Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I Am Thankful For


Sorry for not posting much! It's a busy few months for me. Especially with the current goings on in America, I've felt too depressed, frustrated, conflicted, hopeless, angry, and so many other emotions that constantly swirl in my mind, day in and day out, so much so that I don't know if I can handle all this emotion. Maybe Thanksgiving couldn't have come at a better time.

As a writer, I'm thankful for this community. You guys are seriously one of the best things to ever happen to me.

As a human, I'm thankful for compassion. One of the only things that's keeping the little hope I have left is my trust in the power of love and compassion.

I am also thankful for God. I don't know exactly what I believe, but I think I believe, and so I am eternally thankful.

Many happy wishes to you all! Please, make room in your heart for love and compassion. It washes hate away like a river and opens up your minds to new and profound truths.

I'm planning to spend it with a lot of family and also planning to ski :D What are your plans? 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kim Long - Query Kombat 2014 SUCCESS STORY!

 Happy happy happy again, WE'VE GOT ANOTHER SUCCESS STORY! These make our days :) This one is from Kim Long who participated in Query Kombat 2014.   


A couple years ago I decided I wanted to write a book. I always enjoyed writing, and every now and then I'd get inspired for a few weeks and work diligently at putting words onto paper, but it wasn't something I took seriously. One night I was reading Game of Thrones and thought how great it'd be if there was a book solely about Arya Stark.I've always considered Arya the most interesting (even though there's other characters I love, like Tyrion), but there's so many characters in Martin's books that we don't see enough of her. So, with this bright idea, I closed the word document containing my legal thriller and started a YA fantasy that focused on a fourteen-year-old girl. Fast forward to a year-and-a-half later. Manuscript is finished. I write my query (getting suggestions from Query Tracker folks) and send it out.


I enter it in Pitch Madness.


I enter Sun & Snow.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

I decide to read some YA fantasy. (Now there's an idea--one I should have had much earlier, but hey, better late then never.) I learn that my original ideas aren't so original, and, overall, I'm not sure there's anything really unique or spectacular to make my YA fantasy stand out. I do a complete overhaul and decide to query one more time. I also enter a few more contests (The Writer's Voice, LIke a Virgin, etc. - same crickets as before.) But during this time, I also come to the conclusion that it's probably best to move on and write something completely different. Because the one thing I did learn over the two years was how much I really loved writing. Why hadn't I been doing this earlier? Oh that's right, I have a day job and a zillion other things to do. But I didn't want to stop, and with tons of ideas popping into my head, how could I?

So I send out my last batch of queries for the YA in late January 2014 and start an MG fantasy. The words came easier this time--much easier, as did pacing, showing vs. telling, the query letter, everything really. Apparently, that YA novel had taught me something. I finished in early May 2014 with my eye on Query Kombat. I entered before my beta readers finished it and was thrilled when Michelle picked my entry, Star Light, Star Bright, for her team. I advanced a few rounds, but the greatest part was all the incredibly positive comments I received. Overall, people loved the query letter, the idea, and the voice. I was definitely onto something!

I sent out five queries in late May and then a few more in July. I received two requests for fulls out of the first six queries I sent. Wow. I couldn't believe it! Between July and early September I sent out a few more queries (basically, whenever I read about someone who said she/he had received a rejection a year after getting a full request, I got scared and sent out a few more queries). The request rate stayed pretty constant. I had six full requests out of 22 queries.

Then in early October I got an email from an agent saying she loved the book, but thought certain parts could be more developed. She passed, but said if I felt like revising, please send it her way. At the time, I had been revising one of the parts at issue, having come to a similar conclusion. I really liked the way the revisions were going and, even though the agent had passed, I was hopeful she would like the revisions . . . and that's when Agent #2 emailed that she loved the initial manuscript and would like to offer representation. But what about the revisions I loved so much? Since I liked the changes, I quickly completed the revisions, notified the other agents of the offer, sent the new version to everyone (including the agent who had indicated she'd love to look at a revised version) and waited.

I ended up with multiple offers, and everyone I talked to was great. But Sara Crowe had been one of the first agents I queried, and when she emailed, "I LOVE this book," my heart skipped a beat. The ensuing conversation was just as amazing, and everyone says to go with your gut, so that's what I did. I'm thrilled to say I am now represented by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger.

Now, I know this is very long for a success story, but if I had said I wrote a book in three-and-a-half months, sent 22 queries, got six full requests, and an offer three-and-a-half months later from my dream agent, it would seem like things came very easy. They didn't. It was three years of writing, of rejection on the YA, of entering contests and not getting picked, and of getting no favorites in twitter contests. But persistence does pay off, as does knowing when it's time to try something new. My YA is still there, and there are parts of it I love and may try to rework some day, but the best thing I could have done was move onto something new. If I had any advice, that would be it--stick with it, use contests to get to know people and improve your writing, and don't get discouraged. Remember that we're in this for the long haul and for the love of the story.

Kim Long is an attorney working in the Chicagoland area who, when not lawyering or writing, spends time drawing, bicycling, and becoming way too invested in her fantasy football and baseball teams.

Without a doubt, success seems to come fast and easy.  Rick Riordan has an AMAZING blog post about this. Anyway, CONGRATS CONGRATS KIM! Check out her blog AND CONGRATULATE/FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER! Good luck with everything :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Secret to Writing a Retelling

So sorry for the long wait to post! I've been taking a nice and relaxing break after the craziness and awesomeness of Nightmare on Query Street. This break has been so...nice. I feel  relaxed and energized and ready to start anew.

I posted on Twitter that I wanted to do a post on retellings and I got a good amount of positive feedback.

There's been a  surge of fairy tale and fable retellings in the market today, and as a consequence, as a contest host, I've seen a lot of retellings being submitted to the contests. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, etc.

The hook of writing a retelling is that it already has a high concept story angle. Yes, the same high concept that many agents are saying they want. I think this high concept is what attracts a lot of writers to retellings.

But here's the catch. Anyone can retell as story. Not everyone can retell a story.

Yes, yes, confusing! But here's what I mean. There are a lot of tips about retelling a story so I'm only going to share my personal view on the 'secret' to a successful retelling.

The Secret to a Retelling lies in the word 'retell' itself. Meaning, you must REtell the story, completely changing it to become your story. Don't just retell it, we know the original story. REtell it.

  1. Do NOT let the original story cripple you. 
    story you're writing is YOUR story. Not the original writer's. Not the mass media's. Do you really want to spend possible/probably years on a novel that isn't yours?

    I've seen this in some stories where in order to 'fit' the original story, the writer stretches themselves and breaks their narrative to fit some things in. Let's take, for example, Snow White. You know the whole apple thing. What if you're writing a retelling and, in this mythological world of yours, apples exist only in a faraway country? Will you do the equivalent of stopping the narrative, take the characters on a trip to the country just for the apple? Screw the damn apple if it doesn't fit in your narrative! Let the apple rot!

    I beta-read for this one amazing author who wrote a retelling I'm still in love with. Her story was mainly because of her love for the original story. Iconic scenes from the original story forced their way into this retelling and did nothing but stop the narrative and check off another box on a hypothetical list of 'famous parts I must retell.'

    Now, this does get into tricky territory. The question you must ask yourself is this: Where am I going to draw the line between taking inspiration from the original story and creating my own ideas? If I were ever to write a retelling, I'd stick mainly/only with that initial 'spark'; the reason I want to write the story in the first place. What part of the original story do I love? What arc of the story is the arc I want in mine? The similar arc would be my retelling.
  2. Predictability.

    This is a biggy. Since most probably know the original story, you must come up with an unexpected ending. This is almost a must (I say almost because I don't like talking in 100%s). How you'll make the ending unexpected is up to you. Keeping the same ending as the original story but pointing all clues towards the idea that you won't be ending it the same way? Changing the ending completely (but also making that unpredictable because if the ending is Snow White doesn't need a man's kiss, she can revive herself, we're all expecting that as well)?
  3. Originality.

    Create your own characters. The hard part, for me, is wondering if I like the retelling because of the retelling itself or because I like the original story. Sort of like loving a stranger who looks a lot like a deceased loved one - do you truly love the stranger?

    Separate yourself from the original story. Take an axe to it. Proclaim to the reader, "This is my story!" and you'll have it. This is hard to do ("But I love the original story, I must treasure it and respect it in my retelling!") but crucial. Don't give a reader the same story; they might technically like it but it'll be boring for them. Add something new to the narrative. Find your twist, and make that twist huge.
These are my tips. Especially for retellings, I'd STRONGLY recommend you thoroughly plan out (yes, plan, even you pantsers!) what your story is going to be about. It's crucial to have a story that is planted with the same seed as the original story, but sprouts to become a totally different, more ambitious, and (hopefully) better story than the original. After all, why are you retelling the story if you don't want to push it to new extremes?

Hopefully this helps! Any other tips you think would be helpful? 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Caitlin Sinead "Heartsick" COVER REVEAL!

GUYS GUYS GUYS Caitlin Sinead from Nightmare on Query Street 2013 HAS A COVER REVEAL!!!!! I'm so excited for this. (Before this, read her success story.)


Quinn is looking forward to her senior year. She has big plans to hang out with her best friend Mandy, flirt with cute boy-genius Rashid, party at her favorite dive bar, and figure out what she’s going to do after graduation with her not-so-useful art major degree.  But that is before she meets Luke, a hot townie who moves back home to help take care of his dying sister. And it is before the weird epidemic that starts sweeping campus in which people’s eyes mysteriously turn purple.  Is it an odd side effect from a new party drug? Is it a rogue bacteria that was developed in a campus lab? Whatever it is, tensions are heating up as the town starts blaming the university, and the student religious group is convinced that it’s the mark of the devil. Quinn and Luke are caught in the middle, especially when Quinn learns that Luke isn’t just a happy-go-lucky, redneck boy-next-door—he is a detective—a fact that triggers Quinn’s phobia of guns and memories of her deceased uncle.  In spite of herself and her desire to remain unattached and independent, Quinn finds herself falling for him.  But when town and gown relations heat up even further, and Quinn’s friend Danny mysteriously falls to his death, Quinn vows to discover the truth behind the epidemic.  As she searches for the people responsible, she realizes that sometimes to gain your independence, you have to be willing to give a little bit of it up.


“Did you go to college?”

His jaw is tight. “Yes.”

“Do you think I could guess your major?” I ask.

“Probably not,” he says.

I don’t like that I don’t even get a hint at what he did before or what he studied. I shrug, start on my second hotdog and then lean back, really aiming for a glint in my eye, if that’s possible to control. I’ll make this a game. “Well, do you think you can guess mine?”

He smiles. “Do I get something if I guess right?”

I hop up onto a stool and let the tip of my toe brush against his knee. When I make contact, he starts, before leaning in. “What do you want?”

“I want a lot of things…” He stares at me. “But for now, I’d settle for a second date.”

“Okay, if you can guess my major, on the first try—” I emphasize that bit with a pointed finger, “—then I’ll reluctantly agree to go out with you again.”

“I don’t like the reluctant part, but I’ll take what I can get. Now, let’s see…” He rubs his chin as though he’s an old-timey detective. He’s ready to pace back and forth across the room with a pipe and a deerstalker hat. “You like photography.”

Shit, he does know that. I start to hum the Jeopardy! theme song. Maybe if time is running out he’ll be more likely to guess quickly and get it wrong? Do I want him to get it wrong

“Okay, I got it.” He rubs his hands together. “You’re an art major.” His cheeks swell with the weight of his smile.

“You got that just because I take pictures?” I rub my forehead

“I know more than that.

“Someone told you,” I say. “If this bet was rigged, it doesn’t count."

He jerks back and shakes his head, frowning. “No, I wouldn’t do that,” he says. “I noticed you had some pottery on your coffee table, with initials on it, a Q. B.?"

I nod. He’s talking about the bowl I made last year. Initials usually go on the bottom, but I painted them big and proud in the middle. And the bowl is empty. Mandy and I haven’t decided what to put in it. We narrowed it down to fake fruit (lame), M&M’S (which we would devour) or Micro Machines. Clearly, we’re leaning toward Micro Machines.

Luke takes my hand. I think he’s trying to convey his earnestness, his respectability and seriousness of not tricking me into a bet. The pads of my fingers brush against his rough palms and I suppress a sigh. His thumb runs along my pointer finger, sliding to the fingernail. “You also have paint under your nails.” His victorious, smug smile is in full bloom.

I pull my hand away, embarrassed. “Yeah, it’s hard to get all the paint off.”

“I’m sure,” he says.



Caitlin Sinead’s debut novel will be published by Carina Press in 2015. Her writing has also appeared (or is forthcoming) in The AlarmistThe Binnacle, Jersey Devil Press, and Northern Virginia Magazine, among other publications. She earned a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. She tweets at @CaitlinSineadJ.

HOW AWESOME IS THIS? Congrats, Caitlin!!!! Thank you so much for keeping us in touch with your successes, and good luck with everything!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Nightmare on Query Street" Wrap Up

"Nightmare on Query Street" this year was bigger than ever - more reading, more people involved, and more Twittering. It was a TON of fun.

I'm so so SO happy to announce that the Spooks (my team) tied for first place with Michelle's Minions!!!!

Minions had:

4 Screams
32 Requests

Monsters had:

9 Screams
22 Requests

Spooks had:

9 Screams
32 Requests

What is a bit sad is that a healthy fraction of Spooks (in fact, a healthy fraction of all our total 36 entries) did not get any requests. Although entries without requests are normal for contests, this time the fraction was higher than usual (although the total number of requests were roughly the same). 

What this boils down to is agent taste and subjectivity. We hosts (and our slush readers) thought you had amazing entries, or else we would not have picked you. ALL IT TAKES IS ONE YES. Although we had a good number of agents, there are so many more out there! Go search, explore, and don't give up!!!

Congrats on an amazing contest, everyone :) Now, time to catch up on sleep, writing, and general life. Until next time, GO SPOOKS!