Connecting the Virtual Dots


A lot has been popping with Freeborn. I’ll reiterate this from previous posts: I have not submitted a single query via the usual channels yet. In fact, I didn’t complete my last round of polishing until 1:30 this morning. A month ago, my plan was to complete the final edit, and then begin querying on my self-imposed deadline of 6/16/2012.

Alas, that plan was tweaked a bit by some amazing opportunities which sprang up between the tightly laid cobblestones of my proposed path to publication. If you walk away with nothing else from this blog post, then I ask you to consider the weight and importance of being active online and being involved with the personalities you meet there. The partials I have received have stemmed from those virtual relationships.

I received TWO partial requests for Freeborn yesterday.

  1. Via the YaLitChat YALitChat Pitch Slam2 Contest – A request for the first 50 pages from agent Tamar Rydzinski of Laura Dail Literary Agency.
  2. Via the Month9Books Facebook page – A request for the first 5 chapters from publisher Month 9 Books.  

I originally heard about the YaLitChat Pitch Slam2 contest from a Twitter friend. To trace that lineage back even further, she & I were both involved in the #WVTP contest. Afterwards, a group of us continued to message one another, connect via Facebook, and celebrate/share/whine about our writing endeavors. If this connection had not been made and sustained, the Tweet announcing Pitch Slam2 would have scrolled along, getting buried in the rolling feed. Because we had connected with one another, I took notice of the Tweet and followed up on the opportunity.

Here is the form the request took. [Pay attention to the name of the Moderator. You will be seeing it again shortly…]

 Reply by Georgia McBride 
Tamar would like to see your first 50 pages! Congratulations! Please email us at membership@yalitchat.org for submission instructions!

I’ll try to keep the circuitry of the Month 9 Books motherboard as sorted as possible. While on YALitChat, the ‘Chat’ window bleeped at me. I joined in a conversation with Brenda Drake and Georgia McBride. Brenda and I had originally connected through her Brenda Drake Writes blog months ago, and then we connected again as she served as hostess-with-the-mostest for the #WVTP contest. Georgia is the founder of the YALitChat site [along with a ton of other endeavors!] and we connected there. A week ago, she took the time to thank me for being active and helpful in the PS2 conversations on the site.

In the midst of discussing a concern I had regarding a specific element in my pitch, Brenda asked if I had pitched to Month 9 books. I scribbled the info on a post-it to investigate later and continued chatting. Later, I discovered that M9B is yet another of Georgia’s many endeavors–and Brenda’s publisher. At the time, I had no idea of either connection.

I found M9B’s website and started my research. First of all, I loved the publisher’s tagline: Speculative fiction for teens and tweens…where nothing is as it seems. As always when researching agents and publishers, I delved further. I checked out every aspect of the company including the basics, what they are looking for, current titles & authors, and quality of the book covers. What I found particularly interesting were the Publishers Marketplace announcements on the ‘News’ tab: 2 & 3-book deals, auctions, and an expanding staff roster.

With the confidence that M9B would make a perfect fit for Freeborn & its author, I followed a link to their Facebook Page and submitted my query. Within five minutes, I received this response in the form of a Comment:

Month9Books, LLC. I’ll bite. I’m looking for straight-up sci-fi. Please send first 5 chapters to submissions@month9books.com. Please polish and make sure the world-building is solid.

One more dot to throw in here to increase the connectivity a hundred-fold: Georgia is represented by the illustrious, aforementioned Tamar Rydzinski.

Is your mind scrambled? It took me a few takes to trace all the circuits.

So, what’s the point of this post? Other than the fact that I’m geeking out over a pair of requests on the same day?

Make and sustain meaningful online connections with others who share your passion.

Yeah, I know. It’s common sense and it has been said before. Maybe I have nothing to offer except a reiteration of the obvious. I’m totally okay with that, because I am seeing the importance of the simple truth being played out in my own experience. Don’t underestimate the power of seemingly ‘simple’ advice–and virtual relationships.

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YA – Weird is ALWAYS good


I barely had FREEBORN written before opportunities to throw it into a few contests arose. There is a *possibility* that the manuscript may not have been completed when I entered it into at least one of them… I’m not confessing anything here. I’m simply stating a basic rule of probability. So, before I have submitted a single query, these are the contests FREEBORN has entered:

  1. Strange Chemistry – Prize at stake: A 2 book publishing contract – Current status: Mss sent. Results unknown
  2. #WVTP – Prize won: Request from uber-agent John M Cusick – Current status: Mss sent. Results unknown
  3. YALitChat Pitch Slam 2 – Prize at stake – Requests from 1-4 of the participating agents – Current Status:  Comments in process. Agent ranking of their top pitches begins next week.
  4. We Do Write 3-2-1 Pitch Contest – Prize at stake – Full request from Natalie Lakosil of The Bradford Literary Agency – Current status: Pitch submitted. Entry period closes 6/8.
  5. Super Intern Contest – Prize at stake: Pitch critique and feedback. Possible mss request – Current status: Pitch submitted. Awaiting the ‘random selection’ of the the 30 pitches which will move forward. http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

I believe that’s all of them.

What’s interesting about the contest process is that it offers a laser-like focus on honing the pitch and getting feedback on it BEFORE querying begins. The process is highly recommended.

As for the YALitChat pitch Slam 2, there are two more agents who have yet to make their initial sweep. [UPDATE: I HAVE ADDED THE COMMENTS FROM THE REMAINING AGENTS.] The comments on the entries vary from “full of trope”, “you might want to work on a different project instead because this premise is played out”, “amazing pitch”, to “please send me a synopsis & the first 50 pages”. Here are the pitches I entered and the feedback so far:

 Reply by John Lucas Hargis

FREEBORN – YA / SF – John Lucas Hargis

The squirming in Katia’s gut means two things: she is infected with the dreaded parasite, and her boring life as a sixteen-year-old clone is over. She knows she should obey the Surgeon Generals and submit to their treatment, but claustrophobia has a way of pushing Katia to do crazy things—like accepting Adam’s invitation to a safe house full of infected rebels. As Katia’s stomach swells, she experiences feelings she has never known, discovers the truth about the parasite inside her, and joins the rebels in their insane plan to shift the power. The Surgeon Generals are proficient at ending the little uprisings that threaten their illusion of peace. Only, they have never been faced with the plan Katia and Adam are involved in—one that seeks to infect every man, woman, and child on the planet with the Freeborn parasite the leaders are seeking to destroy. Katia’s fear of tight places is nothing compared to her fear of what will happen to every clone in the world, herself included, if she and the other rebels should fail—or even more so if they succeed.

 Reply by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

This sounds like stone cold scifi. Love it! Great work on the pitch.
 
 Reply by Tamar Rydzinski
Definitely an interesting pitch.

 Reply by Elana Roth

Very interesting. Some reservations about Alien comparisons or worms being good things but…it would get me to read on.

 Reply by Michelle Witte

The first sentence is a bit weak. What dreaded parasite? Is it the Freeborn parasite mentioned later? What does this parasite do—or at least what do the Surgeon Generals say it does to people?

Also, why would her claustrophobia keep her from seeking treatment? Right now it feels like an unnecessary trait tacked on, so make us see how it applies to the story.

If you can incorporate those things, your pitch will be solid.

*************************************************************************************

Reply by John Lucas Hargis

Capritare: Discovery – YA Fantasy/LitFic Mashup – John Lucas Hargis

Capritare flexes his furry legs, clacks his new hooves against the stone floor, and hopes that in cycle two, he’ll get a big rack of antlers, or maybe even wings. Perhaps he shouldn’t worry about such a trivial thing since the three Ogen have made their expectations crystal clear. These seven cycles present his final opportunity to reach completion. Capritare vows to fight with passion, explore every nook of the colony, deal with the random appendages attached to his adolescent body, and—somehow—even find love. Although he failed miserably in his previous nine-hundred-ninety-nine lifetimes, he always knew he’d get another chance—and then another. If he screws up this time, there is only one thing waiting for him on the other side of failure—absolutely nothing.

 
Your stuff is just so weird! I love it.
 Reply by Tamar Rydzinski
 
This is kooky in a good way

 Reply by Elana Roth

Definitely kooky. I need a tad more grounding in the first 2-3 sentences that tell me more explicitly what’s going on, but otherwise, good tone and voice. 

 Reply by Michelle Witte
 
You’ve definitely got talent as a writer, but like Elana, I need a bit more info to be fully grounded. I can envision Capritare, but not his world, the other people/creatures there, or his place within it. Give us a firm sense of what he must do and how, and you’ll be golden.

*************************************************************************************

I would [of course] prefer instant requests, but these comments are greatly appreciated and encouraging. They also lead into the second part of this post, which is expression of my goal for writing in the first place and what I believe my Brand is: YA Weird.

I can’t fathom wasting my time on the rehashing of a story that has been told before. Apparently, some authors seek that as their goal: to tap into the next big trend, or ride on the wave of a current one. Eff that. I want to write my own stories and create my own tsunami. I have additional encouragement on that front as well. It comes from a Twitter feed from earlier this week. #AADA or “Ask A Drunk Agent” hosted by my platonic-agent-crush: John Cusick.

Questions were flying as aspiring authors attempted to take advantage of a slightly “tipsy” agent willing to be candid with his answers. Many random things were discussed along with publishing–including this out-of-context tidbit: ‘I hear if you put your scabies in a box of rice, they will dry out.’ – If you get the reference, welcome to the fanclub!

Back to my ‘Brand’ of YA Weird. Here are the relevant Tweets from the hugely entertaining and insightful #AADA session.

John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick Prognosticate for us in your stupor? The mss you would love to see 6 months from now would include…? #AADA

John M CusickJohn M Cusick@johnmcusick

@gypsyroots A totally original contemporary romance. #AADA

John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick UGH. Never mind. #AADA

SnowmenWriteSnowmenWrite@SnowmenWrite

@gypsyroots @johnmcusick Luckily there is always a fair amount of weird out there too. I think you are still in good shape. 🙂 #AADA 

John M CusickJohn M Cusick@johnmcusick

@SnowmenWrite @gypsyroots Let me be clear: weird is ALWAYS good. #AADA

 Jamie CorriganJamie Corrigan@saphirablue84

@johnmcusick Amen to that! #AADA @SnowmenWrite @gypsyroots

 John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick @SnowmenWrite YA Weird is my genre. The issue is pulling back from a LitFic vibe w/o going too simplistic w/ the writing. #AADA

I will always* [*While a definitive statement is being made here, I retain the rights to amend it at any time if I so choose] bounce around within the walls of Fantasy and Sci-Fi. The reason: those walls are nebulous and permeable. They span wide and allow for universe-sized tanks of breathing room. Anything can happen in that space. And that is the perfect breeding ground for the storytelling of John Lucas Hargis–author of YA Weird novels. 

[Let me throw in a shout-out to @fizzygrrl http://fizzygrrl.com/ & @christinaferko http://christinasbooks.blogspot.com/. They are amazing up-and-coming authors who were involved in the #AADA conversation, but weren’t part of the specific conversation used in this post. Much Twitter & website love to all the @s in this post!]

Forget the Zombie Apocalypse. Prepare for F-DAY!


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As writers, we write stuff. [Genius, I know!]

Sometimes that stuff hits a chord and resonates with a reader. I’m not talking about the “Oh, I really like that story” or “You should be a real writer” kind of resonance. I’m thinking of something a little deeper, a bit more personal–the kind of connection that happens when a story actually zings inside the reader.

There have been many instances of writers ‘foretelling’ the future. Sci-Fi is good for this. Authors like Isaac Asimov created fictional events, technology, and gadgetry which seemed far-fetched and ludicrous at the time. I remember [bits and pieces of] Fahrenheit 451 from High School. I can turn my head away from this laptop screen and see something in my very own home that seems eerily similar to Ray Bradbury’s wall TV concept. 

There have been a slew of zombie movies and books hitting the market for years now. [For the record, the campy 1950’s setting of the movie Fido is my all-time favorite.] Sometimes the zombies are really fast and nimble, other times they are slow and clunky (but still eat your face anyway). Apparently, In Miami, the Zombies prefer to dine au naturalle.

And so the Zombie Apocalypse Begins.

Do I really believe in a soon-coming day when Zombies will roam the land? Ummm, no. What I do believe is this: the story in that link is kinda creepy. Not because it has a coked-up killer in it, but because–one day–somebody’s book is going to get it right. We’re going to wake up and find that the world as we once knew it is gone.

It could be real-life (real-death?) zombies, an alien spacecraft hovering over Paris, animals with the ability to talk, some chap in S. America who suddenly reveals he can fly under his own volition, a near-earth asteroid scorching the ozone, or a little girl who can predict the lottery with 100% accuracy. And, chances are, someone will already have written a story about it before it ever happened.

My novel, Freeborn, has some of the basic sci-fi elements necessary to make it believable: technology that has evolved from where it is now to where it might be heading, socio-economic dynamics as they may look in the future if we remain on our current trek, realistic interactions between characters in a world based on these changes.

Thankfully (because I wouldn’t be much of a writer if it didn’t),  Freeborn also incorporates fresh concepts that have never been explored in the genre. Plenty of these are sprinkled throughout the narrative, but everything hinges on that one key hook which–to my knowledge–has never been explored in the same way in previous novels.

Clones have been done–yes. Infection by viruses has been done–no brainer. But, when the virus infecting the clones causes spontaneous pregnancies to occur–regardless of the clone’s sex–well, haven’t seen that one until I put it down on paper myself.

Once-fictional-now-real technology exists. Folks wrote about zombies and then some naked guy kept munching his victim’s face even though the cops shot him–over and over. I’m not saying dudes are going to start having spontaneous babies. I’m just saying: if it ever does happen, you heard it here first.

So how will you know what to do when you wake up as a victim of the spontaneous pregnancy apocalypse? What should you do when Freeborn Day (F-Day) becomes a reality?

You must begin by clicking “Like” on FREEBORN’s Facebook Page. Today!
Don’t wait until it’s too late!

And, once it’s published, you need to buy the book (of course!)

It’s the only way to be prepared when F-Day hits.

[You know, if it ever comes…]

Excerpt: FREEBORN


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Movement ripped Katia out of her imaginings. A man in a baggy shirt passed her bench. Even though the day was cool, large patches of sweat darkened his armpits. He couldn’t hold his head still. He kept checking over his shoulder. Frightened. Infected.

“You see him, Katia?”

“Yeah. He’s got to be a mark.”

“I agree. You ready to snag him?”

“I am.”

“Be careful.”

Katia stood, leaning on her cane. She broke into a quick hobble to close the gap between them. The infected man glanced back at her. Picked up his pace. Forget the cane! Just get to him before he reaches the scanner.

Katia stood upright, and shifted her weight to take off in a sprint. Adam yelled in her head, “Katia, abort! Candystripers!”

A pair of figures flashed past her. They corralled the man an instant later. He tried to run, but one of the assassins landed a roundhouse kick to his gut, slamming the man to the concrete.

“Stay down, parasite!”

“Haha! Look at him. All infected and bleeding from the mouth.”

The man writhed on the cement. Clutching his belly. Gasping.

“Pl—please,” he begged between inhales. “Don’t k—kill me.”

“Katia! Get out of there!”

But she couldn’t move. She was transfixed. Had to watch. Stay within earshot.

The Candystripers circled the man.

“Let’s see,” said one of the assassins. “I’m gonna bet he’s…eight days infected.”

“No way!” said the other. “More than that. A lot more. I’m gonna go with fourteen days.”

“You’re hyped up on Ambrosia! No way he’s been hiding for that long.” He kicked the man in the ribs. “Have you, parasite?”

“I’ll bet you fifty debits. Whoever’s closest without going over: wins.”

“You got it, chump! Check him.”

The high-bidder pulled out a portable detector. The low-bidder lifted the man’s shirt with the toe of his shoe. His partner slammed the needle into the man’s stomach. A moan. A red light.

A holo-screen projected into the air. The high-bidder read off the stats. “Felix-2190. Crop 03. Infected. Sixteen days. Ha! I told you!”

“Lucky guess,” said the loser. He pointed his gun. Fired two quick shots. One to the man’s infected gut. One to his head.

“Adam?”

“Yeah?”

“I can’t wait until those assholes get infected.”

***

Update: Backspace Logline Contest


I won the Backspace Agent Author Seminar Logline Contest ! More specifically, I won the prong of the contest that had to do more with marketing ability than writing skill. In my opinion, a win is a win!

The authors of the three Facebook contest entries that receive the most combined “likes” and comments will each win a signed and personalized copy of literary agent Donald Maass’s two essential how-to guides, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL and THE FIRE IN FICTION!

I received a combined total of 39 likes and comments. So here is a hearty Thank You to all you flesh-and-blood–as well as virtual–friends who supported the effort. Here is the entry submitted for a ‘fictional’ novel.

Backspace|SEMINAR Logline Contest Entry #17 – INFECTION: After two hundred years of mass sterilization and cloning, a super-virus attacks the world population. No one is immune. The elderly, toddlers, women–and even men: everyone is infected with the dreaded Pregnancy. J.L.H. – Bucyrus, Ohio

For those of you that keep updated with my writing endeavors, this plotline should sound very familiar. The idea began its life as a short story entitled “Infection”. When I originally penned the concept, my goal was to keep it under 1,000 words. Mission accomplished. Then, like a lot of authors’ creations, the story took on a life of its own.

And that, my friends, is how FREEBORN the novel came into being.

I’ll have two brand-spanking new, signed books in my hands in a couple weeks. If anyone wants to take a look at them–just let me know. I’m a giver.

Beta Comments: FREEBORN


Holy FREEBORN, Batman!

Apologies for neglecting the blog posting over the last couple days. I have been churning out a chapter a day on FREEBORN. So far, I have been receiving amazing feedback from my betas. There have been a few minor issues I have corrected, but no major flaws.

Tonight, I received this as portion of some feedback from Tamara Hickman  http://tamarahickman.wordpress.com/ based on the first seven chapters. Of course, I took out the few ‘suggestions’ and just left in the positives for public consumption. 🙂

HOLY CRAP, MAN! Where is the rest? I need it!

I was sucked in, and couldn’t stop reading. There are large sections with no notes, and those are probably the places where I was completely enthralled by the story. If something jarred me out of the story, I noted it.

All of my preconceptions about this story are gone. I didn’t think that I could enjoy the story as much as I did. I love the characters, and their interactions with each other are fluid. The dialogue is sharp, and I can see distinct personalities in almost all of your characters. The introduction of the infected candystriper is genius, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Your story is extremely dynamic, and there is never a moment where the friction/action/conflict stops. There is always something going on, driving the story, and I could tell that right away when it forced me to stay up until 1:04am, reading to the very last word. And then I wanted to cry when there was no more. =)

Holy Handgrenades, Bat Man! Hurry up and finish this book so I can get my claws on it!

Review: FREEBORN


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By chance, I happened upon an opportunity to share the first three chapters of FREEBORN with a stranger–Alexandra Davidoff. We ‘met’ in an online forum where I was seeking feedback on the Pitch. Things progressed from there, and I emailed her a draft. Today, I received this comment in my inbox.
 
Freeborn is an intriguing piece. I like your style of writing, there’s almost an element of poetry in with the descriptive parts that makes it easy for the reader to understand the thoughts and emotions of your MC. I’ve never read anything that’s similar, and that’s a good thing. You’re very unique. I loved the concept, it wouldn’t appeal to everyone but it’s originality made it addictive. I think the chain of events in the first chapter make for an addictive opening, and the interaction between the two characters, Adam and Katia is fantastic. I felt for Katia. Her sadness, her rage, her self doubt came alive with your narration. I loved how the infected bellies were vividly described. The scenes were definitely easy to see in my mind, and the characters were memorable. The dialogue was well balanced with the narration, not overpowering it; I personally like description over dialogue, but your style holds a great balance between the two and I think that would appeal to your readers very well. The plot is adventurous, filled with adrenaline. Things move fast but aren’t confusing. It was an easy story to read, and I found myself smiling back on certain scenes as I moved forward. You have a great sci-fi adventure tale in your hands.”
 
That kind of feeback is good to hear. It echoes comments from two other beta readers that have read through the first seven chapters. I am definitely encouraged to continue writing this story. On to chapter eight!