Monday, October 29, 2012

Haunted Writing Contest - Call for Submissions

Alright minions, you've been tortured enough to make you just the right amount of crazy to be considered for Curiosity Quills Press. Now it's time to face the criminal masterminds! 

If you haven't yet, you can learn more about your judges here:

Jessa Russo - YA/NA
Andrew Buckley - Adult

Please submit your query and first page to before midnight CST on 10/31. (That's midnight of Halloween night).

Good luck! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 to your assigned lair

The super villains have spoken and picked their minions. I'm sorry for the delay in posting this, my little minions at home were making things difficult for me today.

Without further ado...

Sharon Bayliss - The Dark Side (you know you want to come over)
Kelley Harvey*

James Wymore - Dark Brain, master of hypnosis, seeking Darkling minions
Rhiann Wynn-Nolet
Connie Michael

Court Young - The House of Gaunt (pure bloods only)
L.P. Hernandez

Dawna Raver - The Mystical Masters

Gerilyn Marin - The Phantom Court

Thea Gregory - The Zombie Culinary Institute

Mike Robinson - The Mighty Minotaurs of Metaphysics
Yolanda Renee

Krystal Wade - Frankenstein's Laboratory

*Kelley - Jessa already made a request from you, correct? I still want you on my team, but you won't count towards the team request count because that wouldn't be very fair! :)

If you're not listed here, then I couldn't find a Haunted Writing Clinic post from you. If I'm wrong, please let me know!! I'll email the teams soon with contact information and more instructions.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Haunted Writing Clinic Battle for Minions

Hello there, sweet minions. The time has come for you to be sorted into houses based on your unique evil characteristics. Because the super villains want to screw with your mind and make you paranoid, we'll be having a secret draft to pick minions. We won't ever tell you who was picked first and last, so you'll just have to obsess about it forever. However, you can feel good knowing that your super villain chose you at some point. :)

To make it easy for the super villains to pass judgement upon you, please post your polished query and first page again between now and Wednesday. If you're new to the contest, or for whatever reason haven't posted yet, you MUST post your query and first page before Wednesday if you would like a minion to mentor you.

We'll announce the teams on 10/24.

After minions are selected, your super villain will provide more detailed critique of your submission package offline and will be available to answer questions you have about writing, submissions, or publishing.

If you want your submission to be considered by the criminal mastermind judges, you'll need to email them to me by the witching hour on All Hallows' Eve (midnight CST the night of 10/31). I'll post closer to that date with more detailed instructions.

The team whose minions get the most requests will win bragging rights as villain supreme.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Introducing The Blog Tour Exchange

I've cooked up something new! 

The Blog Tour Exchange is a free matching site for authors who wish to conduct blog tours to promote their books. By becoming a member, you agree to promote other authors' books on your blog and they do the same for you. By becoming a host, you'll build connections with other authors and a platform for marketing your own current or future book.

Please check it out and spread thew word. Thanks friends!

Learn more at How It Works then sign up at Become A Host.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Successful First Page

Here it is! My successful first page for my upcoming debut novel, The Charge. To be fair, right now it has marks all over it from my editor, so this probably won't be the final version you see in print. :)


Warren’s mother had taped his old Star Wars comforter over the patio door of their apartment.  He didn’t pause too long to wonder why.  His mother suffered from what his brother called, “severe eccentricity,” and blacking out the windows with old sheets for no obvious reason wasn’t out of character.  All in all, she had done better than he had expected in her first year with both of her sons out of the house.  Just in case that didn’t last, Warren always came back home when she asked him to.  But if she had called him because she had forgotten how to use the dishwasher again, he was heading right back to campus to enjoy the day after finals the way it was intended to be enjoyed - drunk and poolside.
He wiped his feet like he had been taught even though their revolting brown carpeting didn’t show much.  He kind of missed the crappiness of their apartment, although he didn’t know why because his new apartment in Eugene was equally as crappy.  Still, there was something about the smell of the pine trees in the courtyard and apartment pool chlorine that let Warren know that he was home.
His mother stood in their kitchen next to their yellow 1980s stove, peeling fake wood countertops, and a refrigerator that always looked too small next to Warren and his other super-tall family members. She held a box of uncooked spaghetti and didn’t respond to his presence right away.  It looked like she’d been holding and squeezing the box for a while and most of the pasta inside was broken.  Something was…off.  It was like she had gotten old overnight.  The wrinkle between her eyes was deeper and a few more strands of gray had found their way into her waist length black hair.  Warren took the box of spaghetti out of her hands.
“I was going to make you lunch,” she said.
“I’m not hungry.”
It was true.  The two Red Bulls in Warren’s hung over and now worried stomach were not sitting well. 
“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Frightening First Page Fouls

For first page week in the Haunted Writing Clinic and Contest, I'd like to share the frightening first page mistakes that can make your worst nightmare come true...the agent or editor may stop reading.

Common first page mistakes:

1) Too many characters - I recommend introducing no more than two characters on page one (you could possibly get away with three, but probably not more). That includes people not in the scene that the characters mention. Too many characters introduced right away, confuses and frustrates a tired editor. Also be careful of introducing too many places and made-up words, especially in fantasy.

2) Poor orientation - That's sort of a fancy way of saying, "I have no clue what's going on here." On the  first page you want to use clear and specific imagery quickly so the reader can visualize the scene. It's not the place to introduce complicated concepts. Stick with dramatic, yet universally understandable details and images so the reader wastes no mental power trying to figure out what's going on and can focus completely on getting immersed in the story.

3) Being boring - Capturing the reader's attention is job one on a first page and pretty much everyone knows this universal rule, but I still run into some ho-hum first scenes. That doesn't mean your first scene has to include explosions, sex, and/or sword fights, but it should include:
-Some conflict or tension
-Interesting or unique details about the character and/or setting

4) Gimmicks and otherwise over-doing it - On other side of the coin, I see a lot of writers trying too hard to make first scenes exciting and it loses it's power. Here are some examples:
-Starting with a dream
-Making the reader think something scary is happening, but it really isn't
-Using a prologue to mask an otherwise ho-hum opening
-Overwrought voice, especially in YA - think overly sarcastic or cliche teens

5) Excessive descriptions of character's physical appearance - A few well placed details about a character's appearance can help with orientation, but these details should flow organically with the narrative. The first page is not the place to take the reader out of the story to describe the physical attributes of your character in detail.

6) Unlikable characters - We have to care about what happens to your character even if you're writing about a serial killer. Make sure you're not turning off your reader right away by showing off their most annoying attributes. I won't name names, but I have stopped reading books on page one because I knew right away that I didn't want to spend a whole book with the annoying MC.

7) Outside of MC's POV - Nothing confuses faster than starting your story in any POV other than the MC from your query. Even if you have multiple POVs in your novel, start with whoever started your query.

8) Telling, passive voice, grammar mistakes, typos, too many adjectives and adverbs - These sorts of things should be edited out of your writing as much as possible anyway, but you're more likely to get away with it on page 100 than page 1. Your first page should showcase your best writing and we assume you've edited and revised it carefully. If you screw up here, an agent and editor will assume that the rest of your book contains even more screw ups.

In summary, here is what you should do:

1) Use concrete, compelling imagery
2) Keep it simple. Any time your reader is trying to figure out what's going on in a scene, they're being taken out of the story.
4) Be interesting. Include conflict, voice, and interesting details.
5) Have the reader invest in the character by showing off their heroic or sympathetic attributes. Even antiheroes need to be likable enough for us to care what happens to them.
6) Revise and edit. Make sure you get lots of critique from people you can trust to be honest. (preaching to the choir here!)

Tomorrow I'll be posting my first page! Come back and tell me if I followed all my own rules. :)

More super villains:
James Wymore - Dark Brain, master of hypnosis, seeking Darkling minions

Court Young - The House of Gaunt (pure bloods only)

Dawna Raver - The Mystical Masters

Gerilyn Marin - The Phantom Court

Thea Gregory - The Zombie Culinary Institute

Mike Robinson - The Mighty Minotaurs of Metaphysics

Krystal Wade - Frankenstein's Laboratory

The Criminal Masterminds

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Haunted Writing Clinic and Contest - First Page Week

Welcome to Week 2 of the horrorific Haunted Writing Clinic and Contest. This week minions are posting their first pages for examination and slaughter. Super villains are posting their successful first pages and tips.

If you're in the mood for a good scare, it's not too late to sign up!

Check out an interview with criminal mastermind judge Jessa Russo.

And don't forget to visit the blogs of the super villains!

Sharon Bayliss - The Dark Side (you know you want to come over)

James Wymore - Dark Brain, master of hypnosis, seeking Darkling minions

Court Young - The House of Gaunt (pure bloods only)

Dawna Raver - The Mystical Masters

Gerilyn Marin - The Phantom Court

Thea Gregory - The Zombie Culinary Institute

Mike Robinson - The Mighty Minotaurs of Metaphysics

Krystal Wade - Frankenstein's Laboratory

The Criminal Masterminds

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Query Formula

When I was writing a query, I wanted a Mad-Libs style template that would tell me exactly what to say.  Query writing may not be quite that simple, but there is a standard formula that will work for most stories. If you don't know where to begin or if you want to scrap everything and start over, try using this template to get you started. 

By the way, this isn't intended to be the world's greatest query. I wrote it tonight based on my Sims 3 Supernatural characters. :)

Template for a query:

1. Introduce your main character. (Leif Trick) Share a detail to give a taste of their character. (blue hair, collects bugs) If the setting is important, share a detail about that too. (Moonlight Falls)

2. Describe the inciting incident that changes the MC's life forever and sends them on their journey. (drinks potion and sprouts fairy wings)
3. Outline the MC's primary goal. (Find cure to reverse fairy transformation)
4. Describe the obstacle getting in the way of the goal (zombie invasion makes being a fairy useful)
5. Summarize stakes or conflict (Being fairy and saving town vs. meeting goal of being normal again)
6. Title, word count, genre, comps, & bio.

 [SB1]Introduce your MC. Include an interesting detail.

 [SB2]The inciting incident that changes the MC’s life forever and starts them on their journey.

 [SB3]Describe the MC’s primary goal.

 [SB4]Describe the obstacle that keeps the MC from their goal.

 [SB5]Summarize the conflict or stakes.

 [SB6]Title, word count, genre, comps, bio

And now with my real successful query for The Charge...

Dear Curiosity Quills Editor,


Sharon Bayliss

 [SB1]Introduce MC (Warren King) with interesting detail (protects brother from bullies)

 [SB2]Inciting incident. (Warren’s brother is kidnapped and he finds out that they’re Texas royalty.

 [SB3]Describe the obstacle keeping him from meeting his goal. (The King is hunting him down)

 [SB4]Describe the goal of the MC. (Save his brother)

 [SB5]Romantic complication – if applicable.

 [SB6]Summarize conflict/ stakes.

 [SB7]Title, word count, genre. I couldn’t think of any good comps. J CQ does not request a bio in the query.

You can see with the two examples that there is naturally going to be some variation in ordering and the details needed, but the same basic concepts are the focus of the queries. 

Super simple blank template:

(Age*)_____ year old (Name)_______ is (interesting detail)_________ in (place) ________. Then one day (inciting incident)___________.

Now (name)_______ must (goal)___________. But (obstacle)_________ is stopping him/her. (Name)_______ must decide whether to (choice #1)_______ or (choice #2)________ or (stakes)_______ will happen.

*Age is only needed in MG, YA, and NA

Obviously, if you just filled this out, it would be a pretty lame query, but it could give you the basic framework. It can help to quiet the noise of all those details in the book that seem critical to you, but probably should be left out of the query. After you have the basic format down, then infuse it with voice (which I'll talk about later).

Try this out and let me know how it works for you!

Here are some of my past blog entries on queries:

I'd also like to share my favorite query link, "The Parts of a Good Query Letter" by Susan Dennard.