Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ban My Book? Why, Yes Please

That’s right boys and girls and all you people in between and on the edges. It’s Banned Books week, one of my favorite literary weeks of all time. It’s a week when us creative, free-thinking types can peruse lists of banned books (like this one here) and go, really? Stuff that this still happens?

Yep, it surely does. And I’m here to say I dream about it happening to me, too. Why you ask? It’s simple, as a reader —well, as a person really— nothing makes me want to do something more than when somebody tells me I can’t. I’m rebellious by nature. It’s a flaw, I know, but I can’t help, at least not when it comes to intellectual freedom (Side note 1: I have no trouble whatsoever in obeying the laws as they exist today, i.e. no stealing, murdering, or any other such issues here). And I have a pretty good idea that a lot of readers, especially those interested in YA, feel the same way. So yeah, I would love to have a banned book, please oh please (side note 2: while having a banned book would make me feel rock star cool, I despite the attitude behind the idea of book banning and the people/organizations responsible for it).

With this in mind, I’ve thrown together a simple checklist of subjects/content which may help any writer eventually end up with a banned book. (Side note 3: A lot of these subjects are in The Nightmare Affair, too — yah!)

Here it goes, in no particular order:

Any sexuality
Anything Anti-establishment (i.e. government, church, military, school system, media, etc)
Drug use
Diversity of Belief Systems
Ethnic Diversity
Offensive Language

Well, that’s all I can think of at the moment, but I’m sure there’re lots more. What do you think? Have you read any good banned books lately? Oh, and aren’t you happy we live in a society where this post and discussion is even possible? I know am. Let’s keep it that way!

Happy Writing

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Query Letter Example and Tips

So a couple of people have asked about the query letter for The Nightmare Affair, which helped me in my quest to sign with my agent of awesome, Suzie Townsend. (Note: I refuse to use the phrase “land an agent,” because Suzie totally isn’t a fish. Seriously, she’s more of a rockstar. Maybe I should use the phrase “become a professional groupie”…but I digress).

Here it is folks, a copy of the email I sent to Suzie:

Dear Ms. Townsend:

16-year-old Dusty Everhart might make a regular habit of breaking into houses late at night, but she’s no criminal. She is a Nightmare, a magical being who must feed on the dreams of others, and in doing so experience those dreams, too. But when her latest dreamer, Eli Booker, the hot guy from her old high school, turns out to be dreaming about a murder which shortly comes true, she goes from non-criminal to reluctant crime fighter.

Dusty learns that together she and Eli posses the rare ability to predict the future through dreams. They are soon enlisted by the magickind government to help identify the person killing students at Dusty’s high school, Arkwell Academy, a secret school for magickind. Now Dusty and Eli must follow the clues both within Eli’s dreams and out of them to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what they’re up to and marks them as the next target.

Complete at 76,400 words, The Nightmare Affair is a YA contemporary fantasy, which I like to think of as Veronica Mars meets Hex Hall. Per your submission guidelines, I have included the first 10 pages below.

My short stories have appeared in various semi-pro magazines, including Happy, and I have received an honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. I have a Master of Arts in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing. On a personal note, I follow both your blog and twitter account and thoroughly enjoy both. I think your First Page Shooter endeavor is invaluable.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Mindee Arnett

I hope this letter is self-explanatory, but as always, feel free to ask me questions. Also, here’s a list of some things I think considered important in my agent submission process which you might find useful too:

  • Know and understand the individual guidelines for EVERY agent you query.
  • Unless those guidelines say otherwise, put the pitch paragraphs first in the query. Agents are short on time. Don’t make them wade through the BS unless they specifically want to.
  • Send yourself test emails to make sure the formatting comes through properly. Be sure to view them on your iPhone or other device as this is how a lot of agents view them.
  • Add a personal note so long as it’s honest and relevant.
  • Follow the agents (twitter, blog, etc) you want to work with, and be sure to mention it. (Not long after Suzie had full manuscript of TNA, she started following me on Twitter, and WOW, was that a GREAT feeling.)
  • Keep the pitch short and precise. Trust me, there’s a whole lot more to The Nightmare Affair than what’s suggested in this pitch. But I resisted the temptation to try and tell the whole story in two paragraphs. Just razzle-dazzle with as little as possible (i.e. the heart of the conflict and who it’s happening to).
  • Query in small increments. I sent out only 5 queries at 1 time. If everyone gets rejected, take another look at the query.
(BONUS: Wanna see what happens after you sign with an agent and the book goes on submission? You can read the pitch here.)

Good luck and don’t give up!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Time is a Fickle Thing (or why writing can keep you sane)

Let’s see, on the subject of time, I haven’t updated this thing in like forever. Lots has been going on to keep me distracted, the most pressing being my compulsive need to finish the first draft of my latest WIP. Which I did. On Saturday. Wee-hee, throw the confetti and pop open the champagne, or in my case the strawberry margaritas I’ve been diggin’ on so much lately.

That being said, I need to issue an apology to my wonderful critique partner Lori (if you’re not reading her blog, you really ought to) for not thanking her sooner for giving me this very cool Liebster blog award. Fortunately, I know Lori will understand the lure of finishing a draft! (More info on the award below)

But my purpose in writing this blog is pretty much summed up in the title (see you didn’t even have to read this far). Writing really can keep you sane, especially when you’re waiting for something big. Which for me, of course, is waiting to start real revisions/edits on The Nightmare Affair. When you hear other writers say that everything takes a long time in publishing, they really mean it. Fortunately, writers have an excellent weapon in their arsenal to combat the long waits — and that’s to keep on writing. And the best thing is that finishing a first draft never gets old.

Anyway, in accepting the Liebster award, which is intended to connect bloggers with less than 200 followers (totally me), I must:
Mallory over at Lil Red's Hood

• Show my thanks to the blogger who gave me the award by linking back to them (thanks Lori!)
• Reveal my top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
• Post the award on my blog.
• Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the internet—other writers.
• And best of all – have fun and spread the karma.

I'm passing the award onto these fantabulous bloggers:

Coming soon on the blog, I plan on posting the query letter which helped me sign with my awesome, totally on-fire agent!