Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Writing for Pleasure or Pitch?

January with the Gremlins

Wormholes in Time -- a dominant theme of my ABNA 2012 entry, 'Coco Bay: the Awakening'

Earlier in the year — mid-January, to be exact — I was panicking slightly because some of my blogging buddies were focusing not just on producing their regular blogs, but also doing edits and re-writes of their WIP (work-in-progress) for submission to ABNA. I’ve covered the finer points of entry to this annual award in my bloghop post, immediately below.

At the time I was mostly concentrating on encouraging other bloghop authors — younger/newer, published or not — to enter, just to get the ‘feel’ of an international competition. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is bigtime, but it’s also fairly simple to enter and before the fun begins — judging — it is not too taxing to come up with five (required) items that qualify you for entry:

1. Your bio — called ‘About You’
2. Your contact details: self-explanatory
3. Book description — ‘About your Book’
4. Your excerpt — up to the first three chapters of your book
5. Upload your MS — ‘Your Entry’.

Simple. You would think so, wouldn’t you?

It’s that last bit, ‘Your Entry’, that creates palpitations, anxiety, sleeplessness and sometimes compels the most fearless of writers to break down and cry. And it’s not because you haven’t edited your WIP to perfection, had three Beta Readers review and revise it, and rewritten the ending to your own plot-bunnies’ demands, see also below.

It’s the pitch.

Southern rim of the Bermuda Triangle, the Bahamas set in deep ocean trenches, as seen from Space

While on the submit-to-agents, submit-to-publisher circuit, it’s known as the infamous query letter. Ah, I hear you sigh, that. The query letter is that most difficult of all instruments for a creative writer of fiction to write, because s/he is tearing her hair to describe from a ‘marketing’ perspective what s/he has slaved over for the last —fill the gap— months, dreamed dreams over plot, character nuances and surprise twists in a story that was close to one’s heart. Now, to present it to the reading world, it must go through the hoops of the query circuit. We have to distill our fledgling work of 50k+ words into a 300-word bullet. Not only that, every line has to catch the eye of the destined agent. Or it gets rejected. All of us who have trodden that thorny path know how soul-destroying (ongoing) rejection can be.

Amazon use exactly the same method to get you to capture the essence of your newest baby: but instead of having to write them a query letter, they ask you to submit a pitch. That’s not the same as ‘about your Book’. More exactly, it’s a short ‘snappy’ catch-all to hook readers. More significantly, in the ABNA contest, your completed entry will be judged in Round One solely on your pitch.

Now that the competition is officially closed while first round judging takes place, five thousand writers in each category (general fiction and YoungAdult fiction) are biting their nails, comparing blogs and praying they hit the target with their pitch: one thousand of those praying will be chosen to go through to round two — *Round One ‘winners’ announced February 23rd.

My ABNA 2012 entry 'Coco Bay' combines deepsea breeding tanks with deepspace time-travel

So, just for laughs, here’s a link to the first chapter of my entry, ‘Coco Bay: the Awakening’, the second in my Green Turtle Cay trilogy of deepsea, deepspace, deeptime fantasies to cross the final frontier. If, after you have read my opening chapter, you want to compare it with my pitch, below, please be my guest.

But you will surely be able to tell, won’t you? that I still feel I wrote one, but not the other! It’s the perennial schizm that working authors face. No wonder they say we’re neurotic.

Coco Bay: the Awakening by Marian Youngblood — the Pitch:

Philadelphia Experiment witnesses say Navy destroyer USS Eldridge disappeared in a mist cloud in 1943

When Annabelle awakes from a scary dream of a WWII Navy ship returning through a time wormhole in the Bermuda Triangle with crew’s limbs stuck randomly to the bulkheads, she knows she’s in for an interesting week at the new Seaquarium.

In Green Turtle trilogy Part-1 she met the mysterious John, head of a Bahamian initiative to save world oceans, when she started work for the consortium in its ocean-floor lab.

In part two, Coco Bay, she discovers the marine project has endless resources — both financial and electromagnetic — somehow connected with 500,000 square miles of Bermuda Triangle on their doorstep. Harnessing electromagnetic Triangle energy could work miracles for her local Out-Island community and she finds herself drawn by the thrill of rescuing endangered species, without really understanding where these never-before glimpsed denizens of the deep are being rescued from!

When an entire human family returns through the wormhole to help John scale up the operation from eco-project to wholesale planetary migration, she dives in to help. These are John’s own children, missing in the time-fabric since the project began forty years earlier.

A random chain of events may save earth’s sister world, Europa, with its great mysterious deep, but may also redeem Earth’s inhabitants from destroying their own future.

Coco Bay — second in the fantasy trilogy — will appeal to a wide age/readership, within the present-day context of world concern for mass extinctions. Its scientific reality pulls readers into a scenario which crosses electromagnetic boundaries, suggested by exciting developments in plasma science current with astronomers and physicists.

Parliament buildings, Rawson Square, Nassau, Bahamas


The Bahamas’ unique setting and history will appeal to readers, travelers and piracy buffs alike.

Fantasy/borderlineSciFi novel along the lines of Cosmic Connection meets The Abyss, its final (electromagnetic) surprise twist should entice readers for more.

*ABNA first round neurosis ends February 23rd when they announce 1000 authors in each category who will go forward. Wish us luck.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

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February 11, 2012 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bloghopping and Plot Bunnies

MONTHLY IWSG
Plot Bunnies

ABNA ...like nursing your Plot Bunnies and then putting them out for Adoption...

I’ve spent the last ten days in the hutch with my favourite bunnies: the ones that usually come out when my mind is in full right-brain (Muse-driven) fantasy, mid-novel-draft, to help me plot. At those times the Muse seems sensitive to a modicum of left-brain tweaking by these slightly-controlling little guys. Contrarily, these latest fellas came and crawled all over my keyboard and tried to get me to change things in the novel* I wrote for NaNoWriMo last November: that’s the novel even NaNoWriMo veterans suggest is worth submitting only two months down the road to its first literary contest.

We’ve all heard the sound advice: to let a newly-completed novel rest for at least a month before tackling the arduous (less-writerly, more-editorial, left-brain) process of tidying it up.

Plot Bunnies to the Rescue
I had kept nose to grindstone all November — assisted mightly by the little guys, above and below — released my little fantasy baby* into the Word-Cosmos on November 30th (50k in 30 days), and wiped my brow. I hadn’t looked at the MS once over Christmas.

ABNA pops up its timely head at the end of January. I succumbed to its persuasive positive hype last year. I thought maybe I should try a second time. So, throwing caution aside, I went for it again this year.

Thing is, I should never have ventured near the bunny hutch, because what I was supposed to be doing in the last two weeks of January was ‘polishing’ my novel for submission — edit/re-write, i.e. left-brain mode. I had no idea they could switch sides so easily!

Right-brained Plot Bunnies can sometimes appear suddenly during the editing process


But, seriously, nursing one’s progeny (literally your 30-day Wonderbaby) thru NaNo and getting your beloved WIP ready (edits, rewrites, reading by a friend) for submission and then being brave enough to release it into ABNA’s clutches, is emotionally equivalent to raising all your bunnies in one basket and then putting them up for adoption. I kid you not. I am sure they sensed that their babies (the ones I’d allowed them to help nurture all through November) were suddenly being thrown to the lions. That’s why they popped up last week.

Nevertheless, brushing them off lightly with a ‘you’ll get your chance for another WIP again soon’, I succeeded in submitting within the (still open) window and want to share a few thoughts today, on Alex’s bloghop. Somehow, the little guys made me say that. All because I’m submitting to ABNA.

ABNA is not for the faint-hearted. It stretches the writer’s creative schedule to the limits while also tempting her/him with long-term incentive. Amazon must know the vulnerability of the writer –always to have a dream ahead in order to reach her/his goal– how else do we survive the rebuffs of the query circuit? And the prizes are indeed one-of-a-kind.

Small print below: thanks to my intrepid friend and ABNA cohort (she’s done so much better than me in past ABNAs), Hart Johnson.

She says –and she knows– “If you’ve written a sure best seller, don’t enter. i.e. James Patterson should not apply.** The contest would tie up your work for six months, during which time you can’t apply to other publishers.”

Her other caveat:

One-trick ponies with intentions to sell this and only this work NOW. The contest puts you on hold with this work.

“If this is your ONLY work and you want to market it to publishers, you will not be able to do that for six months. That seems a very long time if you only have one book. You can, during this time, seek an agent. You can also write other books, shop other books, polish other books– you can polish THIS book– the only time that isn’t helpful is if they loved the earlier version so much they won’t take your changes.”
Hart Johnson

During the period your work is active in the contest, you give up:

The right to negotiate IF YOU WIN. The contract is the contract is the contract. (Hart already HAS a Penguin contract, and she doesn’t believe they gain anything by not giving a FAIR contract to a winner).

Also, if you win, you take that with you through your whole career.

What sponsors Amazon and Penguin and PublishersWeekly are on the lookout for are new writers. If that’s you, and if you are still in two minds about submitting your latest novel — 50,000 words minimum — I would encourage you to give it a try. What do you have to lose?

The contest started January 23rd, 2012, with a submitting ‘window’ open until February 5th; or until 5,000 entries have been received.

Briefly, the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest timeline is:

From now till Friday midnight, February 5th
open for entry and submissions
February 5th – 23rd
qualifying period in which Amazon editors evaluate the submission Pitch,
February 24th – March 20th
Second round- Amazon editors and Amazon Vine Reviewers evaluate Excerpts from the submission,
March 21st – April 24th
Quarter-Final period Excerpts are posted online for public feedback (through ratings and reviews) and PublishersWeekly reviews the full MS,
April 25th – May 22nd
Semi-Final period where Penguin editors review the full Manuscript to select the Finalists, announced May 22nd. There is a (Final) final period when Amazon customers may vote to determine the Winners.

Seems worth a try, doesn’t it? Besides, there are all of Alex’s fearless bloghoppers here to cheer you along.

Once again, I am grateful to Alex for his supportive leadership in perpetuating this First Wednesday IWSG bloghop. Among its network of versatile scribes, we get to pick up and throw in a few pointers along the way. Following Alex’s lead, in this fiercely competitive world called Publishing, (deeply immersed or on the writerly periphery), it is wonderful to feel there is a support network out there to share our joys and sorrows; and to know they are the first ones to give praise, chivy us along, or render a timely piece of advice. I’ve met some new friends in this bloghop.

It’s catching.

'Coco Bay: The Awakening', 2nd in Green Turtle Cay trilogy, deepsea, deepspace, deeptime

Even the naughty bunnies hope they triggered some good.

In BunnySpeak, they want to wish all ABNA entrants, veteran or newbie, the best of luck both with ongoing works (WIPs), and especially if they enter the ABNA enclosure (BunnySpeak). They also offer to dig a BIG HOLE in the compound’s predator-proof fence, if you need to escape at dawn… … oh those bad bunnies.

*Marian’s Bunny-inspired Baby is ‘Coco Bay: The Awakening’, a deep-sea, deep-space deep-time fantasy and the second in her Green Turtle Cay trilogy. It is set in the azure waters off Abaco in the Bahamas, on the southern edge of the Bermuda Triangle.

**Alex J Cavanaugh will also not be entering because, hold your breath, 🙂 his second novel CassaFire is being released by Dancing Lemur Press on February 28th. We wish him great good fortune.

©February 2012 Marian Youngblood
thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh’s Bloghop Wednesday and the
INSECURE WRITERS’ SUPPORT GROUP

February 1, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Nobody’s Perfect — ESPECIALLY Me

GUESTBLOG FEATURE: Stacy Gail, Author

When I first asked STACY GAIL to write a guest blog, I thought she would throw a triple Salchow or a double lutz (she coaches skaters for a living) and say she was wa-a-ay too busy. She is, when all is said and done, a prolific writer: one of the hugely motivated, daily disciplined and Muse-directed kind I so often describe here …and try to be… when Rite R. Bloch isn’t handcuffing me to the desk. While Stacy has been writing on envelopes, sketch pads, diaries and looseleaf notebooks since childhood, she has remarkably only recently joined the e-brigade, the FB-peeps, the tweet-twitterers. That in itself is astounding, given her background (and by that I don’t mean hours on the ice). Though that probably contributed. 😛

Ancestor Zane Grey (1872-1939) with his horse, Juan Carlos

She is the massively talented descendant of author/screenwriter Harold Bell Wright — who in turn is descended from the Wright Brothers. Bell Wright (1872-1944) was famous not only for his Americana, but for becoming — in hard times — the first American novelist to make $1million, purely from writing fiction. Stacy, who started writing full-length novels and novellas at age 14, also has the ultimate best-seller king, Zane Grey (1872-1939), in her ancestral genetic strain. So I do believe it won’t be long before EVERYbody will have read Stacy’s best-sellers, and her name will be on everyone’s lips. She has, to boot, a massively funny turn-of-phrase and her blog posts are the ones I turn to when I need to start my day with a laugh!

One of her delights in describing her efforts at establishing territory in the daunting world of publishing is:

“Too bad this isn’t the animal kingdom. If it were, all I’d have to do is pee in a corner or two and that would be that. We humans, though, are a bit more complicated (not to mention, hygienic), so that means it’s time to put on my big-girl pants and be aggressive in getting my name out there. Name-recognition is an absolute MUST”
Stacy Gail, Author

She has recently been signed by Samhain Publishing and I do believe this is only the start of bigger things. But I’ll let her tell you, herself.

Nobody’s Perfect – ESPECIALLY Me

Stacy in her corner: waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting literary world

Thank you Marian, for allowing me to guest blog, and hello to all of Marian’s fabulous readers!

When Marian suggested I share what a brand-spanking-new author goes through on the way to publishing their very first book, I had to laugh (and yes, I said spanking. I’ll be saying a lot of things you might not approve of; sorry). While I had been planning something like a “blooper post” for my own blog, I figured no one would believe my many, many, MANY screw-ups. But since she asked…

First off, I’d like to point out I DID get some things right. *throws confetti*

For instance, before I dug up a plot bunny to write about, I got on the internet to see what small presses I could submit to without too much agony. Two fabulous resources no writer should be without -– Preditors and Editors and Absolute Write. They’re the closest thing I know of to the Publishing Police. If there’s a bad-guy publisher out there wanting to have their wicked way with some naïve n00b, these two sites are on them like white on rice.

Another thing I did right — I researched the publishing houses I liked. As a romance writer, I’ve been knocking on Harlequin’s door until my hand resembles a bloody stump. So I wised up, readjusted my sights and went shopping for a smaller, reputable publishing house that was still big enough to do both ebooks and print. Once I found that -– Samhain Publishing, Ltd — I wanted to see if what they said about themselves was true, and that I could find their imprint in the big chain stores of Borders, Barnes and Noble and Books a Million. Sure enough, there they were, right next to NYT best-selling authors Jaci Burton and Ilona Andrews. Come to find out, Jaci Burton started out at Samhain, and Ilona Andrews just published a short story with them a few weeks ago. Cool.

Secure in the knowledge Samhain was what all the websites were saying it was, I finally looked at Samhain’s website itself.

That’s when things began to go a little weird.

One of Stacy's protegées-on-ice: national figure skater Cathy Janssen. If you were a publisher, wouldn't you want this world in your cover art?

Don’t get me wrong – Samhain is AWESOME. I’m the one who began to get a terminal case of the stupids. On October 1st of last year, I read their submission guidelines for the first time. I had never seen an electronic submission before, nor had I ever attached anything via email (don’t judge me, I’m a figure skating coach who does split jumps and flying camels for a living! I may be in great shape but I’m a total babe-in-the-woods when it comes to Teh Interwebs :P). I was getting a little panicky as I read what seemed like incomprehensible techno-babble when I saw something called “Special Call –- Just Romance Springtime Anthology.”

What could this be?

From time to time Samhain puts forth a special submissions call that has a specific theme (in this case a “sweet” romance placed in a springtime background. Oh, and if you’re wondering, a sweet romance is one with the emphasis on the magic of romance and no sex).

When I read that special call, a plot bunny immediately bounded to the fore. It hopped, it danced, it frolicked its fuzzy little cottontail off, and for a moment I thought, “Oh, YEAH! I can do this!” Then I looked at the deadline. November 1st. The special call had been posted for four months. People had been working at their special call submissions for four months, polishing them up and making them perfect. It would be a waste of time to try and pull something together at that late date.

But the stupid plot bunny wouldn’t shut up. I dithered for another SEVEN DAYS (and in the interim found another Samhain special call for a cyberpunk story, which I also wanted to do… I’ll get to that). Ultimately, there was only one way to “kill the wabbit” –- I had to write the story. Now, please take note, gentle reader: it didn’t have to be this hard. True, I found the special call submission on October 1st, which was cutting it close. But no. I apparently wanted to make things SOOOO much harder, that I waited until October 8th to write the first word of a novella that was eventually entitled BEST MAN, WORST MAN.

I can honestly say I don’t remember much of that time, except for my back going out, thanks to being hunched over my laptop for hours on end. For all I know, magical manuscript elves trundled out under the cover of night while I drooled on my keyboard and finished the thing. But it DID get finished. By my brother’s birthday, October 28th, I submitted a 30K novella, BEST MAN, WORST MAN, to Samhain.

Or at least I tried.

This is where it gets embarrassing. Remember how I said I was interested in another special call for a cyberpunk novella? Well, did you know each special call is handled by a different editor? Makes sense, right? Of course it does. I, uh, first sent my submission to the wrong editor. I recognized my goof (approximately two full seconds AFTER I hit the Send button), and had to send a follow-up email to please disregard this unfortunate bout of idiocy. Then, taking a calming breath, I sent the correct email to the correct editor.

Without the attached manuscript.

At this point, I’m beyond embarrassed. I’m at the death-by-cringing stage, and for the most part I have blocked the remainder of that terrible day forever from my memory. I do remember re-re-sending it WITH the attachments, all the while giving up any hope of Samhain taking me seriously. The only thing I could console myself with was that throughout this maddening process, at least I had figured out how to turn a .docx file into a .doc file, so it wasn’t a complete waste of my time. Yay.

Then a weird thing happened. The editor in charge of the Springtime anthology project DIDN’T offer to publish my work in the anthology itself (I just found out this past week it was WAY too steamy for the “sweet” category. Who knew that having-everything-but-actual-sex in the story put it in another category??? O_o). What this editor was offering was a chance for this novella to be published as a stand-alone work.

WHEEEEEEEEE!

There was a lot to be done. I needed to get hysterical. I needed to get over being hysterical. I needed to rewrite the entire first chapter, as the editor didn’t like the opening of a car crash/groping scene (I kid you not: that’s how I opened it). And I needed to round up some volunteer beta readers (thank you Facebook, for getting me in touch with Hart Johnson, Maria Korth and Cindy Jones-Shoeman, the best beta readers around).

Oh, and one other teeny little thing. I needed to get on that cyberpunk plot bunny I’d been ignoring ever since I screwed up my original Samhain submission. You see, when I had bungled things so badly on my first submission, I had given up the idea of ever showing my face at Samhain again. This experience proved to me that editors really don’t care about you getting things absolutely, positively PERFECT the first time out of the gate.

They care about the writing.

I just wish I had realized that before I had let so many weeks go by without working on that cyberpunk special call. By the time I heard back from the editor who was interested in working with me, there was only six weeks left before the cyberpunk special call came to a close. Now that I had to rewrite the first chapter of BEST MAN, WORST MAN, I had made the unforgivable mistake of not keeping my nose to the grindstone and making sure those submissions kept flowing. Bad Stacy. Bad, bad, bad.

Eventually I did get BEST MAN, WORST MAN published with Samhain (due out Oct 25th… ironically about the same time I had a hysterical breakdown over it the year before, now that I think about it). I also submitted a project for the cyberpunk special call, and it too was accepted. This time I DID make it into the anthology, which strangely enough means this second project, ZERO FACTOR, will be published FIRST (please don’t ask me to explain how this happened. If you’ve made it this far, you now know I get confused easily). ZERO FACTOR will have an ebook release August 30th, 2011 and will have a print release some time in 2012 (I wonder if I should know that date? Hmmm…)

I’m still learning how this is supposed to go, and I’m already a nervous wreck over my release days. But with each mistake comes a lesson I’m happy to learn, just as long as I can keep writing about my plot bunnies.
©2011 Stacy Gail

June 7, 2011 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments