Like When the Teacher Shows a Movie in Class

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hello!  Last week was a very stressful one for me, so to cut myself some slack, this week's post is a clip from my new favorite movie: Zootopia!  Enjoy! 




Query Critique Winner

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hi everyone!  Larissa was lucky number 8 for this month's query critique!  Below is her original query:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 

A feel weeks ago I took your Potential Client Match Quiz, and after scoring 96/100 I was just waiting for the right time to query you. So I’m pleased to introduce my first novel, WAITING FOR FOREVER. It's an Adult Contemporary Romance with a touch of Fantasy, complete at 80,000 words.
 

Always a skeptic, Mark McCarthy never believed in such a thing as soulmates until his life ends in a car accident. At only twenty-three, he must say goodbye to everything he used to call life, and accept this new reality of waiting for this Brazilian girl of color everyone claims to be his soulmate. In The Waiting Room – this world where people from all walks of life have a bird’s eye view to their soulmates’ lives – he can choose between waiting for her, or moving on and giving up on their supposed special connection forever. And in his head the choice seems pretty obvious – why would he wait decades in that boring place for a girl he only met once? – until the day he catches a glimpse of Olivia's life.
 

When Mark realizes soulmates’ love is not something easy to let go of, he decides to wait for Olivia’s entire life to play out so they can live together the eternity that was promised.  And The Waiting Room doesn’t seem so bad when he discovers that their connection is more powerful than he imagined. He might not be able to be with her physically, but he can still be with her in mind. However, the more conscious the living soul is of the dead soul, the faster she will die to come meet her half, and Mark is about to find out that playing Olivia’s guardian angel can have serious consequences for them both.
 

In the living world, Olivia Brandão seems to have gotten everything she always wanted. She has a great job, she can finally help her parents financially, and she loves her devoted fiancé – but she can’t shake the feeling that something is missing in her life. Smart and sensitive, she’s willing to risk everything to follow her heart. What she doesn’t know is that her “something missing” is no longer in her world and that the more she searches for it, the closer she gets to her own death. In the blink of an eye, now Mark must choose between do what is best for him and let fate do its job; or break his own heart and give the love of his life an opportunity he didn’t have: to live a long and happy life – even if it will be with someone else.
 

Though WAITING FOR FOREVER has been written as a trilogy, it can stand alone. I believe it will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman’s IF I STAY, or Cecelia Ahern’s PS, I LOVE YOU.
I’m a Brazilian writer, currently living in France where I’m preparing a PhD thesis in Geography. Thanks to the first #DVpit the full manuscript is already being considered by REUTS Publications.
 

Thank you for your consideration.
 

Sincerely,Larissa Lopes

And here is my critique:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 

A feel weeks ago I took your Potential Client Match Quiz, and after scoring 96/100 I was just waiting for the right time to query you. So I’m pleased to introduce my first novel, WAITING FOR FOREVER. It's an aAdult cContemporary rRomance with a touch of fFantasy, complete at 80,000 words.
 

Always a skeptic, Mark McCarthy never believed in such a thing as soulmates until his life ends in a car accident and he realizes that he he has to make a pit stop on his way to the afterlife to see if he wants to meet herAt only twenty-three, he must say goodbye to everything he used to call life, and accept this new reality of waiting for this Brazilian girl of color everyone claims to be his soulmate. In tThe Waiting Room – this world an in-between place where people from all walks of life have a bird’s eye view ofto their soulmates’ day-to-day lives – he can choose between waiting for her, or moving on and giving up on their supposed special connection forever. And in his head the At first, the choice seems pretty obvious – why would he wait decades in purgatory that boring place for a girl he only met once? [When did he meet Olivia?  This isn't mentioned until now!] – but then he gets to really know Olivia until the day he catches a glimpse of Olivia's life.
 

When Mark realizes soulmate's love is not something easy to casually let go of, he decides to wait for Olivia to join him on the other side ’s entire life to play out so they can live together forthe eternity like they are supposed tothat was promised.  After making that chioce,And tThe Waiting Room doesn’t seem so bad; when he discovers that they have a powerful mentaltheir connection that allows him to be with heris more powerful than he imagined. He might not be able to be with her physically, but he can still be with her in mind. However, the more conscious athe living soul is of its dead soulmatethe dead soul, the faster she will die to come meet her half, and Mark is about to find out that playing Olivia’s guardian angel can have serious consequences for them both.
 

In the living world, Olivia Brandão seems like she hasto have gotten everything she always wanted. She has a great job, she can finally help her parents financially, and she loves her devoted fiancé – but she can’t shake the feeling that something is missing in her life. Smart and sensitive, she’s willing to risk everything to follow her heart. What she doesn’t know is that her “something missing” is no longer in her world and that the more she searches for it, the closer she gets to her own death. [You need to expand on this area more.  If Mark is communicating with her, does she not realize that he is a real person and her dead soulmate?  Why does she not specifically know what is missing?  And does she get closer to her death because she wants to die to join Mark or because something more sinister is happening?] In the blink of an eye, now Mark must choose between doing what is best for him and letting fate do its job,; or breaking his own heart and givinggive the love of his life an opportunity he didn’t have: to live a long and happy life – even if it will be with someone else.
 

Though WAITING FOR FOREVER has been written as a trilogy, it can stand alone. I believe it will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman’s IF I STAY, or Cecelia Ahern’s PS, I LOVE YOU.
I’m a Brazilian writer, currently living in France where I’m preparing a PhD thesis in Geography. Thanks to the first #DVpit the full manuscript is already being considered by REUTS Publications.
 

Thank you for your consideration.
 

Sincerely,Larissa Lopes

The premise of this story is so interesting and the query is on its way--there are a few areas that I think can be changing to help with clarity, but overall it is very compelling!  Chime in with your thoughts below.  Larissa, congrats on winning and I hope this is helpful to you.  Best of luck sending this out!

Happy Pub Day!

Monday, March 6, 2017

I'm very excited to wish Taylor Zajonc a happy pub day!  His book, RED SUN ROGUE, comes out this Wednesday, so you still have some time to pre-order your copy!  RED SUN ROGUE is the sequel to his debut, THE WRECKING CREW, which received a starred review from PW!!  When I first sent out THE WRECKING CREW, I described it is as "an Indiana Jones, underwater adventure," so if you're looking for fast-paced action, check out Taylor's interview below and both his books!




Tell us a bit about this book and its prequel, THE WRECKING CREW!

My first book in the series (THE WRECKING CREW) was about deep sea salvage diver Jonah Blackwell's release from prison to search for a lost scientist in the pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa. When his expedition was attacked, he was forced to assemble an unlikely crew to take on a billionaire industrialist and an environmental disaster in the making. Jonah is forced to transition from a loner to a leader over the course of the novel; enlisting a crew that must overcome mutual distrust and self-interest to survive. 

RED SUN ROGUE picks up right after the first book ends, with the crew smuggling refugees out of North Korea on behalf of a Japanese organized crime syndicate. But soon they're ensnared in a greater conspiracy with roots in the secret Axis weapons programs of World War II. With the adventure as a backdrop, Jonah and his crew learn just how much they'll risk for one another, in the process changing from a crew to a family.

How did you come up with an idea and where did you draw inspiration for character and plot?

RED SUN ROGUE was a deeply personal book. The inspiration came from an expedition my father participated in during the late 90's, where he accompanied the Russian deep sea submersible program to explore a World War II-era Japanese submarine lost at sea while participating in the secret Axis technology exchange program. Through my job I also have a lot of exposure to deep sea tech and the people who use it. I love to draw inspiration from real people who've done really amazing things.

From a character standpoint, in some ways Jonah follows my own journey as a new father. He now has this "family", his crew, and he has to figure out who he is and who he needs to be for these people that have come to depend on him. Jonah and his crew have a tough time in this novel; they're exhausted, nobody is sleeping, and nobody quite knows what they're supposed to do. I think any new parent could probably relate to that.

How was writing this book different than writing the first?  Now that you are writing under contract, do you have to think differently at all?

So different! First off, I'm a new dad, and I wrote the bulk of this book in the six months after my son was born. As any parent will tell you, those months are a sleepless mess and your brain doesn't always hit the "record" button. Suffice to say, I ended up with a finished novel in hand but no real memory of actually writing it. My words to my publisher were something along the lines of "it's finished, but I'm not totally sure what's in it." All I can say is, thank the gods of fiction for extremely thorough outlines. Getting it done wasn't a pretty process, but the novel was the better for it and I'm so thrilled with how it turned out.

Writing a sequel is an interesting process, so many readers and reviewers shared what they liked (and in some cases, didn't!) about the first book. I think that kind of feedback will distract an author if they let it. I had to actively tune out what other people wanted from the sequel and write the book that I wanted to write all along.

What is one of your favorite plot twists in the book?

As with any good adventure book, every chapter is a new twist and nothing goes to plan. My favorite source of these plot twists is a new character, Freya Weyland. She an environmental terrorist and anarchist, and a true foil for Jonah. In some ways they're so alike; both are ruthless, cunning, unpredictable and (when the situation calls for it) violent. Freya represents everything Jonah could have become if he stayed a loner or thought a cause was more important than the people around him.

What is some fun promotion that you've done for RED SUN ROGUE--anything in particular we should keep an eye out for?

This isn't exactly promotion, but Atavist Magazine is releasing a longform story about my work as a research director for a company that looks for historic shipwrecks in the deep ocean. The shipwreck we discovered has an incredible, untold backstory of heroism and leadership on par with Ernest Shackleton and William Bligh. If anyone wants an inside look into who I am and what inspires me, I think this magazine article will do the trick.
Beyond that, my favorite promotional activity was a "book tour" of the local Little Free Libraries in northern Portland, Oregon. My one year old and I stocked the libraries with advance copies of RED SUN ROGUE. My wife (who is a professional photographer) took a few photos of us and posted them in a neighborhood facebook page. The post blew up (mostly because my little man is such a cutie!) all the books were borrowed within the hour, and people now recognize me as the 'writer guy' when I walk the dog around the block. It was an amazing experience.

Do you have any quirks when it comes to your writing process (e.g. do you have to write at night or while wearing lucky socks)?


I can't get beyond the first few chapters in a new novel without finding the right soundtrack for the project. The music has to capture the tone and the attitude of what I'm working on. For RED SUN ROGUE, I listened to hip hop artists like Run the Jewels, Kendrick Lamar, Die Antwoord, M.I.A., and soundtracks from composers like Brian Tyler, Paul Leonard-Morgan, Michael McCann. The one down side of this quirk is that when I'm done with the novel, I 'burn' the music lists and can't ever listen to the songs when I write ever again. I don't know too many other writers who blast hip hop and FPS shooter soundtracks when they work, but I can't concentrate to anything else.


Now fun question!  If these books were turned in to a movie (or movies ::salivates::) who would you cast to play the main characters?

I love character actors and actresses who bring a special level of physicality and intensity and creativity to their roles, really make them their own - here's a few off the top of my head: 

Jonah Blackwell, expert salvage diver: Sebastian Sam
Dr. Hassan Nassiri, ships' surgeon: Dev Patel
Alexis Andrews, chief engineer: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Dalmar Abdi, former pirate: DeObia Oparei
Vitaly Kuznetsov, ships' helmsman: Liam Aiken
Sun-Hi, communications officer: Grace Huang
Marissa Hildebrand: Alexandra Daddario
Freya Weyland, anarchist: CrossFit champion Annie Thorisdottir (in what would be her Hollywood debut!)

Writing/Story Match Quiz

Monday, February 27, 2017

I was really happy to see that the quiz I did a few weeks ago was popular with everyone, and after thinking about it, I decided to do another! Now that you've taken a look to see how our work styles, etc. might mesh, I thought it would be fun to see if our writing and story preferences are a match, too!


  1. What kind of topics do you like to write about?

  2. Interesting time periods or people
    Relationships
    Myself!
    Strong characters
    Unusual premises
  3. What writing style do you think is best?

  4. Quirky
    Literary
    Commercial and fast-paced
    Narrative
    Clipped and sparse
  5. How much guidance do you need to improve your writing?

  6. I need someone to guide me with specific examples and line edits
    A detailed editorial letter is all I need
    Several rounds of edits with written feedback and phone calls
    Some phone conversations--if I can get an idea of what needs to change, I can take it from there
    No guidance--I prefer not to have my agent comment on my writing
  7. What kind of character is your favorite?

  8. Fiesty women
    Dark protagonists
    Unsung heroes
    Curious children
    Unreliable narrators
  9. What do you think is most important about voice?

  10. It should be minimal and isn't the most important feature of the writing
    It should be neutral
    It should be tailored to fit the story
    It should guide the narrative and immediately immerse the reader in the story
    It should be unique and distinctive
  11. What kind of imagery do you usually use?

  12. Sparse and infrequent
    Delicate and thoughtfully placed
    Whatever comes to me as I’m writing
    Specific and full
    Flowery and immersive
I hope you had fun filling this out! Click the "Grade Me" button below to get your results!

Query Critique

Monday, February 20, 2017

Query critique time!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)



If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!  And don't forget to post any questions you want me to answer in the comments section with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

Happy Pub Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017

This month's query critique has been moved to next week because tomorrow is the pub day for Suzanne Kamata's THE MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN!  Check out the gorgeous cover (and be sure to buy a copy of the book!)... I'm excited to be interviewing Suzanne and incorporating some of the questions you told me you'd most like to have answered by my authors!





First off, how did you come up with the idea for THE MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN and where did you draw inspiration for the characters and plot?

Originally, I wanted to take the material at hand -- my bland Midwestern upbringing -- and turn it into something magical. I grew up in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan, and by the time I was in high school, I couldn't wait to get out of there. One of my teachers told us that one day we would realize what a great place we lived in. I didn't believe him then, but after I'd left, I did start to feel nostalgic for everything I'd left behind - the dunes, the lake that was as vast as a sea, the musical fountain, the summer Coast Guard festival, and the iconic lighthouse.  I guess I started with the setting. The characters are loosely based upon people that I knew, but it's not an autobiographical book.

I tend to throw everything I'm interested in at the time into the story or novel that I'm writing. I've always had an interest in mermaids, for instance. While on foreign study in France, I became fascinated with the Rom women who tried to read my palm in front of the train station in Avignon, and the communities of Rom in Camargue. Later, I was excited to read about female wreck divers on the Great Lakes, so I found a way to incorporate one into the story.

For everyone who doesn't know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.

I started writing stories as a child, as a lot of us do, and never grew out of it. I wrote for my high school newspaper, took a creative writing class in college, and wrote a couple of never-to-be-published romance novels in my spare time. After I studied literature in college, my writing became more "literary." I didn't really start sending out my work until I found myself living in rural Japan. I'd come here to teach English "for one year," and then I fell in love with a local guy. Before I could commit to living on a relatively remote island in the Pacific, I decided that I had to figure out whether or not I could somehow have the literary life I'd always dreamed of. I started a literary journal for expats in Japan, wrote and published my own short stories, and started writing for English-language newspapers and magazines in Japan.

What has your experience been like after finding an agent (shopping to publishers, dealing with contracts, etc.)?

Having an agent allows me to concentrate on writing. I also really, really appreciate your editorial feedback! Also, I'm basically a non-confrontational kind of person, so it's good to have someone else on my side who's willing to follow up on things and deal with contracts.

What was the hardest part of getting your book published that most people don't realize?  Also tell us a bit about your publisher!

I actually wrote the first draft of this book before the publisher, Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, even existed! When I thought it was finished, I sent it out to a bunch of agents and regional publishers. I got a lot of encouragement, and helpful feedback, but I didn't really know how to revise it at the time. Every now and then, I would dig it out of the drawer, slash some pages, and add some more. Still, it took a while for the perfect publisher to show up. Nancy Cleary, at Wyatt-Mackenzie, acquired and published a nonfiction anthology on multicultural mothering that I put together a while ago. At the time, she wasn't publishing fiction, but over the past few years she's published some interesting novels with touches of magical realism, such as Lemongrass Hope by Amy Impellizzeri, and Piper, Once and Again by Caroline E. Zani. As it turned out, The Mermaids of Lake Michigan fit right in! Nancy is really fun to work with because she has a lot of energy (like you, Carrie!) and is always pursuing interesting publicity opportunities. Thanks to her efforts, my anthology was featured as a movie prop!

What kind of marketing have you done for THE MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN?

I reached out to maritime and historical museum gift shops and some bookstores in Michigan, and I've also set up a blog tour.  I presented the book in Tokyo at an SCBWI event earlier this month, and I expect to do more talks, and hopefully a bit of a tour to brick and mortar stores this summer.


Do you have any quirks when it comes to your writing process (e.g. do you have to write at night or while wearing lucky socks)?

Not really. I used to think I needed an entire day of peace and quiet to write, but after having kids, I can write just about anywhere, and in any situation.

Anything that new authors can learn from your experiences?

Well, if I can get published while living on an island in Japan where hardly anyone speaks English, you can, too! Be persistent! Read and write a lot! Believe in yourself! And connect with other writers. In the early days, before there was Internet access in Japan, I connected to other writers via the literary journal I started. Now, I meet up with writers on-line and at conferences.  


Happy Pub Day!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Tomorrow is the pub day for the second book in Shana Figueroa's Valentine Shepherd series, RETRIBUTION, which follows Valentine Shepherd, a Seattle P.I. who can see the future by using a very unusual paranormal talent.  Take a look at Shana's interview below and be sure to get a copy of the book!!



This is the second book in the Valentine Shepherd series.  Tell us a bit about it and where it picks up the story.

When VENGEANCE ended, Max and Val were, sadly, broken up due to Val’s inability to deal with the turbulent future she knew they’d experience if they stayed together. They’ve both tried to move on with their lives, but they’re failing miserably at it. Then Val gets a case only Max can help her crack, and though the two try to keep things between them professional, of course it doesn’t stay that way…


How was writing this book different than writing the first?  Now that you are writing under contract, do you have to think differently at all?

Whenever you write the second book in a series, you need to make sure someone who hasn’t read the first can pick it up and understand the basics of what’s going on. In practice, this means you need to reintroduce the characters and summarize the major plot points of the first book without turning it into a jarring info-dump. It’s harder than it seems. JK Rowling is the master at this, so I tried to emulate the way she did it in her Harry Potter series. Writing under a contract isn’t different than the way I wrote before. I got contracted to finish stories I was already working on, and I write constantly because it makes me happy. I’m lucky in that I don’t need to rely on my writing for a paycheck. I always write what I want to write.


How do you think your manuscript and/or series has changed since you started working with your editor?

My editor does a very good job of telling me things I don’t want to hear. From her, I get a better understanding of things my readers might not like, and I have the option of choosing to keep those elements in the story or not. For instance, in RETRIBUTION, both Max and Val become involved with other people while they’re broken up. Val in particular falls into a cycle of self-destructive behavior that includes less-than-romantic relations with a, well, less-than-savory character. I knew I was taking a big risk giving Val significantly more flaws than the average heroine, and my editor told me so. After thinking long and hard about it, I decided to take the risk because it was true to the character. I tend to write very flawed, very strong characters, especially heroines. You won’t get any Mary Sues from me. I know some readers won’t like it, but that’s who I am as a writer. It’s part of my brand. Take it or leave it.


What is one of your favorite plot twists in the book?

Toward the end of the book, things are looking up for both Max and Val. They’re ready to leave all their (many, many) problems behind and run away together to finally have their HEA! …Until Max goes back to his condo alone to pack his bags for their trip, and then—well, you’ll have to read the book to see what happens, but my editor wrote “OMG NOOOO!!”


You've gotten some great reviews for the first book, VENGEANCE!  What has been the most fun thing about seeing reader feedback?  The least fun?
My favorite thing about reader feedback for VENGEANCE were all the comments about how different the book was from anything they’ve read before. I wanted to give people a story they’d never experienced, and based on the feedback it seems I succeeded. The least fun thing is not yet having the opportunity to engage with my readers (except for my friends, and my mom). So far, my reader engagement has been pretty one-sided; I’ll write stuff on my blog or on Facebook, and no one will respond. I’d love to interact with my readers, find out more about what they like and what they didn’t, or where they’d like the story to go…but I guess my author brand isn’t big enough yet. I’ll admit—I suck at social media. But building a fan base takes time, so I’m being patient.


Are you doing any exciting promo that we should keep an eye out for?
I’m considering doing some kind of giveaway for an advanced copy of RETRIBUTION, or a $25 Amazon gift card, something like that, in exchange for people signing up for my author newsletter…Yes, I have an author newsletter now! It’s probably the best author newsletter you’ve ever read, if I’m being honest. You can sign up for the newsletter on my homepage: www.shanafigueroa.com!


Tell us what's coming next with Book 3!

Minor spoiler – by the end of Book 2, Val and Max are together again, living in holy matrimony (they finally get their HEA!). As Book 3, RECKONING, begins, they’re enjoying their new lives of domestic bliss…except for Val’s lingering thirst for vengeance, that is. She can’t forgive and forget the people still walking free who killed her fiancé and terrorized her and Max not that long ago. When a string of mysterious deaths cuts too close to home to be a coincidence, she knows her enemies have finally returned, and she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her family.


Any advice that romance author hopefuls can learn from your experiences so far?

Don’t despair. I mean this in more ways than one. I’m currently serving in Afghanistan, fighting what many might call an unwinnable war. On one convoy outside the wire, we drove by a garbage truck. “Hey, look at that,” one of my veteran squadmates said, pointing at the truck. “You didn’t used to see those here.” The US has been in Afghanistan for fifteen years, and a garbage truck is a major sign of progress. The internet is so terrible here, I can barely communicate with my family. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to remember what my daughter’s hair smells like. Around Thanksgiving, my stepbrother got terminal cancer. Then I watched Donald Trump become my new boss and leader of the free world. What I’m saying is, sometimes you have big dreams for a better world or a better life, and you have to watch those dreams get crushed to a fine powder underneath the foot of harsh reality. The worst thing you can do is give up. When one dream goes up in smoke, don’t despair. Move on to another. Always have lots and lots of dreams to fall back on, and work—fight, dammit!—every day to make those dreams a reality.


What's a fun fact about yourself?

I’m planning on running for office when I retire from the military. Yes, I’m serious (for some reason people always think I’m kidding). I’ll probably return to my hometown of Seattle and run for mayor, or governor, or Senate, or something. I’m very passionate about making the world a fairer and more just place. I write romance because I believe in the power of love, and I want to bring that power into the real world. I’ll be the sword and the shield of the destitute, the downtrodden, the good people who get stomped on by the powerful. It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, and I want to continue doing my duty long after I’ve hung up my uniform.

 
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