Monday, April 25, 2011

My News: I Have an AGENT!

WooHOOOO! Snoooopy dance! Colorful confetti and neon streamers falling from the sky! An overabundance of exclamation marks!!!

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system (sorta), I can be more professional. Ahem.

I am pleased to announce that I am now represented by the fantastic Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency!



Kelly has offered me agent representation based on my YA light sci-fi novel, SHAPERS.

GETTING THERE
Some stats. However, keep in mind that every writer's journey is different, some longer and some shorter.

1. SHAPERS is the 14th novel I've written.
2. I've logged a total of 10 years of writing. I wrote for 8 years in the 1990s, stopped for 10 years while being a single working mother, and started up again in 2009.
3. I've racked up over 350 rejection letters. I've lost count, really. *shrug*
4. This summer I experimented with a print-on-demand book rather than shelving it, but being traditionally published was always my primary goal.
5. I began querying SHAPERS in June 2010. I received 10 rejections and 3 requests for fulls.
6. I initially met Kelly at an SCBWI Oregon retreat (2010), where she critiqued a sample chapter of SHAPERS, along with a synopsis.

I look forward to working with Kelly and Andrea Brown Literary, working on revising the novel for publication. She is personable as well as knowledgeable!

YOUR TURN
How long have you been writing?
How's your rejection slip collection coming along?
Where are you in the journey to publication--writing, editing, querying, agented, on submission, awaiting publication release date, or published?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Page Critique: DAYBIRD

Today's post features a first-page, fantasy-novel excerpt sent to me for critique.
Yes, these can be anonymous! Instructions how to be a helpful guinea pig on sidebar.

NOTE!! Check out sidebar link for full manuscript giveaway by editor/author Deborah Halverson! Enter by April 21!


THE EXCERPT
DayBird

How was a Niite Owl supposed to hunt a Day Bird? And when would she sleep? But Zithre had warned her – at all cost hunt the Lady. Even if Lady became aware of her presence, she would just have to be more careful. Lia shivered and frowned at the wind. Crazy mission. The Old Life was better, before she met Zithre and before the wind had become perilous and the omens meant something. How could you stop a prophecy anyway? It never worked in the human’s stories. The foe always got carried away and brought the hero to their castle and locked them away, and then since the hero was close by, they would just conquer the enemy right there.

It was the stupidest thing she had been asked to do yet, much worse than fetching those poor men for Zithre to feed upon… yet more unnerving and even more wrong. Probably since the weight of this mission was of dire need to Zithre and because it all fell upon Lia to do it. And if she screwed this one up… No more meals until payment had been exacted. Lia coughed. Zithre’s payment was a nasty thing, indeed.

Oh, well. “Might get along now, better for me to get along now,” Lia sung softly to herself, and took off from the branch she had been resting upon. The wind stung a little, but felt good on her chest and face. Flying was a beauty. At least Zithre needed her this way – with wings. She would have eventually killed herself had she been turned all the way human.


THE CRITIQUE

First Lines
The first paragraph may be a bit long for an opening, although it may be more acceptable since this is fantasy. Personally, I'd start a new paragraph with "Lia shivered…"

Grammar and Sentence Clarity
1. The pronouns "their/them/they" should be "his/him/he" to match "foe," which is singular: The foe always got carried away and brought the hero to their castle and locked them away, and then since the hero was close by, they would just conquer the enemy right there.
2. Same sentence: possible confusion between "foe" and "enemy." Since the foe is called "the enemy" at the end of the sentence, the reader may not be 100% certain it's the same thing.
3. I'm not sure "payment" is the right word in Zithre’s payment was a nasty thing, indeed. Isn't it more like a punishment? Payment sounds more like Lia's getting paid for hunting the Lady (especially since "until payment had been exacted" is a passive sentence construction and the reader isn't certain who's doing the exacting, i.e., who is the subject of the sentence).
4. Not technically accurate here: Probably since the weight of this mission was of dire need… This sentence literally/grammatically says the WEIGHT is of dire need rather than the mission.

Wording and Little Things
1. Technically, she's not frowning AT the wind, she's frowning at what the wind is doing--blowing cold air on her face, making her eyes water, making tree branches sway, or throwing debris and dust around.
2. May need consistency using Daybird vs Day Bird.
3. May need consistency using "the Lady" vs "Lady."
4. Verb tense: use she'd met or she had met, since it's in the past: The Old Life was better, before she met Zithre and before the wind had become perilous...
5. Not sure "all" is needed or the right word in this sentence: …this mission was of dire need to Zithre and because it all fell upon Lia to do it. It falls entirely upon Lia to do the mission, but having "all" next to "fell" doesn't really get that same/exact meaning across.
6. Be careful not to overuse the word "just" or "but." "Just" is used twice in the first paragraph, "but" is used twice in this short excerpt. They are commonly overused words.
7. "Away" is used twice in one sentence: The foe always got carried AWAY and brought the hero to their castle and locked them AWAY… Also, "carried away" could be wrongly interpreted as being carted off somewhere, which is not what the writer wants/means to say here.
8. Be careful not to overuse ellipses; these two instances are close together. Also, there shouldn't be a space after an ellipses where it's all part of the same thought or sentence (as in the first instance).

Summary: Kudos
There is a really nice voice here, and good sentence length variation. I especially like the last line--it's a very intriguing bit of info that Zithre has turned Lia into a half-human from an original bird/owl form. The first sentence has a good hook, and right away sets up conflict along with an intriguing premise. I like the sing-songy dialogue and the almost childlike thoughts and actions of this bird-girl; those characteristics seem appropriate since she's half animal. The name Lia sounds like who she is--flighty, conflicted, delicate, and unique.

YOUR TURN
Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
Have you ever read a fantasy novel with a half-human, half-bird/owl main character?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Page Critique: OUT OF THE WATER

Today's post features an excerpt from of a historical romance by Deniz Bevan.
Note: This excerpt is from the MIDDLE of the novel, but the gist is easily attained by context.


THE EXCERPT
Out of the Water

"What are you dreaming of?" He asked in a low voice.

"Colours," she whispered. “All the women had such pretty dresses today. I can’t remember the last time I –"

His arms came about her, his lips rested on the nape of her neck. "You’re beautiful in your own colours, Peri," he murmured. "But we’ll find a dress for you at the next port, if you like."

She looked down at her hands, clasped together on her lap. As she watched, her fingers separated, her right hand moved to the side, and landed above his knee.

His fingers pushed aside her collar and kisses moved along her bare shoulder.

"What are you doing?" She asked, again in a whisper.

"You’ve cast a spell on me, Peri. The dragon has turned into a man."

His breath had quickened; hers as well. She shifted, ever so slightly, so that his lips approached hers, grazing along her cheek.

Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads; loud cries echoed from bow to stern. The others had returned.

He pulled away from her and she rose, shakily, to her feet. Her wreath had fallen over one ear. She slipped it off and met his gaze. He had one hand outstretched still, as though he would tug her back to him, keep her in his cave. Yet he said, "fly away, Peri, fly away. The dragon won’t try to keep you."

She held herself steady until she was back in her own cabin, then collapsed on the berth, shaking, clutching her wreath.

"I wanted to stay," she said aloud into her pillow.


THE CRITIQUE
An Ambiguous Sentence
1. Peri's hand sounds like it moves on its own accord: As she watched, her fingers separated, her right hand moved to the side, and landed above his knee. While it's as though she's surprised her hand is moving, against her better judgment, it sounds a little too detached--at first I even thought there was a possible typo and she was watching the man's hand moving.
2. Having her fingers "separated" almost sounds like they dissolved/split.
3. "To the side" is a little vague, and I'm not sure it adds much to the info of the sentence since it doesn't indicate it's moving toward the man. Could just be me.

Dialogue and Other Punctuation
1. The first word of a dialogue TAG is never capitalized. The line is considered all one continuous sentence, even when there's a question or exclamation mark.
This line: "What are you dreaming of?" He asked in a low voice.
Should read: "What are you dreaming of?" he asked in a low voice.
This line: "What are you doing?" She asked, again in a whisper.
Should read: "What are you doing?" she asked, again in a whisper.
2. The first word in a line of dialogue is always capitalized.
This line: Yet he said, "fly away, Peri, fly away."
Should read: Yet he said, "Fly away, Peri, fly away."
3. Be careful not to overdo semi-colons in novels. Though acceptable for use in novels, semi-colons are more commonly seen in nonfiction writing. The two instances here are quite close together; one source suggests no more than one semi-colon per page. Consider making one of these instances into two separate sentences. I'd choose the second.
His breath had quickened; hers as well.
Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads; loud cries echoed from bow to stern.
Change to: Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads. Loud cries echoed from bow to stern.

Wording and Little Things
1. Be careful not to use too many descriptors for the word "said." Some variety is nice, but a simple "said" is only used twice in this passage. Too many variations can be distracting. In this excerpt, there are: asked, whispered, and murmured.
2. The words shaky and shaking are too similar and used close together. Perhaps one could be changed to a synonym such as unsteadily or trembling.
3. I'm having a hard time visualizing Peri's dress. This dress has a collar that he pushes aside, but it somehow leaves her shoulder bare? It may not be an issue, however, since her dress may be described in a previous scene.

Summary: Kudos & General Thoughts
Ah, the almost-kiss. This seems to work well in a romance novel (or other genres for that matter), despite making the readers gnash their teeth because it was so close! It creates tension and interest, which help to drive the story forward. I love the name Peri, which Deniz says is the man's nickname for the main character's real name (Rosa). The story as well as the dialogue seems to flow well, and the characters, setting, and the general romance are interesting.

YOUR TURN
Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
Have you ever written an almost-kiss into any of your novels or writings?
Do you find the intricacies of dialogue punctuation confusing? (when to cap, whether/when to use commas, periods, or dashes, etc.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Page Critique: UNDERGROUND

Today's post features a first-page excerpt of a YA dystopian novel sent to me by Rosie Connolly. She's one of my critique buddies so she's used to me shredding her work! Feel free to add your comments, too.

THE EXCERPT
Underground

Andrina—Drina—Whinsted stood at the back of the conductor’s compartment, leaning against the wall. The world—what was left of it—whizzed by. Every time she rode the transport to and from her boarding school, she asked for permission to come to the front for the view, even if only for five minutes. She needed the reminder of how much better her life was on the Inside.

The conductor glance over his shoulder. “Lady Winsted, you should return to your seat. We’ll be arriving soon.”

She nodded and slipped through the door. An attendant smiled at her as she pulled the door shut behind her. Drina nodded and ducked her head, shuffling toward her seat.

The man across the aisle stood and took the three steps toward the attendant. “Why does she get to go up front?”

Drina sunk in her seat.

“She has a clearance,” the attendant said.

The man grunted and sat back down. Drina turned her head away from him toward the wall of the transport vehicle and stared at the blackened windows. She hated being unable to see outside, though she understood why the clearance was necessary. If the general population saw the state of things Outside, they would either protest the banishments or want to send more people out there. But she had to know. She had to understand how harsh it was if she would be the one banning people in the near future.

The thought made her nauseous.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be setting down momentarily. Please fasten your seat belts and be sure to have your seats in the upright position.”


MY CRITIQUE
Opening Line
I found the opening a bit awkward, with the dashes. In fact, there are two sentences in a row with dashes, which makes them lose their impact and/or feel cluttery. If the character is to be called Drina throughout, just call her Drina in the opening. Her full name can be slipped in more naturally elsewhere, later on. Only her first name could be used in the opening, especially since the attendant informs the reader of her last name shortly thereafter. I'd keep the dashes with the second sentence, however; they have great impact there.

Wording and Little Things
1. Whinsted versus Winsted for Drina's last name; both versions are used. Pick one.
2. Glance instead of glanced: The conductor glance over his shoulder.
3. She nods twice in the same paragraph: She nodded and slipped through the door and later it says Drina nodded and ducked her head… It's acceptable for someone to nod or do an action twice, but acknowledge it by saying something like "she nodded again."
4. Wrong tense: sunk instead of sank. Drina sunk in her seat. Past tense is sank.
5. Should "outside" be capped, after she turns toward the blackened windows? The other instance is capped; maybe it just means to see OUT the window there, but it seems a bit inconsistent with the other use of Outside.

Other Things
1. The man takes 3 steps toward the attendant; is that detail important? Why not just "stepped"? I wonder if the man even needs to stand up, unless perhaps for emphasis or dramatic effect.
2. Wordy sentence, especially up to "wall": Drina turned her head away from him toward the wall of the transport vehicle and stared at the blackened windows. Are all these phrases and words necessary?--her head (though I suppose it differentiates between her head vs her whole body), away, from him, toward the wall. Maybe I'm simplistic, but I would've just said: Drina turned away and stared at the blackened windows of the transport vehicle.
3. Is Drina turning toward a wall or a window? She turns toward the wall but stares at the blackened windows. Seems slightly contradictory.
4. I would've like to see what Drina saw from the conductor's windows. The line about the world and what was left of it is intriguing, but I wanted to know details about what the Outside world looked like to Drina, as she was seeing it. Then again, perhaps not saying lends a sense of mystery, to coax the reader to read on and find out more.
5. I had pictured the transport as more of a train--especially since there was a conductor--so it threw me off when the attendant said they were "setting down." Is it a flying vehicle?

Summary: Kudos
I love the name Drina. Andrina is nice too, but it reminds me of the word "android." LOL Having the conductor address Drina as Lady Winsted is a nice, natural way to introduce another facet about the character, that she is an important and titled person. The set-up is fascinating, and Drina's conflict is introduced early with the dystopian setting as well as her responsibility for future banishments.

YOUR TURN
Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
Have you ever written a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel?
Do you like a sense of mystery as far as details of what is Outside, or would you have liked to read a description of what Drina saw out the conductor's unblackened windows?