Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Doing the happy dance!

I've FINISHED both the hard copy and computer version edit of the novel and it's REALLY a good read!! YAY! My query letter is polished and ready to go, my synopsis is just four double-spaced pages (not bad) and I'm working on a longer one for those agents who want a 5-10 page synopsis (some want two-page ones - the four page version is two pages when it isn't double-spaced -- hopefully I can get away with that!!). I had set myself a deadline of starting to query agents by the first of September -- and I'm going to make it! I'll start sending out queries tomorrow! YAY! I always work better with a deadline.

I'm delighted with how Star Sons reads, but I can't tell you how eager I am to get back to work on the second novel!! It's been driving me crazy to do the "busy work" that HAS to be done - researching agents, fighting my way through creating a good query letter and synopsis, etc., not to mention polishing the novel for the umpteenth time. I have so many ideas for the second novel, it's going to be great fun to get back to work on it! There are three chapters already finished in Book 2 (which is untitled so far).

I'm having my art site redone by a web designer who just redid my daughter's farm sites, Dancing Horse Farm, Maryland and her new site, Dancing Horse Farm, Ohio (she and her hubby are moving back to Ohio to begin a wonderful new dressage facility). I like what Doug did with our daughter's sites and am turning him loose on my art site and my "author's" site. I'll let you know when Lynda Sappington goes live (and if anyone has suggestions for a name for the author's site, please let me know! Thanks!)


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Searching for an Agent

One of the things all the "how to get published" or "how to find an agent" books tell you is to go to a library or bookstore and look in the "Acknowledgements" of books similar to yours to see if the author thanks his or her agent there. You're supposed to make a list of these agents because they may be interested in your book. So today I spent several hours in a local bookstore going through the "Sci-fi/Fantasy" section, picking up books that seemed to have a magical theme and looking for the Acknowledgements page. I was rather amazed at how many authors don't bother to thank anyone! And then there are those with two pages of thank-yous. I have a decent list of thank-you's started for Star Sons. I won't be one of those who doesn't thank those who helped me make my stories the best they can be!

I've already researched agents both online at and in Writer's Market 2006 and Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents 2006 (I'll get out of this chair and find the title of that book in a bit - my back is sore from all the bending and stretching while researching books for hours!). Of all the agents I've researched, only one showed up in the books I checked today. That agent's name popped out at me when I first saw it, so I'm definitely going to query her. Keep your fingers crossed that she likes my book!

I've printed the novel out (again!) and am going through it with a fine-toothed comb now (and a highlighter and a bunch of Post-it sticky tabs and a pen), trying to get it as polished as possible. It's amazing how different it looks on paper than on the computer screen. Things I've passed by dozens of times now on screen pop out at me on paper and say "DELETE ME!" or "CHANGE ME!" *Sigh* I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to get moving on the second novel, but I know I need to get this one polished as much as I can, and send out the query letter and synopsis I finally managed to finish this morning (which still needs some editing, but it's much better than my other attempts at a synopsis!). And so the struggle continues. . . .

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Query letters

First, an update to my "names" post - I did come up with a new name for the bad guy's "real" name, and it is mentioned in this book now. The revision, telling more of his backstory, really helped. He's obviously more evil now, and also a tiny bit more sympathetic. I like how this revision turned out, yay!

I spent many long hours working on my query letter yesterday and last night (not the first time I've worked on it, either) and came up with four different versions, all of which meet the widely varied criteria various resources say "must" be there. I also spent a lot of time researching how to write the query (again! Fourth time for that research, I think - I'm beginning to lose count) and researching which agents seem likely to be interested in my books. Some articles on writing query letters said you MUST reference other authors whose work yours resembles. So I listed two authors whose work combines reality and fantasy in one query letter. Other articles on writing the perfect query letter had completely different things that went into writing the "perfect" query letter. So after much trial and error, I kept the line about my work combining reality and fantasy, and dropped the authors' names. I didn't really want to be compared to them anyway - I thought it felt presumptuous to compare my work to them, and if *I* feel that way, an agent probably would too.

So the struggle continues. I'm going to be traveling in September but I'll pack the submission packets required by the agents I'm submitting to first so if my hubby tells me I've gotten a positive response from one, I can send out what they want right away. THAT's thinking positively! Or at least being prepared, and I was a Girl Scout for ten years, so "Be Prepared" is kind of in my blood (that's the Girl Scout Motto, in case you didn't know).

I hope to have my queries ready to send by early next week. Now my biggest quandry is, do I believe the article that said it's important to use letterhead stationery with a logo, or just keep it simple??? I have created letterhead with a clip art logo and am "living with it" for a few days to see what I think. I'll also post the question on my writing ng, and will ask the published authors I know online their opinions. Hopefully, with all that input, I'll make the right choice! This query stuff is harder than writing the book was! And not NEARLY as much fun!!! I'll be glad when I have the query process started (letters sent out) so I can get back to writing the second novel!

Friday, August 18, 2006

What's in a name?

I have my entire first novel written and suddenly decided I wanted to write a really detailed backstory for my villain so I can make him even more evil in this novel. His story will be told in bits and pieces in the second and third novel, but the introduction to him in the first wasn't "evil" enough, IMO. So I've been punching it up. Nowhere in the first novel is his "real" name mentioned (so far, anyway - things could always change), but the name I'd chosen for him because of its meaning is the same as the name of a relative who might not get that much of a kick out of having a villain named after him. The matching names were unintentional, but still, I see no reason to cause strife unnecessarily, so I've been searching for another name for my bad guy. ARGH!!!!!!!!!!! The previous name was PERFECT! But it might hurt that relative's feelings, so I just can't use it. I've been through numerous resources looking for just the right name and I think I'm closing in on it at last. Whew!

It interests me that the villain, who I greatly dislike (he's a bad guy, after all!) is so hard to name, but my heroes (who I love dearly!) were both quite easy to name - and I named them before I looked up the meanings of the names that I'd chosen for them. I just picked names that they "looked like" in my mind - Ethan for the tall, quiet, strong but gentle older brother, Jake for the impulsive, talented, charming younger brother (not that Ethan isn't charming and talented too - and Jake has Ethan's qualities as well). But the meanings of their names suit them so well! I was amazed. "Ethan" means "loyal, strong, constancy, firm," and "Jake" means "supplanter, conqueror" -- good names for warriors, right? They fit the boys SO well, as will become evident throughout the "Star Sons" series.

Other characers have been very easy to name - it's the bad guys who give me the most trouble when it comes to naming or describing them or developing their characters. Guess that shows who I prefer, eh? I'd be delighted to spend the day with Ethan and/or Jake! I have no wish to ever meet ANY of the bad guys in my novels!!

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Someone on the Critters Newsgroups posted the link to Spam Obitiuaries. What a hoot! This guy has taken the names from spam emails and "killed them off"! That blog was mentioned after someone on that ng had asked if anyone else ever made up stories based on people we see passing by. I've done that for ages. I'll see people and have "instant story" hit from time to time. Mostly I want to know how they got that way. My daughter (now 31, but this was when she was in high school) and I would sit in the mall and make up stories about people walking by. One woman who came to the mall and bought cookies in the food court was dressed in a housecoat and fuzzy slippers, with her hair up in pink rollers. No idea WHY she dressed that way at lunchtime, but she was interesting. Then there was the skinny, pimply kid in the long black leather trench coat who looked like he couldn't have AFFORDED that coat from the look of the rest of him, but he thought he was so cool, he swaggered. ;-) Then there was the time when my best friend and I were sitting in the same mall people-watching while our daughters shopped. We admired the fine form of a man who walked by and whispered, "He's GORGEOUS!" to each other and giggled - and he HEARD us! He turned around and wiggled his eyebrows at us. We two 40-something blushed like girls, but he really was worth the embarrassment. Never did make up a story about him - the real one was funny enough! LOL!

Sometimes a person's appearance will be a real trigger for characters for me. My heroes in my novels are based in part on specific people, as are many of the other characters in the novels. I start with thinking of that person's appearance and basic personality traits and evolve a character from there. By the time I'm through, the character doesn't resemble the real person enough to be recognizable (which is what I want - I'm not putting people I know in my stories, but using them for inspiration for characters). By having a solid visual or personality concept of them, it's easier for me to come up with their body language, etc.


Saturday, August 12, 2006


With a lot of help and encouragement from Asad, I've finally figured out how this Blogger html works. Now I have hot links in posts, have my photo posted properly, and have created tags on Technorati so I may get more traffic! YAY! Thanks, Asad!!

A query letter update: A British editor who I met on a writing board Critter Newsgroups was kind enough to look over the query letter I'd written. In the UK, their queries have a different format than ours seem to, but reading his was educational for me. I'd managed to make a one-page query that I thought was pretty good, but given his comments, I've still got some work to do!! *sigh* At least I have an idea of how to go about it now.

In response to something he said in an e, I wrote back a quick, snappy "explanation" of my story (not really what I'd consider a synopsis) and he said that was much better than the synopsis I'd written for my query. And he was right! Now I have to work out how to insert that "synopsis" into the query letter and make everything fit, make sense, show a bit of my style, etc. Argh.

All these "detail" things - strangling a three-book story into a one-paragraph-long synopsis for the first book only, for instance - take a lot of time, energy, patience, and can be truly frustrating until you hit a breakthrough. When it starts flowing the right way, it writes itself. But it's fighting my way to that breakthrough that's so time-consuming, frustrating, mind-boggling, difficult . . . argh. But then again, it's a kind of puzzle (I'm not fond of puzzles until I get INVOLVED with them! And I'm involved with the "query puzzle" now!).

It's interesting (once I get past my mental blocks and stubbornness!) to work out the very best way to write something as difficult as a query letter. It's sort of like working out a battle strategy for my novels. I've never been in battle (thank goodness!) and am no good at chess, but there's a LOGIC there that appeals to me and works for my battle scenes. Those who are or have been in the military (and may God protect and bless you, every one!) say my battle scenes are really good. Yay! This query letter feels like a battle scene. I keep picking at it and picking at it, coming at it from all different angles, trying a pincers movement, trying an ambush, aerial attack, grenades. . .LOL! Eventually, I'll beat it into submission, and THEN I'll start sending it to agents!

In the meantime - the novel is being polished again. I've added a prologue-type part, two scenes that set things up for the novel, made them "chapter 1" and renumbered all the other chapters. Suddenly everything sings BEAUTIFULLY, where the story sang "nicely" before! Yay!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The worth of a good beta

One of my betas had an EXCELLENT idea to speed up the opening of the story. So now I'm rethinking the beginning of the novel, which I like very well, but having an even faster, more dramatic opening would hook readers faster and more securely. So I'm rethinking that and trying to sort out exactly how much I can write, given that I'm getting close to the word limit. The scene I have in mind will necessitate trimming a bit here and there through the rest of the text (oh boy, not looking forward to THAT job! That's where mistakes get made!) because the new scene will tell some information that I've scattered through the novel in bits and pieces. But still - if it works, it's worth it!

I did get my query letter written, and I think it's pretty good. I'll let it sit a few days before looking at it again so I can see it with fresh eyes.

Good betas are worth their weight in gold, and I have a really good bunch!


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Busy day and Query Letters

Asad was surprised I didn't post any comments after "Whew" but I've been busy! I've finished the first chapter of the second "Star Sons" book, written a query letter for agents and sent it to a friend who's an editor (and budding novelist who was just asked by an agent to send his entire manuscript in for the agent to read, YAY!) who agreed to look at it; I've been busy answering email, dealing with art business customers, etc.; and I've cast and detailed two resins and have been finishing those and another that are needed to fulfill a trophy order.

I also spent a lot of time today building an armature for the second horse in a pair of rearing horses that will be a bronze. It portrays a moment in playtime between my horse, Jack (shown a few posts below this one), and my hubby's horse, Pepper. They were rearing and pretending to threaten each other, just playing rough (boys will be boys, after all), and at one point, I got a photo of them standing straight up on their back legs, with their front feet on each others' shoulders. They look like they're dancing! I've already sculpted Jack for this piece, and today I got the armature finished for the sculpture of Pepper. My hubby helped me make the armature so I can remove Pepper from being "attached" to Jack so I can work on him separately and get him correct before I put them together again, so that's great!

I have the privilege of judging the Great Darke County Fair's (Greenville OH) art shows Sculpture Division on Aug. 17, and am doing a demo there (date not set yet - I'm "Featured Sculptor" as well as juror, which is very nice!), so I've been getting the sculpture of Jack and Pepper ready to go for that. And it's time I did some artwork anyway. I've been concentrating on writing for months, with very little artwork to show for it. But the novel is coming along well enough to make me want to just sit here and WRITE! And that's cool too. The first chapter of the second book inspired me to design a couple of sculptures that could be tie-ins for it. Time will tell if I actually get them made and if there's a market for them, but I think they would be great fun to do, and if the price is reasonable enough, they should sell well, too -- I hope!

On query letters: I found various articles in books I have as well as on websites other writers recommended to me, but the best info I found (clear, concise and easy to understand) was on AgentQuery. They have a series of articles that are wonderfully educational, but since I'm in query mode right now, I concentrated on that topic.

Queries can be daunting. According to, the first paragraph should be the "hook," the one sentence that tells enough about the story to make you want to read it. Think of a blurb on the back cover of a book - that kind of thing. I had a lot of trouble coming up with a hook because I keep seeing my story in its big multi-volume story arc. Coming up with a hook for the first book alone was difficult, but I think I finally managed it.

The second paragraph in the query letter is supposed to be the summary of your book. This is where you write the kind of thing you see on the flaps of a book jacket, a tightly condensed version of what goes on in the story that leaves you wanting to know more about it. For a query letter, you don't want to keep secrets from the agent, according to, so you tell the story in full.

The third paragraph is supposed to be your writer's bio, if you have one. Fanfic publication doesn't count (and shouldn't be mentioned), but things where you were paid in copies does. Also, your "day job" doesn't count unless it has an impact on your writing.

My own query letter fell in to more than three paragraphs simply because the story summary required more than one paragraph to be written properly. I know I need to revise it to make it fit the three-paragraph format, but I'm giving myself time away from it so I can see it with fresh eyes the next time I work on it. I haven't heard from my editor friend yet about how it looks to him, but it is a very rough first draft - I expect it to need changes. Getting it written at all was an accomplishment, because I suddently couldn't think of a thing to say about my story that would tell ABOUT it without TELLING the whole thing. I guess I really am a novelist - I can't summarize well, but I can crank out 100,000+ words with little trouble! ;-D And they're usually pretty darned good words, too! Now if only I can get an agent to agree with that assessment. . . .