Monday, September 30, 2013


My talented daughter made a picture card for my birthday present a few weeks ago. And what did she pick for the subject?

She drew my hamsters from my middle grade story Pygmy Hazards!!!! Meet Tom and Jerry the Third up close and personal! Aren't they cute?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Valuable Links: Emotion Thesaurus

You want to avoid telling the emotion of your characters, because telling is supposedly a very, very bad thing. But how do you manage that? 

If you can't tell everyone that Scooby Doo is afraid, then what do you do? 

The easiest method is showing his body language to clue in the reader. Instead of saying Scooby Doo was afraid. 

Scooby Doo's eyes bulged. He shook like a doggie earthquake and wiped sweaty paws on the back of Shaggy's green shirt.

But what do you do if you want to show an emotion, but your ideas are dry?

Why you run straight to the Emotion Thesaurus quick links. There you'll discover that frustration is bunching your hands into fists or running fingers through hair or kicking at something. 

They have over forty emotions so you're sure to find the one you need to describe your character. Happy showing!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Win A Copy of Kindar's Cure

I've got an interview today over at Laurie's Thoughts and Review, along with a chance to win a copy of Kindar's Cure. I'm discussing the influences that helped me create my story and trying not to sound like an idiot. 

You can enter there or enter here. Though the magic of technology, all entries are linked into one giant giveaway.

Princess Kindar of Anost dreams of playing the hero and succeeding to her mother’s throne. But dreams are for fools. Reality involves two healthy sisters and a wasting disease of suffocating cough that’s killing her by inches. When her elder sister is murdered, the blame falls on Kindar, putting her head on the chopping block.
No one who survives eighteen years of choke lung lacks determination.  A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with a vision—a cure in a barren land of volcanic fumes. As choices go, a charming bootlicker that trips over his own feet isn’t the best option, but beggars can’t be choosers. Kindar escapes with Mal and several longtime attendants only to have her eyes opened that her country faces dark times.

Her mother’s decision to close the prosperous mines spurs poverty and joblessness, inciting rebellion and opening Anost to foreign invasion. As Mal urges her toward a cure that will prove his visions, suddenly, an ally turns traitor, delivering Kindar to a rebel army, who have their own plans for a sickly princess.

With the killer poised to strike again, the rebels bearing down, and the country falling apart, she must weigh her personal hunt for a cure against saving her people.

Here's a sample of one of the interview questions:

What books have most influenced this story?

Gone with the Wind was a big influence. My main hero, Henry, has a love of the land that comes directly from that book.

But the biggest influence came from the history books I read about Elizabeth the First and her parent, Henry the VIII. One often forgets that Henry the VIII had children, everyone tends to focus on him and his wives. But his children must have lived lives of fear what with constantly being in dread of losing their heads.

Instead of making my main character’s father a tyrant, I switched that around and gave Kindar a tyrannical mother, then decided to make the whole theme one of a matriarchal society. 

The relationships of distrust and instability within the royal family I created for Kindar’s Cure all comes directly from the real royal family of Henry VIII. I just threw in a little murder and magic.

I really appreciate everyone stopping by to help make this giveaway a success. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Are You Feeling Lucky, Punk?

First off, just a picture to show the frogs are still around! We'd feared the cold nights had driven our green friends underground, but now proof that they are hanging in there.


Luck. So much of life relies on luck, and that certainly includes the query trenches. So I was wondering what sort of superstitions do people rely on to bring them luck.

I will admit to being superstitious when it comes to sports. I've resorted to sitting in the same seat for each game, wearing the same clothes, and even eating the same food. Back when the Cubs were in the playoff--yes it did happen--I sat on the same spot on the floor for each game, listening to the game on the radio, while watching it on TV with the sound turned off. (Those national TV announcers just weren't the same. Much too fair-minded, give both sides equal time. Who needs that?)

As far as querying, I might have had a trick up my sleeve. A little something my son brought me back from his trip to Japan in June.

This is no ordinary strange white fox. It's a lucky fox spirit. This spirit called Kitsune, or Japanese for fox, is able to henge or shapeshift. Besides being the messenger of the harvest spirit, Oinari, and known for luring the opposite sex when in it's human form, Kitsune is also considered by some to be lucky.

I may or may not have plunked my Kitsune down on my nightstand and given him a pet each night. I may or may not have wished my lucky fox would bring me an agent.

But I do know that two months later, that wish came true. 

So do I still pet Kitsune each night now that I'm on submission? What do you think?

Time for your confession. What lengths do you go to to secure your luck? What tricks have worked for you?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Query Questions with Jennifer Goloboy

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

I just love the name of this agency. Please welcome Jennifer Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary for more query answers.

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?

In early September and early January I'm generally busy submitting manuscripts, so I'd avoid sending queries at these times.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query? 

Only if you accidentally called your book "Let's Eat Grandma" instead of "Let's Eat, Grandma".

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong? 

Only if the query is strong. I generally want sample pages only if I like the query.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them? 

I check all of them… which is why it sometimes takes a while. 

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages? 


Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested? 

Please query only one Red Sofa agent at a time. If I think a query shows promise, but it isn't my kind of thing, I'll let Dawn take a look, and vice versa.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript? 

I'd rather hear about the manuscript. However, this doesn't mean that you should be stiff and formal in your query letter-- that's really not necessary. One exception: if someone I know told an author to query me, or an author and I met at a conference, I would like to know that. 

Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?

Many talented writers get the genre wrong-- that's not a problem. I will not reject a book because the word count is off, but it will be the first thing to get fixed, so why not do that before querying? An example-- I recently received a romance manuscript that was about twice as long as it should be, but showed a lot of potential. That was a revise and resubmit.

Is there a bias against querying authors who have self-published other books?

No. One of my clients, Daniel Bensen, self-published a book called The Kingdoms of Evil. (You can read it here: The talent he showed in this book was one of the reasons I represent him. What you should never do is self-publish a book and then immediately query me for the same book-- you just published it, what do you need an agent for?

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one? 

Yes, social media is important-- authors are going to need to publicize their books, and this is a cost-effective way to do it. I want to know that an author is committed to getting people to read the book! 

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive? 

Not at all! An author can also mention a blog or artwork in the bio, especially if his credits are thin, or if he's achieved special recognition for this work.

What bio should an author with no publishing credits include? 

Here's what not to include: "This is the first novel I have ever completed." (Warns me that the prose is probably pretty rough.) "I've been published in my college/high school magazine." (How unbiased was the editorial board? I know I talked my board into publishing my stuff even when it was horrible.) "This has been professionally edited." (I probably haven't met your editor, so I don't know how competent he is.) "I have X children and Y pets, which qualifies me to write YA." (Unfortunately, no.) 

Here's what to include: Uncommon life experiences, especially if they gave the expertise to write the manuscript. ("I have been a horse trainer for ten years…") A link to a blog or other social media content, especially if it's demonstrably getting attention. Other skills, talents, connections or memberships that might make publicizing the book easier. My client, Tex Thompson,( helps run a big writers' conference; Jamie Wyman, who has a book coming out this fall from Entangled, ( can breathe fire.

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you? 

It means that while this manuscript shows talent, either it's about something I don't enjoy reading about (like elves) or is something I don't know how to sell. Other agents will probably feel differently about this idea.

What themes are you sick of seeing? 

Standard paranormal romance/urban fantasy, especially in YA. I love a good romance, but it really needs to be something new-- and a new kind of supernatural creature does not count. Standard steampunk seems pretty played-out too. 

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list? 

I try not to keep a wish list-- I'm looking for smart, well-written, innovative science fiction and fantasy for kids and adults. A sense of humor is a plus, as is a really good romance. That said, I have been asking for a YA/NA marching band romance for months, and so far I've only seen one!

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 

I'm a huge Terry Pratchett fan, for the way his books are funny, humane, and (in their own way) an astute reflection on British history. The most recent book I read and enjoyed: William Haggard's The Unquiet Sleep (1962), which featured a female answer to James Bond-- a heroine of the French Resistance with one steel foot. I don't know why that one never became a movie! ( Write me a sci-fi version of this, and I'll be a happy woman.


In Fall 2011, Jennie Goloboy joined Red Sofa Literary as an Associate Agent. Jennie Goloboy has a PhD in the History of American Civilization from Harvard. She is also a published author of both history and fiction, and a member of SFWA, RWA, SHEAR, OAH, the AHA, and Codex Writer’s Group. Her funny, spec-fic short stories appear under her pen name, Nora Fleischer. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Valuable Links: Start a Contest

This week's valuable link is one that lets you do some promoting while having fun. What could be better than fun! 

Rafflecopter can help you design and run a contest. It does the heavy work for you, keeping track of who entered,  how long the contest runs, and listing the rules. It will draw the winner for you, making sure everything is random.

At the same time, it'll offer people entries for following your blog, twitter or facebook, twittering about the contest, or leaving comments. The options are endless.

And it's all free for basic membership!! 

Don't be thinking you can't handle a contest. Rafflecopter does it for you. Afraid no one will enter? Send me a twitter invite and you are assured of one person's interest, plus I'll help you promote.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Feel the fear because here they are! The agents of Nightmare on Query Street, live and in the flesh. 

If you haven't heard the news yet, Michelle, SC, and Mike are at it again with a Halloween contest called Nightmare on Query Street. You can find all the info here! It's gonna be awesomely spooky and we hope you help us make this a success.

Be sure to take a look and see if your genre is represented. 

Currently, we have EIGHT agents signed up for the contest. With any luck, we'll have more come October 19th. Now, for the moment you've all been waiting for...the agent list.

Thanks a million to all the agents who found the time in their busy schedules to make this contest happen. You are all AWESOME. 

Tweet your thanks using the #NightmareQuery hashtag on Twitter.

PS: Don't forget Mike is holding a flash fiction contest to secure a spot in the 100 entries we will accept. He's already got some great entries. He'd love to read yours!

Jordy Albert is a Literary Agent and co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She holds a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University, and a M.A. from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the L. Perkins Agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. Jordy also works as a freelance editor/PR Director. She enjoys studying languages (French/Japanese), spends time teaching herself how to knit, is a HUGE fan of Doctor Who, and loves dogs. 

She is looking for stories that capture her attention and keep her turning the page. She is looking for a strong voice, and stories that have the ability to surprise her. She loves intelligent characters with a great sense of humor. She would love to see fresh, well-developed plots featuring travel, competitions/tournaments, or time travel. Jordy is specifically looking for:

* Middle Grade: contemporary, fantasy, action/adventure, or historical.
* YA: sci-fi, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, contemporary, historical (Though I am open to looking at other sub-genres, I'm looking for YA that has a very strong romantic element).
* Romance (contemporary and historical).

Molly has been working closely with Folio authors’ projects since 2008, and is an Associate Member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR). In addition to building her selective but growing list of clients, Molly utilizes her editorial background, previous work experience in the e-publishing industry, and intimate knowledge of the Folio list in her position as Folio’s Co-Director of International Rights. She actively pursues sales of international and audio rights and attends all major international book fairs, helping Folio clients’ books reach wide audiences in as many formats as possible. Molly is an avid reader, and when she’s not devouring manuscripts, she can usually be found camped out in the aisles of the Union Square Barnes & Noble (until they kick her out at closing time).

* Middle grade and YA fiction. Interest in paranormal

Pooja Menon joined Kimberley Cameron & Associates as an intern in the fall of 2011, with the aim of immersing herself in the elusive world of books and publishing. She soon realized that being an agent was what she was most drawn to as the job was varied and challenging. She represents both fiction and non-fiction for Adult and YA markets.
Her passion for reading inspired her to acquire a BA in Literature and Media from England. Her love for writing then took her to Los Angeles where she pursued an M.F.A in Fiction from the Otis School of Art and Design.
In fiction, she is interested in literary, historical, commercial, and high-end women's fiction. However, she's most drawn to stories with an international flavor, vibrant characters, multi-cultural themes, and lush settings.
In fantasy, she's looking for original, layered plots with worlds as real and alive as the ones that were created by J.K Rowling and Tolkien.
In YA, she's looking for stories that deal with the prevalent issues that face teenagers today. She is also interested in fantasy, magical-realism, and historical fiction.

Bridget Smith began her career at Dunham Literary, Inc. in June 2011.

Previously, she was an intern at Don Congdon Associates, worked at a secondhand book store in Connecticut, and evaluated short story submissions for under Liz Gorinsky and Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

She graduated from Brown University in 2010. While there, she studied anthropology and archaeology, worked as a radio DJ, fenced on the varsity team, and helped design an experiment that she later performed in microgravity at NASA.

A lifelong fan of children’s books, she’s looking for middle grade and young adult novels in a range of genres, including fantasy and science fiction, historical fiction, romance, and contemporary, plus anything that bends the rules of genre. She is actively seeking books with underrepresented or minority characters.

She is also seeking fiction for adults, especially fantasy and science fiction, historical fiction, and literary women’s fiction.

In accordance with her college degree, she’s interested in informational, literary nonfiction, especially science or history written by experts for a general audience.

Sarah Negovetich is fully aware that no one knows how to pronounce her last name, and she's okay with that.

Her favorite writing is YA, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty, it's accurate if not exactly motivational. 

Sarah's background is in Marketing. FYI, your high school algebra teacher was right when they told you every job uses math. She uses her experience to assist Corvisiero authors with platform building and book promotion.

Sarah is only accepting MG and YA fiction manuscripts.

She is open to any genre within those age groups, but prefers speculative fiction.

Contemporary is not her favorite, but she will look at it. She is not interested in seeing poetry, novels in verse, short stories/novellas or anything focused on saving the environment (she's all for recycling, but doesn't want to represent it).

Victoria is currently representing only digital-first titles.
I was born and raised in Queens, New York and graduated from the City University of New York, Queens College. Before joining the Bent Agency, I completed internships at Serendipity Literary and the Carol Mann Agency. In my spare time I can be found teaching dance classes for young students or watching re-runs of The Office.
I love books that teach me something, whether it be about a culture I don’t know, event in history or about the dynamics of a tumultuous young romance. I want to root for your characters -- connect with them and the problems they face. I'm looking for characters as complex and interesting as those I meet in real life.

Historical Fiction
New Adult
Contemporary Romance
Women’s Fiction

Rebecca Scherer’s time at JRA began as a part-time internship during her junior year at the Macaulay Honors Program at Hunter College. She was working toward a degree in Political Science and Literature as she busily debated which law schools to apply to when the time came. As Rebecca fell for the agency’s charm, she took on more responsibilities and quickly realized that she enjoyed novels more than legal briefs and plots more than torts. When she expressed her reservations to Jane Berkey, the response was simple: “Well then you’re going to come work for me for real now, right?” And with that, Rebecca happily accepted the siren call to join the fabulous Rotrosen team full-time after graduation. She now works for Meg and Andrea as an associate in the editorial department, enjoying all aspects of the job, from queries to contracts to the whimsical wallpaper throughout the office. Rebecca’s favorite genres include women’s fiction, thrillers, and literary fiction, with a particular interest in historical and geopolitical events.

Emily Gref is an Agent at Lowenstein Associates, as well as our contracts and royalties manager. She also handles foreign and subrights. Her interests are wide and varied. In Young Adult and Middle Grade she is looking for all genres, but has a weak spot for fairy tale, folklore, and mythology retellings. Emily is also interested in fantasy and science fiction, as well as literary and commercial women's fiction.

Newly Added:

It was when Clelia first read Charlotte's Web in the first grade that she got hooked by the magic of books. Her love of children's books carried through adulthood and she is delighted to dedicate her life to bringing quality books and stories to young (and whimsical adult!) readers.

Clelia is originally from New Jersey and lived in New York City for several years prior to moving to Seattle. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Boston College. She received her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law and practiced law as a corporate litigator in New York City.

In 2011, she decided to dedicate her career to books and reentered graduate school at Emerson College. In 2013, she received her master's degree in Publishing and Writing. While she was studying publishing and taking creative writing courses at Emerson, Clelia worked as a managing editorial intern in the children's book division at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Clelia also honed her editorial skills as an editorial intern at Oxford University Press. She also taught academic writing and research courses to freshman students at Emerson College.

In addition to reading YA and children's books, Clelia also likes to blog about them! You can read her musings and ruminations on rereading the books of her 90's youth at

Clelia is very interested in the emerging New Adult genre. Having faced an early life career crisis, she really relates to characters who are confronted with the challenges of entering adulthood. She is also interested in young adult and middle grade books. She is seeking to represent writers whose protagonists have strong voices and whose plots are original. Clelia never wants to let go of her favorite characters, so she particularly loves trilogies and series that can be adapted to the screen.

Clelia has a special spot in her heart for picture books. She especially loves ones that are funny or quirky, ones that feature minority and multi-cultural characters, and ones parents won't mind reading over and over again to their children.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Query Questions with Jessica Alvarez

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

Today's guest is Jessica Alvarez of Bookends, LLC! Thanks so much Jessica for sharing your thoughts about query slush.

Is there a better or worse time to query?  
No.  Submissions come in a constant flow, and there really isn't any particular time of year that's better than others.  

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
One, no. If there are a lot of typos or grammatical mistakes, however, it will concern me.  I want projects to be polished before they are sent to me and a query full of errors makes me think the writing in a manuscript will be rougher than I want to deal with.  

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
We do not ask for sample pages with the query at BookEnds.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I go through all my queries on my own, though I will occasionally ask our literary assistant or intern to do a first (or second) read on requested material.  Even if they do review a project for me, I will still review it and make the final decision.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
I don't ask for sample pages with a query, but if I ask for the first three chapters, yes, I want the prologue included.

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested?
At BookEnds we prefer that writers only query one of us at the agency.  If we think a project is better suited for one of the other agents, we will pass it along.  That happens maybe once or twice a month.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I don't mind some but too much can sometimes make a query seem amateurish for me.  In general, I'd rather the writer focus her energies on the plot summary.

Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?
I do want the word count and genre somewhere in the query, though I don't care where it is.  I won't reject a project if they don't include the word count and genre but it will make me wonder why they weren't included.  Is the manuscript too long or short to be marketable?  Does the writer not know what genre it is?  So, yes, it is a bit of a red flag.

Do you go through a large group of queries at a time or hold yourself to a few?
It depends on what else I have on my plate, but it isn't unusual for me to go through a hundred in one sitting. 

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
I probably get around 100 queries a week, and maybe request partials or completes from 10% of those.

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?

If an author has a blog or website, I appreciate seeing the link in her signature even if I don't always click on the links.  It's actually pretty rare that I do click on the links, but it's much easier for me than having to hunt the internet to find a writer's site.  As for manuscript-related artwork, that I don't care to see.  It has no relevance on my decision and only takes up extra space in my in-box.

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?
I use a very similar phrase to that in my form rejection letter and it means exactly that--the project just isn't right for me.  It might be because the project is in a genre I don't represent.  It might be because I just wasn't hooked by the idea.  It might be because I have a similar project on my list.  A project could be wrong for me for any number of reasons.

What themes are you sick of seeing?
1. Paranormals and urban fantasy.  Okay, these are genres instead of themes, but I'm not looking for these right now and I still get a lot of submissions in both areas.
2. Projects with characters in show business.  There are exceptions (I'm shopping a project with a rock star right now), but I generally am not drawn to these books and I see a lot of them.
3. Women's fiction about women reclaiming their lives after their husbands' affairs, or returning to their small hometown after their mom/dad/grandma died.  Again, there are exceptions, but there are so many books like this out there that the approach needs to be unique to stand out.  

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
Contemporary romances, women's fiction, and cozy mysteries.  They all need to have strong, marketable hooks and bring me something that I haven't seen before.  I know that's a very generic answer but I don't want to limit it too much.  Please note, I am not looking for paranormal romance, YA books, sci-fi or fantasy, nonfiction or thrillers.  My list is focused on romance and women's fiction with a smattering of cozy mysteries.  


Jessica A

After ten years as an editor, Jessica Alvarez joined BookEnds in April 2011. She began her publishing career in 2001 as an editorial assistant at Harlequin Books. There, she had the opportunity to acquire and edit a wide array of fiction, specializing in historical romance, romantic suspense, and inspirational romance. Jessica left Harlequin in 2008 to pursue a freelance editing career, and completed projects for Harlequin, Scholastic Books, Thomas Nelson, and independent writers. She uses her editorial background to help writers hone their skills and develop strong, marketable stories. Jessica is actively building her client list and is proud to work with a wonderful group of clients. She is a member of AAR.

Jessica read her first romance at the age of nine when she pilfered from a friend's mother's Harlequin Presents collection and was instantly hooked. Though her pilfering has passed, her weakness for alpha heroes and exotic settings remains.

A New Jersey native, Jessica still resides in the Garden State. She is perpetually over-caffeinated in an attempt to keep up with her young son and two energetic wheaten terriers.

Jessica's areas of interest include historical romance (particularly 18th and 19th century!), inspirational romance, contemporary romance, category romance, erotic romance and smart, female-focused erotica, women's fiction, and cozy mysteries.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Frog is Named!

I want to thank everyone who provided a name for the frog! I certainly had fun with this contest, and I hope everyone else did also. There were some humdingers of names suggested and they ranged from the silly to the sublime.

And he shall be ...

The winner of the automatic entry into Nightmare on Query Street as judged by my daughter is:

Kathleen with Jean-Bob!

Obviously this goes to prove that my daughter is pretty sentimental about her younger days. The Swan Princess was one of her favorites and she still remembers the name of the turtle and puffin too.

Kathleen, I'll be in touch through twitter.

Now for the kicker! I had so much fun that I picked two runner up winners! Or I should say I picked one and my son (the boy who shall not be named or pulled away from his video games) actual chimed in to pick another. That goes to prove the power of frogs. Even teens are brought to take interest!

The two runner's up who will also have their entries accepted into Nightmare on Query Street are:

Rena with The Honorable Sir Patrick Sticky-toes, Esquire

Martha with Crocus

I did mention more than one frog lives on our deck, right? We've seen up to three, which happens to work perfectly.

Winners, I'll be in touch. And everyone else, please be sure to enter Nightmare on Query Street on October 13th. Jean-Bob, Sticky-toes, Crocus and I can't wait to see you there.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What's an Epic Fantasy

Epic fantasy. What is it, and how do you define it? Everybody can point to a few examples. Lord of the Rings is pretty well-known to be epic fantasy, but why?

It seems that everyone has different ideas. Heck, I write the stuff and I couldn’t give an easy answer to this one.

Myth #1: I’ve heard it said that what makes epic fantasy definable is its length. Everybody knows that epic fantasy takes at least three volumes to complete and those volumes are the kind that break toes if you happen to drop them on your bare feet. In other words, they’re really, really long. Think the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson in all its fourteen volume glory.

Umm. Then a little voice says The Hobbit is a complete story in one volume. And there are certainly more examples out there, including Silverlock by John Myers Myers.

And wait. The Dresden series of fantasy is really, really long. Something like ten volumes and climbing. Doesn’t that make it epic? But it’s set in a city so wouldn’t it be urban? Everybody knows epic fantasy is set in some made up world, not in the real world.

Myth #2 Doesn’t epic fantasy have to inhabit a unique world of elves, dwarves, and trolls? You know, like The Sword of Shannara or Lord of the Rings.

The Dresden series is set in Chicago, but it has fairies, trolls, and other assorted magical races. What does that make it? The same with Harry Potter in a very real England, that series is mostly humans, but there are also elves and goblins and giants. And Narnia is based partially in this world and partly in an imaginary world. Does that make them epic or urban?

Then the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson is set in an imaginary land—without mythical species. The same for The Wheel of Time. That series is certainly epic fantasy, but not an elf in sight.

I’m starting to get dizzy. So there can be elves or maybe not. It can be set in this world—or somewhere real. It can take many volumes to complete the story or maybe only one.

Yikes! This is really complex.

What’s left?

Myth #3 Epic fantasy always has so many characters that I can’t keep track of all the names. That must be what makes Lord of the Rings the ultimate example of epic. The characters themselves in this story even have several names, after all Aragon is also Strider and Elessar and Heir of Isildur and a Dunedain. Whoa. You have to have an epic memory just to keep track of all the names.

Oh. But wait again. Anna Karenina and Roots had big casts of characters. Gone with the Wind couldn’t be called a small cast. There are plenty of books with large casts that don’t have anything to do with epic fantasy. Ugh.

Myth #4 Epic fantasy is a story of a really good guy versus a really bad guy.

Wouldn’t that make Sherlock Holmes against Moriarty an epic fantasy then?  Or Cruella de Vil? I’m mean her name spells evil, right. And she’s up against a bunch of cute puppies. You can’t top that. But those and other examples with very bad characters versus good ones aren’t always epic.   

So what does make epic fantasy epic?

Could it be maybe … their shoes are too tight or their heart is three sizes too small. Oh darn. That’s the Grinch.

What about the scope? Could it be that an epic fantasy is about something that affects the entire world?

Gone with the Wind was a book about how an epic situation affected one particular character and changed her, Scarlet. Maybe an epic fantasy is how one particular character (or perhaps a small group) can change the whole world.

Isn’t that what Harry Potter did when he faced Voldemort? Harry changed the world by saving it from Voldemort.

Frodo saved his Shire and everywhere else when the ring went into Mount Doom. With help from Gollum.

Was the world saved when Cruella went in the ditch? Nope, just some pretty darn cute puppies.

That’s my definition anyway. An epic fantasy is one where the entire fate of the world hinges on the change, no matter whether the change takes one volume or three or affects this world or an imaginary one.

So do you agree or disagree?