Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lesson 12: A Song and Bonus Lesson w/Canadian Author Elle Strauss

Hi! Today  we've got a special Treat!  Elle Strauss has hailed all the way from Canada (another rockin Canadian author!) to give you a lesson on structure.  It's an awesome lesson, so sit back and learn!


I was sitting with my best friend, Lucinda, on the sidelines of the football field. As usual, we were watching the yummy football players, rather than the scrimmage going on because really, who cared about the actual game?

Despite the glare of the setting sun, I saw the brown speck hurtling towards me. Impulsively, I jumped up and thump, Nate Mackenzie’s football, signed by the famed Tom Brady himself, was in my arms. I couldn’t believe it. I’d caught Nate Mackenzie’s ball! Gingerly, I raised my head. Sauntering across the field, with all his hunky hotness, was the cutest boy in the school, the most valuable senior varsity football player of Cambridge High, and the love of my life.

He stopped right in front of me.
“Good catch.” His rugged and manly voice lassoed me. He'd said, good catch. I couldn’t move or take my eyes off his face. The way the sun glistened off his sweat, emphasizing his strong jaw and the brightness of his blue eyes, brighter still because of the contrast of his dark, shaggy hair…
“So, can I have my ball back?”
My hands gripped his football with sticky sweat. The ticker tape in my brain searched for the right response before flashing ERROR in red neon twelve-point font.

“Casey?” Lucinda nudged my back. With a slight swivel of my head I saw her expression. Mortification. Give the dumb ball back!

Did I just have an aneurysm? I felt woozy, like throwing up. I imagined myself vomiting all over Nate’s feet.
Unbelievably, there are some things worse than puking in front of the football team. A wave of dizziness threatened to wash me away into black nothingness. But I couldn’t be so lucky to just faint.

It was happening. Oh no. Not here. Please, not in front of Nate Mackenzie.

In an instant, my world brightened like a nuclear blast as I spiraled through a long white tunnel. When I opened my eyes, he was gone. Nate was gone and so were Lucinda and all of Nate’s football team.


“It's Nate,” Lucinda whispered. I know, Nate, Nate, Nate. She nudged me again. I looked to my right. I felt like a girl dying of thirst in the desert, convinced there was a stream of water running toward her. It really looked like Nate was walking our way.

I glanced behind me. Just a wall. Back to Nate. Yup, he was still walking towards us. My eyes popped wide. My brain was shutting down. I tried to remember my mantra. Hate Nate. Hate Nate.

He stopped right in front of me. The only thing I could think of was how tall he was. Even with my heels on, he had to look down at me.

“Would you like to dance?” he said. To me. Nate to Casey. Wants to dance.

I should have said no. My mind understood this. My spirit understood this. Somehow my mouth got it wrong and I heard myself say, “Okay.”

The thing was it was a slow dance. He took my hand in his and put his other hand around my waist. I wasn’t breathing. I put my free arm on his shoulder and gulped. Maybe I'd fainted from lack of punch and standing against the wall for too long, and this was just a hallucination. He sure seemed real. He smelled good, spicy. Was I moving my feet? I was still standing so I must be breathing. My heart beat wildly. I was going to hyperventilate.

When I dared to look at his face, he smiled. I was so confused! I stole a glimpse at the crowd by the punch table. Nate's friends were laughing.

Jessica looked really mad, and pulled Craig tighter, if that were possible. I was starting to enjoy this.

We didn't talk, just swayed to the music. I wondered what life was going to be like for me post-dance. I would be miserable. Purely miserable, since Nate would surely never set eyes on me again. Jessica would make certain of that.

I decided to just enjoy it for what it was.

“You look very nice tonight.”

What? He spoke! He thought I looked nice. I was hyperventilating. I felt faint, dizzy. Was that bad? Nate was so strong, he would hold me up.

Uh-oh, it was bad. Very, very bad. I wasn’t dizzy because of Nate.

Oh, no!


He drove into the school parking lot in his rusty ’82 BMW. It was great to see him in jeans and a hoodie again. He looked tired, but hot, hot, hot.

I waited by the door, wondering what he’d say to me, hoping he’d talk first, because I had no clue what to say.

He caught my eye. His mouth pulled up slightly at the corners, a sparkle in his countenance, an acknowledgment: we shared a secret.

Then his eyes flitted over my head to his jock friends and he brushed by me with a little nod. No one else would have noted our brief communication.

That was it. Just like I knew it would be. I was beneath him. Lucinda and I, we were minions on the totem pole of Cambridge High. Nate, he was perched on the very top.

Click on the Pictures to Enlarge them:

Elle Strauss

Thank you so much, Elle!  Your book looks amazing!  Jenni

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lesson 11: Querying the Query

Lucky for me I found this old blog post from my real blog HERE, dated a couple of years ago. I think this is exactly what you're looking for:

Okay so many of you already know this... and even more of you have already stumbled across my query letter that is posted around the net in various places. Yes, I'm very open about my publishing process, so if there's anything you would like to know--anything at all--ask me and I'll answer as best I can.

A little while ago, I had a few requests to post my REAL query letter. The one that got me my totally awesome agent Kirsten Manges back in August. (Along with 6 other very interested agents--that I had to turn down.)

For those of you who have no idea what i'm talking about, don't worry, you're not alone. I had never even heard of a query letter until last April--and then I freaked out trying to decide how to write one. So here's the deal. After you write your novel (COMPLETE it. Step One) and then you give it to all of your friends to read for critiques and edits (EDIT it. Step Two) then you start searching for literary agents online and write out your query letter to see if they're interested in your book. (Query it. Step three) Once you've come up with the perfect query letter that sounds like you, makes your book exciting, and convinces the agent to ask for more--This is Not easy btw--You begin to query.

Now, I tweaked this letter about 6 or 7 times during the 8 weeks I sent out 50 queries to 50 different agents... by the time I tweaked it for the last time, my "thanks but no thanks" rejections became..."Ooh, I love the sound of this. Send me more."

Once the agents started getting interested I knew I had hit query perfection! LOL! Yes, I was a happy girl. And amazingly agented just 2 1/2 weeks after the final query was made.

So here it is. My final draft. Hope this helps.

Dear Ms--- (add their full name!),

In a world where drama is everything, Chloe Elizabeth Hart has found she cannot abide the conceited antics of the popular crowd. –Or more importantly, one very annoying self-possessed guy, Taylor Anderson, who is determined to make her the president of his fan club! As if! Every girl in the whole city of Farmington, New Mexico is in love with Taylor, but he seems to be only interested in her.

The reader laughs, simmers and loves with Chloe in the romantic high school roller coaster ride called Pride and Popularity. Chloe follows the same lines and battlefields drawn out by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice two hundred years ago, with a much more modern twist:

~Instead of attending balls…its parties, dates and high school dances.
~Instead of letters…it’s passed notes, emails and cell phone calls.
~And instead of marriage proposals…its boyfriends, prom and gorgeous dresses!

I am a professional children’s theater director/playwright and have written and produced three full length (3-act) plays for children/teens, Cinderella (2006), The Greatest Fairy tale EVER! (2007) and Snow White a Tale of Envy (2008). This is my first novel. With my background in professional theater I have spoken in many public speaking events and theater seminars.

Please, let me know if you are interested in reading more of the completed 63,500 word count YA manuscript. Until then, I will continue working on its Jane Austen sequel Persuaded, which is set in the same rural city as Pride and Popularity. Being part of the world wide fan base of Austenites who love rewrites/sequels, I hope to modernize and recreate all six of the beloved Austen novels for teens. –Which has never been done before! As a mother of six, my ultimate goal is to present tweens/teens with an alternative to the ever popular chick lit novel on the shelves today, with good clean characters and positive heroes to emulate.

NOTE: If the punctuation marks are off-kilter, it is due to my email program. The full manuscript has been edited by a second party. Below, I have included a brief synopsis and sample chapter.

Thank you, for your consideration and your time.
Jenni James

(Then all my contact info: email, phone, addy)



I want you to query me.  I will PRETEND to be an agent and tell you PASS or ACCEPT, just to let you know if I would've asked for more of the book simply based on the query.  You're welcome to write more than one query if I PASS just to see if I'll ACCEPT again with a stronger query.  :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lesson 10: The End

So after they get together and kiss and talk about how much they love each other... blah, blah, blah... because this is a series, this is how AJ and I chose to end the book--just to give the reader a little taste of what is to come--taken from Eternity:


After I had cooled my heels for a considerable while outside I was finally allowed in.  I’d almost lost my nerve a few times, but then every instance I began to change my mind, my brother’s worried face would come to the forefront again and I just knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had to do this.
Laurelia was right, I would never be happy unless I knew my brother was okay.  Not now, not after all we’d been through, I couldn’t let him go and face a world like that on his own.  A world that might ultimately lead him to kill himself; I knew Aurelius would never make it through a life like that. 
“You wanted to see me?” Father asked as he motioned into his office.
“Yes.”  I took a deep breath and gazed vacantly at the beautifully decorated room, while settling down into the plush chair that was offered .  God moved around to sit in the chair next to me, swiveling his around to face mine.  His eyes searched through me for a minute or so, before he nodded his head and let out a sigh. 
“I was afraid of this.  Are you sure you really want to go this route?”
“Yes.  I have to take his place. I realize that by working my way up the chain of command as I did—changing my destiny, and becoming a general, I’ve also ruined things for my brother.  I can’t do that to him.  I can’t.  I have to go back and be the man I was meant to become, or he will face my trials and die.”
Father’s brow creased and he pursed his lips while he looked me over, his head shaking a little in confusion.  “You’re a greater man than I gave you credit for, Petrus.”  He brought his fingers up to stroke his short beard and continued, “Do you have any idea what people would do for the life you’ve been granted with General Laurelia?  Many men would give their souls to be with her.  Look at Soren, he went mad in his attempts to woo her, and yet you—you own her heart and are willing to walk away.”
“No.”  I held my rising anger in check, barely.  The sensation was raw and confusing, particularly in God’s presence.  “You completely misunderstand the situation then, Father.  I love her with everything I have.  There is no one—no one, I would rather be with—and this is by far the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do. The only way I could do it, is with her blessing.  Had it not been for her assurance that everything will work out, I would never propose to leave her side for a single moment.”
God too was angry—I didn’t see it coming until he slammed his hand upon the arm of his chair.  “And what of Laurelia?  What of her?  Have you not thought of what this could do to her?  You saw Lucifer’s reaction towards her.  How could you leave her unprotected like that? What if he claimed her life before you proved yourself worthy of joining her side again?  If you take on this life with your brother, you will be living on two very separate continents, it’s not even guaranteed you two will ever meet. ”  He stood up.  “Perhaps, my son, you do not love her as you believe you do.”
Until that moment, I didn’t realize how close to Laurelia he truly was—how could he not be close?  Her whole strength and unwavering devotion and faith to him would make any father proud, but one who truly knew her worth would be over the moon. 
“Father,” I tried to maintain some decorum and a level of respect for the man in front of me, “I love her.  There is nothing at all that I wouldn’t do for that woman.  My life did not begin until I met her, there was no purpose and never will be again if anything were to happen to her.  My reason for coming here, was not just to propose I be given my old life back—but to ask that you also allow me to endure all of Laurelia’s trials. Anything Satan wishes to send her way, divert to me.  Give them all to me, until I can be there to hold her and support her as I need to—until I can find my way back to her.  I will find her.”
“Great Heavens,” God mumbled as he sat back down.  “Petrus, do you have any idea what it is you’ve proposed to take on for yourself?  Any idea what your life would become?  You know the life that awaits you—the life that would kill Aurelius, and now you intend to take on all the trials of the one woman Lucifer has pledged to target, as well?  Are you completely out of your mind?”
I remained standing, my jaw tightening.  “I don’t care—I-I cannot leave her to him unprotected and I cannot shirk my duty towards my brother.  What would you have me do?  Until I can be with her, this is the only way.  Give them to me; all of their pain and suffering—make it mine—all of it.”
“Petrus, no!”  God shook his head.  “No man could withstand what you propose and live, it’s too risky.”  He got up and moved over to the desk, walking behind it—in a dismissive gesture.  “You’re too important now to the end of the world, we can’t risk losing you.”
I slammed my hand upon the desk to get his attention.  “Better me than her!” 
“You can’t do it!”                                                                                           
“Yes, I can!  If anyone can it’s me.  You know this.  Think Father; think what I have accomplished already.  I, the only man in all of heaven to do so—you must let me do this!  You must.”  I leaned forward searching his eyes.  “Besides, if I don’t take on her trials, Laurelia will have it no other way; she’s determined that I help my brother.  You know how she is—there will be no convincing her otherwise—and I can’t live knowing she’ll be attacked by Satan as she will be—I need your reassurance, and I need it now, that she will have as perfect a life as you can give her until I can find her again.”
Father met my stare straight on, but I didn’t flinch, allowing him to see to the true depth of my character. 
“Does she know?” he asked quietly.
“No.”  I closed my eyes, running my hand over my face.  “No, and she’d annihilate me if she did.  This will only work if I have your permission now, and a promise that she will never know what it is I’ve done in exchange for her protection.”
Father nodded his head slowly his hand reaching out to clasp my elbow.
“But you must understand, my son, I do not bargain with my children often and I only do so in this manner with you now, because I think of the love between your sweet Mother and I, and how your words echo some of my own.  What man wouldn’t wish to protect his love as you are?  It is done.  It will all happen as you wish.”
I let out a sigh of relief and bowed as low as I could, sealing my fate forever. 
“Thank you.  I promise that you will not regret this.”
He looked at me with great sadness.
“I already do, my son; I only hope that I do not grow to regret it even more deeply.”

Homework HOMEFUN ASSIGNMENT: Post your endings.  For those of you who are really proud of your endings, I'd like you to post them so everyone else can learn from you as well.