Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Working on your Elevator Pitch

David B. Coe posted a great article yesterday on MagicWords.net  about how to whittle down your book's summary into an effective quick-pitch. Be sure to check it out.

Here's what I came up with:

“When an oppressed populace transforms the gladiator-slave Sol into a symbol of defiance, the Empire sends its most ruthless assassin to end the insurgence. Sol’s only chance is to do what no slave has ever done: escape the coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.”

What do you think?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

This years Oscars were a little lame. Only 2 songs nominated for Best Original Song?  Seriously? And I think most folks will admit that the Best Picture category was lackluster at best. Besides Billy Crystal (who I love) there just wasn't much to get excited about. That is UNLESS you love animated shorts, which I do.

This years very deserving winner in the Best Animated Short category was "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore". This beautifully animated story stole my heart. It's delightful story is something anyone can appreciate but it's something especially special if you're a writer. I've never seen anything that so completely captures the feeling of why writers write. It's wonderful! It made me cry!

Take 15 minutes and check it out.

You won't regret it!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Anne McCaffrey, Remembering the Dragon Lady

I didn't know.

I feel bad about it but I simply didn't know. I've had my head buried in the sand that is graduate school and I've only recently decided that, for my own sanity, I have to peak out on occasion to keep an eye on my other passions, like books and writing. That's the reason I didn't know that one of my favorite authors of all time, a woman whose books introduced me to fantasy and inspired me to write, a wonderful writer who created one of the richest fantasy worlds of all time, Ms. Anne McCaffrey, The Dragon Lady, passed away last November.

I'd like to share with you a letter I wrote Ms. McCaffrey in August 2011, less than 4 months before her passing. I have no idea whether she ever read it.

Dear Ms. McCaffrey,

One summer morning when I was in my early teens, I was tasked by my parents with cleaning out our storage shed.  While rummaging through boxes I happened to come across one containing my dad’s science-fiction book collection.  More because of the cover art than anything else, I grabbed a dusty faded paperback with a dragon on the cover.  I then spent the rest of the day shirking my duties while sitting propped up against the shady side of the shed, a copy of Dragonflight in hand. If memory serves, the only thing that eventually broke the book’s hold on my imagination were my mom’s repeated calls to come to dinner.  Over the following few years I read the entire Pern series, loving every book.

I’m now almost thirty and I’ve gone back to school to get my graduate degree. While staying in a remote cabin to conduct my research, I came across another faded old copy of Dragonflight that a previous resident had left behind.  I usually don’t re-read books (there are so many good books out there that I haven’t read yet) but I’d already burned through the few I had brought so I decided to break custom.  I can sincerely say that I’m very glad I did.  I just finished re-reading the original trilogy and I must say that, having become an aspiring writer since the first time I read the series, I now have an even deeper appreciation for the skill in which you brought Pern and its inhabitants to life.  I don’t think I’ve ever read an author who is better able to inspire such love, hate, passion, or trust for his or her characters.

This is the first piece of fan mail that I have ever written but I felt it important to say that I look up to you as a writer.  Put simply, you inspire me.  

Thank you for giving us Pern.

Sincerely yours,
Adam Gaylord

As I said, I have no idea if she ever read it but hopefully, in sharing it with you, I'm helping her memory live on in some small way. 

Thank you Dragon Lady. You will be missed.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Shout Out Friday

To end the work week I'd like to give a couple shouts to two fellow writers/bloggers who have been awesome enough to help me out with my query letter. Check out their blogs and give them some love!

Feaky Snucker is the alias of a Canadian writer, blogger, singer who has great edgy writing blog where she unashamedly uses big words and bad words. She's awesome.

David Powers King is a fantasy author with a popular writing blog that just passed the 600 follower mark. Congratulations David!

I also want to want to make folks aware of a couple writing contest that are great for getting your creative juices flowing:

Writers Digest has a very cool Your Story Competition where you work from a prompt (a picture, a sentence, a list of words) to create part of or all of a story. These prompts come out on an irregular basis but there's one out right now that has a deadline of April 10th so get yours in. Plus it's free!

My other favorite ongoing contest is the Writers Weekly 24-hour Short Story Competition. These are held on a quarterly basis and, as the name suggests, writers are given just 24-hours to come up with a short story based on a prompt. The Spring 2012 contest is coming up April 28th and registration is limited to the first 500 people. It's only $5 and it's a ton of fun.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Please Critique My Query Letter!

I'm gonna do something crazy. I'm going post the query letter I've been working on for my fantasy manuscript. I know this blog doesn't get a lot of traffic (yet) but hopefully a few of you will take the time to give me a little constructive criticism. Once I'm done with my final manuscript revisions (soon hopefully) I'll submit the query to the all powerful Query Shark and maybe Workshop Wednesdays at BookEnds, LLC. but for now I'm going to throw it onto my own humble little blog. 

Ok, here it goes:

Dear Properly Spelled Agent's Name

In the heart of the tyrannical Astrolian Empire, deep in the bowels of the Coliseum, the orphan Sol is raised by a makeshift family of guards and fellow slaves to become the most famed gladiator in all the land.  With his fighting partner, a yeti-like giant from the frozen south, Sol must battle cunning warriors and fantastic beasts to delight the crowd and stay alive. 

When a captured member of the Resistance is forced into Sol’s cell as a sex-prize, her words of defiance compel Sol to question his long-accepted fate as a slave.  Outside the stadium, an unknown bard’s tales transform Sol into a revolutionary folk hero and inspire an oppressed populace.  The Empire decides that the fighter must fall and Astrolia’s most ruthless assassin is tasked with Sol’s vilification and eventual demise. Sol’s only hope is to rely on friends, new and old, in order to do what no slave has ever done: escape from the coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.

SOL OF A GLADIATOR is a fantasy novel complete at 83,000 words. I am seeking your representation because I love your blog. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Adam Gaylord

Contact info 

So, what do you think? Is it ready? Is it a flop? What needs work? Where am I? AHHHHHH!!!!

Thank you very much for your help.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Should Writers Post Manuscript Pages on their Blogs?

Google has failed me.

Usually I just type in a question and the all-powerful Google tells me the answers. Since I've been trying to figure out whether I should post the first few pages of my manuscript on this blog, I asked the Google but to no avail. I'm sure that somewhere in the infinite blogoverse there is the perfect post telling me what to do but for now all I've been able to find are clues. For example, the awesomely cool Query Shark commented way back in 2008 that:

"If an agent doesn't ask for pages, or specifically says not to send them, I do like the idea of a blog or a website with pages available. That's a good idea. I've actually started looking at some of those."

I'm pretty much in the do-whatever-the-Query-Shark-says camp but I wish there was something out there a little more definitive. Have you seen anything? Should I grow a pair and post some pages? Throw me a bone!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Picking a Genre

Earlier in the week I posted how it seems that many more writing oriented websites are written by women than men. Trolling around the writing blogoverse I've also noticed that there seems to be a heck of a lot of writers who call their work "young adult". This got me thinking about a few posts I've read recently that discuss what constitutes young adult fiction, including a post by our friends at BookEnds, LLC.

Check out the Genre Map at Book Country
Check out the Genre Map at Book Country
Personally, I've always thought that what defines a genre is composed of two parts, what you're writing and who you're writing it for. Young adult happens to be one of the genres that's defined mostly by target audience. It's true that the protagonists are usually under 20 y.o. but there are plenty of works outside the genre that fit that criterion. That's quite a bit different than science fiction or fantasy which are defined almost entirely by certain plot elements. Then there are the huge anomalous genres like "commercial fiction" which seems to be made of any book that has a chance of selling to a broad audience base.

I call the manuscript I'm currently working on "fantasy". That seems easy enough but then there are at least 12 sub-genres that many agents use to specify what kind of fantasy manuscripts they're interested in. Mine isn't urban fantasy (having classic fantasy plot elements and characters but set in an actual modern setting) or dark fantasy (just like it sounds) but instead probably falls into the realm of epic fantasy (aka high fantasy), which is cool but is also sound just a little pompous if you ask me.

What do you call your story?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sex Bias in Reading

In putting together this blog I got to thinking about who my favorite authors are. I love fantasy so it's no surprise that names like Anne McCaffrey, Melanie Rawn, and C.S. Friedman come to mind. I also love classic literature including works by Betty Smith and Jane Austen. And when you scan by bookshelf for books centered around my chosen profession in the natural sciences you'll find names like Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, and Temple Grandin. Picking up on a theme yet?

It turns out, all things being equal I tend to gravitate toward female authors. I have no idea why this is. I don't actively seek out women writers nor do I avoid their male counterparts. I certainly don't scan the shelves at the book store looking for feminine names. Oddly enough, I didn't even know C.S. Friedman (author of The Coldfire Trilogy) was a woman until partway through the 3rd book! Even the blogs that I have listed here are (at this point) all written by women. To have such a noticeable skew to a sex ratio seems kinda strange. But what can I say...I love the ladies.

How about you? Have you noticed any gender preference in your reading?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Oregon Wildlife Society Conference

I just got back from 3 days of talks and presentations at the Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society annual meeting held on the Oregon coast. There were some very interesting talks this year and I learned a ton. While I was there, I realized that this was my 5th or 6th professional conference but that I've never been to a writing conference. At professional conferences there are always a few big names that always have a crowd around them. College undergrads pester them for advice and clamor for face time with someone who could potentially make or break their career. I imagine that at a writing conference I would take the role of an attention starved undergrad, hoping an established author or agent might throw me a crumb!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Mr. Charles Dickens

After almost two years of inactivity I’m dusting off this old blog to give it another try. Why? Apparently, if you want to be a published writer you need to have a blog. So here we go!

And what better way to start a revamped writing blog than on the 200th birthday of Mr. Charles Dickens. Born on this day in 1812, Dickens is one of the most beloved writers in history. His best known work, A Christmas Carol, has probably been redone, remade, and re-envisioned more than any other story this side of Shakespeare. To create something so beloved, that continues to move people nearly two centuries later, it’s what every writer dreams of.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known. “ 
-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities