Friday, January 30, 2015

Getting Emotion into Writing with Aaron Bradford Starr

I'm happy to welcome a friend from my writing group to talk about getting emotion into your writing. Aaron does a masterful job of showing us how it's done! Thanks, Aaron!

Emotions in Writing

I felt the rush of air as the dart passed by my ear, and drew up straight, the wrench in my hand dropping into the snow. From just behind me, a mass fell at once, clouding the area with sparkling flakes as it plowed into the drifts. I took one look at the white-furred bulk, my breath coming in gasps, and then turned to where Michelle sat atop the fuselage of our downed plane.

“You cut that a bit close, didn't you?” I asked with a frown, my heart pounding within my parka, suddenly too warm. Michelle shrugged.

“You're the one who wanted to work in silence,” she pointed out. “I keep telling you they're afraid of the sound of our speech.”

Gripping the pages of the repair manual in my gloves, I gave them a shake. “Well these are pretty hard to follow,” I snapped. “What language is this, anyway?”

“Hindi,” Michelle said, “with a mix of Greek and Esperanto.”

“Who writes engine repair manuals in Esperanto?” I asked.

“Esperantans, I suppose,” she said, opening the breech of the air rifle and slipping in another bright red dart. Jacking it closed, she leaned back once more, crossing her boots. Fixing me with a stare of supreme unconcern, she sketched a yawn. “Better find that wrench before it gets dark, and you can't read any more.”

Pursing my lips, I dug around in the loose powder until I found the tool, and straightened with a sigh, my cheeks reddening under my scarf. “Alright, you win. You can fix the engine.”

With a delighted squeak, Michelle hopped from the wing, handed me the rifle, and plucked both manual and wrench from me. Humming to herself, she flipped trough the pages until she found the diagram of the engine, and began following it with her finger, nodding to herself and murmuring in Greek and what I assumed was Esperanto. I clamored up onto the wing, and leaned against the fuselage, quickly scanning the horizon. All around us, the mountains of the Himalayas glowed orange and pink with the setting sun.

“Before we crashed,” Michelle said from below, “you mentioned something about writing emotional scenes.”

I licked my lips, eyes sweeping the ridgelines for the movement of white on white. “Are you sure you can work and talk at the same time?” I asked. Beneath my goggles, my brow furrowed. She laughed and waved a dismissive hand at the engine.

“It's just an engine,” she said. “Either we talk, or I begin to sing.”

“I'll talk, I'll talk,” I muttered. With her classical training in opera, Michelle was as likely to bring down an untimely avalanche as scare away yeti.

“Good,” she answered, her voice muffled from within the engine housing. “You were talking about feelings.”

“No,” I corrected, glancing down at the open box of tranquilizer darts at my feet. The yeti on it was smiling, a night cap on his furry head. “I was talking about how people feel emotion. That's why we call them feelings. Emotions, after all, are a mental state with a physical sensation.”

“And that's what you need to record, as a writer,” she added. “The sensations associated with their emotions.”

“Yeah, exactly. Readers will feel what your characters do more often if you relate how their body reacts to their emotions, rather than simply recoding what those emotions are.” I frowned, lifting my goggles to swipe at my face, which was running with sweat. The glare was blinding, and I quickly slid them back into place, my eyes skittering around to surrounding vista, drawn by every stream of blowing snow off the drifts. “How long is this going to take to fix, anyway?”

“What, this?” Michelle asked, patting the engine housing with her head and shoulders well into the inner works. “This is no big deal. Just a few minutes more.”

I gave an involuntary bark of derisive laughter. The plane was perched atop a huge slope, teetering and groaning. Even with two running engines, it would be a miracle to get aloft again. I sighed, and glanced across to the charred stub where another engine had once hung beneath the opposite wing. I'd give anything to have two engines again.

“What about dialogue?” Michelle asked, startling me. I stammered, quickly glancing about the surroundings. How long had I been daydreaming?

“Uh, characters could become distracted,” I managed, bringing the rifle up and peering through the scope at a shifting movement in the distance. “You know, like losing their train of thought.”

Retracted?” Michelle asked, her voice echoing within the engine housing, mixed with the clicking of a ratchet wrench.

Distracted,” I snapped, more loudly than I'd intended. “And irritable. These are all things writers can do to show emotions like nervousness. How much longer?”

“Don't be such a baby,” Michelle said, beginning to wriggle from the innards of the engine. “I'm almost done here.”

About time, I thought, casting my eyes this way and that. Drawing in a quick breath, I peered at the ridgeline, through the glare of the setting sun. Raising the scope, I took a closer look, careful not to blind myself, and drew in a quick breath.

“We've got to go, right now!” I shouted, dropping the rifle to my side and leaping from the wing. Scooping the spare darts to my parka, I hauled open the door and threw both box and gun inside the plane's dark interior. Michelle looked from me to the distant edge of the ice field. A mass of movement gamboled across the flat expanse, white on white.

“Wow,” Michelle said, her voice placid. “Now that is a lot of yeti. I wonder what the plural of yeti is?”

“It's get the heck into the plane!” I shouted, jumping aboard and clamoring up the the cockpit.
Michelle followed, shutting the door and sitting as I fired up our remaining engine. After a mechanical protest, it roared to life, and Michelle gripped the controls. With a fierce grin, she nodded to me.

“Hit it!” she shouted, and I triggered the detonators.

On the slopes far above, the dynamite broke the snowpack free, and I tightened up my straps as we waited for the leading edge, my eyes locked on the approaching yetis out the side window, and Michelle rolling her shoulders and cracking her knuckles.

“So how would you get your characters to establish-” she began, and then broke off as the plane lurched forward and up, driven by the sliding snow that roared around and beneath us from up the hill. “Oh, wait, here we go!”

The plane tipped forward off the ridge, plunging down the slope, my shriek and Michelle's laughter mixing with the roar of the lone engine, and the howls of the yeti left far behind or swept along beside us.

As we gathered speed, crashing and grinding echoing through the interior, Michelle leaned over and tugged my sleeve.

“So what do you think about showing internal conflict?” she asked.

I pointed out the window to where the cliffside streaked closer. “Are you nuts?” I bellowed.

We launched over the edge, and Michelle draped a wrist across the yoke, waving her hand in my direction. “Oh, fine,” she muttered, as the plane struggled for altitude, lone remaining engine screaming. I swept off my goggles and brushed back my hood, breathing hard, sweat stinging my eyes.

“Are you crying?” she asked, incredulous.

“No I'm not crying,” I insisted, wiping my cheeks. “I'm just relieved, is all.”

Michelle shook her head. “What a big baby.”


Aaron Bradford Starr has published short stories in paintings, and interior art in Black Gate Magazine, Black Gate Online, Stupefying Stories, and Rampant Loon Press. He is a member of the writing group The Speculative Fiction Forum on Agent Query Connect. Find more about him on his blog, Imaginary Friend

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Getting the Call with Kate Foster

Thick skin was always an expression until I became a writer. Writers soon learn just exactly that old adage entails. Kate Foster is here to share her inspiring story and teach us about thick skin.  

Once upon a time, in a land where time stood still, there I sat, with Lauren Laptop, a lot of first drafts and even more rejections letters. My skin was thinning, my dream fading, my confidence washing away.

It starts out such fun: anticipation, excitement, and nerves, mixed in with a lot of screen refreshing. But there comes a point when a familiar looking subject line pops into your inbox and you dread opening the email. Been there, seen it, done it. And got a wardrobe full of goddamn t-shirts.

Despite the self doubt issues, however, I’m one hell of a trooper. Something I’m starting to realise most writers are, too!

I wasn’t prepared to crumble under the constant head shaking and avenue closures. So I cracked on; entering contests like Pitchmad and Pitchwars, where, I must add, I met some of my most awesome writer friends, so actually completely worth it despite the zero bites my pitches received. But I also sailed the trad route; subbing to agents and publishers. And, with a ridiculous amount of revising and editing, it’s been this route which finally roused interest in my writing.

In all honesty, I’ve had a fair few Getting the Call/Email experiences over the past couple of years. I’ve even had meetings and a handful of contracts. Straight up. Every one as much a buzz as the next. But, without pounding out every last detail, pear-shaped became the key word. Contracts I was told to avoid signing; publishers shutting their doors; relationships not quite working out. I asked my parents often if I’d been cursed as a small child perhaps, but no.

I could’ve either been a half empty girl, and wailed, ‘Poor me! Look how unlucky I am!’ or a half full girl and said, ‘Someone was watching over me, telling me not to sign.’ I now go with option two.

Because, in truth, as a trust-my-instincts type gal, my gut never settled throughout my run of offers. No real reason ever, but there was always a nagging doubt, plenty of easing off the gas pedal moments. I have a naturally worried soul, true, but this was something different. A strange magnetic backward pull.

But when the email came in from Jet Black, it felt right. I still hesitated; once bitten and all that, but there was a calmness, a focus and an energy that engulfed me each time I considered this new publishing house as the home for my middle grade novel. There was no ‘rewrite the ending and we’ll reconsider’ or ‘Sign the contract and we’ll discuss the changes you need to make’. There was no ‘This will be a bestseller’ or ‘We’ll see how it goes’. It was an enchanting symphony of ‘Your book made us feel like children again. Good job. We want to publish it’. OK, I’ll take two, please! 

We bounced the contract back and forth, and they were so accommodating. We discussed ideas for the book, thoughts on areas for tweaking, marketing routes. I was involved from word go. I felt special and part of a secure and safe team of professionals. 

The enthusiasm they offered, the patience, the optimism, the passion. It was overwhelming. And it brought home to me why I ever started writing in the first place. Enjoyment. Love. Need. Which I truly believe I lost sight of during those earlier years of submitting.

When I wrote my first words all those years ago, it wasn’t to be the world’s greatest author, or to make a mint from my books. I wrote because I had these stories interfering with my day to day concentration, characters pestering me with classic one-liners they desperately wanted to share, explosive, detailed scenes looking for a way out. So I obliged. And I loved it. I still do.

So, thanks to all the previous Calls, plenty of perseverance, hard work and dedication, a lot of incredible support from friends and family, and to Jet Black Publishing, in just a few short months I will be a published author. I want people to love my words. That’s all. 


Kate writes for children; from picture books to middle grade fiction. She is also a freelance editor with a growing list of clients. She volunteers her skills for Ink Pantry Publishing, part of The Open University in the UK, and writes a regular blog for YAtopia. Originally from Kent in the UK, she now lives on the Gold Coast in Australia with her family. Her debut novel, Winell Road, will be published by Jet Black in April 2015.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Getting the Submission Call with Margaret Fortune

This story makes my nerves tingle! It's just super exciting. I'm so happy for Margaret! She more than deserves this. Margaret Fortune is also a member of the AQC Speculative Fiction group. I suspect it is her home away from home too. When I'm having trouble with a query letter, Margaret is the woman to see! She has super, genius writing powers!

I signed with my agent, Lindsay Ribar of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, in September 2013, and in October we went on submission with my YA sci-fi novel Nova.

Now from the get-go, we decided to try and sell it as a series. While I’d originally intended Nova to be a standalone, when I’d finally finished, the ending clearly begged a sequel. So I’d brainstormed on it back while querying and ended up with an arc for a five-book series. My agent was very enthusiastic when I told her about the series and asked me to write up a couple pages explaining how the series would work, and giving a short 4-5 line blurb for each book. I also provided a longer synopsis for the second book. So armed with Nova, the synopsis for book two, and the series summary, we went on submission.

Well, I bore up well for the first few months, but by 2014 I was starting to get antsy. So I was excited when we finally had some real interest at the end of February. Unfortunately, while the editor loved it, the acquisitions team ended up shooting it down as they felt it skewed too far to the “hard” end of the sci-fi spectrum. Even though the book was YA sci-fi, my agent decided to try targeting some Adult SF imprints that had an interest in crossovers. She continued submitting, but as the months passed, I started to think Nova might not sell. So I worked on edits for my WIP and started planning the next. Then at the end of June, I woke to find an email from my agent with the subject line “A small nibble on NOVA.”

In it, Lindsay told me she had gotten an email from Betsy Wollheim at DAW Books with only one line, saying the book was terrific. She said she’d be touching base with Betsy sometime that week, but not to get too hopeful yet, as Betsy hadn’t mentioned making an offer. Also, she reminded me, DAW publishes mostly on the adult side, so it would be an interesting home for the book.

I was more nervous than excited at that point. I figured I was in for another long, drawn-out period of waiting: My agent would touch base with the editor later in the week, then eventually she’d set up a call for me with the editor so we could see if we were on the same page regarding revisions, and assuming the call went well, it would then go to acquisitions. A month later, I would know my fate. I figured it would be exactly like my previous experience with an editor back in February. So when I got a call a couple hours later, I didn’t answer it.

I had the day off, so I was hanging out at home by myself when the phone rang. Now, I’m a bit old school and like to use my answering machine to screen callers, so I usually wait for someone to leave a message before answering. In fact, I didn’t even bother to get up, assuming it was just a telemarketer or some other undesirable, which is who it would usually be at that time of day. So I was only half-listening to the voice on the machine when suddenly the words “…your agent at Sanford J. Greenburger” penetrated my brain.

“Oh my God, that’s my agency!”

Realizing it was my agent, I almost killed myself jumping up from the couch and running for the phone. I managed to grab it before my agent hung up, and that’s when I found out—Betsy Wollheim at DAW had made a preempt offer for Nova. And not only that, but she was ready to buy the entire series along with it. That’s Nova plus four more books I hadn’t even written yet!

I was absolutely floored. I had gone from nothing to a five-book deal in less than a day. I could not believe it. Somewhere in my euphoria-induced haze, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder if some big, bad acquisitions team could come in and overrule this editor and rain on my parade. So I asked my agent, and she said—

“Um, this is Betsy Wollheim, the president of DAW. So, no—no one can overrule her.”

Still, when the deal hit publisher’s marketplace a few days later, I printed out the announcement and carried it around in my purse for an embarrassingly long time, just to reassure myself it wasn’t a dream. I remember a friend of mine suggested framing it. And my response was, “Well, that would make it a little awkward to carry around in my purse all the time, now wouldn’t it?”

All told, it was a long nine months on submission, but the outcome was worth the wait. Now all I have to do is write four more books!


Bio: Margaret Fortune began writing in first grade, when her short story “The Numbers’ Birthday Party” made a huge splash at her elementary school. A year later, her family moved to Wisconsin, where they owned and operated an independent bookstore for over a decade.

She has a BA in psychology from the University of Minnesota - Morris, and has worked in a variety of jobs including payroll, customer service, and one very memorable summer at an amusement park. Her first book, Nova, is forthcoming from DAW Books in June 2015.

Add Nova to your Goodreads lists. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sun versus Snow Submission Window 2015


Welcome to the party! 

Smilies Smileys > Dancing Bananas Gifs : Banana Love

Themes for the twitter fest will be at the end of the post. The submission for Sun versus Snow is today, January 26th, at 4 pm Eastern time. Act fast. We will only be taking the first 200 entries. In Nightmare on Query Street, the entry window closed in just a few hours. Please do not enter early or your entry will be deleted. You can resend at the proper time if this happens accidentally. 

Confirmation emails will be sent. If you don't receive one, don't resend. We don't want duplicate entries. Please check with us on twitter first to confirm your entry did or did not arrive, then you may resend. 

There is only ONE, yes that's right, ONE entry per person allowed. Any attempt to cheat will result in entries being thrown out. 

This contest is only for finished and polished stories. 

Amy and I have decided not to accept picture books for this contests. Though we love picture books, contests just don't seem to be the best place to get them requests. We do accept all MG, YA, NA and Adult genres, excluding erotica. 

To enter you must be followers of our blogs. Click the 'join this site' button on my blog. You can find Amy's blog here. 

The Format:

Send submission to Sunversussnow (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per person is allowed. It doesn't matter if you write under different names or are submitting different manuscripts. You are still one person and get one entry. 

Here's how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded!) Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. No worries if your gmail doesn't have Times New Roman. No worries if the email messes up your format. Yes, we will still read it! :-) 

(Here's a trick to keep your paragraph spacing: copy and paste your entry into your email and then put in the line spaces. They seem to get lost when you copy and paste. It may look right but sending scrambles the spacing.)

Subject Line: SVS: TITLE, Age Category + Genre 
(example: SVS: PYGMY HAZARDS, MG Fantasy)

In The Email:

Title: MY FANTASTIC BOOK (yes, caps!)
Genre: YA dystopian (Age category and genre. YA/MG is not a genre.)
Word Count: XX,XXX (round to the nearest thousand)

My Main Character would prefer to live in: 

Would your main character prefer to live in heat or cold. And why? Tell us which weather would make your MC the most comfortable or happy. 

Example: As a hamster, Tom doesn't dig all this white stuff falling from the sky. It's some kind of freaky trick pulled by the crazy pygmies at the asylum they call school. He only knows it makes him curl up and snooze. Where's the fun in that? (Can be in your MC's POV, but doesn't have to be. 100 words or less.)


Query goes here! Include greeting and main paragraphs. Please leave out bio, closing, and word count + genre sentence. You may include comps if you'd like. There is no word count limit on the query but please aim for 250 - 300 words.

First 250 words:

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence. But I will not go over 257 words. Be reasonable and don't make us count. Don't forget to space between paragraphs!

Now for the twitter party!

Today we'd like you to shout out your genre and age category at the hashtag #sunvssnow That should help everyone get an idea of the breakdown. Oh, and tell us when you entered!

Tuesday, January 27 Give us your best editing tip! Share some wisdom!

Wednesday, January 28 Your MC is pushed in the pool or hit with a snowball, what do they do? Do they forgive and forget or fight back?

Thursday, January 29 Your MC is trapped on desert island/snowed in a cabin. What one item do they have to have?

Friday, January 30 Your bad guy/girl is suddenly wearing a pink tutu. What happens next?

Saturday, January 31 A dream is a wish your heart makes. Where is your dream vacation writing spot. Where would you like to sit and pour out words?

Sunday, February 1st It's all about friends. Look for fresh critique partners or give praise to the ones you have! This is your day to send out thank yous and find new readers.

Monday, February 2nd Hold onto your hats. We announce the picks today! Post a twitter picture of you wearing a hat or tell us what sort of hat you'd wear.

Remember it's about making connections and having fun.

Cover Release for NAKED

Release Date: 07/07/15
Entangled Teen
305 pages

Summary from Goodreads:

The best place to hide is in a lie…

I could never fit in to the life my parents demanded. By the time I was thirteen, it was too much. I ran away to New York City…and found a nightmare that lasted three years. A nightmare that began and ended with a pimp named Luis. Now I am Dirty Anna. Broken, like everything inside me has gone bad.

Except that for the first time, I have a chance to start over. Not just with my parents but at school. Still, the rumors follow me everywhere. Down the hall. In classes. And the only hope I can see is in the wide, brightly lit smile of Jackson, the boy next door. So I lie to him. I lie to protect him from my past. I lie so that I don’t have to be The Girl Who Went Bad.

The only problem is that someone in my school knows about New York.

Someone knows who I really am.

And it’s just a matter of time before the real Anna is exposed…

Pre-Order Links:
AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo Books

About the Author
Stacey Trombley lives in Ohio with her husband and the sweetest Rottweiler you’ll ever meet. She thinks people are fascinating and any chance she has, she’s off doing or learning something new. She went on her first mission trip to Haiti at age twelve and is still dying to go back. Her “places to travel” list is almost as long as her “books to read” list. 

She wants to bring something new to the world through her writing, but just giving a little piece of herself is more than enough.

Keep a look out for her debut novel NAKED, coming from Entangled Teen in 2015

Author Links:
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Cover Reveal Organized by:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Snow Free Pass Winner 2015

I thank you for all the shared memories. All the stories of ski lifts, and igloos, and cakes made out of snow. I enjoyed the quiet silence of falling snow and the peace it brought to relatives going through cancer. It's great to read so much reminiscing about family and new-found romance. 

These were all great and so very entertaining. It was hard to pick a winner! Many of the stories made me laugh, a few made me sigh. Some brought back my own memories.

Some honorable mentions among all the stand out stories:

Emmy Paxman
Laura Rueckert
Kara BArbieri
Christopher Lee
Ashley B

And the winner of the snow free pass is:

Mike Hays

Mike, please format your entry as outlined in the contest format post and send during the submission window on Monday, January 26th. But in the subject line include: SNOW FREE PASS.

Thanks to everyone who entered. This was a lot of fun and writers are the best people. I wish I could pick all the entries.

Snow Mentors 2015

This year Amy and I are picking our own dream team of mentors. And the mentors for Team Snow will frost your windowpanes! These are the most amazing writers from a variety of genres. They're donning their coats, boots and mittens to give the very best advice!

I will read the entries starting January 26th. As soon as I make my final picks, I will send the entries off to Team Snow to get a head start on reading. Each mentor will receive three entries. Once the final picks are announced on my blog (February 2 or possibly sooner), the mentors will skate into action, sending the snow contestants their suggestions! Contestants have until Friday, February 6th at 9 am to work with their mentors.

So here are the frosty mentors you aspire to work with:

Dan Koboldt writes novels in the fantasy & science fiction genres of speculative fiction. My agent and I are currently seeking publication for THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL, an adult science fiction novel about a Vegas stage magician who takes high-tech illusions of magic into a medieval world that has the real thing.

I’m lucky to be a Codexian and a Pitch Wars mentor. I’m also the host of #SFFpit, a twice-yearly Twitter pitching party for authors of sci-fi/fantasy who are seeking representation or publication. Find him on twitter at @DanKoboldt

Sarah Glenn Marsh is a YA and picture book author represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis Literary. Her debut historical fantasy, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP, takes place on the Isle of Man in the early 1900s, and will be published by Sky Pony in the spring of 2016. 

An avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life, Sarah's been making up words and worlds ever since. She lives, writes, and paints things in Virginia, supported by her husband and four rescued senior greyhounds: Romeo & Juliet, Grimm, and Khaleesi. 

Visit Sarah online at Sarah Marsh Writes, and on Twitter @SG_MarshAdd FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP on Goodreads here.

Laura Heffernan is a California-born women's fiction writer, represented by Jen Karsbaek at Fuse Literary. One Saturday morning when she was four or five, Laura sat down at the family's Commodore 64 and typed out her first short story. She's written both fiction and non-fiction ever since.

In her spare time, Laura likes travel, baking, board games, and new experiences. She lives in the northeast, freezing like the true California girl she is, with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts. Her fuzzy sock collection is becoming impressive.

Raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Vicki L. Weavil turned her early obsession with reading into a career as an author and librarian. She is represented by Jennifer Mishler at Literary Counsel, NYC.  Her debut novel, CROWN OF ICE—a dark YA retelling of H. C. Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”—was published by Month9Books in September 2014. Her YA Scifi duology will also be published by Month9Books, with the first book, FACSIMILE, releasing in 2016.

An avid reader who appreciates good writing in all genres, Vicki has been known to read seven books in as many days. When not writing or reading, she likes to spend time watching films, listening to music, gardening, or traveling. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband and three very spoiled cats.
Social Media Links:

Ami Allen-Vath is a YA author living and currently freezing (because winters are cold) in New Jersey. She lives with her husband, two kids, and a chihuahua named Yoda. 

Ami loves great and terrible TV, ice cream, books, and vacations. She loathes cilantro, live birds, and when guys do cartoon impressions. Her debut novel, PROM BITCH is forthcoming from Sky Pony Press in November of 2015. 

Ami is on the internet: Blog | GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | BookLikes | Website