Welcome to Our World-Building blog

Welcome! We weave dreams, some dark, some not, but all fantastic.

We are authors of Fantasy, Romance, and much more. Enter our infinite worlds....

On this blog, our visitors will find advice and opinion from published authors on much more than just world-building. We'll tell you in Craft and Opinion posts what we do, how we do it, and what we think works for us.

Authors with A-names post on the 1st of each month, B-names post on the 2nd, C-names on the 3rd etc.
The 29th, 30th, and 31st are free-for-all days.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Talking Futuristic Romance

The Authors Show host, Don McCauley, wrote of my interview (which is streaming today, March 19th on http://www.TheAuthorsShow.com ,
"I have done hundreds of interviews throughout the years. Most are enjoyable, some are enlightening, a few are downright painful. Others though, stand decidedly apart from the group. These interviews create memories that I will enjoy for the rest of my days. My recent interview with Rowena Cherry was one such interview."

Behind the scenes...

When an author queries a radio station to request airtime, quite often she is offered the opportunity to suggest ten or so appropriate questions which she'd like to be asked.

If I get the chance, I like to get the word out about the speculative romance subgenres. Even if I'm not the most eloquent or best qualified spokesperson, any discussion is better than none.

So, I suggested that Don might ask:

You write "FUTURISTIC ROMANCE." WHAT is that?

I gave him a brief overview of what "Paranormal" covers:

"Paranormal" is much more than ghosts. It covers space opera, speculative romance, dark fantasy, light fantasy, fantastic "snark", science fiction romance, time travel, also historicals and contemporary romances with strong psychic heroines.

This means that my aliens hang out in bookstores with vampires, shapeshifters, angels, demons, gargoyles, were-wolves, were-dragons, ghosts, elves, faeries, gnomes, mermaids, genies, and gods.

Don was kind enough to compare his experience of my interview to being dropped into the middle of a Monty Python skit.

"I believe I enjoyed the interview so much due to the fact that, throughout the conversation, I kept getting the distinctly odd impression that I had somehow been magically transported into the very middle of a somewhat peculiar Monty Python skit."

He's in great company with that comparison. I'm not sure what I said that struck him as Pythonesque, but it might have been this comment about how I see Paranormal Romance:

"It's a confusing family! So, I visualize "Paranormal Romance" as like a giant hen. Under her wings are multi-colored, dark and light chicks, a gosling, couple of kittens, a puppy… and a very small dragon!"

If you get the chance to listen, to my interview, I'd love to know what you think.

If you visit http://www.TheAuthorsShow.com and scroll down the page, you can submit your own request to be interviewed. If you live in Arizona, or don't mind traveling, you can apply to be on their sister TV program, too.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wendy Burt-Thomas on getting Query Letters right

Today we have a Q & A with Wendy Burt-Thomas. She is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her third book, "The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters" hit stores in January 2009. To learn more about Wendy or her three books, visit www.GuideToQueryLetters.com. If you have a writing-related question, you can also post it on http://AskWendy.wordpress.com.

1. Q: Can you tell us about your book?

The book was a great fit for me because I'd been teaching "Breaking Into Freelance Writing" for about eight years. In the workshop, I covered a lot of what is in this book: writing query letters to get articles in magazines, to land an agent, or to get a book deal with a publisher. Since I'm a full-time freelance magazine writer and editor with two previous books, this was incredibly fun to write because it didn't require tons of research. I was lucky enough to receive lots of great sample query letters from writers and authors that I use as "good" examples in the book. I wrote all the "bad" examples myself because I didn't dare ask for contributions that I knew I'd be ripping apart!

In addition to the ins and outs of what makes a good query, the book covers things like why (or why not) to get an agent, where to find one and how to choose one; writing a synopsis or proposal; selling different rights to your work; other forms of correspondence; and what editors and agents look for in new writers.
It was really important to me that the book not be a dry, boring reference book, but rather an entertaining read (while still being chock full of information). I was thrilled that Writer's Digest let me keep all the humor.

2. Q: Why are query letters so important?

Breaking into the publishing world is hard enough right now. Unless you have a serious "in" of some kind, you really need a great query letter to impress an agent or acquisitions editor. Essentially, your query letter is your first impression. If they like your idea (and voice and writing style and background), they'll either request a proposal, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript. If they don't like your query letter, you've got to pitch it to another agency/publisher. Unlike a manuscript, which can be edited or reworked if an editor thinks it has promise, you only get one shot with your query. Make it count!

I see a lot of authors who spend months (or years) finishing their book, only to rush through the process of crafting a good, solid query letter. What a waste! If agents/editors turn you down based on a bad query letter, you've blown your chance of getting them to read your manuscript. It could be the next bestseller, but they'll never see it. My advice is to put as much effort into your query as you did your book. If it's not fabulous, don't send it until it is.

3. Q: You're also a magazine editor. What is your biggest gripe regarding queries?

Queries that show that the writer obviously hasn't read our publication. I'll admit that I did this when I was a new writer too – submitted blindly to any publication whose name sounded even remotely related to my topic. One of the examples I use was when I submitted a parenting article to a magazine for senior citizens. Oops! A well-written query pitching an article that's not a match for the magazine isn't going to get you any further than a poorly written query.

4. Q: There's an entire chapter in the book about agents. Do you think all new writers should get agents?

Probably 99% of new writers should get an agent. There are lots of reasons, but my top three are:
1) Many of the larger publishing houses won't even look at unagented submissions now; 2) Agents can negotiate better rights and more money on your behalf;
3) Agents know the industry trends, changes and staff better than you ever could.

5. Q: You've been a mentor, coach or editor for many writers. What do you think is the most common reason that good writers don't get published?

Poor marketing skills. I see so many writers that are either too afraid, too uniformed, or frankly, too lazy, to market their work. They think their job is done when the write "the end" but writing is only half of the process. I've always told people who took my class that there are tons of great writers in the world who will never get published. I'd rather be a good writer who eats lobster than a great writer who eats hot dogs. I make a living as a writer because I spend as much time marketing as I do writing.

6. Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions that writers have about getting a book deal?

That they'll be rich overnight, that they don't need to promote their book once it's published, that publishing houses will send them on world book tours, that people will recognize them at the airport. Still, you can make great money as an author if you're prepared to put in the effort. If it wasn't possible, there wouldn't be so many full-time writers.

7. Q: What must-read books do you recommend to new writers?

Christina Katz (author of "Writer Mama") has a new book out called "Get Known Before the Book Deal" - which is fabulous. Also, Stephen King's "On Writing" and David Morrell's "Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing." Anything by Anne Lamott or my Dad, Steve Burt.

8. Q: What's the biggest lesson you've learned as a full-time writer?

Seize every opportunity - especially when you first start writing. I remember telling someone about a really high-paying writing gig I got and he said, "Wow. You have the best luck!" I thought, "Luck has nothing to do with it! I've worked hard to get where I am." Later that week I read this great quote: "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." It's absolutely true. And writing queries is only about luck in this sense. If you're prepared with a good query and/or manuscript, when the opportunity comes along you'll be successful.

9. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Writing the "bad" query letters. I've read – and written! – so many horrible ones over the years that it was a little too easy to craft them. But misery loves company and we ALL love to read really bad query letters, right?

10. Q: What do you want readers to learn from your book?
I want them to understand that while writing a good query letter is important, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. You can break it down into parts, learn from any first-round rejections, and read other good queries to help understand what works. I also want them to remember that writing is fun. Sometimes new writers get so caught up in the procedures that they lose their original voice in a query. Don't bury your style under formalities and to-the-letter formatting.


Rowena Cherry is interviewed on Ask Wendy

If it is Friday, March 6th, it's my turn to be interviewed.


Ask Wendy is a writer-related blog run by freelance writer, editor, copy-editor, and columnist Wendy Burt-Thomas.

Over the next year, Wendy's blog will expose over 600 authors' responses to questions about their best advice to other writers, and about their worst writing experiences.

Here's a sample to whet your appetite. ("Whet" as in sharpen.)

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. Can be funny, embarrassing, inspirational, etc. ("I once pitched an agent at a urinal. It did not go well.")

I may have mentioned that I am very keen on research for my books. Sometimes, my research is unexpectedly dangerous.

Take “Insufficient Mating Material” (the title refers to a game that looks impossible to win, no matter how good your own moves, or how bad a player your opponent is). The hero has a tattoo in a delicate area. It’s bioluminescent, which means that it glows in the dark under certain circumstances. There comes a point in the story where the hero (Djetth, pronounced Jeth) needs to find out if the heroine has ever seen a tattoo like it. So, he goes into the sea, and pretends that he has been bitten by a fish… there, and asks the heroine to see if the (non-existent) fish broke his skin.
Yes. There is quite a bit of bathroom humor.

It’s ironic. While doing some eleventh hour research for the cover scene, I was attacked by a fish! I went away for my summer holiday, thinking that I could relax secure in the knowledge that Insufficient Mating Material was all ready to go to the printers. Then, my editor sent me the cover art. Have you seen it? Almost everyone who sees it thinks of the Burt Lancaster movie “From Here To Eternity.”

The problem was, there was nothing at all in the book involving a couple frolicking in the surf. Nothing! There is now. One of my passionate beliefs is that cover art should illustrate something in the book.

I had a couple of months, one of which was my summer holiday, to tear apart the book and write in that scene. That is a story and a half in itself! At least I was at the seaside, but it was a cold sea, and I couldn’t persuade my husband to immerse himself in the interests of scientific research. The best he would offer was to stand ankle deep on the shore at low tide, while I lay at his feet and did what I had to do.

Trust my bad luck, there were weaver fish buried in the sand, and I stepped on one… not heavily, but I felt the spine and the sharp injection of venom. I was lucky on two counts. First, we knew what to do and home wasn’t far away, so I spent the rest of that day with my foot in a bath of Epsom salts and water so hot that it felt cold for an instant when more hot water was added to keep up the temperature. Second, I go barefoot a lot. You may extrapolate what that means. The spine probably broke.
I suppose I should thank my luck stars I didn’t sit on one!

And then, there's the story that begins with a quote:
"…the fish skin couldn't be used as a condom but the intestines of the rabbits could…"

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry