Thursday, May 26, 2011

Query-Go-Round, Round 2

Okay, I'm smack dab in the midst of the query process. Again. Trying to be philosophical about it all and believe the rejection letters that say, "it's not you, it's me." It's a lot like dating, I guess. Everyone is looking for that special someone who has that something that completes them. Or, at least, completes their list.

Do you use the Query Tracker website? It's a great site and a great tool. I have to admit I'm more of a lurker there myself. I did sign up, so I can access the whole 9 yards of information available, but I have yet to comment. I love their blog, and in the past have rushed to query every new agent they mentioned, whether they were totally appropriate or not.

I'm trying very hard to use restraint this time. Do all the background research possible and then some. Read the comments that others have posted about the agents I'm considering. Yes, that's right - the simple fact is that we as writers should be considering those agents just as much as they are considering us.

Agenting - like Dating - is a two-way street.

If I send queries to every Tom, Dick, Jane, and Harry, I may have some awkward dating moments. Or a whole lotta rejection letters piling into in my inbox. I want to make sure they are the right match for me and my book before I go extending them an invitation to read my work.

So that takes time. And research. My husband thinks it's a numbers game. Send out enough letters and you'll get a certain percentage of interest in your work. I tried that approach, and I'm not sure it's worth the price of rejection. Because if an agent isn't interested in your genre, they aren't going to be suddenly won over by your query. Even if they are a YA agent, there are so many permutations and forms that YA can take...

It's easy enough to research online and see what an agent likes or doesn't like. It just takes time.

There's another great website called The Write Attitude which has a ton of inspirational quotes from great writers - all saying the same thing. Don't give up. Keep writing. Keep working on your craft. All published authors have one thing in common: they didn't give up.

Okay, so - stepping off my soapbox - I had previously posted my query for comments, and received a few great suggestions. Everyone's favorite seemed to be Mooderino's - until another bloggy friend posted that you should never - ever - open a query with a question. She cited Nathan Bransford on that and I went to read his many blog postings on the subject of queries. Oh boy. So much to consider.

But onward and upward. I liked Moody's suggestion, but I've tweaked it a bit to get rid of the question. I'm till not sure it's quite "there" yet, but I'm willing to send it out and try. The new (improved?) query reads:

Dear (Agent-of-my-Dreams),

No one suspects a farmboy from Oklahoma has mermaid blood coursing through his veins, least of all fifteen-year-old Shea Maguire. He doesn’t remember the mom who abandoned him, and doesn’t believe in mermaids. But while he enjoys life with his dad on the farm, he feels out-of-step with the other freshmen at Plainville High School… like there’s something more out there.

After a deadly tornado flattens his home, Shea moves to Cape Cod and meets a mysterious girl who promises to help him find the truth. He finds it hard to believe his strange birthmark means he’s the one who’s supposed to save the undersea kingdoms from war, especially since he doesn’t know how to swim.

Prince Demyan, self-proclaimed ruler of the Southern Ocean, will stop at nothing to avenge his father’s death. Only rumors of a drylander boy stand between him and the ultimate power he craves… and really, how hard could it be to kill a rumor?

MERMAID BLOOD is a 64,000-word YA novel. My previous writing experience includes two small-press romantic suspense novels for adults and membership in RWA, as well as reporting for local newspapers. I have a BA in English literature from Colgate University, and live on Cape Cod year round with my husband, children, and big stubborn dogs. I currently work as the Editor for magazine, an online magazine featuring the creative artists, writers and businesswomen who live and work on the Cape.

I’ve included the first fifteen pages in the body of this email, as suggested in your submission guidelines. A full manuscript is available upon request. Thanks so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

After Helen's comment, I revised the query to include the closing paragraphs - I'm not sure what the third one she mentions is supposed to be? Can anyone help me out? And where I say "Inlcuded the first 15 pages as per..." that's from the last query I sent out, and those were the specific guidelines that were listed for that specific agent. Obviously, I'd tailor that to the submission requirements of each agent...

Okay, questions? comments? suggestions? Where are you on the Query-Go-Round?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to Survive a Weekend of Survivor Camping...

First of all, Survivor Camping is all about the Challenges. Our Troop's Challenge was "Gross Food" - - each tribe had to visit our Challenge and each girl had to participate in order to earn the full amount of possible tokens.

Our girls created a Gross Emporium, with 8 dubious choices... girls had to reach into a bucket of slime (a.k.a. green jello) to pick a ball bearing a number, which determined her "choice." Chocolate "bugs" or "dirt" cake, "foot fungus" or "ghost poop" ...

Number 8 was the "Worm Soup" with real, live, wriggling worms. *Luckily* no one drew an 8. Okay, there was no number 8 in there, but they didn't know that! The grossest choice, in my mind, was number 3, the pitcher of red jello and pasta that we called "Pig Intestines." Ewwww.

Number 4 was the Kitty Litter Cake. Making it was truly the disgusting part, as the girls really got their hands right into it, shredding the cake into litter-sized bits. The "poop" were really tootsie rolls. But all put together, it looked gross.

Our campsite was gorgeously sited, though. We were next to the frog pond, as you can see from the view out the back of my tent. We had 3 tents for our troop, the girls split in 2 and the other leader and I had this tent to ourselves. Not bad.

Camp Favorite is also sited along Long Pond, one of the larger freshwater lakes on Cape Cod. Our closing ceremony and bonfire on Saturday night were next to the water, and our troop stayed until the very last, to sing songs and put out the fire. And play on the beach.

With a group of 8 girls, we had 2 in each of the 4 "tribes" for the color wars. Our troop won the "Best Challenge" prize, so we all went home winners. Green won the most tokens, and thus "won" Survivor, but all the girls had a great time camping. The weather held out, and even cleared up for Saturday afternoon.

What a fun way to spend a spring weekend! Thank goodness I don't have to do it again... until next spring!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend Plans? How about Survivor Camping?

Every spring, all of the Girl Scouts of all ages in my town go on a big camping weekend, spending Friday through Sunday at Camp Favorite, on Long Pond in Brewster. Each year we the leaders spend countless hours discussing, planning, and choosing activities and themes.

This year's theme is SURVIVOR.

I've never watched the show, so I feel at a decided disadvantage. I have no idea what the "buffs" are that will divide the girls into 4 color tribes. I've read enough online to know what to expect (and what is expected) from the various "Challenges." Each troop has prepared at least one challenge to test all the tribes. Our troop's challenge is "Gross Food".... which was a lot of fun to work on preparing - I hope the tribes have as much fun visiting our challenge station!

The trip will culminate in a final night bonfire by the lake, where we'll launch our raft challenge, roast marshmallows and award prizes. I know from the commercials that the t.v. Survivor has a bonfire at the end of each episode where they kick people out - what do they call that part?

The weatherman promises that this super-thick fog will burn off by mid-morning and that the rest of the weekend will be only slightly overcast. As much as thunderstorms would fit in with our Survivor theme, I'd rather not be camping in the rain. (Again. Been there, done that.)

So, I'll be spending the weekend in the woods - with or without rain. What do you have planned for your weekend? (...And wouldn't you rather be Survivor Camping, and eating chocolate covered bugs along with your s'mores?)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

...And More Coolness from Hidden Hollow

Hidden Hollow is located within the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, MA. If you've got small children in tow, it's a must see area. If you don't have kids with you, pretend.

Each area within Hidden Hollow has a theme - water, sand, constructing, creating crafts, listening to stories... my 10-year-old Girl Scouts had a blast in the water area and the sand/construction area. Where they had been just acting so cool at breakfast, it was fun to see them let loose and forget to be cool middle-schoolers for a little while.

All of the paths and chairs and tables and shelves and everything are constructed from wood - mostly from the trees that they cleared from the Hollow when they started construction. (The team from Americorp Cape Cod did a great job with that big job.) My favorite pieces of furniture are these pinecone-shaped tables in the craft area and the mushroom-shaped stools in the storytelling/listening area.

The treehouse is still under construction - - but it looks SOOO COOOL - I want one! It was all roped off so we couldn't even peek, but as soon as I get the notice that it's open, we're headed back!

Okay, so Blogger isn't cooperating again and won't let me add any more photos today. Not sure what's going on but it's getting a little old at this point.

Is anyone else having issues with Blogger last week and this week? What's going on?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One of the Coolest Places on Cape Cod: Hidden Hollow

Last weekend, my Girl Scout troop spent a "Night at the Museum" - literally.

Each spring, there's a gathering of scouts at The Heritage Gardens and Museum to work on badges and craft projects, roast marshmellows in the moonlight, ride the antique carousel at midnight... and sleep over, this year next to the antique cars and vintage motorcycles.

The highlight of this year's sleepover - for me at least, since I don't ride carousels anymore - was getting to visit the new Hidden Hollow. Oh. My. God. I'm in love.

Last spring, I talked with the program director about her plans for this area. She even wrote an article about it for our Summer 2010 Issue of CapeWomenOnline magazine. All spring and summer, she worked with various volunteers from local tech schools, Americorp, and landscape designers who volunteered their time and efforts. The results are enchanting, to say the very least.

Each area is conected by wooden pathways. Signs are woodburned into split logs. You can see that the treehouse is still under contruction, but looks like it will be Spectacular. My girls are technically "above" this kind of play, but they dove right in - all of them - and played with the water features and sand areas, they built structures with the wooden vines, they hung canopies in the rhododendron forest, they put on skits on the stage, using the basket of animal costumes... they had a blast.

Blogger is acting wonky again this morning, so I'll try to upload more photos tomorrow, or maybe later in the day.
Hidden Hollow at the Heritage Museum. Check it out. Tell them a Girl Scout sent you.

What's the coolest thing you've discovered this spring?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Puppy Learns Another New Trick

If you've been reading about my Puppy for a while, you may remember the tale of how she learned to open her own car window (read it here)

Well, she learned a new trick this week. How to jump OUT of her open window.

Now, if you're like me, you'll look at the safety windows in the back seat of the minivan and say, "No Way could a 140-pound dog wiggle her way out of that opening." Like me, you'd be wrong.

We'd driven to my son's high school to pick him up after track practice, and as usual, the dogs came along for the ride. They know they're not going "anywhere" but they like to ride along and hang their heads out the windows.

When we pulled up to park, the Puppy spotted a squirrel scampering across the walkway, clearly about to menace the track team or terrorize someone... so she scrambled her way right out the back window to chase it up a tree.

I turned off the car and chased her down, grabbing her collar and scolding her, but my words didn't make an impact. She was certain she had done the right thing.

In her mind, the high school's yard was safe once again... but I'm left wondering HOW did she do it? And more importantly, now that she KNOWS she can do it (like opening the window) how long before she TRIES IT AGAIN... !

Ah, the joys of a smart Puppy who is convinced of her own brilliance.

Have a great Friday the 13th, and a great weekend - I'm starting mine off with a Girl Scout Overnight tonight - what's on your agenda?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I took a deep breath, and jumped back on to the Query-Go-Round this morning with my YA project. I'm taking another deep breath, and posting my query here on the blog for input from you, my fellow writers and readers. Be honest, but please be kind.

This project has been bubbling through my system for a few years now... in my last round of queries, I received requests for several partials and two fulls... but no one took the leap with me.

I've taken all the input I received to heart, and revised-revised-revised... and I'm in love with my story again. Here goes the pitch for my 64,000-word YA, Mermaid Blood:

At fifteen, Shea Maguire feels out of step with the other freshmen at Plainville High School. While he enjoys his life on the farm, he’s always felt different, like there’s something more out there. No one suspects a farmboy from Oklahoma has mermaid blood coursing through his veins, least of all Shea.

After a deadly tornado flattens his home, Shea moves to Cape Cod and meets a mysterious girl who promises to help him find the truth. Could his strange birthmark really mean he’s the one who’s supposed to save the undersea kingdoms from war, when he doesn’t even know how to swim?

Prince Demyan, self-proclaimed ruler of the Southern Ocean, will stop at nothing to avenge his father’s death. Only rumors of a drylander boy stand between him and the ultimate power he craves… and really, how hard could it be to kill a rumor?

What do you think?

And where are you in the Query-Go-Round? Getting ready to take the ride, or already spinning?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Girl Scout Service Project - Mission Accomplished

My Girl Scout troop finished their Spring Service Project at the end of April. A big accomplishment for my 4th and 5th grade Junior girls!

Throughout cookie season, the troop collected cookies for soldiers overseas. We attended a Girl Scout Council-sponsored event in the middle of March (read about that here)

After meeting and talking with the soldiers at Camp Edwards, my troop decided to complete their Spring Service project by going one step further, and collecting additional care package items and sending them overseas to local soldiers stationed in Iraq.

The founder of a local non-profit group, Harwich Helps Heroes, came to our meeting to brainstorm with the girls. We sent letters to both the elementary and middle schools to ask for help, but in the end only the middle school worked with us. We had a special meeting to make posters and hang them around the hallways of the school, and we decorated a big collection box to place in the school's lobby. We also made a "piece of home" craft, with shells and sand collected from our shores.

At one of our regular meetings at the local library at the end of April, we organized all the goodies that we'd collected (including the rest of the girl scout cookies!) My 9 scouts packed 10 stuffed-to-the-gills packages to send overseas.
What did the girls learn? Hopefully they learned that by working together as a team, they can accomplish bigger things. And that they can really make a difference in other people's lives.

What did I learn? That I really need to keep taking steps backward, with my hands firmly clenched behind my back, and let the girls do it themselves. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it doesn't always go the way I think it should. Yes, it's frustrating for a control freak like me.

But they can do it. And they did.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Reading...

When my friend asked me to recommend a good book for her 7th grader, it was easy to point her in Suzanne Collins direction. The mom had (amazingly) never heard of this series, but her daughter was instantly enthralled. I'm a book recommending Superstar in her daughter's mind...

Now she's asked for recommendations for her 4th grader. My daughter is now in 5th grade, and last year she devoured Meg Cabot's Allie Finkle series (and wrote about Meg Cabot as her hero.) She also loved the Gail Carson Levine books where Levine retells fairy tales (like Fairest, Ever, etc...) But my friend's daughter prefers fantasy, like my son. So I suggested Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, which my son loved...
But my friend wants recommendations for books based on Greek or Roman myths. And she'd pefer a series to a stand-alone. I'm stumped. My boys are reading some of these books now - but they're from the adult section. (They both recently enjoyed Ruth Downey's Medicus and Terra Incognita, which aren't myths but tales set in the Roman era.)

Does anyone know of good middle grade books based on Greek/Roman myths? Her daughter is not a girly-girl, and doesn't care so much whether the protagonist is female.

Any suggestions?

Meanwhile, I know what I'm getting for mother's day - because I helped my daughter pick it out at Barnes & Noble yesterday ;-) Just out in time for the holiday - the latest by Charlaine Harris!! Can't wait to open it and start reading... looking forward to True Blood starting up again next month as well...!

Happy Mother's Day to all! Enjoy your day, whatever you do ;-)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Call for Submissions

Cape Cod. Land of sunshine and childhood memories. Most people have at least one Cape Story to tell, whether it was visiting friends with a beach house, a wild weekend in Provincetown, a cousin's wedding in Chatham... have you ever visited Cape Cod?

We want your memories.

Okay, really. It never seriously occurred to me to post this call here, but I just received a wonderful submission from a fellow A to Z participant Lisa Claro about her childhood memories of Lieutenant Island. Very cool. And I thought, maybe there are other blogging friends who'd like to send stories or photographs? Why not ask?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of when John F. Kennedy signed the bill creating the Cape Cod National Seashore. To honor the occasion, CapeWomenOnline magazine is collecting short stories, memories, and photographs for our Summer 2011 Issue.

The official call for submissions is in the Spring Issue here.

The official submission guidelines are here.

As it states in our guidelines, we don't currently pay for submissions but do offer advertising in trade. (like, for your books, your business, your blog...) and you will get a byline and an about the author blurb with live links to your website(s).

So why not? Send us your memories! Submissions should go to the Editor - me - at ... and thanks in advance for sharing ;-)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More Blog Awards...

Yay! Awards!

Thank you to Susan Oloier at Memoirs of a Writer for passing along the "Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!" It's not one I've ever seen before, but boy is is cute!

And thanks again to CR Ward from Random Writings for the Versatile Blogger Award!

Now, since the rules are virtually the same - okay, they are the same - I thought I could do this as one post (I've seen precedent for this recently!) and get on with distributing the awards and all as I'm having a hectic first week of May even without the A to Z Challenge!

The rules/guidelines for accepting the awards, as I understand them, go like this:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Award 10-15 recently discovered great bloggers. (The Irresistibly Sweet Award says 15)
4. Contact and tell these bloggers about the award.

So here goes. I've done Number One for both. Now... Seven things about myself.....hmmm....I just did this recently for another award, so let me think of 7 new things:

1. The vet told me this week that my Puppy is fat. My Puppy! I've been stewing on this and just can't let it go. I may have to devote a whole post about this... and put her on a diet...

2. When I first started writing seriously, I truly thought it would be easy to get published. (Ha!)

3. I'm the only one in my neighborhood who mows her own lawn.

4. I love camping with my Girl Scout troop each spring. It makes me feel like a kid again!

5. I make my kids take sailing lessons every summer because we live near the water (and because my parents made me when I was a kid) but I don't enjoy sailing in small boats.

6. I'd rather email than talk on the telephone.

7. I played the flute in the middle school band, took piano lessons for years, and sang in school and church chorus up through high school and for one year in college. I do none of these things now.

Okay, on to the fun part. Handing out awards. Below is a list of bloggers I've met because of A to Z, who helped me get through the month with my sanity (mostly) intact. Choose which award you want to take, or take both if you like! (They are both Pretty cool. Just like all you bloggy friends are cool.) Check out their blogs and show them some love - they all write inspiring, insightful posts!

Thank you all for your support and friendship - and I hope this camaraderie continues well beyond April's alphabet challenge!

Jennifer Shirk @ Me My Muse and I
Martha (MM) at Menagerie (which is taking a blogging break but deserves an award no less)
Talli Roland
SA Larsen
Ciara Knight
Canyon Girl
Julie at What Else is Possible?
Deirdra at A Storybook World
Susan Roebuck at Lauracae
Colene Murphy
Mooderino at Moody Writing
Ocean Girl
Rebecca Dupree Fiction
Melissa Cunningham at A Writer's Reality
Author Elizabeth Mueller

Ugh, I'm out of blogging time again. I will finish these links later on, I promise, but need to get this posted because it's already taken me two days to write. Argh! I need more hours in my weekdays... well, more on the weekends would be nice to ;-)

Monday, May 2, 2011

The End of A to Z April - Hello, May!

It was a lo-o-o-o-ng month of blogging this April, trying to navigate my way through the alphabet challenge. I might have been a little insane when I signed up for it - I was the twelfth person to add my name to the Challenge list.

It turned out that over 1,200 people across the globe signed their names to that same Challenge list. Not all of us made it to Z. As I often say, sometimes life gets in the way. The Zebra award was created by Elizabeth Mueller for everyone who made it all the way from A to Z. Thank you, Elizabeth, and if you're an A-to-Z-er who hasn't visited Elizabeth to pick up your award, click the image above to take you there and check out her blog.

In the end, (and now that it's May) I'm glad I took part in this event. I've discovered some wonderful blogs, and a lot of wonderful people have discovered mine! The hundred follower mark came and went somewhere along the way - a milestone for sure. But more important are the connections themselves.

I learned a few things about Blogger - how to embed video, how to (successfully) schedule posts in advance, and how to more successfully make time to visit and comment on the posts of other participants. It's been a good month.

And I've also been awarded my first Blog Awards this month, from some of my new-found friends. Deirdra from A Storybook World gave me my first - the Powerful Woman Writer Award, then Julie B (aka Lady Dragonfly) gave me the Stylish Blogger award,... And now in addition to the wonderful A-to-Zebra above, I've also just received the Versatile Blogger award from CR Ward - thank you so much!

This award comes with rules, as many of you know.
1. Link back to the awarder (which I’ve done above - the award is a link)
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award this to 10-15 newly discovered bloggers
4. Tell said bloggers they have an award waiting.

Since this post is already a little long (and I'm running out of blogging time before the school bus) I'm going to think about this and post my list of things about me and my list of people to pass the award along to.

Happy May to all - especially those who survived the Challenge of April ;-)