Writing Techniques: Querying

This isn’t technically a “techniques” post, because, admittedly, I have very limited experience with this. So, instead, I’m just going to babble a bit about how my process with querying has been going thus far, so it will be a bit more personal.

I never attempted to traditionally publish I’m With You, though, in hindsight, I wish I had given it a shot. My confidence was festering in the gutter after my college graduation, and hearing about the horrendous odds of landing an agent as a fledgling writer didn’t boost my spirits. So when I heard about an indie publishing contest, I submitted I’m With You on a whim. Never queried an agent or anything.

But it’s over and done, and I’m attempting to query agents for my latest MS – a YA/Fantasy currently called Otherworlder about a girl named Evie teaming up with a pair of quirky talking animals in order to save her little sister from peril in a world full of magic. It took me a long time to get to this phase… not only because I’ve been working with editors, getting feedback, revising the MS over, and over, and over, and spending a lot of time tweaking my query materials and researching potential agents. But because I am a wuss.

Well… that’s not totally accurate. But I do, like many others, suffer from anxiety, which has prevented me from taking steps in my writing career and beyond. I used to be crushed by any and all criticism, and paralyzed with fear over the idea of rejection. It took me a long time to seek help for these issues (until I started developing ritualistic behaviors, which is a bit of a red flag) but I recently did so, and I’ve gotten a lot better in regards to handing my writing and general life stuff. Getting a proper diagnosis and learning how to handle it has done wonders – I’m not saying that as a sympathy grab, it’s just the truth. I still have bad days, but I’m improving.

Thus, I’ve drawn all the deep breaths I can manage and have at last begun to send out my queries. Of the 20ish I’ve sent out so far, I have gotten a rejection. It’s no great shock, but a few months ago, that would have destroyed me. I probably would have thrown in the towel immediately, even though I know virtually every author has been rejected at least once, if not multiple times. I literally used to have confidence as thin as a delicate, porcelain elephant figurine sitting on the mantle of an eighty-year-old woman named Ethel. Fortunately, I am now in a better mental state to handle rejection rationally. It’s going to happen, and I know that – but I need to take it, absorb it, use it as inspiration to do better, and move ahead. Keep going, and keep writing. Be Winston Churchill, and never surrender!

Send me all the positive vibes you can, fellow writers! And please feel free to message me with your own querying stories and suggestions! I’m working on my next MS in the meantime, but I’ll take all the support I can get, as I really want to share all of Evie’s fantastical escapades in Otherworlder with you.

 

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Guilty

When the well of inspiration runs dry, there are a few methods that I utilize to get myself back on track. I have mentioned a few in previous posts, but I must admit, I have one trick that also counts as a “guilty pleasure” of sorts…

When I get stuck, and the creative juices simply won’t flow, I turn to someone named Taylor. Of course, I mean Taylor Swift. And not “Look What You Made Me Do,” T-Swift. I mean old-school, with a few 1989 selections sprinkled in thereAs someone who is more of an indie/folk/punk/rock person, who also dabbles in film/video game OSTs and Asian pop music, Taylor Swift is not someone you would expect to find on my playlist. It doesn’t jive with the image I project, let’s say.

But there’s something about her old music that gets me. “Enchanted” is probably my all-time favorite, but I’m also partial to “Red” and “Forever and Always.” The lyrics are simple, but strong and thoughtful. The melodies are catchy and assist in carrying the message of each song. They’re good songs. And for some reason, they connect with my psyche enough to give me a boost when I need inspiration.

When my standard lineup of MCR, Mumford & Sons, Bear’s Den, First Aid Kit, Aurora, etc, fails, I turn to my friend Taylor. Even though this method fits the description of a “guilty pleasure,” who am I to care? As long as it works, old-school T-Swift shall remain a beacon of motivation in my iTunes.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Allie’s Awful Guide: Public Speaking

I used to be far more terrified of public speaking than I am now, to the point where I agonized over having to give speeches or presentations in class. I even opted out of presenting speeches a couple of times because losing a few points was preferable to standing up in front of an audience. However, over the years, I developed a few coping mechanisms that have helped me adapt. Unfortunately, most of my methods are, shall we say…. unorthodox. So unorthodox, I probably wouldn’t even recommend them, unless you have exhausted all other options.

1.) Wear something distracting, but not inappropriate!: I don’t mean show up to class in a Freddy Krueger costume or a swimsuit or whatever. When I was in college, I gave a few speeches and typically selected a “focal point” for my wardrobe. This gives the audience something else to focus on. I’m not sure what measure of success this tactic had, but I applied it in hopes that people would be too distracted by my hideous wardrobe to care about what I was saying, and it gave me a level of comfort. For example, I wore a hideous sweater and pigtails (PIGTAILS!) for several of my speeches during freshman year classes. I’m talking a grandma-level sweater, complete with snowflake embroidery. It was actually super comfy and I sort of wish I still had it…

2.) If you’re nearsighted, don’t wear your glasses!: This tip applies if you struggle with the idea of standing up in front of an audience and facing dozens of expectant eyes. My nervousness about public speaking gets insanely worse when I consider having an audience. I removed my glasses all through college if I had to give a speech – faces were blurry, but I could still read any notes or gesture accurately to my visual aid. It genuinely helped me relax while delivering presentations. Farsighted folks are up the creek with this one, though.

3.) Improve your PowerPoint game!: I know, most teachers or professors will tell you that the visual aid should not be the basis of your presentation – your words should be the focus, not whatever you’re displaying onscreen. I understand that point, but wholeheartedly disagree. I am a PowerPoint wizard and owe much of my minor public speaking success to my visual aids. There are ways to make a stellar PowerPoint that defines your presentation without going heinously overboard. As long as you don’t add too much superfluity – obnoxious sounds, clashing colors, too many annoyingly long transitions – you’ll be fine. You want your audience to be engaged with it. If I see an audience enjoying my PowerPoint, I am instantly more relaxed while speaking in front of them.

4.) Don’t over-prepare!:  I have given vastly better speeches when I haven’t been poring over my note-cards for hours. In my later college years, I stopped using note-cards altogether. I would get too focused on following what I had written down word-for-word and it stressed me out beyond belief, so when I fumbled over a sentence or two, it would derail me completely. Winging it completely is ill-advised, but I have found it loads better for my fragile nerves to just ensure I know my stuff, but don’t try and cram an entire speech verbatim into my head. I also put the keywords into my PowerPoint, just in case I get a bit lost!

5.) Nab an early slot!: If you are presenting in a classroom setting, don’t put it off as long as possible. Try and get in early so you get it over worth, especially if you’re like me and will be stressing out about your speech until the moment it’s over. You’ll be far more relieved watching others squirm over giving their presentations, knowing that you are already finished, than prolonging it until the final day.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

The Sky is Blue

After being discouraged from taking an art class while in high school, I decided to use one of my electives in college to take a Drawing course. I had always enjoyed art, so it seemed like a good choice to expand my skills and learn new techniques.

Long story short, I hated it. But I did learn one vital lesson, on the very first day of class, that I shall carry with me always.

This drawing course was taught by an eccentric artist. I imagine most of them are. She was almost like a caricature of an art teacher. Crazy hair, random statements, hyper-criticism of any art style that didn’t suit her preferences, and she occasionally wore her sweaters backwards. I’m sure she was a lovely woman outside of a classroom setting, but, to be totally honest, I don’t even remember her name because I must have blocked it from my memory out of sheer hatred for that class.

This professor also often accused me and my fellow students of not accurately “seeing” things, which made our artistic reproductions of fruit bowls or trees lackluster. She would lob us lofty musings, such as “It might look like a tree, but what do you really see?” and “You must look beyond the apples and oranges, and see the truth.” We began to suspect that we were the unwitting subjects of an elaborate sociology experiment. Alas, we were not.

I mean, I’m all for art. I’ve been to the Tate Modern twice. But this class made me never want to pick up an oil pastel or colored pencil ever again. She did have a point, though. Seeing is not always seeing.

On the first day of class, we sat outside on the grass in one of the campus courtyards. We had our pristine white sketchpads and unpeeled pastels at our sides. And our professor told us to look up at the sky, and describe what we saw. We did, unsure of what the point of the exercise was meant to be. We saw blue. On that day, it was cloudless blue. Of course, the answer was more nuanced than that.

She told us that yes, the sky is blue. But it is not one single shade of blue. I stared up at one patch of sky, and realized that it was comprised of several shades. One vast mural painted in a thousand, maybe a million shades. I had never noticed it before; how many different blue fragments make up even one little section of sky. I saw the sky every single day and never once realized the truth in it’s beauty. And in that moment, I was amazed.

I never managed to channel that kind of brilliance in my artwork – I mean, I only had 2 shades of blue in my palette – but it’s a lesson I never forgot. Look closer to see the truth. And I try to apply that lesson to my writing, now. Dive below the surface, and make readers examine the depths for new meaning.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

A Glimpse….

It’s been two years since my YA novel  I’m With You came out, and though I hope to have my next YA/Fantasy novel out soon, I feel like I haven’t shared anything about my next project other than some vague comments. So, here’s an excerpt from the MS in its current state – obviously, since I’m querying and going through the next phases, nothing is set in stone and it is subject to change.

Not providing any context, though. Enjoy this little glimpse!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Okay.” I draw a deep breath and stand. “Let’s go.”

Vigo grins, but Lark’s mouth falls open. “You can’t be serious, Evie!” she shrieks, following me out of the room and down the hall. Vigo pads along behind us, his claws clicking on the hardwood. “You can’t go off to some other world—the otter just said it’s dangerous!”

“Which is why I can’t leave Becca there.” I throw the door to my bedroom open. Vigo scampers between my legs while I dump the contents of my schoolbag on my bed and start dashing between my bedroom and bathroom, grabbing whatever items might be useful on an expedition to another world. Somehow, I doubt I’ll need my hairdryer…

“But…but…” Lark watches as I fling drawers open, yanking clothes out and chucking them in the direction of my bed, though most miss the mark. “You wouldn’t even go camping with Reo and me when we were kids! This is like, a thousand times riskier!”

“Far greater than that, I would wager,” Vigo says, which is comforting.

Lark sticks her chin out. “Then I’m coming too.”

Vigo grimaces. “I cannot allow it, Miss Lark. Otherworlders are mistrusted where I come from—even more than mages. The fewer who pass through the portal, the better.”

Lark grants him a death glare that sends him scuttling beneath my desk.

“But… how am I going to know if you’re okay?” Lark’s tough-girl façade begins to crack, revealing genuine concern. “You can barely navigate your way around a mall!”

In my defense, it was only one time, and Victoria’s Secret was difficult to find.

“Lark, what choice do I have? Becca is my sister!” Storming emotions rattle my voice, but my resolve is galvanized. I shove some toiletries into my bag, which is now so bloated I doubt I’ll be able to carry it for long. “Besides—it’s my fault she got taken in the first place.”

“Evie, this is ridiculous! You can’t do this by yourself. What if you need help?”

“I’ll call if I get into trouble, Lark.”

“You think you’re going to have reception in an alternate world?”

Vigo emerges from his safe haven. “I will ensure that Evie is able to contact you. I have never attempted inter-world magic, but a sertio spell should work.”

“A serti-what?” Lark asks.

“A communication spell,” Vigo elaborates, as though the answer is obvious. “Quite simple. Even a novice can perform one.”

“Yeah, Lark. Even a novice can perform one.” My pitiful attempt at humor inspires no laughs.

“But…” Lark’s insistence flounders. “But…”

I take a break from my frantic packing to place firm hands on Lark’s shoulders. If the roles were reversed, and she was the one barreling down some unknown and unsafe path, I’d feel the same way. Although, I’m not sure she’d even attempt to save Reo from otherworldly peril.

“Lark, you need to trust me. Please.”

She stares at me, hard, determining whether or not to believe my bravado. After a moment of strained silence, her shoulders sag. I must look more confident than I feel.

“Fine, I get it—but swear to me, Princess.” Lark’s voice is steel. “The next time you go off on an adventure to another world, I get to come along.”

“Deal,” I agree, only because I assume one “adventure” will last me a lifetime.

Her eyes narrow. “Swear it.”

“I swear!”

“Swear it on Lea Salonga’s voice!”

I raise one hand. “I swear on Lea Salonga’s voice.”

“Good.” She sticks her nose in the air. “You have my blessing.”

I throw my arms around her, and she squeezes me with an urgency that nearly brings me to tears, partly because she’s crushing my spleen.

“Cover for me?” At least with fall break, we don’t have to worry about school for the time being. This little sojourn to another world likely won’t qualify as an excused absence in the eyes of school administration.

“Give me some credit, Evie.” Lark snorts. “What are best friends for?”

“I mean it, Lark—you can’t tell anybody. Especially not Reo.”

“Oh, please. Reo is the last person I’d tell. I’ll cook up a story, don’t worry.”

It’s reassuring to know that I can always depend on Lark, no matter how absurd the request is. This one has definitely rocketed to number one on the top ten list, and I doubt anything will ever top it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks for reading!

Home

Welcoming my favorite month with a poem. Happy October! Hope you enjoy!

 

Home

There is a light in her window.
A hopeful flicker,
or is it only melting wax?
Minutes dripping to nothing?

A glimpse of distant shores,
left you yearning for the foreign and the wild.
She is neither of those things.
She is safe, she is home.
Or she was.
Before dreams carried you away.

You once looked for the light in her window.
Returning from a storm-tossed sea,
with tales of treasures and paradise.
She would listen with twinkling eyes,
content to imagine
what lies beyond the gloomy harbor.
But she would never leave.

You broke free from repetition,
and your hungry eyes devoured alien lands.
You’d go farther, for longer,
even when her arms told you not to go.
But when you offered her your hand,
her feet were rooted to the dock.

She saw her hopes snuffed out,
when you boarded that last ship.
Now it seems as though
the light that guides you home
is not enough to make you stay.

She still lights the candle every night.
Though you have long since left.
I wonder if you can see the ashes,
from your far too distant world.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Worth 1000 Words #13: Ol’ Reliable

On the first day of college, I was nervously approaching my first ever class – Health and Wellness – wondering who I would sit with, if I’d make any friends, and why on earth said class needed to be so freakin’ far away from the parking lot, when my backpack strap broke.

Now, superstitious folk might have perceived this occurrence as a bad sign. Unfortunately, I am one of those people.

I immediately assumed that one single stroke of bad luck was going to define my future academic career, and that my pending failures were all due to an unfortunate incident of faulty stitching. I wished I had bought one of those snazzy, colorful L.L. Bean backpacks embroidered with my initials instead of a dowdy brown messenger bag designed to carry my laptop, which I literally brought to class maybe twice in my entire three years of degree-hunting.

So I hobbled to Health class, retained no information while there, then hobbled back to my car with my broken bag and similarly broken spirits. And that night, I went to Staples and shelled out $72 for a backpack that came to be known as Ol’ Reliable.

Ol’ Reliable is a High Sierra brand bag, black with silver/white accents, and contains five pockets of increasing size and a laptop sleeve, so it was quite a lot of bang for my buck. Now, I have owned many a backpack in my time, including one of those wheelie bags that were popular when I was in elementary school, a Big Dogs bag bought at an outlet store in the Poconos, and a really pretty white and purple plaid bag that also broke beneath the burden of weighty books. But I don’t think any backpack past or future can ever eclipse the enduring legacy of Ol’ Reliable, who has been my stalwart traveling companion for the last eight years. Who knew one backpack could carry so many books (I was an English Lit major, remember?), as well as all of my hopes and dreams?

20180926_110729.jpgHe’s suffered through some wear and tear over the years – one shoulder strap is ripped slightly, but it remains resilient and shows no sign of tearing completely. A pen exploded in one of the pockets during an intense rainstorm, so the interior is stained a splotchy black. And, as mentioned earlier, Ol’ Reliable has been through it. My last semester of college alone I had 25 textbooks, including two massive, dreaded literature anthologies. It’s a miracle that both Ol’ Reliable and my spine survived.

Ol’ Reliable not only assisted me on the road to an English degree, he has accompanied me on the literal road on many actual travels. He was with me when I studied abroad in England, which was my first time ever out of the country. When I hiked the steep stairs at St. Paul’s cathedral and then took in the gorgeous view at the top, he was there. As I strolled through Westminster Abbey, looking upon the memorials of poets and writers and kings and queens of yore, he was there. When my crew and I took a whirlwind one day trip to Paris, visiting the Louvre, viewing the Eiffel Tower, and walking through the beautiful and haunting Notre Dame, he was there. Whilst I toured the legendary halls of castles and prestigious universities, he was there. He was strapped firmly to my back when I stood upon the tomb of King Henry VIII in Windsor, and sat quietly at my feet during every exam and quiz. And when I returned to England three years later, he was with me yet again, as solid and hardy as ever. I took him with me to see Stonehenge. He came along when we glimpsed the white cliffs at Dover, rising from the ocean like pale stone beacons. He has visited the Shakespeare House, the royal crescent in Bath, and has graced the floor in many a pub and tavern while I sipped a pint of Strongbow and nibbled on a burger.

Ol’ Reliable was there on my recent trip to Vegas, able to carry everything from my laptop, to my Nintendo DS, to my Nook, and two spare outfits in his sturdy pockets, yet was still able to fit beneath the seat of the person in front of me on the airplane, so I didn’t have to cram him in the overhead bin. He was with me every time I traveled between New England and PA on school breaks and the like, able to fit enough of my belongings in his pockets that I rarely needed to check a bag. He’s been on planes, cars, trains, and ferries. Whenever I have a trip coming up, I feel somewhat less nervous just knowing that Ol’ Reliable will be accompanying me. Because he is exactly that – reliable. With him on my back, I don’t need to worry.

Since I currently work in a retail establishment, I have occasionally had to recommend items to shoppers. Recently, I was assisting a couple with the purchase of a backpack for their grandson from our online store. And wouldn’t you know, a slightly updated version of Ol’ Reliable was available. I sang his praises to them, recounting my eight years of reliable backpack ownership to help them make their decision. And – I like to think due to my persuasion – they made the right choice, and I hope their grandson has an Ol’ Reliable of his own.

Ol’ Reliable isn’t winning any beauty pageants – he’s worn, almost a decade old, and not as glitzy or as glamorous as some of the other backpacks out there. But he gets the job done, and he gets it done well, and without complaint. Any trip I go on, he is automatically the first thing I think of to come along. He has never failed me, and I intend to keep him as my frequent travel-companion until he or I cannot travel any longer, or until that tear in his shoulder strap finally gives.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Autumn

All seasons have their own unique appeal and their own exclusive perks. My favorite season used to be winter…. until I learned how to drive. After several horrifying and near life-ending experiences navigating snowstorms in my old Subaru and my current Nissan, I no longer hold such favorable opinions of winter. Winter is also mega-depressing, especially in January and February. Spring should begin immediately after New Years, if you ask me… but anyway…

Now, in my adult years, my favorite season is autumn – a sentiment shared by many. This is not because I like pumpkin spice lattes, though. I actually detest all pumpkin-flavored treats, so you won’t find me clambering to get to Starbucks before a massive line forms, or bringing pumpkin cookies into work to share with coworkers. I love when the weather starts to cool, from abysmal heat and soup-like humidity to sweater weather. Nothing beats a nice, cozy sweater – except maybe a nice, cozy flannel. I like (a select few) horror movies. I love curling up on the couch with a good book as an autumn rain taps on the windowpane. I just feel happier when the leaves are changing, the skies are gray, and I can wear long-sleeves and boots and warm, fuzzy socks, and sip a salted caramel mocha.

The first “official” day of autumn was this past Saturday. Usually, the weather does not adhere to these markers and remains sticky and gross for a few more weeks, but in this instance, it actually listened – at least for now. I was at a family/friend gathering, and the weather was fairly autumnal – the air was crisp and cool, the skies were gray, and folks weren’t afraid to go and stand outside and chat and enjoy the outdoors. Beforehand, I got to browse a bit at Barnes & Noble and take advantage of their limited-time 20% off member discount. As far as first days of autumn go, it was pretty darn great.

And today (as I’m writing this it’s Sunday) the weather is much the same, though it’s also rainy. I’m going to an early-afternoon movie soon, I’ve already indulged in two cups of coffee with Cinnabon creamer, and I might even get to wear a sweater! And, later, I’m going to spin out some writing and be productive! This never happens so early in the season! It’s autumnal bliss, I tell you!

The major thing keeping me from looking into relocating into a state further south is the possibility of losing discernible seasons. I can’t lose autumn – I love it far too much.

So, I wonder  – what is your favorite season, and why is it so?

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

A Few Words

Scrounging up confidence, battling insecurity, and facing internal and external opposition is a day-to-day struggle for some writers. Myself included. And it’s not only with writing – it can bleed into other aspects of life, as well.

It has been difficult lately to sit down and write and work on queries. Nagging “what ifs?” and an abundance of pressure settle on my shoulders whenever I open up my MS, and I can’t stop worrying about whether or not it’s good enough to put out there. It’s self-sabotage, I know – but it’s like black clouds converge upon my brain and I can’t shake them off, and it spoils all of my efforts.

20180916_2142191762263572.jpgBut sometimes, all it takes is a few words to fend off the cold shroud of discouragement. I found this little note, from an old friend of mine, tucked into a book on my bookshelf the other day while cleaning my room.

And it was like a small dose of sunlight, scattering the storm. I pondered the words, mulling over them like a stream over pebbles, and thought, maybe the world does need my voice. I want to share it – and really, nothing external is stopping me. The only one holding me back is me – so I need to push myself, if I want my voice to be heard.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few words. One little post-it note can pack a lot of power. Now, when I look at this little green reminder tacked above my desk, I can battle those “what-ifs?” with renewed confidence, and remember that I have support.

Hopefully, a new story is on the horizon. I can’t wait for you all to read it.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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