Thursday, August 30, 2007

A new home for Daphne

I'm hoping y'all can help JP and I find a new home for our wonderful female lab-mutt Daphne.

As some of you may recall, JP and I adopted a black lab last November. She'd been hit by a car and the woman who rescued her from the road paid for
the surgery to have her back right femur repaired (it was broken clear in half). When we adopted Daphne, we thought her leg was healed, but then found out it wasn't and that she'd have to have the leg amputated. However, we were able to find an orthopedic vet surgeon in South Carolina who fixed her leg -- today you would have no clue at all that she was so so close to having her leg amputated. She loves to run around and is super fast!

Unfortunately, it turns out that her leg was not the only damage from the car
accident. After visiting a few vets, we ended up going to a vet neurologist (yes, my dog has a neurologist) and learned that she has brain damage from the accident. Because of some of the symptoms of this brain damage, JP and I have made the incredibly difficult decision to find a new and better home for Daphne. It breaks our hearts to do this, but we find it a much better alternative than putting her to sleep, which some professionals have recommended.

I'm pasting JP's letter to various shelters below in the hopes that maybe one of y'all will be able to help, even if it's just in passing this info along (we initially found out about Daphne from a long email chain). I know
most of y'all live far away, but if it means finding the best home for Daphne, JP and I are willing to do what it takes to get her where she needs to go. Please feel free to email me at any time at Quitclaim [at] Thanks!

My girlfriend Carrie and I adopted a little black lab with a broken leg, who we named Daphne, back in November and December of last year. As much as it pains me to do so, I'm writing now to ask for your help in finding a new home for Daphne.

What no one knew when we adopted Daphne, or could have known, is that she suffered significant brain damage when she was struck by a car last October. We have since realized that much of her gentle behavior during the time she was with her rescuer was probably due to the intense pain she was under from her broken leg. We saw indications of her problems while she was healing, but ascribed it all to her being caged constantly. Unfortunately, we have come to realize that this wasn't entirely the case. We tried to train her with some of the best trainers in the area, but with poor results. Ultimately, we took her to a neurologist who confirmed that her problems are physiological in nature and unlikely to be cured. Because of her special problems, Daphne needs a very special home that can take good care of her.

The perfect home for Daphne would be someone who lives in a rural area, who is athletic and capable of wearing her out, and who can put in some serious training time on a daily basis. She is very affectionate and craves human contact, but has difficulty figuring out what "appropriate" is. She is spayed and in great health, weighs about 45 lbs and is two years old (we think). Anyone who takes her needs to be aware that she is "special needs" and be prepared to deal with it, which is one reason we are asking for your help in looking for a new home.

Daphne's brain damage has two major effects (and many bizarre and interesting minor ones): First, she gets agitated very easily by any kind of stimulus (from loud noises to human presence), and when she does, she obsessively spins in circles. These spins can vary from large loops around the yard to incredibly tight circles and wild barking when she gets extremely excited. Second, and far more problematic, she is essentially untrainable. She knows how to sit, but we believe she may have learned this before the accident. Beyond that, she can only learn any kind of behavior with an extraordinary amount of effort, and anything learned is quickly forgotten, whether in hours, or days, regardless of how well she is reinforced. She simply can't retain anything. This is especially problematic because Daphne has a very strong impulse to play-bite. While we've managed to lower the frequency of these bites, we have been unable to get rid of them entirely, and you can never be sure when she'll do it. For that reason, she would not be good with children.

Daphne is a sweet and loving dog, but her inability to learn coupled with her high excitability makes her very difficult to handle. That said, I believe she can be trained to behave herself, and possibly even beyond-- at one point she learned to heel for nearly a week-- but it will take a lot of attention and patience, and acceptance of the fact that one day she may wake up and everything she's learned will just be gone and need to be relearned from scratch. Also, we have taken her to the mountains on several occasions, and she gets along much better in that environment. One of the reasons we have decided to give her away is because we believe the city (suburbs) is just too high-anxiety for her. In a rural, low-distraction environment with a lot of attention, I believe she could be a very good dog.

Please let me know if you know of anywhere we can look to find a place for Daphne. What she really needs is someone who has experience in dealing with brain-damage in an animal, and we simply don't know where to begin to look. Both doctors and trainers have suggested putting her down because of the difficulty in dealing with her, but we are convinced that she could be very happy in the right environment. We will keep her and care for her until we can find another home, because we love her very much, but I think she would be much better off away from the city and with owners who can devote substantially more time to her than we can. Let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions that might help.

JP and Carrie

Yay JP!!

So what does a full time writer do all day? Run errands apparently. Wait for agents to respond to query letters. Read. Sleep. Yes, I've been pondering what to write next, but haven't taken the leap to a new project. Probably won't for a little while -- I figure I should concentrate on the new job for a bit.

Anyways, there's big news in our household this week! My fantabulously amazing boyfriend, JP, has had some awesome writer news. First, he had a piece accepted by Six Sentences, then he learned that flashquake bought another of his stories, and the biggest news of all is that he sold a story to Ideomancer! He is a true testament to perseverance and I could not be more excited for him!! I can't wait until the rest of y'all can read more of his stuff and see what a fantastic writer he is. Truly, the man is phenomenal! Yay!!!!!

I have all sorts of things I want to blog about, but Blogger is lagging so badly I can't stand it (I type like 2 sentences ahead of what is appearing on the screen - grrrr!). So instead I'm going to go back to bed and read -- ahh the life of a fill time writer :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Quitin' my day job

Well, today was officially my last day of work. I've quit to become a full time writer.... for a week and a half. Then I start at the new firm -- very very exciting. I'm drinking a glass of champagne as I type and am about to head out for a celebratory meal.

You know sometimes, you have to take stock of where you are in life. I feel like we spend so much time focusing on goals and what comes next, that we forget about now. We forget about celebrating where we are.

And you know what? I'm pretty darn happy right now :)

Don't forget to recommend some books for me to read during my time off!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


It feels like I've been running around a lot recently -- checking, triple checking submissions guidelines, buying submission supplies, getting writing ready for submission, quiting my job, cleaning my office.

I'm not sure what will happen to me at the end of the day tomorrow -- my last day of work for almost two weeks. I think I might come home and collapse. Because I certainly feel like collapsing now. Even having everything ready for submission, putting the query packages together was a little stressful. I think about all the "Don't's" you read about on agent blogs, and I realize how easy it is to make mistakes, even having done tons of research and really preparing.

For example, it wasn't until the last minute that I remembered the SE aspect of the SASE. Even though I'd specifically bought stamps this morning and had them next to my keyboard! The font of one of my headers was a slightly different font than the rest of the text. I opened two packages for fear I'd mangled the agent address. I'm talking 3+ hours to get 5 submissions out the door.

But they're done! Now I just have to clean out my office, haul everything to my car, and relax for days and days.

Which brings me to the real important part of this post: my TBR pile has dwindled. I need -- nay crave! -- recommendations! I want to spend my days lolling in a reading induced stupor. It has been too long since I've been able to read without the pressure of my own WIP rattling around my brain.

So, what are y'all reading these days?

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Huge Thanks!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: One of the things I love about the writing community is how much everyone looks out for each other. Everyone is just so amazingly awesome! I know, I know, that's not the case entirely. Sure, there are scandals and people who try to manufacture scandals and backbiting. I see all that out there and yes, even indulge in reading some of those blogs with a shocked gasp.

But the people I've dealt with have been amazing. Have gone out on a limb when they didn't even have to climb the tree. Who have been there for support and for advice and have answered twenty-million questions, 19,999,990 of those questions being really insignificant and nit-picky.* Who have read my manuscript (again and again), read my query and synopsis (again and again) and really put a lot of effort into giving insightful comments. Who have read my blog and cheered me along the way. Who must have dropped what they were doing at times because their responses cam so quickly. And who fish-slapped me when it was necessary.

I really can't thank y'all enough. Seriously -- I would not have been able to send the full manuscript of WIP out today to an agent who requested it without y'all.

It makes me want to succeed so that I can do you all proud.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I'm waiting for the day I can not only repay those who helped me out, but also pay it forward.

* Yes, I admit to standing in Office Dept today, staring at all the paper options and trying to determine whether there really was a difference between 113 brightness and 115 brightness and does it matter that the 115 is for color stuff and am I going to be able to use 24lb with my printer... Like I've said before: when you have so little control over the outcome of things, you (*ahem* I) cling to those insignificant details that I can control. And I went with 115 brightness and 24lb. You do not even want to know about my envelope dilemmas...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Let me 'splain. No, there is to much. Let me sum up... (with goals updates!)

I have so much blog fodder that it almost hurts to blow it all at once. But, here goes:

First, I just finished sending out four email queries. Yay! I still have six snail mail queries to send, but those shall wait until Monday. How did this come about since you've been avoiding actually sending queries for months now, you ask?

Well... last weekend when I went to the mountains, I took my draft of WIP on a USB key (my laptop screen broke so I was using JP's laptop). Of course, on day 1 I realized the file on the USB was corrupt. So much for a weekend of working on WIP! So I decided that I'd just man up and make the final changes in hard copy. And as soon as I thought those words, my chest seemed to tighten.

Because once I made those last pesky changes, I was done. I had to send out WIP.

So I spent the rest of the weekend avoiding anything having to do with WIP.** And I realized that I've seriously been dragging my feet for fear of submitting. Which is strange because I have NEVER been afraid of submitting before.

Still I had my plan: I would be submitting by Labor Day. Why Labor Day? Because I quit my job a week ago!*** This means that not only have I had a ton of free time recently, but also that I would have a full 1.5 weeks of time off before starting the new job (the day after Labor Day). What better time to play at being a full time writer and taking my time polishing revisions, sending queries?

Then the wrench. I got a fish-slap email mid-week that basically told me to please please please get on with it. And JP echoed the sentiment. And I thought, "they're right." JP pointed out that while I'd zoomed through revisions 1 and 2, I was seriously dragging feet on this round. He also pointed out how ironic this was seeing as how I'd queried, and sent a partial, of my last book to an agent when it wasn't even close to being written, much less revised. He pointed out that I'd swung too far to the other end of the spectrum.

How true. So I decided I'd send all my queries on Friday (today). I reasoned that I would still have at least a week before any requests came in, and during that time I could finish up the revisions. Especially since the majority of work was typing in changes I'd made on the hard copy.

I set to work. I made notecards of each agent with pertinent information.**** I wrote pithy personalized intro paragraphs for each agent (and again got fish-slapped for letting those hinder my forward movement).

And then, a truly amazing thing happened: I got a request for the full manuscript!

So, in addition to getting the query stuff together, I now had to get cracking on typing in those revisions -- I did not want to keep this agent waiting! Still, I was pretty certain I could get all queries out on Friday.

As always happens, a thing or two came up at the end of the week, something that took top priority (and was my pleasure to do). So I didn't get the synopsis revised quite the way I want it to, and I didn't buy envelopes. For that reason, I'm not *quite* ready to send out to a few agents.

But that's ok. What's an extra day when I get to take the time to make sure I'm totally happy with my submission package? So many people made fun of me for the insane way I fretted over my query letter, but in the end, I love it. It's been tweaked just the way I want it. Sure, no one else will notice the difference between the last draft and the final draft, but I do. And it gives me that little bit of extra confidence.

Hence, I have big goals for this weekend:
  1. celebrate the start of submissions
  2. finish typing in revisions on WIP
  3. re-write a scene on WIP; layer in a thing or two
  4. send full of WIP to agent (hurrah!)
  5. finish revising synopsis
  6. obsessively check email since one agent I queried has a very very very fast turn-around
  7. send partial to agent who requested on Saturday!
  8. send rest of queries (6 queries left to send)
  9. um... more celebration?!
So there you have it. The longest summation ever :) When I look back on it, it's been a very full but very very wonderful week. It will also be a full weekend. Wish me luck!

PS: Ack, and squeee on starting submissions!!!!!!!!

* Nevertheless, amazing weekend!

** We even stayed an extra day, deciding on Saturday to ditch work on Monday. How great is that?

*** Yes, I have a new one - going from litigation to trusts & estates, which I've always loved.

**** In case you're curious: name, agency info, contact info, what they want (query, synopsis, pages, etc), and anything helpful to know (who they rep, if they hate rhetorical questions at the beginning of a query, their response time, their blog address, etc.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Query Letter: like an interview - be specific! (updated already!)

There's so much good advice out there about how to write a query letter. I think my favorite has to be Diana's who suggest having a CP write the blurb for you since they have more distance from the minute details of the story. Naturally, this is my favorite advice because it is the one that gets me out of having to struggle through the actual writing of the pitch :) (I'm really only partially kidding, while I did struggle and struggle and struggle to craft a pitch, Diana tossed her thoughts at me and it was dead on point -- cutting through all the details that were just clogging my attempts).

I'm sure most of y'all know all the resources out there available to the query writer. There are author articles on how to craft it, and there are also agents out there who actually post query letters (or pitches/hooks) and critiques. Miss Snark's crapometer, for example. Rachel Vater often does this.* So does Evil Editor, and authors have even held their own hook critiques at FFF (Fangs, Fur & Fey).

I've read through tons of these. Not only to find out what people are writing about, but to discern how agents read pitches (and natch, they all read them differently). One common piece of advice oft repeated is: be specific.

This didn't really hit home until I read this query and critique on agent Nathan Bransford's blog.** As he says, it's a fine query letter. And the comments themselves have lots of great critiques. I give big props to the author who allowed Nathan to use her letter as an example, and I wish her luck. But the biggest thing I realized in reading her query was the lack of details. About her main character, Pat, she writes "As a devastating accident further pulls him into the lives of those around him and Pat makes a shocking decision..." and I'm thinking -- what accident? What shocking decision? The accident and decision are clearly important to the story, why describe them so generically?

Seriously, reading this query letter was like opening my eyes, again. I really wanted to know these details, because without them there was just no way I could make any kind of judgment on the book itself. Imagine the effect on the query if rather than writing "devastating accident" she wrote one of the following:

  • he leaves a child in the car when he goes to work on a hot day
  • a bridge collapses during rush hour
  • a student on the campus (this is set at UNC) opens fire on a classroom
  • he forgets to turn off the stove and the house burns down
  • he leaves confidential information out on his desk and gets fired, his company investigated by the FBI.
  • he leaves the gate to the yard open and a child's dog gets out and is hit by a car.

I mean, what scope of accident are we talking about here? Personal? Community-wide? State-wide? Country-wide? Each of these different options would take the story in immensely different directions. It lets us know how big the conflict is, what the stakes of the story are.

Think of how many books out there can be summarized: a man and woman meet, overcome obstacles and fall in love. This is the most generic plot for a romance novel there is. Would you request pages? Probably not. You have to put in the details - you have to make this book about THIS hero and THIS heroine and THESE obstacles. You have to describe your book in such a way that there is absolutely NO WAY that it will be confused with another plot. Then you'll know you've taken your query about of the generic and into the specific.

That's when an agent can actually consider the merits of your pitch. Does it mean you'll get a request? Nope. But it does mean that at least the agent can judge your actual book, your actual plot, your specific idea and not just reject you because she can't get a handle on what it is you're writing.

Sometimes I think of query letter writing like an interview. You have to go in there, do your best, but show them who you really are. They know what they want and if they say no, it's because they know better than you do what works for them and what doesn't. But the key is that you have to show them who YOU are, not just some cardboard cutout of a interviewee. I know that when I'm interviewing people, those that stand out show me their personality, show me more than just a law student looking for a job. That's what you have to do with a query letter -- get beyond the generic (law student) and get to the specifics (law student who worked at the coroner's office and writes romance novels in her free time).


Since I originally wrote this, Nathan has added another query critique which is very much on point. As part of his crit, he writes:
And then the details of the plot and relationships that make up the rest of the query really could have happened anywhere. They aren't infused with the uniqueness of the setting, which they could have been if they were attached to details that convey that uniqueness. If your selling point is your setting, nearly every event you describe should build on that selling point.
Exactly! Be specific, show off those details! So for those of you who have successfully written queries, do you think details are important? Will a good premise trump details? What details of your own letters do you think made your hook stand out?

* look around March 27, 2007 - that looks to be the end of her slew of hook crits. She also posts recaps of her slush pile and what grabbed her or didn't grab her. Excellent way to learn her tastes if anyone is thinking of querying her!

** Nathan critiques query letters on his blog every now and again. In fact, there's a crit of one up this week.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Email submission question(s) and other stuff...

As Erica points out, I mentioned on the Manuscript Mavens blog (in a comment) that I equated querying with interviewing and that I'd written a post on point but just hadn't actually posted said post. Well, you're gonna have to wait until next week until I post it because I still have to put in links and whatnots and right now I'm on a strict deadline: leaving for a long weekend in the mountains in just a little bit. So I'll be blog silent over the weekend (which, really, I guess isn't that different from when I am here and just lazy...).

This weekend will be a writing retreat of sorts for JP and I -- the mountains are always so inspiring! Although, since JP is hooked on Harry Potter, it might be a revision-input weekend for me and a reading weekend for him. Either way, utter relaxation!

So here are my submission question(s) (because we all know I love to sweat the details)... it's about emailing query letters. I'm assuming you cut and paste the query letter into the email and, like a business email, you put all your contact info right after you 'sign' your name. Then I'm assuming you do something like write FIRST FIVE PAGES in all caps and paste those in and then do the same with the SYNOPSIS (I want to put the pages first, I think they're my strength). I'm also assuming that you single space these things, but put in a double space (ie extra blank line) between paragraphs (for everything: query, pages, synopsis).

My first question: is that right? Am I supposed to format the email query differently? What do y'all do?

My second question: fear of gobblety-gook.* What I mean are, those weird symbols that show up in some emails where there should be a quotation mark or something else. How do I avoid this? Cut and paste from plain text? Convert the email to plain text? Don't email from Outlook? My account is gmail - does that add/delete any strange stuff? I'm just nervous here because Miss Snark used to harp on this issue and I'm not sure how to avoid it.

My third question: If they ask for 5 pages, can I just flub and send 5 pages and a few lines? I mean, they won't be able to tell... heck, what if those 5 pages cut off mid-sentence?**

My last question: anything else I should be thinking about with email submissions? Any tips, tricks of the trade, anything you can see that I'm missing? Did I just miss all those articles on the web directly on point?

I know, these are such minor things. And trust me, I really really am not one to overly sweat the small stuff (some sweating is appropriate). But the last thing I need/want is to get dinged for something stupid like sending an email with weird symbols if there was something simple I could have done to get rid of them.

Thanks for the help y'all! I can't wait to hear y'all's thoughts!

* Many of you may not know that "gobblety-gook" is actually a legal term such as "make sure that associate does not give you a memo filled with gobblety-gook"

** if that were the case I'd just finish the paragraph. But what about for snail mail submissions - do you just cut off mid-page when the guidelines say to send the first 5 pages? Or do you cut off the start of that dangling paragraph so there's a clean ending?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Still a blog slacker (Now with Updates!)

The funny thing about being a blog slacker is that I actually have a ton of posts that I've written during breaks in the day and emailed to myself. But I've been too lazy to edit them to put links in. Seriously, how lame is that? At some point I just may give up and present link-free posts. Especially since most of the people and books that I link to in my posts are already in the sidebar.

Anyways, I'm home sick from work today. Supposed to be resting. Over the weekend I had some severe pains in my lower right abdomen (not a good quadrant for pain) and went to the doctor on Monday afternoon (I didn't have a doc in town yet, so getting an appt took some finagling). Well, he ordered a CT scan STAT and off JP and I went to the hospital (which was in the middle of a code red -- not very reassuring) whereupon he read Harry Potter VI and I read the last in Golden Compass Trilogy as I drank my radioactive lemonade and had IV's put in with more radioactive juice. All that fun stuff.

Many hours later I was cleared for appendicitis and other maladies I can barely pronounce. But the doctor still doesn't know what's causing the problem. So here I am at home today, hoping that this rest will help.

Natch my laptop is broken (screen isn't working for some reason and I was too much of a wimp this past weekend to take advantage of tax-free days to buy a new one) but I have a fab external screen to work off of if need be (and I can pilfer JP's laptop when he's at work). Of course, that's the cart before the horse. Right now I'm still revising WIP on paper. I only have about 100 pages left to do.

Hmmmm... home all day, 100 pages left to revise. Coincidence? I think not! Onwards, friends!



Seriously, doesn't two posts in one day at least start the journey to my rise from blogger slackdom?

I'm reporting in to announce that I've finished that round of revisions I mentioned above. Hurrah! Natch, while I thought this would be a "light" revision on paper, it was most definitely not. The pages are rife with red ink. So lots of edits to now type in (boo hiss!). Also, there are a few places where
things really need to be changed and moved and those will have to wait for another final final revision (boo hiss). Oh, and I kept forgetting about that stupid dog again so now I have one revision that is dedicated to putting that dog in all the scenes. Sigh.

This does not, however, delay my agent time table. I still feel that I'll be sending out letters in the next few weeks. I have the agent list done, the agents researched, the query letter ready, and the synopsis almost in final draft. I just have to make sure that if I got requests, I'd be able to turn the ms around same day. And I still should have some good time to work on these things coming up...

I'm amazed at how long it took to hammer out those revisions today. Seriously. Time absolutely flew by, but still. A full day of work to get 100 pages revised. And some of those scenes needed no work (others, OTH...).

Oh, and I had to work around this, which was not easy: I know it is an odd angle, but notice that he is on a stack of pages, on the computer, and batting at the pages I'm editing. Helpful little beast, eh? He gets away with a lot because he's cute.

Anyways, yay for reaching today's goal, boo for pushing the finish line farther away, yay for still getting closer to submission time!