My Query Letter Will Be The Death Of Me

CLASSIFIEDS AD: Writer to sell soul for ability to write effective query letter

I wish I was kidding. Truly. But Dear Lord, am I a failure at writing summaries. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read, webinars I’ve taken, critiques I’ve gotten, seminars I’ve attended in the past couple years, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t for the life of me succinctly and effectively put my characters’ story into a 250-word query letter.

Every time I rewrite the thing, I get two responses: 1) This is great! 2) This is confusing and needs a total rework.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Bree, this industry is subjective. You’re not going to please everyone.”

Right. Subjectivity. This makes up for about 10%. In my mind anyway. Maybe I’m not giving subjectivity enough credit, but when your inbox is filled with rejections (8 as of last week), you kinda have to take a step back and take a good hard look at your novel’s cover letter, especially when those 8 rejections came directly from the query, no partial/full requests.

Like I said above, I’ve rewritten that damned query letter multiple times, vetted it with critique-ers and forums. Every round just gets more confusing and my confidence has pretty much tanked as a result. I know this story isn’t unique. Rejection is a part of life when you decide to pursue this career path, but damn, am I tired.

I love my story. I want an agent/editor who loves it as much as I do. So I’m totally willing to wait for “the one.” But I’m at that point where I feel like my inability to sell my ideas effectively are destroying my chances of finding “the one.”

I’ve heard the argument, “Well why don’t you just self-publish?” And though I completely respect the writers who do take that leap to self-pub, that’s not something I want for my writing-journey. I don’t just want to BE published, I want to BE WORTHY of publishing. I want an agent and editor who is going to push me to be better than I can be on my own, to push me to make my stories greater than I can on my own. I recognize that I have a limited amount of knowledge/ability to objectively judge my own work and crave that expert who’s going to take a red pen and DESTROY my writing [so I can make it better].

And that’s why I will continue to revise that evil query letter and continue submitting. If you’re trudging through the query trenches, I hope that you’ll do the same.

Good luck and best wishes in your writing/publishing journeys, Friends. I’d love to hear your stories down below!

– B

Beautiful People Meme: Couples Edition

Alright, well since I’ve posted only serious nonsense recently, I thought the blog could use Beautiful Peoplea little brevity. And by brevity, I mean doing the BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE meme hosted by
Paper Fury
and Further Up and Further In. This month, the focus is couples.

So here’s 10 questions and answer on one of the couple (because yes, there’s more than one) in my first book, GUARDED:

No. 1 | How and why did they meet?
Kjersten and Jon meet during one of Kjersten’s shifts at Beans Hollow Café where she and her sister work. Jon was sent by the magical realm’s Council to document her progress with her abilities.

No. 2 | What were their first impressions of each other?
Kjersten’s first impression of Jon was just observing the similarities between them. It had been years since she’d run into a fellow martial artist, so the scars that come from splitting your brow open or breaking your nose stood out to her in a very specific way.

Jon’s first impression of Kjersten was a bit more conflicted. The information he’d been given on her painted her in a less than complementary light (the Council thought her abilities had killed her parents). So when he meets a girl who seems driven more by fear than guilt, it makes him question the validity of the Council’s report, which of course makes him more interested in getting to know the real her.

No. 3 | How would they prove their love for each other?
Their relationship is very much built of mutual respect and understanding. Neither of them needs ‘proof’ of the other’s affections. It’s more that neither of them quite know how to communicate the depth of their feelings.

No. 4 | What would be an ideal date?
Eek. Kjersten isn’t the romantic type, and Jonathan hasn’t entertained the idea of romance (also why they have a hard time communicating their affection for each other). The two of them just thoroughly enjoy each others’ company, whether it’s talking over Jon’s homemade kofta (a Middle Eastern dish where spiced ground lamb is wrapped in eggplant and baked in a delicious red sauce) or practicing new grappling techniques in a sparring match.

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No. 5 | Is there something they emphatically disagree on?
Kjersten’s impulse to do things herself. It’s a constant source of contention in their relationship because Jon just wants to be there for her.

No. 6 | List 5 “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)
Quirk 1: Jon loves Hazelnut Latte’s. It’s the only thing he orders at the café and when Kjersten needs to apologize, she usually brings along one to soften Jon up a bit.

Quirk 2: Kjersten is a bad cook. She can bake if she has a recipe because her mind is analytical that way, but her personality doesn’t lend itself toward artful expression.

Quirk 3: Cooking is a soft spot for Jon. It’s one of the few positive memories he has of his birth parents, so most of the things he cooks are recipes learned from his birth mom.

Quirk 4 (non-food): Kjersten is bad at regulating her temper. Really bad at it. Jon can usually see when one her blow-ups is coming down the hatch, but sometimes he doesn’t catch it quick enough.

Quirk 5 (non-food): Jon is a deceptively talented healer. His foster-dad was a village healer in the magical realm and taught Jon a lot of what he knew, despite Jon not being a healer’s apprentice. Basically, you want Jon on your side of a fight.

No. 7 | What’s one thing they know about each other that no one else does?
Kjersten is probably the only person Jon has allowed to know the depth of his heartache over being cast out by his birth family. Jon refuses to show that sensitive underbelly to the vast majority of people.

On the other side, Jon is the only person who Kjersten allows to see her vulnerability. She trusts him implicitly. So if she makes a mistake, he’s the first person she confides in about it.

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No. 8 | What’s one thing that they keep a secret from each other?
The depth of their affection for the other. Most of their lives have been filled with losing people they care about, so both of them have a deep-rooted fear that if they were to reveal their feelings, they’d suddenly lose them.

No. 9 | How would their lives be different without each other?
Jon would continue through life, detached from those around him, ignorant to the real reason his family cast him out. Kjersten’s PTSD would continue to eat her alive without that tether to pull her back from the edge. (I think it’s important to note that Jon doesn’t ‘fix’ Kjersten’s PTSD. He is a source of non-judgmental support that acts as a type of mirror for her to process her emotions and fears so she can better manage her PTSD.)

No. 10 | Where do they each see this relationship going?
Unfortunately, Kjersten’s going to outlive Jon by a solid couple centuries. But right now, they’re just taking solace in the fact that they know they have each other’s backs, as well as their hearts.


This Q&A goes on for the rest of the month, so if you want to get to know some of the other couples in the series, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do a separate post for each. 🙂

If you want to learn more about Kjersten’s story, check out the pitch and first 500 words here.

Sometimes You Can’t Push Past The Crap, and That’s Okay.

So originally, I was going to write a helpful post of how to budget your energy to achieve your goals. Because let’s face it, living with mental illness is a draining, exhausting endeavor. And I’m sure I’ll get back to that post at some point in the future, but as I was rounding out the second paragraph, the Superbowl started.

Everything was fine. The Schuyler Sisters rocked America the Beautiful. Atlanta was kicking Brady’s ass. Twitter was a semi-happy place for the first time since the election. And Lady Gaga gave a phenomenal Half-time performance that had me crying because BORN THIS WAY!

Then everything wasn’t fine. Patriots came back. Richard Spencer (the Nazi who got punched) was rejoicing the white-ness of the Patriots. And reality hit like a double decker bus speeding out of hell.

Safe to say, that budget-your-energy post kinda disappeared into the abyss of my irritation. I’ve taken on quite a lot (for me) this past month and that paired with new awful Cheeto-related disasters happening on a fairly daily basis, my ability to rebound from depressive states has pretty much disappeared. I’m trying. I swear! Hence the blog post.

But Holy Crud is it difficult. I love my country. I served in the Army for several years and spent one of those years in Iraq. That deployment was what got me into this little mental health pickle I’m now in. And funny story, my PTSD has very little to do with the incoming rockets our base took on a regular basis. My PTSD is the result of being used as a scapegoat for men’s incompetence. My PTSD was caused by my own effin countrymen.

So seeing the current state of America and how millions of lives are being destroyed by ignorance and incompetence and greed, it all gets a tad overwhelming to deal with. Because what was the point of my military service if people can’t love freely, if people can’t worship freely, if women can’t walk down the street without getting sexually harassed, if black men can’t walk down the street without getting arrested (for no good reason other than their skin tone), if refugees can’t find solace within our borders, or if First Nation Americans are being brutalized for protecting THEIR land from Oil-Industry greed. And let us not forget our allies who helped American troops overseas and at home, who had our backs in war zones.

I love my country. But I keep falling back on the same fear I had in Iraq: what if the people who I could supposedly count on could benefit from hurting me? This is always on my mind, and I can’t remove that filter from my eyes as I look at my family who all voted for the Cheeto and who refuse to follow what his actions are doing to this country and our allies.

But like Iraq, I have things to do. So here’s me, seeing the shit storm, pulling up a poncho, and hunkering down to achieve my goals. Because, in the words of Maureen Johnson, Trump doesn’t get to steal my joy.

Recovery & Broken Promises

And it’s 2017… well then…

At the turn of the new year, I realized that I made a few promises as a blogger that I totally failed in fulfilling. I’d promised I’d give you a run down of NerdCon, that didn’t happen. Was supposed to do all three posts for the Beautiful Books Meme during NaNoWriMo, that definitely didn’t happen. And getting back on a regular posting schedule, haha yeah… nope.

I kept hoping that I would get my feet back under me and I could be “the old me” again. The “me” who could handle multiple projects and intense deadlines. The “me” who didn’t flinch at the idea of interacting with people. The “me” who met every challenge with determination for success.

Yet here we are in 2017 and I’m still figuring things out. One thing that therapists at the VA say when you’re dealing with PTSD say is that I need to come to grips with the fact that THIS is my new reality and that I need to understand that I might never get back to “the old me.” I comprehend what they’re saying, but dear Lord, is it difficult to accept it. Because I want to do ALL THE THINGS.

Therapist’s response: Don’t overwhelm yourself.

She’s right, of course. The more I push to get back to my old rhythm, the more I end up snapping back into exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. This is probably TMI, as this is suppose to be a writing/reading blog, but I don’t want to pretend that mental health issues are something that can simply be overcome. I’m NOT saying that there’s no hope. I’m saying that mental health is a constant, a program running in the background. Depending on how many items you have open on your desktop, you can either run smoothly or get bogged down, have things shut down on you, then you get so infuriated that you want to throw the whole computer out the window… or maybe that’s just me.

I know the posts I’ve published since my giant hiatus have been mostly focused on my PTSD, and I want to apologize for that, but honestly, I think that this is a conversation that some people need to have. To know they’re not alone. To know it’s okay to talk about these struggles. Sure, this platform didn’t start off as a mental health discussion, but you know what, everything we do, everything we experience, affects our mental health, and subsequently our creative projects.

I promise I haven’t been “down for the count” since last I posted. I DID complete the 50k for NaNoWriMo. I DID perform in the musical I was cast in. I DID start querying. And lastly, I AM developing consistent friendships.

Don’t “aww” that last one. I spent most of 2016 pushing away EVERYONE. Creating and developing friendships is a huge step forward for me, and I’m not mad at it.

So I am finding “a new me” because that’s all I can do. I have to take the things I want to do and prioritize them. But self-care has to come first. Things that keep me from spiraling down into the dark abyss come first. I can’t miss therapy. I have to be physically active. I need to keep writing.

I know I have a lot of privilege to be able to structure my life this way. A small perk of being a War Veteran, I guess. Maybe I’ll write a blog post regarding my attempt at working fulltime last year, but no promises. But I do urge you, if you struggle with mental health, to get help. Or at the very least, try to find things that help you cope and make them a priority as best you can.

Till next time.
– Bree

 

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

NaNoWriMo 2016: Super Excited & Extremely Nervous

Wow. November is tomorrow. Like the past two years, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month where you write 50k words toward your next novel project.

I’m participating this year for multiple reasons, but the main reason is that I need to. If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know I’ve fallen off my rocker this year. The PTSD has pretty much stolen all remnants of self-esteem. NaNo has always been a source of positivity for me. Between achieving the challenge itself and the NaNo community, November has just been a good month for the past couple years.

bb-redoneSo when I say I need to participate, it’s really a matter of needing to prove to myself that I can still do a thing that makes me happy and fulfilled. And like last year, I’ll be participating in the BEAUTIFUL BOOKS meme hosted by Paper Fury and Further Up, Further In.

Here’s post 1 of 3: An Introduction to my NaNo Novel

 

Question 1: What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
Redeemed (working title) is book 4 of the 5-book YA Fantasy series I’ve been working on. And to say it’s kinda been an enigma (plot and character-wise) would be an understatement. Since I first developed the series, I knew the main character’s abilities, where the story would take place, and what needed to happen (in terms of the series’ big picture) for Book 5 to work, but other than those three things, I was at a loss.

Gwen, the MC, went through a million name changes. Nothing stuck. There was Blaire, Alison, Winifred, Jaclyn. I had zero luck ironing down any details with her character. Then I finished the final draft of book 1, discovered a character that would play a huge role in book 4, and from there, everything started clicking into place.

Looking at my working outline and notes, I can see where I’m pulling different inspirations from. And honestly, most of it comes from friends and other incredible people who have entered my life.

Question 2: Describe what your novel is about!
Here’s the very shabby synopsis I have on the NaNo site:

Gwen Carter has visions. Some of the near future. Some of the past. But when she sees a future where a woman named Helen tortures her family to get to her, Gwen takes off.

Now halfway across the country in Seattle, Washington, Gwen realizes she can manipulate her visions and seeks out Helen from her nightmare to lure her away from her family.

Helen isn’t the only one searching for Gwen, a man who can shift into different animals is also on the hunt. But there’s something different about him, the men he travels with call him Tadgh and clearly trust and respect him.

So Gwen seeks his help. Unfortunately, there’s only so much Tadgh can do when the lives of his men are being held as collateral for his allegiance to someone else.

Question 3: What is your book’s aesthetic?
I think the aesthetic is going to be equal parts grit and clarity. If that makes any sense. Between Gwen’s abilities and the plot itself, there’s a lot of potential for some dark, gritty moments – think NBC’s show Hannibal (except no cannibalism). But there’s also opportunity for bright, beautiful moments like Disney’s live action Cinderella. We’ll see how well those two mesh. Lol

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Question 4: Introduce us to each of your characters!
Gwendolyn Carter – Gwen is the most innately heroic of the protagonists in my series. While she doesn’t seek out danger, she can’t sit idly by and watch injustice unfold either. Her ability to hear thoughts and see others’ choices makes her decision-making far more strategic, so nothing she does is impulsive.

Tadgh O’Connell – Tadgh, a shapeshifter of sorts, is defined by his leadership role in his clan. Integrity, camaraderie, and loyalty are his core values, and he can’t/won’t sacrifice them for anyone or anything.

Helen Veritas – Helen is the descendant of the Roman Goddess of Truth, Veritas. She can sense when you’re lying, and if she chooses to, she can literally carve the truth out of you. She’s vicious and unapologetic.

Celeste – Celeste can manipulate earth and air. She’s desperate to save her kin from the Council and is running out of time to do so.

Question 5: How do you prepare to write?
I am a planner through and through. I have a scene outline, a beat sheet, character profiles, and other extraneous notes on the world and its many complexities.

Usually, I’ll start each day with a goal sheet of what scenes I’d like to accomplish based on what mood I’m in, what inspiration is striking, etc.

Question 6: What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Eek. Just to see what it turns into. Last year, I went into NaNo having a pretty clear vision of what book 3 was going to be, and it still surprised me. Redeemed is already a complete enigma, so I wouldn’t put it past these characters to throw me for several loops.

Plus there’s the whole thing of this being the second to last book in the series. That’s fairly terrifying. lol

supernatural-scared-laugh

Question 7: List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
Overcasts, Ferries, and an Amalgamation of charming old storefronts and sleek new construction. It takes place in Seattle, WA.

Question 8: What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
All Gwen wants is for her family to be okay, but in order to do that, she has to lure Helen and Celeste away from them.

Question 9: How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Uhhhh. Honestly I have no idea. I think I’m going to just be pantsing this bit.

Gwen is a fairly well adjusted character compared to the MC’s of my first three books. So we’ll see how this ends up.

Question 10: What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
The major theme in this novel is to greet others with an open heart and an open mind. None of us have the ability to know someone’s full backstory upon meeting, so stereotyping or making snap-judgments only prove to hurt ourselves and extinguish progress.

As for how I want to readers to feel, I want them to be even more excited for the series conclusion in book 5. lol

***

And there it is, what I’ll be working on this next month. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see how this turns out, especially with it being the final adventure before the big showdown in book 5. This series has been such a fun place to live in and I’m still finding new things about the characters and the world. I just hope I can do all the characters’ stories justice.