Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bright, Shiny and Revised Query

So tingly and excited to show off my new query letter!
I am so thankful for everybody's feedback this week (after I had a mini freakout Tuesday night). I played around with it quite a bit the past few days. Some suggestions were in for a time and then tossed later as something else changed. I also had just had a query critique from author Ashley Eliston that I had bid for on Kat Bauer's "Crits for Water"...which was so completely worth the smidgen I donated. Thanks again Ashley!

(There is one more day left for auctions and donations if any are interested. Kat ropes in agents and authors and other awesome publishing people for THREE WHOLE MONTHS, giving away "free" critiques of various lengths to authors who are trying to break in...and are willing to donate money to support building wells in third-world countries. If you miss it, keep tabs on Kat, because this is becoming an annual thing.)

Anyway, so with the wide spectrum of advice, I felt I got a good handle on what was working and what wasn't. So, without further ado, (except a pretty period illustration,) the revised version of my query letter. 

Dear Dream Agent,

I discovered your awesomeness on such & such website…etc. This manuscript was requested after a pitch session with a representative from Chronicle Books at the SCBWI-Arkansas conference.

Anna-Maria de Savonie’s first romance ended badly with drugged wine, daggers and quite a bit of blood. Unsavory rumors still swirl about, and there hasn’t been a nuptial nibble in nearly three years. Anna is grateful for her reprieve, but with her seventeenth birthday come and gone, her father isn’t. He offers her up as the matrimonial prize in a grand jousting tournament. Anna plays the demure princesa, but is determined to find one decent fellow among the strutting suitors.

Cornelius didn’t give a tinker’s patch for the crown of Verdebois, but after a series of suspicious deaths in his family, it’s his. Now, which task will prove more difficult, keeping the throne (and his life) or wooing a bride? He bungles the wooing bit, and Anna-Maria rejects him forthwith. Seething, he gallops homeward, but is ambushed by brigands. Cornelius crawls back to the Savonie castle, beaten, beggared and in disguise.

Letters soon arrive from the new regent of Verdebois announcing Cornelius’ death and demanding recompense – a crippling amount of gold, or the marriage of Anna to a cruel Verdeboyne noble. Cornelius, disguised as a down-on-his-luck fiddler, discovers Anna’s true nature and impulsively offers to hide her amongst the minstrel-folk if she marries him instead. His deception may ensure her safety and enable him to search for the villain who’s stealing his throne, but heaven help him if Anna ever learns the truth. She’ll finish the job the brigands started.

THE CHESTNUT MAID is a YA adventure/romance of 100,000 words with two alternating points-of-view set in the late medieval period. It is comparable to “Scarlet” by A.C. Gaughen.. It is a stand-alone novel with series potential. 

I received a degree in Fine Arts from BYU-Idaho, which helps in the medieval world-building of the novel. I am a member of SCBWI, MyWANA creative network, and participated in F2K writing workshops through Writing Village University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Amelia Loken

All Right! So jump in and share! 
Are you hooked? 
Would you want to read more?
Or Not?

Thanks again everybody who participated. Appreciated all your help and feedback!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Query Trial

   Exciting! I've joined in a Blog tour this past week in which a bunch of other writer/bloggers will visit and comment on and critique each other's query letters. For those not synced in with the publishing world, that is the letter an author sends to a literary agent (think real estate agent for manuscripts) asking for representation. Once an agent takes you on, then you have a toe in the door for the market. The agent is the one who storms the Publishers and convinces them (usually without a sword at the throat) to turn your story into a bound book for all the masses to read.

   But the only way to get an agent is to convince them with the power of your pen (or PC/Mac). So let's get down and dirty. Here is the latest version of my query letter. Read on:

  Anna-Maria de Savonie’s first romance ended badly with drugged wine, daggers and quite a bit of blood. Unsavory rumors still swirl about Anna, and there hasn’t been a nuptial nibble in nearly three years. Now seventeen, she is about to be offered up as the matrimonial prize in her father’s jousting tournament. Resigned to her fate, Anna attempts to be the demure princesa her father and the suitors expect, but one man gets under her skin and unravels her charade.

   Cornelius didn’t give a tinker’s patch for the crown of Verdebois, but a series of suspicious deaths in his family have left him the crown, attempts on his life and the need to find bride; none of which he desires. After being soundly rejected by Anna-Maria, he gallops away towards home. But, he never reaches his kingdom. Instead, Cornelius returns a fortnight later, beaten, beggared and in disguise. Letters soon arrive from the new regent of Verdebois announcing Cornelius’ death and demanding recompense – a crippling amount of gold, or the marriage of Anna to a cruel Verdeboyne noble.

   “Neil”, disguised as a down-on-his-luck minstrel, offers a life amongst the roaming players if Anna marries him. When she accepts, Neil doesn’t reveal his true identity; he wants to woo the stubborn beauty without the courtly trappings. And if he stays incognito, it will be much easier to discover who is attempting to usurp his throne.

   THE CHESTNUT MAID is a YA adventure/romance of 100,000 words with two alternating points-of-view set in the late medieval period. It is the first of a trilogy as Neil works to reclaim his kingdom and Anna searches for her true place in the world and in Neil’s heart.
   [Here’s the part I’m really struggling with…I don’t know what to put in for my background /education/etc. This part is the real hash. I’ve had so many versions, then I cut/delete again. I only have and Associates Degree and I’ve been married and raising kids for the past twelve years. J]

   Always interested in the humanities, I received a degree in Fine Arts from BYU-Idaho. I have been an avid reader of YA fiction for the past twenty years and started seriously writing my own stories over the past four years. I adore Shannon Hale, love reading Tamora Pierce and fell head-over-heels for A.C. Gaughen's "Scarlet" this past spring. I am currently a member of the SCBWI and this manuscript was requested after a pitch session with a representative from Chronicle Books. I am just polishing it up before sending it off.

So let me know...What's the verdict? What do I keep? What do I toss? What's unclear? And what was so totally awesome? 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Children's Books: A Window to a Wider World

Can I just say that I love children's books. No really. I LOVE children's books.

A friend of mine just had a baby shower on Saturday and I found myself the past couple of weeks procrastinating the opportunity to buy a gift. Perhaps its because there have been several baby showers in my circle the past few months. Perhaps its because I never got over to the baby section in Walmart during my weekly shopping. Or maybe it was because I just finished potty training my last child last month (YAY!) and I just couldn't bring myself to enter the baby section of Walmart for the forty-millionth time now that I really didn't have to go....

Yep that was probably the reason. 

Why do I have to purchase baby lotion and wipes and onsies. (I whined to myself.) Everyone else will be giving the same thing. (And its true...Rebecca now has probably enough outfits for 1month-9months with monkeys embroidered somewhere on them to last for the next, well...nine months.)

But I wanted to give something FUN! 

And then I had the brilliant idea (at least I thought it brilliant) of shopping at Barnes & Noble instead of Babies R Us.


I  could get my bibliophile fix and do something lovely and caring at the same time. Yay!

So, I entered the bookstore (less than an hour before the shower....yeah, I really procrastinated). After I passed the annoying greeter who wanted to show me the new Nook (thanks maybe later...not). I dashed to the children's section. I just love how the bookstores now make this area of the store so fun and colorful and it's own little kingdom. A couple of kids were playing at the Thomas the Tank Engine table in the corner and a father was reading to his preschooler on a little pouf. And all around me were the touchstones of my childhood.

It was so hard to decide.

So Very Hard.

I actually spent more money than if I would have gotten the proverbial set of onsies, lotion and wipes. But I gave a gift that came from the heart.

Ad image
Caps for Sale. My mother read this colorful (kinda) book to me so many times when I was a girl. I bought my own copy when my oldest got his first book order in preschool. I think I can recite the entire book by memory.
"Caps for sale! Fifty-cents a cap!"

Right beside that book was "Blueberries for Sal", a delightful little book that my grandma bought for our family after we had spent a few weeks at her house on vacation and several mornings picking blueberries at the farm nearby.
"Plink, plank, plunk!"
Yeah, not too many blueberries made it into my bucket either.

Then I found th carousel with all the Golden books. I had a hard time choosing because nowadays, they don't just have the Disney book versions of movies like they did a few years ago. No, they have the wonderful classics that I remembered from the 70s and 80s. Remember these little guys?
And then there were the animals:
I had to stick to my budget, so I couldn't get them all. I decided on two.
Then I saw this one:
I had to get Grover too. Don't you agree?
Then I found:
I remember still so vividly sitting on my mother's lap and doing all the motions as we "hunted" a bear together. When I became a mom and found this lovely version, we bought it as a board book and it's still around (though a little ragged around the edges now).
I was about to leave, my arms filled with wonderful memories when I saw this:
I finally put on the breaks. I mean, every mother worth her salt will either beg, borrow or steal a copy of her own to read to her children. 
(no...don't really steal it) 
And I know my friend will be a superb mother. So I told her to buy her own copy. :)

I walked out of the bookstore and into the baby shower a happy woman.
I love books. But I especially love children's books. I wish I could cut and paste a picture of every awesome kid's book that I highly recommend. But after a while, I would get bored. And so would you.

So...what is one (or more) of your favorite reads from childhood. Do some evoke powerful memories or emotions? Please share.

P.S. I'll end with just one more for fun:
My mother was a children's librarian before she stayed home to be a mom (can you tell!) and she had read this book to me so many times that I could say the whole name before I entered kindergarten. (I think...that's how I remember it. Maybe it was First Grade when I wowed my classmates with Tikki-tikki-tembo-no-sarembo-chari-bari-ruchi-pip-peri-pembo.)

So...happy childhood memories to all!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Never Surrender

YA Author, Elana Johnson is releasing her second book, Surrender and has chosen this week to invite fellow bloggers to write about a time when they didn't surrender. A couple other bloggers I follow have taken the invitation, and though I'm still a little tiny blip in the blogosphere, I thought I would join in the fun.

So, when did I not give up?

Some suggestions had to do with physical fitness (getting ready for a 5k for example) or dealing with something terribly difficult in one's life (I've already talked about that a few times ). Of course one could talk about not giving up on a dream and that has been on my mind soooo much since I just finished writing my first manuscript. 


But, I just had to resurrect a blog post from last year. It tells a better story than I could today.
 My year of 2010-2011 was the most difficult season of my life (I really don't want to write "so far"...).

And yet, as of this week, my husband is faced with unemployment AGAIN.

The charter school he's worked for the past year and a half has not gotten its charter renewed. It is closing. He turned in his laptop and all the goodies he needed in his administration role. And we get a paycheck until the middle of August, but then...

By then, I'm sure he'll have a job. He's already put in more than a dozen applications/resume's this week alone. And he has his first interview ( for Round 2012) tomorrow morning. It's not his first pick (40 minutes away) but its something. So, I'm reproducing my blog from last June, commemorating the Death Crawl and the strength God gives us when we have none left within ourselves. 

Because, all my stories of strength are never about me. I'm a wuss ( and I know it). Any strength, any persistence, any fortitude I have has been a gift from Heaven. 
And I thank God for that. I need him so very much.

Giving ALL to the Lord

This Past year, I thought I could give the Lord my All. He asked Mark & I to trust him. We did. He asked us to walk into the dark. We did.

We were sure that employment was just around the corner. If a corner is nine months, then yes, it was.

I went to the Lord when the savings was just about gone. He showed me where to go for assistance.

I calmly trusted when I only had a week's worth of food in the house. He brought a sister to my door with an abundance that fed us comfortably until we could obtain more.

I told the Lord the money was gone and there was a mortgage and bills to pay. And money would be put in my hand or Mark would have more work so that the meager paycheck was a little more. Just enough to pay the bills.

I told the Lord that the little part-time job Mark had wasn't going to pay for the winter bills. So, I received a call asking if I could work nights. Yes, I could.

I told the Lord that I was grateful and though Christmas was less than ever before, it really was enough. I was so glad to have a job and so many blessings. So he blessed us some more. Four deliveries were made to our doorstep Christmas Eve night. My family was overwhelmed to tears of gratitude. God's abundance was amazing. Another delivery of food was made by perfect strangers on Christmas morning. I was speechless at the goodness among my friends and community.

I was settling into the night job and beginning to get used to the routine when the Lord sent us an employment opportunity. It was a straw to grasp. It was hardly anything. But we reached out. Mark was overqualified. But another job was created for him, without interview or visit. Just on the strength of his resume, recommendations and a phone call.

I told the Lord how grateful I was for employment, even though it might mean moving.

It did mean moving.

I told the Lord I loved my house. Could he help me get it ready to sell?

Before I could put it on the market, there was an interested buyer.

I asked the Lord if he could help me get everything ready. I was so over whelmed with my husband out of state and my children in a state of emotional stress. What progress I made on the home seemed to be negated within hours or days. Quirky things kept happening, like sudden leaks two days before the home inspection. But somehow, it all worked out or got fixed, just in time.

Then we tried to find the right house in the new city. We looked and looked. Each house we found would have something wrong with it. When we settled on the house that had everything except charm, I was reluctant. When the home inspection came back with bad news, I felt relief to get out of it. But the Lord whispered that this was the right place. Darn!

When it was time to move, my heart was heavy. I told the Lord how sad I was to leave my precious, wonderful friends. I told him I hadn't had so many close friends in my life all at one time. It was so very hard.

So, when I moved into my new home, I was introduced to new neighbors of the same faith who met every day after school at the nearby park. I had friends that I felt comfortable with in less than a week.

Last week, I had a hard time. I kept looking at the un-beautiful exterior of my home and areas of unattractiveness inside of it. I held crying boys in my arms and yelled at ornery, naughty boys. I chased run-away boys at Walmart and searched for wandering boys in the park seven times. I stared at my manuscript on the computer and wondered why I wasn't feeling excited about writing as usual. I went to the temple and broke up fights for nearly six hours in the car. I asked the Lord why my life was so HARD.

I found a couple of scriptures this morning that helped remind me that I shouldn't run faster than I had strength and to pray always so I could come off conquerer. That was good and helped me get centered again.

But I was still feeling a little overwhelmed. I wondered what I could write about that was uplifting on my blog, when I felt so...powerless and burdened. Then, I remembered this scene from the movie, "Facing the Giants".

Yep, this has been my year of Death Crawling. I am carrying a seven-person family on my back. I never thought it would last for so long or be so hard.

I thought it would magically be over by now. I thought I could write, "Been there, Done that, Bought the T-Shirt." But its not finished. Maybe I've only reached the 50-yard line. I hope I've gotten farther than that. I hope this trial is closer to the 100-yard line. I want a little calm and rest in my life.

But I am learning, as I look back over my shoulder, that whatever task the Lord has asked me to do, he has made it possible to accomplish it and poured out blessings all along the way.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me."

"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded me. For I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

"Trust in the Lord thy God and lean not unto thine own understanding."


Now, all I have to do is remember this tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fridays With Agent Kristin: What Is A Plot Catalyst?

So this may not be interesting to anybody else out there except book geeks (specifically writer book geeks). But as I have been working on query letters for the past two months, this advice was well-timed.

Basically, there needs to be something that happens in the first 20-30 pages of your book that gets the ball rolling (or in this case, gets the plot rolling). This event, is the axis around which everything else revolves. i.e. If this event never happened, there wouldn't be a book.

So in your most recent read, what was the plot catalyst?