The Handmaid’s Tale gets a sequel

Testament.jpgNot to sound ungrateful, but after the success of the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, does it really come as a surprise that Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel?

Originally published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale was a standalone story – in fact, Offred’s story was framed as a collection of tapes found by an archaeologist in the far, far future. So it makes sense within that framing device that Margaret Atwood’s next installment, The Testaments, skips over to follow three completely new(?) female characters 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale ends. (Will we ever find out what happened to Offred? Unlikely. And I’m okay with that.)

Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] First Person Time Travel, and why it’s a bad thing in blurb-writing.

When in doubt, use a third person point of view. It’s that black dress that never goes out of style. But sometimes, you venture into the world of magenta skirts and bright blue collar shirts, and the question of place and time rears its head. Author Sonya Lano came to us with the just such a fashion statement when she sent in a short first-person-point-of-view blurb of her Fantasy novel, “Dance of the Tavyn.”

And in this pitch slap, we’re gonna talk about how you too can be a bright yellow canary and rock a first person point of view.

But first, the blurb itself:

As always, my very first instinct when seeing a pitch (any pitch) is to start trimming, rewording, and tweaking the word choice and sentence structure, even as I start in with everyone’s favorite floating canary bubble questions. Here, however, the usual approach just wasn’t working. Something was off.

It wasn’t the story: political intrigue, silver-haired assassins, what more can you ask for in romantic fantasy? It wasn’t the word choices: a few things to tweak for clarity, sure, but it got the story across. It wasn’t the rhetorical question at the end–though anyone who follows my pitch slaps knows I am all but allergic to them. It wasn’t the first person point of view: different, but fantastic dramatic potential.

Pause. No, back up. It was the first person point of view. No, not the fact that the pitch was written in first person, but rather what the use of the first person meant for the story. Continue reading

Pitch Slapped: Who am I pitching to? Publishers, reviewers, and readers, oh my.

A few weeks ago, Madison Woods came to us with a 25-word story pitch to be prodded and yanked as part of our Pitch Slapped series. She’s planning on sending her book out to a publisher soon, and even as she sent her blurb to the sacrificial altar, she asked us…

“Do you think that what publishers and editors look for in a pitch is the same as what readers judge by when they are deciding if they’d want to read a book? Will the same qualities make a reader want to read as make a publisher ask for pages?”

The short answer is yes. Or rather, “almost.” Well, it’s “kinda.” Here’s the longer chirp on the matter… Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] You only get three seconds to make a first impression.

One of my grad school professors told me that any report I handed in had to tell him everything he needed to know in 30 seconds, 3 minutes, and 30 minutes. But when you’re pitching your novel, you’re not writing a 50-page report and you don’t always get 30 seconds. Sometimes, you get 25 words and three seconds to convince the reader your book is on their to-buy list.

Madison Woods, Pitch Slap veteran and the host of “Vote for it: Would You Buy it?” series, came to us with a 25-word summary of her story.

“I’m planning to pitch my book to a publisher in October, and I realize I will have time to give more than the 25 words, but I want the first words I say to hook their interest.”

Let’s take a look at those words:

In this Pitch Slapped article, I’m going to give the blurb a good pecking and talk about the importance of appropriate and deliberate language decisions.  Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] Getting Reviews: Go bold, get noticed

We get a lot of review requests. While we read each and every one of them, all of the dystopian YA and vampire paranormal romance stories start to bleed together because the pitches simply are not distinct enough. Most of them get lost in the abyss; very few stand out enough for us to talk amongst ourselves about pursuing the read.

So when I woke up to a request forwarded to my personal email from CanaryTheFirst, I didn’t need her opening line of “laaaawl” to tell me it was going to be something pretty special. Continue reading

[Small Chirp] Publishers conspire to overcharge for ebooks?

The US Department of Justice has hit Apple and five of the nation’s largest publishers with an antitrust lawsuit, alleging that they colluded to bump up the price of new ebooks, costing consumers millions. Publisher control over retail prices is made possible by a shift towards a pricing model where publishers set book price and retailers take a commission. The conspiracy itself is purportedly aimed at Amazon, which tends to price ebooks at $9.99–three to five dollars under the price rise ($12.99-14.99) the publishers allegedly caused.

Publishers involved:

  • Hachette
  • HarperCollins
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Macmillan
  • Penguin

Continue reading

[ Pitch Slapped ] Selling the story without the blurb

Before the writer even gets into the plot of their novel, they give a paragraph that we at tCR like to call a “Concept Pitch.” It’s a place where introductions happen, the basic concept of the novel is laid out, genre comparisons are made, and–in general–the part of the pitch where mistakes abound.

Here is a recent email we received in our inbox:

“Hello,

I am an indie writer, according to descriptions I have been reading on the internet lately, and I think I like that much more than just being someone who put her book up on Kindle.  I came to your site while searching for sites that are willing to accept submissions from said indie writers like myself. My twitter handle is WordsWithDani.

I’ve recently published the first volume of The Duck And The Doe series. It is a historical fiction/horror/murder mystery/romance told from first person POV of a two-hundred year old immortal who had a dry wit and love/hate relationship with the mistress that he damned along side him. They are not vampires. I cannot strees that point enough. i keep finding myself lumped into that whole “paranormal romance” but the whole premise is really more of launchpad to explore other issue like the accerlation of technology and society in the past 200 years and how relationships of any nature are not cleanly cut little cookies. Immortality cannot be invoked without some sort of magical mumbo jumbo.

According to the Amazon product description-“

At this point, the author dives into the official blurb. But the first impression of the novel has already been created. Continue reading

[ Small Chirps ] Writers, if you won’t speak up for your writing, who will?

When 11-year-old Kahlo Smith saw that the rules of NPR’s Three Minute Fiction contest excluded minors, she had two options. One, and the one of least resistance, was to let out a deep breath of disappointment and close the browser. Instead, she sent the contest organizers a letter to them know about her interest, ask why they had the 18-and-over-only rule, and tell them about her 600-word story.

Today, All Things Considered featured her question and her short piece of fiction on their program. The age rule stays, but Smith will be receiving an autographed copy of Luis Alberto Urrea’s most recent historic novel, Queen of America, and some NPR-related items for her story. You can read her entry and the full story at the NPR article, Minor Details: Three-Minute Fiction’s Age Rules.

For every thousands of young (and adult) writers who look at the rules (or at the impenetrable design of a publisher site, or the distracted and busy life of an agent), there are one or two individuals who will be willing to put themselves out there and write that letter or ask that question. And in the end, that will set them apart.

So this Saint Patrick’s Day, make the resolution to make your own luck.

__

Related Reads:

Small Chirp: The Book as Artifact

From the desk of Melissa, the Library Canary:

There’s so much talk about the future of books lately. As readers turn increasingly to electronic alternatives to paper and the internet book-trade, the usual fingernail-nibbling questions emerge. What will happen to the book?  What will happen to brick-and-mortar libraries and bookstores?

Maybe books will become our bricks and mortar.

A recent trip to Vancouver, BC had me pondering the idea of the book as artifact. In Vancouver, book-oracles seemed to whisper from every street corner, prophesying the destinies of our discarded, unwanted and remaindered books. Here is what they showed me:

The Book Beyond Art:

An art installation at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia suggests one possibility. Continue reading