Weekend Challenge #12

challengeThis weekend challenge is going to be tough in my opinion. I want you to describe what pain is. I do not want synonyms used: ache, hurt, anguish, twinge, pang, etc. If you need to describe a scene – go for it. I want to know how you can divulged pain to the reader without telling or using the word. How can you make the reader connect and feel that pain?

Sorry, I couldn’t come up with a better challenge. I had not realized just how much of a writing muse Linkin Park was to me until yesterday.

One More Light has gone out.

lpMy little world just got shaken. There are no words to describe the heartache and disbelief at the moment. Back in 2001 I heard a song that knocked me back and completely changed my view on music. I was 16 and in the middle of my N’Sync era. Linkin Park’s song “In The End” went mainstream and was featured on the TRL count down. I truly had never heard a voice like Chester Bennington’s before. His range was simply amazing. He could hold strong notes for multiple beats. He could  easily transition from singing to hard core rock. But more so, he put himself completely into the words of the songs. You could feel and connect to the songs on an emotional level. I have followed the band for years and truly love how they have been able to capture a unique sound and enjoyed watching and hearing their growth as musicians, standing the test of time. Each member has something, irreplaceable, to offer to the band: Mike, Dave, Rob, Brad, Joe, and Chester.

Linkin Park has very much shaped my life. They were there for me to listen to for my commute, they were there through my breakups, they were there for inspiration. Much of my writing has been influenced by them, whether it was by study of their lyrics and model characters after the band members, or by listening to their music for hours while writing.

To Chester Bennington’s family, friends, and the band: I can never dream of what you are experiencing right now. He’s left so many people behind that care for him. I hope you all will be able to honor his memory as you find your way through this tragedy. You are in my thoughts and prayers. He inspired so many, and I’m grateful that I count myself with those who feel the same.

lp2

To all of you who struggle with suicidal thoughts, there is help. If you ever need someone to reach out to: please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you feel uncomfortable speaking to a stranger – then talk to a close friend, a family member, even your doctor. There is help. You are NOT alone.

Whatever is going on around you that is dragging you down, look to the things that hold you up. You can get through this. You can survive. Be that example to others. Show them your strength. Rise above it. You can do it. I have faith in you.

“One More Light” is out.

Agent Pitching

I’ll admit that pitching my book to an agent at a conference was one of the scariest things I’ve done as of late. However, it did not go at all how I planned it would.

pitchingThis picture is very similar to the setup I attended.

What is pitching? Well, that is where you, the writer, are seeking out an agent or editor to assist you on your road to publish your book and are basically telling them what your book is about (don’t give away the ending). It is the same information that would be in the body of your query or that you’d read on the back of a book jacket. Be sure to research the agent you are seeking first to make sure they cover your genre. If not, then switch. You’d be wasting your money, and both you and the agents time.

Where is pitching done? Pitching is mostly done at writer’s conferences, but there are online pitching (such as #PitchWars on twitter) or at book signings, etc.

How to pitch? Pitching to an agent/editor is typically done within a small window of time. So, you need to tell your book plot to the person you are meeting within a minute or two, then leave the remaining short time for the agent/editor to ask their questions. Do tell of your character’s personal battle of the story and even try to go against the common perceptions – men do cry, strong women, etc. DO NOT start off by trying to sell your book as the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games. No one will know if your book will ever achieve that level of success starting out. Sell your book, don’t try selling other peoples success.

The online pitches – you need to have your story condensed down to a single sentence. On Twitter – it needs to be in that 140 characters with the hashtag of #PitchWars included. Trust me, it’s all doable.

What to wear? Dress codes are important. Most conferences or events want you to dress comfortably because you’ll be listening to speakers all day – BUT, you are basically being interviewed. Dress as if you are going to a job interview. Please no t-shirts or shorts. Go business causal.

I expected straight line agent with business suite and the word “no” just waiting to be uttered. However, she was really friendly and excited to even be there to hear the pitches. One common thread I heard was that the agents were telling people that they are human too, so treat them as such. My only regret was that I didn’t get more time. Ten minutes went by too quickly.

These youtube videos did help me the night before the conference:

Asking Agents How to Pitch

How to Pitch from a Writer’s Coach

What not to do (hilarious):

Not to pitch

Agent’s example of how not to pitch

L. R. Mauck

My Late Challenge Acceptances

Long Post:

I’ve been delayed on posting these. The first section is combined of the layering challenge – weekend’s #9 and #10. The second section is of the rope challenge.

A young girl entered the bedroom. Her brown eyes quickly scanned the stone walled room to find it empty except for the large canopy bed and a desk. She stepped to the bed and ran her fingers over the white bedclothes, feeling the different rises of the fabric. Her eyes gazed around the room again, looking for something. Her bare footsteps hardly made a sound on the wood floor as she walked quickly to the opened window. A cool summer breeze blew across her skin as she looked out into the night sky. She shivered. A wave of loneliness settled in her stomach as she took a step back. She was truly alone.

A small flicker of the candlelight drew her attention to the desk. On its surface was a blank piece of parchment with a quill resting in the inkwell. The girl absently toyed with her dark hair as she leaned over to stare at the parchment. Words slowly took shape as if a ghostly hand formed each letter with careful grace. Large black letters formed the words “I’m finally free”.

A knock sounded on the door. The girl quickly stepped away from the desk, but stood in front of it blocking the view from the door.

“Yes,” she said. Her voice shook with nerves.

“I’m sorry to intrude, my lady,” called a female voice through the door. “The King requests your presence in the great hall.”

“I’m…” the girl started. She took a deep breath. This was the start of the downhill slop that was to come. “I’m not my sister. I am Adraya.”

The door opened to reveal a short plump elderly maidservant. Adraya’s sister’s handmaid. She gave a short bow to the girl.

“I beg your pardon, my lady, but where is Lady Freda?”

Adraya sidestepped away from the desk and motioned towards the note. “She’s gone.”

The woman read the parchment with her eyes freezing on the three words. She handed the letter back to Adraya.

“I must inform the King.”

“Yes.” Adraya, moved to sit on the bed.

“My lady?”

“Yes?”

“May I request your presents to accompany me to the King’s hall?”

Adraya drew in a deep breath and released it slowly.

“I shall accompany you.”

The maidservant led them out of the room and into the stone hallway. It was a dark, gloomy walk with only a few torch lights guiding their path.  The castle was built with less windows in the floors closer to ground level to protect the hold during war time. However, it caused a lack of fresh air, leaving the rooms smelling musty.

There was a tall wooden door off to the side of the main entrance hall. Behind that door, Adraya knew the king conducted all of his business. There were whispers among the servants that the king had more visiting parties from surrounding countries with rumors of war and alliance requests. The girl wondered if it was the rumors that caused her sister to flee.

The knock of the maidservant on the doors left an ominous sound reverberating around the hall.

“Come in,” called a deep voice from behind the doors.

Adraya reached out with shaking hands and opened the door.

The room was dimly light by a handful of candles. The dark rich colored rugs and tapestries didn’t help the ominous atmosphere.

A broad man in deep purple robes sat at a desk, hovering over a stack of parchment. His eyes rose to watch the ladies enter the room.

The elderly maid stepped forward, giving the king a deep bow.

“I deeply apologize, your Highness,” she said, staying in her bow. “Lady Freda was not in her rooms.”

“Where is she?” he growled.

“I am not sure.”

“Then have the guards search immediately,” he answered, turning back to the topmost parchment.

The maid stayed in her bow and walked backwards to the door, then exited quietly.

“Father,” Lady Adraya. He didn’t show any signs of recognizing her. Adraya pressed on. “Father, my sister left a note on her table.”

The king raised his head to stare at his daughter. She step forward and placed the letter before him. He read over the words and sighed.

“She finally left,” he mumbled. “She had threaten to for so long.”

“Father?”

“As you know, I have no son,” he said. A tightness settled in Adraya’s stomach, but she knew it was wrong to interrupt him. “My cousin, Albert, is to take the throne after me.” Adraya nodded. She knew the line of succession. “However, we are on edge of a war with the Blackscott to the north. They’ve had several harsh winters and dry summers. They look to expand their boundaries to feed their people. I’ve made a treaty with Kalspots to aid us should the Blackscotts press too hard. Lady Freda knew she was to be offered in marriage. The King of Kalspots and his sons are older and married. I believe Freda’s hand was to be offered to a knight.”

“What is to happen now?” Adraya asked.

He exhaled deeply. “You’ll have to go in her stead.”

The growing tightening Adraya felt exploded within her. She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry. She wanted to run away as her sister had done. This wasn’t fair, her mind shouted. She knew some day she would be in an arranged marriage, but she hoped it was to someone within her own country.

“I’ll ask for a delay until you are sixteen,” he said. Adraya quickly calmed herself and bowed her head.

“As you command, I will do,” she stated with all the strength her upbringing expected of her.

“Good,” he said. “If Freda cannot be found, it shall be so.”

________________________________________________

The rope:

I thought of a metaphor for a story idea. Since I’ve never written a suspense story, I’ll go with that. The idea is of a girl who is being stalked, by what she thought was a stranger. At the same time frame, she starts dating this guy and finds herself falling for her. A group of friends tell her that she should invest in someone as much as she has with a stalker targeting her. One of her male friends (and ex-boyfriend) becomes concern over her welfare. The new boyfriend is jealous and suggests that maybe the ex is the stalker. She starts looking at the new boyfriend as her rock to sanity. The stalker increases his attempts to scare her and the ex steps up trying to help her. The twist is that the stalker and the new boyfriend are one and the same. The ex ends up saving her and she refers to him as her rope of safety in the time when she needed rescued most.

Just an idea.

L. R. Mauck

Story Hooks

Story or chapter hooks keep the reader interested in the book. The hooks are a little different from the challenges the characters face or even the overall plot of the story. The hooks, I believe, fall more under your skill as a writer. You may have the most exciting story line and the best characters, but if you are a poor writer, than your reader will know.

What exactly is a hook?

The hook itself will be in how you present your story and/or how you transition to the next scene or build to the climax. Sometimes, you can end a chapter in mid thought or sentence, or right on the edge of a big battle scene. The hook can be a situation or clues. Here’s some suggestions below:

hook

Think back to when you were watching a movie on regular television and the movie is getting good – then boom – commercial break. That bit prior to the commercial was a hook. They want to keep your interest and sit there through the commercials to finish watching the movie. You can almost bet when the commercial breaks will be because you realize those hooks.

Example:

Sam knew it had to be here. He looked all over the darken attic for the box. The box held the key to everything. It would give him the information he needed to solve the case. The teen girl wrote out in her own blood that it would.

He was nearly to the end of the attic’s row of dusty boxes. These last few boxes were piled nearly to the ceiling. Sam had to shift a warped cardboard to the side. He froze. There it was. The box with “Family Keep Items” written on the side, just as it was described. Sam pulled the heavy box into the dim attic lighting. He hesitantly opened the box and gasped.

End Hook. You, the reader, now wonder what was in the box – correct? That is a hook. Too bad. I have no clue.

My recommendation:

Have hooks throughout the story. Don’t just have them at the end of chapters. Put them in the opening of each chapter and as you build on the character/plot. This is where a lot of people put much thought into their opening sentence of their stories. You need that hook – that draw – to get the reader into the book. Think of thriller/suspense novels. They thrive on keeping the reader interested from cover to cover, or else they are not worthy of the genre.

L. R. Mauck

Weekend Challenge #11

rope

This weekend challenge is fairly simple. I want you to comment on what this image means to you. You as a writer – I want you to get creative. The rope can be a metaphor to something, a tool in a plot, or even something magical. You can comment your idea below or write a poem or story around the rope. All I ask is keep it clean. I don’t want any R rated warnings on my blog.

L. R. Mauck