In case you haven't seen this, my holiday gift to you:




Zombie Tag by Hannah Moskowitz is out today!


To see the rules and how to play zombie tag, click here


I loved reading the entries for the Zombie Tag Contest. Some of the zombie descriptions creeped me out of course, but I suppose I was asking for it.

Best Professor
Professor John from Cloth Dragon 12:09 PM: The spatula he waved clashed with his Oxford image. Grease splattered the blackboard and dribbled through words in green chalk. Love, death, vase, and window.


Best Sacrifice
RachelMaryBean 12:38 PM

Best Use of My Typo, "DeathLove"
Marsha Sigman 6:05 PM

Best Eggs as Brains Analogy
Book Butler 9:27 PM

Best Zombie Romance Descriptions
abrielle1 11:48 PM

My Favorite Line
GS Marlene 3:02 PM: Her makeup must have been applied with a spatula.


Best News Report
Chris Patterson 4:53 PM

Best Zombie Names
Rachel Harrie 8:31 PM

Creepiest!
caccindy 10:45 AM: "Then I heard the low moan and felt teeth on my head."

Best Voice (and best use of the Kansas City Shuffle!)
Alex 1:19 PM

Runner up
Reagan Phillips 3:19 PM

“Annie!” 
I knew the voice, Paul Owens, football team captain. 
Anticipation sped my heartbeat. Just hearing the rest of his pack chanting “tap that” made me want this more. 
“You’re hard to catch.” He tossed and caught his football like some clever joke. 
You could love a guy’s hair, but hate the rest of him. 
“Walk you home?” He asked. 
My heart fluttered; I was about to squash him—he was like a cockroach against a spatula. 
“You know the kid with Downs?” 
“Yeah! Zombie boy eat brains!” He chanted. 
“He’s my brother.” 
“Fumble.” A teammate coughed. 
Death to pride.



And the winner is...


DavidSimon4449

Welcome to the Kill Grill, have a seat. Relax, your secret’s safe with me. You can drape yourself in entrails and fool the deadheads, but I can clock a live one, being one myself. Turns out, zombies love their meat cooked, so they let us live, long as we serve up our fellow man. It’s a living. What’s that? Us are me and the big fella back there with the spatula, my cook, Brother Deathlove. Got “death” and “love” tattooed on his knuckles. Says “hate” lacks commitment. Here’s your grub, better act like ya like it. Wanna live? Eat brains!


Email me your address and I'll send you the book!
My sister emailed me a link to this video and said it was pretty awesome. It is.


This is the fabulous debut novel by Hannah Moskowitz, and you have a chance to win it!


Here's what you've have to do.

Write a story, one hundred words or fewer, using these words:

Zombie 
Spatula
Brother
DeathLove

Bonus Points if you use the phrase "Eat brains!"

Contest open internationally. It starts NOW, and runs through midnight Thursday December 8th. Post your entry in the comments section.

Enter as many times as you want.
Word Count: 78,000
Title: The Morphine Murders


Original Text:

Raina tensed as Tyler embraced her with a tenderness that contradicted his strength. He brushed the back of his hand along her cheek and swept her dark hair from her face. She felt his heartbeat while he held her against his chest, placed his hand at the back of her head, and kissed her for the first time. Raina relaxed into his arms.

Together they reclined onto the couch, still entwined and engaged in their kiss. She opened her eyes and focused beyond Tyler to the high ceiling of his living room. It seemed so far away, as did Danny, her boyfriend.

The thought of Danny burned her already flushed face. Raina put her hands flat against Tyler’s chest. His warmth heated her palms, making her hesitate. She wanted to pull him back to her, but instead watched him move away without any resistance.

“I should go,” she said.

She adjusted her tank top and pulled her hair into a clip. Tyler touched her shoulder and followed her to the door as though nothing was wrong. They gazed at each other, momentarily allowing their passion to erase all other thoughts. She squeezed his hand and then headed to her car, already anticipating the awkwardness for when she saw him at work the following day.

She sped away with the convertible top up. As his house disappeared from sight in her rearview mirror, her phone rang.

“I know, I know. I’m late. I’ll explain when I get there,” Raina said.

 How? How was she going to explain?

With Suzie's Comments:

Before we start, I have two main problems with this.


1. It's a lot of telling. I don't feel what the character is feeling, and there should be a lot of emotion here.


2. I also feel really dropped into the middle of things. And while I usually like being dropped in the middle of the action, I'm wondering if this is a right moment. I feel more confused and a little turned off than intrigued.


Raina tensed (why? Is this good tense or bad tense?) as Tyler embraced her with a tenderness that contradicted his strength (I do like this detail about him). He brushed the back of his hand along her cheek (the back of his hand? that's an odd way to do it, isn't it?) and swept her dark hair from her face. (what else does she feel? This should be swoonworthy, right?) She felt his heartbeat while he held her against his chest., placed his hand at the back of her head, and kissed her for the first time. (Describe the kiss. If this is the FIRST KISS and this is supposed to be swoonworthy, draw it out a little more) Raina relaxed into his arms.

Together they reclined onto the couch, still entwined and engaged in their kiss. She opened her eyes and focused beyond Tyler to the high ceiling of his living room. It seemed so far away, as did Danny, her boyfriend.

Reclining on the couch threw me off guard a little. I guess because I'd been imagining them standing. It feels awkward. As the transition to her thoughts of Danny doesn't work. She notices the high ceiling? How boring must that kiss have been? And oh yeah, her boyfriend is far away. It's too anticlimactic. And it makes her seem very nonchalant and unemotional.

The thought of Danny burned her already flushed face. Raina put her hands flat against Tyler’s chest. His warmth heated her palms, making her hesitate. She wanted to pull him back to her, but instead watched him move away without any resistance.

Now they both seem unemotional...

“I should go,” she said.

She adjusted her tank top and pulled her hair into a clip. Tyler touched her shoulder and followed her to the door as though nothing was wrong. They gazed at each other, momentarily allowing their passion to erase all other thoughts. (huh? What passion? Show that passion somehow.) She squeezed his hand and then headed to her car, already anticipating the awkwardness for when she saw him at work the following day.

She sped away with the convertible top up. As his house disappeared from sight in her rearview mirror, her phone rang.

“I know, I know. I’m late. I’ll explain when I get there,” Raina said.

 How? How was she going to explain?

I don't feel anxious for Raina, because I don't feel like I know anything about her yet. And I don't relate to her yet. We need to know more about her, about Tyler, about why she's making out with him while Danny is at home, if I'm going to be hooked and want to read more.
Confession: I'm about to give advice that is much easier to say than to do.

Here it is:
Your query has to grab an agent. Which means you have to show them how your book will stand out in a tough marketplace and sometimes an overcrowded genre.

This is the number one reason I passed on queries. I didn't count how many times I said this, but it was a lot. And I mean ALOT!

I understand that's tough to take. It would be a lot easier if my comments were "hey, I was turned off by this inaccuracy in paragraph 2" or even "you didn't tell me anything about our book" or something else.

Saying, "Eh, I'm just not grabbed" is similar to that terrible, "I liked it but I didn't love it" response. There's not much that's constructive. If I were a writer, I would read that and think Great, what do I DO with that response.


So here's what you do.

Start your query over. As a draft it's obviously not terrible, but it's not working. And I'm recommending starting over rather than revising because it's only a page and it's hard to revise a spark into something.

Once you've committed to starting over, think about your main character. What are the things that you love about your character? What aspects of your character are unique and special? What makes your character stand out in a sea of main characters from a similar genre?

Now, maybe your character is unique and awesome because she's a strong kickass female protagonist who's dealing with complex moral and philosophical issues and she's going to stand out in the sea of Bella Swan's because she's different. She's not going to rely on a guy to solve her problems! That's awesome. But you can't tell us that in your query. You have to show it.

So think about some books you like that have characters like this and how you knew right from the beginning that you were willing to follow this character. In this case you'd think of Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games or Beatrice Prior from Divergent.

Let me give you an example. In honor of its sequel Wild Thing which comes out 2/8/2011, let me bring up Beat the Reaper. This is a dark and gritty crime novel. It's actually not my typical read. I'd heard a lot about it--all good things!--so I was excited to read, but also a little skeptical. But right away, I was hooked by Dr. Peter Brown!

And by right away, I mean by the first line:
"So I'm on my way to work and I stop to watch a pigeon fight a right in the snow, and some fuckhead tries to mug me!"


This is not your typical doctor, and he's got personality. There's more and it's awesome, of course, but right with that line, I found him interesting. Which is what you want--someone to be interested in your character.

So how does this translate to a query? It's hard. It's really hard. My best advice is to look at good examples.
 
I was grabbed by Emilia Plater's main character Riley because when she was faced with getting texts from her dead boyfriend's phone number, she wanted to find out who was doing it so she could "punch that creep in the face."

I was super intrigued by PREMEDITATED's main character Dinah when I saw the query on Queryshark--not because of anything explicitly stated, but because what kind of girl drastically changes her appearance and changes schools and sets out to ruin a boy? One I want to know more about.


Then think about your plot. You already have that old query you wrote, so you know how to explain your plot concisely. Now think of your hook. What is it that's going to make this plot seem new and different.

This summer I told myself I needed a break from paranormal YA. I wasn't going to request anymore paranormal. And then I got a query for an awesome paranormal with a mystery and I had to find out more. And the key here was that it was a mystery, complete with a murder and clues to catch the killer, which was different for YA paranormal.

Once you've thought about it and looked at examples, open up a new document and rewrite your query. Try to make your character come off the page. Try to make your plot cause your read to slide to the edge of their seat and wail for more. It's possible, I promise.

After you've drafted it, revise. Have some writer friends look at it. Make tweaks. Perfect it.

And then query again.
Last week I finished the query contest. *phew* Thanks to everyone for the wonderful praise and all that patience while I worked through technology issues and responded.

I requested 37 manuscripts!

I also gave out a lot of individualized advice in my replies. Some of my responses were as basic as "this just isn't for me" or "I don't represent this genre." There were times when I was confused by worldbuilding or when I didn't know what the book was about, but there were also instances where I saw some very easily fixable problems affecting a lot of people.

Here's a big one that surprised me.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TITLES

Answering this many queries in a row really emphasized this for me.

I read queries, where I saw a title and thought "That sounds so exciting!" which is the response you want. Obviously an exciting title and a not great query won't equal a request, but there were also queries I got, and the title was either a word I didn't understand, couldn't pronounce, or worse! sounded QUIET.

Your title should reflect the tone of your book. If you're writing a thriller, you don't want something long and poetic. And if you're writing something quiet and literary, you want a title that emphasizes your literary prowess.

While it's true that titles can change at a later stage in the publication process (and often do), it's really important for you to use what you have. And you have essentially a page to convince someone who doesn't know your story it's worth taking a look. So the title matters.

Even more so, when I send a requested manuscript to my kindle, the document and the title is how it's listed. So on the train, when I open up the kindle and try to decide what to read, all I've got to go on is titles. While I do really try to go in order there have been times when a title sticks out in my mind and draws my eye constantly. You want your manuscript to be the one calling to me, not something that looks confusing or even just bland.

The good news is that I've been working on some queries this weekend--among other things. I've requested a few manuscripts, and hopefully my feedback has been helpful.

The bad news is we're still having server problems. I've been sending emails from my personal address, which has been working, but it a little more time consuming.

I'd originally planned to try to get all these queries done by end of day tomorrow. I'm going to devote most of my day to queries tonight, but I might have to push back the deadline.

Also, and this is the real reason for the post, I've had a few emails bounce back. The error claims the email addresses have been "discontinued"--whatever that means--or are unavailable.

So k.powell@live.com and joshuaroots@yahoo.com, if you don't get a response it's because I can't reach you. Let me know if there's a better email to reach you via the comments and I'll send you my thoughts.



Last night I checked, and I have 671 contest entries!

Unfortunately the auto responder is still broken, and if I’m going to respond individually to all of them, I might as well read them first!

So I’m starting in on them. I've even responded to a few already--I've even already requested one. I’ll keep posting updates as I read, and when I finish, I’ll let everyone know so that if somehow your query got missed, we’ll find it.

And for everyone who missed the contest, I’m sure I can be persuaded to do it again!
I've moved agencies. I'm now a full time agent at Nancy Coffey Literary, and I couldn't be happier. Feel free to check out my bio here.

Even more exciting, I'm reopening to queries on November 1st! (That's a week from today!) The agency's official submission guidelines are here, and I've included my guidelines + updated wishlist here.

And the most exciting news is that I will be celebrating my move to Nancy Coffey and my reopening to queries with a QUERY CONTEST!


Here are the details:



Can you handle the truth?

Many writers want to know what an agent is really thinking when they pass on a query, right? You want the truth...but can you handle the truth? Well next week I will respond to the queries I receive in complete honesty. You may see something as simple as "Not bad, but just not for me." or "I don't represent legal thrillers." OR you may see something like "I stopped reading when you mentioned that the mailman was a vampire space zombie who has come to deliver a message of PAIN. Because come on...seriously?"

So, if you want the truth, query me next Tuesday morning, between 9-10 am EDT (as in the time it is in NY). Read on for the rules.

Rules:
  • The contest will be open for only ONE HOUR.
  • Queries must be submitted to Query(at)nancycoffeyliterary(dot)com between the hours of 9:00am EST and 10:00am EST Tuesday, November 1st, 2011. Any queries submitted before or after those times will not be qualified to enter and considered only as a regular query.
  • All queries entered must have this in the subject line: QUERY CONTEST - Yes, I can handle the truth
  • If it does not have this in the subject line, it will be considered a regular query only.
  • Queries must be in the body of the email. NO attachments!
  • Queries must be one-page length long, size 12 font. That's ONE PAGE ONLY!
  • No manuscript pages attached or included at all.
  • You will receive our usual auto-response. If you do not receive an auto-response, resend!

I will respond to all queries entered in the contest by Monday (11/7/11) at 5pm EST.

Further Guidelines:
  • Yes, if you've already been rejected you may resubmit your query. I will read (if submitted in the correct time frame) and let you know why it's been rejected. Don't say "You already rejected me..." Treat it like you've never queried her before.
  • Your queries will NOT be posted on this or any other blog. I will reply to you via your e-mail, only. 
  • You must treat this as an actual query process, which means you need to have a complete manuscript. If I do request your manuscript, I don't want to find out there isn't one!


I've done several conferences in 2011. Actually I've done a lot, or ALOT. This means, I've taken a lot of pitches. Some were better than others of course, and there are some basic Dos and Donts when pitching to agents and editors out there. I even talked about some a year ago.

But there is one thing, that almost every writer who's pitched to me recently has struggled with:

COMPARABLE TITLES

And believe it or not, this is really important. As an agent, I want to know comparable titles for two reasons.

1. Comparable titles tell me the targeted audience for a manuscript, it gives me a better idea of whether I might like it, it gives me a better idea of where I might sell it, how I might pitch it, how editors could pitch the book to their sales team.

and

2. Comparable titles also tell me how well-read the writer is when it comes to their own genre. I can't tell you how important I think this is--that writers read in their genre--and it's a huge mood kill in a pitch when I ask a writer who's pitching me a MG manuscript for comp titles and they tell me they don't really read children's books.

So if you're pitching to an agent or an editor--or even if you're just writing a novel, make sure you read in your genre. Especially those books that are bestsellers. People are buying and liking them for a reason. Try to figure out what it is.

Then think about your audience. People who are going to buy your book are most likely going to be people who frequent bookstores and at least buy and read a few books a year. Non readers are most likely not going to wander into a bookstore, stumble upon your book, and buy it (sad but true). Which means, most book buyers have books or authors they like. What kind of book buyers are going to buy your book and tell their friends about it?

Be realistic and be honest. It's no good saying you've written Twilight meets Harry Potter meets The Da Vinci Code since those are three different genres and are frankly overdone in terms of comparisons.

A sweeter paranormal YA might be comparable to Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.

A dark urban fantasy with a kickass female protagonist and a well developed world might be comparable to Kim Harrison's Hollows Series.

A fast paced thriller with a slight science fiction bent might be comparable to The Breach by Patrick Lee.

Writers don't necessarily need a tight logline (Indiana Jones meets Percy Jackson), though if you have one that works, it won't hurt. But saying that your manuscript will appeal to readers of Kelley Armstrong and Jeaniene Frost will go a long way.

Today didn't start out so well. I woke up at 3:30 am, which is always a bad sign. I walked both by dogs and then took a car to Newark airport. My driver wasn't exactly awesome (we had a few moments I was sure we were going to die), but we made it there in 27 minutes (a new record, I think). Check in went okay, but the woman who took my bag had a terrible disposition (not that I can really blame her, who wants to work at 4:45 am or at Newark), and then some random guy in the airport asked me for money on my way to security.

But it got better. Way better.

I saw this fabulous book in the airport: 

Then I flew into Vancouver for the Surrey International Writers Conference. Air Canada had outlets so I could PLUG IN (so awesome), and I discovered, Vancouver is a pretty awesome city.

Of course, there was the minor hiccup when I first arrived at my hotel in Surrey because George W and Bill were doing a Summit at my hotel, and I had to go through literally 12 checkpoints and show my passport and explain that "I was on the security approved list" before I finally made it.

But the lovely and talented Sheryl McFarlane picked me up in Surrey and took me back to Vancouver. And while I
     1. Love NY
and
     2. Don't want to go anywhere colder
I found that I could see Vancouver being my kind of city.

So here are Sheryl's and my adventures in Vancouver told in pictures.

the view from the Granville Island public market

Where we saw some of the coolest local artists ever, including Michelle Vulama who paints on stone(!). I still can't get over how amazing she was. 

this bird watched me eat


these two did too

we parked under this tree at Stanley Park

and I've never been so awed by trees

we strolled through the park


until we got to the AQUARIUM!

where we saw fishes

starfishes

sea anemones

belugas!

sea otters!

dolphins!

and sea lions!

at Prospect Point, we checked out the views

(that's the North Shore)

we checked out the anthropology museum

specifically it's backyard (WOW!)

And then I finished off the night with some awesome sushi, and thankfully the Summit (and protestors) departed from my hotel in Surrey. It was a fabulous day.


MeeGenius is a digital publishing company that does picture book apps for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Google TV, and the web. They're a fast-growing company, and in addition to publishing original digital picture books, one of their goals is to become a community for children's book writers and illustrators; a place for them to get to know each other, learn more about publishing, exchange ideas, and get published online! To that end, they're launching a "Book Challenge," and are inviting writers to submit manuscripts. 

They're looking for The Next Great Children's Book Author.



Yesterday, the fabulous Mindee Arnett posted her query as well as some query tips which she felt helped her find me and get my attention.

(Check out the query and those tips when you get a chance, I told myself I wasn't going to sign new clients or go out with new projects this summer unless I found something that Blew. Me. Away. and Mindee certainly did.)

But this got me thinking (I do a lot of that), and I asked Mindee for permission to post the letter I used when pitching to editors.

The Fabulous Mindee


The first thing I did when preparing for submission was make a submission list--I made a list of the editors I thought would love Mindee's writing style and the character's voice, as well as be hooked by the story. Then I looked at some of their (or their imprint's recent acquisitions) and pitched the project to a few colleagues for practice and some of them said "Oh, put this editor on your list."

Once I had my submission list, I was going to send to 10 editors.

So I made the calls.

For THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, which I pitched as Paranormalcy meets Hex Hall, I explained to editors that I got Mindee's query right before a conference. While there I read the whole thing, and then I called her the Monday morning I left for New Zealand, because I knew it couldn't wait until I got back.

Everyone eagerly requested to see the manuscript, and I sent it to them with this letter:

[Editor],

Here it is--THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR by Mindee Arnett. I hope you love it :)

16-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder. The setting is Arkwell.

And then it comes true.

Now the Dusty has to follow the clues--both within Eli’s dreams and out of them--to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

Mindee Arnett’s debut novel, THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR (80,000 words), is Paranormalcy meets Hex Hall. Mindee lives in Ohio with her husband, two children, four horses, four dogs, and a plethora of cats. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines, and she has a Master of Arts in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She also blogs and tweets--and she’s hard at work on her next novel.

Best,

Suzie Townsend


So if you check out Mindee's query, this is a little different, but I definitely used her query as a springboard.

And for those of you who like statistics, THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR officially sold to Whitney Ross at Tor Teen in 16 days.
In case you haven't seen it, a group of fabulous authors--including Erin Bowman whose novel THE LAICOS PROJECT is fantastic! and the lovely Sarah Enni who I had the pleasure of meeting during BEA this year--are doing an auction to support the Red Cross after Hurricane Irene left a lot of devastation in her wake.

You can Donate Directly--or you can bid on a number of fabulous items up for auction.

Such as...

A critique from the brilliant Sarah Goldberg. (I know how brilliant she is, trust me.)  Her notes on manuscripts are even better than mine. Saturday 9/17 is the last day to bid.
Yesterday I read an article in PW about agents asking authors to make gay characters straight.  And it got me thinking. There's maybe another side to this story.

I have to say my favorite books with gay characters are books that are Great Books first and books that just happen to have characters who are gay.

Take Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz. It's brilliant. And yes, Hannah is my client, but I have a confession--this might be my favorite Hannah Moskowitz book. But it's a fabulous story set during the DC sniper shootings of 2002, with two teenage boys trying to make sense of their lives and falling in love in the process.

One of my favorite series to read as a YA fangirl is The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Without any spoilers for those who haven't read it, there's a fantastic character who's a little in love with his best friend. And the longing, the tension, the heartache that those feelings aren't returned...it's all so real and amazing. (And who doesn't know what it's like to have a crush on a friend, who really doesn't feel that way back?")

I'm frustrated with the hit you over the head books that sound preachy or books with gay characters that feel like that's their only characterization, like they exist in the story just for the sake of hitting a hot topic. I want more books that are just great stories, stories with complex characters I identify with because I know what it feels like to have to let go of an ex in order to fall in love with someone new, stories that present characters as real fully rounded people who just happen to also be gay, rather than cliched, one dimensional, or "token."

What are some other books with Great Stories and Great Characters (that happen to be gay)?
Word Count: 50,000

Original Text:

Guys have been known to do some pretty dumb shit because of women. Take the Trojan war, for example--Coach Wilder, who’s also our literature teacher (budget cuts) is making us read the Iliad this year. Basically, before Homer’s story begins, some king gets pissed because this other guy steals his girl. And to make a long story short (which the Iliad does not do), all hell breaks loose. All because some gods want to settle an argument. Just goes to show, gods make mistakes, too. I should know. My brother, Jupiter, is one. A high school god. Or at least he was one. Which made me like a demi-god or something—no, more like Hades. The unseen one.

As of right now, I’m not sure what I am. Or what my brother is for that matter. Presently, he’s standing on the sidewalk on the cross streets of Main and Fourth—right outside Jabberwocky Hardware. And as me and the other guys on the hockey team walk past the Butterfly Café towards Dick’s Burgers, I don’t recognize him. But when I do, I notice is his feet before I notice anything else—or more accurately what’s on his feet. He’s wearing roller skates. Roller skates.

And the freakin’ skates aren’t even the half of it.

His legs are encased in black fishnet stockings. His muscles—muscles defined by years of hockey--look different—womanly—underneath the twisted nylon. Over his Stadium High gym shorts, he’s wearing a black-and-green-colored tutu.

With Suzie's Comments:

Um, I love this. Just have to say that to start.


Guys have been known to do some pretty dumb shit because of women. Right here, I know I love the voice. This first line made me sit up and pay attention. I've known some guys who did some dumb shit too.


I think this would be even more readable with some more paragraph breaks so that's why I've inserted them.

Take the Trojan war, for example--Coach Wilder, who’s also our literature teacher (budget cuts) haha, love it is making us read the Iliad this year. Basically, before Homer’s story begins, some king gets pissed because this other guy steals his girl. Excellent teenage summary :) And to make a long story short (which the Iliad does not do) awesome!, all hell breaks loose. All because some gods want to settle an argument.

Just goes to show, gods make mistakes, too. I should know. My brother, Jupiter, is one. A high school god. Or at least he was one. I love this introduction to Jupiter. For a second I was afraid he was going to be a real God.  I was happy to see he's a high school one and I'm excited to read more about Jupiter's fall from godhood if that's what's coming. Which made me like a demi-god or something—no, more like Hades. The unseen one. I like this, and I'm also guessing at this point that our narrator is also a boy. I wasn't quite sure, though I was leaning towards "boy" but now I'm more convinced.

As of right now, I’m not sure what I am. Or what my brother is for that matter. Presently, he’s standing on the sidewalk on the cross streets of Main and Fourth—right outside Jabberwocky Hardware. And as me and the other guys on the hockey team walk past the Butterfly Café towards Dick’s Burgers, I don’t recognize him. But when I do, I notice is his feet before I notice anything else—or more accurately what’s on his feet. He’s wearing roller skates. Roller skates.

And the freakin’ skates aren’t even the half of it.

His legs are encased in black fishnet stockings. Do teenage boys know what fishnets are? His muscles—muscles defined by years of hockey--look different—womanly—underneath the twisted nylon. muscles defined by years of hockey sounds out of voice for me--it sounds like something one of my parents would have said, but not a teenager. Same with womanly.  I'm not sure how old our MC is yet, but I think it might say his brother is wearing tights and his legs look girlie or something less well-thought out, if that makes sense. Over his Stadium High gym shorts, he’s wearing a black-and-green-colored tutu.

This is fabulous! I love the voice, and I'm so interested in the dynamic between our MC and Jupiter, and I can't wait to find out what girl has influenced Jupiter into wearing this get up. I'd definitely keep reading.
Sci Fi Dystopian 138,000 words

New Text:


General Lucian Devereaux strode the Cliffhanger’s halls with anger pulsing in his temples like a second heartbeat. He paid little attention to the two men in black and their captive who hung his head and dragged his feet as though half-asleep. The men saluted the general as they passed him, then continued to the top of a descending staircase. It whirred to life, taking the prisoner into the abyss that was the concentration camp’s dungeon.

After pausing to straighten the collar of his deep green jacket, Lucian walked on. Despite his rage, he needed to remain presentable for the upcoming conference – as presentable as he was for every event he attended. He tried slicking back that unruly strand of hair that hung over his right eye, but it remained untamable as ever, doing nothing to help his mood. Frowning, the general stepped onto the main staircase and murmured, “Tenth floor.”

Work days at the Hanger were never pleasant, but today’s happenings had nearly driven him to the edge. Lucian tightened his grip on the parchment in his hand.

The tenth floor, like the eleventh and twelfth, was reserved for the most important military figures. He didn't bother knocking before stepping inside the conference room.

Dim lighting rendered Lucian momentarily blind. 3-D projections of paintings flickered inside depressions in the walls, giving the room a muted glow. Two seated military figures awaited Lucian around a table.

“Well?” he asked them.

“No luck, General Devereaux,” said Acker in his high-pitched voice. “Whoever this rebel is, he’s keeping a low profile.”


With Suzie's Comments:


According to the author, we're starting with a different scene as a first one, and we're in the perspective of the main character this time.



General Lucian Devereaux strode the Cliffhanger’s halls with anger pulsing in his temples like a second heartbeat. "Pulsing" gives the same impression as the second heartbeat simile. He paid little attention to the two men in black and their captive who hung his head and dragged his feet as though half-asleep. Again, the image of him is strong without the repetitive figurative language. The men saluted the general as they passed him, then continued to the top of a descending staircase. It whirred to life, taking the prisoner into the abyss that was the concentration camp’s dungeon. The staircase "whirred to life"? I'm confused... After reading this paragraph a few times I think I have an accurate portrayal of what's happening, but it took me a few reads to figure it out.  

After pausing to straighten the collar of his deep green jacket, Lucian walked on. Despite his rage, he needed to remain presentable for the upcoming conference – as presentable as he was for every event he attended. He tried slicking back that unruly strand of hair that hung over his right eye, but it remained untamable as ever, doing nothing to help his mood. Frowning, the general stepped onto the main staircase and murmured, “Tenth floor.”

Work days at the Hanger were never pleasant, but today’s happenings had nearly driven him to the edge. Lucian tightened his grip on the parchment in his hand.

The tenth floor, like the eleventh and twelfth, was reserved for the most important military figures. He didn't bother knocking before stepping inside the conference room.

Dim lighting rendered Lucian momentarily blind. 3-D projections of paintings flickered inside depressions in the walls, giving the room a muted glow. Two seated military figures awaited Lucian around a table.

“Well?” he asked them.

“No luck, General Devereaux,” said Acker in his high-pitched voice. “Whoever this rebel is, he’s keeping a low profile.” 


My main question here, is why did we start with this scene: Him walking to the conference room. Why not start with the conference? Why not start with a scene to show whatever is making Devereaux so mad? I feel like I'm waiting for something to happen.


If this scene is important as a starting point, I'd rather get more of a concrete image of what happens to the prisoner in the first paragraph as well as imagery about Cliffhanger (what does it smell like in a place like that? sound like?--there are a lot of possibilities), and then get right to the conference room.


I'm not sure I care that he's wearing a green jacket or that he needs to be presentable or that he has an unruly strand of hair hanging over his right eye--is this stuff important for an opening scene?


And rather than be told "work days at the Hanger were never pleasant"--I want to see it instead.


Original Text:

It was said that nobody knew how to reach the doors of the black tower from the outside – nobody but generals Acker and Devereaux. Officer Myron Kline had been flown in with a jet, and though the tower's sentries were ordered not to shoot on this occasion, he hadn't felt at ease until making contact with the ground.

Sunset was approaching, but the overcast sky trapped the sun's glow between layers of mist. The sea churned under low, thick clouds, licking the sides of a cliff that protruded over the water like a blade of steel. The young officer’s uniform was damp from the sea’s spray, but he barely noticed this as he strode towards the cliff’s peak. There, rising into the clouds, loomed the tower made of lustrous black onyx.

Repressing a shiver, Myron now noticed how closely it teetered to the raging waters below.

On the other hand, he could see the appeal of building the tower on such a treacherous terrain: it ensured a difficult time for those foolish enough to attempt escape. The camp hadn’t been baptized Cliffhanger for nothing, and he was now one of the few who knew the reasoning behind its name. A slip of the tongue concerning the Cliffhanger meant heavy punishment under the orders of General Devereaux, but the young officer had no intention of making such a mistake now that he was in the general’s employment.

He'd already sworn the oath of silence, and those who broke it didn't live to tell the tale.

With Suzie's Comments:

First, a note on word count. 138k is borderline too long.  It does depend on genre, and this one didn't say what it was, but when you have a long word count, make sure that every scene is developing the character and pushing the plot forward. And maybe go through and make sure you are using words to their best advantage. You don't want to be saying something in 20 words when it can be said just as well in 15.

It was said that nobody knew how to reach the doors of the black tower from the outside – nobody but generals Acker and Devereaux. Officer Myron Kline had been flown in with a jet, and though the tower's sentries were ordered not to shoot on this occasion, he hadn't felt at ease until making contact with the ground. I'm not sure I like the first line--I like it in the sense that it's a good line, but I don't like it as an opening. I don't know what the black tower is. It's black and it's a tower and if no one can reach the doors it seems sort of ominous, but because I don't really know enough, I think that I don't feel the trepidation like I should. Plus, two last names of two guys not on page have just been thrown my way right before introducing a third name, presumably the character I'm following. It might be more beneficial to open with a line about Officer Myron Kline and what he sees approaching the black tower--show me what it is please--and then tell me no one knows where the doors are and that's why he's been flown in by jet. Then the introduction of the tower PLUS the sentries orders (omg!) will make me feel as nervous as Myron.

Sunset was approaching, but the overcast sky trapped the sun's glow between layers of mist. The sea churned under low, thick clouds, licking the sides of a cliff that protruded over the water like a blade of steel. The young officer’s uniform was damp from the sea’s spray, but he barely noticed this as he strode towards the cliff’s peak. There, rising into the clouds, loomed the tower made of lustrous black onyx. This is a nice descriptive paragraph, but I still don't know what the tower looks like. How/Where is he striding if he was being flown in? Also, some of the descriptive words here are counterproductive to setting the tone. This seems sort of pretty to me. But if the tower is supposed to give Myron shivers (like it does below), I want a creepy description of the area. It could even be sort of pretty but contrasted with the black toward, it looks wrong.  I don't know but lustrous black onyx says pretty jewelry to me, not creepy ominous tower.

Repressing a shiver, Myron now noticed how closely it teetered to the raging waters below. Raging waters? I thought they were licking the cliffs, that seemed calm to me.

On the other hand, he could see the appeal of building the tower on such a treacherous terrain: I need more evidence of how the terrain is treacherous it ensured a difficult time for those foolish enough to attempt escape. The camp hadn’t been baptized Cliffhanger for nothing, and he was now one of the few who knew the reasoning behind its name. What reason? Did I miss something? A slip of the tongue concerning the Cliffhanger meant heavy punishment under the orders of General Devereaux, but the young officer had no intention of making such a mistake now that he was in the general’s employment.

He'd already sworn the oath of silence, and those who broke it didn't live to tell the tale. I really like this last line--it's in my opinion the best line of the excerpt, and because of it I think I'd turn the page and read one more to see if my interest could be grabbed. This line gives me the sense of danger and intrigue. I want to know what he has to be silent about!
78,000-word urban fantasy

We have a revision!

Revised Text


Graham’s memory wasn’t getting any better. The car accident happened more than six months ago and when he woke up in the hospital to doctors questioning him about his phone number and address, he couldn’t give them more than a single name—Karl. There were no faces or happy memories from his childhood, there was just a name; and soon it was lost to become yet another hole.

When he was discharged from the hospital, the doctor told him the recovery process could be slow and he would need to be patient, though he never mentioned his mind would grow so weak he would be practically living hour to hour. Key moments in his life, like his graduation from high school or his first kiss, gradually started coming back, though they were never clear and Graham saw these images from a distance. He was certain these events had taken place at some time—they had to—but the more he tried to attach himself, the less he belonged.

After his past was filled with enough cracks to keep him locked in his apartment for fear that he wouldn’t find his way home, Graham knew it was time to start researching; but no matter how many times he renewed the library books on medical disorders or scoured the internet for similar amnesia cases, he couldn’t find anything that would help his memories come back. Most of the advice was the same—follow a healthy diet, get more sleep, drink hot beverages, practice relaxation techniques—and for several months, Graham lived by these regimes, convinced he would find his way back.

With Suzie's Comments



Graham’s memory wasn’t getting any better. Still love this first line! The car accident happened more than six months ago. I like that I know how it happened, but this sentence felt really jerky. and wWhen he woke up in the hospital to doctors questioning him about his phone number and address, he couldn’t give them doctors more than a single name—Karl. Huh? But his name is Graham. Who's Karl? This is more confusing. There were no faces or happy memories from his childhood, I like this! there was just a name; and soon it was lost to become yet another hole. This is too vague or too metaphorical. Karl is lost?

When he was discharged from the hospital, the doctor told him the recovery process could be slow and he would need to be patient, This clause is a very generic "this is what doctors say in a case like this" statement. As a result, it should be said very quickly (Doctors told him recovery would be slow,) and then move on, readers want to know what makes this story unique. though he never mentioned his mind would grow so weak he would be practically living hour to hour. Clear up the pronoun usage here--it's hard to read and understand who all the he's are. And how is his mind growing "so weak"--what does that mean? What does living hour to hour mean? Is this like in the movie Memento where he has to write notes to himself because he can't make new short term memories, or is it something different?  Key moments in his life, like his graduation from high school or his first kiss, gradually started coming back, they do come back? This seems contradictory to the "his mind got weaker" statement. though they were never clear and Graham saw these images only from a distance. Tighten your sentences. (Though I'm not entirely sure what from a distance means).  He was certain these events had taken place at some time—they had to—but the more he tried to attach himself, the less he belonged. What does this mean?

After he remembered enough to get over the his past was filled with enough cracks to keep him locked in his apartment for fear that he wouldn’t find his way home, Graham knew it was time to start researching.; bBut no matter how many times library he renewed the library books on medical disorders or scoured the internet for similar amnesia cases he found on the internet, he couldn’t find anything that would help his memories come back. This sentence is entirely too long. I got lost in the second clause. (My edits are just an example of how you might make it more readable). Most of the advice was the same—follow a healthy diet, get more sleep, drink hot beverages, practice relaxation techniques—and for several months, Graham lived by these regimes, convinced he would find his way back. Is he convinced? This last statement seems at odds with what he's been feeling for the last few paragraphs.


So we definitely have more information about Graham and what's going on with his memory, but everything is still "telling"--and there's more of it now, which makes it feel more like an info dump.


My new suggestion is start with:


Graham's memory wasn't getting any better.


[Show us him standing at the bus and feeling whatever it is he's feeling since he can't remember what's going on]


[Have him decide to walk home]


[On the walk home, give us the info about the accident and those six months of more memory loss]


All in all, I think you need to decrease the narrative distance and allow readers to get more in touch with Graham.

Original Text
Graham’s memory wasn’t getting any better.  Entire sections of his past were still missing from his thoughts and no matter how many times he renewed the library books on medical disorders or scoured the internet for similar amnesia cases, he couldn’t find anything that would help his memories come back.  For the first few months he tried to ignore the ridiculous sites that told him to eat marinated almonds or peppered honey—he may as well have danced naked at the full moon—though soon he was willing to try anything.  Most of the more reliable sources said ‘time’ was the best cure, but time was something Graham didn’t want to give up.  Every day, every hour, his memories slipped away until he would find himself open-mouthed in the street, trying to remember which bus would take him back home.

He stood there now, watching as the thirty-one bus came and went, followed shortly after by the thirty-four and the thirty-five.  He read the flashing neighborhood signs on the buses’ windshields, knowing that at least one of them would show him the destination he was hoping for.  When he saw it, he’d know it was the right one.  Wouldn’t he?

After waiting forty-five minutes for the bus he was sure stopped at his corner every ten, Graham decided to take the five-mile trek back to his apartment.  The bus schedule may have been emptied from his mind, but the familiar city streets were not something he was likely to forget after training his muscle memory for the last twenty years.

With Suzie's Comments:

I picked this entry for first page shooter because the writing is well done and I'm interested in Graham's situation, but if the author did a few things different I would be so much more interested.  Right now the excerpt is too telling. Especially in the beginning.

Graham’s memory wasn’t getting any better.  I love this as an opening line.  It gives us the problem right away. There's something wrong with his memory! Entire sections of his past were still missing from his thoughts and no matter how many times he renewed the library books on medical disorders or scoured the internet for similar amnesia cases, he couldn’t find anything that would help his memories come back.  This is where I want MORE. Here I'm being told about his memory issue, but it's vague. I would be so much more interested, if I got more specific, unique, details about what was going on. "Entire sections of his past were still missing"--like what? how big are these sections? If they're still missing, how long have they been missing? Is this is a new problem? Is it getting worse? Is there a specific example of when he realized some of his memory was gone? Give me more details--really develop them so I can get a sense of the character and feel something for his situation.  Next, he's done all this research and found nothing. Has he gone to a doctor yet? Again, I want more details--show me his frustration/his angst. For the first few months he tried to ignore the ridiculous sites that told him to eat marinated almonds or peppered honey—he may as well have danced naked at the full moon—though soon he was willing to try anything.  I like the concept of the desperation here, but again I want more. What sites did he start with? What things did he try first? What was the moment he decided it would try eating marinated almonds--what drove him to that? Most of the more reliable sources said ‘time’ was the best cure, but time was something Graham didn’t want to give up.  Every day, every hour, his memories slipped away until he would find himself open-mouthed in the street, trying to remember which bus would take him back home. Does he know what precipitated his memory loss? Was it an accident or did he just start forgetting stuff? What kind of things (other than the bus) has he been forgetting? We need more of a frame of reference--is the bus something that should be easy to remember? (I for one have never mastered the NYC bus system). 

He stood there now, watching as the thirty-one bus came and went, followed shortly after by the thirty-four and the thirty-five.  He read the flashing neighborhood signs on the buses’ windshields, knowing that at least one of them would show him the destination he was hoping for.  When he saw it, he’d know it was the right one.  Wouldn’t he? This is an interesting paragraph, but it falls a little flat.  Get me more inside his head. How does he feel? As a reader, I need the author to show me what I should be feeling for this character through his own thoughts/feelings. Is he annoyed/frustrated/sad/scared/disillusioned? What?

After waiting forty-five minutes for the bus he was sure stopped at his corner every ten, Graham decided to take the five-mile trek back to his apartment.  The bus schedule may have been emptied from his mind, but the familiar city streets were not something he was likely to forget after training his muscle memory for the last twenty years. Again, he seems pretty nonchalant about this, which undercuts any tension you've built up in the first paragraph about the memory loss.

Overall, I probably wouldn't keep reading. I like the flow of the writing and I would be interested in checking out other projects this author was doing. But as is, this hasn't grabbed me though I was intrigued at first.
Recently, I saw The Help.



No I'm going to admit, that it wasn't at all as good as the book. I should have known. I loved the book, and a lot of times I see movies that just aren't quite the same. But I was completely taken in by the movie trailer. I saw the trailer a few months ago when I hadn't even known they were making a movie (yeah, I don't know where I was on that one), and when the trailer ended, I wished I was sitting in the theater for The Help rather than whatever other movie I was seeing at the time. I couldn't wait for it to come out. I even went home and looked up the movie on IMDB in order to find out more details.

Obviously, for me, the trailer for The Help did it's job. It made me sit up, pay attention, and want to see the movie. It did it so well, that I saw the movie the first week it came out and tried to convince several other people to go with me.

With movies, there are some great trailers (I've seen great ones for bad movies, and great ones for great movies) and of course there are a few duds (any idea what that new move Warhorse is even about?), but  people talk about them, look forward to them, and at least the people I know, use trailers to help decide what movies they go to.

Obviously book trailers are a marketing tool with similar goals. Which got me thinking. Specifically about book trailers. I can't think of one trailer that made me want to buy the book. 

One caveat to those statements is that my favorite trailer is the one for Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall. If you haven't seen it, click here and watch. It's pretty awesome. I watched it after I'd read the book, but I think it might have convinced me to check the book out if I hadn't seen it.

So I haven't bought a book because of a trailer. But more than that, I can't think of that many book trailers that I really liked.


But both of those things might be because I won't watch that many of them. I buy books I hear about from people I know, or from announcements in PW, or from the image on the cover (I know, I can't help it!). And I only watch the trailers if I stumble on them on someone's blog or if someone emails it to me. 

But I think there are some really great things that can be done with trailers.  Recently I saw an article on (another Lauren Oliver) book trailer--for Delirium--that is interactive. How cool is that?



I want to know more and check out some more cool trailers.

So what I want to know from you is twofold.
1. What are some really good book trailers you've seen?
2. Are there any book trailers that have made you go out a buy the book?

And of course, any of your other thoughts are welcome!