Query Critique 69

Thirty-one-year-old Francy is sure she’s already solved the mystery of her family’s murder. Until she discovers she was wrong. Intriguing hook!

When Francy was just twelve years old, her entire family was murdered aboard a chartered yacht, all while she was fast asleep below deck. The media dubbed it the Shook Family Vacation Massacre. I’m not sure this sentence is very important as it doesn’t really provide me with new information about the plot. Phobic loner Francy has spent most of her adult life trying to forget this past while barely scraping by in the present. When the convicted murderer—boat captain Harvey Denham—passes away in jail, Francy becomes unexpectedly mixed up with the killer’s son, Eli. Just to be clear, Eli is the captain’s son? It’s a little confusing to call him the killer’s son since you’ve indicated that the captain wasn’t really the murderer. Eli is adamant about his father’s innocence, and Francy is sure of his guilt. Together, they set out to discover the truth—him searching for new suspects, and her trying to rule them out. When Francy finally separates fact from fiction, though, she begins to wonder whether the truth isn’t actually worse than the lie. I like that you’re trying to introduce some stakes here, but I think it could be made stronger by including more specifics. What makes it worse than a lie? Overall, you have an interesting concept, though.

Can’t Take It with You is a 75,000 word mystery novel. Readers of Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train, Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, and Susan Crawford’s The Pocket Wife will find enjoyment in this book. Good comp titles, but this sentence feels a little awkward in the wording.

Partial or full manuscript is available upon your request. Thank you for your time,

Query Critique 68

Pride of Divinians, the royal family stands above all. This sentence doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Led by someone who can manipulate people and beasts alike, a coterie agrees that the royalty must go. Princess Raylene rides high on expectations. To her, the battlefield is more appealing than a courtroom. I’m a little confused by most of this paragraph. So there’s a rebellion led by a manipulator, and the Princess wants to join in? If that’s right, I want to know why she’s willing to betray her own family to join this rebellion.

The king takes a fatal fall. His shields call it an accident. Princess Raylene thinks otherwise. The empress is reluctant to pay heed to her words, and instead questions her sanity. She takes it upon herself to uncover the truth—no matter which tactic she may have to apply. She being Raylene or the empress? In a bid to keep the empire from falling, she takes over the duties of the critically injured king and the grieving queen. Is the queen different than the empress? All the while, she struggles with the scars of the past, and her feelings for her childhood friend. Scars of the past seems a little vague, and the crush on her friend seems irrelevant to the rest of the query.

An assassination attempt on the empress forces her to make a difficult choice—which sends her straight to prison. I’d like more information on what this difficult choice is. The castle is in jeopardy, with its protective wall gone, and an army of blood-thirsty monsters marching towards it. Why is the wall gone? Can you be more specific about what type of monsters? Raylene must find a way out else she’ll lose not just her place as the heir, but also the lives of her dear ones.

First in the Princess Divine YA fantasy series, UPRISING is complete at 81,000 words. If you’re pitching a series, it’s good to say how many books are in the series.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Frost Blog Tour: An interview with E. Latimer


You feel a great sense of pride whenever one of your critique partners does something awesome. Which is why I’m stoked to be kicking off the blog tour for E. Latimer’s new book, Frost, which is being released tomorrow by Patchwork Press. I had a chance to interview Erin about the book.

Q: So Frost got its start on Wattpad. How did that influence your writing process?

A: My writing process is something that’s always shifting and changing as I try new things. My process for Frost was, well…if I had to choose one word, it was long. I mean really bloody long. The book on Wattpad was nearly 200k words, and I sort of wrote each chapter with a “Well, let’s try going to this place and doing this thing next” type of attitude, to see how the readers responded. It was ridiculously fun, but I hated myself later on when I started editing it.

Q: Let’s talk about the Norse mythology that inspired the story. What did you enjoy about the mythology and what was challenging about using it?

A: I laugh when people ask me this question, because I really didn’t stick to any of the specific myths. I just sort of grabbed what I wanted and used different parts. Names, places, species. Nothing was safe. My jotun are very different than the traditional frost giants of Norse mythology, who were kind of a bunch of jerks, to be honest. It’s interesting to see what I get yelled at for. Loki is one. I’ve made him a fire giant, and people are pretty sure he’s a frost giant and I’ve got that one all wrong. Thanks for that one, Marvel.

Q: Did you have a favorite character to write? (I know I had a favorite character to read. Can you guess who? 😉 )

A: Is it a certain mischievous fire jotun? I actually very much enjoyed writing about Leif and his “wolf pack” as they’re referred to. I really enjoy making the villains as repulsive as possible, so he was a fun one to write about.

Q: What was your revision process like? Did having the story posted on Wattpad affect the way you revised?

A: Um, yes. Most definitely. Mainly because the story was a complete mess. An absolute train wreck. Like I said, I just sort of wrote whatever popped up in my brain and it was four years ago, so my writing was quite different (that’s a nice way of saying indescribably BAD) so I ended up rewriting massive chunks of it. Revisions were a bit crazy.

Q: Would you encourage other writers to use Wattpad?

A: Absolutely. Frost wouldn’t exist without Wattpad. The readers are what kept me writing it, and they’re what motivated me to get through the painful slog of edits. The people on Wattpad are amazing, wonderful people.

Q: The cover is gorgeous. What was the design process like?

A: I really wasn’t very eloquent about what I wanted (I think I said ‘make it shiny’ and that was mainly it) and Jessica Allain just did the most unbelievable job on it.

Q: So what’s next for your writing career? What projects are you working on, and what can readers expect to see in the future?

A: At the moment, I’m doing more revisions on a different manuscript (that’s all I do now, revisions) and after that, I’ll be working on Frost 2 (which will have an amazingly clever name at some point, but it isn’t now).

Giveaway time!

Interested in winning an copy of Frost and other awesome swag? Follow the link below to a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Giveaway for E. Latimer’s Frost

You can also keep up with Erin on her website or on Twitter at @ELatimerWrites.

Q&A: Mentioning fanfiction in your query

I recently had the following question asked in response to a query critique.

I noticed here that she pointed out publishing some fanfiction. Is this a good idea? I know fanfiction is becoming more “acceptable” thanks to Fangirl and some of the fic writing classes now offered at Ivy Leagues. My general impression is that a lot of people still think it’s a joke though. How does the publishing world see it? Many authors claim to have written fanfiction earlier on in their life, but would they likely have mentioned this in a query? Thanks for any feedback on this.

As you might have guessed, there is no one right answer to this. Different agents have different opinions about fanfiction. For me, I don’t really mind it. Writing is a learned skill, and fanfiction is a great way to practice. It can also be a great way to start building an audience and maybe even getting feedback that can improve your writing.

It’s also true that fanfic is becoming more acceptable. For the reasons mentioned above as well as the success of some books that reworked fanfiction into an original story. That said, there are still going to be agents who look down on fanfic.

There’s no surefire way to gauge how an agent will feel about fanfic unless they’ve actually said something about it. You can try and guess based on how “traditional” the agent seems. But there is no fool proof method.

One final thing I would consider. The stigma against fanfic seems more based on the fact that the writing is “unoriginal” rather than that it is bad writing (fanfic, like any genre has a range of really bad to really good writing). People fall under the impression that the fanfic author either lacks the creativity or gumption to create original worlds or characters. But this isn’t always the case. And often you can tell from the query whether the premise and characters seem original. If the query shows that the author can write something original, then the fanfic shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Query Critique 67

Memories.  They are one of the most important aspects of our very existence.  Memories shape our individuality, provide a roadmap as to how we should act, and serve as an aid as we travel through life, hopefully preventing us from making the same mistake twice.  Without our memories, we would walk the planet as emotionless husks, never evolving, stuck in one place in time.  It’s taking too long to really get to the meat of the story. I want the characters and world introduced as soon as possible. The discourse on memories isn’t enough to really grab me. When a man wakes up in the back of a merchant’s wagon driven by two goblins, without any idea who he is, he knows he’s in trouble. See, now this should be your hook.  He looks for clues to unlock his identity, but the task is difficult when no one else knows who he is either.

As the man struggles to learn who he is, a sinister Human by the name of Lutheras, leads a growing force of dark wizards and Minotaurs in the north. I’m a little curious why Human and Minotaurs are capitalized. If this is related to the world building, I think it needs to be a little more clear. He’s hell bent on gathering all seven of the orbs scattered throughout Askabar. The orbs seem to sort of come out of nowhere.  Lutheras has learned that the seven orbs are keys; keys imprisoning the worst wizard who ever lived.  Combining the orbs will provide Lutheras with unfathomable power, and unleash a darkness and evil the likes of which the planet has never seen. I’d maybe like a little more indication of how the memoryless man is at all involved with Lutheras.

The man without his memories arrives at the capital city of the region and arranges a meeting with the ruler.  Lord Brukahn of Havenbrook, intrigued by the stranger’s loss of memory, agrees to help him.  He sends the stranger on a journey to seek out an old and mysterious seer, who Brukahn believes can unlock his memories. This seems like a lot of and then he goes from here to there, and seems to detract from the main conflict.  The Lord knows he can’t send this man out alone, and offers his daughter, Liniana, as a guide. There are a lot of characters being introduced in this query. How many of them are really necessary? She’s a formidable soldier in her own right, and has learned how to harness her spark as a healer—an ability that comes in handy during their long and perilous journey.  As they head east, he feels a constant pull toward the seer—as if they are somehow connected. How important is this to the main plot?

Through his travels, the man learns his fate is tied to the peculiar events in the north. This seems a little vague to me.  Lutheras has already conquered one city, and has his sights set on the next as he marches on his ever-growing path of conquest. The fate of Askabar hangs in the balance and depends upon a man who doesn’t even remember who he is. I think these stakes could be made a little stronger. Overall, I think the query needs more of a focus. Stick to the main conflict, and don’t worry about sub plots. Make the logical flow a little more consistent, because right now the synopsis seems a little jumbled. Try not to jump from one idea to another. Make sure all the ideas are very clearly connected.

THE UKNOWN MAN is my debut novel, and is the first book of four in the high fantasy series, The Keepers of the Orbs.  It is complete at 114,000 words.  Thank you for your time and consideration. 

What I’m Reading (and loving)

I didn’t start this blog with the intention of it becoming a book blog. The world has plenty of other book bloggers who do what they do better than I would.

That said, I am constantly saying that you need to read, read, read if you want to be any good at writing. With that in mind, I thought I could take some time to talk about some of the books I’ve been reading the past few months and tell you what I loved about them.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Winnerscurse  This one makes the list because in addition to vivid world building and a clean writing style, it’s got ALL THE SWOON. I love me some good banter, filled with romantic tension. This book certainly delivered. Also the dialogue. In case you can’t tell, I really loved this book. I stayed up until 4 am reading it, even though I had to be at school for 13 hours the next day. So worth it.

Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe

deathcomingupthehill I’ve been looking to read more historical fiction set outside WWII and Regency era England, which made this Vietnam War tale a good fit. The novel is written in haiku, which seems like it shouldn’t work, but it did. The idea is that the book has one syllable for each casualty lost in Vietnam in 1968, the year the book takes place.

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

shadowhero I’ve also been looking to read more graphic novels this year. I was a fan of Yang’s American Born Chinese, and I sort of have an interest in Golden Age comics. So this seemed like a choice that made sense to me. I loved watching Yang and Liew revamp the Green Turtle’s origin story. Also, I thought the story had some real funny parts, which always wins points with me.

Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman

eyeswideopen I will admit, I picked this up because I like the author and not because I wanted to read about the environment. I was surprised by how much I liked the book, though.  In fact, it was one of my favorite nonfiction projects I’ve read this year. Fleischman gives readers a method of sorting through the information we’re bombarded with on a daily basis.

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

madwickedfolly This is one where I have a hard time pinning down just what it was that I loved about this book. The voice felt very natural. It was also another in a time period I hadn’t read as much of (British suffragette movement). I also found both the main character and the love interest believable and appealing. I’ll certainly be watching for future releases from Waller.

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd

go Teen nonfiction seems to lean toward histories, biographies, and current events. Which made this graphic design how-to a refreshing find. A fun, easy read, the book familiarizes the reader with fundamental design elements.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and park I won’t say much about this one, because I can’t add to what other people have already said. Again, historical fiction (I know a lot of people don’t like to think of the 80s as historical, but it’s before I was born so I count it). Great characters. Also many swoon points.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

GraveMercyThis is a little older than most of the books on this list, but I only just got around to reading it. Again, swoon elements. Strong pacing. Good voice. What’s more, I appreciated how strongly the story was grounded in actual history. While I get tired of medieval western Europe stories, I still usually enjoy them when I can tell the author really has researched the era and made it authentic.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

nimona There were a lot of feels associated with this book. But it was also fun to read. Another graphic novel, I liked this for a lot of the same reasons I liked The Shadow Hero. Fantastic character development as well.

Query Critique 66

If being shy around girls were a serious disease, sixteen-year-old Jason Martyr would be on the terminal list.  It turns out girls are the least of his worries when a secret government agency abducts him, claiming he has a rare genetic ability to travel through time.  I like this opening! Fun spin on the “so and so was a normal teen until…” formula I see a lot. The agency threatens Jason’s family and friends to ensure his cooperation. Something about this sentence seems a little abrupt. I think it may be the wording more than the concept. Important information, though, obviously.

His mission is to go back in time to stop a ruthless secret society called the Masters of Infinity from altering history and taking control of the future.  Their next attack is a 1937 coup attempt aimed at deposing FDR and installing a fascist dictator in his place.  If the Masters succeed, the U.S. may never take part in World War II, setting off a catastrophic domino effect through the rest of the timeline. Good job establishing conflict!

All Jason wants is to return to his normal life and the quest for the perfect girl. Before that can happen he must survive martial arts training from the most dangerous fighter in the world, and then prevent the Masters’ henchmen from carrying out the coup. His enemies know he is coming, and have some lethal surprises in store for him. I don’t know if this is necessary. It’s a little to vague to have a real punch, and you’ve already established a lot of conflict in the letter. Jason will go home when he completes the mission – if he survives.  It’s good that you’re establishing stakes. I think it could have a little bang though. This last sentence isn’t terrible, but it feels a little weaker than the rest of the query. Overall, a very good summary though.

THE DESTINY MATRIX, a work of speculative fiction for the YA market, is complete at 82,000 words. I don’t particularly mind “speculative fiction” as a genre label, but I know some agents prefer something more specific.  It features action sequences similar to the television series Chuck, and light science fiction aspects similar to Roland Smith’s Cryptid Huntersseries.  It is a stand-alone novel with series potential. 

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and MBA with emphasis in marketing, both from the University of Missouri. 

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.