Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Mania--Query Letter

One of our readers submitted a query letter for critique. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0041:


The Trinity captures the epic journey of Julian White as she joins the Trinity, triplet teen boys Dresden, Ethan and Garrett, on discovering who they are and where they came from. The legendary royal Trinity are unaware that the hidden, mystical island of Athlendora is their true home. As infants, their parents brought them to the safety of the small town of Luray, Virginia for their protection against Zamir, the man determined to kill them because of the legend; for if it comes true, it will ruin his plans to become ruler of Athlendora.

Mathias, the Trinity’s father, is waiting to tell his boys about their history until they receive their powers at the age of eighteen. Little does he know that his boys have already received their powers—the ability to teleport among other things—much earlier then expected. While Mathias is out looking for his kidnapped wife whom is being held for ransom for the Cathriona—a necklace of magnificent power—the enemy is trying unsuccessfully to kill the Trinity. Mathias is alerted to the attacks when Ethan’s destined sword Leazar makes an appearance. Mathias is comforted that the sword has found its master for he knows the sword will tell Ethan what to do when danger is near.

Soon the Trinity’s bravery and power will be tested when an unexpected enemy breaks into their home and attacks them to retrieve the hidden Cathriona necklace.

The Trinity is the first of a trilogy that unfolds the romance between Dresden and Julian, the significant destiny of the Trinity, and the mysterious island of Athlendora.

Since you represent young adult romance novels, I feel you would be a good fit for my manuscript. The first completed novel of 80,000 words is available for your review.

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you.



Friday, February 11, 2011

Spinning Plates

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli

First of all, let me say it feels great to be back. Okay, some of you may be wondering where I’ve been, and some of you may not even know I was gone because, other than a guest interview in 2009, I’ve been absent from the blog since 2008, when I was a regular columnist.

Where on earth did that time go? Honestly, I was surprised at how long it had been since I’d written a column for PEG. I didn’t mean for my absence to be so long, and I certainly hadn’t forgotten about our growing audience.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been working with many of our readers in another capacity, as an editor. So, a wave “hello” to all of you who I’ve been working with, a “thanks for welcoming me back” to the rest of the PEG editors who’ve been carrying the load while I was gone, and a “nice to meet you” to anyone who doesn’t remember me even hanging around here many years ago.

I’ll try to do better—I honestly will—but like many of you who are working hard at being a writer, I also have other full time jobs which sometimes keep me from doing everything I’d like to do, even when those activities are worthy and beneficial to myself and those I’m working with as an editor.

A few years ago, when I was on a panel filled with teachers and authors at a conference at UVU, I described myself as the Plate Spinner guy on the Ed Sullivan Show. If you’re not old enough to remember, this guy—did we ever know his name?—had several long poles that were flexible enough to keep in constant motion. He would put a plate on top of each pole and move it back and forth to start the plate spinning. His job then for the next few minutes was to keep all the plates spinning at the same time. Sometimes a plate or two would slow down enough to make the audience worry the guy wouldn’t get to them in time to keep the plate from crashing to the floor and breaking.

Such is the life of a freelance writer.

As freelance writers we want to write something for which we can be paid. That means we have to come up with an idea, write enough of a pitch or outline an article, then set it on the query pole and send it spinning on its way. Then we do it again and again and again until we get a response of YES from an editor.

Once that answer comes, we are busy spinning the drafting pole. How many words did we promise in length? We told the editor we could have the final copy ready by when? What could we have been thinking? This pole has to move fast, fast, fast if we don’t want to break the plate that also holds our future career with this publication.

Sometimes we have to do research which sets the next pole into motion as we try to find the facts we need to support the article or book we are writing. Check and double check, locate a reliable source, and attempt to do it all within the confines of our already ridiculous daily schedule.

Then there is the editing pole. This pole can start in motion all by itself at a moment’s notice and have a killer deadline. “I’ve attached the final edits on your 70,000 words manuscript. Take a look at it and get it back to us as soon as possible. We’d like to go to print the day after tomorrow.” What?! All other spinning plates may suddenly find themselves in jeopardy of falling as you give your full attention to maintaining this one. There’s no way you can let your book or article be printed without having one last chance to make sure nothing horrible has happened during typesetting. Your writer’s reputation depends on it.

If you’ve written a book, once it’s published, along come the marketing and promotion poles, which sometimes work in tandem, but often mean extra work as you try to increase your sales. Interviews, book launch parties, bookstore signings, TV appearances, blog tours, conference presentations, social networking—and the list goes on.

In the meantime, you’re back at pole one, working on the next pitch, writing the next piece for publication, and doing all in your power to keep all of those poles and the plates on top spinning in full action.

All because we want to be a paid writer.

Oh, and don’t forget the other poles you might be spinning—another job, a husband and children, church and service obligations, friendships, and even finding time for yourself can all have plates that must keep spinning.

With all this spinning, I’m suddenly finding myself a little dizzy. I think I’ll take a break from writing.

But I promise, I won’t be gone another two years before you hear back from this plate spinner. As a matter of fact, I already have an idea for next week’s blog entry...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Mania--First Page

One of our readers submitted a first page for critique. A first page of a manuscript must hook an agent or editor. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive: 0040

A fistful of mayonnaise makes a decent projectile in a pinch. If I'd been thinking more clearly, I would have grabbed a handful of jalapenos instead, but my vision did this red blurry anger thing and when I ran after Brandon Willardson's black Jeep, what I threw was . . . mayo. It's probably harder to clean up and it's better that way, really. I owe him twice that for the garbage he pulled in my store. I only wish I didn't mean that literally.

I trudged back inside, satisfied with the nasty splat the mayo made before it oozed down Brandon's pristine paint job. It was only fair considering the disaster he left behind him in the sandwich shop. I pushed the door open and it swept aside approximately fourteen thousand of the napkins Brandon and his lame friends had strewn all over the floor. Katie and Tara huddled behind the sandwich bar like the sneeze guard was their last line of defense against me. Which it was.

I said nothing, just stared. Katie cracked first, like I knew she would.

“I'm so sorry,” she said, verging on a blubber. “I don't know what happened!”

I lifted one eyebrow slowly, the way my mom does when we're in trouble and you know the longer it takes to reach its full arch, the more trouble you're in. Even mouthy Tara shifted nervously now. I slowly scanned the wreckage inside Handy's Dandy Sandwiches and then eyeballed them again. “How do you not see this coming?”

A high pitched seal bark escaped Katie. It was her nervous laugh, an involuntary reflex that I hoped for the sake of her future social life, she outgrew soon. Her laugh had summoned me from the back office to catch Brandon Willardson's Band of Merry Idiots wreaking their usual havoc in the dining area. Like his older brothers before him, Brandon had no regard for rules, common sense, or (it could be argued) common decency. Just ask his numerous mooning victims.