Monday, August 8, 2011

The Hook for Your Book Contest


My BFF, Lisa L. Regan, was approached last week by former journalist and fellow blogger, Melodie Wright over at Forever Rewrighting to give an interview for her How I Snagged My Agent feature. She was quite flattered and readily agreed because she thinks her feature is a great idea. You should check out the last interview with YA author, Becky Wallace. Her blog has a lot of great stuff on it so check it out!

Together with the interview, they are going to be having a Hook for Your Book contest which will be judged by Lisa’s agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency.

So here are the particulars:

To Enter:

You must be a follower of
 Lisa’s blog and provide a link to either a tweet or a blog post spreading the word about this contest.

You must have a completed novel. Your novel MUST be finished to enter this contest.

Write a 50 word paragraph that is the hook for your book. Basically pitch your book in fifty words.

Post your 50 word pitch in the comments section of
Lisa’s blog with a TITLE and your contact info before August 22nd.

If I were going to enter (alas, for obvious reasons, I cannot), mine would look like this:

The Mistaken

Vengeance tastes sweet when Skylar Karras pledges his wife's killer to sex-traffickers in the Russian Mafia.  In exchange for the woman, they’ll let his brother leave the business for good.  But when Sky mistakenly targets the wrong woman, he’s forced to protect them all from the very enemy he's unleashed.

Nancy S. Thompson
Email:  acadia1997@msn.com

Jeanie will choose three finalists. They will be announced on both
Lisa’s and Melodies’s blogs on August 29, 2011.

The finalists will send her a synopsis of their book as well as their full manuscript. From those three finalists, Jeanie will choose one manuscript and that manuscript will get a full read and a possible contract with Sullivan Maxx.

Please spread the word. This is a great opportunity for writers looking for an agent. You’ve got till August 22nd. If you have any questions please post them in Lisa’s comments or email her directly at duchessmalfi@hotmail.com.

Oh and Lisa’s interview will be up on Melodie’s blog on August 12, 2011.




And one last thing:  If you need cheering up in light of the downgrading of the US government’s AAA credit rating and subsequent slide of the stock market, please venture over to Penwasser Place.  He’ll get you rolling on the floor with laughter.  


Friday, August 5, 2011

Panty Meme (WTF?)


One of my dearest and earliest followers, Laila Knight, over at the Untroubled Kingdom of Laila Knight, has thrown me a…uh…challenge, of sorts.  Apparently, it’s Meme Week in the blogosphere.  Well, not only did I not know this, I didn’t even know what a meme was.  I had to ask my sixteen-year-old son.  He said it’s something that people do, a behavior, that’s passed from person to person.  Yeah, okay, that’s clear as mud, but whatever.  I’m an elder idiot, so I’ll just follow the rules and answer the questions, and boy, are they doozies.  Here we go:

1. What do you call your panties / underwear / undergarments? Do you have any commonly used nicknames for them?

Do people really have nicknames for their underwear?  Well, that’s what I call mine, underwear.  And I must say that I’ve always hated that word “panties.”  Eeesh.  It’s just so creepy.  Weird, I know.  I couldn’t even use the term in my book.  I used undergarments since it was spoken by a man. 

2. Have you ever had that supposedly common dream of being in a crowded place in only your underwear?

No, not in my underwear.  For whatever reason, I’m almost always buck nekkid.  And, you know what?  I don’t really seem to give a damn.  So what the heck does that say about me? 

3. What is the worst thing you can think of to make panties out of?

Red meat.  Have you seen any of those Lady Gaga outfits?  Yeah, she wears red meat.  So gross!

4. If you were a pair of panties, what color would you be, and WHY?

Oh, that’s easy.  Black!  It’s such a sexy, sultry color and makes me look thinner.  And that’s always a very good thing!

5. Have you ever thrown your panties/underwear at a rock star or other celebrity? If so, which one(s)? If not, which one(s) WOULD you throw your panties/underwear at, given the opportunity?

I’ve never understood why women do this.  Why would a man you did not know want your underwear?  And why would you want a strange man to have your underwear?  Again, that’s kind of gross.  Besides, at my age, after bearing two children naturally…uh…yeah…nobody would want my underwear.  Even I don’t want them. Blech!   

6. You’re out of clean panties. What do you do?

Well, I have OCD so I’d never be out of clean underwear, but if I were, I’d be sticking those little pads all over my pants.

7. Are you old enough to remember Underoos? If so, did you have any? Which ones?

I’m old enough to remember just about everything, so yes, but I thought those were mostly for boys.  Anyway, my mother never would have bought something like that for me.  I was Catholic, for Christ’s sake. 

8. If you could have any message printed on your panties, what would it be?

Oh, God, I could be really bad here, but I’ll be tame and say “Just Do It”

9. How many bloggers does it take to put panties on a goat?

(God, who thinks up this stuff?)  Well, my answer would be 153.  That’s one to write the instructions, one to critique, another to query, and 150 to reject.  

So now I guess I it’s my turn to pass along the torch.  Normally, the first people I would tag would be Lisa Regan and Bryce Daniels, but they’ve already received the honor from the other person I’d normally tag, Laila Knight, so I’m going out on a limb and selecting a few of my other followers because reading about their personal panty preferences will certainly help me get to know them better.

  1.  Al Penwasser at Penwasser’s Place because he’s already the funniest guy I know so I can’t wait to read what his witty responses will be.  Plus, he went above and beyond when he posted about receiving the Liebster Blog Award from me.  If you want to laugh, go check out Al.

  1. Tara Rendall at More Than Fiction because she and I have become good friends and good friends always embarrass each other.

  1. Alex J. Cavanaugh at Alex J. Cavanaugh because he’s so cool and hip and smart and is always there for me.

  1. L.G. Smith at Bards and Prophets because I want to hear what a real lady has to say.

  1. Donna K. Weaver at Weaving a Tale or Two because, like Alex, she’s always there for me and I really want to get to know her…uh…panties (ugh) a little better.

There is one more I’d love to hear from.  She’s my new friend, Jenny Hillier at Jennifer Hillier, The Serial Killer Files.  I’m almost afraid to ask because she’s a real life, bonafide published author and has to protect her image.  But she’s also witty and funny, so I’d love to see what she comes up with.

So, my friends, here’s your chance to unbunch those panties (ugh again) and have a little fun. 





Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hey You, Over Here, Look At Me!


            I’ve been crazy busy for the last week and am waaaay behind in my blogging duties, both in reading and in writing, but it hasn’t been from a lack of desire.  I’ve actually been quite anxious to make today’s post since I was nominated for The Liebster Blog Award by not one follower, but by three!    

  
The first came in last Friday by the lovely L.G. Smith over at Bards and Prophets, a delightful blog I’ve been following for quite some time now.  The second nod came on Saturday from my new friend, Robin Weeks, a talented writer I met during last month’s Gearin’Up To Get an Agent Blogfest.  She critiqued my query and I was BLOWN AWAY by her skills!  And the last one was from one of my newest followers, Jessie Humphries over at  B-Word
The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. 

The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

            I love the idea of this award because it’s supposed to increase the traffic on your blog and hopefully garner more followers.  So here are my nominations for The Liebster Blog Award:

Lisa L. Regan – I have countless reasons to nominate Lisa.  She’s my best friend and writing soul mate, the best critique partner anyone could ever want, and she’s written two fantastic books, both out on submission with all the major publishers.  This girl is crazy talented.  And she is brand-spanking new to Blogger, so she could use your support.  Do yourself a favor and check out her blog.

Al Penwasser – I don’t know Al well personally, but his blog is one of the funniest ones out there.  I visit Al when I need a good laugh and smack upside the head to make me take life a little less seriously.  His insights are both touching and hilarious.  So if you ever need cheering up, go see Al. 

Laila Knight  - Laila, one of my earliest followers, is a precious jewel.  She’s a talented writer, she’s funny, quirky and posts everyday.  Yes, everyday!  I don’t know how she does it, but everyday she offers her unique perspective on new topics, mostly about writing and sometimes about sexy loves scenes.  Very steamy.  Very hot!  That’s my Laila!

 Lora Rivera  - I haven’t known Lora for very long.  She’s another terrific writer I met during my last blogfest.  Her blog is filled with all things writing which I love, love, love.  Mostly, I admire her talent.  She was one of my finalists as a judge in last month’s blogfest.  The first 200 words of her novel were incredible and I just wanted to keep reading.

 Jeff King  - I love Jeff’s blog because I can exactly relate to where he is in his writing career and all the questions and turmoil he experiences as he journeys toward publication.  And he is one of those followers who truly follows and comments on my inane posts.  He is every blogger’s dream follower, so do your self a favor and follow him.

And for an Honorable Mention:  Tara  at Much Ado About Writing - I love this girlie.  I met her through Rachelle Gardner's blog some months ago and she's become quite a good friend to me.  Now, she doesn't post very often, but I love reading when she does post, and I think if she had more followers, she'd feel compelled to grace us with her wisdom.  So please, head on over to Tara's and follow, if for no other reason than I'd like for her to write more often.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My First-Ever Book Review: CREEP


             I am going to attempt something I’ve never done before:  A book review.  Now, I have no skill in this department whatsoever, but what I lack in aptitude, I think I more than make up for with enthusiasm.
As an avid reader, I am constantly on the prowl for the next novel that will truly grab and shake me to my roots, something so good, I simply cannot put it down.  I rarely come across books that hit me on a visceral level and stay with me for long periods of time.  I think the last time a book affected me this way, I was reading my friend, Lisa Regan’s, book, Finding Claire Fletcher, but until some wise publisher out there picks it up, most of you will never know. 
I can, however, share a book with you that everyone has access to because Jennifer Hillier’s debut novel, Creep, is now widely available.  I won a copy of this book and Jennifer was kind and gracious enough to send me one personally signed, something I will always treasure.  I was very anxious to get started and did a happy dance when it finally arrived.  And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. 
In case you haven’t had the pleasure, here is the inside jacket copy:

IF HE CAN'T HAVE HER . . .

Dr. Sheila Tao is a professor of psychology. An expert in human behavior. And when she began an affair with sexy, charming graduate student Ethan Wolfe, she knew she was playing with fire. Consumed by lust when they were together, riddled with guilt when they weren't, she knows the three-month fling with her teaching assistant has to end. After all, she's engaged to a kind and loving investment banker who adores her, and she's taking control of her life. But when she attempts to end the affair, Ethan Wolfe won't let her walk away.

. . . NOBODY ELSE CAN.

Ethan has plans for Sheila, plans that involve posting a sex video that would surely get her fired and destroy her prestigious career. Plans to make her pay for rejecting him. And as she attempts to counter his every threatening move without her colleagues or her fiancĂ© discovering her most intimate secrets, a shattering crime rocks Puget Sound State University: a female student, a star athlete, is found stabbed to death. Someone is raising the stakes of violence, sex, and blackmail…and before she knows it, Sheila is caught in a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with the lover she couldn't resist—who is now the monster who won't let her go.

*

            Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?  Well, it is.  Very much so.  I love a good villain, probably more than the average protagonist.  I think they’re juicy and fascination, and Hillier’s Ethan did not disappoint.  From an older woman’s perspective, I found it intriguing that the nearly forty-year-old protagonist, Sheila, has a torrid affair with a hot twenty-something collegiate.  (Hey, one can dream, right?)  And I didn’t find fault that he reacted badly when Sheila dumps him after getting engaged to someone else.  But Ethan is a very bad boy and just can’t handle the rejection.  So he decides to get even.  And things heat way, way up.
I don’t want to give anything away because it’s the not-knowing-what-comes-next that kept me up way past my bedtime and sitting inside on the first beautifully sunny, warm day Seattle has seen is nearly a year.  Creep is loaded with sexual tension that grips and holds you in place, yet it is masterfully executed without being crass.  It’s both scary and sexy.  So unsettling and terrifying.  And it’s a thrill ride right up until the very surprising end.
You will definitely not regret picking this book up, except for the fact that once you do, you won’t be able to put it down.  So make sure you have a good long day to put everything else aside.           
      
         

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Do You Know, I'm a Judge!



I had planned on making a standard post today, but I will have to put it off while I participate in week 4 of Deana Barnhart's  Gearin' Up To Get An Agent Blogfest.  This week is the First 200 Words Novel Critique and Contest, but instead of being a regular participant, I am a judge!  How cool is that?  Pretty cool, I think.

So while I thought to take the week off from reading then commenting on the first 200 words of 40 different participating novelists, now I am  reading and judging those critical first words.  I don't really feel worthy, but I will give it my best shot.  And how exciting to get a first glimpse at some extraordinary novels!  

Friday, July 22, 2011

CREEP



            Few people know this, but last Monday, I won a copy of Jennifer Hillier’s just-released debut novel, Creep.  I was ecstatic when I found out.  I mean, it’s always cool to win a little something, but I’d been hearing about this book all over the place, so I was very excited to be in on the action.  All my Blogger friends were reading it and it was getting fabulous reviews.  I even read the first chapter while standing in Barnes & Noble last Friday.
Alas, though I wanted to buy it, I couldn’t afford it right then as I was burning a hole in my wallet buying my son books on SAT prep, finding college financing and writing the perfect college essay.  I was disappointed because I found that first chapter thrilling.  The book was right up my alley, a taut thriller with a sexual edginess that made it hard to put back on the shelf.  But I knew I would buy it soon.  I just had to be patient.
So, wahoo…YAY ME!  I actually WON a copy of Creep!  


I waited as patiently as I could and just this morning, it arrived in the mail.  Now, I haven’t had the time to get too far yet, only 67 pages, up to chapter 8, but what I’ve read is fantastic!  I love that it’s set in Seattle, my backyard.  I’m kind of pissed though that I can’t just burn my whole day away reading.  The tension is just delicious!  But I have the whole weekend even though this is supposed to be the first really sunny, warm weekend so far for Seattle this summer.  But this book is calling my name and I simply cannot ignore it. 
So, thanks so very much, Jennifer!  We have a date this weekend!!               

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Dance Time!

Wahoo!


I'm a finalist in
Query Critique Contest

I'm very excited, though I realize after reading all the other revised queries that I have very little hope in winning, but like they say:  It's great just to be nominated!  

I would like this opportunity to thank everyone
who helped whip my query into better shape, most especially 
You, Ms. Weeks, are a godsend, not to mention a freakin' anomaly.
Who can whip out queries like that, I ask you?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gearin' Up to Get an Agent BlogFest: Query Critique Contest



Okay Friends, Followers and Readers extraordinaire,
I am participating in week 3 of

Query Critique Contest

In this week’s installment, participants will be putting their query up on their blog so that they may receive feedback from other participants and anyone else who might want to share their two cents.  I’m not sure that I’m ready yet, but here it goes.     

Dear Ms. Agent-of-my-Dreams:

I am seeking representation for THE MISTAKEN, a psychological thriller of 91,000 words. Told from alternating perspectives, it is the story of a vengeful man struggling to save an innocent woman from the ruthless men he’s mistakenly set upon her.   

Skylar Karras is no longer an honorable man.  Gone is the doting husband, the sibling who never failed to bail his brother, Nick, out of trouble.  In his place is a different man, one broken by grief, blinded by rage and consumed with vengeance.  His target is a stranger, the woman responsible for the death of his pregnant wife.  He doesn’t know her, but he’ll find her, and when he does, he will make her pay.  But to do so, Sky must get into bed with Nick’s thug associates in San Francisco’s Russian mafia.  They’re experts in human trafficking and Nick’s plan offers Sky the perfect solution: his fill of sweet revenge and the chance to free his brother from the Russian’s control.  But as he stumbles forward in a numbing haze of alcohol, Sky mistakes the wrong woman for his intended victim, sending all his plans straight to hell.

With his eyes made clear by the stark reality of his mistake, Sky is driven, compelled by remorse and a relentless sense of guilt to make amends and protect Hannah Maguire, the innocent woman whose life he has derailed.  He vows to keep her safe and out of the hands of the Russians, but they’re holding Nick as leverage to force Sky to complete their deal and turn over the girl.  It’s a race against the clock as Sky strives to be the man he used to be, risking all to defend Hannah’s life and secure Nick’s freedom.  But desperation leads him to a place darker than he ever imagined and he simply can’t do it all: save the girl, his brother, and his own soul.  One of them must make the ultimate sacrifice. 

Charged with the raw emotions of human loss and regret, I believe my novel would appeal to fans of Greg Iles’s Turning Angel, James Scott Bell’s Try Dying, Neil Cross’s Burial and even Alexandre Dumas’ classic, The Count of Monte Cristo.

I am an interior designer living in Sammamish, Washington with my husband, teenaged son and two singing sled dogs.  Though I no longer have ties with anyone in San Francisco’s Russian underworld, I have loosely based my novel on villains and events from my past.

My research has unveiled your interest in thrillers.  I have included the first five pages within the body of this email.  I would be happy to provide a full synopsis, additional chapters, or the complete manuscript.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


Best Regards,
Nancy S. Thompson
(Personal info redacted)

So what do you think?  (This is me biting my finger nails!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stories Don't Happen in a Vacuum


            I knew I would have to come up with something to post about today, but when I woke up, I still hadn’t thought of anything new, that is until I read today’s post at BookEnds Lit Agency.  Today is Workshop Wednesday at BookEnds, the day agent Jessica Faust posts one of the queries she’s received for critiquing, kind of like Janet Reid does at Query Shark.
I love query critiques.  I think it is the single most effective way to know what does and doesn’t work in a query.  Now, I don’t always agree with Ms. Faust’s opinion.  Case in point, a few weeks ago, she critiqued this query and loved it.  I thought the query was vague, at best, and had many of the qualities that agents advise writers not to include.  But she loved the “southern rhythm” of the voice.  Yeah, I didn’t get that at all and I lived in the south for awhile, but whatever, just like books, it’s subjective and if she liked it then kudos to the author.  Well done!
But this week’s critique struck a nerve with me because Ms. Faust alluded to something I hear over and over again when agents are critiquing queries.  After reading the first two paragraphs of the query, she more or less said, this is all backstory; the real story starts here.  In other words, cut all this crap out and get to the meat of the story.  While I agree the query needs a lot of work, I find issue with the fact that the agent automatically thinks the first two-thirds of the query, and therefore the book, is all backstory. 
In my opinion, this is the story, at least part of it.  It is how the author wrote it to give it structure and body, a reference point from which to contrast the conflict.  It bothers me that the agent thinks that everything that came before what she considers the core of the story is somehow irrelevant or that the story goes off track.  Yes, the author should have written the query differently to show the progression of the story and the importance of that progression. 
She implied subtly that the story might be about something else, or perhaps that was just the agent inferring that idea, but even still, that doesn’t mean all those points the writer thought important enough to include in her query are not crucial to the story.  Some of the commenters, in fact, seemed very interested in the writer’s story, calling out the fact that those first two paragraphs were simply acts one and two.
My point is that agents toss aside stories based on assumptions that the reader doesn’t want to know all that happened before, that they simply want to get to the meat of the story.  Well, okay, I don’t need to know everything that happened to the nineteen-year-old MC during her first seventeen or eighteen years unless it’s relevant to the story, but from age nineteen on, all the things that happen to her forge her into the woman she becomes and adds dimension to her reasoning, to how she handles the conflict.  Stories don’t happen in a vacuum.  We need to care about the protagonist and their journey and we do this through knowing and understanding their history. 
I often wonder why everyone is always in such a hurry to get to the end.  It’s all about instant gratification so we can move on to the next thing.  Why not savor the time spent with a story and let yourself get immersed in the simmering heat of the layers as they buildup?  I’m not saying that everything that the query writer put in her query is essential.  Personally, it comes off more like historical romance, not historical fiction, and so definitely not my thing, but I get that those details are important to understanding why there even is a conflict. 
Could you imagine if Winston Groom had to query Forrest Gump in today’s market?  Some agents would likely say to cut all that backstory about Forrest as a small child or in high school, but it is those details in the early chapters that show how Forrest changes later in life, how he manages to deal with all the drama that’s thrown his way.  How can we know if we weren’t privy to the backstory?
All this relates to me personally because last week I rewrote my query, for what must be the fifteenth time, based on advice from Stephanie DeVita in her post last week titled Slow Summer, where she says, In most of the queries that I read, the writer isn’t giving me the most thrilling aspect of their book, the crucial element that should make me desperate to ask for more pages. In other cases, it’s unclear if that pivotal element is even there.” 
So I cut all the “backstory” out of my query and just alluded to it in the second line, then got right into the major point of the conflict.  But now I worry that any agent who requests pages will think the first third of my novel is all backstory when, in fact, it is the story, or part of it anyway.  Since the story is all about a man who changes, who becomes a different man due to some pretty terrible things that happen to him, that first third of the book is the setup.  It determines what he was like at first and how those events twisted him into a different man, made him act a certain way and do that one awful thing that drives the story.  The rest of the book is how he deals with the repercussions of those decisions.  Why would any reader care about how he changed and what he did if they didn’t know his “backstory?”
And by the way, I hate that word, backstory.  It makes it feel like all those early words are somehow illegitimate, a bastard to be cast aside.  Yes, it matters how that information is presented, that we feel it is part of the actual story and not simply dumped there in a lazy attempt to give context, but I like to think of it as the ice cream in my sundae.  It’s all those yummy bits on top that make it special, but you can’t just eat the yummy bits.  You have to savor it properly with the ice cream set below.  Otherwise, it’s not a sundae.