Monday, February 29, 2016

Dispatch #48: The Gospel According to Super-Chicken

by Lupe Fernandez

I ride in the Hyundai dealer shuttle service back to my house. The Volkswagen is hot and stuffy, crowded with four passengers, two coffee mugs and one brief case. We pass by a gouged Contra Costa hillside.

I say to the driver. “What an eyesore. At least they have their own Doppler 5000.”

“They do?” The polite driver says.

“No, I was joking about the army’s microwave dish.” Camp Parks is surrounded by housing developments. I proceed to explain the concept of Doppler radar and make fun of local news channels that bombastically promote Doppler radar for their weather reports.

“Are you a mechanical engineer?” The driver asks me.


“You know a lot of about science.”

I laugh. “No, I’m a writer.”

“Have you published anything?”

Super-Chicken and Fred
“No, it’s a competitive business.” And then I paraphrase Super-Chicken, “I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.”

Super-Chicken was a 1960’s cartoon, produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame. I watched the show as a kid and a few phrases lodged in my brain.

I knew writing fiction was a complicated, long term; low paying career filled with artists with far more talents than I.

Whenever mild-mannered Henry Cabot Henhouse needed to combat villains such as The Oyster, The Noodle or The Laundry Man, Mr. Henhouse donned his super-suit and drank the super-sauce provided by his trust lion assistant. After gulping down the mixture, Mr. Henhouse would have a seizure and transform into SUPER-CHICKEN. He would always remark about the super sauce, such as “A little heavy on the vermouth, Fred.”

When I edit my work, I often find my writing too heavy on confusion, Fred. Disheartening. So I came up with my own theme song, inspired by Super Chicken.

When my keyboard no long clacks,
When I can't figure out a plot,
When I get a rejection,
When it looks like I will quit writing', (puk, puk, puk)
There is someone waiting,
Who will hurry up and rescue you,
Just Call for Super Chicken! (puk, ack!) 

To the Super Coop!
To pick up my wife's car at the dealer.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Pitching your book. The art of the 140 Character tweet

by Susan J Berger
PitMad is coming up on March 17th 2016. What is PitMad? I am so glad you asked. It's speed dating for authors.

This information is from Brenda Drake's site.
#PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 140 character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublishedmanuscripts. ANY Genre

New Rules:
 you may only tweet three (3) pitches (they can be different pitches or the same pitch) per project for the day. You may pitch more than one project. I suggest every four hours or so tweet a different pitch. Or tweet during breakfast, lunch, & dinner breaks.
The pitch must include the hashtag #PitMad and the category (#YA, #MG, #A, #NA, #PB etc.) in the tweet. The “#” is important to include. It will sort the categories to make it easier for the agents/publishers.
For more information about Twitter Pitching visit this post by agent@carlywatters here and this post by #PitMad alum @DianaUrbanhere. And here find a post from Diana on how to filter out spam from the #PitMad feed.
What an opportunity.  3 pitches per project. Each of the three tweets must be slightly different. (easy way? Change the position of the hashtags in the post.)
First job. Compose your enticing tweet. approximately 126  characters (You have to leave room for the hashtags #pitmad #YA  That's 13 characters right there.
I searched the internet for advice on how to compost a great tweet. On Ava Jae's Blog I found this:
By the end of your Twitter pitch, readers should know a few key things about your novel: 
  • Who your MC is. 
  • What’s at stake. 
  • Essence of plot. 
  • Genre. 
  • Bonus: What makes your story unique. 
  • Bonus: Conveying the voice. 
Her example: 
Cade is unaware a secret society has been watching since he killed his gf w/ a kiss—now an assassin isn't his biggest problem #PitMad YAPar

I got more examples from Literary Agent Carly Walters' Guide to Twitter contests.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
When escaping WWII 4 children go to magical, tyrannical land through wardrobe to fulfill prophecy & save both worlds. #PitMad #SFF

The Three Little Pigs
Brothers devoured by a killer known as Big Bad Wolf, third pig fights for his life with a pile of bricks between him & death #PitMad #A

Alice in Wonderland
Girl abducted by rabbit from family picnic to fight war in magical dimension. When put on trial for her life, will she wake up? #PitMad #YA

I hopped on over to Twitter to check their lengths and try one of my own.
For composition purposes, I suggest putting your hashtags first. Then you will now how much space you need. By the way, if you are an author/illustrator you can include a picture.

  When Nat the Rat assaults Fat Cat, Fat Cat calls in the big gun - The Bat! Is peace possible? Tom & Jerry meet Elephant & Piggy
Phew! One character to spare.
Yeah but that was a picture book. How about a longer story.  
I tried my romance.
  Kate doesn't believe in HEA. Michael's sworn off women. On a trip to Ireland they can't stop meeting. Is it Fate or Leprechauns?
I am not so happy with this one. I will work it again.
   Set in Ireland. 2 stubborn people. An elderly matchmaker and a leprechaun with a mission. What could possibly go wrong?
Which one do you like better?

How to set up your Pitchmad day.
Practice your tweets on the twitter app.
Move your final tweet to an excel spreadsheet or word doc.
Copy/past it three times. Change the position of your hashtags on each tweet so that you have 3 different tweets.
Save and repeat with the next project you plan to pitch.

Start the process now. It's not that easy coming up with the tweets. If you have time, run your tweets by your critique group. They will help you.
You can set up and schedule tweets.


Step 1
Open TweetDeck, then select your Twitter account. Click the clock icon to the left of the Send button.

Step 2
Enter the date and time that you want the first tweet to post. Click "Set Time" to schedule the tweet.

Step 3
Type your tweet into the entry field, then press Enter to send the message at the scheduled date and time. Repeat for each tweet that you want to schedule. Stagger the publish times to if you have tweets that need to be published in a particular order.

Remember many of the people you want to reach are on the East Coast. So I suggest scheduling to match their 9:00 AM, noon and 4:00.

Do a few minutes off those exact times.
There are a number of tweet scheduling apps. here's another. (ten free tweets a day)

Come on. Try it. What have we got to lose?
There are more pitch contests. You can find a complete list of 2016 pitch opportunities on author John R Berkowitz's site.
Also don't forget to check #MSWL on Twitter. You can always find agent's wish lists there. I think there is a special #MSWL event on March 7
Happy selling.


Monday, February 15, 2016

St. Valentine's Day

St. Valentine's Day
by Hilde Garcia

Valentines Day has had a long-standing tradition that dates back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration celebrated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius I named this pagan festival as a feast day around 496 a. C. for Christians, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine, all of whom were martyred. One legend says that when Emperor Claudius II decided that single men were better for the army than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. The priest was believed to have defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages in secret. When Valentine was caught, he was sentenced to death.

Another story says that the imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself to the daughter of the jailer because he had fallen in love with her. Before he died, he wrote her a letter and signed it “From your Valentine,” an expression that we still use today.

Every legend emphasizes that he was sympathetic and heroic. By the Middle Ages, St. Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in most of Europe.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages. However, written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. He wrote it from the Tower of London and it is believed to be the oldest recorded valentine.

Je suis desja d’amour tanné

Ma tres doulce Valentinée…
I am already sick of love
My very gentle Valentine…

However, the his wife, the duchess, died before the poem could reach her. During the 25 years he was in prison, he wrote his wife 60 poems of love. They are considered to be the first examples of “valentines.”

Today, because of printing advances, most people don’t hand write cards, they simply buy them. I still hand write cards!  Messages are long as well as short, but all share a common bond that sentiments and emotions for someone else should be shared.

My husband wrote me a poem when we first started dating and gave it to me on Valentine's Day. I can't help thinking how many hundreds of years and millions of poems have been shared, and how it doesn't end. Our need to express love is as alive as it was for Valentine himself when he expressed his affection for his beloved while awaiting his execution.

So in the spirit of love, and may it live on forever, here’s a list of some popular picture books, middle grade stories, and young adult novels that explore the spirit of Valentine’s Day and the theme of love.

Fee free to add to the list!