NaNo Day 12: Let’s Do This Thing

I AM CAUGHT UP IN NANOWRIMO.

I can’t believe I get to type those words. I got on a roll and ended up writing about 3,000 words yesterday, when I only had a goal of 2,000–then I accidentally woke up over an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off this morning, so I ended up pulling out my laptop and cranking out another 1.5k before class, which brought me up to where I’m supposed to be by today.

Which means that for the first time since NaNoWriMo 2015 began, I AM NOT BEHIND.

I am dying a little inside from relief.

Now I just need to keep up this momentum for the next couple weeks and I might just survive this month.

In the meantime: tonight at 8 PM EST is our monthly Ch1Con Chat on Youtube (info and watch link here), tomorrow I’m spending the day at another career forum on campus (this time on the entertainment industry), and in between I have about a thousand and one budget breakdowns and grant proposals to write (yay asking people to pay for me to do fun things).

I’ve got a half hour before Ch1Con Chat starts though, so I’m going to take this opportunity to eat something yummy and take a breath.

(Then maybe I’ll do a little more writing later? I’m so pumped up right now, I feel like I could run a marathon.) (Or, you know, actually run at all.)

Goal for Today: 1,000 + 500 (from Friday)

Overall Goal: 20,000

Current Word Count: 20,035 <– LOOK AT THE PRETTY

~Julia

NaNo Day 2: Let’s Try This Again

It’s Day 2 and I’m already behind! Hurrayyy.

My goal for yesterday was five thousand words. I was making decent headway on that until I realized that I’d started the story at the wrong place (again), so I had to start over (again), so I ended up back at zero words (again). So instead of five thousand words, I only got about two thousand in. (And then went out to dinner and watched a movie with my roommates because, like, my brain was fried at that point and I needed the break.) (Sorry, NaNo.)

This isn’t how I like to start NaNoWriMo. Normally I get enough writing done in the first day to really establish the characters and where the story’s going. Still, though, I’m finally happy with how the story is going now, and the characters are finally coming to life after months of struggling to find them, so maybe this MS will finally stop fighting me so much.

I’m in classes and meetings for most of today, but the last one I was supposed to go to tonight has been postponed, so at the least, that should give me a few hours to write. Here’s hoping I catch up?

How’d your first day of NaNo go? Anyone else have to restart their story partway through to make it work?

Goal for Today: 1,000

Overall Goal: 6,000.

Current Word Count: 2,053

NaNo Day 1: Welcome, Welcome

… to another year of NaNoWriMo and blogging every day in November!

Besides the fact that I’m pretty sure this November is going to kill me (SO MUCH GOING ON), I’m also really excited.

I’m writing a YA contemporary this year that’s basically just going to be a big ball of fluff, and the protagonist is super snarky, and yeah. It’s fun.

Description from my NaNo profile:

Morgan never thought her aunt Margaret would die. More than that, she never thought Aunt Margaret would leave her a weird task to complete before she could collect her mysterious inheritance: spend one month living without fear. But Aunt Margaret was the most fearless person Morgan knew, so she’s terrified of where this next month might lead. And why Aunt Margaret gave the same task to Riley–the boy who first taught her what it was like to be afraid.

Are you competing in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are you writing about? (Also, you should add me as a buddy!)

Goal for today: 5,000.

Current word count: 3,065.

Happy NaNoWriMo if you’re competing, and Happy Not Being Sleep-Deprived for a Month if you’re not! May the plot bunnies be ever in your favor.

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Restructuring Your Novel by Scene

Winter semester 2014: In which a girl who’s afraid of space thought it would be a good idea to take astronomy. (Basically, this semester cannot end soon enough.)

Obama visited today. The entire campus went insane. You know. The usual.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post about a photo. Specifically, the cover photo of my Facebook page right now:

The picture’s from last July. I was in the middle of completing a revision on a novel that involved a lot of refining for flow and structure, and I was having trouble working things out solely in my head/onscreen.

So I printed out my scene list. And chopped it up. And spread it all across my kitchen table. (Obviously my parents were thrilled.)

Being able to physically move around scenes was really effective and I’m about to do this whole process over again, so this seemed like a good time share it. (Thank you, Joan, for suggesting this topic!)

I give you: Restructuring Your Novel by Scene

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Step 1: Make a list of all your scenes.

For each scene in my novel I:

  • Assign a number (so I know where in the manuscript it fits as is, in case I move it somewhere else)
  • Give a title (basically a brief description of what happens in it)
  • Note which chapter it’s in (a bigger picture version of assigning a number)
  • Color code it (a scene that shares a chapter with one other scene gets one color; one that shares with multiple scenes gets another; if it has its own chapter it gets another; and if it has multiple chapters to itself it gets another–this helps me keep track of the structures of chapters in relation with one another, so I don’t have too many of one type in a row or anything)

I also keep track of any scenes that happen to have unique characteristics, like if it’s a flashback, pure exposition, etc. (On this note: the novel I did this for last summer had two types of flashbacks–some were in past tense; others were in present–so I categorized the two types separately. You want to be as specific as possible.)

Step 2: Print the list, cut apart the scenes, and lay them in order on a flat surface.

This step’s pretty self-explanatory. If you have access to a table that you know no one will mess with while you’re working, you’re gold. If you don’t, find a patch of floor somewhere that you can barricade other organisms from touching. (I don’t suggest taping your scenes to a wall. Although that would ultimately work too, I also feel like it would be a lot less functional.)

Last time I did this, it took me about a week of thinking and staring and rearranging for twelve hours a day in order to settle everything. You don’t want your dog to knock a bunch of scenes off the table or someone to leave a sweaty glass on one.

(Protip: Print another copy of your scene list, but don’t cut this one apart. It’ll be useful to refer to while you’re rearranging things, so you can remember where everything was to begin with.)

Step 3: Gather your supplies.

You’re going to want to have:

  • Post It notes
  • tape
  • at least one paperclip
  • several shades of highlighters
  • a couple shades of pens (I use black and red)
  • a pencil
  • lots and lots of love for your novel (because when your patience and sanity run out, love is all you’ve got left)

I’ll talk about why you need everything else later, but first: the purpose of the Post It notes. As you go through the following steps, keep your Post Its at the ready.

Take notes if you’re considering doing something but haven’t quite made your decision yet, or don’t think it falls under one of the steps below. Write ideas for scenes you need to add. Stick a Post It to a scene if what you need to write exceeds the space on the slip of paper. Anything, really. Your Post Its are basically your thoughts on paper.

Now, let’s move onto the fun part: actually working on your novel.

Step 4: Mark which scenes are absolutely vital to the plot.

I star my vital scenes with my red pen, off to the left of all the typed information from Step 1. (I put all of my markings off to the left, and all my made-of-words notes above/below/to the right of the typed information, so it’s easy and fast to find things. Make sure to consistently centralize information; making unnecessary work for yourself is never fun.)

Signs that a scene is vital:

  • At least one major plot point occurs
  • The rest of the manuscript would fall apart if you pulled it

(Unfortunately, simply really loving a certain fight sequence, or cute interaction between your protagonists, or cool line does not a vital scene make. Be careful not to mark something only because you’re attached to it.)

If you have more than one scene that is vital in a row, stack those scenes. You’ll come back to them later, but for now, save some space for the next few steps.

Step 5: Look at the non-vital scenes.

I’m serious. Stare those suckers down.

Consider everything that happens in each scene:

  • What does the plot gain from it? (use your pencil to write this, probably above or below the typed info)
  • Is it super necessary for a subplot or character development? (mark this with one of your highlighters)
  • Does it have a cool sequence/interaction/line that you adore and don’t want to get rid of? (note this in pen, again above or below your typed info)

Chances are, if you didn’t mark it as vital to the plot in Step 4, that’s because the plot doesn’t gain anything from it–so you shouldn’t have anything written in pencil on these scenes. (If you have written something, reconsider whether or not you should mark that scene as vital. If what you’ve written is still too insignificant to the overall plot or too small a part of the scene as a whole to qualify the scene as vital, leave it as non-vital for now.)

You can still move the story forward with a non-vital scene if it influences a subplot or the development of a character (so while it might not be vital to the plot, it could be vital to the novel). However, a non-vital scene can’t just do one of these things. It can’t just explain why Bobby is afraid of marshmallows or be the space for two of your supporting characters to get in a fight.

Each scene has to progress the story in multiple ways. It has to explain the fear of marshmallows, and describe the big fight, and reveal something important to the plot–even if it’s something miniscule.

Think of each important thing that happens like a meal: if you miss out on one (losing a scene in which one important thing happens), it sucks but it’s not a huge deal. Miss eating for a whole day (losing a scene with several important things), and it becomes one. Miss eating for multiple days (a scene in which A LOT OF FREAKING STUFF HAPPENS), and you’re in deep trouble.

Thus, a non-vital scene becomes vital.

So, if you’ve got a non-vital scene that does have multiple important things happening in it, mark it as vital. If it’s near another vital scene, stack ’em. If the non-vital scene only has one or two important things in it (or *gasp* none), prepare yourself for Step 6.

Step 6: Cut scenes.

If a scene does absolutely nothing important for the story, cut it. If it’s repetitious in content of another scene (your protags having a cute back-and-forth; your antagonist being annoying; etc.), chances are you only need one of them–cut the one(s) you like less.

This is the time for that Kill Your Darlings thing. If a scene does nothing to progress your plot, subplots, or character development: Cut. It.

Stack your cut scenes off to the side where you can find them later if need be, but they aren’t in the way as you continue with the scenes you’re still working on.

Step 7: Consolidate scenes.

If you have more than one non-vital scene in a row, consider consolidating them into one. Take the best parts of each scene (favorite actions/interactions, lines, and of course all the important bits) and see if you can stick them into one.

Be aware, though, that you can’t save everything. Again: avoid repetition. Just because you say something in several different ways doesn’t mean you’re saying something new.

Also, don’t be afraid to consolidate scenes that maybe aren’t currently next to each other in the manuscript. Reordering is okay.

When you consolidate scenes, either tape them together (not stacked) and use a pen to draw a line connecting them, or use that pen to write what you’re moving from the scene(s) you’re getting rid of to the scene you’re consolidating into, off towards the right side of your slips. (I suggest highlighting these written notes in a certain color, for a reason I’ll talk about in a second.)

The goal of the cutting and consolidating is to eliminate non-vital scenes from your novel. You do this by either cutting the non-vital scene or combining enough important things from non-vital scenes to create a vital one.

Once all you have left are vital scenes…

Step 8: Make structuring decisions.

Spread out the scenes you have left and look at the order they’re in. Would something work better in another place? Are you absolutely certain you need that water balloon fight in the middle of the scene that’s vital for entirely different reasons? Rearrange scenes as necessary and write down things you’re cutting/adding/changing-in-some-other-fun-way in each scene.

Anything you write on a scene that you’ll need to address while you’re working on the manuscript itself, highlight in a certain color. This will really help separate those things from everything else you’ve got written on the slips of paper.

Look over your list while thinking about the flow and progression of the plot, subplots, and development of your entire cast of characters (not just your core protagonists). If something is missing or not quite flowing right, this is the time to figure out how to fix it.

(Protip: Don’t be afraid to actually add scenes. This process is a good way of figuring out if you’re missing something. Use those Post It notes of yours to add scenes when necessary.)

Step 9: Step back.

You don’t want to rush into changing things without really thinking them through first. Take a couple days (or at least a couple hours) to not think at all about the plans you’ve made.

If you have an epiphany about something during this time, feel free to return to your scenes and add the new changes. But don’t touch the actual manuscript until you’ve had a chance to get away from it for a bit and you’re absolutely positive you want to try a change. (“Try” is the operative word here–if something that seems good on paper doesn’t actually work in the manuscript, don’t force yourself into keeping it. Find another solution. If you want your novel to be the best it can be, you’ve gotta do what’s best for it, even if that sometimes means “wasting” time on things that don’t work. The time’s not wasted if it ultimately lead to a better manuscript.)

Once you are confident in all your decisions, stack your final list of scenes, use a paperclip to hold them together, and get to work.

(Optional) Step 9.5: Make a To Do list of the planned changes.

I say this is optional because it’s something I don’t do, but I’m sure other, more organized people would like to. Either write or type a list of all the changes you’re going to make. This would be useful for keeping track of what you’ve done and still need to do–but definitely isn’t necessary if you don’t care about organization (the notes on your slips of cut out scenes should be enough to remember all the changes you want to make.)

Step 10: Implement changes.

Everyone likes to revise their manuscripts differently. Personally, if I’m doing big changes to scene(s) or adding a scene, I’ll create a separate Word doc to work on those before touching anything in the manuscript itself. If I’m just adding a line or moving a scene to a different part of the novel, I do that right in the manuscript document.

(Protip: Save your manuscript in a new file before implementing any changes. That way you can look back at the old version if you need to review how something used to be, bring back a scene you deleted, etc.)

Once I’ve implemented my changes, I make sure the changes flow with the surrounding writing. Then, it’s time to read the full manuscript to make sure everything’s working–and, once I’ve gotten the MS as good as I can on my own, I send it to a couple critique partners.

A critique partner is the best way to figure out if something’s working or not. A lot of the time as the writer, you subconsciously become so numb to what you’re working on that you don’t notice problems anymore. Therefore, a new set of eyes basically equals a miracle.

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And there you have it: my process for refining a novel by scene. (I’ll pretend this is patent pending, since it took me forever and a day to type.)

Do you have any specific processes for revising? Care to share with the class?

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~Julia

PS. The happiest of birthdays to my CP Kira, who becomes a Twenty Something today! 😀

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Three”)

I’m hooooome!

Sammyyyyyyy

I barely got through my classes yesterday because I was just so excited to get home. This was the longest and most disconnected I’ve ever been from my family before, because if I do get to study abroad this summer, it’s going to be for over a month on a different continent and I wanted to see if I could actually do that if I tried. I’m usually that student who goes home every other weekend and sees her dog more often than she sees half her college friends, but evidently I did manage it, so five points to me (and now I’m going to spend my entire Thanksgiving break hugging the living daylights out of Sammy).

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because it was so busy (class all day, plus packing, then the long drive home and having a family dinner, and we watched The Hunger Games to prep for them seeing Catching Fire today, and WE HAD SO MUCH TO CATCH UP ABOUT BECAUSE I HAVEN’T TALKED TO MY FAMILY IN AGES AND I MISSED THEM GAH). So I’m not sure what that means for NaNo and getting everything done on time, now. It’s only 4.5k more, but I really need to work on my homework (especially my two genetics projects, because I’m struggling to pass that class right now). But we’ll see what happens.

Anyway. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is the third chapter of my NaNo project, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff.

Read Chapter One here. And/or Chapter Two here.

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Chapter Three

I fidget in the worn, straight-backed theater chair the teachers usher me into in the auditorium. We just finished getting ready fifteen minutes ago, but the shoes I borrowed from Amelia are one size too small, so already my heels are hot and chaffed and my toes ache from squishing into the end. My dress, on the other hand, is two sizes too big—I borrowed it from my brother Calvin’s girlfriend and the fabric, a paler version of the Identiband green, repeatedly dips off my shoulder no matter how many times I pull it back to where it should rest against my collarbone.

Amelia nods her approval as she slides into the seat beside me, like she can’t tell how nervous I am. “Love the heels.”

“I don’t think you’re allowed to say that.”

The shoes are navy blue, the color of a river at dawn, and just tall enough to make it look like my legs are an acceptable length without making me trip all over myself.

“Pshhh. Obviously I can say that, seeing as I had to love them enough to spend stamps on them in the first place.”

“You still sound self-absorbed.”

A crackle and chirp comes from the stage. The rows and rows of students already seated in the auditorium turn. Principal Scully stands center stage before the taller of the two microphone stands set up for the recruiting officers. Amelia leans back in her seat and crosses her arms. She raises an eyebrow—a dare for the principal to speak.

“Hello, New Capital High.” Principal Scully’s voice comes through garbled as the tech team works to adjust the old sound system. “This is a reminder that the Recruitment Assembly will begin promptly in five minutes and you must remain in your seats through the event, or suffer penalization by the Clinic. As always, you must not speak unless told to once the recruiting officers enter the premises. Thank you.”

“He should really try writing a new speech one of these years,” Amelia says.

I bump her shoulder. “No, half the students would have a heart attack. I’ve had this one memorized since year two.”

Amelia is just turning to me to retort when someone beats her to it: “What’s this about having a heart attack? Has someone fallen in love with me again?” Eric slips into the seat on the other side of Amelia and winks in my direction. His pale skin and messy auburn hair draws looks from the other students around us, but he doesn’t bat an eye.

Eric’s been getting those looks for longer than I can remember. He told me once that they bothered him—how everyone here thinks he’s odd since his hair is such an unusual color, a genetic anomaly—but since we became friends with Amelia, he just jokes about the stares.

With all the looks I’ve been getting today, I think I understand why. It’s easier.

I give him a wry smile. “The only reason someone would have a heart attack over you is if you tried making a move on them.”

His hand flies to his heart. “Oh. Miss Alexa Dylan. I’m hurt.”

“Like you don’t already know how I feel about you.” I bat my eyelashes, then pretend to gag myself with my pointer finger.

“You two are so cute.” Amelia throws her arms around us and squeezes. “You’re like an old married couple, minus the old and married and couple parts.”

I push her away. “Disgusting.”

“Oh, you talking about yourself now?” Eric raises his thick eyebrows. “You’d better be, after making me watch your vegetarian food for so long.” He says “vegetarian” like it is something unholy. “What’s happening anyway? Why have you two been so gossipy today?”

“It’s a bit of a long story,” Amelia says, feigning disinterest.

“The recruiting officers aren’t here yet. We’ve got time.” He leans back in his chair and runs a hand through his unruly hair. Eric is wearing khakis and a light blue button-down, but he doesn’t let the nice clothes keep him from resting his loafers on the armrest of the chair in front of him.

The year nine boys sitting on either side of it turn to us, scowls already slipping across their faces, but don’t make a move when they spot Amelia. She smiles at them and waves them away. There’s a reason everyone in Amelia’s family is in politics.

Eric meets my eye. “So?”

“It’s not actually a long story.” I shrug. “It’s just that the Ram apparently has been spreading a rumor that she wants to attack me during the assembly.”

“You mean your pretty face is going to be all messed up by the end of this?” He reaches over Amelia to gingerly pat my head, a melodramatic pout on his lips. I glower and it transforms into a grin. I swat him away.

Amelia slaps her hands over our mouths. “Shhh.” The house lights dim. “It’s starting.”

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67

day 27I apologize for the little bit of messiness. Since I’m not at school, I had to edit the numbers using Paint instead of an actual dry erase marker.

In other news, I currently have half a contact lens stuck in my left eye (it ripped in half last night and I was only able to find and pull out one part–I cannot, for the life of me, find the other half, although I can feel it stuck in there) (I know, I’m sorry people who have phobias of eye problems–*cough* Hannah), but yeah. I’m going to go try to figure out what to do about that now. Then work on NaNo until my guilt and panic win out over doing homework.

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The Publishing Industry for Non-Writers, Part 1”)

I’ve been getting lots of questions on the writing/publishing process the past half a year or so, due to my work on Cadence, so I figured I’d do a condensed overview of what trying to publish a novel is like in a series of Wordy Wednesday posts, for anyone who’s curious, specifically addressing the questions I most frequently get asked. This week I’m going to focus on the process of getting your novel ready to query, and then what querying exactly even is.

I give you–The Publishing Industry for Non-Writers, Part 1: From Idea to Agent

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Brainstorming/Writing

This is me writing. You can’t see the laptop, but just know it’s there.

The first step in publishing a book is, of course, writing one. Sometimes a writer will get an idea flash and start writing Chapter One or a particular scene right away, giving up all semblance of having a life for two weeks, and then they’ll be finished writing practically before they started. More commonly, writers will spend weeks or months brainstorming for a novel before they ever write word one. Some people are “plotters,” which means that they make complex outlines that detail various events, character arcs, etc before they begin a novel, so that they can comfortably know where they’re going before they begin to write. Other people are “pantsers,” which means that they write by the seat of their pants, or more specifically: don’t outline. Instead, they let the plot and characters take them where they take them. They might have a vague idea of where the story’s going, but they never know any specifics.

I’m personally, most definitely more on the pantser side, but I also can’t go into a story completely blind, like some writers do. While I rarely outline on paper, I usually have the basic structure of the story, and a lot of the major scenes, already worked out in my mind–and I normally spend a few months, if not closer to a year, working all of that out. Then, once I get closer to writing the end of the novel, I make notes detailing what needs to go into each of the remaining scenes and chapters, just to make sure that I don’t leave a bunch of subplots unresolved (because I’m like Dory the fish as far as remembering stuff goes), and I follow that rough outline pretty closely (although it’s always subject to change). I usually have a few different endings swimming around in my mind, and I won’t know how the novel’s actually going to end until I’m writing that final scene.

Unlike the super-writers who finish novels in two weeks flat (several of which I’m friends with–hi, guys!), I’m more likely to spend half a year working through a first draft. The shortest time it’s taken me to write a novel was four months; the longest was fourteen. Cadence took about seven. I didn’t know what direction I was going to make that plot go (I set it up with five or so different possible antagonists) until I was already halfway through the climax. I think writing this way is a lot more fun than having a structured plot to follow, although it does make it a bit trickier when revising, because then sometimes things that I’ve written with the idea of Billy Bob Joe being a bad guy don’t make sense when he turns out good in the end.

Revising

Snapshot_20130602This is my Revising Face.

After finishing a first draft, the rules of the game state that you’re supposed to put it away for a while (at least a month, if not longer), try to stop thinking about it to the best of your abilities, and then pull it out again after that month-or-longer to start revising.

Everyone revises differently, but I tend to do a quick read-through myself, fixing any and all problems that jump out at me (plot, specific sentence structure stuff, whatever is bugging me), then sit back and do another one more slowly, making sure that the writing flows and the plot truly is justified. Then I hand it off to my critique partners, or “CPs,” (other writers who you exchange writing with) and “beta readers” (people who critique your writing without expecting to really get anything in return) in order to, you know, critique. Some people only have a couple of CPs and betas, others have upwards of fifteen or twenty. I have about three who I use regularly, along with another five or so who I exchange writing with more sporadically.

In general, one of my novels will go through a solid five drafts before I ever move past the revision stage, between finding stuff to fix on my own and going through my CP/beta edits. Unfortunately, though, with Cadence I didn’t get the opportunity to do that. I finished writing it in January, set it aside for a month, and then the beginning of March I had to begin hardcore revising it in order to get it ready in time for the Writer’s Digest Conference. I only had the time to exchange it with two of my critiquers, and I had only read the thing myself once before the conference. By now, it’s seen a little more love, but it was a really scary thing going in to talk with literary agents when I had barely read the novel myself.

Querying

This Is a Query LetterIf anyone writes this novel, I will pay you $10.00 cold hard cash.

In order to traditionally publish a novel with a major publisher, you need a literary agent. Contrary to what most people think, a literary agent is not the same as an editor and a literary agent does not work for a publishing house at all. A literary agent, instead, is a not-so-neutral third party who loves your story as much as you do and tries to champion it to editors at the publishing houses in order to sell it, thus getting you a publishing deal. It is next to impossible to land a contract with a major publisher without a good lit agent’s help, and even if you do land a contract without one, chances are you would have gotten a better deal with one. Agents know all the ins and outs of the publishing world; they know how to get you the best deal possible, and get this–they don’t get paid unless you do. Typically, a lit agent will take 15-20% of whatever you make off your book domestically, and a little bit more internationally. And they’re worth every cent.

However, landing a literary agent is almost as difficult as getting published itself. A typical literary agent gets thousands of query letters every year, requesting their services, and of all those letters, they only offer to represent one or two new writers. Luckily, there are a lot of great agents out there, so getting an agent isn’t nearly as impossible as that figure seems–but it’s still really, really hard. Some people spend years pitching one novel after another to agents without an offer of representation in sight, garnering hundreds of rejections. Others–the rare cases–get an agent in their first patch of query letters, off their first novel. Most commonly, a writer will write, revise, and query multiple novels before finally getting The Call. (“The Call” is a phone call from a literary agent, offering representation. It’s a momentous occasion that I hear generally involves lots of holding-back-tears and trying-not-to-pass-out and general-excitement-in-the-form-of-happy-dancing.)

In order to get an agent, there are a few different paths you can take, but the most common one is to query the agent. In order to do that, you have to write and send a query letter, which is almost as bad as revising your novel (I say “almost as bad” because it gets slightly easier with each novel you query, as you figure out the format; revising novels, however, NEVER gets easier). There are a few different formats you can use to write a query letter, but no matter what, the definition of the query remains the same:

A query letter is a business letter written to a literary agent (or other publishing entity) requesting their services, comprised of a “hook,” which is something that catches the agent’s attention (a brief quote from the work, etc); a brief description of the work–a “pitch,” which details what the work is about, the work’s title, its word count, and its genre, etc; and a brief biography of the writer’s history within the publishing industry, such as past publishing credits and education.

So yeah, that might have turned into a bit of a complicated run-on sentence, but if you’re interested in what exactly A Good Query Letter Makes, you can follow the following links:

AgentQuery Guide to Query Letter Writing

Writer’s Digest Dos and Don’ts for Writing a Query Letter

Examples of Successful Query Letters at GalleyCat

Generally along with sending a query letter, an agent will request that you send sample pages–the first five or so pages of your novel–so they can get a feel for your writing style. If they like what they read, they’ll request for you to send either a “partial” or a “full” manuscript. A partial request usually is for something like fifty pages. A full manuscript request is, of course, for your full manuscript, and getting a full manuscript request is probably the most nerve wracking thing in an aspiring author’s life.

You wanna know why? Once an agent has your full manuscript, that means they’re seriously considering representing you. And they can take anywhere from a day to a year to get back to you about whether (or not) they’d like to.

Getting a full manuscript request is really exciting. I screamed and started racing up and down the hallways of the hotel I was staying in the first time I got one (I’m sure I was popular with the other guests). Getting an offer of representation off an FM is still really rare, though. More likely, the agent will email you back after a couple of months saying that they loved your main character’s snarky voice, or your innovative concept, or your great world-building–but it wasn’t quite right for them.

Snapshot_20130605What can ya do?

As hard as it is to get rejected off full manuscript requests, these are the best kind of rejections. They remind you that even though you still don’t have that shiny agent contract in your hands, you’re at least doing something right, for an agent to have even wanted to have read your FM in the first place. The other kind of rejection–the more common one–is the form letter. This is a letter that’s generally only a couple of lines long that is not at all personalized to you that generally looks something like this:

Dear Author,

Thank you for thinking of me to represent your work of fiction, but I feel that I did not connect enough with the material at this time to further consider representing it. However, I wish you all the luck in placing your work with an agent who feels differently.

Sincerely,

Coolio Agent Person

Or sometimes the agent just never replies at all, which is a “no response means no” sort of deal.

Like I said before, agents get literally thousands of query letters a year. They don’t have time to respond to each one individually. So although getting form letters can be disappointing, it’s important to remember that each rejection is just one query letter closer to an agent who will say yes–because, after all, all you need is one “yes” in that sea of rejections in order to get published. And: Every. Writer. Gets. Rejections. Even the super rich and famous ones. Even JK Rowling.

**********

… And now that I have completely flooded you with information, I think that’s where I’m going to stop for today. Want to learn more about publishing? Vote for the “writing process” option in this week’s poll. Have any specific questions you want answered? Feel free to ask me–in the comments, through an email, on Facebook, or in person. Whatever floats your boat, I’m always open to talking about writing.

After all, it’s my job and I love it. 🙂

42

~Julia

This Is a Book: Chapter Twenty Four

Oh gosh, sorry this chapter’s so late, as usual. We finally get back on schedule, and then I throw us off again. But this chapter’s way longer than the usual Mary parts, so hey! That makes up for the delay at least a little bit, right? Right. (I hope.)

Watch out for two of our winners from the character creation contest, making appearances in this chapter!

Don’t know what This Is a Book is? Follow this link.

Need to catch up on previous chapters? Follow this link.

**********

Chapter Twenty Four: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

“Telling our story, love?” Sebastian asks. We whirl to face the direction his voice comes from. He rests against the bottom of a rusted iron ladder that he’s lowered through the hole in the ceiling of ice, one foot propped against the bottom rung and his arms folded across his skinny chest. His pure white eyes stare in Rose’s direction, whether drawn by her voice or thoughts, I don’t know.

I imagine sawing Sebastian in half like a magician would his assistant, only minus the magic part. The little bit of light that seeps from the hole glints off his eyes, proving they’ve moved to face me. So he’s listening to thoughts, not what we’re saying out loud.

“Or both, of course,” he says, tapping his chin like he’s thinking through the matter. “You don’t truly think I am so low of a creature I can’t listen both with my ears and my mind at the same time, do you?”

“No, not at all,” I say as, in great detail, I imagine vomiting down his shirt. Thevampire stiffens. He first rests back against the ladder, then leans towards me.

“Do you have a problem with me, Mary Hart?”

“Oh, what would ever make you believe that?” I ask. “No, I’m totally grateful to the zombie dude who imprisoned me in his copycat Narnia castle just for associating with his ex-fiancé, you creep.” Someone snorts, but I don’t recognize the sound, so it’s not Rose or Pixie Stick. “Who just did that?” I squint through the darkness at the other cells. I’d thought they were empty until now. Nobody responds.

Sebastian clears his throat, and I whip back to face him.

“Are you insinuating that you do not find my dungeons unique enough to satisfy your fancy?” he asks with a weary pout.

Of course!” I snap. “Haven’t you seen the first Chronicles of Narnia movie? This is a total rip-off of the White Witch’s dungeons. I’m just waiting for the talking faun to appear.”

“What is a talking faun?” asks Pixie Stick from beside me, his squeaky little voice shaking only a smidgen out of fear. I’m surprised he’s acting so brave around the Dark Lord of Copycat Castles.

“It’s like this weird Roman half-man, half-animal thi—you know what, how about we just watch the movie when we get back to London, eh? It’s really cute. Lots of annoying magical creatures like you. You’ll feel right at home,” I tell him.

“Is Elvis in it?” he asks, clasping his little hands before him in earnest. “I love Elvis. Elvis is my idol. I want to be Elvis someday.”

“That’s it. My half a second of camaraderie with you is over.” I shove him into the corner of the cell and turn back to Sebastian. I raise one eyebrow. “So, Copycat Castle Dude. Can we get back to the story? As our little Rosie here can assure you, I have met goldfish with longer attention spans than mine. Chop, chop. Let’s get on with this thing.”

“After you just insulted my home decorating, you wish for me to allow this tale to continue?” His face screws up in an expression of melodramatic offendedness, but his tone is bland and uninterested.

“Uh, yeah,” I say. “How else are we supposed to pass the time in your little shop of horrors down here.” I direct a very pointed gaze in the direction of the anonymous snort from earlier, but there’s not a peep from the other cells. “Ugh, fine, whoever you are. Just let me sit here and babble on and on about my life, and don’t even bother doing the polite thing by introducing yourself!”

There’s another snort, this time followed by a cough.

“I can hear you, you know!”

“Mary, let it go,” Rose snaps. She’s sulking against the outer wall of her cell, as far from Sebastian as she can get. It’s difficult to see her through the gloom.

“Fine,” I say, sitting down right where I am and crossing my arms. “Then talk.”

“The second wave of the disease didn’t manifest until Sebastian and I were close enough to touch one another. While I stood beside my father’s decimated corpse, Sebastian approached me with a fever-light in his eyes.

“‘What are you doing here?’ I remember asking him.

“He responded, ‘Searching—’” Rose begins to say the next line, but Sebastian cuts her off with one piercing stare.

“‘Searching for my bride, of course,’” he says in a listless drone. “‘Why did you run, my dear, fragile flower?’”

It’s like the two of them are hypnotized, going through the paces of the story.

“Then,” says Sebastian, lifting his hand, “I reached out to place my hand on your shoulder, Rose—”

“—I opened my mouth to respond, but I saw him reaching for me, and I flinched back—” She presses herself as firmly against the wall as she can. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I become aware of the fact that Rose, who has always been able to float through any obstacle that should come in her path, cannot push herself through that dungeon wall to escape.

“—and the moment I was close enough to touch her,” Sebastian says, his hand falling back to his side, “the virus took.”

“So it takes being close enough to another human to touch them for the disease to affect you?” I say. They should applaud me for having such good analyzing skills, but neither Rose nor Sebastian seems to be aware of my presence anymore. “Guys,” I say. I slap my hands against the bars of my ice cell, but the ghosties don’t break out of the trance. “Guys!”

“Oh dear,” says the pixie. “I do believe they are lost in the memory.”

“Lost in the memory,” I say. “What. In. Elvis’s. Horrifying. Name. Is. That. Supposed. To. Mean.”

“Nothing too terrible,” he assures me. “Just that they will be stuck reliving the night they turned into ugly zombie-ghosts until a Powerful One intervenes.”

“A powerful one. What the heck is a freaking ‘Powerful One,’ Candy Man?”

“Candy Man?” He stares up at me with his huge brown eyes.

“You’re a pixie. Like the Pixy Stix candy.” I throw my arms up in exasperation. “Gosh, can you just get on to answering my question, you weirdo? We’ve gotta wake Rose up so we can get out of here! And defeat Sebastian! And stop the alien invasion! And get back to London so I can return to my daily pastime of kicking Randy’s butt until the U.S. government lets me go home!”

“A Powerful One is a creature like Sebastian,” the pixie tells me without any hint of having been insulted by his candy nickname. Twerpy little freak.

I glare. Between gritted teeth, I say, “So you want me to somehow go find another vampire-zombie-thing and just hope he’ll choose to help us instead of treating me like a giant bottle of grape juice? Huh?”

“No, no, of course not!” Pixie Stick claps his hands together.

What then?!”

“Simply locate the King! He is a Powerful One as well, and he is trapped somewhere in this castle!”

“You are far too excited about this,” I say. “You do realize I am trapped in this cell with you right now, right? What, are you just going to magically beam me—” Before I can finish my sentence, I’m standing on the other side of the bars, the pixie giggling uncontrollably behind me, still in the cell. I spin. “You could have let me out at any given point in time? You’ve been choosing to make me stay in there with you?”

“You never asked to leave before.” He shrugs.

A snort comes from my right, this time followed by an entire series of hacking coughs.

“Who’s there?!” I shout. “Are you the King?”

The voice is deep yet feminine, with a distinctive rasp that sounds almost like the buzz of a wasp. “I wish. If I were, I could get myself out of here.”

“Who are you, then?” I ask. “Medusa?”

“I wish. Then I could turn people to stone when they get annoying, which would give me far less indigestion.” The monster coughs again.

“Tell me your name, or I’m leaving you here to rot when I heroically manage to free all of us in a second,” I say as I slowly approach the cell.

The light in the dungeons has faded even more as night approaches, but I can still just barely make out the hulking shape of the creature.

“What are you, a giant guinea pig?” I hide the laughter in my sleeve.

“No,” she says, and the rodent-shaped monster pulls herself upward so that she stands on her hind feet. She towards over me, with flaming red fur-hair-stuff and the tail of a dolphin. “I am Kra, the almighty! The destroyer of worlds!”

“Yeah?” I cross my arms and stare up at her beady-eyed face. “And what world have you destroyed?”

“Atlantis.”

I take a step back. “The resort?”

“No, you buffoon. The original Atlantis. The real one. The lost city one.”

I swallow hard. “Well, I guess that qualifies you as a full-out, real deal destroyer of worlds. Congrats.” I take another few steps away. “Well, it was… uh… niiice to meet you, but I’ve got a world to save, now, so…”

And I turn and sprint in the opposite direction.

“I will eat you alive when I get out of here, you baboon! Alive, I tell you, alive! I will skin you! I will bake you! I will marinate you in banana pudding!”

I reach the ladder, shove Sebastian’s creepy vampiric body out of the way, and climb for the light. Behind me, Pixie Stick cheers, while Kra continues to call me monkey-names and threaten different ways of cooking my body.

On the floor above the dungeons, the ice ends, giving way instead to black marble columns and winding halls.

“Oh,” I say, “now this is going to be fun.”

An hour later, and I’ve just ducked into an alcove for the hundred and tenth time to avoid detection by one of Sebastian’s ghost cronies. I’ve checked the first three levels of the castle for the King, with no such luck, and I’m really beginning to wish this place came equipped with an elevator and a King-tracking GPS system.

I mean, really, is that so much to ask for?

Evidently so.

The ghost’s heavy presence—like a glass of whole milk to the face—fades away, and I slip out from the alcove. I creep towards the stairs.

“Okay, Mary,” I whisper to myself. “You can do this. You can locate the King and save Rose, no problem. This is not a big deal. You do way more intense things like this all the time. I can’t think of any of them off the top of my head, but you do. You’re fine. You can do this, you can do this, you can—”

A ghost soldier comes floating down from the top of the spiral staircase, and there’s nowhere for me to hide.

Maybe if you stay really still he won’t notice you, I think to myself. Like that T-Rex in Jurassic Park.

“Hey!” the ghost shouts. “What are you doing out of the dungeons?!”

Yeah. No such luck.

I’m preparing to make a run for it when another voice pipes up, Leave the human child alone, you fiend!

I look around for the source of my rescuer, but find none. Then a mouse darts out of a thick crack at the base of the marble wall, and the ghost screams. He floats through the nearest wall as quickly as his transparent white behind will take him and I fall back on my butt, sliding down a few steps before I can catch myself.

“What the Bieber, there’s a mouse in this house?” I yelp.

Yes, says the voice, and you would do well to learn how to hold your tongue.

“Oh my gosh. You’re a talking mouse.” Then it hits me. “Wait, I’m not hearing you out loud. WHY ARE YOU IN MY HEAD?” I throw my hands over my ears and stare at the hairy little beast in horror.

I’m a telepath, child, the mouse tells me in her lilting little voice. She scratches her ear with a hind leg and watches me with her beady black eyes.

“That’s creepy, dude.”

Would you like my help in locating the King of Norland, or not?

“Wait,” I ask, “how do you know that’s who I’m looking for?”

As I said, I’m a telepath.

I shrug. “Makes sense. Do you know where he is?”

Yes. Her whiskers twitch like her face is folding into a smile. Now follow me!

And off up the stairs the mouse leaps.

“Hey, hold up!” I call after her. “What’s your name?”

Without stopping her scramble towards the top of the staircase, the mouse responds, Mr. Squeaks.

Mr.? But you sound like a girl!”

I am a girl. But unfortunately my parents were planning on a boy when they chose my name.

“What crappy parents,” I mutter.

Don’t let them hear you say that, or my father might set your hair on fire, Mr. Squeaks warns.

“Your father’s a pyromaniac mouse?!”

The mouse chortles in my mind. No, of course not, silly! My family, besides being a breed of telepathic mouse, also has control over things like fire and explosions. Her tone darkens. So don’t get on my bad side.

We finally reach the top of the staircase, and I throw myself sideways out, flattening against a wall in case one of the ghosts is near. We’re alone in the hallway, though.

Come, human child! Mr. Squeaks urges. This way!

“I’m not a child, you know,” I tell her as I race to keep up, twisting through passageways and ducking through rooms. “I’m an adult—a young one, but an adult nonetheless. I’d be in college if it weren’t for all this magic and alien crap.”

Quick, in here!

The mouse ducks behind a statue of Sebastian dressed in robes like a Greek god just as one of his soldiers rounds the next corner. I slide in behind her and watch as he examines the hallway to make sure it’s empty—missing us in our super secret, super cool hideout (obviously)—and then returns to the next hall.

He is one of the King’s guards, Mr. Squeaks says in a quivering voice.

“How many of them are there?” I ask.

Thirteen. Sebastian is ever so careful with the King.

“You think if I tell them their vampire-ruler-man is stuck in a coma-like state, they’ll let me just bust the King right on out of there and take him to rescue the people in the dungeon?”

By “people,” do you mean “everyone but Kra”?

“Duh,” I say. “Who in their right minds would release that creep? No one.”

They probably still will not come to your aid where it concerns the King, however. More than Sebastian values his well-being, he values destroying the well-being of his prisoners.

“Fabulous,” I say, but dust off my hands and get to my feet anyway. “Well, let’s get to it. Any idea how to get rid of a few ghosts?”

Oh, I’ve got some ideas.

            Before I can react, Mr. Squeaks sprints off towards the corner, and dips around it. I follow as quickly as possible, sliding to a stop with my back right against the wall. Just as I peek around the corner, Mr. Squeaks shouts, May the loathing of my family be upon your heads! An explosion likes a firework rocks the next hall, and the ghosts scatter, screaming.

            Come quickly, child! Mr. Squeaks instructs. I dodge the fleeing ghosts and make a beeline for the door Mr. Squeaks is running towards. One of the ghosts has dropped a set of heavy iron keys on the floor, and I stoop to pick them up, quickly trying out the keys in the lock. It’s the second to last one that fits, and the door swings open. Beyond is darkness.

            “Hello?” I call through the doorway, impatient. “Mr. King, sir? Are ya in there?”

            “Oh yay! You have come to save me, have you not? You are the obnoxious human girl, Mary Hart, are you not?” comes a squeaky little voice from the darkness. “Hurray! You have saved me, finally. Yippee!”

            And out of the dark room beyond comes flitting a pixie much like Pixie Stick, only this one has slick black hair on its head, styled to look just like Elvis’s.

            “The King,” I say, my shoulders falling. “He lives.”

            Well of course the King of Norland lives, dearie, says Mr. Squeaks like she thinks my statement is crazy.

            “Not the King I was referring to.” I sigh and make myself grab for the pixie’s hand, tugging him in the direction we just came from. “Well, now that we’ve got you, let’s go. We need to make a pit stop in the dungeon to save some friends and an enemy, I’m afraid, but then we’ll surely be getting you out of here to head back to Norland.”

            “Save some friends?” chirps the King. “Like who?”

            “One of your pixie comrades and Rose, the zombie-ghostie-thing I got paired up with in this whole mission of saving you.”

            “And now I must save her?” He giggles. “How all very complex!”

            “Glad to see you’re the glass half-full type,” I say. “Now come on.”

With Mr. Squeaks scouting ahead of us and clearing out the evil ghosts all the way back down to the dungeons, it takes only a quarter of the time to make it back. I stick the mouse on top of my head while I climb down the ladder, after making her promise not to defecate on me, and the King floats down.

Immediately, the light in the room grows, despite the night above us.

“Oh dear,” says the King upon spotting Sebastian and Rose. “I see what you meant.”

“My King!” Pixie Stick cheers from his cell. “My King, the Ugly has found you!”

“Yes, my dear subject,” the King says, flittering over to the other pixie, “the Ugly has indeed.”

“Hey, not to break up this happy reunion, but—” I indicate to the two people still in a trance and say, “—we kind of need to get out of here before Edward Cullen’s minions realize Mr. Squeaks isn’t a Norse god and we are most definitely trying to escape.”

“Do not fret, dearest Mary Hart. I simply need a sword, and…” He lifts his hands above his head and wiggles his fingers, and a little tiny butter knife-like thing appears in them. “Now, who shall I wake up first?”

“What is that, a toothpick? What are you going to do with that?”

“Anything this sword touches will be released from its prison. I simply must touch the blade to your ghost friend’s skin and the memory will leave her.”

“Fabulous. Get to it.” I point to Rose. “Her first. And if you really must, then Sebastian second.”

“Unfortunately, as King, I am bound by a code of honor—”

“Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah. This is why I’m an assassin. We have no honor. Wake up Rose so we can get out of this place before I get hypothermia.” I shiver, staring at all the ice.

The King pops himself into Rose’s cell, and flies over to her. With a little Fairy Godmother-flair, he taps her on the shoulder with the blunt end of his sword, and Rose immediately jumps to alertness.

“Who, what, where—?”

“No time to explain,” I say. “King dude—wake up Sebastian so we can get our butts out of here.” There’s a rumbling coming from the floor above us, like dozens and dozens of angry voices gathering together in a roar.

The King zaps over to where I left Sebastian on the floor beside the ladder, and taps the vampire on the shoulder. He jerks to awareness, swiping out with his hands and his white eyes rolling back into his skull.

“What happened?” he thunders.

“We saved you, that’s what,” I spit.

“You’re out of your cell,” he says in disbelief. “How did you get out of your cell?”

The sound of his voice has caught the attention of the ghost soldiers above, and now I can make out several of them peering down at us from the hole.

“Don’t just float there!” Sebastian shouts. “Get them!”

In an instant, the dungeons become a flood of ghosts, as one after another floats down through the hall with a weapon at the ready.

“We need a distraction!” yells Rose from where she is still trapped in her cell.

“Ya think?!” I dodge the swipe of a ghost’s knife, and then a light bulb goes off inside my brain. “Wait, I’ve got it!” I make eye contact with the King, and he smiles knowingly. He tosses his micro-sword to me just in time for me to catch it and slice through the ice bars of the cell nearest me, releasing the creature within.

I shout, “Release the Kraaaa-ken!”

**********

Make sure to check Mel’s blog for Chapter Twenty Five, coming soon!

 

~Julia

This Is a Book: Chapter Twenty

Wow, can you believe we’re already up to Chapter Twenty in This Is a Book? Yes?

Well. It probably would have been more dramatic if I’d been able to remember what day of the week was Thursday more often, thus actually allowing us to get chapters out biweekly like we’re supposed to (and, you know, instead of on Monday). Whoops. I blame summer vacation.

Anyway, here, finally, is Chapter Twenty. And watch out soon for my post on polling for all those awesome characters you came up with! (Potato.)

Don’t know what This Is a Book is? Follow this link.

Need to catch up on previous chapters? Follow this link.

**********

Chapter Twenty: Al Capone Does My Shirts

            Rose is kidding. She is absolutely kidding.

            “What do you mean you can feel your heart? You’re dead, remember?”

            Wrong thing to say. Without even gracing me with a reply, Rose stalks off in the direction of the castle. It’s hard going. After only a step, she hunches over, dress balled in her fist at her chest, a low, frustrated scream escaping from between her lips. I turn to exchange looks with the pixie, but he’s gone. Of course.

            And now I am alone in a funky other-world with a ghost who has turned from levelheaded to constipated in a matter of seconds. Yay me.

            Then it occurs to me: Whatever is in that weird, sleek castle, it’s affecting Rose. Nothing ever affects Rose. She’s a zombie-ghost-thing.

            “Oh my gosh,” I say, stepping around Rose’s still struggling body so that I’m in front of her.

            “What?” she manages to get out from between her teeth.

            “I think you’re right. I think it is your heart. Because you’re acting almost real.”

            “Yes. Because not… being able… to walk,” she struggles, “seems… really… realistic, Mary.”

            Ignoring her, I say, “Here, let me help you out…” I reach towards her and she bares her teeth. I jump back, not sure if the other ghostly characteristics besides her ability to walk through walls (and, ya know, air) have begun to waver as well—like maybe she could possibly actually bite me now. “Or not.”

            “I need…” she grunts, “… to get… to… it…”

            “Why?” I ask, then something on her face catches my attention and I lean closer again. “Whoa. Rose. Your eyes are all bloodshot. How is that even possible?”

            “We… are in… a differentdimension,” she feels the need to remind me.

            “Good point.” I step back and cross my arms. “So why do you need to get to the castle? You really think your heart is there?”

            “I don’t… think… it’s there… I… know… it’s… there…!” she gasps out.

            “Okay, okay, okay,” I put my hands up, “don’t get testy with me.”

            “Are… you… serious… right now?”

            “Fine. Here. I’m going to help you.”

I reach out to touch Mary on the shoulders, hoping that she truly has become solid enough that I can do that (what a weird thing to be hopeful for), but the instant my skin comes in contact with hers, my legs turn to lead and the air gets sucked out of my lungs so fast it’s like I’ve been punched in the throat. Everything turns crimson, running in rivers, dripping from the sky, bleeding from beneath my fingernails. I stumble to the ground, and the moment I lose contact with Rose, everything turns back to normal. Well, as normal as it is in these parts.

“What. The—” Before I can finish my outburst, Rose cuts me off with a wave of her hand. Her eyes go cold as she takes one last step towards the castle, then gives up. As soon as she stops struggling, she goes back to normal as well. The pain leaves her face and she stands straight, floating a good foot off the ground.

I glower up at her, choking on air. “What in PWNBEIBER’s name did you just do to me?”

Me?” she snaps. “I did not do anything! It’s the magic of this place!”

I grunt, force myself to stand, and square my shoulders at her. “Rose, whatever’s in that castle, it’s obviously not good if it just nearly killed me. And did—you know—whatever it did to you. As the only member of this team whose actual life is at stake here, I vote we find that pipsqueak pixie, force him to take us to America—the real America this time—and get the heck away from the creepy king and your tell-tale dead heart and whatever else there might be lurking around here in this alternate dimension.”

“Who died and made you queen?” Rose asks, crossing her arms.

“Your sanity and Benjamin Franklin. Because, as I will remind you, you work for me.”

“I will remind you,” Rose says, “your supposed alien invasion is not the most prominent problem at the moment.”

“Have you always been like this, or did death make you grouchy?” I ask.

“You would know.”

“Yeah?” I ask. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you are the most insolent dolt I have ever had the displeasure of meeting, Mary. And, believe me, I have met quite a few of your type. It means—”

“Wait.” I put up a hand, glancing over my shoulder towards the castle. Rose stops midsentence.

Her words are quiet as she says, “What is it?”

“It’s not just me. You’re being affected by it too.”

“Affected by what?” she asks. “All I’m aware of is all the bleeding, bloody blood everywhere.”

There is pressure behind my eyes, growing stronger with every taunt. I stare at the dark, glossy castle on the horizon. It’s almost… pulsing. Growing with our anger.

“Rose, if your heart is in that castle, I don’t think you want to get it back.”

“And why’s that?” She plants her hands on her hips.

“Because it’s evil.” A shiver runs down my spine, spreading heavy cold to my limbs. I am at a loss for clever comebacks.

There’s a little pop to the right of me, and we both jump. The pixie has reappeared.

“Okay, Frank Sinatra,” I say. “What’s going on here?”

“The King,” the little fruit bat says seriously, like this is explanation enough.

“Yeah, and?”

“He is imprisoned there.” It gives me a look like this should be obvious.

“By what?” I’m starting to think I might actually rather not know.

“The other one knows.” It nods in Rose’s direction.

I laugh. “Hear that, Ugly #2?” I say to her. “Pipsqueak, here, thinks you know what’s going on.” The laugh turns into a full out snort as Rose’s expression darkens. She opens her mouth to speak, and I stop. “Wait, you don’t really know what’s going on here, do you? You’re lost too, right?”

“No,” says Rose. She stares at the castle, one eyebrow lowered, her lips pursed.

“‘No,’what?” I pause. “You don’t know what’s going on, do you?”

“No,” she repeats. “No, actually I do.”

**********

So, reminder to watch out for the polling post, and Chapter Twenty One will be up on Mel’s blog soon! Hopefully we’ll eventually get back onto our regular schedule.

 

~Julia

This Is a Book: Chapter Twelve

Whoa. Whoa, dude. Look. Look, it’s a new chapter of This Is a Book. IT’S FINALLY HERE!!! (I know. It really isn’t that exciting. But it’s after 11 PM, which means my brain is in the midst of shutting down for the night. You’re lucky you’ve caught me now, instead of in ten minutes when I’ll be attempting to do my Spanish homework and sleep at the same time.)

Anywho, if you don’t know what This Is a Book is, you can follow this link.

And if you’d like to get caught up on chapters–whether you haven’t read a word of this genre-less masterpiece, or you just need to read Chapter Eleven–here’s a link to a page that’ll help you with that too.

And now, I give you: Chapter Twelve.

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Chapter Twelve: Ragtime

            If Creepy Writer Man recognizes who we are, he doesn’t let onto it.

            As he shakes my hand he says, “Yes, are you here about the internship? I’m afraid I’ve already hired a chap, you see, so if you could just allow Ms. Fulson to escort you out…”

            Ms. Fulson harrumphs behind us. I laugh a little, tinny laugh, throwing my head back, and say, “Don’t be ridiculous, Mr. Smith. Or do you prefer to go by Booker? Or Book? Bookie? Book-boy? I find in my professional life, it helps to have my underlings call me by a nickname, in order to establish an air of humanity. Hence, Mary. My real name is Mariana Donna Dory Delilah Jackson—how drab is that?”

            Beside me Rose chokes on her ghostly spit. Randy doesn’t blink an eye. A twitch goes off in Mr. Smith’s jaw. I extricate my hand from his sweaty grip and smile the most radiant smile I can manage without seeming like I don’t take him seriously.

—I have a bad tendency of bursting into laughter at inappropriate occasions. Which might be part of the reason the US government is now convinced I was on something when I ran over their pesky diplomat.

            When Mr. Smith doesn’t respond, I raise my eyebrows and ask, “Book-boy?”

            “Oh, oh, yes,” he says. “I apologize, my dear, I’m just trying to figure out how to respond to your delightful… uh, speech. You may address me as Mr. Smith, thank you.” He glances over my head at the secretary, his lips set in a stern frown that is impossible to read, and then his eyes come back to rest on me. “How may I help you… uh, Mary, was it?”

            “Yes. Yes, Mary. As in Mariana Donna Dory Delilah Jackson of Dust to Diamonds Enterprises. Surely you know who I am?”

            Mr. Smith’s eyes seem to glaze over for a second as he thinks, trying to decide whether it is beneficial or not for him to act like he knows me, his forehead glistening even more than before under the room’s soft yellow mood lights. I can feel Randy and Rose holding their breath behind me—although that’s a fairly common reaction on Rose’s part. Then Mr. Smith gives a sharp nod, looks me up and down once, and says in an even tone, “Yes. Yes. Of course, Ms. Jackson.”

            “Please,” I say, rolling my eyes with a flourish. “Ms. Jackson is my grandmother. And Mariana is my mother. Call me Mary. I beg you.”

            “Yes, well…” It’s obvious Book-boy still doesn’t know how to deal with me—which is exactly how I want him.

            “My associate and I—” I indicate to Randy “—are here to talk to you about an article you released in the paper yesterday. You talked about one such Javier Boulevard and how he prevented a jewel heist from occurring, and—”

            “Yes, yes, very well. I know what my own article says.” Mr. Smith waves away my explanation like I’m daft or something.

            I mean stupid. Like he thinks I’m stupid. Awful Brits.

            “Good, then may we step into your office to discuss this article that everyone in the room happens to know about?” I sweep my arms wide and Ms. Fulson coughs. Before Mr. Smith has a chance to try turning us away again, I grab Randy’s arm and march quickly up the hall the reporter came from five minutes ago. Rose catches up to walk beside us, and Book-boy to The Rescue walks behind.

            “The key,” I whisper to Rose, “is maintaining control. Give them an opportunity to direct the interaction, you lose that control, and you lose the ability to gain anything from the conversation.” Louder, I call back to Mr. Smith, “Delightful office space, Book-boy. Did you design it yourself?”

            “Nuh-nuh-no—I’m not that high up in the newspaper hierarchy.”

            I arch an eyebrow at Rose like, See? Randy shakes his head at me, glaring. I stick my tongue out.

            “Sorry I’m so brilliant at my job, you awful thief,” I whisper under my breath. “Manage to steal anything from the office yet, or are you waiting for me to just hand you a hundred bucks?”

            “Does that nasty secretary’s paperweight count?”

            I narrow my eyes. “You did not.”

            “No,” says Rose, “he definitely did.” There’s a note of admiration to her voice. “While your circus antics kept Ms. Fulson captivated, he slid it right off her desk. It’s only a wooden piece—they must not pay her well—but it is indeed now stolen.”

            One side of my mouth twitches up in a grin that I quickly force away as I turn back to Randy. “Rose says you’re bluffing.”

            “What?” They say it in unison.

            “Excuse me, Ms.… well, Mary,” Mr. Smith interrupts us.

            “Yes?” I stop walking and turn back to face him, popping a hip. My skirt is uncomfortably short, but what’cha gonna do when your only business clothes came out of a children’s Halloween catalogue. Darn PWNBEIBER, not paying me enough for real clothes.

            “May I ask what you and your associate are speaking so intensely together about?” He steeples his fingers and leans towards me, as if we’re sharing secrets. His skin is pale in contrast with his dark grey, Italian-made suit.

            “No, of course not,” I say, tone weary. I rub my temples with one hand and place the other on my hip. I level my eyes at him. “It’s private diamond industry business matters, you see. Quite boring, actually. It has nothing to do with your delightful office and the article we have come to discuss today.”

            “How did you even get in here?”

            I open my mouth to answer, but before I can get a single syllable out, Randy steps in front of me, blocking my view with all six-foot-something of his lanky frame, and says, “I do believe we will be asking the questions today, Mr. Smith.”

            “His name is Book-boy,” I mutter. Randy jabs me in the stomach. “Well sorry, you ungrateful street-urchin-waiting-to-happen. You’re supposed to be a talented thief—how many meals do you think that paperweight’s going to buy you? Go become a newsie or something.”

            I glance around Randy’s side to find Mr. Smith looking between the two of us like he can’t decide whether we have gone crazy, or he has. Rose stands off to the side of the hall, laughing hysterically for some reason I cannot comprehend. Thank God nobody but me can hear her.

            —Or at least, that’s what I think until Booker Smith glances over his shoulder to make sure we are out of earshot and eyesight of that baboon he calls his secretary, then looks straight at Rose and says, “My dear lady, I beg your pardon for not introducing myself sooner. It is the greatest of honors to finally meet you. You must be Rose.”

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Remember to check Mel’s blog this weekend for Chapter Thirteen!

~Julia

Facebook Page, and Other Such Things

Hey there! So I’m currently at home for spring break, busily revising novels and watching too many movies and plays (I’m literally seeing one or the other every single day over break–this is like Julia Heaven), and I’ve got some exciting news to share with you. So without further ado, here we go:

  • Mel just posted Chapter Seven of This Is a Book on her blog. Check it out here.
  • Requiem–the last novel in the Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver–is coming out this week!!! AND I AM SO EXCITED. Ever since I got to read Requiem as an ARC a few months back, I’ve been dying to gush about the book to you, but I knew I couldn’t say anything until the book was actually released. AND IN A COUPLE OF DAYS I WILL FINALLY BE ABLE TO. So be watching out to a review or something sometime in the next couple of weeks!
  • I made a Facebook page! I’m going to be using it to put out smaller updates than what I’d talk about on here, but still very fun stuff, so I’d love for you to like it. 🙂 Thanks!

Well, that’s it for now I guess (I’m sure there’s something else I’m supposed to be telling you that I’m just forgetting), but I’ll talk to you soon! Have a great week!

~Julia