Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wanted: Critique Partners

Do you enjoy reading stories of intrigue, romance, and adventure set in a historical setting? Are you willing to critique the first 10 pages of my completed novel? Interested in extreme karma points as well as having my eternal gratitude? 

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above you must be a bit crazy, which means you’re exactly the kind of critique partner I’m looking for. I already have a few devoted critique partners, but I’m looking to get feedback from a slightly wider audience concerning the opening of my Civil War Novel The Long Defeat. Below is a quick blurb of my book:

Will and Nate think that the American Civil War will end in a month, but neither realize that they will both have to try and kill each other before it is over. When Will loses a court case defending a runaway slave in Massachusetts he enlists to fight for the North, while Nate leaves his family’s wealthy Louisiana plantation to defend the honor of the South. These two strangers meet under a flag of truce in Virginia only to later fight one another on several battlefields. Both men get more than they bargain for when two brash young women, a Boston blueblood named Emma and a New Orleans courtesan called Marie, volunteer as nurses for the North and South. Serving alongside the men at the front, Emma falls for Will who suffers from a troubled marriage, whereas Marie courts Nate despite his engagement to a Southern heiress. As the four-year struggle unfolds both Will and Nate must ultimately decide how different the enemy across the lines really is from themselves, and whether the women they meet at the front can ever be a part of their lives back home. All the while the dangers of the battlefield may prevent some of them from ever returning home at all.       

If you’re interested in reading the first 10 pages please email me at or just leave your email address in the comments section. I’m more than willing to offer myself as critique partner in return for anyone willing to critique the first chapter of my completed novel. So…anybody willing to swap some stories or at least offer some good karma vibes?     

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Hometown...Where I Get Inspiration

Ever wonder how different James Joyce's work might have been if he hadn't come from Dublin or Virginia Woolf's without her longing to return to London? Didn't Faulkner set most of his novels in the state of Mississippi where he grew up? How many favorite authors of yours include tidbits of their hometowns in their published fiction?

I always wonder how locality inspires an author, and when I think of my own home in the San Francisco Bay area it gets me thinking about other authors that lived and wrote here, like Jack London or Frank Norris. The picture I posted is a satellite image of San Francisco (I live in the lower right-hand corner near a patch of green). Needless to say, the hubbub of the city certainly provides ample inspiration, but beyond this picture a lot of idyllic forests and mountains also add a natural touch alongside the blue ocean waters that also get my imagination going.

So where do you live now and how does that influence your writing, if at all? Everywhere from India to Australia to “Small-town” U.S.A. can produce the most unexpected results in an author's work. How does your hometown inspire you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Making the Best Query Ever

How does a writer sell their story, their masterpiece, their baby, to an agent in only a few paragraphs? Can you really write a foolproof query that will snag their admin's attention? What's the secret to unlocking their curiosity about the story you've told?

Well, I loved the wise, thoughtful comments everyone provided on my last post about writing a synopsis so much that I decided to follow it up with a post on queries. Let me just say that you guys are all good....very, very good at what you do, and your advice has been invaluable. I think hashing out the synopsis is a big part of the journey on the way to penning a great query for agents.

So what does a query need that sets it apart from a synopsis or a even a quick pitch for that matter? What information has to come across right away and how do you make the writing style reflect the way you wrote your novel? How do you make your query stand a good way? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's in a Good Synopsis?

Finally finish that last revision of your story? Now you just have to summarize the entire plot and essence of your novel in just a paragraph or two? How the heck are you supposed to boil down tens of thousands of words into a handful of sentences?

Ah, they joys of creating a synopsis. It has to grab the reader's attention, hook them into the book, and yet still explain not only the storyline itself, but the “vibe” of the novel as well. I'm currently working on writing (and frequently rewriting) a short synopsis for my current work-in-progress, but have found it a surprisingly grueling chore. Deciding what parts of the story to mention and what parts to leave out of the synopsis has proved no easy task either.

So how do you tackle the challenge of generating a well-rounded, short synopsis for your book? If you had to sell your story to an agent/editor in only a few sentences how would you go about it? What do you do that makes your synopsis eye-catching and unique? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Libraries Rock!

Tired of spending all that extra cash on paperbacks? Or maybe that pricey new e-reader still doesn't quite feel like an old fashioned book did in your hands? Are your household shelves choking on the plethora of books that you've already greedily devoured?

There's nothing quite like a trip to a well stocked library, which is where I've been going every week to get my book fix. Nine out of ten titles I'm looking for are either right there on the shelf or can be loaned from another library. The best part is that it doesn't cost me a dime and my house isn't crowded with tons of leftover books from the store. Besides, you can checkout music, movies, and lots more in addition to books!

I've often found that other writers usually have pretty fond memories of their first visit to a library. A lot of authors tend to have their favorite one or two libraries that they haunt on a regular basis. So what are your fondest library memories and what keeps you going back for more?

Friday, August 19, 2011

How Many Books Do You Read a Week?

It's Friday, the weekend, which means time to catch up on all that pleasure reading, right? Ever go crazy, gobbling up as many tomes and novels as you can on your couple days off? Or perhaps you go on reading straight through the week just to get it all crammed into your busy schedule?

It's no surprise that most of us love reading, but with so many zillions of books out there it can be daunting trying to tackle all the great works in bookstores and libraries. I've always liked to read, but not until I met my wife during college did I learn what it really meant to be passionate about reading. She averages a book a day and has as long as I've known her. No joke!

I feel pretty good if I get two or three books read per week, but at that rate I'll probably only have read about ten thousand books by the time I'm in my eighties. Not all books are equal of course and rereading is a favorite pastime of mine as well, so how can anyone possibly get all the reading in we want? Perhaps, it's a good thing that we'll never run out of books, but how do you get all your reading in each week?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bizarrest Research

What's the most bizarre thing you've ever researched for a book? Trying to figure out what the weather was like on a certain day in history? Or maybe you wanted to know hypothetically what would happen to someone who traveled faster than the speed of light?

The list is really endless, and I'm sure many of you have spent hours online or in libraries researching background information on many of your manuscripts. I typically write historical fiction, so I'm usually concerned with everyday life in earlier periods, i.e. what people ate, how they spoke, and what society was like. But whether you're researching data for Fantasy or SciFi or Romance, it can certainly lead an author to some strange places.

So what's the weirdest thing you've ever researched? Did it involve you physically going to a distant place or eating an unusual food item? What crazy extremes have you driven yourself to in order to obtain that rare insight into your work-in-progress?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Persistence Pays Off

Sometimes between rewriting your nth draft or receiving your next rejection letter it can feel difficult to continue persevering. Hours and hours before a computer screen, paper and electronic submissions, and expensive conferences all add up and take their toll. So how on earth is a writer supposed to keep going?

I've had a slightly persistent attitude I've employed since my undergrad days when I came up with a little namesake to keep me going, but also to keep me from ever getting too serious when I felt bogged down. I called myself “the Rash” because no matter the odds I refused to go away until accomplishing my goal. I applied this strategy when trying to add new classes when the professor already said their room was full, asked questions in class no matter whether I thought it made me look stupid or not, and I spent enough time in the library that I'm sure my name certainly came up like a rash on the school checkout computers.

I continue to use this odd little euphemism when persisting with my writing endeavors and to make myself laugh when the serious business of the literary industry weighs me down. So what little tricks do you do in order to keep going? Any little mantras, mind games, or quirky outlooks that help you continue with your writing when times get tough?    

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Most Interesting Man in the World

His shopping lists have been called poetry. His bird bath attracts bald eagles. He bowls overhand. He is the “most interesting man in the world.”

Lots of bloggers tend to post 'funny Fridays' on their blog, and although I don't normally do that, I think today warrants an exception. I love creativity wherever I see it, and I've got to say that one of the most creative concepts that makes me roll over with laughter nowadays is the Dos Equis “spokesman” who is a mythical cross between a Hemingway character and an old Chuck Norris. Even my favorite ballplayer, Brian Wilson, claims to have gotten the idea for growing out his beard from the Dos Equis guy. So, have a great weekend everyone and here are a few more interesting facts about...the most interesting man in the world. 

He's the life of parties he's never attended. Sharks have a week dedicated to him. His mother has a tattoo that reads 'son.' He once had an awkward moment just to see how it feels. He's won trophies for his game face alone. If he punched you in the face, you'd have to fight the irresistible urge to thank him. Stay thirsty my friends.