books

Queries Are Like Bad Dates

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My daughter said while getting ready for school this morning, “I think you need to get remarried.”

Me: (saying in passing as I butter my son’s toast) “That would require me to date.”

My daughter: “It must be really hard to find a someone to date.”

Me: “That, my dearest daughter, is an understatement.”

I have always been awkward around guys. Well, people in general, and I’m okay with it. I do my thing, I always try to be myself and to love who I am. Though, when I actually have a good conversation with a guy, I play in cool. But in my head, I’m jumping up and down, clapping, and saying: “Yippie!!!”

Dating my way

For me, choosing books to read, and writing queries are very simular to dating.

reading

Not only does the blurb about the book (whether your own or not) has to be enticing. The personality of the main character has to shine through like a big neon sign to get someone interested in the story or you (if your dating).

Neon sign sign

It can get awkward when you read a book jacket for the book that everyone is raving about, but it’s just…meh. Of course, you buy it, because who doesn’t like a shiny new book?

The jacket blurb gives your promises and sometimes it’s more reliable than the jacket. Like a blind date.

Blind_date_Display

Then there are those books that you know nothing about, but once you are the jacket, the desire stirs within you. Then there is that excited squeal that I found another book that makes me want to go home to my comfy chair and read to my hearts content.

excitment

Here are three books that pulled me in by the blurb on the jacket.

  1. Just One Wish, by Jennette Rallison

Just one wish  a

2. The DUFF, by Kody Keplinger

the duff

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

3. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cyle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Raven boys

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Then there are WRITING QUERIES!

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Querying is one of the hardest things to write. It’s like a bad first date where a person inevitably says too much. Instead of an enticing conversation, it can quickly become an awkward summery of useless facts and way too much oversharing. Don’t do that!!

Dating

Put your awkwardness away, because you have the fabulous novel that is aching to be published. But you need an agent.

gatekeeper

They are the gatekeepers to the New York publishing world. Yes, there are publishers who will do accept submissions without an agent, but you still need to write the query. And it better be good!

Here are what some agents say about queries (from the blog, Writers In The Storm):

“Spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. They just make me want to stop reading.” – Lisa Leshne, LJK Literary Management

“Unfocused queries and the term ‘fiction novel.'” -Melissa Flashman, Trident Media Group, LLC

“I’m sick of vagueness. I get so many queries every day that don’t tell me enough about the novel. If there’s no reason for me to say yes, then it’s going to be no.” -Bridget Smith, Dunham Literary, Inc.

Go to the blog to read more. It’s a very good post.

Agents are fantastic about telling you what works and what doesn’t. Kinda like a dating coach.

coaching.gif

A few consistent tips for query writing so you don’t be the awkward douche bag who everyone cringes at.

collins

  1. Be polite and professional
  2. No typos. Read your query three times over, then have five honest friends look it over
  3. Follow the submission guidelines
  4. Do your research! (because asking an agent to represent your book that they do not represent will only lead to awkward embarrassment for you)c
  5. No abstractions. Stick to the main conflict of the story. What are the stakes for the main character? Give enough reasons to care without oversharing.

Here are a few websites that I find to be helpful.

  1. Query Shark
  2. Agent Query
  3. Nathan Bransford’s blog
  4. Query Letter Success
  5. YA Highway

Like my sister told me when I was 16 (someone actually wrote a blog about Mr. Collin’s awkwardness), “Don’t be awkward like Mr. Collins,…”

awkward

“…but be awkward as Mr. Darcy.”

Follow the querying/literary social rules, and be a literary rockstar!

 

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ThrillerFest 2015

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I know I have been MIA for months, but it was for a good and very personal reason. Now that everything is resolved, I’m starting up again. Within the last few months, I have been to ThrillerFest in July and after that is when something occurred that needed my full time and attention.

ThrillerFest

ThrillerFest is Manhattan and is one of the best writer conferences I have been to. It’s also where I pitched my novel, THE WHISPERING.

NYC 1    NYC 2

After PitchFest, which was really brutal. I’m the type of person has a hard time communicating verbally about books or movies or my feelings. I stutter when I get nervous, and sitting in front of agents and pitching them my novel. After that very stressful afternoon, I did fine as it turns out. Not just that though, an agent (who I did not pitch) gave me the best advice I wish I had before I went into Pitch Session.

The Advice was: APPROACH YOUR PITCH LIKE A GOOD PIECE OF GOSSIP. MAKE IT JUICY ENOUGH THAT THE AGENT/EDITOR WILL WANT TO PASS IT ON.

I was really good at gossip from middle school to high school, so that advice would have worked better than my really crappy logline and pitch that came out of a trembling voice.

After PitchFest was the rest of ThrillerFest. It was interviews and panels of authors, including Lee Childs and Christopher Rice.

The Young Adult Panel was the most interesting to me.

ThrillerFest Event 1

Included on the panel was Kelley ArmstrongCJ Lyons, Elle Cosimano, and RL Stine.

Charleine Harris and Karen Slaughter

Karin Slaughter interviewing Charlaine Harris.

It was an interesting conference, but it really wasn’t for young adult writers. That was a bit of a problem for me. I write YA and I mainly read YA, and they were talking about genres like military thrillers. Frankly, subjects I’m not interested in. ThrillerFest is good for people who aren’t interested in young adult.

Let’s Talk About Sex…Scenes

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McLovin

I am currently writing a Young Adult dark urban thriller, horror. It was suggested that maybe I give my main character some…loving. Normally, I would never write a sex scene. Not my genre and I’d like my family to be able to read my work without me hiding away, blushing profusely.

Harry Potter

The sex scene honestly does make sense, and would push the narrative along, and would be just as useful as a well placed murder. Hey! I write thrillers and horrors. Not romances.

Sex Gwenyth

But I read romances.

kiss

I’ve been thinking about sex scenes a lot, not just because of this suggestion, but also because I watch a lot of TV/movies and read a lot. Here is some proof. That’s not even the half of my book collection.

books 1

I have been thinking about sex scenes as literary devices and how they can be used. One of my favorite romance authors is Cora Carmack. Her debut, Losing It, is one of the funniest (in a good way) and most interesting romance novels that I have read. She doesn’t go overboard on sex scenes (like 50 Shades), but places them where it will push the story along.

Losing It

This is what Losing It is about: Virginity. Bliss Edwards is about to graduate from college and still has hers. Sick of being the only virgin among her friends, she decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose it as quickly and simply as possible– a one-night stand. But her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she freaks out and leaves her potential sexual partner alone and naked in her bed with an excuse that no one with half-a-brain would ever believe. And as if if that weren’t embarrassing enough, when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, she recognizes her new theatre professor. She’d left him naked in her bed about 8 hours earlier.

Not only is Bliss relatable, but she is also fun to read about. This book has the best spin the bottle scene with consequences ever! Anyhow, back on topic. The scenes are graphic and over the top, and they help with the storytelling. It’s not forced or I’m not sitting questioning why the scene is in there like I have with other books and TV shows.

For me, there are two extremes with it comes to sex scenes.

1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon:

Titanic Blood And Steel 2012

Let me be clear, I LOVE the Outlander series. It’s pretty funny how I stumbled upon this gem of a book. It started last summer when a friend of mine mentioned Outlander, then I saw that Sam Heughan aka Prince Ashton from A Princess for Christmas….

Princess for Christmas

I absolutely love, love, love cheesy Christmas movies! They are freaking awesome to watch with my sister (who is just as snarky as me) and a bowl of popcorn. We’re like:

Dancing Katie

When Hallmark or ABC Family comes out with new movies each year.

But I distress…

Outlander has a very interesting storyline and very likable characters. I love fiery Claire Randall and smoldering/dangerous/sexy-in-a-kilt Jamie Fraser. Here’s the description of the book:

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

The is smart, funny, dark in a lot of the time, and is unforgettable. Also, the sex scenes are tasteful, well placed, and it shows the love that develops between Jamie and Claire. Necessary, but not tacky.

Jamie Fraser

The problem I have isn’t with the book, but with the TV show. I LOVE Ron Moore’s work, and I understand that sex is a part of the story. However, I feel (and this is my opinion) that certain sex scenes could have been skipped and it would have made the show better. The one scene that comes to mind from episode 10: “By the Pricking of My Thumb”.

It opens with Claire withering in ecstasy, because Jamie is giving her good oral sex. The scene was filmed with such slow perscistion that for a moment, I was like: “Is he actually giving her oral sex? Nope. I don’t want to see Sam Heughan give Catriona Balfe oral.”

007

Worse! Murtagh was banging on the door before she climaxed, then he came in after she was coming down. Very, very creepy. I get it. Ron Moore wants to show how deeply Jamie and Claire are in love, but honey, you’ve done that very well in the last few episodes when the sex scenes are needed to push the story along. The oral sex scene feels contrived and over the top to me. It wasn’t necessary and honestly, it wasn’t even a part of the story arc of that episode.  Click here for an article about this episode from A.V. Club to get their opinion.

Here is a post that Diana Gabaldon posted on her Facebook. Here’s the link to the article & screen shots:

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 2.02.14 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 2.02.45 PM

I think these conversations are very important. Sex is an intimate thing that can be use very well as a plot device. It can also be overdone and just plan tacky.

The other thought I had involves Christian Literature.

2. When Calls the Heart by: Janette Oke:

I stumbled upon this Hallmark show thanks to Lori Loughlin, Twitter, and Hard Candy. I’ve mentioned Hard Candy before, and I love the book and TV so I won’t dwell on it any longer. When I found When Calls the Heart, I was down with the stomach flu. A tweet from Lori Loughlin was retweeted and I happened to see it. I also saw Daniel Lissing (from Hard Candy) as a Mountie (made me smile) in a photograph on her Twitter page. My reaction was: “What’s this?”

iTunes has all of season one for sale, so I buy the first episode. Loved every minute of it, so I bought the whole season. Binged watched while I was stuck in bed. FYI: they’re now airing season 2. I love the storyline, the acting, the pacing, the writing, and it is fun to watch with my sister.

I love the blossoming romance between Jack and Elizabeth. I have to remind myself that it’s Hallmark, and we’re not going to see any sex scenes as it’s a G show and Outlander is MA. But the chemistry between Erin Krakow and Daniel Lissing is just as strong as the chemistry between Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. The difference is the amount of sex and naked bodies we get to see.

Honestly, to write or to act as love interests without sex or nudity is much harder than if you just pull back the sheets and are like:

emma

Some of the sexist scenes I have ever seen or read has been pulled off without getting graphic. For example, in The One by Kiera Cass, America Singer pulls Prince Maxon down on her by his belt buckle. Yep hot, but not over the top. Personally I like less graphic, well placed sex scenes over the explains that comes from a lot of New Adult and Romance novels. I have a very good imagination. Let me use it! Sensual scenes are a great tool in a writer’s belt, but back to Janette Oke.

Since I like the TV show a lot, I wanted to read the books. The real When Calls the Heart is so, so, SO different from the TV show. It’s really two different stories. Not gonna lie, the book was hard to get through, but for the purpose of this post (sex scenes), I’m choosing When Comes the Spring, which is the sequel. After Elizabeth (different Elizabeth from the TV show) marries her mountie (uh, huh) at the beginning, I laughed.

When Comes the Spring

While Outlander (the TV show) has gone a wee bit overboard with sex scenes, this book was laughable when avoiding any mention of sex. It’s like Janette Oke twirled happily around the topic.

spinning

Elizabeth and Wynn are on their honeymoon, and on the day after their wedding. Wynn goes out to buy some supplies because they decide to hike up a mountain. Okay, couples do stuff on their honeymoon besides grooving to Marvin Gaye between the sheets.

So Elizabeth takes a bath and all she can think about is hiking up a freaking mountain. That’s when I lost it. I haven’t laughed at a book so hard since D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. I mean, I understand Christian literature, but a woman who has just had sex for the first time (honeymoon and the kissing prior to the scene alludes to this fact) isn’t going to be taking a freaking bath and thinking about climbing an actual mountain. She’s going to be thinking about conquering another kind of peak (if you get my drift).

So I haven’t picked it back up since putting down a few days ago. I don’t know if I will, because let’s be honest, a sex scene or at least a word or two alluding to it would have made the scene real and would have worked SO much better. I can handle the preachy stuff of Christian literature, but this scene was so ridiculous it was just odd.

My point for this post is putting a well written sex scene (like Cora Carmack has done) to make the story more solid is a good when it’s tasteful. It does bother me when the sex scenes pile on each other and becomes so gratuitous that the story become ridiculous and gross. Or the author goes out of their way to not have a sex scene it makes the story ridiculous and unrelatable.

Sex scenes are just like a murder scene; when used correctly, it can drive the story to a better place and make the characters grow when otherwise they wouldn’t. Will I put sex in this manuscript that I’m writing? I don’t think so. Honestly, I don’t think it’s necessary for the narrative or for either character that would be involved in the scene.

So tell me, what do you think? You don’t have to agree with me, but this post is wholly my opinion.