Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Friendsgiving Feedback Critique 2:

To help distract us from the world around us and pay forward the help we've received over the years, several published and pre-published authors are giving away query critiques. The feedback will be posted on our blogs throughout the next two week, with a Twitter chat Friday, Dec. 2. Join us at 4 and 8 pm EST on #FFChat.

Genre: YA dark fantasy

Dear (Agent),

Seventeen-year-old Nora Gallagher has spent the last five years dreaming the same dream:[1] a starlit sky, a luminescent beach, and a hooded man who calls himself the Sandman. Logically, Nora knows he can’t be real, but when people close to her start dying gruesome deaths in their sleep, the Sandman is the only one with answers.[2]

Hidden deep within Nora’s dreams is the secret to the Weaver’s freedom, and the Lord of Nightmares[3] will do anything to escape his prison.[4] Even if that means traumatizing Nora until the Sandman’s protections shatter under the weight of darkness.[5] But, when the Weaver takes Nora’s sister, she throws that logic out the window.[6]

Entering the Nightmare Realm is nothing if not terrifying but, when she gets separated from the Sandman, Nora will have to must navigate the deadly realm on her own.[7] Everyone she loves will be lost to the shadows if she fails to stop the Weaver, but success comes with unexpected dark consequence of its own.[8]

SPLINTERED meets NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET[9] in a YA Dark Fantasy, THE DREAM KEEPER, complete at 70,000 words.[10]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Amber Riley[11]

[1] Avoid using “dream” twice in one sentence. You can also streamline a little by flipping it around “For five years, seventeen-year-old Nora experiences the same dream:…” (And we don’t need her last name. I know it’s a preference, but to me, unless the last name is a hint at diversity, it doesn’t add anything.)
[2] Does Nora have some way of communicating with the Sandman? “is the only one with answers” raises a lot of questions for me, like, how would she even know that? Doesn’t the Weaver also have answers? Tell me about Nora and what she does. If she’s communicating with the Sandman, let me know that.
[3] I’m confused. Are the Sandman, Weaver, and Lord of Nightmares all referring to the same person? Add a sentence before this explaining who the Weaver is. Why is the secret to his freedom hidden within Nora’s dreams?
[4] Elaborate. Why is Weaver locked up? Do we want him to escape? Maybe the Weaver is this poor old guy who was falsely accused…Maybe they don’t like him because he rescues stray kittens. Don’t make me guess what happens. I’m a bad guesser.
[5] I know you’re trying to by mysterious here, but this sentence is so vague that it’s basically meaningless to me. Avoid clichéd phrases like “until the Sandman’s protections shatter” and “under the weight of darkness.” I want to know who these people are, what they’re trying to do, and what happens if he succeeds. Why is he taking Nora’s sister?  
[6] Why does the Weaver take Nora’s sister? Does he need a tennis partner for doubles? Add details to make your story stand out. Every agent you’re sending this to gets dozens of YA fantasy queries a day (if not more). You want to make them remember yours. The other thing is, this whole paragraph has kind of a generic movie trailer tone to it. Make sure your query reflects your writing voice. Use words Nora would use to describe her situation.
[7] You could add some good voice by cutting this into two sentences. Sentence 1: how scared is she? Sentence 2: She gets separated from the Sandman and reacts by….?
[8] This is too vague. I love that there are bad things happening whether Nora wins or loses, but tell me what’s at stake. What happens if Nora fails to stop the Weaver? And I have the same comments about voice here as above. Is this how Nora would describe her situation? Give me a hint of her voice so I know what to expect in the pages.
[9] Good comps
[10] I worry that this is a little low for YA fantasy with a 17yo main character. You may want to explore places where the story could be fleshed out a bit or places that could use more description/emotion/character development. I worry more because the details of the query are so vague, it makes me wonder if the book itself is vague or a bit too bare bones.
[11] The first thing I noticed about this query is that it’s pretty short. The plot summary is only 164 words, which isn’t really enough to get across the intricacies of the plot. I need to know what makes this book different from other YA fantasies, because there are thousands of them. Why should I read this book instead of a different one? To do that, I need to know what happens. The plot summary should always be at least 200 words, preferably closer to 250. Tell me enough to make me desperate to read this book. 

You've got what could be a really interesting concept, but after reading the query, I'm not sure I could tell anyone what's going to happen in this book. Give me more. Go deeper into the plot. Help me connect with Nora and feel the stress of her situation. Don't give away the ending, but don't hold back what happens in the earlier parts of the book. That's what will take a query from no to maybe or maybe to yes.

Monday, November 28, 2016



Let us know what you think of the cover for Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers, #2) by Brenda Drake which releases February 7, 2017!

This cover reveal is brought to you by Entangled TEEN & YA Interrobang!

Brenda Drake's thoughts on the cover:

I had an idea of what I wanted the cover of Guardian of Secrets to look like the entire time I was writing the story. I was delighted (I might have screamed) when the cover showed up in my email and it was EXACTLY what I’d imagined. I love that it’s blue since part of the setting of the book takes place in a cold climate. I’m thrilled the couple is on it, too. They resemble the characters I’ve created in my mind perfectly. The cover is so beautiful, and I’m beyond excited to share it with everyone!

About Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers, #2):

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

Want to read more? Pre-order your copy of Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers, #2) by Brenda Drake today!

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Amazon CA | Amazon UK

Brenda Drake grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Friendsgiving Feedback, Critique 1: SILVER BLADE

To help distract us from the world around us and pay forward the help we've received over the years, several published and pre-published authors are giving away query critiques. The feedback will be posted on our blogs throughout the next two week, with a Twitter chat next Friday, Dec. 2. Join us at 4 and 8 pm EST on #FFChat.

Genre: YA fantasy

The night her parents are brutally murdered, seventeen-year-old Ylana Zsapoti[1] discovers she’s cursed with heart magic,[2] the kind that allows her to give the dead another chance.[3] Now an orphan, Ylana arms herself with her father’s sharp[4] silver daggers and embraces what she knows about her powers in a desperate attempt to bring her parents back.[5] She has to find their killers, rip theirs hearts from their chests[6] and use the still-beating organs to bring her family together.[7] If only she knew exactly how.

Halfway through her mission, Ylana is intercepted by royal forces. The Gabooran King needs her assistance to stop an imminent war. The Princess, promised in marriage to the Kalipe Prince as a way to forge a peace treaty between the rival nations, was murdered. Ylana needs to learn how to use her powers to bring the Princess back.[8] In exchange, the Gabooran King will give Ylana what she wants more than anything[9]—her parents’ murderers. With the help of a small army and the stubborn Kalipe Prince, who neither believes her magic nor seems too thrilled about marrying a resurrected Princess, Ylana faces the hidden dangers of her land.[10] To learn the truth about her powers, she’ll have to enter the Forbidden Forest, a place protected—and haunted—by one-legged, pipe-smoking boys, red-haired, green-teeth dwarfs, and fire serpents.[11] Ylana will not only have to make it out of there alive, she'll also have to make sure the Kalipe Prince doesn't get killed in the process.[12] If only he'd stayed behind.[13]

Ylana has limited time to complete her mission.[14] If she doesn't return in time to resurrect the bride for the wedding, a war between the Gaboorans and the Kalipes will be the least of her concerns.[15] The Gabooran King will make good on his promise and kill the men who took her parents from her, and she’ll never get her family back.[16]

Inspired by Brazilian folklore, SILVER BLADE is a Young Adult Fantasy[17] complete at xxx words. I’m a Brazilian lawyer and #ownvoice writer passionate about my country, its people[18] and rich culture.

[1] I’m not a fan of including the characters’ last names in queries. It’s just usually not necessary.
[2] Cursed is an interesting word here. Why is having magic a bad thing? As written, it sounds like her parents were killed and she can save them, and that would be completely awesome.
[3] At life? To find their killers? The way this is worded is a bit confusing. If she can bring people to life, I’d just say so.
[4] Sharp feels redundant here. I assume she wouldn’t take dull daggers with her.
[5] The powers still sound like more of a blessing than a curse
[6] Add a comma here
[7] Well, this is wonderfully horrific.
[8] I think you can condense/consolidate these three sentences significantly. “The Gabooran Princess was murdered before her marriage could solidify a treaty. The King needs Ylana to bring her back and avoid civil war.” We don’t really need the rest.
[9] This phrase is used so much, it’s become a bit clichéd. I’d cut it and just say “give Ylana her parents’ murderers.”
[10] This is too vague. Tell me what she has to deal with. Also, I’d break the paragraph here, because you’re moving from the setup to the conflict.
[11] Something about this doesn’t work for me. I really want to know more about what’s going on in the story. Not who the threats are, but what threat they pose. Or maybe it’s the boys being identified as one-legged and the description of the dwarves. It’s distracting me. I think it has to do with focusing on the antagonists’ disabilities to explain why they’re bad, instead of telling me what they do that’s scary. And then I get nervous wondering how these disabilities are treated in the story when I should be instead focused on wanting to read more.
[12] This sentence is 27 words, and it’s a bit awkward. I think you can trim it so it flows better.
[13] This has good voice, but what really jumps out at me is that the voice is different from the rest of the query. Look for ways to infuse Ylana’s voice throughout. That will make the query stand out more.
[14] I would cut this line, then change “in time” to the actual amount of time Ylana has. “a limited time” doesn’t tell me much.
[15] Consider using a colon here instead.
[16] These are excellent stakes. However, the entire paragraph IS stakes,  so I think you can combine it with the above and cut the longer paragraph elsewhere.
[17] No need to capitalize fantasy. Otherwise, this is good. If you have comp titles, I’d add them here.
[18] Add comma. (Yes, I like the serial comma. So do many agents.)
[19] Thank you for your time and consideration,
[20] A minor note, but don’t fully justify. Left justified with spaces between paragraphs. It’ just easier to read. Overall, this is really interesting.

Don't forget to check out Michelle's blog for yesterday's Friendsgiving Feedback critique. More coming on Emily's, Liana's, and Sarah's blogs throughout Dec. 2.