Ready to Query: Finding Mulligan

Okay, enough editing.  Thank you to the following people who helped me in the test audience:

These people read the whole thing and gave comments: Mommy, Fred, Ronni, Mike Lee, Reeny, Jessie, Laura, Victor, Cara, Meggie, Alicorn, Amanda, Rob, Patricia, Jeaux, Daddy, Stacy, Kim, Jeremy, Kalinda, Corinne, and Jay.  These people read part of it and gave comments: Jack, Deborah, Mikey, and Jessika.

My basic query letter (with personalized agent stuff at the beginning, and modified if needed):

Nobody understands the meaning of “a double life” better than Cassandra Howard.  A smart, sarcastic student by day, she becomes a different person at night; Dia, her charismatic second self, is the darling of a fantastical dreamland where she can do anything.  And while Cassie and Dia share their memories, they prefer to keep their lives separate.  That changes when they fall in love.

Mulligan, dreamland’s delicious drummer boy, sets his eyes on Dia.  But Cassie is pretty sick of her other self getting everything good about their life, and she talks Dia into helping her find the waking-world version of her boyfriend.  A mysterious portrait of Mulligan leads Cassie to two candidates: is it Terrell, the model who posed for the painting?  Or is it Jamie, the artist who painted it?  Maddening maybes play tug-of-war in her mind until she finds herself attracted to both guys, and she fears betraying her dream love if she picks the wrong one.

To test her contenders, Cassie begins to impersonate Dia in the waking world, but gets the shock of her life when her counterpart’s magical charisma and talent actually work in her favor.  When lines of identity start blurring beyond their comfort, they’ll have to uncover the nature of dreamland and deal with the repercussions of this love triangle.  (Or . . . love pentagon.  Whatever.)  And one thing’s for sure: dreams of happily ever after do sometimes turn out to be nightmares.

Finding Mulligan: Page 119

I read something on an agent’s blog about how at some convention they did a workshop where they read page 119 of a bunch of novels, and tried to decide if the novel might be good based on page 119.

Why page 119? No idea.

Out of curiosity, I of course flipped to page 119 of my novel to see if it would seem “good” if this was all you got.

Unfortunately it kind of makes it seem like a straight romance novel, even though it’s not. Heh.  Here’s my Page 119:

“You know what, I never understood why people say roses smell ‘sweet.’ They kind of stink if you ask me. I prefer honeysuckle or gardenias.”

I almost spilled the drink I was pouring when she said that. I steadied my hands and tried like hell not to conjure up the scent of gardenias in my mind.

“So, tell me about him,” she needled me as I brought the beverages into the living room and set them on coasters on the table.

“The flower’s not from a guy,” I said. “I bought it from a gas station.”

“Gas stations sell roses?”

“Yeah, haven’t you ever seen those little cups of roses sometimes, by the cash registers? The one across from the McDonald’s has them.”

“Why’d you buy a rose?”

“I wanted it.”

“But there is a guy, right?”

My cheeks got hot as I tried to cover it by sipping my drink. I glanced at her and saw that familiar mischievous expression. She wasn’t going to let me go. I was going to have to give her some semblance of an answer.

“Actually, I’ve met a couple of guys.”

“Oh, jeez, really?”

“Yes, I’m into two different guys at once. And they’re friends, and I don’t know which one to chase, ’cause they are both sweet guys and they’re talented and hot as hell, and probably not interested in me at all because I’m a boring, stupid freshman.” Okay, that had been more than I had been planning to say.

And that’s that. Amusing exercise!

Completed New Novel: Finding Mulligan

Finished writing Finding Mulligan!

Genre: Young Adult (Crossover?)/Modern Fantasy/Romance/???

Length: 26 Chapters/420 pages/~120,000 words.

Tag line: “What if you fell in love with someone who might not exist?”

Keywords: YA: Fantastical, young adult, romance, dreams, psychological, alternate-world, college, interracial romance, magical realism, young-adult crossover, chronic illness (in a family member).

Protagonist: Cassandra Howard.

POV: First person, past tense.


Cassandra Howard lives a double life—literally. She spends her days worrying about school, hanging out with her best friend, and sulking in the shadow of her chronically ill (and pampered) younger sister. But at night, she’s busy with her charmed life in an alternate universe. In dreamland, Cassie becomes a charismatic, carefree girl named Dia, and she prefers to keep her two lives separate. That changes when she falls in love.

Dia kicks off a fairy-tale romance with Mulligan, dreamland’s delicious drummer boy. But Cassie is pretty sick of her other self getting everything good about their shared life, and she talks Dia into helping her find the waking-world version of her boyfriend. All the clues point to Mulligan existing in both worlds, just like Cassie does.

A mysterious portrait of Mulligan leads Cassie to two candidates: is it Terrell, the model who posed for the painting? Or is it Jamie, the artist who painted it? Maddening maybes play tug-of-war in her mind until she finds herself attracted to both guys, and she fears betraying her dream love if she picks the wrong one.

To test her contenders, Cassie dresses up like Dia and tries to act like her, but gets the shock of her life when some of Dia’s practically magical charisma and talent transfers to her. When lines of identity start blurring beyond their comfort, they’ll have to uncover the nature of dreamland and deal with the repercussions of this love triangle. (Or . . . love pentagon. Whatever.) And one thing’s for sure: dreams of “happily ever after” do sometimes turn out to be nightmares.

Next up: Lots of editing!

The Mystery of the Cigar Box

I was a productive little author this weekend. Two more new chapters!

Actually I had originally planned for these two chapters to be one chapter, but . . . as per usual, the characters got carried away with their conversation, and it seemed like it would be an awfully long chapter if I stuck them together.

So. The book’s total word count so far: 94,751.

Oh noooooo, it’s almost 95,000! It’s inching ever closer to that horrific 100,000-word mark! 🙁

I am not, nor will I ever be, capable of a short novel.

I have a SHORT STORY that’s around 22,000 words. Good lord.

I’m pleased with the chapters. Two scenes that I thought would kill me were easily survivable. This is why I think if these characters ever stop surprising me, it won’t be soon.

So, yes. Couple-fights. Psychoanalysis. Minor injuries. Vegan muffins. Crazy cats. Crying. Grape juice. And EVERYONE is acting sort of creepy now, especially Mulligan. It’s weirding me out.

I can’t wait until I’m done with this monster. I really, really want to share it.

Although . . . I don’t know how the book ends. I rarely do. 🙂

(It’s okay—the characters always figure it out.)

Ah and I have introduced . . . THE MYSTERY OF THE CIGAR BOX!!! What’s inside? Condoms? Rat poison? Yo’ momma?

The world may never know.

About to. . . .

Just a note to say that I’m really nervous. . . .

I’m about to write a really important bit of a chapter that I’ve been putting off in my current work in progress. I’ve been kicking it around in my head and I think it’s ready to come out now, and I wrote the setup and everything, but . . . I’m about to dive in.

I have no idea how exactly it’s going to be written and what this revelation is actually going to DO to my main character’s brain, but it is very hard to pull the rug out from under someone you love—as I love all my characters—and it’s going to be very hard for me to shove all this suspicion and betrayal and realization in her face. I don’t know if she’s going to be shocked or angry or hopeless or just determined or WHAT, but I’ll know once she’s actually in the moment. I can’t write the “wrong” thing once I’m there, even though I don’t know what I’m about to write. . . .

But I kind of don’t want to go there.

Gather Contest: Bad Fairy

I entered a contest at back on February 13.  It was called “First Chapters” and novelists with a completed manuscript were allowed to enter and possibly win a publishing contract.  I figured I had nothing to lose, but the experience was pretty terrible.  Because whoever came up with the rules for the contest must have been smoking something toxic.

Contestants were allowed to vote on each other’s entries.

The “points” everyone was getting were visible to everyone, with the site adjusting the top entries to always be at the beginning.  (This was not only unfair, but it encouraged people to vote down whoever was in the lead.)

The reviews were visible for every entry.  This was especially bad because Gather was bribing people to offer reviews by saying star reviewers would be chosen to receive $500 in store credit to Borders, and you were supposed to be able to win by being “insightful,” so having the previous reviews visible to readers obviously influences the opinion AND gives reviewers tips on what to say for their own review.

Can I just say again that contestants were allowed to vote on each other’s entries?  And that the rules specifically said they were allowed to do so as long as they did it “in the spirit of the competition”?

A vote-decided competition absolutely cannot have its participants voting on each other.  I was appalled.  Especially since every single entry in the contest had a 3 or 4 out of 10 by the time the voting closed because of all the really determined serial downvoters.

And yet, without addressing these issues whatsoever, Gather announced their 20 winners—one of whom was a guy whose profile page said he was a paid contributor for Gather—and opened the next round with all the same rules.  (I wasn’t picked, but that doesn’t surprise me.  My entry was regularly on the front page of highest-rated entries, and then it would get attacked with downvotes and disappear, and then it would appear again every time I got a good review.)

Anyway, I also got some grumpy guy telling me I was obviously ripping off Wicked—yeah, man, that’s likely, since I wrote the story before I’d heard of it, and after all Gregory Maguire invented the concept of a retelling, right?  And then some other snotty reviewer tried to tear me a new one claiming I’d contradicted myself because I suggested it’s possible to be original while still telling a technically derivative story (like a fairy tale retelling).  “Well if it’s derived from another story then it can’t really be original then CAN IT??”  Uh, I sure hope there’s a degree program in Missing the Point, because that guy’s got a Bachelor’s.  I’m pretty certain nobody who reads Bad Fairy is going to come out of it thinking what a copycat piece of crap it is.

So . . . yeah, good riddance to THAT contest.

Finding Mulligan: Hiatus for Cassie

Well, I got away from writing my “Mulligan” story for a while because Bad Fairy got attention from an agent and I had to respond to that.  I wanted to reread the book before sending it to her, and I hadn’t gone ahead and done it before submitting because I was pessimistic (unlike me!) and thought no one was going to ask to see beyond chapter 3 for a long time. When this agent asked it kind of threw me. I had to take a vacation from writing Finding Mulligan because of that and a few other life things (visits, obligations).

Chapter three is in progress—has been for a while—but little miss Cassie . . . um, rather, Dia at the moment . . . is running around in her dream looking for her sweetheart and I think I stopped her mid-sentence. She probably won’t mind. She hasn’t been sitting around waiting to be written about for years. The idea for her only crystallized in my head recently.

The agent who was considering Bad Fairy ultimately rejected it for being too long, but told me she really likes my style and voice and wants to see my future work if it’s shorter. Still more reason to put a fire under it and try to have Cassie ready by early next year. I think her story will be fairly short if I don’t try to do stupid things to it.

Results of Querying: Bad Fairy

I’ve decided to stop querying for this book because I need to go back to the drawing board based on the feedback I got.  (And it wasn’t unexpected.  I know a 255,000-word book has a snowball’s chance in Hell.)

Of the seven agents I queried, these were the results:

  • 1 non-response
  • 2 form rejections
  • 4 partial requests

Two of the partial requests turned into full manuscript requests.  One of those turned into an overnight rejection because of the length.  Well, I can’t say I’m surprised.

The relevant part of that letter:

I love the premise of this tale, and did enjoy the writing, however it is way too long for publication as it exists. And it is not a problem you can fix with a simple solution like cutting one book into two. Then you will not have a story. It needs to be pruned severely so it can blossom. Right now, we see too much of the day to day of Delia’s life and it gets a tad boring. If you can cut it down to 100,000 – 125,000 words or so, an editor might give it a look. Otherwise, you will not even get past step one in the publishing process.

Another alternative is to self-publish and attempt to market it yourself. When/if you sell a significant number of copies, thus proving to the NY publishers that you have something special, they might give you serious consideration.

Best of luck and please do continue writing. You have a wonderful voice.

She’s right.  I’ll have to think about what to do here.  Will probably just work on my other book for a while and try to find representation for something shorter.

New Novel: Finding Mulligan

Started a new book!  The working title is Finding Mulligan.


Finding Mulligan is the story of Cassandra Howard, who somehow manages to fall in love in an alternate universe.

Cassie’s excited to escape to college, where she can be free of her attention-seeking chronically ill younger sister and can finally stop feeling like a nobody.  Cassie just so happens to have another life in a universe she travels to in her dreams, and there, her alternate self Dia is falling in love.  Her drummer-boy boyfriend, Mulligan, might just exist in the waking world, too.

Finding Mulligan is going to be about Cassie trying to find the boy who’s the “real” version of her dream man, figure out her relationship with her other self, and wrangle her college life.  While determining how weird things from her past have affected her.  It’s gonna be neat.

But I’m not going to speed-write this one because I’ve got too much going on.

Ready to Query: Bad Fairy

After years of editing, processing feedback, and researching what I’m supposed to do to submit manuscripts and whatnot, I’m ready to query for this book.  Thanks to the following people for helping me edit:

These folks read the entire thing and gave comments: Jeremy, Mike Lee, Fred, Keggernaught, Meggie, Ronni, Cara, Stacy, Mikey, Jan-Martin, Daddy, Dorian, Jessie, and Victor.  These folks read part of it and gave comments: Jeaux, Laura, Miriam, Steve, Dan, Whitney, Sarah, Dieter, Adam, Phil M., Brian, Zack, Trisha, Chandan Aubel, and Dan B.

It’s ridiculously gigantic.  But the fairy tale retelling thing is popular.  Maybe I’ll get somewhere.  Unfortunately, some agents want my query letter to mention its length and I feel like that is going to kill me before I have a chance to get my foot in the door.

Scenario: Agent of interest opens package containing query letter, synopsis, and first thirty pages. Agent scans query and drinks coffee. Agent is spurred into spitting coffee all over the the pages in either horror or wild amusement (you pick).

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