Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Help With An Agent Pitch-Twitter-Style Semi-Blogfest

I was visiting Charity Bradford's Blog, My Writing Journey, and she had posted another writing contest that really sounded interesting. It is the QueryTracker contest called:

Here are the rules:

Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary Management has graciously agreed to judge an adult fiction contest. (For completed manuscripts only.) What to enter: A Twitter-style pitch (140 characters or less, including spaces) Entries WILL NOT be capped. (Yay!) Entry period will be 24 hours: From noon Tuesday, July 6 - noon Wednesday, July 7. These are the genres Ms. Townsend will be judging:
  • Adult Science Fiction
  • Adult Fantasy
  • Adult Urban Fantasy
  • All subgenres of Adult Romance
  • Adult Thrillers
To enter this contest:
  1. You must have a free QueryTracker membership
  2. You must be a follower of the QueryTracker blog
  3. Your submission will be accepted on the submission form
  4. DO NOT EMAIL YOUR SUBMISSION DIRECTLY TO THE AGENT. You will be disqualified if you do.

Well, the manuscript must be complete and they suggest you shouldn't waste your time or the agent's time if your book does not fall within the genres posted.

So here is the problem. I would like to enter this contest but I haven't been able to come up with a decent logline, elevator pitch, one-line agent pitch to save my soul. And that is if I'm allowed more than 140 characters (including spaces). So I've decided to have an impromptu Help-Melanie-Come-Up-With-An-Agent-Pitch-Twitter-Style Semi-Blogfest. Enter by leaving a comment below. I will judge the entries by which is the most helpful and/or makes me laugh. I will announce the winner on 7/5/10. Um...Prize will be mention of you/your blog/your twitter address/heartfelt praise and maybe even a signed copy of my book if it ever gets published. (Like--whoa, isn't that fabulous?--say yes.)

My book is the swashbuckling, humorous adventures of a young American woman accidentally pressed into the Royal Navy in 1805. She must hide her gender or be dumped at the nearest port, alone and defenseless. Now, before you say, "Oh that could never happen," there actually was a woman who dressed as a man and joined the Royal Navy in 1805. It was eight weeks before she was discovered. Okay, so she wasn't pressed, as my MC, but let's not split hairs.

So here are my pathetic twitter pitches. Vote for one that you like, or suggest one of your own.

1. After mistakenly being pressed into the Royal Navy, Jessie must hide that she is a girl, learn to obey orders and quit offering her opinion.

2. Three cousins dress as sailors to avoid pirate capture and are pressed into the 1805 Royal Navy, keeping secret that one of them is a girl.

3. Her cousins towered over her in the cramped storeroom with their knives inches from her head. What waited outside the storeroom was worse.

I will be eternally thrilled by any help you can give. Really.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

First Sentence Contest

SV Fair Jeanne under full canvas in Lake Ontario, Canada.
Bytown Brigantine, Inc.
Photo by A. Soens

In meandering through my bloglists, I came across this fun contest over at RaShelle Workman's blog, A No.2 pencil stat! She is giving away a few treasured items for the best "first line" from a work in progress. Since I enjoy her blog, I decided I'd enter. So here is my first line.

"My two cousins towered over me in the cramped storeroom with their knives inches from my head."

Pop on over to A No. 2 pencil and check the comments section of her blog for other first liners.

Editor's Note: First line is subject to change during revisions.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Pox Upon the Mean People

Photo by John Haslam

People are mean. Have you ever noticed that? Not everyone, of course, certainly not the seventy-nine people who follow this blog, but there are a lot of people who are vexatious, knavish louts. And the worst of them are the ones who like to remain anonymous. It seems to me if you want to be a venomous cad, you should have the decency to be blatant about it instead of skulking away like a three-legged scorpion. And yet I seem to attract this type of scalawag.

After dropping my daughter off at college in Seattle I desperately needed some quiet time and drove to Long Beach. I pulled up onto the sand, dropped my convertible top and inhaled the briny air. Because it was September, the beach was nearly deserted except for a few cars. I hauled out the latest Julia Quinn book and flipped it to the sales slip I used as a bookmark. I popped a fresh, lemon saltwater taffy into my mouth, cocked my ear toward the crashing surf and lost myself in nineteenth century London.

The screams jolted me. Above two dozen birds cut through the air on a desperate mission. The people next to me had tossed some fries out of their car and the gulls flapped in mad frenzy to get to the food before it was gone. I flailed my book at them, ducking my head into my shoulders, and squeaking out dismay. Boisterous laughter erupted from the dark depths of the black car as it reversed onto the pavement and sped away. The two dozen gulls followed and it reminded me of a Hitchcock film. Goose bumps crawled down my arms.

Peeking into the back seat, I saw no evidence of “Bird Encounter”. I heaved a relieved sigh and laughed to myself. Birds take on a whole new meaning when one is in a convertible. Soon, the few feathered friends remaining near my car settled onto the sand, especially after I told them they would get nothing from me. My eyes dropped back to the novel and soon the ring of hooves on cobblestone replaced the thunder of waves against sand. Absorbed, I didn't notice the black car slither up beside me until I saw an anonymous arm shoot out and dump a huge bag of popcorn between our cars. Then the black beast slid into a u-turn and sped off.

A horde of gulls flew directly over me, pooping, swooping down to grab popcorn, leaping back into the air to jettison fuel, plummeting down for more. Within seconds I estimated my enemies to number one hundred or more. They came from everywhere, along the beach and from town. They must have sent out a special signal or they saw the frenzy and whooshed in for food and fast-paced excitement. The horrific cries of battle drew still more dive-bombers from neighboring cities.

Flailing a road atlas, screaming, I tried to start my car and put my hat on at the same time. I couldn't figure out what was more important and fumbled with each task. I finally dropped the atlas, jammed the hat on my head and cranked the engine. Fearing a big wad of slimy seagull dung, I kept my face down. The roar of the raging birds became deafening, adding to my panic.

Fortunately I retained enough presence of mind to know I couldn’t go forward without plunging into the sea, so I slammed into reverse, gunned the engine and burned salt backing up. Throwing the car into first, I peeled out toward the road, kicking up sand, and realized my adversaries were still soaring over me en route to the campaign. I veered wildly to the right, ducking my head in reflex, and bounced up onto the pavement.

With a quick glimpse above, I determined I was out of the flight path. I pulled over and glanced back at the horrific scene and shivered. With knees shaking and heart pounding I climbed out and walked around the car, peering into the back seat, studying the top cover, glancing at the hood, the trunk, and the windshield.

Nothing. Not even a partial poop. Not a single one.

I leaned against the trunk until my pulse slowed. Just as my shoulders relaxed, I gazed back at the beach. If it was possible, more than two hundred feathered troops were now deployed, with allies flying in from surrounding counties. The participants appeared to be getting ready to disperse. I realized the popcorn must be gone and they would soon start spreading out to return to their usual posts.

Panic sent me jumping into the car. I shifted into gear and lunged forward before the door even closed, wildly grabbing the seatbelt and hooked it as I neared the highway at warp speed. For the next ten miles my eyes shifted continually from the road to the rear view mirror, with quick darting glances overhead. When I felt safe, I pulled over and put the convertible top up. I let out a long, deep breath, rolled up my windows and cranked up the air conditioning. As I headed home, the thought of trading in the convertible for a hardtop had merit.

As I sped inland, away from the coast and coastal birds, instant replays on the high definition screen of my memory kept my heart hammering. And each time I saw that sinister hand--grasping the red and white striped popcorn bag--snake out of the window, I shuddered because I knew. There is evil out there.

I try not to wish this on anyone because the cosmic universe has a funny way of turning the tables on me, but I keep thinking it might be nice if the owners of that bag of popcorn were plagued with enormous amounts of bird poop on that shiny black hood and perhaps a few large splatters of seagull fertilizer on their front walk every now and then would not go amiss. But, do mean people ever pay the price?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Jaws of the Bobcat

Photo by Malcolm

My eyes popped open. Bright, early morning light poured through the sliding glass door. My gaze did a quick search of the family room and I listened while my pulse echoed in my ears. Heavy footsteps on the back deck made me catch my breath. Screams, low pitched and high, sent a jagged knife slicing into my chest.

My cat, Smokey.

I leaped from the sofa, tripping over a cocoon of blankets, ripping them away while two sets of footsteps charged across the wooden planks outside. The screams stopped. I lunged for the glass and slammed it open, bolting out. Smokey usually slept on the picnic table, but he wasn't there. I beat along the back of the house to the deck at the other end.

About thirty feet away, a hundred foot Douglas fir scraped along the blue of the sky. About halfway, Smokey’s little gray paws clawed his way up. Fifteen feet below him the bobcat closed in.

My jaw dropped and I screamed out a “Nooo.” Wielding fists and flapping arms in all directions, my bare toes curled over the edge of the deck as I sucked in breath. Nooooo. Bad. Bad. Get down.” I hopped up and down, gyrated and waved like a tree in a hurricane. “Get down now!” I commanded.

Both cats stopped. The bobcat, about thirty feet up, lowered his eyes to me, raised them back to his prey, back to me, back to Smokey, and back to me. He watched me leap and cavort and shriek and then--and you’ll just have to trust me on this--he shrugged and heaved out a sigh. He descended the tree with the ease of a square-rigged sailor descending a mainmast, and jumped the last few feet to the cropped green grass. The forty-five pound, fawn-colored, spotted cat with the ears tufts and bobbed tail turned and faced me.

At that moment I realized I was standing on the back deck in a short, satiny nightgown, bare feet, wild hair, and no weapon. The door was thirty feet behind me. Could I outrun a bobcat? I cursed myself for not signing up for the “Avoiding Death by Wildlife” class at college, but at the time I didn’t believe I’d be in a face-off with a wildcat. Perhaps it hadn’t been a good idea to run after a wild animal without a hand grenade or a five-shot, snub-nosed, .44 magnum Charter Arms Bulldog with a 3 inch barrel. I did what any normal, defenseless woman would do. I dropped my arms to my sides, jutted my chin, held perfectly still and stared. The only thing moving was my chest as I heaved out tiny, sharp breaths into the chill May air. I even attempted to keep my nostrils from flaring.

We stood like that for an hour, or maybe thirty seconds. He sized me up, assessing my age, tenderness, freshness. I assessed how much the government would take from my estate before it passed on to my daughter. I’d been attacked by a house cat once and suffered multiple puncture wounds and deep scratches before I managed to peel the animal from my legs. I’d be no match for a cat three times as big.

Just about the time I’d decided it might be a good idea to start praying, the wildcat cut his gaze to the trees and sauntered off in that direction, glancing back once or twice to narrow his eyes at me. It was a threat I didn’t take lightly.

My parents, who were visiting from the east and staying in my room, tumbled out the back door. They saw nothing amiss, except their daughter standing on the back deck in a nightie, trembling, with drool pushing out of the corners of her lips. How does one explain such a circumstance to one’s father?

You may be interested to know the fire department does not rescue kitties from trees. Neither does the ASPCA, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, nor the handyman service. I had to hire a tree-climber to come that evening and climb fifty feet and slip a loop around my kitty. Smokey had four puncture wounds in his hind quarters where the big cat clamped his jaw over him. I wrapped him in a towel and carried him inside. That day Smokey became an indoor cat. He slept under the table for three days. He wouldn’t go near a window for a year, and it took another year before he wanted to go outside again, even with me.

For a long time I kept a pellet gun by the back door. I saw the bobcat again several times, stalking my house. I think he had friends hiding in the forest beyond my yard. He’s probably still out there. Waiting.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Next Top Title Blogfest

"What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?"
Romeo and Juliet

So, if someone had named the flower "Turd", would we even bring our noses close enough to smell its sweet fragrance? Names are important and so I'm delighted to participate in Slushpile Slut 's very appropriate and incredibly helpful blogfest since I am struggling most stridently with my title. Here are the rules taken right from the source:

Post 3- 5 possible titles of your WIP and do not give any background or loglines about your WIP. This will allow the commenters to form a quick impression as to what that title evokes to them and choose a title they like best?! The agent and the reader(usually) only see the title, no hook, no logline, nothing...So the title alone has to grab them.

Here are four of the many titles I've tried.

1. The Pirates' Reckoning

2. Two Bells on the Reckoning

3. So Many Rules

4. An Upstart of a Yank

Please pick one and let me know why.

And once you have done that, stroll on over to see the other blogfest titles and vote.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

In the Mood

Artist: Adriaen Brouwer
Title: Streitende Bauern in Einem Wirtshaus, 1630

Have you ever been in the kind of mood where you just want to pick a fight? You don't care with whom, you just want the physical gratification of plowing your fist into someone's jaw and hearing the crack of bone? The kind of mood where you are glad there is traffic and you hope someone cuts you off so you can ram your front bumper into his rear quarter-panel, stomp on the gas, force him off the road into a drainage ditch, then spin to a stop in the gravel, fling open your door and pound your way to his car, reaching through the shattered window and jerking him through the broken glass so you can land a dozen quick punches before anyone else can get their seat-belts off?

Yeah, me neither. (Oh c'mon. I write fiction, okay? I made all that up, really.) But I was in a feisty mood yesterday when I got home from work and I took it out on my poor cat. The door banged open from the garage and I tromped in, heading down the hall into the cat's room following as they trotted with tails pointing to the ceiling. I dumped a bunch of cat crunchies into their dishes and then did a despicable thing. I ran my hand along Hobiecat's silky fur.

Hobie loves to be petted. He is the type that thrusts his head into your hand and raises his hind end to get the maximum enjoyment of each stroke. He likes the caress to go from his nose to the tip of his tail, all the while vibrating the house with his deafening purr. But he also is a chow hound. Put food in his dish and he'll go at it like he's been starving on a drifting boat for a month. By petting him, I forced him to multitask. I forced him to eat and purr at the same time. Mwaahaha. He struggled, not wanting me to stop, but not wanting to stop eating. An interesting dilemma. Food won out. He kept purring, but he didn't give my petting the dedication it deserves.

I know. It was mean. I've felt guilty all day. Maybe next time I'll see if I can run someone off the road.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our First Oregon Parade

Lining up for Parade

I overslept. Yes, I've had to get up early for the last twenty years to go to a day job (prior to that I worked nights), but unless an alarm wakes me, I sleep to 8AM naturally. Oversleeping doesn't make for a calm, stress-free morning. So at 8:10 we uncovered the car and Nina backed it out. (She lost the coin toss) Actually, she offered to drive when she learned the participants in the parade had to sign waivers not to sue us if we accidentally ran them down like a bowling ball against a full rack of pins.

We picked up our parents at their apartment and, with very little grinding, set off for town to grab a donut and a cup of coffee, then lined up for the parade. Earlier Nina had agreed to take a dignitary, but they assigned us someone much better than a politician. They assigned us a princess.

Angela Hammond and Ralph Sherman

We got to transport Angela Hammond, Mrs. Clackamas County 2011. This turned out to be really fun. Not only is she a very sweet, very classy woman, but as we drove by some little girls, they pointed and said, "Look at the princess," and waved. I waved back, sure they meant me.

The parade was pretty long. Lots of participants. Unfortunately few spectators. If you look way down the street on the left, you can see someone watching the parade.

Nina driving in the parade

I don't know why, but they put us between some fire trucks. It may have been because they had heard we were afraid we'd burn up the clutch, but Nina did an excellent job driving. If you look at the below picture you'll see a couple out walking their dog. They weren't there to watch the parade, but we waved to them anyway until they waved back to be polite.

Behind us some sort of fire truck and behind that a little electric car and an old 1930s garbage truck

Very few people turned out to watch the parade, but who cares when you get to see the bagpipers and ride with a princess?