Archive for August, 2014

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The time has (finally) come. We have finished and polished a complete and cohesive first draft of The Last Princess, and it comes out to just over 65,000 words. This is slightly long for typical middle grade books, but allowances are usually made for fantasy books.

In case you’re not familiar with my daughter’s and my WIP, here is a brief description:

Cat Brökkenwier has a secret — the ability to see that the descendents of faeries and elves and ogres still walk among us.  With the help of an ancient diary she learns she may be the last princess of all the fae.  Now Cat must learn all there is to know about the secret world of the fae-born and earn the crown before another, more sinister candidate beats her to it.  Or worse, before her mother finds out.

But before we start sending this out to agents, we need feedback from readers like you. Obviously we want this to be the best book it can be, and to make this happen we need to know what people who read think of it.

When you sign up below (or above via the Beta Reader Sign Up tab) we will send you the complete manuscript plus a few questions. These are easy questions; we certainly don’t expect you to write an in-depth page-by-page analysis. We just want to know if there are any major issue or rough spots that need to be smoothed. Of course, we also want to know what you particularly liked. So you know what you’re signing up for, here are the questions we’re asking:

1) Did you enjoy The Last Princess? Would you buy the sequel if there was one?

2) Was the language easy to follow and enjoyable to read? Did you have difficulty with characters’ accents?

4) Were you able to identify with the characters and did you find them interesting? In what way?

3) Were you able to “see” the locations? Did you feel they were overdescribed? Underdescribed?

4) Did the story make sense? Was there any point when you were confused? Please explain.

5) Was any part of the story boring? Was there any point or any characters that you did not like? Why?

6) Were you satisfied with the ending? Were you surprised? Were you expecting something different?

7) Were there any loose ends that we did not tie up for you?  (Obviously, some things were left up in the air for a possible sequel).

8) Do you have any questions for us?

If this book appeals to you and these questions don’t seem too daunting, we’d be delighted to share our manuscript with you. Please provide your contact information, your real name (in case we wish to acknowledge you in print), the kinds of books you typically read, and when you think you will be able to get back to us with your answers. Then get ready for an adventure (we hope!)

Thank you in advance!

Beta-Reader

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Well, The Last Princess, my daughter’s and my middle grade novel, is finished. Finished in the sense that is now has all of its chapters. I suppose that’s a bit like saying a wedding dress is finished as soon as all of the pieces are sewn together.

167922480If you’ve ever been a bride or known one, you’ll know that there are probably a hundred things on a wedding dress that might need to be tucked or replaced or tightened or let out or upgraded or resewn before the bride is completely happy with it. Well, so it is with a novel.

The chapters are all there, but a million new ideas and altered plans have happened to the story in the time between when we wrote chapter 1 and chapter 14. Not to mention we’ve grown as writers and refined our style and fine-tuned the voice of our story, such that going back and re-reading our earlier work sounds a bit off.

To quote from one of my favorite books, Dune: “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” I’ve never been completely satisfied with the beginning of our book, and I have a file with no fewer than five different attempts to get it right. But by the time we had about five chapters written I settled on one that was good enough and it gave me the confidence and a good foundation on which to build the rest of the novel.

Somewhere around chapter 12 I hit upon a completely new way to open the book, with a new scene that not only foreshadows and supports everything that happens in the climax, but is a perfect showcase for our main character’s personality. And, a pretty good hook, if I do say so myself.

Tell us what you think. Here are the (new) first 464 words of The Last Princess:

How’s a girl supposed to get any serious daydreaming done with a little brother on the rampage? It was hard enough trying to do my seventh grade history project without him ricocheting off the walls like a caged dragon.

I know, there’s no such things as dragons. My mom told me. Pfft. How would she know?

I blew a strand of frizzy hair out of my face and picked up the brown pencil from the floor beside me. Hoping for just five minutes of peace and quiet, I leaned over my sketchbook and started coloring in the tallest tower of Windsor Castle. Where my room would be….

“Princess Brökkenwier! You must leave here at once!”

“Nonsense, silly servant. My father is the king. And he said I could have this tower for my very own.” I waved an imperious hand at the little man with puffy pantaloons and ringlets in his hair. “Now go and tell my maid I’m ready for breakfast.”

“No, Princess! The king sent me! We’re under attack!”

“Again?” I put down my silver brush with a sigh. “What is it this time?”

“Dragons, m’lady! Please, it’s not safe in the tower.”

“Whatever.” I stood and adjusted my gold crown. “Take me to my father.”

“At once, m’lady.”

Spiral staircases were so thirteenth century. That’s why I’d had Daddy install an elevator. And a fireman’s pole for quick escapes. The little servant screamed like a girl the whole way down.

As we ran through the courtyard I heard the shouts of the panicking servants and felt the chill of a huge shadow passing overhead. We ducked into the castle proper and secured the large wooden doors. We had almost made it to the great hall when a sound like thunder rocked the passageway and pieces of ceiling rained down. The dragon had landed in the courtyard behind us. I could already smell its awful, smoky breath. The doors slammed open revealing the courtyard on fire, and my brave little servant fainted dead away. But I stood my ground. An enormous yellow eyeball peered at me through the ruined doorway and I desperately wished I had one of the elf archer’s bows. One shot and this would be over.

“Princess!” my dad’s voice bellowed. I spun and there he was. Tall and muscular, bound from head-to-toe in golden armor. He clutched a dwarf-made axe in both fists, ready to rescue me or avenge my death. “Step aside, Princess. This is going to get messy.”

That’s when my little brother landed right in the middle of my drawing, sending pencils and glitter pens flying.

“Look at me! I’m a superhero!” He had jumped off the couch in a heroic leap, still wearing the red cape he’d gotten for his fourth birthday last month.

We still have a long way to go before this wedding dress is ready for the Big Day. But we’re definitely getting there!

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Since my daughter and I have come to the very last chapter in our middle grade urban fantasy novel, The Last Princess, we have entered serious light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel mode, and we’ve become eager and antsy. The end is so close we can feel the breeze of fresh air and our eyes are already adjusting to the light. But I realize something; it turns out the light at the end of the tunnel is just the opening of another, much bigger tunnel.

Well, crap.

I suppose, like a lot of aspiring writers I believed the hard part was writing the novel. And once it was finished you relaxed and collected royalty checks and occasionally sat in a Barnes & Noble and signed copies of your book. My daughter and I have been laboring on this book for 16 months, and now that we are putting the final touches on the very last chapter, we’re looking at a long list of tasks ahead of us:

  • Rewrite the opening “hook.”
  • Per our notes, make revisions to various chapters.
  • Add foreshadowing throughout to support the climax and denouement.
  • Filter for “weasel” words and passive tense.
  • Convert the entire book to standard manuscript format.
  • Send the revised manuscript out to beta readers.
  • Compile a list of agents who represent our genre and style
  • Create a killer pitch
  • Compose a query letter
  • Revise the manuscript per beta readers’ notes
  • Mail off query letters . . . .

 

Somewhere in there we need to develop plotlines and pitches for the next several books in what we envision as a series, including a master arc covering the whole series (so we can pitch this as a series in our query). Seems like this new tunnel has a few branchings that’ll need to be thoroughly explored.

As for relaxing, well, by this point I expect we’ll be several chapters into our next book, The Last Fairy Godmother.

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I’m definitely still holding out for those book signings, though.

NEWSFLASH: We’re days from finishing the first draft of The Last Princess.  If you would like to sign up to be a beta reader, please use the “Beta Reader Sign-Ups” tab at the top of this page.

 

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I’ve always wondered what “bittersweet” felt like.   The flavor I understand: dark chocolate, blackberries, red wine.  Necco Wafers.  Acquired tastes, but for some people sort of irresistible.

But what about the emotion?  I had never ever felt the emotion of “bittersweet.”  Until now.

My daughter and I have been laboring on our novel for slightly more than a year, and as of this moment we are working on the very last chapter.  The denouement.  The end.

On one hand it’s very sweet, because we are finally tying up loose ends and putting a period ‒ or in some cases an exclamation point or a question mark ‒ on the characters.  It means we can move on to the next phase: polish the manuscript and send it out to beta readers.

But on the other hand there is some bitterness, too.  Naturally, we’ve become very attached to these characters and this story, and now that all of the foreshadowing has been given light and all of the mysteries have been solved, we kind of miss the feeling of “what’s next.”

Except, of course, that we have sequels in mind.  Several, in fact. The very act of planning and writing this novel has built new mental muscle and given us new reflexes that make creating the framework for a good story second nature.  And we’re sticking to our regimen and keeping those muscles loose and flexible.  It’s truly like what you’ve heard about going to the gym; when you’re doing it right you sort of get addicted.

Like I said, it’s an acquired taste but for some people finishing a novel and starting the next one is sort of irresistible.

 

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