Fresh Paint

Egads, has it really been over three weeks since my last blog post? How does time slip away so quickly? (Also, who actually says egads?)

Oh, let me count the ways…

  1. We had more hospital time recently. After his initial surgery, my husband ended up with an infection which necessitated a drain. “Drains are great fun,” said no one ever! It’s been an issue on and off for seven weeks. Read that again. He’s had a drain in his body for seven weeks. Seven. (And we were told at the beginning that it would be two weeks and gone.) Complications made it necessary to change drains repeatedly and we’ve been back and forth to Philadelphia six times since mid-July to keep tabs on the progress. Supposedly, we’re looking at having the drain removed next week, but I’m still waiting for someone to rip the rug out from beneath our feet once again. It seems to be par for the course.
  2. Remember my post about PitchWars—the contest that’s kind of like The Voice for writers? I didn’t get in. This is no surprise to me as there were nearly 3,000 writers vying for mentee positions and only 150 mentors. (I’ll let you do the math on that one.) While disappointing because PitchWars would have been a great opportunity to get extra eyes on my manuscript, not getting chosen as a mentee hasn’t deterred me in the least. I’ll keep querying this manuscript (as I have for the last couple of years) while I revise my most recently finished manuscript and work on my newest WIP. It’s all part of the job.
  3. Critique Partners. While I didn’t get into PitchWars to get mentor eyes on my manuscript, I did manage to hook up with hundreds of other amazing writers. I now have not one, not two, but three new possible critique partners. (That’s a lot of reading!) Right now, we’re in that crazy “first date” stage. We’ve exchanged first chapters and are determining our compatibility as critique partners. In a CP, it’s really important to find someone who recognizes the flaws in your writing, but who also recognizes the potential. You want someone who will cheer you on while also letting you know why a particular paragraph isn’t working or a character isn’t reacting the way it seems they logically should. Furthermore, it’s a must to have a critique partner who actually enjoys your writing and doesn’t feel it’s a chore to read your work. But perhaps most importantly, you want someone who is encouraging in every way. The last thing a writer needs is someone who will pull them down and stomp on their heart. (Really. Writers do enough of that to themselves.)
  4. School. School has been so quickly approaching that it’s taken everything I’ve got not to fight against it. I’m going to refer to the last three months as The Summer That Never Was. Because that’s how it feels. Between the rollercoaster of medical visits the past four months, all of our summer plans went out the window. (2018 had better make it up to us!) And so this last month I’ve been busy preparing for the kids to go back to school. School supply and clothing shopping completed, my kids were ready and excited for their first week back. So far, so good. (We’re three days in and no one has complained yet, but give it time. I’m betting they will by next Tuesday.)

Anyway, my point with all of this ramble? Life gets in the way. The unexpected (which really should be expected at this point) has kept me from doing the things I thought I would be doing throughout this summer.

IMG_1801And that brings me to a new point (and, consequently, the title of this post). Fresh paint. I first saw this sign when my husband was just out of his initial surgery and was being moved from the Surgical ICU wing to a regular hospital room. Six weeks later, when we came back for an emergency visit and ended up admitted because of an abscess, guess what sign was still there? Two weeks after that, when we came back because the drain had stopped working, he was in extreme pain from the abscess, and had a fever once again, it was still hanging. Three days later, and then another two weeks later still, it was there. I’d bet money that when we visit next week, that sign will still be in the same place on the same door at the end of the same hall we’ve been seeing all summer long.

Fresh paint. I’m fairly certain that the new coat of ‘fresh’ paint dried long ago. (I wonder how long the sign was up before our first visit.) The last time I saw that sign, I laughed. Somehow, in some obscure way, that sign is a metaphor for my life at this moment. That sign is the universe speaking directly to me.

There are times when it’s necessary to take on new challenges under new circumstances. And after you’ve done so, you’ll need to refrain from ‘touching’ no matter how much you want to. You’ll have to ride it out until that paint is dry. But just as importantly, you need to know when the paint is dry and learn to take control again. Otherwise, you could spend your whole life waiting for someone to tell you when it’s okay to start ‘touching’ again.

Or something like that.

Next week. Next week we go back to the hospital again. And dammit, that paint had better be dry because it’s time to start moving forward.

Misery Loves Company

So I haven’t had much of a chance to write lately between our crazy number of hospital visits in the past two weeks. Complications from husband’s original surgery have led to not much free time. Plus, there’s that pesky PitchWars thing I’ve been tweeting about.

In preparation for PitchWars, I have slaughtered my pages over the past few weeks, tearing them apart, reordering, rewriting, revising, and generally pulling out my hair until I positively manuscript-blinded myself.

Seriously.

I have no idea whether or not I’ve made my story better or worse at this point. None. Not a single clue. Because I can no longer see what I have written nor judge the quality of the words on the page.

But in blinding myself with a manuscript, at least I can take some solace in the fact that there are not just dozens, but hundreds and hundreds (perhaps thousands) of writers who are in the same boat and feeling the same way right now.

You know what they say. Misery loves company. And nothing is more miserable than a writer in waiting. (Miserable in an entirely good way, of course!)

But don’t take my word for it.

Querying (Part IV)

Hooray! This is the last installment of my querying series.

(Read: I think this is the last installment of my querying series, unless, of course, the person who is critiquing it as I type comes back with drastic changes that need to be made… Never done, people. It’s never truly done.)

I used to read about authors who said that they would have kept working on a particular book of theirs had it not been for their agent telling them quite forcefully that they were done. And I would think, “How??? But it’s perfect! How could they have worked longer on it? How could they possibly have made it better?” As a reader, it’s so easy to believe in perfection. As a writer? Never.

So, without further ado, my query as it currently stands:

 

Dear (Agent),

At eighteen, Moreina di Bianco is a young healer who believes in medicine, not magic, even while possessing a second sight she can’t fully explain. So when a talisman and a thousand-year-old prophecy choose Reina to reawaken an ancient magic and end a war, she must reconcile her beliefs, unlock the talisman’s secrets, and harness the magic within.

Reluctant to accept help, Reina agrees to allow two determined escorts to accompany her on her journey for truth, but each comes with a mysterious past of his own. Her estranged childhood friend, Quinn D’Arturio, left their village years ago and only recently returned, harboring dark secrets behind a solemn exterior. And despite his status as a perfect stranger, a dashing captain by the name of Niles Ingram is quick to fight by Reina’s side at whatever the cost.

There’s just one problem with Reina’s two companions. They, too, are featured in the prophecy and as potential suitors no less! But what woman wants a suitor, let alone two, when she’s tasked with defeating a usurping general, ending a war, finding the true king, and rightfully seating him on the throne? For Reina, the only solution is to discover the truth before death discovers her.

A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT is a 100,000 word YA quest-based fantasy featuring a headstrong heroine who discovers that magic runs far deeper than even a prophecy could have foretold. It would best be suited for readers who enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and White Hart by Sarah Dalton. Thank you for your time and consideration. I very much hope we can work together soon.

Best Regards,

L. Ryan Storms

 

The things to note:

I’ve eliminated the reason why I’m contacting an agent. That doesn’t mean I won’t add it back in. Undoubtedly I will. But, I am using this query for PitchWars, so that means I’m not contacting an agent directly. I’m looking to work with a mentor and mentors aren’t interested in why you chose them. (At least, not up front!)

That being said, I began my query with the hook, with the story. I want to make a strong case early on. I want to make a reader say, “Hmm, intriguing. Tell me more!” You might notice that I still have a bit of a “When X, then Y” thing going on. (“So when a talisman and a thousand-year-old prophecy choose Reina to reawaken an ancient magic and end a war, she must reconcile her beliefs, unlock the talisman’s secrets, and harness the magic within.”) I wouldn’t use this formula more than once in a query, but if it works (and it’s proven that it does), I think using it is just fine. (Trust me, though, if I could find a way to get rid of this formula, I still would.) I’ve also used specifics for the Y part of my formula. The key to a successful “When X, then Y”  is staying away from general blanket statements. The more specific you can be, the better. (Within reason, of course. It wouldn’t be any good for me to say, “When a talisman and a thousand-year-old prophecy choose Reina to reawaken an ancient magic and end a war, she must figure out how the talisman works, use abilities only she possesses, and devastate an army without any backup.” That’s a little too specific.)

At the recommendation of an industry professional, I’ve also opted to add more detail about both of Reina’s suitors and I’ve given a little more of detail on how they are included in the prophecy.

Additionally, I’ve added the stakes. I thought that by sharing the tone of the novel (Hey, there’s a war going on, an evil general to defeat, and a true king that needs to be found!) that I had given enough info to make it seem obvious, but it was brought to my attention that I’d never really named the stakes. So, “For Reina, the only solution is to discover the truth before death discovers her,” makes it pretty clear to me. The stakes? Reina needs to figure out what the heck is going on before she’s killed for her role in trying to uncover the truth. I think that about does it. (But I’ll certainly let you know if my latest critique goes over well or not!)

And lastly – my comp titles are reined in a bit (only two this time) and I’ve changed the type of fantasy I’m pitching. Is it still a “chosen one” tale? Yeah, it kind of is, but (without giving away the plot) there’s a catch and so I don’t want to pitch it just as a “chosen one” fantasy. There’s far more going on behind the scenes. For me, a quest-based fantasy definitely seemed to be a better fit over all. So make sure you know exactly where your book fits in because it makes a big difference in who will want to read it.

So that’s it! Now you have seen the 3+ year history of my querying progress. I hope that this helps you in your querying and that you see more than just form rejections in your inbox! Thanks for following!

A Thousand Years to Wait

(A little novel aesthetic I included for A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT for my PitchWars family. You know, in case you’re a visual kind of person!)

 

A Brief History of a Perpetual Misfit

I’m hoping to participate in the very selective #PitchWars process this year and potential mentees are encouraged to share a little bit about themselves on their blogs in what is affectionately coined #PimpMyBio. For those of you who know me, most of this information probably isn’t new.  For those of you who don’t, welcome!


Fun Stuff

#novelaesthetics teaser for my #PitchWars YA Fantasy manuscript, A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

(Disclaimer: Only two of these images are mine. I don’t claim rights to the others!)

A Thousand Years to Wait

What is all this about? Well…

At 18, Moreina di Bianco is a young healer who believes in medicine, not magic, even while possessing a second sight she can’t fully explain. So when a talisman and a thousand-year-old prophecy choose Reina to reawaken an ancient magic and find a way to end a war, she must reconcile her beliefs and learn to master the unknown magic.

Reluctant to accept help, Reina’s only company on her journey is her estranged and mysterious childhood friend and a dashing captain who claims to be her protector. There’s just one problem with her new companions. They, too, are featured in the prophecy. But what woman wants a suitor, let alone two, when she’s busy defeating an evil general, ending a war, finding the true king, and rightfully seating him on the throne?

Random ‘Stuff’ About A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

Reina would really get along with Nadia from The Forgetting (Sharon Cameron) or Mae from White Hart (Sarah Dalton). The three of them could probably be best friends…though they might butt heads from time to time. They’re all pretty headstrong. She also has a lot in common with Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas), but killing stuff isn’t her thing. In fact, she’s a vegetarian.

I normally like to leave characters to the imagination (nothing is worse than finding out on page 284 that a character has blond hair when you’ve been picturing her as a dark brunette for the duration of the book), but…

Here’s a visual for what I picture my three main characters to look like. Seriously, it’s okay if this is isn’t what YOU picture. I’m cool with that.

Moreina (Reina) di Bianco, Quinn D’Arturio, and Niles Ingram (yeah, yeah, I know it’s Ryan Gosling…)

 

About Me

An ever changing chameleon, I seem to fit in both everywhere and nowhere at once. I grew up on Long Island, but moved to Pennsylvania with my family when I was 10, making me a lover of both indoor and outdoor fun. Theater, art, culture? Yes! Hiking, camping, and horses? Let’s!

Hiking Bryce
Yay – a camera in hand and hiking boots on my feet!

I love outdoor photography (Hey – that’s a combo of art, camping, and hiking!) and I even blogged about one of my most ambitious travels – a cross-country trip over the course of just 3 weeks. (Two years have passed since that trip and I’m still dreaming about it.)

But my love of art and travel didn’t stop me from also pursuing a love of science and I have an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. (I also earned a Master’s in Business Administration as a parent of two young children just to prove to myself that I could.) But maybe what I love most is actually the world in all its forms, and perhaps its why I’ve never been content to stay in just one place doing just one thing.

My ever-changing career has taken an interesting path to say the least. My titles have included:

  • Microbiologist
  • Pharmaceutical Technical Writer
  • Mom to 2 girls
  • Animal Adoption & Kennel Technician
  • Animal Shelter Administrative Director
  • Marketing Director
  • Freelance Writer
  • And always, always – Aspiring Author

The reason for my leaving any of these jobs was not because I didn’t enjoy them or because I wasn’t very good at them. (Quite the contrary, in fact!) Rather, it was because I always felt that there was something else I *should* be doing, something else that needed my attention, somewhere else that I should be fitting in.

In some of these jobs, I felt as though I had almost made it, that I almost assimilated, but there was always some small part of me that knew I was only fooling myself. I could “almost” fit in anywhere, but it wasn’t until I joined the writing community online that I began to feel as though perhaps I had finally found my tribe. A misfit among misfits, and I couldn’t feel more at home! If you, too, are a misfit writer and bibliophile, I hope you’ll find me on Twitter and say hello!

 

And Now – Random Trivia

My Loves: 

  • Landscape photography
  • Hiking
  • Travel
  • Music
  • Good NY pizza
  • Dark chocolate (Seriously, what is life without chocolate?)
  • Books (Duh…) – particularly well-done fantasies that take me deep into new worlds
  • My children & my husband (Duh, again… This is a given, of course. I’m so, so very lucky!)

 

My Current Obsessions:

  • Planning vacations I can’t take
  • #resist with @botresist
  • Sweetgreen’s harvest bowl (Yum!)

 

Things I despise (not necessarily in this order):

  • Narcissists (I worked for one for a long time – never again!)
  • Willful ignorance
  • Cancer (The disease, not the astrological sign. We crabs need to stick together.)
  • That Thing currently occupying the White House (See also: first bullet point.)

 

Things I think you should know:

  • Myers-Briggs: INFJ
  • I will hold my bladder as long as humanly possible if it means I can avoid using a porta-potty.
  • I love stories about time travel and/or reincarnation (Maybe why I resist the porta-potty—too many past lives without modern day plumbing?)
  • I don’t shy away from hard work, and Persistence is my middle name. (Actually, I don’t have a middle name, but if I did, this would be it.)

 

One More Thing:

(I debated adding this section, but I think it’s important enough that it should be included. I want to make sure that anyone who wants to work with me also knows where I stand on #OwnVoices.)

I’m not an #OwnVoices writer. I don’t come from the marginalized community and I can’t tell the stories that should be told by #OwnVoices writers. I am, however, a strong supporter of diversity and equal opportunity and will do whatever I can do to help advocate diversity in the publishing industry. So, a shoutout to my many writer friends from the marginalized communities who are making a difference every single day by using their voices to tell the stories that need to be told! Thank you for sharing your story! The world needs it. I need it!