WriteOnCon – Great advice on queries, voice, the market, and more.

Writeoncon 2013 has ended, but you can still read all the articles, watch the videos, and get loads of great advice on everything from how to write a great query letter (check out my revised one here), obtaining the right voice for your story/narrater, trends in the market, editing tips, and tons more. Everything is absolutely free, so nothing is stopping you from learning and getting involved.

Check out the writeoncon.com posts and bookmark it. The site may provide future forums for authors to share their own work, critique others, and make valuable contacts in the writing community.

Speaking of which, THANK YOU to all those who critiqued my query and writing sample during the online convention. I made some new friends and received excellent feedback. Before I brave the slush pile, I will revise a bit, concentrating on my voice so that the narration sounds less adult and more in keeping with the Young Adult genre–a bit more intimate and closer to a teenager’s style. Fortunately, as those of you who know me well can attest, I’m ridiculously immature. So I think I can handle the teen voice better than what currently exists in the manuscript. Wish me luck!

Choosing the Perfect Setting – Part Three

Edinburgh, Scotland may seem an odd choice for a YA novel about King Arthur returning to modern day. Given that premise, London probably makes more sense or else somewhere in the English countryside where Camelot may have been located. But Edinburgh? Why there?

Because it is perfect. Here’s why:

The architecture helps visualize the themes and what the characters are going through internally.

  • While Edinburgh is a thriving modern city, most of its facades are cold stone several centuries old. Everywhere you look, the present is clashing with the past . . . and considering King Arthur is returning from some otherworldly past, this visual is appropriate: He feels this clash within himself—a man out of time. So the juxtaposing architecture reflects his inner turmoil.  Arthur isn’t the only mythical person or creature who steps foot into the modern world, so although he’s the one the story focuses on, what he feels is echoed by all of the legendary beings that pop up.
  • Additionally, Old Town is a multi-layered maze with new mysteries around every corner. There are more ghost stories and local tales of gruesome horror than any other city I know of—plenty of interesting details to help flesh out the world. There’s even a system of tunnels sealed up beneath the city—the world of the past, sealed up and forgotten, but right there, just underneath the surface. In my story, the barrier between the world of myth and our own world is weakened. Where better than a city where the barrier between past and present is already thin and, at every turn, under attack?
  • The city’s mysterious nature reflects another theme: that no one is what they seem and that everyone has a secret.
  • Edinburgh Castle sits atop a hill at the center of town, backed up to an imposing cliff. This castle was actually J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts. This is the perfect setting for my climax when our heroes defend the city against a siege of mythological beasts.
  • The mountain opposite the castle is called Arthur’s Seat. Legend has it that King Arthur led a battle campaign from there. Is there a better place for King Arthur to reappear than on a mountain that bears his name?

It is also true that I fell in love with Edinburgh. It is one of my three favorite cities (alongside Chicago and Wellington, New Zealand). I might say this story is my love letter to this amazing city.

A Book Cover?

Don’t let this amazing cover image fool you: my novel has not found a publisher nor do I even have an agent. And no, I did not and could not create anything remotely this fantastic on my own.



What happened is that my family thought it would be cool if I had an image, possibly a potential cover design, for my “forever a work in progress” novel. They got together and hired Andrea DiVito and Laura Villari for the job (Andrea drew it, Laura did the amazing colors).

I’ve been a fan of Andrea and Laura’s since my brother Andy hired them to do the art for a Marvel Comics limited series called Annihilation back in 2006. Once Andy contacted them about this project, I emailed Andrea the broad strokes of what I thought would be an appropriate and compelling image for the story. We went back and forth a few times and this is the end result. If my novel is published, I won’t have any control over the cover—authors rarely do. Of course, I’d be happy if they used this, but right now, such notions are more of a fantasy than the novel itself.

While my main character (a teenage girl in modern Edinburgh, Scotland) does not actually use a sword in the story, she does take up arms against a sea of unending sword wielding assailants (sorry, Shakespeare) who step out of the land of myth and legend. She also teams-up with King Arthur. The image of her hand grasping the sword conveys the basic idea.

The sword is cracked and chipped because my working title is Fractured Myths—so a broken sword carries a bit of that idea. We can’t see that the sword is Excalibur, and since Excalibur is indestructible, I doubt anyone would leap to that conclusion, but if Excalibur were fractured, that would also make for a powerful image.

And then there’s the Celtic Tree of Life symbol in the background. This symbol illustrates the connection of our world to the Otherworld that is home to our myths and legends. The symbol appears in my story and is tied to the plot. This particular design is Andrea’s. As with every other aspect of this picture, he exceeded my expectations.

Anyway, I couldn’t be more pleased!

*Art by Andrea Di Vito and Laura Villari, copyright 2013 Craig Schmidt

The Next Big Thing (Week 26)

Thanks to Laura VanArendonk Baugh for nominating my blog for “The Next Big Thing.” I’m pleased people are interested in my blog and novel—though if you’re reading this, you should check out Laura’s own site at http://lauravanarendonkbaugh.com and her novella Kitsune-Tsuki, winner of the Luminis Award at this year’s Midwest Writers Conference! With any luck (or justice) her new novel Shard & Shield will get picked up and published soon!

Laura has asked me to answer 10 questions about my novel and then nominate other authors with blogs for next week’s “Next Big Thing.”  Let’s get to it.

  1. What is the working title of your book?  Fractured Myths, though a potential publisher pointed out that a more appropriate title might be Fractured Legends.
  2. 2.      Where did the idea come from for the book? My brother Andy wanted to pitch a cartoon series and asked me if I had any ideas. My 1st thought was “a teenage girl and her father aid an elite team that investigates myths that enter the real world. Each episode would have a different myth/character/creature and a new adventure.” That germ became my novel—the less kid-friendly origin story for the cartoon. And NO, this was never pitched as an animated series, so the novel is the only story that exists.
  3. 3.      What genre does your book fall under? YA Urban Fantasy . . . though I like calling it a YA Arthurian Urban Fantasy since King Arthur is one of the main characters, but that’s too much of a mouthful.
  4. 4.      Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

16-year-old Alanna O’Connor: No idea. If my book is published two years from now and is immediately optioned, it would still be at least four more years before the movie would come out. Therefore, the actress would be about 10-years-old right now.

King Arthur: Chris Hemsworth (Thor) or Hugh Jackman (Wolverine).

Dr. Zoe Bailey: Naomie Harris (Eve in Skyfall).

  1. 5.      What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book? This is nearly impossible, so here is the shortest pitch I can come up with:When sixteen-year-old fantasy enthusiast Alanna O’Connor sees Vikings, medieval knights, and mythological creatures appear in her hometown of Edinburgh, she thinks it’s a miracle . . . until they try to kill her. Alanna teams up with the one person she knows she can trust: the newly arrived and completely baffled King Arthur. Together, they must stop the myth invasion before Scotland—if not all reality—is fractured beyond repair.” 
  2. 6.      Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Anything is possible. I have the option to Revise and Resubmit at a small press. I plan to do that, but I’m still querying agents, so we’ll see what happens.
  3. 7.      How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first draft took me about two years. Even though I know that draft had serious problems, I still count it as one of my life’s major accomplishments.
  4. 8.      What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Libriomancer by Jim Hines. I actually have a review of that book on my blog. The stories share a similar tone, balance between humor and adventure, and involve fiction/myths finding a way into the real world.
  5. 9.      Who or What inspired you to write this book? I partially answered this in Q # 2, but Andy asking me for an idea is only part of the reason why he should be considered the inspiration for my book. The truth is, once I had the idea, I tried giving it to Andy. He liked it, saw its potential, and encouraged me to write it as a novel so that I could maintain creative control over it. But these are only the immediate reasons why Andy is an inspiration. Years before my idea hit me, Andy quit his job in St. Louis and moved to New York to follow his dream of working as a story editor for Marvel Comics. He was there for six years and contributed to some fantastic storylines with all of our childhood heroes. Then he started his own business called www.comicsexperience.com where he teaches classes in writing, drawing, and everything else related to a career in the comic book industry. Then he moved to California and worked for IDW (another comic book company). Now he works in Hasbro’s creative department. So the thing is, Andy takes risks. He pushes himself. And no matter where he is, Andy maintains his creativity and integrity. He might be my younger brother, but he is also my hero. I just hope he doesn’t read this.
  6. 10.  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I have a pet peeve about stories in which a mythical character appears in the real world (my premise) because so far, every story I know of with this premise fails my “test.” The thing I always want to know is, “Which version of the character shows up and how is that decided?” What I mean is, if Achilles shows up in New York, I want to know if his skin is impenetrable or not (it is according to the legend of his body being dipped in the river Styx but he is mortal in Homer). The next question is, “How is that decision made and is there a consistent and logical reason for this within the story?” In other words, if it is the Achilles from The Iliad, why is it that Achilles and not the one with impenetrable skin? And whatever rationale there is needs to be clear and consistent with all other characters that appear. Sometimes the explanation/rationale is made clear, but often the characters are whatever version the author seems to like best. So my book passes my own test—the answers to the questions I pose are there and, I think, the answers will surprise you.

I now nominate the following blogs for next week’s “The Next Big Thing.” Hopefully, these authors will post their answers to the same 10 questions I just answered. Check their respective websites on December 5th!

Robbie MacNiven at http://robbiemacniven.wordpress.com/

Emilyann Girdner at http://www.anythingimagined.blogspot.com/

E.M. Castellan at http://emcastellan.com/