Bad Pain Days And Teaching Moments

For those of you who are new here are a few key things you need to know to make it through this post:
– I was born with a genetic mutation called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. My collagen is a mess. I’m hypermobile. I can dislocate any joint with ease. I’m usually in a lot of pain.I was diagnosed at 11 and I’m now 35. It hasn’t killed me yet, but sometimes I wish it would.
– I am a Young Women’s Counselor for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS/Mormon), meaning I teach kids ages 12-18, specifically working with the young women, but advising all of them. It’s like the equivalent of a Youth Pastor in most evangelical churches.
– My personal pain scale has natural childbirth (kidney stones for those who haven’t had pregnancies) as a 1. My everyday pain is a 2-3, which means multiple dislocations that would put the average person in the hospital on a morphine drip.
– Because of another fun genetic mutation my body does not process most pain killers. Aspirin and Tylenol? I thought those were placebos. Morphine? Might as well have an IV of sugar water. All the drugs they give you at the hospital for pain? None of them have ever worked.
– This isn’t a post about religion, so you’re perfectly safe reading on. 🙂

Here’s what happened on Sunday…

Sunday morning I woke up in agonizing pain. Somewhere around an eight on my pain scale. Last time I hurt this bad I threatened to buy a gun and shoot myself in the hip because three consecutive doctors refused to believe I was in pain. After finding a doctor who believed me, we found I’d dislocated my hip and knee and both had been wrongly placed for several months. I haven’t been in this much pain in almost a year. Physical therapy and a very careful regime of self-care that involves heating, icing, massaging, and using electroshock therapy usually keeps me mobile.

But I woke up in pain, and I couldn’t stand up.

You may have had something similar. Even if you don’t have kids and a class to teach in two hours it’s not a fun experience.

My physical therapist has a series of stretches I do multiple times a day to keep my muscles from cramping, locking up, and ripping my limbs from their sockets. I tried those and found my entire leg was locked up. Tip of my toes to the top of my hip, all cramping. Remember getting a charlie horse in gym class where your calf muscle cramps up? Imagine that, but with every muscle in your leg. Yes. Ouch.

My best guess is that something dislocated, pinched a nerve, and sent the muscles into a death spiral while I was sleeping. But who knows.

It took an hour of massaging and heating my leg for me to be able to stand and walk slowly.

As my muscles warmed up, I felt well enough to head to church. So I packed up the kids, headed to church, and went to teach my lesson.

Now, I won’t get into religion here because I know not everyone will agree, so you’re safe there. But it’s always interesting when you have an invisible disability and let people know about it.

Over the years I’ve learned not to be shy about my pain. Smiling through it does not make anything better. I have a short temper naturally, and when I’m in pain it’s worse. No amount of lying is going to make things better. So my policy is to let people know I’ve had a dislocation, I’m in pain, and that I won’t be putting up with any nonsense today, thankyouverymuch. The first time I do this to anyone they tend to look askance, but once they realize I’m not joking, they adjust. Usually… some of them don’t, but we don’t worry about those people, do we? We do not.

Anyway, by the time we hit the end of church I had propped my bad leg up on a chair and I was getting curious looks from my teens.

This is where the teaching moments are, at least for me. The girls there today were young, 12-13, and most of them haven’t dealt with someone who has a disability like mine. They’d seen me dancing on Tuesday, and Sunday I could barely walk. Adults who have seen this often think I’m faking. Because… why wouldn’t they? If I could walk well one day why on Earth wouldn’t I be able to the next? Is that how diseases even work? [SPOILER: that’s exactly how disabilities like Ehlers-Danlos work. It’s one of the reasons people who can walk also have disabled parking passes. Because – surprise! – we have bad pain days.]

Teens are a naturally curious lot, so I explained to them what happened. I explained I have bad days where it is hard for me to love. I explained that I have days where I can be fully active.

We plan on hiking this summer. In fact, I’m going hiking with my sons Cub Scout troop on Saturday.

But today I couldn’t walk.

And that too is a teaching moment.

Bad things happen. Bad days happen. Bad years. Bad lives. We all have times where we can’t move. Whether we are physically or mentally stuck, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation where we’ve lost control. Where something bad has happened and we can’t get to the next part.

Even with an action plan (I spent all day trying to reduce my pain with minimal results) the bad thing doesn’t vanish overnight. It’s not fun, but it is life. And, when you hit the spot I was in, you only have two choices. You either deal with it, or you die. It’s really simple. And I won’t like and say I don’t sometimes feel depressed or suicidal on bad pain days. There is nothing noble or inspirational about being in the kind of pain I’m in.

But I came home cheerful anyway. Because I’d been able to advocate for people like me. Because I was able to help people who will hopefully never be in a situation like mine develop some empathy. Because the teens I talked to today won’t be the adults who look at someone and say, “You’re faking it. You can’t really be that sick.”

They also learned that if they do have a day like that, if they’re ever disabled or in pain, that someone they know has been there. And they’ve seen an example of someone surviving and living with this. It was disability rep, pure and simple.

It’s always tempting to hide away on a bad pain day. To lie to people and say, “It’s not that bad.” Doing that leaves everyone happy for the moment, but it helps no one in the long run. Being visible, and being honest about my disabilities, makes it so no one has to feel alone on their bad pain days. It means making a space for the disabled and disabilities in the public view. It means claiming a space for myself even if I don’t wear size four jeans and if I’ll never do more than limp through a 5k hike again.

Today… I took up space. And I’m staying here. Disabled and visible.

 

 

Want more like this? Support me through Patreon!

On The Run Editing Sale!!!

Sometimes the world aligns to bring you wonderful things… and sometimes three of your kids outgrow (or tear up) their shoes in the same week. I don’t know if you’ve been shoe shopping recently, but it’s not the cheapest piece of gear to replace. With that in mind, I’m opening five new editing slots between now and March 15th that have a 5% Buy-More-Shoes! discount.

The $50 emergency fee will be waived for all manuscripts turned in and paid for by Friday, February 9th, and the four week turn around for full manuscripts is guaranteed.

Submission Packet Critique (synopsis, query, and first 5 pages) $25
Indie Author Special (blurb, 5 twitter pitches, and first 5 pages) $25 
First Chapter
 (up to 20 pages)  $50.00 and a 1 work-week turn around time
Contest Critique (first 50 pages + blurb) $100
Full Manuscript Critique minimum fee of $100 (20,000 words and under pay a flat $100 fee) – $1/page
Prewrite Consult (one-on-one time to help you develop the story before you write) starting at $20
A La Carte (add-ons and package deals) starting at $5
Emergency Fee to Jump the Queue  $50
* all page counts are double-spaced, Times New Roman, size 12 font, formatted for Microsoft Word *

To reserve a space please contact me at liana.brooks1@gmail.com

 

$25 – A full critique of your query, synopsis, and first five pages including help reworking your query if needed.

This is the best option for authors pursuing traditional publication with minimal help. Most agents (and editors from small presses) will ask to see the query, synopsis, and first few pages of your manuscript. From this they’ll determine several things: 1- if your story is one they’ll love, 2- if your story makes sense, and 3- if you can write well.

Agents and editors are looking for authors who have developed their voice and skills to the point where they will need very little help to be shelf-ready.

It seems hard to believe that a query and 5 pages will tell an agent whether or not you have the chops to write, but – trust me – it is more than enough. From years of experience editing both fiction and non-fiction I can tell you the same thing the agents will: if an author makes mistakes, you will see it in the query and first few pages.

Overwriting. Repetition. Poor grammar.  Inconsistent voice. They’re all on display in your query.

$25 – Polish and perfect your blurb, your first five pages, and I help you write up to 5 elevator pitches/twitter pitches.

You spent time making sure the cover was perfect. You’ve edited this manuscript to death. You’ve been dreaming of the day this book goes live and now you’re staring at that upload page and Amazon is asking you to describe your book…

The back-of-book blurb can make or break a book. You need to tease your readers, get them to open their wallets, and get them invested in the story without giving away too much. The back-of-cover-blurb is the burlesque of the literary world. Let’s make yours tantalizing!

For $25 I’ll review your blurb, help you rewrite it if necessary, go over your first five pages with a fine-toothed comb so there are zero mistakes in your sample pages, and help you develop five elevator pitches to use for advertising.

What is an elevator pitch? This is the 1-2 sentence description you use to sell your book fast. You’ll use it on social media and at cons. Librarians will use it to entice readers. Your fans will use it to sell your book to their friends. You can read more about it HERE or check out a cute video about it HERE.

$1/page (TNR size 12 font) – A comprehensive developmental edit with editing letter.
Minimum Fee – $100 (20,000 words)

What is a developmental edit? Think of it as boot camp for your book. Your emotional scenes get stronger, your action scenes get fiercer, your prose loses the flab and comes out fab.

Developmental, or content edits are the second stage of editing. After you’ve gone through and made sure you’ve used the same name for your hero, haven’t left any scenes that way [insert fight here], and have done a basic spellcheck you hand your manuscript to a beta reader or editor to find the plot flaws.

Then you give the manuscript to me. I look at pacing, plot, character development, and context within the genre then tell you where things are working and where you need to do some major work. Content edits keep your book from being flabby, slowly paced, or meandering to the point where you lose your readers.

What she means when she says, “You plan the date!”

Sit down, this is going to take a minute.

Do you know how hard it is to be a mom in modern America?

Being a parent is a ridiculously difficult, notoriously underappreciated job. One where someone will *literally* die if you get things wrong. As a parent your main job is to make sure a tiny human with zero sense of self-preservation, who genetically programmed to be curious about everything, survives the day. That’s hard. And, if your child is at the stage where they put everything in their mouth, it’s even harder.

On top of that you also need to make sure that tiny human is educated, clothed, fed, loved, raised correctly, and gets to all the places they need to be. You’re chauffeur, professor, moral role model, doctor, chef, and entertainment … and people will judge you if you do this wrong. Not that there’s any consensus on what Right and Wrong are for parenting, so be prepared for someone to call child services because you abused your child by getting them vaccinated, and to be told by the random person in the grocery store that letting your son wear pink will turn him into a gay communist, and that having more than one child is selfish, and that only having one child is selfish, and that the way your are dressed is going to lead your child to a life of drug addiction.

This is a little bit easier if you are the parent that presents as male. Dad Bod is a thing. A little chub, the relaxed, kind of neglected look of an unshaved face, sweat pants, and a shirt that’s older than your kid still gets you bonus points because taken care of your offspring while having a penis is enough to win you Dad Of The Year. Which says a lot more about the low expectations of father’s in this country than it does anything else. Feel free to worry. Poor father figures are more likely to drive kids to drugs than mom’s mini skirt, but that’s not my point!

My point is: it’s harder being a mom.

As a female-presenting parent there are certain requirements, a set of guidelines that society has kindly outlined in every major form of media for the past sixteen decades so that you mothers will know how to behave. It involves looking like you have never given birth, spent several hours in the gym each day, eat healthy (but restrained) portions of food, you must wear clothes that appeal to the heterosexual male gaze but don’t overstate your wealth (and can never imply poverty because it’s a sin to have children if you’re poor, dontchyaknow), your makeup must be flawless (even at the ER with a kid who tried to eat the mushroom out of the front lawn and is puking everywhere), you must have a good career (but not earn so much money your husband feels threatened), and you must belong to the right political party for the given era, you need to keep up with every trend/political movement/celebrity scandal (while working full time and parenting and doing Self-Care), and if your feminism isn’t flawless and completely up-to-date you can just forget it because you will be a traitor to the gender and can never be forgiven.

Someone did the math once, and the average mom needs a 96-hour day to stay well-informed, well-shaped, and well… sane.

For all of you still trying to live on a mere twenty-four hours a day you can just forget it. You’ve failed your children and the entire human race already.

NO! WAIT! COME BACK!

I’m joking.

Mostly…

… we can all agree that this list of things women are expected to do is unrealistic, misogynistic, abelist, old-fashioned, and ridiculous. Any sensible human being knows that jobs come and go, kids get dirty, the political landscape is a nightmare, and everyone is still learning.

Everyone makes mistakes.

Eventually, you’re going to realize your political views aren’t as fair or enlightened as you want them to be. You’ll realize you were not a perfect feminist at nineteen (but you were trying and that’s important). That your views on body types, poverty, and workplace politics weren’t flawless when you were twenty-seven. And that, at forty, you still have a lot to learn as a human being. That’s a healthy place to be, honestly.

The thing is, this long and silly list of Rules written by society adds to the emotional labor every woman (using this as a catchall term here) shoulders each day.

WHAT’S THIS GOT TO DO WITH DATING? 

Over the holidays my husband asked what I wanted, and I really couldn’t think of anything. There are things I’d like to have around, but I know realistically they’d break, or I don’t need them, or whatever. So I asked for him to take vacation time while I go to comic con, and for him to plan a date for us.

His response. “Sure! Where do you want to go on the date?”

And I couldn’t really put into words why that wasn’t the right answer.

I mean, it was a fair question. I tend to be a very decisive person. I know where I like to eat. When we sync our schedules so we can have a date, it’s usually with something in mind. But that’s not what I wanted…

… in fact, it took me a few weeks to realize what I was asking for wasn’t dinner out, but for him to do the emotional labor.

I didn’t want a date. I wanted him to take the decision making – what to eat, where to go, when to go, what to feed the kids, is the car gassed? is the traffic good? are the reviews good? – and do the work that I usually do as a matter of course.

Which led to another realization… I would really love a day where no one needs me.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to feel needed. Everyone wants to feel special, loved, appreciated, and wanted. That’s basic human nature.

But there is a world of difference between Loved And Appreciated and OH MY DOG!!! THE WORLD WILL END IF YOU AREN’T HERE!!!!

And for the last few months, I’ve been putting out fires and saving the world.

For the kids, my husband, my friends, my parents, my neighbors… everyone has needed me for something. Which is fun for about ten minutes, and after that it’s just work. Free, emotionally-intensive, often thankless work. Speaking of that, have I ever told you about how magical it is to hear someone say Please or Thank You? Remind me to do that sometime-

It’s exhausting being the emotional dumping ground for everyone around you. And it seems to be the default Mom Role. As if incubating a kid for nine months also qualifies you to be the psychologist for someone at the pick-up line at school. I don’t know about you, but my first child did not come with an honorary diploma and a doctorate. I wish she had, because that would have covered the medical bills.

What the average woman is undergoing every day is extreme levels of Emotional Labor, and by the end of the day she’s suffering Decision Fatigue.

Was I polite enough to Jon at work today, or is he going to get me fired because I didn’t smile enough?
Did I give my kid a balanced lunch?
Am I dressed professionally, but not in a way that will invite sexual assault from the serial harasser that our university refuses to fire because he has a good publication record?
Did I feed myself something healthy?
Did I leave enough of a tip so the college kid waiting tables at lunch can pay their bills?
Am I doing enough for my community and the environment?

Really, the more you think about all the things you *should* do the more your head spins and the less you *can* do.

You’ve probably noticed this already, but most of these things shouldn’t be solely a woman’s problem.

Jon should stop telling women to smile.
The kid, the kid’s siblings, and dad should all have checked the lunch for fruits and veggies to.
The serial harasser should be fired, and possibly in jail.
Healthy food should be readily available and affordable to everyone.
The college kid should get a living wage, free healthcare, and a free education.
The environment should be everyone’s concern, and the packaging on the thing I just bought should be recyclable.

But we live in this imperfect world where misogyny, rape culture, oligarchies, and oil conglomerates hold sway.

If you really want to make someone’s day, take away some of the emotional labor being dumped on them.

Tell Jon not to tell women to smile.
Check the kid’s lunch and make sure there’s something healthy in there.
Fire the serial harasser.
Promote legislation that makes healthy food available to everyone.
Elect officials who will raise minimum wage or provide a universal basic income.
Do your part to save the planet.

PLAN THE DATE.

Look up the restaurants. Check the reviews. Book the sitter. Clear the schedule. And plan the date.

Give the woman in your life a day where she’s loved and appreciated, but where she isn’t the care giver. Make some decisions without her for once. It’s not all the time (please don’t do it all the time), but pick a day and let your special someone know you’ve got it covered for the day.

After all, every Evil Overlord will tell you they love running the world, but even villains need a vacation!

A Cameo From A Local Star

Stan Lee is famous for appearing in the movies adapted from the comics her wrote. In every Marvel movie, he’s somewhere. From delivery man, to the man on the bus, to the janitor in the background he’s a constant (but quiet) character.
For Patreon subscribers there is also a Stan Lee Cameo level for patrons who want to appear in the Heroes and Villains books. The very first cameo will introduce a new superhero to the Heroes and Villains pantheon, and will be appearing in this week’s chapter of THE POLAR TERROR!
Be sure to check out my Patreon page this Friday to see who the guest star is!

What’s happening now?

Publishing is on of those industries where it looks like nothing is happening until a book hits the market on release day. Secretly, everyone here knows that behind the scenes everything is pure chaos, angst, worry, hard work, and possibly a little bit of magic. It takes a lot to get everything ready for the market. Right now I’m in the middle of the chaos.

Three major projects planned for 2018 became four after a conversation today. My non-writing life has taken an unexpected twist that means more hours of working on non-writing things. The kids are getting older which means more sports, plays, choir trips, and homework help. All of which means fewer hours here at the computer, and less time to blog.

Here’s a quick look at what’s going on in my world…

POLAR TERROR – the story of a super villain who answers a Tumblr ad and winds up at children’s hospital in the Yukon is running on Patreon. This is part of the Heroes & Villains universe but isn’t part of the Even Villains… series. Read it now.

FREE FALL – Firefly’s “The Train Job” meets DARK RUN by Mike Brooks when a crew of cons are blackmailed into stealing a diamond for a warlord. There’s a super max prison, a mercenary in a trench coat, and more explosions than the captain is happy with… – This is done, dusted, and off on query. Hopefully I’ll have some good news about it before the end of the year, because this is a fun book and I know you’ll love it.

LAWS OF ATTRACTION – Rowena Lee is back as the main character of her own book. Following nearly a year after the events of BODIES IN MOTION, Rowena is finely getting the hang of life as a Drill Instructor for the newly reopened Fleet Academy when she’s asked to help identify a murder weapon. One thing leads to another and Rowena is knee deep in mud, blood, and corpses. … Like BODIES IN MOTION this is a sci-fi romance with two main point of view characters and a third minor POV character. Expect to see teasers, snippets, and more this summer with a late fall release date.

HIGH ALTITUDE – Spies, lies, and interstellar art theft… the sequel to FREE FALL, this is slotted to be written later this year. That may change when the status of FREE FALL changes.

WRITE LIKE A VILLAIN – a writing guide with snarky asides from Dr. Charm, Zephyr Girl, and the minions. Slices of writing chapters are going up on the blog, longer pieces are going on Patreon, and the final book will have even more fun stuff. Expect to see this Winter 2018/2019.

EMERALD CITY COMIC CON – I’m going! I’ll be on at least one panel! I might have two panels (although it’s not on the schedule yet!)! I will be there Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with a panel for sure Thursday afternoon (with Robin Hobb, Seanan McGuire, and some other very awesome ladies). I’m not quite sure what I’ll have in terms of swag and books, but if you’re there, come find me! It’s my first con and I need friends. 🙂

 

Queries: what they are, how to write them, and what to expect

The query letter…

Dreaded. Hated. Feared. Reviled. The query letter is a necessary requirement for getting your story in front of literary agents and editors.

More importantly, the query letter is what sells your books to readers.

Yup, that’s right, even indie authors write query letters.

Grab the nearest fiction book, flip it over, the blurb on the back? That’s a query letter.

In fact, if you look at the blurb on EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE, that is the query I sent out. That’s the query that got me pulled out a slush pile of a small press and put my first novella into print. If we changed anything it was probably a comma, but that’s it.

If you believe the rumors you know that Doctor Charm, the wickedly sexy super villain, retired in shame seven years ago after his last fight with the super hero Zephyr Girl. The fact that the charming Evan Smith-father of four and husband of the too-beautiful-to-be-real Tabitha-bears a resemblance to the defeated Doctor is pure coincidence. And, please, ignore the minions.

Everything is perfect in the Smith household, until Tabitha announces her return to work as a super hero. Evan was hoping to keep her distracted until after he rigged the presidential election, but – genius that he is – Evan has a backup plan.

In his basement lab, Evan has a machine whose sole purpose is keeping Tabitha hungry for him. But children and labs don’t mix. The machine is broken, and Tabitha storms out, claiming she no longer knows him.
World domination takes a back seat to meeting his daughters’ demands to get Mommy back right now. This time his genius isn’t going to be enough-he’s going to need both his evil alter-ego, and the blooming super abilities of his children to save his wife. But even his most charming self might not be enough to save their marriage.

 

“But, wait!” all the hopeful authors cry. “Isn’t there more to the query letter than this?”

You are correct, dear author! This is what a full query letter looks like. This one is one of about a dozen variants I sent out for THE DAY BEFORE.

YELLOW – the body of the query or the Back Of Book Blurb (BoBB)

RED – crucial data: genre/title/word count
– It’s word count not page count because page count will change with formatting and font choice. Everyone wants the word count.

BLUE – Writing credits. This is 100% optional. If you have no previous writing credits and no platform (I am a forensic scientist writing about a forensic scientist type ‘o thing) skip this part. I was querying THE DAY BEFORE after having established a working relationship with Breathless Press, so I listed them. If I hadn’t, I would have left this paragraph out entirely.

Open with the agent or editor’s name (properly spelled), and close with something polite.

 

HOW TO WRITE THE BODY OF A QUERY:
This is the actual difficult part. What do you put in a query? How much of the story do you tell? How do you keep the story interesting?

It’s easiest to write the query – or at least a rough draft of the query – before you write the book. That way you don’t have extra information cluttering up the blurb. This is a tease, a burlesque literary performance, not the full monty. Focus on the opening scenes of book leading to the call to action. The normal farm boy who pulls a sword from the stone, not the politics of Britain. The little girl finding a magic wardrobe, not the White Witch.

Here’s your formula:

– General Introduction Paragraph (Main character’s name and goals)
– Call to Action (What the character wants and why they can’t get it)
– The Stakes (What happens if they don’t get what they want)
– Word count and Title
– Biographical information including writing credits
– Close the letter

Let’s apply this to a story… For fun, let’s do ROMEO AND JULIET…

“In Verona, a city of blood feuds, corrupt politics, and grudges held for generations Romeo Montague’s only goal is to dodge his father’s enemies (and his father’s ambitions) long enough to meet the beautiful Rosaline. When his best friend wins an invitation to the hottest party of the summer, Romeo can’t pass up the chance to meet the woman of his dreams, even if it means sneaking into the Capulet’s turf.

While searching for Rosaline, Romeo finds Juliet, the heir to the Capulet fortune. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and everything his parents would love in a daughter-in-law, except for her name. If Romeo can win Juliet’s love he might bring peace to feuding Verona. If he can’t, there’s a shallow grave waiting for him in the Capulet’s backyard.

IN FAIR VERONA is a historical romance novel/historic novel with romantic elements complete at 80,000 words.

I have a degree in history, with an emphasis in Italian history and have lived in Verona for the past six years. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and interest,
A. Author

Okay… well… it’s something, right? It doesn’t hint at the murder or star-crossed lovers, or the tragic tone. But it gets the idea across. But, it’s only 175 words (a full query letter should be around 250 words) and it relies heavily on everyone knowing the story of Romeo and Juliet. This is a solid rough draft, but not enough to sell the book to a reader, and ultimately that’s all you are doing. It doesn’t matter if the query letter is going to an agent or an editor, you are targeting a reader.

What would make this query work? With the IN FAIR VERONA query I have two choices because of the genre. If my book has more emphasis on history, rather than the romance, I could focus on Verona: the year, the clothes, the politics… with enough research anyone could write a very realistic romantic thriller about the ill-fated lovers. (P.S. If you do, please let me know because I’d love to read it!)

The other option, and the one I’d pick if this was Genre Romance (with a happy ending) would be to give Juliet a paragraph of her own.

THINGS TO REMEMBER WHILE WRITING THE BLURB

– Tone
– Style
– Mood
– Plot 

One of the reasons that query for THE DAY BEFORE didn’t work well (less than 20% request rate) was because it didn’t capture the tone of the series well. It gives away too much information and makes the whole book sound pretty boring. Look at your copy of THE DAY BEFORE. See the blurb there? See how it reflects the tone, style, and mood of the book without giving away too much of the plot?

Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There’s a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it’s not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.

The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.

This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a body bag.

What does this have?
1) Name of the main character – Agent Sam Rose (her rank lets readers know even more about her)
2) What the main character wants – To get her career back on track
3) A major obstacle for the main character – The questions
4) The stakes –  The threat of her going home in a body bag

 

Notice that one thing these queries don’t do is give away the ending. Authors are often tempted to do this (especially when writing Genre Romance where the Happily Ever After is required) but you don’t want to do that. If the reader can get the whole book from the blurb they aren’t going to spend money on it. And, at the end of the day, it’s really nice to get paid for all your hard work.

QUERY DO’S AND DONT’S
– Do read the blurbs for your comp titles (similar titles in your genre)
– Do read the blurbs for bestsellers in your genre
– Do research agents, editors, and publishers before sending your work out
– Do follow the query guidelines on the submission page
Don’t query before your book is finished, edited and polished
Don’t CC multiple agents/editors on a single email thread
Don’t call, text, or stalk an agent/editor who you sent a query to
Don’t worry about rejections – all you need is one yes

 

 

Want More? The expanded version of this post with examples and more information is available to Patreon supporters.
Want help with your query? I do query critique for Indie and Traditional authors for $25.

 

Painting Sunsets and Other Changes

 

Painting done by me following the tutorial by Cinnamon Cooney on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP7im-6HfJw

Let’s pretend for a minute that I was a painter instead of an author, and that this painting of swirls and leaves was my first book.

This is the painting I went into the world with. This is the painting I found an art dealer with. This is the painting I debuted with. This is the painting everyone knew me for.

I love this painting. The picture is bad (sorry, there’s no natural light in Washington right now). But… I love this painting. I love the colors. I love the way it pops on my wall. I love the blues, and the purples, and the vibrant sunset in the background.

And I want to paint more sunsets.

My literary agent loves this painting too. She loves the touches of bright colors, the intricacy of the leaves, the mix and melange of colors in the swirls.

She wants more swirls.

The TIME AND SHADOWS series is like this painting. It’s a mix of thriller and science fiction. It’s considered quirky because there’s a Hispanic female protagonist who tries not to use a gun, time travel, dogs, and mentions of religion and cloning. It isn’t hard SF and it isn’t Crime Thriller either. It’s a blend of two of my favorite things.

When it came time to write the next book, I struggled to pin down what I wanted. I finally settled on science fiction, and in particular spaceships. I love spaceships. I love cheesy action movies. I love heist movies. I love books like THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT and OFF ROCK, and I wanted to write a fun adventure with spaceships, heists, and wild characters doing zany things. I wanted something fun. I wanted the sunsets.

My agent really loves thrillers. She loved Sam’s intellect, her willingness to stick to things, her curiosity. She wanted more thrillers.

And so, at the end of 2016, my agent and I decided we weren’t moving in the same direction any more.

This is normal. Literary agents have their own career arcs, their own goals, and their own likes and dislikes that change over the years. Authors change over the years. We move between genres, change tones, change focus, quit writing and start again. It is never wrong to grow, change, and set new goals. In fact, it’s really healthy.

So my agent and I parted ways, still friends, and still wishing the best for each other. I still cheer on my former agency siblings. They still cheer me on.

I spent 2017 writing something new, exploring deep space with my band of quixotic rogues, and at the end of 2017 I sent off a query for the first time in four years.

Where does this story end?

I don’t know yet.

The book is out with agents. Some have queries waiting for them. Some have pages to read.

THE DAY BEFORE spent 18 months on query. The first query went out in 2013, a request for pages from a pitch contest. I sent the last query (an R&R to my future agent) in 2014. Signed with my agent in 2014. Sold three books in 2014. Sometimes publishing can move really, really fast. Sometimes it moves very, very slow.

While this book is out I’m working on another one, because that’s how you have a publishing career. You don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on one book. You write a book. You write another book. You keep writing books. Some of them sell, some of them get abandoned. Some of them sell and fade to obscurity. Some of them come out of nowhere to hit the lists. Some of them earn out their advance – and the time you put into them – some don’t. The point is, you don’t know until you write the book and throw it out into the world.

So make like Nora Roberts and keep writing. 🙂

A Quick Check-In

Hello, lovelies!

Winter break is officially over and that means you’re probably expecting some blog posts. Let’s be honest, so was I! But, in the grand tradition of school kids everywhere, my youngest started the second semester with a fever that kept her home. That in turn meant I just rescheduled the next two weeks to catch up on everything I was supposed to do today.

This is what physicists call Entropy, normal people call Chaos, and some people call Murphy’s Law. If things can wrong, they will!

The good news is I am alive, I have a new prescription of designer iron pills so I can keep the chronic anemia in check, and new books are getting written. The bad news is that the blog is not a top priority at the moment. There are some behind-the-scenes things happening with editing, and Inkprint Press, and new books, and Real Life that are keeping me busy. Something has to slide, the blog is most likely to slide.

All the information you need to find my books, my buy links, and me are readily available. Writing tips are available if you are looking for those.

For everything else there is Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, Patreon, and Tumblr.

Twitter: my main lifeline to the world outside Washington. I’m always here talking about everything.
Facebook: Strictly books and SF stuff.
Pintrest: Boards for my books… I don’t use it much but there may be some Polar Terror and LAWS OF ATTRACTION updates soon.
Patreon: Short stories, behind-the-scene stuff, long form posts of the short posts you see here.
Tumblr: Fandom stuff. Come for the Star Trek jokes and stay for the Humans Are Weird posts (proceed with caution).

New Year’s Resolution: How To Start A Novel

Inkprint Press books at a con in Australia. Look at all the pretty books!

So, you want to write a book? Good for you!

Maybe you’ve daydreamed about being a Real Author for years. Maybe you set a goal as a child to pen the next Great Novel. Maybe you have hazy, romantic ideas about what authors do (spoiler alert: we sit at our computers in pajamas a lot). Whatever the reason is, you want to write a book and that’s an amazing goal!

The first step to writing anything is to figure out what you want to write.

The first thing you need to recognize is that you already know how stories go. You know what you like. You have been exposed to enough stories in your time that you know how they are supposed to go. Keep that certainty with you, because there is going to be a point in writing where you forget this and it can kill your dream if you let it.

The second thing you need to recognize is that writing is hard. Getting a perfect story on the page takes more than intuition and experience at reading stories. Being a reader is like flipping a light switch and knowing that the lights are supposed to turn on. Being an author is like generating electricity, inventing a light source, building the house, and installing the switch. The end results are both light, but there’s more technical know-how and hard work when you’re the author/engineer.

Following the light switch analogy, this How To is a guide to figuring out what kind of light source you want to create. Are you making a big lamp, a spotlight, a nightlight? Are you writing romance, horror, sci-fi? Are you writing short fiction or a novel? What story are you going to write?

There are two basic ways that story ideas come to author…
1 – The story jumps out and mugs them, the ideas overflow, and imagination takes over.
2 – The author goes story hunting, plays with ideas, fails a few times, finds something that works, and imagination takes over.

Most authors have both kinds of stories during their careers. Sometimes you wake up from a dream with the shred of a story. Sometimes you read a headline and go, “Someone ought to write that.” Sometimes you sit down for a few hours sketching out ideas until something starts to gel. This is a primer to get the story ideas flowing.

 

1 – List Your Favorite Stories
Broad generalities are fine. Titles are fine. “I love Cinderella stories.” “I love Ocean’s 12 but not 11.” “I love murder mysteries.” … great! Write all those down. Try to come up with at least 10.

2- Find The Common Threads
Compare your favorite stories and see what they have in common. Make a list of 7 of the overlapping themes/ideas/emotions. This will be the base template for your book and your author brand. This is what grabs your attention, fires your imagination, and makes you happy. That means this is what you should write.

3- Start Making High Concept Pitches
THIS meets THAT in NEW LOCATION
Look at your list of favorite stories. Start mixing and matching. “Cinderella meets Ocean’s 11 in Space.” – “Robin Hood meets Boyz To Men on a Cruise Ship” – “Harry Dresden in The Revolutionary War” …. fair warning: not all of these will work. Make a list of 10 to 20 ideas. Make them wild and outrageous. Make them silly. Make them gruesome. Don’t overthink it, just throw words at the page. You are hunting a story here, not committing to a life together.

4- Ask Why
Let’s say your idea is “Lucrezia Borgia meets A Pizza Guy in the TARDIS” (this is a real short story, by the by, not one of mine, but bonus points if you can name the anthology it was published in)… How? Why? Why is Lucrezia ordering pizza? Why is she meeting a pizza delivery person? Why is the TARDIS there?

5- Answer Your Questions
Obviously Lucrezia isn’t going to cook dinner for the twenty people she needs to kill, so ordering pizza from a time traveling pizza delivery company is a great idea! Just add poison for that “Made By Borgia” taste they love!
Every story happens for a reason.
We do not tell stories about the unchanging events. Those are reports. Stories always center on change. We don’t need five hundred pages of routine life, but five dazzling pages about the moment everything changes. The moment the sun rises on the dark landscape. The moment the sun sets. Answering WHY and HOW things change give you the shape of a story. If you get stuck ask WHY again.

6- Write The Basic Outline
Answer your WHY in 500 words or less. Your first sentence should name the main character, their first goal, and their first obstacle. Every sentence after that is filled in by asking “How does the character deal with the obstacle?” and “What comes after that reaction?”
You aren’t trying to write a full outline here. You aren’t plotting your twists. This is simply a sketch to see if you can make this idea stand up on it’s own.
Write three or four of these, take a break, and see which one you’re still interested in writing a week later (don’t be surprised if a better idea comes along while you’re thinking). The story that tackles you at midnight is the one you want to work on.

NEXT TIME: How to Plot a Book – Getting from Idea to Page 1

 

Want More? The expanded version of this post with examples and more information is available to Patreon supporters.