If a writer wishes to break into mainstream publishing, they need an agent, and the way to get an agent is the dreaded query. There are countless websites, courses, books, blogs, and other resources out there to assist writers who are querying. It's a process involving a query letter with a hook, often a few pages that sample your book, and a LOT of angst. There are entire databases like QueryTracker.net, entire paid services with agents such as Manuscript Academy, and lists of agents who might be interested through sites like ManuscriptWishlist. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the subject, and just as many blogs and services.
Yet, I've never once encountered this piece of querying advice, possibly the most important of all: Let it Go, and Move On. Everyone focuses on the mechanics of the query, the people to approach, or even the methods or timing of querying. But no one discusses the psyche of the author during the process.
I've been querying one project or another for years and years. Ultimately, Elsa is right.
At it's best, querying is a slog. In a BEST-case scenario, after spending months, or possibly years on a manuscript, you've finally gotten the nerve to send it to a few agents. These gatekeepers are going to love it, you hope. Maybe you get requests for your full manuscript right away. You STILL have to wait months to hear back. Then even IF you find that agent, there's another break while it's out on submission, and then even more time before that book is released. All too many writers can't stop checking the inbox, or staring at the phone hoping it will ring.
It's hard not to query and think about your project. It's a part of you, a project you've poured your soul and time into, and now you're helpless as you just wait. For most, the requests and offers come only after mountains of rejections. Agent after agent closing the door on your project. And let's face it, for better or worse, rejections during this godawful year of pandemic and turmoil sting even more bitterly.
But there IS a solution.
The key to querying is to prepare your query, and then throw yourself in an entirely different direction. Find a new project. One that is exciting on every level. You might want to start drafting, or outlining, or whatever your process entails. The key is you have to let the NEW project CONSUME you. It's the project you eat, sleep, and breathe. The more you focus on the new work, the less you even notice the rejections. Maybe you're getting requests, but even then you're not worrying about that interminable wait. You're happy and excited about something completely different.
That's the best querying advice I can possibly give. And it's the way I query myself.
I have not been actively blogging. The past three months have blurred by with the stress and added responsibilities of a son at home instead of school, and a world gripped in a devastating pandemic. Now, however, I need to mention the the burgeoning wave of protests and anger gripping my nation and home city of Washington DC. Silence is complicity in this situation, and no one can remain on the sidelines. I proudly support Black Lives Matter, and dedicate my life to fighting racism. It is a lifelong battle, but one worth fighting.
First, for book recommendations, my son's (age 3) favorite book by a black author, and a staple in our house is Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain: A Nandi Tale.
Below is a list from Oprah, on 43 books to buy from black authors (note, you have to click the image, then click the image again on Oprah's site to get the list.
And finally, beyond books, here's how YOU can help. This list below of 75 things has been going around social media, and I share it here.
75 is a lot. It can feel overwhelming. But that also means that there is a lot you can do right now to improve racial justice in the U.S.
I'll highlight just three things you can do:
1. Reach out to your Black friends and family and just let them know that you're here for them. They are not ok. They need to hear from you, so check-in and let them know that you're thinking of them.
2. Google your local police and whether or not they are trained in de-escalation strategies. My Chief of Police is a Black man who has emphasized de-escalation as a part of their regular training for officers. As a result, they are responding to protesters by kneeling with them and talking. That's real community work.
3. Donate to anti-white supremacy work such as your local Black Lives Matter Chapter, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, United Negro College Fund, Black Youth Project 100, Color of Change, The Sentencing Project, Families against Mandatory Minimums, A New Way of Life, and Dream Defenders. Join some of these list-serves and take action as their emails dictate.
Bonus: The Loveland Foundation (https://thelovelandfoundation.org/) is raising funds to subsidize therapy sessions for Black women and girls.
Click the image below for the full list.
I am again a participant in the YA SCAVENGER HUNT!
yes, the world's in peril at the moment, but let's all take a pandemic break with some escapist fiction!
This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! On this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 120 hours!
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are FOUR contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the RED TEAM--but there is also a blue team, a gold team, and a purple team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!
SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the RED TEAM, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by APRIL 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
Meet Melinda Cordell
I'm hosting Melinda Cordell. Tell us about yourself Melinda:
I'm a former horticulturist, a chicken wrangler, and my superpower is distraction.
My latest series is the Dragonriders of Fiorenza. Fia, an enterprising young dragonrider sees her father kidnapped before her eyes -- so she pulls her assassin grandmother out of retirement and puts a hit out on the kidnappers to rescue him. Assassin's Blade, the first book, will be out on May 7th!
Wow that sounds great! I love dragons! Sometimes I wish I had FIVE dragons. Yeah, FIVE of them. Really!
Where can people go to learn more about you and your cool book ASSASSIN'S BLADE?
My site is https://melindacordell.com/ and the book can be found at https://melindacordell.com/dragonriders-of-fiorenza/ (or click the cover below)
My father’s been kidnapped.
The kidnappers demand a ransom that’s impossible to pay. If they don’t get it in two weeks, they will kill my father.
Mama won’t survive his murder. She’s already fallen unconscious.
If we can’t pay, my brother and sisters will end up homeless.
So I’ve pulled my assassin grandmother and my pudgy war dragon out of retirement.
Together, we’re going to find the kidnappers and rescue my dad.
And we’ll make those bastards pay.
Set in an alternate medieval Italy with dragons and magic, ASSASSIN'S BLADE is for fans of the Venatrix Chronicles by Sylvia Mercedes, or the dragon books of Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne McCaffery. You'll love taking flight in ASSASSIN'S BLADE.
And now an exciting excerpt!
This is an excerpt from Assassin’s Blade, when Fia’s father is kidnapped and Fia and her dragon Ryelleth wing after them in pursuit.
Ryelleth roared and reared up, taking the brunt of the flames against her chest – a war dragon maneuver done to protect their riders. Fia made herself as small as possible on Ryelleth’s back as blistering heat and deathly flames broke against Ry’s body as a wave breaks across the rocks.
Fia held her breath to keep her lungs from being scorched by fire, and she shut her eyes tight, clinging to Ryelleth. The flames went on and on until every part of her screamed with pain from the fire and the super-heated air.
With a surge of power, Ryelleth winged up into the air, out of the flames, rising higher and higher.
Now cool air surrounded Fia. She wheezed in air, immediately choking – but her goatskin gloves were burning. She smacked them out on the sides of her asbestos dress, wincing in pain. She’d been burned but there was no time to look at the damage.
“I told you to spend a few coins on asbestos gloves,” she muttered to herself, seizing the forward strap. Her hands were shaking, but she leaned against Ryelleth’s neck. “Pursue,” she called, voice quavering.
With a roar, Ryelleth pitched herself directly at the green racer, which was rising swiftly out of the fogbank.
As the green racer rose, Fia could see two people on its back. One was its dragonrider. The second man was her father, wearing his red robes of state.
“Daddy!” Fia shouted, though the deep bruise in her side hurt at her cry. “Ry, follow them! Don’t let them get away!”
Ryelleth growled with determination and blazed after them in pursuit.
The small green dragon clapped its wings and shot away so fast that Fia couldn’t help but gasp. The racer dragons were bred to be light, powerful – and very, very swift.
There was no way that Ryelleth, her big pudgy dragon, could keep up with that. She thought of how the only exercise her dragon got was in ferrying people from city to city. But Fia leaned forward on Ryelleth’s neck like a jockey urging her horse on to a win. “Pursue them!” she cried. “Go, go go go.”
Ryelleth lowered her head and her wings came down like thunder, and they were roaring through the air.
Fia’s fingers went white-knuckled on the forward strap. She had never gone this fast before in her life, and her eyes behind her streaming veil went wide. Ryelleth was keeping up with the green racers.
Now they were slowly staring to gain on the racers. “Get ‘em, my good girl,” she cried to Ryelleth as the freezing wind smacked her veil against her cheeks and neck. Fia pressed herself against the dragon’s back to lower her wind resistance, tightened her legs against Ry’s sides, thrilling at how swiftly they were flying. She’d never known Ry could travel like this. The jeweled tone of the dragon’s scales brightened and glowed from her internal fires, and sparks went eddying and flying past from her hot breath.
One of the riders glanced over his shoulder at them, then shouted something at his partner. Her father, lying face down across the back of the right-hand racer, kicked and squirmed. The rider shouted something and brought down a leather crop across her father’s back.
“No! You bastard!” Fia screamed. “Ry, fire upon the dragon on this side.” Fia struck the left side of Ry’s neck.
At the signal, a gout of flame roared out at the dragons.
Immediately the left-hand dragon peeled off and came for Fia and Ryelleth while the second dragon flew on.
Fia swore. That was a mistake, for now the dragon with her father would have a chance to get away while the oncoming dragon engaged them in a fight.
The green racer circled back and spat a line of fire. Fia’s heart dropped. She curled against Ryelleth’s back, heart rattling with terror with the hard beat of Ry’s wings.
Ryelleth flung herself up so fast that for a split second Fia, within the straps that held her on, was flung face-down on her dragon's back. The racer’s fire broke against Ry’s belly, the dragon’s body and wide wings protecting Fia. Ry blasted fire in return as she climbed and climbed straight up in the air.
Fia felt her dragon’s momentum stall as they hung for a moment in the. Then to Fia’s horror, slowly, as in something out of a nightmare, they began to fall backward.
WOW - if this sounds amazing to you too, don't forget to visit
Look at all the amazing books to win above! Want them? Then, don't forget that I really like FIVE. You'll need that number (added to all the other RED TEAM numbers to enter).
Now, on to the next author in the hunt: TERA LYNN CHILDS
The pandemic goes on. We are more isolated than ever, and yet even in isolation, we are one world, and one species, all in the same predicament together. I've been posting images of my family on facebook and wanted to share some of the moments of joy, we've found, amid the fear.
Stay safe. Stay sane. We'll get through this.
Occasionally there is an event or change that alters human society forever. The World Wars, the development of the Internet, and so on. The current pandemic is one of those events. All over the world, people are suddenly confronted with a situation more surreal than any they've encountered. Here in the USA, many states are already on lockdown. Stores are running out of food and essentials, restaurants and theatres are closed, and people are confined to their homes. Fear, apprehension, and hope drift in the air, along with a very real virus.
I'm not attempting to sensationalize. While many continue to doubt the severity of this pandemic or the necessity of quarantines and social distancing to prevent a complete collapse of our healthcare systems, the very real ramifications of this event have already started.
In this scenario, I suppose I'm lucky. My wife and I both already work from home, and our kids are here. We have internet, we have electricity and food. I'm young and healthy. And yet, I'm just as concerned as the rest of the world. Today I checked my calendar. I had a scheduled virtual visit and had forgotten the time. While looking I noticed something else, Monday was supposed to be my son's day to "lead the class" at his preschool. With no warning, I broke down. Tears welled in my eyes and I felt such overwhelming sorrow I couldn't move.
In some ways it was foolish. Even on the personal level, I've lost more. We've a scheduled trip to DisneyWorld, a massive surprise birthday party for my 40th (Disney emailed and ruined the surprise) and my daughter's first birthday. I'm doubtful that's on. And of course, with him home, I'm attempting to homeschool, losing time to write or cook or take care of the house, and so on. I've a cousin who's already run out of toilet paper. A close friend who cancelled her wedding. And a host of theatre friends suddenly out of work. Since my children were born, I've felt a duty to give them the best life possible, and now just worry about keeping them safe. And don't get me started with the real fear of our funds in the market. Yet, that simple fact, my son was going to miss being the "class leader" sent me spiraling. This wasn't fair. Not to him, not to any of the kids. Students who will miss half a year of school, or their graduations. And what of special needs kids? Or anyone who NEEDs socialization? My son's very social, and thrives with play time. How will he cope long-term without?
No, this won't end tomorrow. No, this won't be easy. After a single week of social distancing, I'm ready to move on. And the doubt about the future is real. Many models such as this one in the Washington Post forecast the event could last a year or more. A year of social distancing, closures, small biz collapsing, arts and nonprofits failing, and entire industries such as entertainment, cruises, and so on coming to a halt. And if you're reading this, at least you too have internet and electricity. Not everyone does.
Hopefully, the virus is under control earlier. I've already started a new novel set during this historic and unfortunate circumstance. Perhaps the most important thing in all of this is HOPE. It's still there. As mentioned, it floats in the wind. It's sometimes muffled behind fear or doubt. Not knowing how this'll play out is hard. Will we be isolated a week or a year? And what will the world look like after this?
There's a certain REM song that comes to mind. The lyrics are critical. It's not just the "end of the world" - no, it is in fact "the end of the world as we knew it." In this case, that might be true.
At this point, we just have to wait and see. Stay safe, and stay sane.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
We all know the expression, "you are what you eat." Makes sense. Consume a ton of junk food and you'll look different than if you eat all healthy food, for instance. Yet, what about the genres we 'consume' for entertainment? How deeply are we defined by those genres if we choose to write in them?
My wife is a Romance author. She enjoys days off, relaxing with a glass of wine and a fire in the fireplace. She daydreams about time on the beach with the man of her dreams (yeah, that's me), basking in the sunlight. She'd be content to lounge and just chill if she had the time.
Me, not so much. I am a workaholic. Yesterday was an example of a day I felt like I did nothing at all. My wife correctly pointed out that in addition to spending the day raising a baby and a toddler, I also did four loads of laundry, baked two apple tarts, prepared two meals, stacked a third of a cord of firewood, raked three bags worth of leaves, and worked on my newest novel. My life is an unending series of small tasks, with this feeling like I'm moving toward a bigger goal. Why? Because I write Fantasy. How many long, arduous quests are filled with small accomplishment after small accomplishment, always moving toward that distant destination? The quest never really ends, even if you reach the goal, there's another destination over the horizon, another task to complete. This might seem tedious, but from the fantasy mindset, every task is a new opportunity for wonder and discovery. I felt great pride at those tarts. My son wanted to help stack wood - how cool was that? And so on...
This is just how we are, and we are quite happy. Still, it does make me wonder. What does your preferred genre say about you? I've recently moved from writing adult to writing kidlit. Is that because I'm now full-time at home with two kids? Am I growing younger at heart? What would a horror fan/writer be like? Or a sci-fi writer? Do you think you are what you write?
Eight years ago today I was stranded in Tintagel, Cornwall at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. As I've shared previously, I watched the sunrise from cliffs overlooking the castle and the experience inspired The Scythe Wielder's Secret, and my entire writing career. Since then I've written many books, and hope to write many more, but it all began eight years ago today.
Where are the Dads?
I've been reading a lot of MG and YA fiction recently and am noticing a disturbing trend. Where are the Dads? In book after book, the protagonist's father is absent or dead. Occasionally, the Dad exists, but in such an awful way they're practically villains or downright abusive. I haven't encountered a single YA or MG dad in books recently who is a great father.
As a stay-at-home dad, fatherhood's obviously important to me. But then I realized I'd fallen into the same trope. My newest novel-in-progress has an absent father! I hadn't even realized it until today!
Why do books and Hollywood ignore dads as good caregivers? Many writers seek to prevent gender stereotypes for boys, yet do not show the possility of men as nurturing fathers? How often do we see the cartoonish buffoon struggling to raise kids on screen? Or in novels, how often is the dad simply dead or gone?
Have you read books with strong, caring Dads? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
As an at-home-dad with a theatre background, I enjoy reading picture books to my three-year-old son, and then later acting out the book with him. He loves to read, and enjoys playing out the stories he enjoys most. We've had honey parties with Pooh and Piglet, mischief with Curious George, and a search for Whos with Horton on many specks. Recently, we lined up all his toy dinosaurs and gave them a wash in his toy car wash, based on Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe. We drew a red crayon doorway on our basement wall and pretended to explore the worlds beyond, using crayons to create help- based on Aaron Becker's fantastic wordless Journey trilogy. And we've had multiple trips outside, looking for dragons, inspired by Max's Dragon. He's even started making stories of his own, without prompting. On the way to the library for new books, he told me about a dragon that had passed on his way to the beach- the story had a beginning, middle, and end, and went on a good eight minutes. Maybe he'll be a storyteller like his parents someday. And he's already encouraging his new sister with books; her face lights up every time we all read one together.
I've been thinking a lot recently about wonder.
Wikipedia describes the emotional state as something similar to surprise and awe, when something unexpected happens that is deeply tied to joy. That is key. Wonder is a joyful, uplifting feeling.
Wonder is a powerful force. I'd argue, it's one of the biggest draws to speculative fiction in the first place. From the dragons of Game of Thrones to the galaxy-altering heroes of the Avengers. It's in everything that works. The trailer for the upcoming Star Wars film spends nearly half of its time on a single wondrous jump (with Rey using Force magic to leap over a TIE-fighter, and attack mid-air). I visited Disney's Pandora area in Animal Kingdom last year, and that entire section of the park is solely devoted to the wonder felt in the move Avatar, from the landscape to the two rides, to the background music (I have a feeling wonder will play heavily into the Star Wars Disney expansion as well). No focus on the movie's tension or characters, or even anything remotely antagonistic. Simply...wonder.
Wonder is essential. The examples are endless. I've been enjoying Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, and each of the three books so far ended in a moment of absolute wonder. I cheered out loud, causing my wife to turn and give me a look, when reading the climax of Oathbringer. Dorothy steps into Oz and her jaw drops, as does the readers. The children walk through the wardrobe into Narnia and the reader's eyes widen. Frodo gasps as he walks into Lothlorien, and the reader feels it time and again in Middle Earth. And the entire series of Harry Potter, from the moment he meets Hagrid on, is centered around that emotion more than any other. Wonder is essential in speculative fiction.
But why now? Why am I thinking about wonder nonstop? Because while we, as human beings, encounter wonder many times in both fiction and our lives, I think there is only one experience that creates this experience more profoundly than any other. It's the one wondrous moment, deeper than any other, that truly changes you as a person. It's happened to me once before, and it's about to happen again. Any day now, my wife and I will welcome a child into this world.
I cannot wait to have my world turned upside-down. To know that who I am will be reshaped daily by another soul, looking back at me, depending me, and changing me in ways I can't even begin to fathom at this point. This is a sense of awe and joy and deep, deep wonder at the miracle of creation. I may write about wonder and read about wonder and watch shows and movies filled with wonder. Yet, I also know that no words will ever do justice to the deeper, more powerful emotion I'm about to experience.
I can't wait for this wonder-filled moment to arrive.