you're picking out a book. One would think they'd behave better when wearing dresses and toga-type apparel. Frankly, I'm surprised you can't see up their skirts.

Austrian National Library, Vienna
Photo by Patrick Theiner
Austrian National Library, Vienna
Photo by András Fülöp
I get the feeling this statue is shushing an overly rambunctious library patron. Obviously the inside is quite grand. The outside is rather impressive too:

exterior Austrian National Library, Vienna
Photo by Crash Test Mike
You should definitely take a look at those posts I linked to because there are some seriously amazing looking libraries out in the world. For my choice of bookstore, I picked one that's got a seriously awesome cramped and cozy vibe going on: Shakespeare and Company, located in the Latin Quarter of Paris.

Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Paris, exterior
Photo by Michelle Muirhead
crammed bookshelves, Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Paris
Photo by Alexandre Duret-Lutz
books galore, Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Paris
Photo by Adams K.

And, just for fun, here's a link to an article written on an old interview with J.R.R. Tolkien. It's easy to forget that some of our classic writers were alive not that long ago.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I Went To The Zoo!

slightly grumpy tortoise
The tortoise was my favorite. You'll be treated to two photos of him (her?).
He says hello (rather grumpily).

With my book, I got some feedback, and I've been adding tension and chopping away any expendable slow bits I can bear to part with. I'm kind of busy these days, but I always take at least half an hour a day to work on my book. On the weekends, I set aside more time. However, none of that is nearly as cool as my pictures from the zoo!

lions, Philadelphia zoo

tiger, Philadelphia zoo
And Tigers

red panda, Philadelphia zoo
And bears, oh my!
(Red pandas count, right?)

Now, I certainly enjoyed the zoo, but if I'm perfectly honest, this little bugger (my nephew) was the real reason for the trip. Mom & Dad went along too. His favorite part was definitely the gorilla.
boy and gorilla

 My favorite part (other than the tortoises, which were super cool but not exactly exciting) was when the tiger strutted about over our heads:
tiger pacing overhead

Flamingo, Philadelphia zoo
The flamingos were quite beautiful.
Glad the zoo gives them the synthetic canthaxanthin they need to stay pink.

And of course, last but not least, the tortoise (again):
tortoise in water

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Belated Post: Better Than Burnt Toast

moon over Badlands
One of my fav photos I took in the Badlands, SD

As I settled down in my bed for the night, I gave a great start
And a small fart
And said, "Oh, my."

I had realized, you see, that I forgot to post!
And that my fart smelled gross.
I was quite sad with myself.

"I must make amends!" I declared.
So as my bedroom aired,
I typed up a poem and patted my gnome and then put myself back to bed.

ragged sunflower
Same trip. There's something endearing about this raggedy flower.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Out And About Part II: The Sarah-ing

Since my phone was being argumentative last week, I figured I'd show you my photos of the Penn State's Arboretum this week.

Disclaimer: These photos are phone quality and do not do the place justice. I was surprised by how extensive the garden was. Also - late fall isn't exactly prime flower viewing time. Obviously Penn State really needs to work on developing some magical, all-weather flowers, but until then . . . 

Penn State Arboretum sunflowers
There were some very pretty and bushy yellow flowers.
I feel like these were called willow sunflowers, but I might be completely wrong.

Penn State Arboretum pumpkins
TONS of pumpkins/squashes/gourds all about.

To be perfectly honest, I was surprised college students didn't seem to be stealing them. I was ever so slightly tempted to snag one, but of course I did not. That would have been unethical. (Seriously, I didn't.)

Penn State Arboretum dead flowers
Some of the half dead flowers were quite picturesque.

Penn State Arboretum dead plants
Others were not.

There you have it, folks. My tour of the Penn State Arboretum. The water lilies that I included in my last post (aka, of other peoples' photos) were all closed up for the night because I got there just as the sun was starting to go down. I was a bit sad about that.

Maybe some year I'll actually make it to the Arboretum during spring or summer when things are really in bloom.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Out and About

I'm off at a training for work this week. I had to abandon my husband for hotel living and excellent food. I wanted to show off some photos I took, but my phone is being a brat (it doesn't take kindly to travel, apparently). Instead, here's other peoples' photos of the same place:

water lily
Photo by Cuizoo
Only when I visited, the water lilies were all closed up.

Photo by Meghin Moore
Lots o' pumpkins. Very seasonal. Much festive.

Penn State Arboretum
Photo by Cuizoo
The flowers were much more dead when I saw them.
Apparently late fall isn't really the best time of year for flowers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Last Minute Post

Ten minutes before I left for work, I realized, "I forgot about my blog!"

And so this week you get a gorgeous picture of Iceland.

Photo by Moyan Brenn

I really want to visit Iceland.