Archive for November, 2008

Payback is a Bitch

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , on November 28, 2008 by Trina

Seems an unlikely post for the day after Thanksgiving, but this is the title of a story I just finished–maybe it is appropriate for Black Friday. As the title indicates, Red, A.K.A Red Riding Hood, is a hard-ass female vigilante with a coke habit. She partners with the seedy but savvy Nick the Nick in a high risk, high payoff career of vengeance for hire. I had fun writing it because Red acts on her own morals and beliefs, ignoring the law. I have a lot of freedom with her character and what she can and will do. I wrote the first draft of “Payback is a Bitch” last Friday and revised it during the week, which is why I haven’t posted–I’ve been working on the story instead. It was intended for DARK JESTERS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF HUMOROUS HORROR . It won’t work for the anthology because it’s not humorous–it’s more wry–and it exceeds the anthology’s 2000 word limit. I’ll have to find another market for it.

The story gave me idea for my next novel–a female Rambo. Rambo is a perfect example of a vigilante, which is probably why I like his character so much. So, I’m contemplating again. I’m going to keep my notes on the other novel idea I had, which was a Stephen King type detective thriller about a man who dreamed crimes into reality. I’m going to start working on the “Payback is a Bitch” novel first. I’m deciding who the POV characters will be: I already have Red, Nick the Nick, and a detective who will pursue them. I think Nick the Nick may be the main character, because he’s actually much more colorful and skilled than Red. More posts to come as I write the synopsis and get started.

BTW, Harry got me the complete collector’s set of all four Rambo movies for my birthday, which was Wednesday. We watched FIRST BLOOD and then the 2008 RAMBO Wednesday night–stayed up until midnight, which is late for us. Harry said not too many women would want to watch Rambo movies on their birthday, but I loved it.

Agent search update
I have an exclusive out for my young adult novel, so cross your fingers for me.

As I wait, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what I have to be thankful for.

• I have a job I like, when so many people are out of work. What a difficult holiday season it must be for them, and how fortunate I am to have an employer who is willing to let me work on a flexible schedule to give me time to write.
• I have an awesome daughter, who has overcome much–I’m proud of her–and an intelligent grandson who entertains me with his curiosity.
• I have a wonderful family, Mom and sisters, who are always there for me, even when I’m lazy about keeping in touch.
• I have friends, old and new, who enrich my life.
• I have a house I love. . . and there’s no threat of foreclosure hanging over my head.
• Most importantly, I have a husband who is a great companion, loves me and supports me in everything I do.

As a side about Harry, when I volunteered to start a Web site for him, I didn’t know updating it would become a full time job–not that I’m complaining. I am both happy and excited for Harry because he has numerous publications out and forthcoming. In December alone, he has 22 poems and three essays in eight magazines, as well as a chapbook upcoming on December 23.

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Contemplating

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , on November 13, 2008 by Trina

Look for my short story “Nothing but Trouble” in Word Catalyst’s December issue.

I received this rather disturbing feedback from an agent about THE MAGIC QUILT:
The book appears to be a combination of historical fiction and fantasy … a hard sell to the minds of those who need to put things into the tidy marketing boxes that have become oh-so comfortably worn with use.

I anticipated this novel would a difficult sell, but not because it is a historical fiction and fantasy. I thought a book about the coming of age of a wizard would smack too much of Harry Potter, which brings me to the topic of this post. My next book will not be a fantasy for young adults.

I have an idea for a detective thriller for adults, which I will keep to myself for now. I am in the stage of contemplating, playing different scenarios in my head until I find just the right one that gels. After all, I’ve got to be willing to stay with this book for at least a year or so. I’d better be excited about it.

I am going to use a process like Diane Chamberlain’s to write this next book. See her excellent blog posts on Creating a Story.

I’ll be writing the synopsis over the next couple of weeks, so I thought I’d share the process as I complete each step. I hope this will be interesting to newbie writers and readers who want a peek into how a novel comes together. My synopsis will include writing a general beginning and ending–yes the ending comes first before writing the novel–choosing the point of view characters, writing character sketches for each, and then creating a storyline thread for each character. I wish I would have done this with my first novel!

I made several mistakes with THE MAGIC QUILT that I would like to help other writers avoid. First thing, I did not write a synopsis. I didn’t know who the characters were or any idea of what would happen. I just started writing. Big mistake, BIG! My story rambled. Katharine went here, there, yonder, and back again: to the past, then the present, then a different place in the past, to a different time in the past, then to the future. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it and it was too confusing for young adults. Also, I failed to do enough historical research, so I had to rewrite the book several times to correct the history and trickle down effect. Never again!

Agent search update
After receiving five rejections from agents for my young adult novel, with no request to read the manuscript, I posted my query letter on WritersNet. Clink the link to read the thread.

Here’s the query:
It is tough enough to make it through the sixth grade when you aren’t trying to save the world. Katharine is a shape-shifter who has traveled back to a time where electricity, cell phones and bottled water have yet to be imagined; her new friends are dead or in peril. Standing on the Lexington Green in the midst of the battle, Katharine is oblivious to her own danger. With the metallic smell of blood and gunpowder heavy in the air, she must make a choice: She can save her friends and turn the battle toward freedom or destroy the evil shifter, Dr. Ziegawart, in whatever form he might choose–an alligator, a dragon, or a tiny cockroach. As a musket ball whizzes by her head, she decides.

Patrick M. Leehey, the research director of the Paul Revere Memorial Association checked the manuscript for historical accuracy. He said, “I found your story to be quite enjoyable.” That might be because I’ve included some surprising historical facts. To name a few, Paul Revere never finished his midnight ride–he was captured by British officers before arriving in Concord. Nor did he own a horse, although he was a messenger and a spy for the revolutionaries.

I thought the query was pretty good and was taken aback by the feedback I received. After all, I’ve been working on my query off and on for a year. This is what the agents on WritersNet said:

You have to cut your first paragraph and make it into a really good hook–what’s the meat of your story? Make it catchy. It’s what sells your novel.

Think through each sentence very carefully. Does it have meaning to someone who knows absolutely nothing about your book? For example, what the heck is a “shape-shifter”? Bringing up a fantasy concept only you understand is immediately going to alienate the reader of your query.

Your writing might be excellent, but this query doesn’t do justice to the manuscript because it’s hard to tell what the premise is. It has to be plain to a complete stranger. We are even stupider than you think.

I don’t believe any agent is stupid, btw. I think the rigors or the job require intelligence.

Here’s my new query. I hope it will hook an agent. I’m crossing my fingers.
It is tough enough to make it through the sixth grade when you aren’t trying to save the world. Katharine is a wizard in training, learning how to shape-shift into animals, travel forward and back in time, and defend herself against the evil wizard, Dr. Ziegawart, in whatever form he might choose–an alligator, a dragon, or a tiny cockroach. Leaving her unhappy home behind, Katharine travels back in time to 1775 Boston, where she finds herself caught up in the magical world of spying, espionage, and rebellion.

My 55,000 word historical fiction and fantasy novel, The Magic Quilt, follows Katharine across the dark waters of the Charles River with Paul Revere, and onto Menotomy Road to alert the countryside. She never knows what danger is around the next bend, whether a musket ball from a British foot soldier’s rifle or the evil wizard in disguise.

On the back burner
I found some children’s magazines that I am interested in writing for, like ODYSSEY, CRICKET, NEW MOON GIRLS and AMERICAN GIRL. These are magazines that I’ve read in the past and been impressed with the quality of writing. I’ve ordered a sample copy of each one so that I can get a feel for what each currently likes. Once I get the samples, I’ll write a short story specifically for each magazine. I’m looking forward to it. The stories will give me breaks from the novel.

I’ve got my work cut out for me. Fortunately, I’m now working part time–which means I have every Friday off to write. I’m going to need it.

Wrong direction?

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2008 by Trina

Agent search update:
So far I’ve querried eight agents to represent my young adult novel and received four rejections. Four queries are still out. I’m finding this process very different from submitting stories to magazines for publication.

Many agencies state something like this on their Web site
“We will make every effort to respond to your e-query within 4-8 weeks. Occasionally, it may take longer. We respond as quickly as possible, but we receive a large volume of submissions. Due to this large volume, we are sometimes not able to respond to every query personally. Therefore, if you have not heard from the agent you queried within 8 weeks, please assume that we are not interested in your work. PLEASE, DO NOT CALL TO FOLLOW UP!”

I can no longer say, “No news is good news.” If I hadn’t gotten a rejection, I used to know my work was still under consideration. No so with agent queries. In addition to not responding, many agents won’t even tell me they have received my query. They don’t want me to contact them to find out. So I wait in limbo land hoping for a bite on my query.

Meanwhile, there is a hole in my publishing credits. I have several story publications, but none in the young adult genre of my novel. That’s something I need to change. I have submitting a couple of chapters of THE MAGIC QUILT to children’s magazines. I am also going to write a couple of stories for young adults and submit them for publication. I have hit a snag there. While I have read children’s and young adult novels extensively, I haven’t read many stories for children. As I begin the process of familiarizing myself with the story market for children, I’ve found that the stories I am reading are BORING and unrealistic! Many are rewritten folk/fairy tales or myths. All have a moral message. Even contemporary or historical stories tend toward peachiness. Yulk. I can’t imagine writing anything that uninteresting. I’m just beginning to sample the market, so I hope it gets better.

I am going to continue polishing my query and synopsis, and submit my young adult novel to agents, but I’m also starting my next novel. I’m not giving up on the first, but I’m going to move ahead.

Which brings me to my next dilemma and the topic of this post: what is my next novel? I have so many ideas for adult fiction. But … as I previously posted, I don’t enjoy writing for young people as much as I enjoy writing fiction for adults. I love reading psychological and medical thrillers for adults, which is what I want to write.

After reading two of my stories, one of the women in my writing critique group noticed that in both stories my writing was strongest in the scenes involving children. This gives me pause. Should my next novel be for young people? Writing for children requires a different mind set than writing for adults. In writing from the view point of a twelve year old, vocabulary, parents and the young psyche have to be considered.

R.I.P. Michael Crichton

Posted in All posts with tags , , , on November 5, 2008 by Trina

The bestsellling author died unexpectedly in Los Angeles Tuesday, after a courageous and private battle against cancer. He was 66. This news saddens me even more than it might have, following the excitement of the presidential election.

Called “the father of the techno-thriller,” Michael Crichton helped to build my thirst for thrillers. From THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, to JURASSIC PARK to NEXT, I have been under his spell. I showed THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN movie every year to my science classes. I watched every early episode of ER, drinking in the medical drama. ER was the first of its type and spawned many other such drama’s.

CBS News reports:
“While the world knew him as a great story teller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us — and entertained us all while doing so — his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes,” the statement said. “He did this with a wry sense of humor that those who were privileged to know him personally will never forget.”

Through his books, Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way all could understand.

“He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched, but he leaves behind the greatest gifts of a thirst for knowledge, the desire to understand, and the wisdom to use our minds to better our world.”