Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Yay, for the day of goblins, graves, ghosts, gremlins, and gothicism! I'm sure there's more "g" words to describe Halloween but alliteration can get old after about five words...

Time for the best of horror stories.

However, some of the best scary stories are the shortest.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Query: How to Prove your Book is Made of Awesome

Ah yes, the infamous Query Letter. So infamous that I went so far as to inadvertently capitalize a common noun in a sudden rush of reckless abandon.

But really, the query letter is a strange and horrifying thing. It's a three paragraph sales pitch that will make or break the future of your book. Granted, there are many hurtles that strut between you and a publishing contract, but for some reason, the query letter carries the most weight. It's a pretentious little microsoft document, one that continuously smirks up at you as if to say, "that's right, the fate of your soul lies entirely in my nonexistent hands."

Yes, authors are always saying their characters speak to them. Well my query letters mock and verbally abuse me.

Of course, when writing your query, your primary goal is to sell yourself. But you could also (sadistically) view it as a chance to manipulate others. Basically, you're Ursula, bouncing and singing and shimmying your voluptuous "body language" to convince Ariel (the agent) to sign a shiny gold, levitating contract (your book.) The whole sucking of the voice out of the mouth and into the shell necklance doesn't really apply to my metaphor so we'll just move on.

I realize we're now being portrayed as the evil agent in this situation, but villains have more fun anyway, especially the ones with well-endowed, purple cleavage.

The format of the query letter requires your contact information at above the greeting. Following the greeting, you will typically have three paragraphs which follow:

Phone Number
Home Address
Email Address

Dear Drusilla Von Horlacher,

Paragraph 1: You want to begin with a hook that will seduce your agent right off the bat. I've read from several agents that a major turn on is learning as much about the main character as possible within the first few sentences. Reveal the strengths of your book that prove its originality and appeal.

Paragraph 2: This paragraph includes the summary of your book. Try to do this in as few sentences as possible. Also be sure to include your book's genre and word length. In this paragraph you could also include that your book is perfect for this agent to represent because it's similar to books X, Y, and Z. This information is crucial in your query, so make sure you include it at some point.

Paragraph 3: This paragraph includes a mini-resume of other works you have published. Even if you are a first-time author, you must still include some writing credentials about yourself. These can include awards you have won, clubs you are a part of, conferences you have attended, or school experience relevant to your literary work.

Then finish your letter with a painfully polite remark. Something along the lines of "I look forward to hearing from you/ working with your agency/ being graced with your artistic genius."

Your Name (make sure your entire letter is single-spaced, including "yours truly.")

There are many options that can help guide you along the way to creating the perfect query letter. I'll be posting said options soon. But for now, begin constructing the basics, piecing together attention-grabbing sentences with personality, charisma, and flow. Best to just begin. I found the first sentence to be the most garment-renting. When overly-stressed, just think of Ursula. Actually, during all the times of the day, both good and ill, think of Ursula.

The things you can do with a pen and a book of blank paper

Noteboek from Evelien Lohbeck on Vimeo.

Monday, October 4, 2010

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

-Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Tunes to steampunk?

For some reason, when I think of steampunk, I think of a giant bouncing tea kettle puffing steam (brass of course, covered in cogs), and when I think of a giant bouncing brass tea kettle, I hear Goldfrapp's SATIN CHIC in my head:

Oilpunk? Plasticgoth?

I've become very amused by how literary genres are multiplying and budding right out of each other. If you set your eyes on one specific genre, odds are, it has somehow managed to procreate with itself sometime during the last year or so, breeding a plethora of subset genre spawn.

The most entertaining to investigate is the Steampunk genre, a movement that both mimics the sci-fi innovation of cyberpunk, as well as rebels against the Victorians' worship of steam-driven machinery, satirizing the belief that advanced technology would reinvent the British empire. Of course, while mocking the idolizing of super-awesome-gadgetry, the defining flavor of Steampunk is the flashy use of zeppelins, trackless locomotives, badass clocks, and any other devices bedazzled in cogs and gears.

But of course, having one genre has become so last season. Not only is there steampunk, but also:

Dieselpunk: steampunk with diesel in the engines.

Clockpunk: steampunk with a particular emphasis on clocks... ? (Sounds like a Watchmen's doomsday clock meets The Great Mouse Detective's fist fight atop Big Ben.)

Western steampunk: steampunk gone Will-Smith-in-a-cowboy-hat.

Steamgoth: that's right, steampunk, but darker!

Gaslight romance: steampunk with less sci-fi, more fantasy. Apparently, when you think of historical fantasy, you think of gaslights.

Gaslamp fantasy: the same as gaslight romance, except more gaslamps than gaslights.

Now the above list is pretty impressive. But why stop here? I'm going to write a sci-fi book about 19th century Texas and call it Oilpunk. Or I could write a Cratepaperpunk fluorescent sci-fi fantasy with elements of plasticgoth and linoleum hair metal bubble pop rock.

The real dilemma for an author would be to write about a 17th century cowboy pirate detective who battle trolls and wizards with a fire shooting gaslamp and diesel fueled engine while racing to London to stop a giant doomsday clock from striking midnight and triggering a steam pressured atom bomb.

Now I'm just having a party with myself and my own self-assured cleverness, but doesn't this perpetual begetting of subset genres beneath the umbrella of an already existing subset (isn't steampunk a branch of cyberpunk which is a branch of sci-fi?) seem a little silly?

Is a book shopper really going to choose between two sci-fi fantasy novels based on which one has the most clocks or the gothic-est gaslamp? And are there really enough dieselpunk novels to fit a shelf in Barnes & Noble, or even half a shelf?

This subset to the subset movement makes me wonder if we even need genres at all? Considering that every new book written has reimagined its own category and forged an entirely new genre?

What subset genre are planning to create? Do you agree with the excessive labeling? Would you go gaslamp goth or petroleumpunk fantasy?