Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Strong Girls Like Pink Too

This particular subject is so close to my heart that though I know I've touched on it before, I'm doing it again.

I recently read a book that to be quite honest, disturbed me.  The writing was beautiful, and the story engaging, but the MC was a role model I would hate little girls to have.  It feels to me that ever since the feminist movement began, there's been this faction who believes that what makes a girl feminine also makes her weak.  And in order to truly embrace our strength, we must become more like men.

The MC of this book (and no I'm not going to say the name of it) was physically strong.  In fact, she was the strongest person in her world.  This is not a bad thing.  In fact, that alone is a beautiful thing to teach a little girl--that she can be the strongest person she knows.  Where it went bad was in the MC's relationships.  She only deigned to be surrounded by weak men who admitted CONSTANTLY how vastly superior she was to them.  And if that wasn't enough, she found it necessary to remind her love interest of how much stronger she was than him all. the. time.  And everything that was feminine about her (her long hair, the way she dressed, etc.), she rejected.

And that is what disturbed me.

Now, don't get me wrong here.  I don't think all girls should feel that in order to be all woman they have to outwardly express their femininity in the way they look.  The only reason I mention it here is because as the view point character, we knew what was going on inside her head.  The MC's long hair and clothes were the last feminine things the author left to her.

For one, I've read quite a few books that have had very strong female protagonists who DID embrace their feminine side, in whatever form that was.  Evie from PARANORMALCY is a perfect example.  She is wonderfully strong even before she learns just how vastly kick ass she really is.  I mean, this is a girl who takes on hordes of vampires, evil fairies, and other paranormal creatures that would probably give people nightmares.  This is a character girls can look up to.  But you know what?  She also LOVES pink (tasey, anyone?), dressing up, flirting with boys (not just beating them down physically and emotionally), and going to dances.  Not only that but, ****SPOILER ALERT--ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK******

She gave up what she wanted most--a soul--to save the person she loved.

And that's the stuff that will make girls not only look up to her, but respond to her as well.  She's someone they can relate to!  And don't we want role models girls can relate to, not just aspire to be?

Queen Elizabeth I was a real life super hero woman.  Not only was she feminine, she realized her femininity was the very thing that made her strong.  She married herself to England and gave them the picture of a woman they could look up to.  Who knows what she really wanted out of life?  It doesn't matter because what she DID do was give herself up for those who needed her.  And doing this didn't make them despise her; it made them adore her.

The real reason I bring all this up is because from all the books I've read where the female protagonists showed strength in non-conventional ways (i.e. self-sacrifice), there have been people who have complained about what kind of message that would send to young girls.  I believe it sends a wonderful message.  Do I think the message was intended for girls in abusive relationships?  Of course not!  That's a whole different monster.  But it IS a message that is intended for your average jane who maybe can't slay dragons with her bare hands but CAN work her butt off to enrich all the lives around her.  That's the trait that makes women different from men.  It's a good thing.  And it should be portrayed as a good thing in books, or else we risk making all those little girls who aren't the picture of masculine strength feel inferior.

Side note: MATCHED showed up in Fluffy this morning!  Yay!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back From Vacation!

Last week was a short blogging week and I had a really great post planned for today, but I ran late this morning and then I had to take my eldest to Story Hour at our library.  BUT!  The great post will come tomorrow!  I also had a great idea for Wednesdays called Weird Science Wednesdays, so you have that to look forward to as well.  :D

This week and next week are the last Thursdays that I have filled for GWA.  If you are a member and would like to do another post, please let me know.  If you are not yet a member and would like to join, please leave me your email address in the comments below or contact me at my email address (located to the right).  OR maybe you know someone who could benefit from the group!  Please pass the word along that more members and posts are needed!

In lieu of the great post, I send you all off with this...Potter Puppet Pals: The Vortex

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Eating Turkey and Snarfing Down Pie

Today's post will be the last of the week, so I thought I'd make it a fun one!  Woo hoo!  So today I want to know how YOU celebrate Thanksgiving.

--Do you eat turkey?
--Do you eat tofu turkey?
--Do you buy your turkey from a grocery store, a farm, raise your own, hit one with a car?
--Are you one of those people who sticks a frozen turkey in one of those deep fryers and sets his garage on fire?
--What's your favorite pie?
--Boxed mashed potatoes or homemade?
--same question for stuffing...
--Does your cranberry sauce look like a tube?
--Do you eat green bean casserole, and if so how?  Blech!
--Is it a big multi-family (or extended family) affair at your house?
--Do you travel across country or down the road?
--Are you dreading seeing your in-laws this Thursday?
--Do you watch the Macy's parade?
--How about the football game?

Inquiring minds must know!!

As for me, Gorgeous, our two boys, and I will be going to my sister's house in Boondocksville.  So, we won't be traveling cross-country, but it's not exactly down the road, either.  Our turkey will have probably come from a grocery store (I don't think my BIL hit any with his car).  It will be a small affair with just my family, my parents, my sister's family, and my BIL's parents.  Yes, football will most likely be watched (not by me, though).  

Everything will most likely be homemade, except for the tubular cranberry sauce.  After all, that canned stuff is better than the real version any day! :)  

I'm looking forward to eating the pumpkin pie (my favorite!), though I'll personally be bringing a caramel apple cream cheese pie.

And no, my BIL is NOT one of those crazy fools who puts a frozen turkey in boiling oil.

So, that's what I'll be doing this Thursday!  How about you?

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Taboo Topics in YA

Last week, I talked about how we censor ourselves and I wanted to continue that discussion this week.  So first, I ask you is anything really taboo in YA?

Just think about it for a second.  What topic has NOT been touched upon in YA?  A few months ago,  I would have said sex was a topic that could only be broached so far.  You could have the insinuation of sex, but the actual act shouldn't be described.  And this wasn't just my own rule regarding the topic.  I actually thought it was an industry standard.  Some topics were just too mature for teens (especially when you figure how young some readers of YA are).  But then I remembered a particular author I'd read growing up.  You might have heard of her (actually, she's many authors using the same pen name): V.C. Andrews.  Some of the scenes in V.C. Andrews books are straight up erotica.  It's almost embarrassing to read it's so graphic.  And yet, they're all considered YA.

So what is taboo?  Drugs?  Murder?  If sex isn't taboo, how about rape?

As far as the industry is concerned, it seems there are no taboo subjects (well, that's not really true, and we'll get to that eventually).  If the industry doesn't put up blocks on subjects, do you?

I've been thinking about this a lot this weekend and I've decided censorship of one's own writing comes in two forms.

Either your own morals, beliefs, what have you keep you from delving deep into certain subjects OR you delve deep DESPITE your morals, beliefs, etc. because you think you have to, thus censoring your own feelings.

These morals and beliefs can arise from anywhere (you don't have to be a religious person to sympathize with this).  The truth is we all have a belief system and morals taught to us by our parents, our community, and society as a whole.  Censoring happens when you think one of those groups wouldn't agree with what you have to say and you try to please them.

Let me interject right here that if you don't think you're censoring yourself, you probably aren't.  So if you still fall into one of those two forms of censorship, but you don't feel your writing is affected by it, then you aren't a victim of censorship--you've simply found a place you're comfortable writing in.

HOWEVER, if you do feel your writing is constricted, then you need to take a step back and figure out what's getting in your way.

I'll admit again that I censor my writing, absolutely.  I feel enormously constricted by all three groups (parents, community, AND society).  On the one hand, I'm afraid of delving deep into the normal topics of sex, violence, etc. because my parents will read what I write and I don't want to offend them.  On the other hand, I view the world in a different way than the vast majority of people in the artistic community and I wonder how I can write about my beliefs and glorify God in my writing while not alienating people who have come to view Christians as bigoted morons.

Do I still delve into sex and violence despite my fear of my parents?  Yeah, I'll have to say I do (now).  One of my betas actually described my MC from ELEMENTAL as an anti-hero, and I think that's a perfect description because she struggles with wanting to kill people all the time. My MC from MORCAH has to face a lot of sexy bits and temptations (and threats) because she's a paranormal that typically personifies innocence and purity.  I wanted to challenge that personification and make her fight through it.

It would be the other two groups I still have trouble with wanting to appease.  It's not that I'm trying to find a way to write something that would be offensive, but I do want to make people question their view of the world, not in an agenda type way, but in a "hmm..." way.  This is something I can't NOT do.  It's who I am as a writer, and the longer I try to fight against it, the longer my writing will remain mediocre.

Discussion: Are there subjects that you find personally taboo in YA or any other genre?  What subjects WON'T you go near, and why?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Fun Time! Movie Classics

Happy Saturday, everyone!  I hope you all had a great week.  How is everyone doing on their NaNo novels?  Keeping up with the 1,667 words a day?

Today, I'm going nostalgic with Saturday Fun Time.  This video right here has one of the greatest scenes in movie history.  Most people know it.  Most people can quote it word-for-word.  It's sad, it's funny, it's a little pathetic.


Friday, November 19, 2010


There's always talk about how this group or that group wants to censor a book, keep it out of libraries so others can't be tainted by what's within its pages.  Betsy Lerner, author of THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, suggests censorship might actually begin with the author herself!

Is there someone in your life you're trying to protect, thus keeping you from opening up in your writing?  Maybe if you write about a character whose relationship between his/her parents is strained, you're afraid everyone will think poorly of your own parents.  Or maybe there are feelings you keep so hidden because you don't want anyone in your life to know what's really going on in your head.

As long as you soften you're writing to protect family, friends, yourself, you'll never reach your potential.  How can you write about life if you aren't willing to delve into your own?

And that's what this post is about.  I censor my writing.  A lot.  I'm always worried about offending my Betas or you, dear readers, by not keeping up with the bubbly, happy-go-lucky persona I've created (not to mention my mother reads this blog and there are some things even SHE doesn't know).  But from now on, I'm not going to allow myself to be the victim of my own censorship.  I'm going to be totally honest with you, dear readers.  And my posts will reflect this from now on.

Discussion:  Do any of you censor your writing?  And if you do, are you willing to put an end to it today?  It's scary, I'll admit (and I haven't even done anything yet), but I think it's helpful and maybe even necessary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Goober Writers Anonymous--Barbara G. Tarn

Goober Writers Anonymous is a group for writers to vent about past or present writerly mistakes for therapeutic reasons, to educate others, or just for a laugh.  If you would like to join the group and sign up to submit a guest post, please leave me your email address in the comments below.

Perks of joining:  You get to put the nifty little badge on your blog (yes, this does indeed make you cool), sharing with others and being a part of a group is always fun, and I will put a link to your blog on my blog below under Members of GWA.

There are plenty of slots still open for December and I would love to get January and February filled up as well!  So, join today!

Today's goober post comes from Barbara G. Tarn from Creative Barbwire.  One of the great things about GWA is finding out about other amazing writers out there, and I've been stalking Barb from the shadows.  :P  She has a great blog that each and every one of you dear readers should check out.  Right. Now.  :D

Back yet?  Have you made sure to add her to your follow list?  Excellent!  


I've been writing since 1978, and I'm still unpublished - how's that for a start? It's a neverending love, which is great, but I MUST have done something wrong!

Well, my first mistake was thinking one day I'd be a published author without submitting. How was a publisher supposed to find me, you ask? I don't know, but shy me wouldn't send out stuff. That was the 1980s for you. OK, I was young and naive, eventually I got it. I started going to book fairs (comicons, actually. My first self-published works were comic books) and talking to editors and publishers.
My second mistake was much more recent, and I still wonder how I could... actually, I know, writer's insecurity. I tried to please every beta-reader, losing my vision in the process. You know how it goes: send out manuscript, get feedback, revise, send out again, get feedback, revise again, receive some contrasting opinions, wonder what's better and lose track of where the story is going. You can't please everybody, that's for sure.

So from now on I'll give my best draft to a batch of beta-readers, the very same to everybody: if all point out a weakness, a confusing plot point or whatever, I'll address the issue, if it's just one or two, I'll probably ignore it. THEN I'll hire a copy-editor for grammar and typos (as English is not my mother tongue) and THEN I'll either self-publish (fantasy novels too original to be marketed to publishers and agents) or start querying (historical novel when done). Trust me, this second mistake gave me a writer burn-out I want to avoid at all costs in the future. If you see my old manuscripts (yes, handwritten on notebooks) there are no corrections at all. I want to get back to that.

Some stories I write for myself (I call them uncensored) - but then I will never share them. I am good enough now with the "censored" stories to go out in the world, though - if I don't try to please everybody. This is never going to happen. So this is my best piece of advice for those eternal rewriters out there (and I'm including you, Emily! ;-)): finish the damn thing first! You won't believe how many writer friends of mine never finished their stories because they wanted them to be perfect. First drafts suck. Always. That's what Second Draft is for. But don't go past Draft 3 (or Final Draft) or you'll lose your vision.

Happy writing!

Indeed!  Great advice!  I've heard stories of writers working on their tenth, fifteenth, TWENTIETH draft and I'm wondering if there's even anything left to the poor thing!  

Nope, you can't please everybody.  In fact, I've been reading THE FOREST FOR THE TREES and the author, Betsy Lerner, suggests that if your work is offending people, you might just be onto something.

Thanks, Barb, for sharing such a great post with us today!  

Discussion:  Any eternal rewriters out there?  If not, what's your secret for ignoring the steady hum of opinions that just don't jive with your vision for your book?

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Paranormals Pique *Your* Interest?

And which ones are you just tired of seeing?

As I try to break into the paranormal market with MORCAH (and consider reclassifying ELEMENTAL), I wonder what all you dear readers are looking for.

What makes a paranormal unique?  And what makes them intriguing?

I ask this because I think I've come up with a pretty unique take on a paranormal in MORCAH, but I wonder if it will be enough, or if she really is unique.  I'll be honest and say I haven't even begun to skim the surface of all YA literature out there.  I feel like I've read so much, but I know that just isn't the case.

So, what are you guys looking for?  You tell me.  :D

Friday, November 12, 2010

How I Met My Husband

Today is November 12, 2010.  For those of you just going through a normal day, November 12th happens to be mine and hubby's anniversary.  From here on out, hubby shall be forevermore known as Gorgeous.  Hot Stuff is already taken.  So today is mine and Gorgeous's anniversary.  Yay!  Five years ago we did something a lot of people didn't think we were going to make it to, and many others tried actively to stop from happening.

See?  Gorgeous!

Our story is rife with a lot more drama than any relationship should be, and today you guys are going to get a taste of it.

Six years ago, in early July, I hauled my skinny little butt to Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin (along with a dozen or so fellow soldiers from my unit).  We were all attached to a Civil Affairs unit from Syracuse, NY that was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in late August/early September.  Ft. McCoy was the place for all of us to meet up and train together before going to Ft. Bragg and eventually Kuwait.

In addition to training was mandatory fun.  Anyone in the military should know how common this is.  The higher ups like the soldiers to bond as much as possible (it makes sense), so they insist we all go out together for barbecues, whatever.  Well, our first mandatory fun night was at the only bar on Ft. McCoy called...can you guess?  McCoy's!  I had made some friends from the new unit (403d) and was hanging out with one in particular that night.  After trying to teach me (and failing) how to throw darts, we tried out bowling, and then settled down at a table with his friends.    

I must admit I was a tad uncomfortable at the table.  I was a SPC and everyone else besides my friend was SGT and above.  Being fresh out of AIT (advanced individual training), which is essentially the same as basic training only more advanced, I was a little nervous of NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers).  A SSG, who happened to be a very nice, outgoing guy, probably noticed I was a little uncomfortable so he introduced himself and asked me what my name was.  We were in civilian clothes, so instead of giving him my last name, I told him my first.  I tell you all this because if I had said my last name like he was expecting, the conversation likely would have ended there.  

So when I answered him with "Emily" instead of "Dickinson," he kind of reared back in shock and laughed.  It was then he decided to tease me and ask me if I wanted children.  I told him I needed to be married first, to which he answered, "Who are you going to marry?"  I said I hadn't met anyone yet.  His answer:  "How about SGT White?"  And he pointed to the guy sitting next to him.  This was pretty much the first time I noticed SGT White.  Yeah, I'd seen him around and even talked to him once, but when this SSG humiliated me by saying that right in front of him (getting his attention, by the way), I noticed just how attractive he was (which made the humiliation worse).

The next day, I decided to woo him.  No, not because I had plans to marry him, but because he was VERY attractive.  I didn't really think we had a chance at a relationship because he was a SGT and I was a SPC, but I was at a point in my life where I liked it when men were attracted to me.*  My initial steps worked for the most part, but he was--out of everyone--the busiest guy there, having to drive the Officers around, so he was a little naive of anything else going on around him.  So one day, I let it slip to one of my female friends that I had a crush on him, knowing she'd let it slip to him.

After a few days of trying to get to know each other, we started dating.  And then the poopy hit the fan because at the NEXT mandatory fun day, we hung out exclusively.  Everyone knew then that we were together.  98% of the NCOs and 100% of the Officers were against this.  We were told our time together outside of training would be restricted (and even during training they made sure we weren't anywhere near each other).  If we ate meals together, we were to sit with at least one other person.  If we went to the supply building to watch a movie at the end of the day, someone else HAD to go with us.  It wasn't that bad.  Someone was always willing to tag along.  However, it started to get annoying because 1. no one else had these restrictions.  NCOs and Enlisted were hanging out with each other all the time without anyone getting into trouble...except us.  And 2. when they realized these restrictions didn't break us apart, they got more forceful.  Sadly, what they failed to realize was that we were full force into a very serious relationship.  Three weeks after we started dating, we were engaged.

But still, they tried to break us up.  When we eventually got to Kuwait in preparation to go into Iraq, we were told that we would no longer be in the same company and therefore, not in the same Camp.  I was shipped off to Camp Victory in the makeshift company composing of people the BN just wanted to get rid of.

The only time we could see each other was when I was lucky enough to go on a convoy to the International Zone the same time SGT White went to the International Zone.  It happened about three times over nine months.  The first was during a memorial for a fallen soldier from our BN--obviously not a happy reason to be seeing each other.

This is us in the International Zone (also known as Green Zone to civilians--trust me, it's not Green.  Green means safe.  There are sections of the International Zone where you don't walk because they haven't been cleared yet)

The other times we saw each other it was because we were sneaky.  Camp Victory is attached to BIAP (Baghdad International Airport), and one must go through BIAP when one goes on leave.  :D  I might have commandeered a HMMWV (and yes, that's the proper spelling.  Not Humvee) to pick him up so we could hang out before someone from his company came to get him.  By commandeered, I mean I talked my roommate into letting me use her team's vehicle.  I didn't actually steal anything.

When we returned to the U.S., everyone was shocked we were still together.  Deployments had destroyed longer relationships in the past.  But we were serious about each other, and when they saw this, they left us alone.  Of course, the deployment was over and I don't think they cared anymore.  

We returned to our homes (mine in WNY, his in CNY) in July and married each other that November.  Since then, we've had two kids and five wonderful years together.  I love Gorgeous more than I could ever express.  God blessed me more than I will ever deserve when He put us together.

I just like this one. :P

Thanks for letting me share our story with you!  Have a great weekend, everyone!

*I feel like I need to defend myself here.  I'd gone through a pretty rough childhood in school.  I'm not going to go into it too much, but let's just say out of all my characters, I empathize with Lilly from MORCAH the most.  In college (and $6,000 of orthodontal work later), I was treated differently from ever before.  I was still kind of living on that high when I was deployed and liked being able to attract men.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Book Review--Crescendo, by Becca Fitzpatrick

Some sad news, my dear readers.  N.R. Williams has injured her hand and was unable to write a post for today.  Don't worry!  She will be rescheduled!

In the meantime, I thought I'd gush over a little story you may or may not have heard about (if you haven't heard of it, oh dear, you are missing out).

About Becca Fitzpatrick: Becca Fitzpatrick's first book, Hush, Hush debuted as a New York Times bestseller. She graduated college with a degree in health, which she promptly abandoned for storytelling. When not writing, she's most likely running, prowling sales racks for shoes or watching crime dramas on TV. She lives in Colorado.

Back of the book blurb: 

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

This book was REALLY hard to read, to tell you the truth.  It was so rip-your-heart-out sad, I couldn't put it down until I got to the end because I didn't know if I'd be able to sleep being that depressed.

It seems everyone is against Nora--even Vee, her best friend who can't seem to grasp how much pain Nora is in and how NOT helpful it is to say certain things.  And all the while, Nora's being pulled into this little web of games by someone trying to kill her.  

Patch, meanwhile, you just don't know what's going on with him.  One moment, he's there and you're sure he loves Nora even though he refuses to say it and the next moment he's running off with Marcie Millar--a girl who's got it out for her.  

Becca pulls her readers on a roller coaster ride of emotions in Crescendo, not letting you off one bit until the most awesome and painful ending ever (painful only because you know you have to wait a year for the next book).

My advice: Get this book.  Well, read Hush, Hush first if you haven't already THEN get this book.  If I were to start giving out stars to books I review, Crescendo would easily get 5 out of 5.

~Emily White

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You Tell Me: What's In a Name?

Yes, I'm stealing from Nathan Bransford with the whole "you tell me" post, but I like it, so there. :P

Over the past few days, I've gotten some comments regarding TALES OF MORCAH.  Based on the title alone, some of you have assumed this new WIP is High Fantasy.  I'm not going to tell you if you're right or wrong yet.  First, I want you guys to take a look at the titles of all my WIPs, give me your gut impression, and then we'll compare it to their true genres.

Sound like fun? :D




So, based on title alone, what genre would you guess for each novel?







Answers!  (must scroll over them to see)

ELEMENTAL-- soft sci-fi with paranormal elements (though the query letter only says sci-fi)

HANSEL AND GRETEL-- straight sci-fi (no paranormal, no fantasy)

TALES OF MORCAH-- Paranormal with touches of sci-fi (the query will say paranormal)

Were you close?  If not, do you think you'd be disappointed if you picked up any of these books and found out it was different from what you were expecting?

How much stock do you put in a title?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo Novel Excerpt

After all this talk yesterday of how I got through my NaNo writing, I decided I'd shame myself by posting my first chapter for all you dear readers to see what I mean by keeping it simple.

You have no idea how terrified I am right now.  I don't like posting ANYTHING without at least attempting to tweak it to perfection.  But not today.  This first chapter is totally raw and untouched.

Enjoy!  eek

               Too many people in the world walked around trying to be different—unique—and none of them actually knew what it meant.  As I stared at my reflection in the passenger side window, going down the last street to my first day of high school, my mom humming along with the song on the radio, I was all too aware of what it did mean.
                I shook my head. 
                This year would be different.  Middle school was over and all the stigma that went along with it.  Right?  Maybe not.
                I pulled out my hot pink barrette and fluffed my hair around my face.  The other classmates wouldn’t be as shocked if my eyes were partially hidden.  But then as the wisps of snow white hair fell in my periphery vision, I decided to pull all the strands back again.  There was no way to limit the shock.
                I groaned and slumped down in my seat, letting the seat belt snag at my jaw-line.  This was going to be a nightmare.
                “Lilly, honey,” Samantha Grey—aka my mom—turned down the radio and started in on one of her many speeches.  “This is new for everyone.  I’m sure you’ll find your classmates have matured over the summer.  They’ve got far better things to do than taunt you.”
                Yeah, that’s what Mom had been saying for the last four years or so.  So far, no one’s matured.
                As we pulled into the school parking lot and I caught sight of Eric Greene fooling around right outside the doors with his stereotypically beautiful brunette and bubbly girlfriend, Sarah Hutchins, anxiety set in.  These two had been the king and queen of the tormentor gang.  Just seeing them made my heart pulse overtime, and I would have to walk past them to get into the building.
                I had to remind myself over and over that it had been two years since I’d seen them—they were juniors now—and they likely didn’t even remember their sweet little name for me.  So why did it feel like I’d seen them only yesterday?  Why was my heart pounding in my ear drums?
                I gripped the door handle, not even close to being ready to step out and face this, but eager to get away from the worried eyes of my mother boring holes into my head.  She didn’t need to say a word for me to feel her own growing anxiety.  She talked a big game, but I knew she was terrified for me.  Ever since I’d been put on that suicide watch three years ago, her words had been overly sweet and optimistic, but her eyes and attitude belied her true feelings.  If she could take me away from this, she would have already.
                But sadly, the world wasn’t rife with people like me and anyone who was different was usually cast off from society.  Maybe if we’d had some money, I could have bought my friends like Sarah Hutchins, but I suspected it would take a lot of money to make people ignore just how different I was.
                I smoothed my hair behind me ears and got out of the car.  My mom started to say goodbye, but I closed the door before she finished with the “I love yous.”  I just wasn’t in the mood.  My mom was really the only thing I had in this world and I hated that I had to spend most of my days without her.  It was better to get it over with, rip through the goodbyes like a bandaid.  I’d see her later.  Much later.
                The air was still warm, so I didn’t wear a jacket, but I pulled the sleeves of my shirt down for reasons other than the weather.  There were a few hundred kids who’d never seen me before who I preferred not to shock immediately.  It just made it easier on everyone if most of my body was covered.  There were some things I couldn’t hide, though.  I sighed.
                Sarah and Eric were still too lost in their own make out world to notice me reaching for the front door.  I was going to luck out.  Maybe I’d have a chance to make a few friends before their name for me stuck.
                “Hey, Casper!” 
                Blood rushed up to my face as all hope fizzled away into a gory death.  I slicked my hair behind my ear and turned to Eric.  “Hi,” I squeaked. 
                He was leaning against the blood orange brick wall of the building, away from Sarah, and staring at me with a devilish grin.  After roving his eyes all over my body for a very uncomfortable few seconds, his gaze finally rested on my eyes.  He cringed and my face fell.
                Up until two and a half months ago, I’d been wearing contacts to hide the pink tint to my eyes.  Up until two and a half months ago, my mom had a job where she could afford to buy me a little relief from the world’s scorn.  Now, though, everyone would see the full extent of what I was: an albino freak.
                Sarah’s lip curled into a disgusted sneer.  “Freak,” she mouthed.
                Yeah, tell me about it.  I turned away and walked into the front foyer of the school.  A few groups of kids hovered around the walls, but I kept my head down and ignored them.  No doubt, these would be the first wave to pick up my nickname the moment Eric and Sarah entered the building.  From there, every kid in Bethlehem Central would know it and whisper it behind my back by the end of the day.
                I pulled my schedule out of my pocket and pretended to be busy.  Maybe if they thought I didn’t care about them, no one would bother me for the next four years.  Homeroom was in the English wing with Ms. Summers.  All the way on the other side of the building, past swarms of students.  So much for ignoring everyone.  I just hoped the buses hadn’t unloaded its cargo yet.
                I adjusted the strap of my turquoise satchel and plowed through the halls without ever really looking to see what was around me.  Mostly I saw a lot of shoes.  Sneakers, black pumps, ballet flats.  All of them new and shiny.  I looked down at my old, ratty ballet flats and bit my lip.  Skipping the annual August school clothes shopping was just one of the many sacrifices I’d had to make since my mom had to settle for a teacher’s aide position.  Luckily, I’d held steady at a whopping 5’5” since fifth grade.  Not so lucky?  Ratty and fringing was not the new black.
                Someone knocked into my hip, sending me into the wall.  I brought my hand out to stop from falling and whipped my head around to see who it was. 
                My best friend—no, my only friend—Maggie Walters smiled back at me with a big, cheesy grin on her face.  She put her hand in front of her mouth to hide her giggles.  Maggie was beautiful, and not just in that we’ve-been-friends-forever-so-I-love-everything-about-her way.  She was honestly beautiful with her long, wavy auburn hair and bright, green eyes.  Her parents could afford the luxury items like five-hundred-dollar pumps and designer blouses.  Her perfect complexion—granted, helped along by some makeup—made me more than a little jealous.  Most days, I wished I looked normal and beautiful like her. 
                I laughed along, pretending I thought it was funny.  Only losers got mad about stuff like that.  Only losers took it personally.  And I was determined to make sure everyone thought I was easy-going.  Easy-going people weren’t as much fun to laugh at.
                My eyes darted around the hall.  Everyone was too busy talking it up with their friends and decorating their lockers to look at us.  I breathed easy and let a genuine smile spread across my face.
                “Isn’t this so exciting?” Maggie squealed and grabbed me by the arm.  We wove in out of a few clusters of kids and stopped in front of a beige locker.  It looked exactly like every other locker that lined the length of the hall, except for a pink, sparkly envelope taped to its front.
                Everyone knew what that sparkly envelope meant.  Everyone.  Including me.  If this was Maggie’s locker—and by the way she was jumping and giggling by my side, I’d have to say it was—then she had gotten her initial invitation to join the Barbies.  At first the name had been a joke to make fun of the long line of ruling plastic princesses, but eventually, they took it on with pride and used it to their advantage.  The group had been around since my mom went to school, and it had been going on long before her.  The Barbies were royalty, akin to an ivy league top sorority.  Maggie must have done something truly amazing to get on their radar.
                She squealed and smacked me repeatedly on the shoulder.  “Can you believe it?”
                “No, I can’t.”  My voice was barely above a whisper.  To say I wasn’t as happy as Maggie would have been an understatement.  This was absolutely the worst thing that could have happened.  For her, this meant the world was going to open up to her.  But to me, the world was crashing in around me.  There was no way the Barbies were going to let her stay friends with me.  Not to mention Sarah Hutchins—enemy extraordinaire—was one of them.  But I couldn’t force her to lose this opportunity. 
                Nausea gripped my stomach, but I forced on my best smile anyway.  I would be happy for her even if I knew I was about to lose the one person who kept me sane.
                She smiled and hugged me.  It was a deep hug, a real hug.  It was the kind she always gave me when she thought things were finally going to work out.  No doubt, she thought this was an opportunity for me too.  I didn’t have the guts to break it to her. 
                “Now.”  She pulled away and looked me over before tearing the envelope off her locker.  “We have to go find your sparkly invitation.”  She ripped my schedule out of my hand and dragged me through the hall before I could protest.
                We had to shove through a growing number of kids and I knew the buses had let everyone out.  The warning bell was just minutes from sounding.  I wished it was seconds.  I couldn’t bear to look at Maggie’s face and try to explain to her why I wouldn’t be up for the Barbies. 
                No one moved willingly out of our way.  Everyone was catching up with old friends and making new ones.  Cliques were being formed right in front of my eyes.  Too bad there wasn’t an albino clique.  I suspected I could probably join the freaks, but one look at their pierced bodies, black clothes, and chains and I knew I didn’t belong.  I didn’t belong anywhere.  I was a castoff. 
                Maggie didn’t seem to notice or care that she and I were on opposite polar ends of the cheeriness spectrum.  Sunshine and rainbows with frolicking unicorns floated above her head, while a black cloud of death hovered above mine. 
                After making a few turns down into the Languages wing, she pulled me to a stop in front of a rusted, navy blue locker.  No sparkly envelope decorated its exterior.  I took a deep breath and peeked at her out of the corner of my eye.  Confusion was the main emotion on her face, but I also thought I saw a little anger, too.  No more sunshine or rainbows for her.  For some reason, I felt really guilty.  I wished I had made more of an effort to be Barbie material.  Maybe if I’d worn high heels and designer clothes, or tried makeup even though it only made me look orange, I would have been able to spare her from this moment.
                “Maggie, I’m really sorry.”
                “I don’t understand.”  Her face hardened.  “I’m just going to have to talk to them.”
                “It won’t help.”
                She bit her lip and I suspected she had been hoping I’d say that.
                I sighed.  “Look, I’ve got to get to homeroom, but I’ll see you at lunch.  Okay?”
                “Yeah.”  She waved her hand half-heartedly and I worked my way into the sea of bodies to find room 217.  A dark shadow took hold of my heart and I knew that leaving her right then was the worst thing I could do, but I didn’t know what to say.  Maggie was going to have to make up her own mind about me.  I hoped seven years of friendship would be enough.

Yeah, so there you have it.  There's sighing, there's head shaking, and a whole lot of other stuff my inner editor is chomping at the bit to fix, but this is how I went about writing my first draft.  And by not going back to buff everything to a sparkly shine, I was able to finish writing it faster than I've ever written before.

~Emily White

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Award and How to Write a Novel in a Week

A little over a week ago, I received an email saying I had been the recipient of the Masters Award, an award presented to some of the top Sci-fi/Fantasy writing blogs.  Well, you can imagine how astounded and absolutely humbled I was to receive this award.  I don't know if I've necessarily earned it yet, but I sure hope to try!

How to Write a Novel in a Week:

Now let's get this straight.  I don't necessarily think writing a novel in a week is a good idea for everyone.  However, if you're like me and you've spent years writing the first draft on past novels, there are some tricks I'll mention here that you might want to try for yourself.

Going into NaNoWriMo, I really didn't think I'd be able to write the 50,000 words in a month.  I was pretty sure I was setting myself up for failure.  On all my past attempts, my first drafts took a while.  I spent six years on my first novel, almost a year and a half on my second (ELEMENTAL), and two months on the total rewrite of ELEMENTAL.  I knew I was getting better at picking up the writing pace, but even HANSEL AND GRETEL has been taking me longer than I'd hoped.  So 50,000 words in a month?  Pretty much impossible.

October 30th rolled around and I decided I'd stop procrastinating and work on my outline.  I figured if I had an outline written, I'd know where I wanted to go with the book, and it would be easier to at least pump out 1,000 words a day.  I got through the outline on the first two chapters before I decided to check my email, twitter, my blog, etc.  In other words, I wasn't going to get through the other chapters before NaNo began.  But while perusing the internet, I thought I'd play around with a character outline.  I thought it might be fun to get a better idea of who Lilly Grey was.  This was a very smart move on my part.  It only took about thirty minutes and I had a great head start on my novel.

Knowing exactly who your MC is BEFORE you start writing can eliminate a lot of future headaches.  I know this personally.

November 1st came and my heart was pumping to get started.  The story had been brewing in my head for a few weeks and I was ready to put words down.  It turned out, having the first two chapters outlined already helped.  I knew where my start was and I had enough knowledge of what was happening in future pages to keep me motivated.  But guess what?  Having ONLY the first two chapters outlined helped, too!  Once chapter two was written, there were twists and turns propelling me forward to the third chapter that I never would have thought of before I started writing.

So I wrote and wrote and wrote and by the end of Day 1, I had over 10,000 words written and I still didn't want to stop!  Sadly, my bed was calling to me by then, so I did stop.  And that's tip #3 dear readers!  (tips #1 and #2 being outline first two chapters only and do a character outline before starting).  When I stopped for the day, I stopped in the MIDDLE of an intense scene, not at the end.  This way, I was excited about getting back to it.  I had the whole night to ruminate and plot out the rest of the scene and beyond so that when I started the next morning I could fly through another 7,000 words.  And ruminate I did.  I actually dreamed about my book every night I was so anxious to get back to it.

But seriously, you ask, how can anyone fly through 7,000 words, no matter how excited they are about the book?  Tip #4: keep it simple.  The reason all my previous first drafts took so long to write was because I'd obsess over each and every sentence, making sure it was perfect before I moved on.  But do you want to know what I discovered since I started revising and revising and revising some more?  All those sentences I obsessed over get the same chopping treatment as a sentence that I didn't necessarily consider perfect.

So when I came to a part in MORCAH that I didn't know exactly how to describe, I'd get the gist of it down, knowing I'd come back later to perfect it.  There's a lot of shrugging going on in the first draft right now because I wanted to convey nonchalance, but I didn't want to get stuck trying to come up with the perfect way to describe the nonchalance, risking the chance that I might lose my drive for the day.

And that brings me to tip #5: don't think about the past.  If you think about what you've written already, you'll think about all the things you want to improve, and then the inner editor will rear its ugly head.  During NaNo, you don't have time for the inner editor.  He needs to go to sleep for a while in preparation for the second draft.  And actually, that coincides with tip #4.  Even if you go back and edit, you'll probably end up changing a lot of it because you just haven't gotten to the ending yet.  There's simply very little point in perfecting everything before you know how the whole thing is going to look.

That makes me think of an analogy (I love analogies).  When you're laying down joint compound in preparation for painting, you don't slap on a tiny bit and then smooth it to perfection only to slap on some more right next to it.  If you did, you'd have to rework the area you already perfected and it would take FOREVER.  Instead, you slap it all down and smooth it all together at once.  The same is true for writing.  Get it all done, THEN smooth the whole thing out.

Another thing I have to mention isn't necessarily a tip, but it is something that really helped me pump out MORCAH.   I wrote it as if I was reading it.  I was so absolutely in love with all my characters, that I trusted them and let them have a little control in where the story went.  They didn't let me down.  However, giving total control to your characters is a bad idea.  I knew where I wanted the story to end, so I made sure wherever the characters took me, they still had my ending in mind.  In the end, I think I acquired a story that a lot of people will enjoy because my characters were allowed to live.

And finally, tip #6!  The most important tip I can think of: tell yourself you WILL write so many words a day and that it is EASY.  A lot of times writers have the nasty habit of conditioning their minds into thinking they can't do something or they're busy or whatever other excuse you can think of.  You're really just crippling yourself.  Though I don't fall for all that stuff about how you can think your way out of a disease, I DO believe you can think yourself out of success.  And if you can think your way out of it, you can think your way into it. If your goal is to reach so many words a day and you REALLY think you can do it (barring any real emergencies), you'll get it done.

Any other tips, my dear readers?  Have you found something that's helped you in the past?  And do you think any of you will be able to implement any of the tips I've given today?

Let us hear about it!

~Emily White

Sunday, November 7, 2010


TALES OF MORCAH is finished!  Well, the first draft anyway.  I can't believe I was able to finish a book in a week.  Phew!  All my other first drafts have taken years to finish.  ELEMENTAL took two.

But I have a problem.  The first draft finished at 47,290 words.  I know with revisions, I'll add about another 20,000 (yes, I write light the first time around), but NaNo is all about the 50,000 words.  How sucky would it be to have a first draft completed and still not win at NaNo?

I'm going to take a week off to fulfill my other writerly obligations, then reread MORCAH and start with revisions.  Wish me all luck!

Oh!  I'll be doing a post on my method tomorrow.  It's something I've never done before, so I hope it might work for some of you who edit while writing like I've always done.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Fun Time! And some NaNo news

First!  The NaNo news!  Day 5 ended last night with 37,173 words!  With an average of 7,000 words a day, I plan to hit 44,000 by tonight!  And I swear, I'm not even close to being the brain dead zombie I was when I rewrote ELEMENTAL (which only saw an average of 5,000 words a day).

I do have my suspicions of how I'm pulling it off this time, and I have plans to tell you readers all about it when the first draft is done.  Right now, though, I have this funny feeling that if I put words to my method, I'll lose it and not work on TALES OF MORCAH for days.  Okay, this isn't just a superstition.  I've actually done this to myself before.  I'm a procrastinator at heart who thrives on excuses.

But!  Today is Saturday Fun Time!  And for all of you new followers (welcome, by the way!), today is the day I post one of my favorite YouTube videos.  Sadly, this template--though I love the scheme--does not let me embed videos.  I don't know why this is.  It just doesn't.  But I promise, I would never give you a link that I didn't think was totally worthwhile.

If you want to laugh until you're sure you've dislocated a rib, click this link.  It is one of my all-time favorite videos, and I've saved it for a special occasion like today.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Goober Writers Anonymous--Matthew Rush

Goober Writers Anonymous is a group for writers to vent about past or present writerly mistakes for therapeutic reasons, to educate others, or just for a laugh.  If you would like to join the group and sign up to submit a guest post, please leave me your email address in the comments below.

Perks of joining:  You get to put the nifty little badge on your blog (yes, this does indeed make you cool), sharing with others and being a part of a group is always fun, and I will put a link to your blog on my blog below under Members of GWA.

There are plenty of slots still open for December and I would love to get January and February filled up as well!  So, join today!

Today's Goober Blogger is none other than Matthew Rush!  You guys may remember me talking about him a while ago when I was working hard on crafting the perfect query for ELEMENTAL.  Well, Matt had been gracious enough to really help me out with that by putting it on his blog for massive slaughter.  No, it was great. 

And let me tell you how awesome Matt is because I was a HUGE goober yesterday and forgot to remind him about his post until 7:30 at night.  Well, he still pulled through and sent me something this morning.  If you guys aren't already following him at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment, I absolutely recommend you do right now.


For me GWA is all about the fact that even though we’re writers, as humans we all make mistakes. Believe me I have made some big ones.

I’m going to share one of the first queries I ever sent, which I masochistically decided to hold on to. It’s a pretty embarrassing scenario, but I have to admit I learned a lot from it. It’s long enough as is, so that should be enough set up.

Please be ready for some serious suckage and keep in mind that I have learned a lot about queries since then.

So here is the email I sent on May 12th, 2009:


I am writing to you seeking representation for my young-adult commercial-fiction/literary-fiction/fantasy crossover novel which has the working title "Warrior-Monks" and which is complete at approximately 475,000 words but can probably be cut by 100,000 words with the help of an experienced editor assuming the market is calling for shorter books. I am querying you and your agency because I read your blog post about your needs list from January of this year, which I certainly hope is still close to current. My novel falls into at least two of these types and fits most of your criteria.

For your Mainstream Fiction needs I would say that my protagonist is a young man from a broken family who learns to grow beyond his shyness and lack of self confidence as he comes to know himself and matures toward adulthood. The novel takes place over one year of his life, with a few flashbacks to his childhood, so it is not simply the passing of time that shows him growing but actual decisions made and actions taken that show the reader that he is growing up.

For Young Adult I would say that Warrior-Monks is intended for young adult readers ages 13-17, who are buying books in droves these days, but I am certain that once you read the manuscript you will find that it is mature enough and compelling enough to enthrall even the most discerning adult reader if they get the inkling to pick it up. The story does mostly take place at a high school, but not in the traditional sense. It is a reform school in the Northern Idaho wilderness that just so happens to have a curriculum unlike any school that has ever existed.

I believe that my story would be loved by readers of all the best selling young adult novels of the last decade such as the Harry Potter series, the Eragon series (the Inheritance Cycle), the Twilight series, the Bartimaeus Trilogy, the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, and many others but it is unique because there are no wizards, witches, werewolves, fairies, or vampires and it only includes a bit of romance to help define and develop some of the characters as well as only incorporating magic and mysticism of an everyday kind that lies somewhere between Kundalini and "The Lace Reader".

I usually apologize for having to submit via email because I am an environmentalist and I don't believe in wasting trees for paper or fuel for shipment that isn't entirely necessary, or at least artistically worthwhile (believe me I do my best to write the finest query letters that I can but I have no delusions as to their artistry) but I see in your blog that you prefer this more efficient format, which I applaud you for.

I am including the first chapter of the book but I have to apologize that it is actually almost thirteen pages in word in the Arial font at 12 points. I hope that you will forgive this because I figure that if you don't enjoy it after the first two paragraphs you will probably stop reading anyway and I don't blame you for not wasting your time. I do believe, however, that you will be intrigued.

I have never been published but I am confident that many authors like Christopher Paolini and Brunonia Barry have proved that you do not have to be a highly experienced or best-selling author to write an incredibly entertaining book.

Please feel free to reply to this email, or to call me on my mobile phone at any time at 206-555-1212, or even to write to me at home at:

Street Address

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Matthew M. Rush

So as you can see this is just horrible. I could go on about how ignorant I was of what a good query letter is and looks like but you can probably see that for yourselves. Instead I will just post his response:

Thanks for taking the time to query me and/or send your writing sample. While your project sounds interesting, it’s not what I'm looking for at this time. For specific details on what I'm presently seeking, please visit our blog at HYPERLINK.

Good luck and thank you for your query!


REDACTED, Author Representative
Member AAR

His response was curt but friendly, pretty standard form rejection. However, as a foolish and discouraged writer who was already beginning to hate the query process, I got angry. Emotion is okay. You will get hurt, angry and thousands of other unpleasant feelings during this process. That is normal. What is foolish and usually pointless is to act on those feelings and lash out, especially at a professional who is just doing their job.

That being said, I did. I wrote back to him because I felt like he didn't even read the query - where I clearly stated that I had read his blog - and I was insulted. As you will see what ended up happening was humiliating, humbling and sobering; but I did end up learning a great deal in the long run.

Get ready for things to get really bad.

My response:

I just have to say that after reading your blog, already, I have a lot of respect for you but that response was just a cop out. If you read the query letter I sent you would see that I clearly read your blog with an extreme attention to detail. Therefore it doesn't make much sense for you to suggest that I read it again. I completely understand that my project may not be appropriate for what you have the ability to represent right now but at least we should be honest with each other. I spent about three and a half hours researching you and your current needs today but this looks to be a form rejection. I fully understand that you are a business man and taking on an unproved client is a huge risk, but what does it take to get an agent to read a manuscript? I assume you have some highly educated and extremely intelligent assistants who have the time to scan some sample chapters (since I can read a YA novel in about two days). I never usually respond to rejections but since I thought that you were a particularly good fit for my project I have to ask did you read the full query and or did you read the sample chapter? If so and it just doesn't fit please give me enough respect to say so and don't pretend that I didn't show you the due respect of reading your blog post.

After reading all that you have written online you seem to be one of the most human agents out there and it is very discouraging to get a response from what seems to be a robot. I know my response sounds very angry but if I can be honest I am just very discouraged after getting a form rejection from an agent whose writing sounded very sincere and real. I know this may all not mean much to you on a personal level but all I ask is that you take a few minutes (when you have time) to read the query, and then hopefully read the entire manuscript. I know now that this will never happen but I felt that I had to speak my mind. I am not a fool and I realize that you will probably never read this entire message but if you do I am sorry that I have wasted so much of your time.

His harsh but brutally honest reply (yes it made me cringe, but he is 100% right):

I am writing to you seeking representation for my young-adult commercial-fiction/literary-fiction/fantasy crossover novel which has the working title "Warrior-Monks" and which is complete at approximately 475,000 words but can probably be cut by 100,000 words with the help of an experienced editor assuming the market is calling for shorter books

Dear Mr. Rush,

Above you will see the what my assistant read, which was more than enough, by the way, to garner a rejection. My assistants and I send very generic rejection letters because we don't like to hurt writer's feelings. However, to learn the truth, let's analyze why you were rejected.

First of all, there is no such thing as a young-adult commercial-fiction/fantasy crossover novel. Young adult novels, by their very nature, cover all genres. All professional authors who thoroughly understand and write in the children's fiction category know this, consequently you struck out in your first sentence. But my assistant went on to find that your YA novel was 475,000 words in length and rejected you at that point.

If you could have cut your novel to 100,000 words, why didn't you? No one will handle a novel of this size, so you should have cut before you queried, not offer to do so afterward. If you want the help of an experienced professional editor, you pay for that help. The help of an experienced editor will cost you around five thousand dollars for a novel of this size. If you wish, I can give you some names.

If you had read our blog, as you insist you have, you would have seen immediately that we would never handle, read or represent a novel of this size, so you wasted your time and ours by even querying us. Your query demonstrated that you are an amateur so you received an amateur's rejection. I'm also assuming that you've been rejected by scores of other agents, most of whom, when they see a query like this one, delete it without going further. At least in our case, you were directed to a place, our blog, where all the answers one needs for being successful is contained, if a person just takes the time to read. For instance, you could have learned enough

During the time it took you to write your angry letter to probably found our good query, bad query letter examples and found your own answer as to why you've been repeatedly rejected. I hope you now have the answers you seek. Good luck with any future writing you attempt.

With sincere regards,


My reply:


Thank you very much for your honesty, it is quite refreshing and I have learned a lot in just the last few moments of reading your reply.


So I won't over analyze this but I will say that he was absolutely right. It was very painful at the time, and he was a little cruel in some of his wording, but the fact that he took the time to reply at all (and basically school me) was actually pretty nice. It's kind of like Simon on American Idol. Yes he can destroy people sometimes but when it comes to something as important as a person's career (even if it is just a dream of possibility) honesty, even brutal honesty, is actually a kind and kingly gift.

So that is essentially where it all started, painful yes, but like touching a hot stove as child, very educational. You can find more awful examples like this on my blog under the label queries/rejections.

Oh, Matt.  I've seen a few of your earlier queries, but never that one.  Eek.  But at least you learned (and readers he did learn because not only does he have an amazing query now, it's so amazing, he won a query contest at WriteOnCon).  

Thanks for sharing this with us!