Frost Blog Tour: An interview with E. Latimer

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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.

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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. 

Query Critique 63

Dear __________,

While following your (webpage/twitter/etc) I have noticed that you are interested ______ and _______. I feel that A DREAM AWOKEN would be a good fit for both of these.

Valeria West is a girl trapped in between two nightmares.

By day, the nightmare is her time at Bellowes Charter School, where her choice of friendships has Valeria caught in the crossfire of a school popularity war.  At night, Valeria is plagued by dreams of hot sand, spilled blood, and a sword that somehow knows her name. 

After a particularly vicious attack by her schoolyard nemesis, Valeria finds herself overwhelmed by despair. While contemplating her final escape, she is drawn into the dream world instead, and finds herself being forced to serve the whims of a girl who shares her same face. Morning brings with it the uncomfortable realization that the other world was as real as the blood on Valeria’s hands. I would like a hint earlier on that this is speculative fiction. Try to weave in the fantasy elements sooner.

As she struggles to come to terms with the new reality, Valeria discovers things about herself, love, and her best friend Keiko that she never imagined. However, Valeria has little time to explore any new possibilities, for she brought home one other souvenir from the other world – a blood curse that is killing her from within. THIS. This is the big conflict. This is the main idea. And it’s only getting one sentence! Play this element up more because it’s the most exciting part of the query.

In the end, Valeria will be given a choice – to take up a sword once more to save the soul of an empire as well as her own, or let both be consumed by madness. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a little confused by what “both” in this sentence is supposed to be referring to. Also, I think you could try to be just a little more specific about the stakes.

A DREAM AWOKEN is a completed 150,000 work epic fantasy that is my first novel, and can be either a stand-alone novel or part of a series. Is this YA? MG? Tell me who your audience is!   The manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

U. Been Cursed

Query Critique 61

Dear [Agent],
 
I am currently seeking representation for my supernatural novel, DEAD WRESTLERS,  which is complete at 90,000 words. I noticed that you are interested in books with a “fantastical or magical element,” and books that are “often quirky, sometimes funny.”
 
When Mark Chapman was just twelve years old he accidentally killed his little sister with a wrestling maneuver, a maneuver that would bring forth twenty-one years of remorse, regret…and the frequent company of the ghosts of deceased professional wrestlers, many of whom want him to save the lives of their living peers. This is an awesome hook.
 
Mark is now thirty-three and his grappling ghosts are engaged in a bitter battle over whether he will travel to Georgia to stop the Benoit murders of June 2007. Mark chooses not to, and wrestler Chris Benoit, having killed his wife and son before committing suicide, appears in his ghostly form at Mark’s job a broken man. The wording in this sentence is just a little bit awkward. Also, do we get a clue why Mark would choose not to stop these murders? During a wrestler-saving mission, Benoit causes an accident that nearly kills Mark and his friends. As a result, Mark’s friends and ghosts all bail on him, not wanting anything to do with Chris Benoit. There are, however, still lives to save, and, as Mark chases Billy Lincoln, a local guy who wrestles as Corpus and who Mark knows will die any day, there is a chance that the life of Mark himself could be in jeopardy. This sentence is also worded a little bit awkwardly.
 
Told across twenty-five years via flashbacks, DEAD WRESTLERS is the story of a man trying to save his favorite wrestlers from dying, to maintain his relationships, and to forgive himself for what he did more than two decades ago. I’d be wary of mentioning that there is a lot of flashback in the book, as that is something that is often a turn off to agents.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
 
Sincerely,
 
Smash Hit

Query Critique 55

Dear Wonderful Agent,
Seventeen-year-old Adelie Elliot used to have big plans for her life. She wanted to get into a great college, marry her high school sweetheart, and become a doctor of psychology. Now, she’ll be happy if she just wakes up in the morning.
Between the nightmares laden with death threats and being stalked by mysterious shadow people, Adelie is a mess with paranoia.I would like to see the shadow people woven into the hook. An odd encounter with the shadows leads her to the discovery of an alternate world within dreams. Or the idea of a dream world would make a catchy hook. A clan of Dream Seekers welcomes her, ready to guide her in her new abilities as they take down stray nightmares and combat the growing threat in the land: the fallen god Morpheus. His plot to regain full control proves deadly to all that get in his way. Basically everything in this paragraph is more interesting than what you have in your first paragraph hook.
If Adelie is unable to shake the hold Morpheus has over her mind, she will fall under his control forever –and forfeit her life in reality. This is good, as it gives the reader a sense of what the stakes are. I would like to see this idea of Morpheus having mind control powers being more thoroughly explored.
Some dreams are hard to wake up from –for Adelie, it might be just be impossible. Sounds like an interesting concept!
SLEEPLESS CONFINEMENT is an 86,500 word YA fantasy novel with series potential. It is comparable to THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS and INCEPTION with mythological flare. Italicize the comparative titles to set them apart from your title.
I am currently raising two, rambunctious preschoolers at home that keep my imagination in working order. Like my protagonist, I drink entirely too much coffee and always have a crazy dream to share upon waking.
My completed manuscript is available at your request. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
As per your guidelines, the first XX pages of the novel are included below for your review.
Sincerely,
Dream Author

Query Critique 49

Dear [Agent Name],

I am seeking representation for RISING THROUGH ASHES, a diverse YA fantasy, complete at 97,000 words.

To Fallon, high castle walls, armed soldiers and cold are not obstacles. This is a good hook. I would like to see “cold” get beefed up so it sounds more intimidating. She relishes her assassination and endurance skills but hates being forcibly dispatched to the land of the birdfolk where she must secure a legendary truth-revealing Red Ink for the king. So, there are a lot of things in here that I don’t quite understand. Lots of worldbuilding that is very sudden. It probably all needs to be in the query, but maybe not all in the same sentence.

But the birdfolk, with feathers for hair and a penchant for face tattoos, are fiercely protective of their magic. Fallon continues her search crossing paths with storytellers and figures out of legends. When a failed excursion results in the birdfolk’s prince hunting for her, Fallon’s escapade leads her to confront a truth from her past – a suppressed history that pushes her to a greater role than she imagined. This is where I’d like to see the stakes ramped up. What happens if she doesn’t get the  Red Ink (why does the king even need it?)? What happens if she fails in this “greater role.” Why should I care if the history stays repressed or not? Work on answering these questions, and you’ll have a much stronger query because the reader will have a real reason to care what happens to the characters.

The manuscript is first in what could be a series. I believe it will appeal to readers of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Leigh Bardugo’s The Grisha Trilogy. Good comp titles.

Thanks for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Birds of a Feather

Query Critique 47

Dear Ms. Nelson,

Samuel Morgan is in serious trouble. Part of me likes this, but part of me feels like I want to just be told specifically why he is in serious trouble.

Not your average fourteen year old’s trouble, but more of the he-might-wind-up-dead-or-wish-he-was sort of trouble. It wasn’t so much the oversized Irishman whisking him away to a magical pocket of old Norway, or the fact that Shadow Casters were hot on their heels. Heck, it wasn’t even that his dorky parents turned out to be spellcasters. No, Sam has taken all of that pretty well. His problem is the Disgraced. I kind of feel like a lot of details are being thrown at me, and some of them are sort of vague. For instance, what is a Shadow Caster, and why should I be afraid of them? Also, why does this Irishman want to take him to maigical old Norway?

In his new life at the Viking stronghold turned spellcasters academy, everything was going surprisingly well; he’d even made some friends. But then they visited Australia. When Sam and Titus–the aforementioned Irishman–have a chilling encounter with the Disgraced everything changes. This is the second time that the Disgraced have been mentioned. And I still don’t know what they are. If they really are as important as I think they’re supposed to be, I need to know sooner what they are and why they’re important. Also, Australia seems kinda random. And really far away from Norway. Namely, Titus and Sam. Titus is quickly descending into despair. Worse still, Sam is changing. Every fear and failure he has known, true or imagined, threatens to swallow him up. He can’t let them be right. These sentences read as a little bit choppy.

Sam and his newfound friends must find a way to save Titus before it’s too late, but no one seems to know a thing about the ancient, parasitic evil. In truth, the hard part is getting someone to believe them. It’s hard for grownups to take you seriously when you’re chasing an old wives tale used to frighten children.  Every dead end they encounter sends Titus closer to enslavement. In a desperate measure, Sam procures some reliable information, if a bit unscrupulously. Ok, so he stole it, but this is important. Who does he steal it from? Are they the type of person we would feel sorry that he stole from? Unfortunately, the truth is hard to swallow, and things look dire for Titus. Now, Sam is forced to wonder what he is becoming. He has no choice: he must stop the Disgraced or lose Titus–and be lost himself. Clear stakes. Good. My overall comment is just that I need a better sense of world-building. In particular, I need a better understanding of how the Disgraced work.

THROUGH THE CASTER’S GATE is a young adult contemporary fantasy and is complete at 105,000 words. Diverse characters of varying cultures, ethnicities, and social classes will strike a chord with teens living in an increasingly diverse world. I think you can just say that it’s diverse. Agents already get why that’s important. This is my first novel. Although I do not possess any magical powers, I do have previous experience as a socially awkward teenager. I like this. Thankfully, I’m retired from that role. I am also a member of SCBWI.

My thanks for your time and attention. I have included the first ten pages per your guidelines for your consideration.  Synopsis and full manuscript are available upon your request.

Best Regards,

Ye Olde Norse