Thursday, July 24, 2014

Publishing Journey Week 3--Help us with our Query!

Hi fellow writers!

Well it came. The third rejection. 


So there was that. Here is the actual rejection letter:

Thank you for your query.  Unfortunately we do not think the project is right for us. 
 
We receive so many queries that it is not possible to reply in detail on an individual basis.  We appreciate your writing and wish you success in your publishing career.
 
Cordially,
Sarah Yake, Literary Agent
Frances Collin, Literary Agent

Ouch. The burn. So final.
  
In light of that, we can now say we have had 3 rejections to our 3 queries, and that tells me that if no one has had interest in at least reading more, that our query needs work. With Lunula I at least had publishers and agents asking to see more material based on the query. If they aren't asking, then our query isn't intriguing enough.

So I'm going to put it out here and ask you to tell us what you think. What part of our query needs adjusting?

 Dear Ms. Yake,
 
We have co-authored an 80,000 word YA supernatural novel, titled Plane Walker, which will appeal to teenagers, new adults, and adults alike with its fast pace and unique narrative. It is the first book in a planned series. 
 
Jack has always known there was something different about his sister Morgan, as if she belonged to another world. Then he sees a shadowed creature in his college apartment, and when it follows Jack home, the secrets of Morgan's hidden life are revealed. Not only can his sister see spirits and the planes they walk, but Jack discovers his own ability to cross over into the spirit realms. What he finds in their depths is a dangerous battle that extends from the highest spirit planes down to a castle in Europe, where a family with its own supernatural legacy has hid for centuries. Is it a coincidence that Morgan's new friends, twin brothers Nicolas and Roman, happen to belong to that secretive family? They are all part of a mystery that could change the war between heaven and Hell.
 
Alyssa Auch has published two YA fantasy novels; Lunula with Malachite Press and Inito. Lunula has won awards such as Indie Book of the Day, and Blogger Book Fair Reader's Choice Award in both Fantasy and Action/Adventure categories. She has a Bachelor's in Professional Studies with a minor in English from Brigham Young University Idaho. She and her husband have three children, and live in Pennsylvania.
 
Eileen Sharp self-published Certainty, a YA paranormal romance. She has also self-published a YA Fantasy, The Unspeller and the Book of Days. She studied Journalism at Brigham Young University Idaho. She is married to Richard Sharp, and they have four children, one of which is Alyssa Auch.
 
Blending the voices of a seventeen-year-old girl and her twenty-year-old brother, Plane Walker brings the reader on a thrilling journey told from both perspectives. It was an amazing experience for both of us to write one book, and we are confident that our writing styles add a new flavor to the paranormal book world.
 
We would be happy to send part or all of the completed, fully edited manuscript for review upon request. Thank you for taking the time to consider our work, and we look forward to hearing from you soon. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Eileen Sharp
Alyssa Auch
     
So what do you think? What should we tweak here? Leave your opinions in the comments!



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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

We Can Do It! Publishing Journey Week 2


I had a cold this week. And unlike most mothers, who pull up their bootstraps and SALLY FORTH, I'm actually more like a man. I lay on the couch, surrounded by crumpled tissues, bemoaning my bad luck and asking the nearest person to bring my will because I obviously don't have much time left on the Earth. It's pretty pathetic, actually.

So that's my excuse for lazy blogging.

But I pulled it together and made a fun video for you! This time its with my co-author since our projects are being done together anyway. Also, my videos keep getting more elaborate every time. Not sure if its because I know the program better or I'm bored with my own videos...

Either way, I'll type it all out down here for those of you who prefer to get the info without the...show.

In this update, my co-author (Mom) and I gave a brief update on Plane Walker, which we have stalled in editing because, frankly, its too boring. We're tired of looking at it. We're pretty sure that if we get a request to see the full manuscript, we'll just spend a day going, "AHHHHHHH!!!" and finish the last little edits in a handful of hours. It's pretty much fully polished. Just little things to quick smooth over that we don't feel like doing.

2 Queries were sent. Both Rejected

1 additional query I sent this week to Frances Collin Literary Agency.

I'll keep you updated on when I get a response from them, and we'll keep sending out queries because that, at least, is quite polished. Maybe I should share the query letter? It's a thought.

As for the Super Secret Project--the one we were using the "Pixar Method" for--we hit a wall with our super detailed planning.

Here's the thing with trying to plan out every minute detail. We did our darnest, but honestly, we didn't have a good feel for the characters. So what we discovered, if you're trying to fully plan a book ahead of time, it's nigh impossible to know HOW your characters are going to react to conflict if you haven't actually written them yet. So we got about half way before we decided to start writing and see how things go.

My mom is writing the first chapter. I'm watching Youtube videos.

So there you have it! Seriously though, our video is worth peeking at. I'm a writer, so I like my writing to be...you know...entertaining. But the vlog is fun, too. So at least watch the bloopers. :)

OH!
In the video we had a little debate, and I want your thoughts:

Is it harder to write beginnings or endings?

What's your experience? Let me know in the comments, and have a fantastic week!  


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Monday, July 7, 2014

Can We Do It? Publishing Journey Week 1...and Some Guy's Abs


 Hello there everyone!

I hope your Fourth of July weekend was fun and patriotic. 'MERICA.

This week I've made a video! But don't worry; if you don't feel like watching my face I am typing it up here for you. Although you'll miss the abs without the video. And the bloopers at the end. I love bloopers.

So basically, because I'm starting at square one with finding an agent for Plane Walker, I thought it might be (mildly?) interesting if I shared my journey and everything with you all. Lunula was picked up by a publisher once already, and Plane Walker is a dang good book. So my hopes for finding an agent are, at this early stage, high-ish. I'd really like to see that happen! I think an agent would be good for this work in particular, as its not something I'm keen to self-publish, and I'd like to see what markets to can be thrown into.

Week 1 of Publishing Plane Walker!

1.) It's fully written.

2.) It's in the last editing phase with a couple copy editors going through it.

3.) One query has been sent to Trident Media Group. It's been about a month and no response, so I'm thinking that's a bust. REJECTION.

It's okay. We authors have to handle it.

Moving on to Untitled Romance Novel. This is something I'm in the middle of writing, but I'm going to use it like a guinea pig for this blog. I'd like to make a post in the near future where I try out a bunch of different book plotting methods. Crazy ones like story boards and playdough. Then I'll take pictures and report back to you on what I thought.

Sounds interesting, right? Should be fun. If you think of any you want me to try, say so in the comments so I can add it to my list!

Last, but not least, you should really skip to like the middle of the video for this bit. I'm sharing my SUPER SECRET UNTITLED PROJECT with you. My co-author (*cough cough* mom) and I have just started the planning phase, but we're utilizing some cool planning methods I thought would be better captured on film than described.

And then there's that guy's abs. Don't forget the abs.

Okay, okay, fine if you REALLY don't want to watch the video, here is the system in a nutshell. We have one notebook with all the detailed information like characters (personalities, ticks, background, notable facts, pictures, etc.) and a colored tab to represent each of them. And then place holders for each "chapter" so that we can write the chapters in rough draft form to start out with. To aid us in that, we also have a macro timeline so that we can write down big events so the little ones all line up and make sense. For all those random scenes we come up with while driving or doing the dishes? We have a wall of notecards--color coded of course--that we use to roughly line up sequence of events so they find a home in the overall plot.

Genius, right? It's going really well. We learned from doing Plane Walker, that the more detailed you are in plotting it all out ahead of time, the easier its going to be on both writers.

So there you have it. What are you working on right now? Share a link to your blog or website so I can visit you and say hello, too!


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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In Which an Author is Served Pie


There comes a time, as a newly published author, when you realize that you're really not "all that." It's a jarring moment. The viscous cloud of self-righteousness you have been prancing upon suddenly disintegrates and plummets you back to the realm of mere mortals. And you realize that you are, in fact, just human. And even if a publisher thought you were hot stuff, you're not exactly Salinger just yet.

For me, this happened in a library.

Yes, I was bursting with misplaced ego, my newly published book in hand and a satisfied grin on my face. "Oh, hello library patrons," my imperious eyebrow raises said. "There's a REAL writer in your midst."

I had come that day to donate my book to the library. The fact that the library wouldn't BUY my book after I myself had requested them to seemed irrelevant. It didn't even really bounce off my self-inflicted shield of presumptuousness, really, because I just figured that it had something to do with my publisher's distributor, and I would donate the first one for free. On the house. You're welcome.

I slapped my Fantasy novel onto the counter with verve (seriously, you could hear the confidence there), and then waited with a patient smile for the librarian to finish typing something into the outdated computer before her.

Wait, guys. This lady. Let me explain something to you here: The librarians in the Madison Library are cranky people. This is just a fact that we, the people of Rexburg, had simply come to accept. When we brought children, we would be shushed. If our books were late, the fee would be paid. With interest. No exceptions. They didn't want to hear about the death of your loved one or the spleen you had removed. And this one, of all the librarians, was the scariest. Because she looked nice. White curly hair, cute glasses on a beaded chain, dimples, a rosy, round face, and twinkling blue eyes. She was like Red Riding Hood's grandmother. She looked like she smelled like freshly baked cookies.

But when she looked up I could tell right off the bat she was kind of evil.

No matter. I was an author after all. She would still be impressed.

I slid the book across the counter toward her, and with a dignified smile said, "I would like to donate this book."

"Alright." She barely even looked at me. She just pulled up a window on her computer.

Dude, she didn't even look at the book! I nudged it a little closer to her. "I mean I want to donate this book."

"Uh huh. One second."

I blinked in confusion. "Actually it's my book."

This got me eye contact. Derisive eye contact. She finally spared the book a glance and then looked back at me. "Yours?"

Oh crap, wait, what was that stare? What is that? I had never seen that stare before. Every time I had told someone I had a book published it was all, "Really? Did you? Oh my gosh!" But this lady looked at me like I had a booger resting above my upper lip. I quickly explained, "Like, I'm an author. I just had it published. By a publisher. It's a book," I finished lamely.

Not even a glimmer of interest. "What's the title?"

My jaw almost dropped. I wanted to wave the book in her face and reiterate, "I WROTE THIS BOOK. Me. I wrote it. And it's published. WHY AREN'T YOU IMPRESSED?"

Instead I answered her question. She took down the book's information, and I even restated the fact that I was the author by saying, "Alyssa Auch. That's me because I wrote it." Like a five-year-old repeating themselves in case you didn't hear what they said the first ten times.

"We'll inspect the book to make sure it fits the parameters, and if it does, it'll be put into the system."

A little sweat gathered at the back of my neck. There was a screening process? "When will that be? How will I know?"

Her cold, dead eyes rolled over to me with an exasperated expression of apathy. "What?"

"Like, how will I know it passed?"

"It will show up in the system."

"What does it have to do to pass?"

"There's a lot of things. We have our cataloging employee take care of it."

"It has a publisher."

"I see that. We'll add it to the list, as I said. And it will then get cataloged."

"How long will THAT take?" I was getting agitated.

"I am not sure. A few weeks."

"WHA-" I cleared my throat and lowered my voice back to a whisper as a mother and child jerked their heads my way. "Weeks?"

"Ma'am there's a line behind you."

I looked back. Sure enough, several average humans were waiting behind the quickly deflating superior author. Me. That's me.

So I thanked her, watched her toss my precious, amazing book onto a pile of other random donated books, and walked to the door a slightly less confident, and kind of bewildered woman. In my head I had imagined an excited response, a string of questions about how I did it, and profuse adoration at my incredible feat.

Instead I received cranky grandma's humble pie.

At least now praise is a pleasant surprise. Better to know you are just a lucky person of average intelligence and receive unexpected praise than the opposite.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, it did eventually get cataloged. See? People even read it, I hear.



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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rescue Prince Charming

Somebody needs to rescue Prince Charming.

Well here I come, Charming, armed with words and my righteous indignation.

My husband and I just returned from watching "Maleficent," and while there is an entire post I could devote to the giant missed opportunity that was this film, that's not what I'm here to rant about. I'm taking on a larger issue, here. The problem is that I saw Prince Charming's death coming from a mile away, and as soon as I realized what they were going to do with his true love's kiss, I nearly chucked my box of Raisinettes at the projector. 

Let me clarify: Prince Phillip did not die in this movie. But his importance did.

And his true love's kiss has not been the only one to be pushed aside for more politically correct, palatable types of love. Frozen just did it. Brave did it. The Princess and the Frog did it. And that's just recent Disney. Lots of other books and movies seem to be in love with this idea that its weak for a woman to depend on the love she has for a man. Eat, Pray, Love told women that you should love yourself entirely and completely before you let a man love you. The prevailing message in many books and romantic movies even, is that women shouldn't rely on the love of a man to love themselves. That they don't need a man to feel whole.

But what if you do?

What in the world is wrong with a woman feeling more complete with a man?

I feel like Hollywood and media in general have suddenly become afraid to portray a scenario where a woman is a better person because of her love for a man. It's like they fear if they show that a princess really did need the prince to come and kiss her that they are belittling the princess.

But can't they both need each other equally desperately?

In High School, I had very little self esteem. Don't ask me why, because honest to goodness, I was a cute little thing, and it didn't make a whole lot of sense. But I thought my curves were "fat," and my nose was big, and my eyebrows were ugly...blah blah blah the list goes on. My mother told me every day how beautiful I was. My daddy adored me. I was surrounded by love in great heaps from all kinds of places, but it didn't seem to touch my self esteem--or lack thereof.

Enter Dan.

He waltzed into the lunch room as a transfer student, and the minute I saw that cool swagger he had, I fell head over heels. We were friends at first, and then at the ages of 16 and 17, we fell in love. And I suddenly had all the confidence in the world. This hot guy thought I was pretty? Thought I was smart? Thought I was precious?

It made me feel on top of the world.

Did I need his love to make me a better, happier person?

Yes! 

A thousand times yes! And I still do, many years, a marriage, and three kids later. I need my man. And I'm not afraid to say it. He is a good man who treasures me, and reminds me every single day how beautiful I am inside and out. And you know what? I'm willing to bet there are millions of women and girls who are a lot like me.

I think the problem we have in our world is that bad men lie to good women. They use their woman's need for love and abuse it. They abuse those beautiful women, and we look at that and say, "Why did you rely on him? You're so lovely. You don't need that bad man to tell you that."

I've seen enough abuse first hand to realize how heart-rending it is. I can see why a woman in that situation would need to run away and find herself without someone else telling her how incredible she is. I wouldn't blame them a bit. I would hug them and tell them that indeed, they are so precious and loved, and they do NOT need that man to tell her that for her to know it.

But not every love is like that. Sometimes it really is a fairy tale. Sometimes those people really do make each other better, happier, more confident. Sometimes leaning on a man is a beautiful thing, and because of the ugliness that frightens us so much, we shy away from admitting that relying on a man could be a good thing.

And isn't that what a fairy tale is? A fairy tale is a story about the good love. It's a story about how
magnificent love can be when a woman sees her beauty looking back at her in the glimmer of a man's adoration. It's a story about how he feels fulfilled, confident, and at home in the embrace of the one woman made just for him.

Hollywood--it's okay to write stories about that. Disney--it's okay if the princess really does get saved by Prince Charming. It's okay if his love saves her.

It's nice to see movies about different kinds of love, and I had all the warm fuzzy feels after watching Frozen. The love I have for my sister is something I hold very dear. But I wanted it to be said that fairy tale love isn't going to get old. And maybe some will scoff at it and scorn it, but in the hearts of young girls everywhere, I think we're always going to wish for a love that makes us happy. I don't think that's a bad thing.

Bad men do bad things. But that doesn't mean that love is to blame.

Let Prince Charming give her love's true kiss! Let him be her other half.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Bad News is Good News

But wait. Before we get to the news, I have to show you this thing.

First, we need to give Adam Haviaras a round of cyber applause because he found this for me. He's my History writing buddy, so I guess I'm not totally surprised he came across it. Look at THIS:



I realize this probably looks like the foil from the top of my yogurt cup, but I assure you, it is far cooler. See, the necklace in my book, the lunula, was based off an ancient Greek necklace that was often worn by young women. THIS, right here, is an actual lunula. It was recently found by this guy:

David Spohr. Adam brought this to my attention, and I had to geek out over it. Lunulas are very rare! Especially the magical variety that could end the world. Just saying.

Okay, so now that we've had a moment to geek out together, here's the bad good news for me, personally. I'm leaving Idaho two months early and flying out to Pennsylvania with my kids and my mom. Turns out, our insurance company is terribly stingy, and if I want to treat my persnickity spine, then I've got to do it out there. Which is cool, because I miss Pennsylvania, and I'll enjoy being there.

It's bad because I've got to leave this guy behind:
Just look at that face. I have to be away from that manly guy for 2 months while he finishes school. I'm not going to lie. I'm really bummed out about it. But we don't really have a choice, either, since staying on happy pills--while hilarious and definitely entertaining--isn't a healthy option. I've only got so many brain cells to spare, here.

The reason I mention it at all is to explain any possible absence from my blog for a little bit. I'm not saying I won't post, because I might, but if I don't, then try not to hold it against me. It all depends on the magnitude of chaos. So for now...




TO GLORY!

Or, you know...physical therapy. It's all the same.


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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tips for Co-Authoring a Book

While my back heals (or rather, while we wait to see if things have gone Lord of the Flies, and I'll need to introduce utter chaos to my family with back surgery), my mom has taken over all my inglorious mothering tasks to keep my three offspring alive. Fortunately, when she was here last year for the very same reason, we wrote a book together. Ta da! Aren't we crafty? 

In case you are wondering how all that went down, we talked about our experience here. But I also wanted to give some general tips if you had considered doing it yourself. Because really, how hard could it be? Allow me to illuminate:

1.) Use the appropriate writing tool--What we mean here is pick a program that allows you both to write the document without the need to email back and forth all the time. We used Google Documents, and it was perfect. Google Docs lets you edit the same document together in real time. You can make comments, and the person you shared the document with will get email updates when you do, so they know where to find it. This was invaluable for us because sometimes we needed to write together. Or we would go through and edit together on the phone, making changes as needed. I'm not sure what else is out there, but this is free, and its a heck of a lot better than emailing and downloading who knows how many versions of the book in the process of writing it together.

2.) Plan meticulously--My mom is a pantser. If you don't know what that is, it means she likes to write "by the seat of her pants" instead of planning the details. I'm the opposite, and I like to map things out before I go anywhere. We butted heads on that a little bit, but in the end we both realized that detailed planning is essential when you are writing a book with someone else. You have to write down all that back story, the lore, the nefarious reasons for evil deeds, etc. Sometimes when we writers are hammering out a piece, we'll have all these things floating around somewhere in our heads, and they'll come forward when needed. But when you're writing with someone else, all that floating matter needs to be nailed down in a document so your partner knows what's up. Whatever method you use for planning, find it and use it! Use it a lot.

3.) Man up--Yeah, I said it. You gotta grow a pair. Your writing partner will see your work in all its stages, and that includes the parts so bad, you'd have to scrape them off of the bottom of your shoe before disposing of them. And when said partner points out your string of turd words, you're going to have to man up and not get offended. That takes a lot of practice. Or oblivious optimism. Whichever works best for you. Either way, you have to toughen up and take criticisms for the team, because without them, you'll just tell each other how lovely your dog poo is, and then hurl your feces into the face of agents, feelings in tact but writing reputations in doggy bags. That was a lot of poop metaphors. What I'm trying to say is clean up your crap, and don't get churlish about it. Honesty is what will take your work from fun writing exercise to serious novel.

4.) Read it out loud--Even though writing with someone else means you have two sets of eyes, there will still be things you both miss while going through the editing phases. What we found best was the long, and sometime grueling method of reading each chapter out loud over the phone. I would read her chapters, and she would read mine, and we were both able to catch a lot of errors that way. You have to mentally pull up your britches for this part, because it really does suck hearing your work read out loud for the purpose of being nitpicked. But painful as it is, it was necessary and super helpful. Take the time to do that before sending it to beta readers.

5.) Be respectful--I know I just did a whole speech about putting your big girl panties on when it
comes to honesty, but its also important to remember that this is your co-author's soul on paper, too, so try to be kind while you're shoveling the poop. Even though she's my mom and I'm her daughter, I sometimes had a hard time delivering my thoughts kindly, I think. I get that from my Dad. A spoonful of sugar and all that, people.

6.) Compromise--There will be times when your ideas don't jive. You'll want to take it one direction, and your partner will want to go another way. This is where things get really dicey, so I think your choice of writing partner is going to matter the most here. You need to choose someone who has similar (if not identical, preferably) tastes, and can think along the same lines. I know that diversity brings new ideas and all that, but at the same time, you need to come up with a cohesive plot that feels like it was written by one person. My mom and I are quite different, but we still like the same things, generally. So if she came up with an idea I didn't like, I would just try to take that element and tweak it. Same with her. Or I guess sometimes I would just flat out say, "That's interesting, but I'm not sure that's where I want this to go." It's hard, but that's where trust in one's partner comes into play. I don't suggest doing this with a friend, because friends can be offended. It's got to be someone where honesty won't hurt.

7.) Set aside specific times--I'm a busy mom, and my mother had a job, AND we lived in different time zones. So finding the right time was hard, but generally we would set aside 3:00 as writing times, and then if we needed more time that day, we would set aside a time after my kids were in bed. The important thing is that we carved time out to plot and write and edit. It would be even better if I had the luxury of considering this a job, and we professionally sat down somewhere every day to keep it productive and business-like. If you can swing that, totally do it! It will make things go much faster.

8.) Organize--We didn't do this originally, and we kept forgetting important plot points and stuff. Use spreadsheets and documents, make up character profiles with pictures (you'd be amazed how many times we forgot the physical characteristics of people), and even Pinterest. We used Pinterest for research and as a place to gather pictures and materials. I have a little tutorial on using Pinterest as a writer here. However you do it, write everything down, and make it easily accessible between the two of you so you can both get to the information whenever you need it. There's nothing more awkward than writing about a red-headed, green-eyed, gangly youth when he's supposed to be a burly brunette, and getting called out by your partner for total negligence.

9.) If you don't enjoy it, don't do it. If it turns out that this process is agonizing for you or your co-author, please do yourselves a favor. Don't do it! It's supposed to be fun, and fairly smooth as a process. If you're struggling to make it through a plot you don't like, or if you aren't getting along with your partner, it's going to show in the writing. So even if you start and it doesn't work out, that's okay! Nothing ventured nothing gained, you know. But it's a waste of both your time if you keep going with something that you aren't pumped up about.

10.) Symmetry--I needed a tenth something. So here it is. Because ten.

I hope that was a little helpful to you if you are thinking about writing a book with someone else. It's certainly a challenge, but it's dang fun, too!

And hey. You only have to do half the work. What's not to love? If you want to know more about our project Plane Walker, check out our initial introduction of it here.


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