Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What/Who Are Your Biggest Influences?

Well, today is JK ROWLING'S BIRTHDAY!!!!! And Harry Potter's (meaning the character himself) birthday too.

Obviously, she's a huge influence on me. Just look at my last few posts and my blog's header -- although I really need to change that header because I've fallen more in love with JK Rowling's adult novel to only call this a "Harry Potter" blog. She changed my life, got me to thinking that writing could be an outlet during years which weren't really the best for me. She sparked the biggest passion in my life: to write. I can't imagine ever not writing again in my life. I honestly think it'll be one of the worst days of my life if arthritis takes over my wrists. I'm seriously thinking of doing wrist exercises right now because of it. Thinking, not doing. Because. You know. Exercising. And wrists. I'd rather get a six-pack. One day. One day.

Obviously, she's been a huge influence on me, and this is National Harry Potter Day so I thought I had to do a post on this! But it's more than that.

This is about influences.

My family definitely had a bigger impact on my life than JK Rowling has had (real life seems to trump imaginary ones, sadly) but that's expected. But that's okay. How about strangers? What stranger has changed you, impacted you in ways neither of you will ever truly understand?

Victor Hugo's "Les Misérables" left me breathless and sparked a book idea in my mind which I know I'm still not prepared to tackle.

JD Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" is what I consider the most perfect book almost entirely due to the book's voice: it's perfect because I wouldn't change a word in it; I wouldn't change a word in it because Holden would simply not allow it and I'm not messing with him. The book taught me stuff about voice and the usage of the 1st person, information which I'll never forget.

And obviously, JK Rowling and Harry Potter and "The Casual Vacancy," all which you already guessed and I have so much to say about her adult novel that I'll just direct you to my review of the book.

But what's more interesting is to see the vast rainbow of influences in the world, and sadly, I can't fill up this blog post with them because I don't know who affected you.

So for you:

What got you to start writing? To start living? What or who (and it must be strangers, not your family because that is almost a given!) changed you in huge ways?


Monday, July 29, 2013

What "The Cuckoo's Calling" Means for Writers, Readers, and Rowling Herself

By now, almost everyone has heard of JK Rowling's 'new' book, a crime novel called "The Cuckoo's Calling" which was written under the name Robert Galbraith who just recently got revealed to be JK Rowling herself. I did a post denouncing all those who thought the 'reveal' of the name was a publicity stunt by either the author or the publisher. Look at the post here.

But now we'll go into the impact of it. Because of this big reveal, what has changed?

For Writers

Nothing has changed at all.

And I mean that. Other than the fact that now there'll be a mania behind "Oh gosh this debut might be Rowling in disguise!" (that might even help debut novelists!) nothing is different for us writers.

I respectfully disagree with the idea behind Nathan Bransford's post on the subject. (He, by the way, is a man I respect to a GREAT degree - such amazing knowledge of the publishing world.) Honestly, little has changed. It is not hopeless for debut novelists at all because that's not the fact. The facts are these:

  1. Due to obvious reasons, JK Rowling did very little (and probably, no) publicity for this book, "The Cuckoo's Calling." No Twitter account or website was set up before the reveal, and only a few hundred books were signed (and that too, by a bookseller's request, not by Rowling's desire).

    And, most importantly:
  2. Crime fiction, especially nowadays, is not a 'hot' genre at ALL, no matter how well-written the books may be.
Everyone is crying about the fact that the only reason this book shot up so high in sales is because of JK Rowling's name. Well. Yes. Exactly. No crap.

This is not doom for aspiring writers. 

According to Rowling herself (whose numbers I'll trust before any other's), the book sold about 8,000 copies across all formats in three months and received two film deals, before the book got revealed to be written by Rowling herself. That is INCREDIBLE for a debut, nothing to laugh at. 

Also, very little publicity was done for this book in the first place. The above numbers, coupled with this fact, should have writers rejoicing, especially because almost all writers nowadays are expected to do massive publicity for their own work to boost sales. Rowling didn't do that. It's almost obvious that the book wouldn't have sold hundreds of thousands of copies  (and it wasn't meant too, straight off the bat).

Even more so, very few people ever expect a crime novel to reach massive sales. It's all about the commercial draw of the novel, we know that. Crime fiction is a tough genre and a small one. Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") is the only crime series I can think of, in recent times, to hit massive numbers. If the book never had a huge selling angle, I don't understand why everyone's crying that it didn't sell much. It was never expected to, not until the reveal happened and gave the book a selling angle - it was freaking JK Rowling. It's all about how commercial the novel is, and it's just logic that if the book is not commercial, it won't sell a lot. It's plain logic.

And as for all the great reviews it got, I'd wager to bet that I'd only be reading debuts for the rest of my life if I had to read every single book that got a review to the extent of "A scintillating debut," (a quote which so many articles are harping about, saying that "Look, this book was so good, but few people read it!"). 

It's a great review to get, sure; but not unique. Let's not over exaggerate here. "The Cuckoo's Calling" is no Millennium Trilogy (I know; I've started to read Cuckoo). It got great reviews. So did so many other debuts for many years, and yet now we're starting to complain about it. 

Books can be good or well-written and not sell. By definition, to sell, it must have a selling angle. It's all about the commercial aspect and, artistically speaking, it's not horrendous to leave out a roaring commercial aspect.

It is what we already knew.

For Readers

This is an interesting subsection.

Hands up. How many of us were avid crime-fiction enthusiasts before we bought a copy of "The Cuckoo's Calling"?  Unless you were, count me out of that group. I haven't even read the Millennium Trilogy. I'm no crime enthusiast unless you count CSI: NY and Monk (those shows are awesome).

But I bought the book. And I'm reading it now (I'm around page 180 as I write this now). And sure, I like it. But do I love it yet? No. Why not? Maybe because it's too early in the book, but maybe because crime-fiction isn't my thing.

JK Rowling might have adopted the name Robert Galbraith in an attempt to target her true audience - crime fiction lovers. (I think it'd have been AMAZING if Rowling had adopted a pseudonym for "The Casual Vacancy." I loved that book, like seriously I'm in love with it, and the main reason other people didn't like it is because they wanted a "JK Rowling/Harry Potter" novel.) 

Now the whole world is buying her crime novel. The only 1-star reviews on Amazon have popped up after the big reveal, and people who've never read a crime book in their lives are now reading this and expecting witches or something.

What does this say about readers? They should only read what they truly enjoy? Never embark on a new genre? Probably not.

But what it is saying is this: Know what to expect as a reader.  Read something because you love it, because you're interested in it. And if it's not something you'd usually pick up (like in my case with Cuckoo) exercise strong caution in determining whether you like or dislike the novel because of your own prejudices and/or expectations.

For JK Rowling Herself

Now HERE is where the big deal really is.

Instead of a doomed market for debuts, its a doomed market for "type-casted" authors. Ever wonder, truly, as to why Rowling wanted a pseudonym in the first place? Think about it. She would have gotten more money (and less backlash and hassle) if she published this book 'normally'. Why did she want to hide?

She wanted a fresh experience. A clean slate. Something to distance herself from the hoopla surrounding her name and get back to what she loves: writing. But she's so famous, so well-known, that it took just three months for the secret to be leaked.

Can an artist not work for herself? Is she always doomed to being the "Harry Potter" author? It's disgusting and revolting that she must always be compared in that light because she has so much more to offer. And a pseudonym would have helped her. But the fame that surrounded her name was just too much.

It's too hard to please everyone. I say, Ms. Rowling, that you go for another pseudonym and tell us all about it a year or so later, enough time for you to get a clean slate, and then time for us (please!) to read more of your amazing work. But it's all in your hands, as it should be (and sometimes, sadly isn't).

The world hasn't fallen for us writers at all, but what this whole experience has taught us is that we must be more careful as readers, and also that we must let artists be artists: experiment, be free, and not hassled.

Hope you enjoyed! Keep your heads up, writers, it's not hopeless for us.

Friday, July 26, 2013

JK Rowling & The Cuckoo's Calling: Publicity Stunt?

Update: I KNEW I could trust and rely on JK Rowling! Because this information just came in: She sued the company that revealed her info, settled out of court, and is now donating ALL (yes, you heard right!) ALL royalties from "The Cuckoo's Calling" to the Soldiers' Charity! I LOVE HER SO MUCH. I don't think there can be a doubt anymore that this was a publicity stunt (as if there ever was :D). I am just so happy now, and I heard of this on her birthday, July 31! 

No. NO NO NO NO NO. Let me say it again. NO.

But I know that many of you out there might be a bit skeptical. I mean, not all of you can be expected to be huge JK Rowling fans :D It's understandable. And maybe I am a bit biased. But I have solid facts to back me up on the fact that this was not a publicity stunt, and I'm going to share them with you.

But after reading this article., I hope you realize that isn't not understandable anymore if you believe this was a stunt.

Here's the proof. This is how JK Rowling got revealed to be Robert Galbraith, author of "The Cuckoo's Calling." And I'm going to be getting a bit angry in the end, so stay tuned! Woo!

First, it started with Judith Callegari. (The 'statements' listed below come from the Twitter account of Lizo Mzimba, reporter for the BBC, where you can still see them right now. I shall instead be directing to this link where the statements are listed in full, non-choppy-Tweet form.)

Maybe it all started with Chris Gossage, a Partner in JK Rowling's law firm, Russells Solicitors. As a part of JK Rowling's law firm, he did indeed know of Rowling's pseudonymous identity as Robert Galbraith. And, sorry to say, he couldn't keep a secret.

In a conversation with his wife's best friend, Judith Callegari, Chris Gossage revealed the tantalizing information that "The Cuckoo's Calling" was in fact written by JK Rowling herself.

Here is the full statement by Russels Solicitors:

"We, Russells Solicitors, apologise unreservedly for the disclosure...caused by one of our Partners, Chris Gossage, in revealing to his wife’s best friend, Judith Callegari, during a private conversation that the true identity of Robert Galbraith was in fact JK Rowling. Whilst accepting his own culpability, the disclosure...was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly. On becoming aware of the circumstances, we immediately notified JK Rowling’s...agent. We can confirm that this leak was not part of any marketing plan and that neither JK Rowling...her agent nor publishers were in any way involved"

Now, I frankly don't like doing this kind of stuff that I'm doing now. Naming names. Giving companies and people a bad name. But as this is SUCH a big deal (global headlines) and people just DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, the blame is going towards the wrong person (Jo Rowling). The facts must be stated. So sorry, Ms. Callegari and Mr. Gossage.

Now, how did Ms. Callegari reveal the details? Well, The Sunday Times posted something on Twitter to the accordance that they didn't believe "The Cuckoo's Calling" could have been written by a debut novel - it was too good! This is just normal praise. But Ms. Callegari tweeted in reply that it was not by a debut author, it was in fact by JK Rowling, and then proceeded to delete that Tweet and her entire account.

Obviously, as a news group, The Sunday Times did its own research after the tip, and this TIME article shows how the forensic linguist discovered her true identity. It's a pretty cool read. Anyway, they found out, and the whole truth got revealed, and the rest is history.

This was her (second, I think?) statement in reaction to the reveal:

"I have today discovered how the leak about Robert's true identity occurred...A tiny number of people knew my pseudonym and it has not been pleasant to wonder for days how a woman whom I had never heard of... prior to Sunday night could have found out something that many of my oldest friends did not know...To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I had assumed that I could expect total confidentiality from Russells...a reputable professional firm, and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced."

JK Rowling understates her own emotions. She's also classy. She doesn't single out people for her hate. So when she says she feels "very angry" and "disappointed" make sure you know that she is PISSED.

So that is exactly how it happened. But, obviously, there are still skeptics. "It's all a conspiracy, after all!" So here's some evidence for the rest of you.

I am proud to say that I've watched and read many, MANY, MANY JK Rowling interviews. I think I've watched every YouTube interview there is, and even more script interviews. This is hours and hours of information. So trust me when I say that I know her almost as much as anyone can from behind the computer. (But I don't know her address or shoe size or anything creepy-stalkerish, so don't worry.)

The US cover for "The Cuckoo's Calling."
I do not own this picture. All rights go to
the book designer, the publisher, the writer, and
other interested parties.

Even More Proof
  1. JK Rowling almost despises the paparazzi. She does NOT like publicity and would not be seeking for it in a 'plot'. Want proof? Check out this interview where one of her desires is to see "a particular journalist being boiled in oil." (Don't take that too seriously. She's a hilarious and compassionate woman - it's just a joke.) CHECK OUT THIS FREAKING SPEECH DURING THE LEVESON INQUIRY where she spoke out against journalists targeting (and stalking!) her 5-year-old daughter. The Leveson Inquiry is a now-famous inquiry in Britain with the main purpose to make publicists accountable for their actions. This was huge in Britain, and JK Rowling wrote this bitter article in reaction to Prime Minister David Cameron's almost snub of the results of this long and arduous Inquiry. She writes very few editorials. That means when she does, she really means it. SHE DOES NOT LIKE THE PUBLICITY! Ever heard of character Rita Skeeter? And in "The Cuckoo's Calling," it is evident from the first few pages that she does not like them.
  2. The publisher, Little Brown, was completely unprepared for the rush of book orders after the reveal. They had people working around the clock to get the books printed. If they themselves (or Rowling) had plotted to get more money to themselves (and not to the quick-and-ready e-book sellers like Amazon), they would have had the books ready! Instead, probably many of the initial books got lost to Amazon and e-readers. If they truly wanted just the money, they never would have come up with such as stupid way to get it. It's simply illogical. JK Rowling and the publisher would have made more money the 'traditional' way of revealing a book. And if some think she just wanted more publicity, then...honestly. She's JK Rowling. She has more than enough already. And if you don't believe that, look at number 1 above. She doesn't want it.
  3. JK Rowling would have made MUCH more money if she published 'normally'. "The Casual Vacancy" (a book which I lovvveehad an initial print run of 2 million, most of which are gone already. "The Cuckoo's Calling" had a second print run (after the 'reveal') of 300,000 which is a lot, but not nearly the same amount. The normal way of publishing (saying, "I'm going to be releasing a novel in two months!" would have been MUCH more prosperous, I think). And as she says in the FAQ section of her new Robert Galbraith website,

    "If sales were what mattered to me most, I would have written under my own name from the start, and with the greatest fanfare." 

    In fact, read all the FAQs there. The answers are incredible. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE MONEY!
  4. In terms of actual cash flow (not net worth), JK Rowling is richer than the Queen (and that article was in 2003; she's even RICHER now, with so many more books and movies coming out since then). Jo Rowling doesn't need the money. And as she's experienced debilitating poverty and understands the value of money, she doesn't thirst for it. She has a LOT.
  5. And the biggest reason, something all writers (like me!) can understand: she wants to get real, unbiased reviews. As she says in the FAQ section of the Robert Galbraith website,

    "As for the pseudonym, I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer."

    I think that most artists can understand this.

Frankly, I am just DISGUSTED by some of the comments that appeared on various articles, decrying JK Rowling as just crying for attention. Just look at the 1-star reviews (ALL of which came AFTER the reveal - before it was around 26 reviews of all 5's and one 4, I think?). Read those 1-stars. Some of them are maybe acceptable. But most are down-right ridiculous. Amazon needs a way to make reviews with "least helpful" ratings not affect the overall ranking.

It's astounding that the ones who hate her the most are the ones who know her the least. A simple knee-jerk reaction, and a disgusting one at that. Anyone who truly knows JK Rowling knows she wouldn't be so low as to make this a publicity stunt.

We all deserve our privacy. It is a RIGHT, and sadly, most of us never experienced years and years during which we couldn't go swimming or else face the cameras clicking at us in our bathing suits. During which we had to hide our faces and wear a disguise to buy our own wedding dresses. (I'm a guy. So tuxedo, maybe?) During which we had to file law suits to protect our child's face. During which we had to zip open our child's backpack and find a letter tucked in there addressed to us, a school in which we hoped our child, our child, would be free of the craziness of our lives. During which we had to agonize over how unfair it all is.

All JK Rowling wanted to do was to write freely and happily, without expectations.

Stay tuned for my post on Monday about how this all affects the writer and the reader. I'm going on the premise that it would have been best if JK Rowling had not been revealed at all; how it would have been best if sales were low. ALTHOUGH the sales before the reveal

"had sold 8500 English language copies across all formats (hardback, eBook, library and audiobook) and received two offers from television production companies.... Robert’s success during his first three months as a published writer (discounting sales made after I was found out) actually compares favourably with J.K. Rowling’s success over the equivalent period of her career!" 

So, everyone saying: "This book was doing so horribly before," it actually wasn't. Those numbers (and movie deals) are actually quite good for a debut with very little publicity (Robert Galbraith did not do any public book signings for this book, for obvious reasons, and in order to excuse herself from meeting others, JK Rowling wrote the now infamous and false biography that Robert Galbraith was an ex-military veteran).

So this book might have skyrocketed by itself. Maybe. It is going to be a series, after all, which a main character everyone seems to love. The sequel is already written and soon-to-be-published next year!

It would have been best if I (a huge JK Rowling fan) and most of the world had never heard or read the book *sobs*, if that meant that JK Rowling would have targeted her true audience.

It was truly incredible and heartwarming to see the original, early Amazon reviews of this book. Real crime-lovers in love with this book. Passionate about it, and not about the author alone. Now it's all tainted and muddy. Hopefully Rowling goes pseudonymous again. Even if it is just three months of unbiased paradise, I'm sure it felt incredible.

Please, please, Rowling. Write more, and whatever you want. Go with another pseudonym. And maybe reveal yourself after a few years or so, so we others can enjoy the novel as well? :) I, for one, have gotten tired of trying to convince those around me of your innocence. Hopefully this article helps with that, but a man can sit in a chair, close his eyes, and say over and over, "This chair does not exist, this chair does not exist," and nothing you can say or do can make him concede the fact. And the fact is, JK Rowling did not make this a publicity stunt. There will always be disbelievers, and I'm tired of all of it.

Just do what you want, Rowling. No sense in pleasing anyone. There'll always be your true fans around you.

If you know anyone who doesn't believe in JK Rowling's innocence, please tell them everything I've just told you. It's horrible to see an innocent woman being insulted. 

And, overall, please, just do your research before you make a judgement. And don't dwell in extremes. Remember, nothing is ever 100%.

I hoped you learned/enjoyed (enjoyed?!) this post! I hate to get serious, but we all need to get serious sometimes in life :D Bright side: I want to write and have gotten great ideas, mustering up from my 9-day vacation. Down side: I'm jet-lagged and as I usually write late at night, I'm not really planning to write much. Or it might be laziness. Urrghh.

Stay tuned and subscribe to this blog for Monday's post, basically Part 2 of this post!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I'M BACK! Schedule of Posts to Come

I am BACK from my vacation! WOO!!! 

I actually missed blogging, interacting, commenting, everything, so much. I want back in this community! I missed it!! (I thought I'd be taking a fun 'break' from it all but turns out, I need back in.)

After more than a week of not blogging, I'm about to start all over again.

I just got back from the airport a little bit ago, it's about 3 AM in London (from where I came), and I'm tired, so this blog post will be short BUT EXCITING!!




On Friday and Monday, I shall be posting a post about "The Cuckoo's Calling" and JK Rowling. I have a LOT to say about this subject because, quite frankly, it gets me very upset. Really. So stay tuned for Friday. Sneak peak: I feel it would have been best if JK Rowling had never been outed, even if it meant that I'd never heard of (or read) the book, ever (crime fiction isn't really my genre - I haven't even read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"). I'M WILLING TO GIVE UP READING A JKR BOOK. Stay tuned. Grrr.

This post will be split up into two parts for two separate days - one about the whole 'reveal' and another about the repercussions to the reader and the writer.

(By the way, I just got "The Cuckoo's Calling" and I'll be starting it soon! Woo!)

Hopefully, sometime next week, I shall be posting many pictures about my tour in "The Making of Harry Potter" Leavesden Studio's Tour (the actual set pieces where the films were filmed!) as per request of the incredibly kind Joyce Alton (hopefully all the pictures get uploaded from camera to computer so I can make the post!).

I'm also be posting some about the writerly info I got from a class I recently took. Bunch of interesting things to think about and such. Fun fun.

Maybe one personal post about writing thrown in there, probably in two week's time.

But that's that, and I'm happy, SO HAPPY, to be home, and I've NEVER (seriously, except maybe at the creation of this blog) had so many ideas for so many posts. It feels wonderful. I can blog and blog and will have fun doing it.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Query Kombat is OVER - What to Improve?

Query Kombat is officially over!!

The agented round has ended and about half of our 16 top entries got requests :)

I truly hope that what you got from this year's Kontest was all the critiquing, support, and feedback to strengthen your pieces (because, honestly, we were a little light on requests). We apologize SO much for that and we thank the agents/editors (Sarah Negovitch, Pooja Menon, Jordy Albert, Terrie Wolf, Rachel Russell, Kathleen Rushall, Jennie Goloboy, and Claire Anderson-Wheeler) that did come 1000000000 times over; we love you so much (and thank YOU, Pooja Menon, for making the most requests! Go Tweet her and congratulate her. And read her interview with the lovely Monica B.W. to see how awesome she is. She's a relatively new agent and has signed many new agents so far -- opportunity for many awesome writers to query her with awesome stuff? I think so (if you don't mind me saying, Ms. Menon)).

We hope to get the agenting requests out sooner next time (maybe many months in advance) so you guys do get the fruits of your labor. We are so, so sorry about this, truly, and we hope you'll still consider entering Query Kombat next year. We're going to try even harder next year.

But, one last thing, so it can stew until I come back:

What do you want improved about Query Kombat? ANY and ALL suggestions are good. Don't be ashamed, don't be afraid. I'd actually love it if you give some real, strong critiques because we want next year to be even better!

(I am on vacation so I won't be blogging much for the next two weeks, but WOO! VACATION!)


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Winners of Birthday Mini-Contest!

I did a little "It's my birthday!" mini-contest last Friday and here are the two winners of the (very, very small) contest!

Their stories:

A funny one from Rena:

"So, not heart warming, but sort of entertaining birthday story: My sister has always lamented the fact that her hair isn't as long as she'd like. In response she has always worn it down so that it hangs over her shoulders. At her birthday party, we brought out a cake brimming with lit candles. She leaned over and blew out the candles.

"Of course she lit her hair on fire.

:Her boyfriend at the time slapped out the fire post haste. Her best friend said, "Damnit! I didn't get the picture in time! What a Kodak moment!"

"Now everyone ties back their hair before making birthday wishes in my family."

That is hilarious. Seriously. I thought it only happened in movies!!!

And now a heartfelt one from Kel Heinen:

"When I turned 11, it was just after my grandma H had passed away. I was confused when people said she wasn't coming back, etc., had no clue what had happened in August. So, imagine my surprise when, while opening presents, there was a gift from Grandma H. I still have the stuffed animal she gave me and can't sleep without it most nights. I don't care how old I get, that toy will always be with me. It's the very last thing I ever got from her and I treasure it."

That is so sad/happy and truly, increidbly wonderful.

Thank you so much for sharing your birthday stories with me! I loved them :)

BUT NOW I'M OFF TO VACATION! So blogging for the next two weeks (apart from a post I scheduled for Monday) will be sort of light, but I think I'll still be on Twitter (if I get Wi-Fi there). So Tweet me up!


Friday, July 12, 2013

"It's My Birthday" Mini-Contest!

WOO!!! It is my birthday!!!! (Just like last time, I scheduled this post for 7:12 am so it's all like 7/12, July 12, all awesome and stuff, BUT I ACCIDENTALLY DID IT FOR 7:12 PM SO NOW IT'S ALL RUINED. ARG! Let's see if Blogger lets me go back in time and say that I posted it at 7:12 AM.)

Last year I did a sort of mini-contest where everyone shares something about a birthday, and an awesome suggestion: Why their characters have the birthdays they do.

I want to do something like that this time, too!

(Woah, it's really been a year. That's crazy.)

However, I'm going to be out for a while due to vacation stuff (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) SO I won't be around to really do Contesty regulation things.

So here's the Mini-Contest!

Share a funny story, nice story, heart-warming story, etc., about a birthday (doesn't have to be yours!) and put it in the comments below. I'll pick the best one and schedule a post for Monday to post it :) (However, your entry has to be in by afternoon on Saturday (tomorrow) because I'M LEAVING!!!)

Yes. I know. Kind of silly, maybe pointless, but just good fun :)

About Query Kombat:

The agent round is coming to a close tomorrow, and more than half of the 16 entries have gotten requests! But we hope to get bigger. We seriously hope to do more. Next year, we're going to plan it further in advance and get more agents to stop by (and invite the AWESOME agents that already did to come again! They, truly, were fantastic (and if you're reading this, agents, we all hope that you find a future client from this contest!)).

Hopefully, you entrants got a lot of help from the various critiques you got from being in the Kontest, and also from the Twitter mini-critiques we hosts did for those who didn't get into the Kontest. Hopefully, your 250 and query got stronger even if you didn't get requests (your entries are still AMAZING, trust us!).

You guys are going far, and please keep in touch with us to share success stories :)

Yay, Query Kombat! And yay, Happy Birthdays!!!!

Monday, July 8, 2013


Yes, it is July 8th!!!! 

That means, over on Mike's blog, the top sixteen finalists (those that made it into Round 3) of Query Kombat will be posted AGAIN and will be perused by many itching-to-request agents!!!

Agents will be coming in from today, July 8th, to July 13th (Saturday) to make their requests.

We've worked hard to get as many agents as we can to look over these entries (a LOT of emails, soon to be mass-Tweeting), and it'd be awesome to get even more! ONE THOUSAND AGENTS. HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE.

If you know any agents or can get in contact with them, invite them over to Mike's blog to make requests! We have almost every single genre accommodated and every single age-group (even NA!) except for very young children (we do have MG, though). Chances are, any fiction-requesting agent will find something they love in the top 16!

So invite! Also, look at me on Twitter (@SC_Author) and feel free to retweet, mention, etc., to any and all agents, and help spread the #QueryKombat love.

This week-long phase is almost ALL about getting agents to come and make requests, and we've got some AWESOME AND FANTASTIC agents lined up for it!

I am very, very excited to see what happens.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Interview with QK Grand Mentor - MarcyKate Connolly!!!

WOOO!!! HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!!! Go America har har woop woop!

In an explosion of fireworks, we introduce you to MarcyKate Connolly, the Query Kombat 2013 Grand Mentor Champion!

MarcyKate coached the Grand Champion, Jungle Vendetta, to victory. We had to share her words of wisdom with you.

What did you think when asked to take part in a query contest as a mentor?

It sounded fun! I entered a metric crap-ton (yes, that’s the technical term)  of contests when I was querying, so I liked having an opportunity to help other writers still in the trenches.

And did the Query Kombat mentor process go smoothly? I believe you had two MG entries. What did you love about your entries and how did you make them better?

It went very smoothly. I had two AWESOME mentees who did a fabulous job polishing up their queries and first pages. I loved that they both had such voice (which is really, really hard to do!), and their willingness to take critique (not everyone does this well either, unfortunately). Also, they both had such unique concepts!
The first thing I did was ask them to send me their query and the first 5 pages of their manuscript. Even though the judging was only on the first page, I wanted to get a fuller sense of the opening. Beginnings are hard, and sometimes the right starting point isn’t until later on. Luckily both mentees had found a starting place that did feel right to me.

Most of my feedback was centered around the query – they’re the hardest to master and it’s hard to be objective about one’s own. I pointed out some areas that were confusing to me or where I thought we needed more information, as well as some suggestions for moving certain hooky bits further up to the beginning. I think they both did stellar work with them, and I’m just delighted to see the judges agreed with me on Jungle Vendetta J

Did you enter contests when you were back in the query stage? And how did you eventually snag such a fantastic agent?

Oh yes, I may have earned the nickname “Contest Queen” among my inner circle… I love pitch contests, I think they’re a fantastic way of getting your work out there and even if it doesn’t win the contest, it still gets exposure and can lead to other opportunities. For instance, I had a few agents who remembered my pitch from a contest and tracked down my website to ask for pages or to query them with my next book (and they weren’t even schmagents!). Putting yourself out there is an important part of the process, so you may as well get working on that now. Also these contests put you in touch with the online writing community, which is INVALUABLE.

However, despite my deep and abiding love of contests, I got my agent the old fashioned way – the slush pile.

Did you do a cartwheel or run around the house like crazy when you got your agent offer? Same with your publisher? We want to experience it through you!

I think I was mostly in shock when I got my first agent offer (almost a year ago!). It was very surreal to have an agent actually want to talk to me after querying three other manuscripts and getting hundreds of NOs over the course of several years. There was a lot of re-reading of emails, squeeing, and trying to convince myself that yes this was really happening. And then Suzie offered (after reading my manuscript in 24 hours – she’s a speed demon!), and another agent offered too, making three total. When you’re querying this sounds ridiculously glamorous, but in reality it’s very stressful! (Obviously, also awesome). Especially when they’re all great agents who love your book. But really, I couldn’t imagine *not* signing with Suzie, so I did. Best. Decision. Ever. J

The first publishing offer was a little different. Suzie sent the manuscript to a bunch of editors on a Thursday afternoon and by Monday we already had interest from two. I was determined not to get my hopes up too high because interest doesn’t always translate to a book deal – it means the editor loves it, but now they need to convince a room full of people to love it too. I figured it would be a long haul, so while I was thrilled, I tried not to panic about it too much.

Then that Friday came along and it was the worst day ever. I had the first non-raving performance review of my life, despite working crazy hours on a regular basis, and spent much of the day crying and panicking in the bathroom afraid I was going to get fired (spoiler: I didn’t).  At some point, I tweeted something along the lines of Dear Universe: if you have anything good coming my way, there’s no better time than now. And wouldn’t you know? Less than hour later I got call from Suzie – she’d seen my tweet and had just received some news that she thought might cheer me up: HarperCollins wanted to buy my book! (spoiler:  IT SO DID CHEER ME UP).  Needless to say, this catapulted me to the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, and there were many more tears shed that afternoon, but of the joyful variety.  In short, I was a bit of a wreck that day! (Moral of the story: sometimes, the Universe answers. Also, ice cream sundaes for dinner make everything a little brighter J)

I know you have an MG yourself, Monstrous, that will be published next year. Tell us a little about it and share if you have a release date yet.

MONSTROUS is an upper MG fantasy that’s Frankenstein meets the Brothers Grimm told from the viewpoint of the monster as a teenage girl. There’s a slightly longer description on Goodreads if you like. I don’t have an exact date yet, but it is currently scheduled for Winter 2015.

What is an important difference between the YA voice and MG voice?

Ah geez, you had to ask this didn’t you? Honestly, it’s a I-know-it-when-I-see-it thing, especially since there’s a whole range of voice types for both YA and MG. 

Generally speaking though, I think MG tends to be more internally focused on the main character, who they’re becoming and their place in their particular sphere, whereas YA tends to encompass those things but also with an eye to how the main character fits into the society/world at large. But as with all generalizations, there’s plenty of exceptions J

We’d love to have you back as a mentor next time. Are you up for it?

YES, absolutely! It was fun!

MarcyKate Connolly is an author and arts administrator who lives in New England with her husband and pugs and writes weird little books. She’s also a coffee addict, voracious reader, and recurring commuter. She blogs about all those things and more at, and can often be found on Twitter. Her work is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media, and her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in Winter 2015.


Thank you so, so much MarcyKate, for helping make this Kontest such a success! Hope your book release goes amazingly.

And remember, the SWEET 16 starts July 8th. The top sixteen Query Kombat finalists will go before agents and hopefully get tons of requests (we are sending the word out to agents).

How do you like MarcyKate's book? Does it sound absolutely awesome? What are your fourth of July plans (I HOPE to see fireworks but the next day is my cousin's wedding, so I don't know if I'll be able to D:).

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Interview with Query Kombat GRAND CHAMPION 2013!!!!!!!!!!

Here is his story:

The judges went wild over your story of a boy and his uncle stranded on a dangerous safari. Tell us a little about the plot and characters of Savage Jungle.

My protag Kreith is a technologically savvy video game lover without an ounce of muscle and who is a bit of a wimp.  

He looks up to his Uncle Tonas, who plays opposite him as the big, macho tough-guy, and it’s through Kreith’s adventures in the jungle that he finds out what true toughness is and how useful his own strengths are.  

Plot-wise, he and Uncle Tonas get stranded in the jungle by a man out for revenge on Uncle Tonas (wrong place, wrong time for Kreith), and they need to survive not only the lethal animals, but ultimately this vengeful sicko himself.

What inspired you to write it?

Oh, man…that’s a tough one haha.  I think most of the time I have no idea where my story ideas come from.  They usually just plop in my brain somehow, and the ones I love enough I start to write.  But I love sci/fi and survival stories, so it’s easy to see how this one came to be.

Have you written other stories and is middle grade and science fiction your preferred genre? How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing stories ever since I can remember, but didn’t start writing “seriously” (with the intention of publication) until about five years ago.  I always wrote fantasy, and thought for a while that middle-grade was my preferred genre, but surprised myself when I recently finished the rough draft of a YA dystopian, and I have an idea for an NA fantasy book that I’m pretty excited about.

How many drafts of your query did you go through and did you get any help from other writers prior to Query Kombat?

A LOT of drafts (too many to recall haha).  And yes—lots of help prior to the contest.  I have a beloved group of friends I met during my Writing Popular Fiction MFA program at Seton Hill University (we call ourselves The Troublemakers), and we’re constantly critiquing each other’s work/queries.  This query has also been critiqued by crit partners I’ve met online who have really helped chisel it into shape.

What was your favorite/most helpful part of Query Kombat?

This is tough to say—the whole thing was fantastic!  However, I think my favorite part was working with a mentor to really hone and improve my entry, and then having that entry go back into the crazy, frenzied battle that is Query Kombat!  Also—all the great feedback from judges, mentors, and fellow kompetitors alike at all stages of the tournament was incredible.

How was the Query Kombat experience and how did you survive all those rounds without going crazy?

It was a fantastic experience, and I’m so happy to have been a part of it.  It’s awesome being part of this wonderful writing community, and, like I said, getting all that helpful feedback from judges and fellow entrants right from the first round was so beneficial.  It was a win-win no matter what ;)

Any words of wisdom for everyone in the query trenches?

It sounds so clichéd, but it’s really a matter of not giving up, continuing to stick it out and get better, both when it comes to sharpening your query and writing in general.  The more advice you get (and give) and the longer you’re at the game, the more things stick and obviously the more you improve.  You never know when it will all come together for you, and at the end of the day, no matter what, you can be proud of being a better writer than you were before!

We would love to have you as a judge for the next Query Kombat. Would you come back next year and do some voting?

Sure. I’d love to come back. It really has been such a great experience, and once again I thank the hosts, judges, mentors, and all the great kompetitors for such an awesome tournament! See you next year.

About Chris von Halle:

I’m an aspiring fantasy and science fiction writer. I recently obtained my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and I live in the otherwordly realm of Mendham, NJ. Feel free to visit my blog at: or give me a shout-out on Twitter.


It seriously is no mean feat to beat out about 220 other entries and become the 2013 Query Kombat Champion! Super awesome congrats to you, Chris, and we hope to see awesome success stories from you soon!

A note to all Query Kombaters in the Top 16:

You can send in a revised version of your entry to QueryKombat (at) yahoo (dot) com by this Saturday, July 6th, 9 PM EST.

An interview with mentor MarcyKate Connolly, mentor of Chris, will be coming up soon!! Congrats, both of you, for a job well done!