Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Found Stuff

Sometimes, humor comes when I'm trying to do something other than write humor.

Yesterday, I read a piece and gave a critique, and this was the result.
1) Don't confuse a query letter with an elevator pitch as done in movies for movies. It's a letter, and a business one at that, designed to make your first impression.  

2) Books should not be referential to other books. (It's Harry Potter meets Star Wars and the Bible and 50 Shades of Grey)....kind of stuff. The goal of a query letter is to let the agent know you're serious and make your work stand out as unique. Just as a comedian should never follow a funnier comedian, so an author should not reference giants in literature or classics or even commercially successful authors to themselves, the result will be that the unknown person looks punier and smaller still.   

3) When pitching your book, know your genre.  If you tell someone your book is is a thriller, action, horror, sci-fi, mystery, and a romance, the agent thinks, tuna casserole. No one eats tuna casserole. No one looks up how to make tuna casserole, and why would anyone take a chance on ordering an unknown's tuna casserole.

So what do you write?  Queries are business and sale pitch. Here's something of a template:  

Dear so and so....

My name is such and such and I'm writing to you about my book. (insert title) Title of book is this genre (one the agent represents) and suitable for readers age blah to blah. or whathave you. This is your intro paragraph. Who you are, what you do, why it matters to the person you are addressing.

Young blahdyblah longs for blahdyblah. He meets whatever it is, and begins to discover whatever it is, and must also persevere when whoever it is follows him to whereever it is. In addition to saving whatever for whoever, he uncovers the truth about something that changes everything. (This is your middle paragraph about your book). Maybe include a slice of a scene if it's funny or clever but it has to be brief and tight). 

The Title of Book stresses Themes a and b and c,  Throw in some questions maybe that will be answered but don't be coy.  Only River Song gets to say "Spoilers." and none of us are River Song.   Also, make sure you tell the agent or publishing company your book clocks at how many chapters and so many words. You should know ahead of time, how many words are generally found in a novel, novella, short story, children's book, etc, so you don't overrun or underwrite what you are selling.

And that's the real point of any query letter. You are selling three things: Yourself (I am a competent writer and know the business).  Your book--I wrote it, it's cool and you should read it and all of your friends will want to read it so you should sign me on and publish my book.  Your future relationship with this editor/publishing company. (Go back to the I am a professional who can take editing, criticism, questions and the like and not go to pieces in the process). All three in a three to four paragraph little letter.  And you thought writing the book was the hard part! 

Thank you for considering my work, and I hope to hear from you soon. 

My soon to be famous name
and contact information.
No emoticons or PS notes.   You are pretending to be a professional. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Faith Under Fire: Dramatic Stories of Christian Courage --A Review

When Matt Archbold announced he'd written a book called Faith Under Fire: Dramatic Stories of Christian Courage, I pre-ordered a copy.  
When the book arrived, I started it and wept after the first chapter.

These days, when the news gives us a near constant stream of how humanity fails to live out the beauty of God's plan for each of us, this profile of eighteen heroic men and women of all walks of life, is like a tall deeply iced glass of your favorite beverage on a summer evening. They are reminders that even in the midst of suffering, sin and death, God wants to reveal His mercy, His healing, His love, His generosity, His goodness through our lives.

All it took from them, was their fiat, their "yes" to God's will.

Owing to life, I put the book down and when I went back to my dresser, I couldn't find it.  After cleaning up my own room (and yes, my kids enjoyed me having to be more organized, they got in their digs), I found it and thought I would reward myself by reading the next chapter.  I'd thought I'd read some of it each night for a few days, but found myself racing through the chapters, enjoying each story like a chocolate truffle.  For me, good books, like good chocolates, can't be paced. That plan never happens (for chocolates or books).  I found I stayed up late and got up early to enjoy more of the stories.

I took it in the car and read while I waited for my daughter to come out from work, and read it all day in between tasks.  Finally, after dinner, I declared it was reading time and didn't stop until I ran through the final story.  I would recommend using these stories to buttress discussions in a catechism or prayer group, as the stories reveal courage, attentiveness to God's voice, obedience, forbearance, mercy and forgiveness.  

There are still six more weeks of summer, and this is a nice way to give yourself a little taste of luminous lives.  Matt's style of writing makes for an easy read without being simple in terms of content.  Every once in a while, Matthew gives you one of those gem moments in the telling of the story: "How could someone who calls themselves a Christian be more afraid of what other people think than what God thinks?" or "I've known  the Lord for thirty years," "I cannot deny the Lord." As a reader, you find yourself taking a deep breath, drawing back in awe as God's grace becomes tangible in the actions and words of these eighteen people. 

These men and women didn't set out to be steel, or to be heroes or to become martyrs or to become mothers. This is a book of luminous mysteries, lives made miraculous by the individuals recognizing, God called them to act, and their acting. These tangible examples from our own century, from our own lifetime refresh the spirit even as they reveal what Matthew said in his introduction, "The way of the cross is unavoidably uphill."  They also remind us, when we cooperate with God's will, we will become like gold, tested in fire.   All anyone will be able to see, is God's face.

Order, read and leave a review. These stories should be shared.    P.S. Thank you Matt.   Nice work!

Small Success Thursday

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