Archive for December, 2009

Forget New Year’s resolutions…This year I’m scheming a writers’ revolution.

Scribblers, let’s shake things up out there.

Are you with me?!

If so, grab a megaphone and repeat after me:

“In 2010, my goal is not to get an agent and publish a book. My goal is to grow and learn enough to write a book worthy of esteem, a book worthy of the best agent and the most discerning publisher. I take this oath as a sacred trust, and I shall toil until my manuscript shines like the sun and lays waste to the spurn of rejection.”

Viva La Revolución!

Hungry for more?

Try my homemade Chocolate Lava Sauce. You’ll need more than a few spoonfuls on hand to get through all the pints of Haagen-Dazs you’ll scarf down while hunched over the keyboard this year.

Chocolate Lava Sauce

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Tbsp. cocoa

2 Tbsp. light Karo corn syrup

2 Tbsp. vanilla

1/4 cup cream

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gradual boil. Do not scorch, but allow sauce to boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Allow to cool slightly.

Binge!

P.S. Congratulations to Jemi Fraser, who won a copy of Gil’s All Fright Diner!


This morning, uberagent @MichaelBourret tweeted it’s “noticeably quiet today.”

Too quiet.  It’s time for a snowstorm of query tomfoolery.

It’s time to pull a Cameron Frye.

Remember when Cameron and Ferris skitter downtown in the middle of an Oktoberfest Parade?

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are such a wonderful crowd, we’d like to play a little tune for you. It’s one of my personal favorites and I’d like to dedicate it to a young man who doesn’t think he’s seen anything good today – Cameron Frye, this one’s for you. ”

@MichaelBourret, this one’s for you:

Dear Agent,

Have you ever been injured during a barn raising? Imagine the pain of a 300 hundred pound handcarved loadbearing truss falling on your pelvis. You’ll experience these gut wrenching emotions when you read my 278,00 epic Amish techno-thriller, A CONFEDERACY OF BUTTONS.

Named after a verboten technology, Samuel Buttons struggles amidst a sea of disapproval to overcome his father’s obsession with apparel fasteners. Does his bearded nemesis, Werner Wunderhosen, want him dead? Or does Werner harbor more sinister desires? Samuel must save his betrothed, Rosebud, from Wunderhosen’s zipperless clutches.

In the end, Buttons must also accept his destiny. He must face down the cotton smocked rabble at the Wunderhosen’s barn raising. With Rosebud at his side, Samuel forces Werner’s hand by revealing his secret machine, a steampunk miracle which pintucks seams where no Button has gone before.

Werner attacks, setting the barn ablaze while Rosebud is inside. Buttons rescues his auburned tressed paramour just before a karmic earthquake shakes a treacherous truss loose. Wunderhosen’s pants are pinned; he cannot escape. The word “Rosebud” passes over his dying lips.

Dear sir or madam, although I know you must recognize A CONFEDERACY OF BUTTONS as Pulitzer material, I’ve taken precautions to ensure my manuscript is safe from plagiaristic subterfuge. I am sending each chapter of my opus separately via registered mail. The pages are encrypted, of course. A courier will arrive with your decoder ring at 3 p.m. tomorrow. I will entertain offers for representation only until the Ides of March.

Danke Schön,

Scarlet Whisper

How do you like them Buttons?

Hungry for more?

Go order takeout Weinerschitznel, I’m all out of pankuchen recipes today.

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Erm, I don’t really have anything exciting to share about myself this week.

But, I do have some SPECTACULAR NEWS to share about one of  my friends/superheroes/mentors, A. Lee Martinez.

Alex’s bestseller, Gil’s All Fright Diner, is going HOLLYWOOD. Dreamworks has attached director Barry Sonnenfeld and the scribes behind Kung Fu Panda to a movie adaptation of the novel. You can read about it in Variety.

Very cool, indeed, dear ones.

Perhaps you’ve noticed I gush (quite frequently) about DFW Writers’ Workshop. Workshop is a fab organization for writers. Scribblers of all stripes and skill levels meet every Wednesday night. Some of us are newbie novices (me) and some of us are ridiculously talented (um, that would be A. Lee Martinez.)

How many bestselling authors take the time to patiently offer critique and advice to lesser mortals? Alex does. He helps to cultivate our community of writers; he and a cadre of other awesome superfriends contribute to DFWWW in a big way.

As a flunky sidekick in training, I’m honored to be counted among their number.

Congratulations to my superfriend, Alex. His talent and hardwork brought Gil’s to this point. I’d like to think a little karmic payback hasn’t hurt, either.

Here’s a toast to my many superheroes and friends.

Who are you cheering for? Whose advice or guidance has helped you most? Tell me and I’ll pick the most amazing shoutout. I’ll send the winner a copy of Gil’s All Fright Diner. (Hey, I might even be able to grovel enough to get the author to autograph it. ) I’ll announce the winner next week.

Hungry for more? Try my recipe for Peanut Butter Superfudge. I’ve taken this sweet confection and put it on steroids.

Peanut Butter Superfudge

2 cups sugar

1/2 milk

1 1/3 cup peanut butter

1 (reg. size) jar of marshmallow creme

Bring sugar and milk to a boil; boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and marshmallow cream. Pour into buttered 8 inch pan.

Binge!

I’ve added footnotes to this sterling query letter. Enjoy.

(1)Dear Agent:

(2) Are you terrified of death? (3) Imagine a world where sparkling, flesh eating zombies roam freely across the countryside. (4) By reading my novel, you will experience the terror of an undead apocalypse. (5) TWILIGHT HUNGER is wholly original; you’ve never met anyone like Hunter Steele. (6) Hunter’s zombie killing escapades are just the tip of the iceberg. (7) Can he save the voluptuous raven haired Desiree  D’Uathata (a fiery tempered fae) from an Islamic terrorist plot?

(8) By now, you must realize you’ve never seen the likes of TWILIGHT HUNGER before. My novel will appeal to anyone who loves good literature, especially men. (9) With over 144 million men in the United States alone, my 287, 000 word epic saga is destined for the bestseller list.

(10) I’ve had my fiction novel professionally edited by my aunt, who proofs the classified ads for our local Penny Saver. (11) My family and friends characterize my story as “unforgettably horrifying” and “strangely amusing.” (12) Although I know you’ll fall in love with my manuscript, I need assurances you will not plagiarize my ideas. (13) To this end, I’ve contacted the copyright office to secure the rights to the novel.

(14) Each chapter of my manuscript is attached to this e-mail as a separate word document. I quit my job this week in order to write a sequel, and I’ll be on vacation until next Thursday. I’ll await your call next Friday at 5:00 p.m. sharp. (15) Let’s make some money together!

(16) Hugs and Kisses,

Scarlet Whisper

(1)   Agents appreciate efficiency. Research is tedious and time consuming. Instead of selecting individual agents who might be the best fit, go ahead and toilet paper Manhattan with your query. Don’t personalize queries; everyone knows it’s a waste of time. If “Dear Agent” feels too impersonal, use “To Whom it May Concern” instead.

(2)   Always begin your query with a question. Agents love rhetorical hooks, especially ones which raise one’s blood pressure; it builds tension

(3)   Show how attuned you are to pop culture by adopting movie trailer narration in your query.

(4)   You know how fabulous your novel is; be confident and tell the agent how much they’ll enjoy your story!

(5)   You want to entice the agent without giving too much of the plot away. Don’t forget to mention your hard-bodied protagonist!

(6)   The use of metaphor marks you as a sophisticated writer. Pepper your query with bold clichés.

(7)   Only give the agent a taste of the action in your story; use adjectives and adverbs freely to highlight your plot. Keep the agent guessing what your book is about.

(8)   Confidence, confidence. Who wants a milquetoast as a client? Tell the agent how unique and profound your novel is; spare no descriptor!

(9)   It’s important to show you’ve done your market research; calculate how many people will buy your masterpiece. By sharing this information up front, you’ve told agent you’re a savvy business person. Include your initial word count, even if you think 287,000 is a little low.

(10)                       Of course, don’t forget to include the manuscript’s history. The agent will appreciate the expertise of a fellow professional. Also, be sure to clarify that your novel is “fiction.”

(11)                       Blurbs are a powerful selling point; quote your blood relatives. The agent enjoys reading these objective reviews.

(12)                       Be careful. Publishing is a cutthroat business. You know your novel is the next Pulitzer. Let the agent see you’re streetwise and prepared for a lawsuit.

(13)                       I’m sure you’ve heard your novel is granted copyright protection from the moment you wrote it, but it never hurts to go the extra mile. While you’re at it, secure the copyright for the cover artwork your daughter painted. Original black velvet canvases of sparkling zombies are hard to come by.

(14)                       Attach the full manuscript, regardless of the agent’s submission guidelines. They’ll thank you later. Attaching each chapter separately will make it easier on the agent when you send revisions two days after your original query.

(15)                       Let your enthusiasm and financial prowess shine through your query letter. In fact, send a box of cigars or a bottle of aftershave along with your submission.

(16)                       This is the clincher. You’ve been the consummate professional throughout your query. Seal the deal with an intimate greeting. The agent will develop distinct feelings toward you.

Still hungry?

After you’ve sent your query, wait for the stacks of manuscript requests to pile up in your mailbox or e-mail folder. Until then, build a bonfire with the mountain of rejections you’ve accrued. The crackling flames are the perfect compliment to my Indoor Smores.

Indoor Smores

Ingredients

4 cups Gold Grahams cereal

3 tablespoons butter

6 cups mini marshmallows

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

Spray or butter a 9 by 13 pan. Set aside cereal in a large bowl. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows and corn syrup and stir until melted. Stir in chocolate chips until ingredients melt together smoothly. Remove from heat and pour over cereal; stir well to coat. Press into pan. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Binge!

Now, I know you’re not going to believe this, but…sometimes I’m a know-it-all pompous buttocks.

Yeah, it’s a stretch to imagine that. Really.

Sometimes, in the face of ridiculous ignorance, I run into a telephone booth, rip off my International Jewel Thief catsuit, don my wizard robes, and emerge as…

Hermione Granger.

I can’t help it. When people spout off hokum, what’s a librarian going to do?

For example, last week, I’m talking to somebody and the subject of magical realism comes up. Somebody mentions somebody else would probably like a certain middle grade magician story because this someone is a fan of  “magical realism.”

Ahem. Cough, Cough.

I pull a sorting hat (sans rabbit) out of my…(well, you don’t need a visual, do you?) and suddenly a torrent of Hermione speak is pouring from my lips.

“Well, that’s not really what she meant. Magical realism isn’t really about magic tricks or just stories with magical elements, like…erm, Harry Potter. Think Isabel Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez . Magic realism refers to a literary style when ordinary circumstances become transcendent through…”

His eyes glaze over.

“Oh, just go read Love in the Time of Cholera.”

He squints. I cannot tell whether he is angry, resentful, or confused.

“Never mind. Sounds like a great idea.”

He shuffles away, repelled by my high falutin’ airs.

And Hermione evaporates;  her spirit banished until feeble-minded assertions summon her again.

Or until someone sends me a forwarded e-mail about Nokia giving away free laptops.

Now if I could just get Hermione to show up when I really need her; like when I’m looking for the right exit for Northpark mall, or I’m trying to learn the rules to @ALeeMartinez ‘s new board game.

Dear ones, is it just me? Do you ever get a little overzealous when speaking out? Have you ever been thrown out of Starbucks for chastising the Barista about the origin of “Venti”? (Never mind–Forget I asked).

Still hungry?

If you’re looking for a great article on Magical Realism, check this one out.

If you’re looking for a great recipe for Hermione’s Humble Pie,  look no further. It’s easy, and is made from the humblest of ingredients.

Hermione’s Humble Pie

1 9-inch (unbaked) pie shell

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 Tbsp. flour

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup reg. milk w/ 1 Tbsp. lemon juice added)

1 stick butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

nutmeg

Beat the eggs. Add the flour and sugar. Add, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Pour into pie shell and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for forty five more minutes. Cool to taste. Refrigerate leftovers (if there are any).

Binge!

Oh, yes. I am well acquainted with the heartbreak of rejection.

 I mean the writing kind, folks. (Not the kind of rejection I got in fourth grade when I slipped a box of Russell Stover chocolates into my dreamboat crush’s valentine sack…that’s another level of pain altogether.)

 1. Rejection is a natural part of the writing process. Everyone goes through it. Rejection should be a motivator to persevere and grow.

 2. Rejection can nurture a healthy sense of humility. You thought everyone would love your perfect novel about sparkling zombie assassins? Think again. Learn to embrace honesty and work to improve.

 3. Rejection can be illuminating. Although even the most complimentary rejection is still a “no,” rejections with personal feedback provide the writer with valuable critique. If agents or editors take the time to point out flaws, some deep reflecting and/or revising is in order. Query, partial, or full request rejections with on target personal critique are golden. Each has the potential to strengthen future submissions.

 4. Rejection can measure progress. Most of my first rejections were impersonal form rejections. After much revision and critique, my rejections became personalized notes and partial requests. After more revision, my queries have been followed by full requests. Yes, I’m still getting rejected, but I’m getting a lot of detailed critique in the process. Bless those agents who offer scraps of insight to the hopeful writer.

 5. Rejection can be a much needed reality check. If you’ve revised two dozen times, queried 200 agents, and still get only form rejections, a gut assessment is needed. Maybe it’s your project, maybe it’s your writing, or maybe it’s the market. Maybe you stink like a three month old cabbage. Maybe it’s time to explore a career in dairy farming…

 6. Rejection separates the wheat from the chaff. Those who give up early and refuse to learn from rejection make room for others who will go on to publish wonderful (or not so wonderful) books. Keep your day job, but keep writing.

 7. Rejection is hard and fast. No amount of wishful thinking or elaborate rejectomancy can spin an acceptance from a pass on a manuscript. Deal with it and move on.

Dear Ones,

Although your rejection misery sounds very compelling, I’m afraid Imust pass on hearing more about it. I wish you future success in your psychothery sessions.

Best Regards,

Scarlet Whisper

 Hungry for more?

 Curl up with a steaming mug of my hot spiced cider. Pour in a little something extra, if necessary, but remember that the suicide hotline standing by twenty four hours a day, if you need to talk to someone. 

 Hot Spiced Cider

1 large can pineapple juice
1 quart orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 quarts strong tea
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons whole cloves
Cinnamon sticks (two or three)

Combine  juices and tea. In sauce pan, combine remaining ingredients with 1 qt cold water – bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes. Turn off the burner and strain off the cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add hot mixture to tea/juice mixture. Heat and serve.

Binge!