Category Archives: Chronicles of the Sentinels

Writing Critique Groups

Hi everyone!

First I want to apologize for how long it has been since I wrote a blog entry.  Two weeks to the day!  :-\  It has been a very busy couple of weeks, and a bit of a roller coaster.  Okay more than just a bit!

But, on the bright side of things, I have completed the revisions to Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, and only need to finish up a query letter and synopsis, and then I’m ready to send my pages to Ms. Diver!  I’ll post the manuscript’s stats at the bottom of this article :)

On to the subject matter for today’s article!  And this has a lot to do with becoming published and/or finding an agent.

The Other Half of the Job

Now before anyone says anything, no, I am not down-playing the importance of writing skill.  No matter what, you must have a quality piece of writing in order to have a chance at either mainstream publication or making your self-published work sell.

Having said that, I have learned this year just how important it is for a writer to get out from behind the pen and actively work on getting your name out there, or going out and meeting other writers, meeting publishers and agents face to face.

In general, writers are by nature introverted to some extent.  (This is not a universal truth, however!)  And I used to have the naive impression that all writers had to do was write, and then leave the rest up to the ‘professionals.’

I was wrong.  I’ve been learning all about what a writer should do beyond writing this year, and honestly is part of the reason I started this blog, and started my facebook page.  Whether you’re self-publishing or going main-stream, it is chiefly the writer’s responsibility to promote themselves and their work, to get their name out there.

Image Source - RMFW.org
Image Source – RMFW.org

Beyond even that, however, is the ‘mingling’ part.  And yes, RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference and my experiences there is a big reason behind tonight’s blog!

If you haven’t read it yet, read my blog that details my experiences there!  I met so many different writers, which in and of itself was incredible!  More than that, I got to meet editors and agents, and pitch to one, which led directly to finding an agent interested in my work!

The lesson learned there was that my one weekend at the conference was far, far more productive than cold-mailing query letters out.  Now of course, there is no guarantee that you’ll have any success going to such conferences.  You really must have a good product to sell, be a person an agent or editor wants to work with, and have a good pitch!!

There’s also something else that I am going to highly recommend all writers do…

Writing Critique Groups

kevin-wolfWhile I was at the conference, I was encouraged by Kevin Wolf to join a local critique group hosted by RMFW.  I’ve now been to two sessions, and I have to say that it is an incredibly helpful resource!

Not only do you get to meet and collaborate with other writers regularly, but you get multiple eyes on pieces of your work, which allows for a wide range of view points, opinions, and suggestions!  Plus if you’re lucky, you’ll have published writers in your group that could potentially give you advice in other aspects of the industry!

Having said that, I should caution that not all critique groups are alike.  I was lucky to have found a great group my first time out, but I’ve heard horror stories.  So I would recommend checking around, and if your first venture into a critique group doesn’t go well, look for another one, but don’t give up!

I know that those of you who live in a small town might not have such a group.  I have two recommendations.  First, there are online critique groups, so just do a search on the internet!  Second, try to create one in your area!  I would be willing to bet that there are at least a few writers even in the small towns :)  And even if that’s not the case, it can’t hurt to try!

So what do you all think?  Are there other resources ‘out there’ that you would recommend on top of this?  And if you do go out and find a critique group, or are already part of one, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them!  So please leave a comment below :)

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy Revision

So as promised, here are the stats for the revised version of Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, now marketed as an Adult Modern Fantasy novel :)

Word Count: 75,237
Page Count: 231

Photo Source - http://mainlineoptix.com
Photo Source – http://mainlineoptix.com

It’s a marginal increase, not the 80,000 words I was wanting, but I was grateful for the opportunity to flesh it out without worrying about making it too long.  I feel like anything extra added to the story would be arbitrary at this point.  This increase doesn’t come from big chunks tacked on here and there, either, every single chapter has been modified to some extent, little modifications here and there.

This includes fleshing out Alycia’s character more, so I am very pleased with that :)

I’ll be sure to let everyone know when I finish my query and synopsis and send it out!  Thanks for reading.

-Jon Wasik

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Chronicles of the Sentinels – Stellar View

Hi everyone!

Today’s excerpt is a little special.  As I’ve been going through my latest revision before sending 30 pages to Ms. Diver, I’ve started running the NASA HDEV in the background, to give myself a great view while reading.

Tonight I caught a sunset while reviewing chapter 12, and thought I’d share it with you all, while at the same time giving you a full page of an excerpt :)

In this scene, Emmi is in her cat form, which I have posted an excerpt from before.  This is after that scene.  She is exploring the Sentinel facility, when she comes across a most curious section…

(Click the image for the full-size)

excerpt-nasaI hope you all enjoyed this!  It’s definitely more of an excerpt than I usually give, with the bonus of some eye candy ;)

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish my revisions today like I had hoped.  I came down sick on Friday and ended up doing next to nothing on Saturday except lay in bed :(

But that’s okay, it’ll give me a chance to finish this, write up a query letter, and get that query letter reviewed by a critique group I’ve started attending!  :D  (more on that in a follow-up article later this week)

I hope you all had a great weekend!  Thanks for reading :)

-Jon Wasik

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Target Audience

Hi everyone!

As many of you read in my last article, agent Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency asked me to send her 30 pages and a synopsis after my pitch at the Colorado Gold conference!  I’m still so excited!  I also promised to tell you all more about what happened in that pitch, so here we are, as promised :)

The story actually started the day before my pitch to Ms. Diver.  Saturday, when I attended a class she hosted called “When is it YA?”  I discovered something: in my attempts to write a Young Adult novel, I had actually written an Adult Fantasy.  (She recently posted her presentation on her blog, check it out!)

Before anyone gets the wrong impression (too late?) I want to clear up some definitions here.  In the publishing industry, an adult fantasy does not mean it is a sexually-oriented novel.  That would actually fall under erotic literature.  Adult fantasy means the fiction is targeted for an audience 18 years or older.

As I sat in the class, one thing started to become apparent: Chronicles of the Sentinel was not, by the industry’s definition, a YA story.  The most obvious reason was that the 3 main characters are 22 years old.  While a 22 year old person is actually considered a young adult, in the publishing industry, YA ends at 18.

University of Colorado - Denver campus
University of Colorado – Denver campus

More than that, it’s also what the story covers.  While Chris, Emmi and Alycia are college students, the majority of the story does not take place at school.  In fact you only see the college campus in chapter 1, and that’s it.  They are very much college-age individuals dealing with personal and interpersonal issues you might expect from college students, but these issues also easily bleed through into the post-college realm.

After discussing this with Ms. Diver during my pitch, I was surprised when she told me that marketing CotS for adults rather than YA was a good thing.  It has become difficult to sell YA Fantasy in the current market, but Adult Fantasy is selling.  In other words, it would be easier to get CotS published as an Adult Fantasy at this time.

From Just Right to Too Short

This has one unfortunate side effect: at just over 72,000 words, CotS:Legacy was just the right length for a YA novel.  But for adult fiction, it falls short of the generally accepted minimum of 80,000 words.

That means I have some work to do.  Ms. Diver pointed out that it could still work at 72k, but if possible to expand on it before sending her my 30 pages and synopsis.  So that is what I have set out to do!

For starters, I’m reading through the novel chapter-by-chapter and, where I feel it is needed or appropriate, I am enriching the language.  While I’m only 4 chapters in as of last night, I’m already realizing a mistake I had made: thinking that I needed to keep the language super simple for YA readers.

Image Source - lordsofanthair.com
Image Source – lordsofanthair.com

The fact of the matter is, young readers read up in age (a fact I learned at the conference.)  I know I did, I was reading adult-targeted fiction since before I even started writing.  I remember reading Lord of the Rings at age 11, and while I found it excruciatingly boring in parts (which I still do, even though I love it!), I devoured it and finished very quickly!

I should have never written down in the first place.  So in all honesty, going back through CotS:Legacy now, I’m really glad to be able to make the small changes and additions.  I don’t know that doing so by itself will make the novel reach 80k words, but it’ll be worth it, and so far in 4 chapters I’ve increased the word count by about 500.

Alycia’s Development

Photo Source - http://mainlineoptix.com
Photo Source – http://mainlineoptix.com

One thing I’d like to do is increase Alycia’s character development.  Like Emmi and Chris, she does go through a change in book 1, but it is much less pronounced, and I felt in the end that I hadn’t given her as much attention as I should have.

So that is something else I’ve been doing as I’ve gone along.  I’ve given her more attention, let her come alive as all good characters do, and this will be an additional focus throughout the novel.

I do not want to add anything arbitrary, but I want readers to have the chance to fall in love with her!  So instead of massive sections here and there that would ruin the flow of the story as it stands, I’m adding tidbits here and there, little character nuances to give her life.

Deadline?

Ms. Diver did not give me a deadline for when I should submit the pages to her, but this is my life, and just as I did while I first wrote CotS, I’m treating it like a 2nd full-time job.  So I’m giving myself a deadline of completing this revision by Sunday.  I don’t know that I’ll actually succeed, but it is an attainable goal.

I’d like to try to then read through the novel one more time, to ensure I didn’t mess up the flow.  Right now, it seems like it flows very well, and beta readers seem to agree with that!  I don’t want to sacrifice that flow just for an extra thousand words.

Final Thought – I’m Relieved It’s Not YA

Some of you might be surprised to read that, but honestly I’m glad to be writing in Adult and not YA, for one important reason: as I’ve started developing book 2, I’ve realized that fitting that story into a YA-length novel would be difficult at best.

But with 80 to 90k words to work with, I think book 2 will fit the bill perfectly, and will leave me room to develop all 3 of the protagonists as deeply as I want :)

As always, I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

Colorado Gold Conference 2014!

Hi everyone!

So yesterday the Colorado Gold Conference hosted by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers concluded, and it was an amazing conference!  I don’t even know where to begin!  (and some voice in my head just went “From the beginning!  Duh.”)

Image Source - http://the-croods.wikia.com
Image Source – http://the-croods.wikia.com

It was a whirlwind weekend packed full of epic goodness, I met so many incredible people and learned so much!  Plus, there is some really good news about Chronicles of the Sentinels!  Shall we call that foreshadowing and leave it until the end?  As the good Belt said, “Dun dun duuunnnnn!”

There’s a lot to talk about, so bear with me!

Thursday Night – The Newbies

One thing I can say about the members of RMFW, they were all incredibly welcoming to all of us newbies!  Starting with the night before the conference actually began.  Kevin Wolf had sent out an invitation for any of the newbies showing up at the conference Thursday night to meet in the hotel lobby, and about fifteen of us showed up.

Image Source - www.westindenverboulder.com
Image Source – http://www.westindenverboulder.com

I was a bit nervous at first, but as I came down to the  lobby and found a few of the other newbies sitting and chatting with Kevin, I was immediately welcomed by such warm, open people!  Furthermore some of the bigger names for RMFW happened by while we were chatting and stopped to welcome us as well :)

When everyone was set and Kevin had given us some great tips, we went to the bar and had drinks together, exchanged business cards, and had a great time!  While I had been nervous about the conference before, that night made me feel so welcomed and so confident that I had made the right choice to come!

Friday – Masters and Coaches

Something I actually didn’t realize, because I didn’t actually read carefully enough: the conference didn’t technically start in the AM on Friday.  There were, however, Master Classes as they were called that started bright and early, 8AM.  When I found out they were optional and cost extra, I happily paid for the “So You Want To Write a Series” class, and I was not disappointed!

Image Source - www.smmirror.com
Image Source – http://www.smmirror.com

I learned so much from speaker Susan Spann!  This was a particularly helpful class for me because I have always written my stories as series, starting with my fan fiction.  I seriously don’t know if I’m even capable of writing stand-alone novels!  (Although that could be an interesting future challenge.)  I know that what I learned from her will help me immensely in the days to come.

Shortly after that 4 hour class and a quick lunch (okay that was a lie, I forgot to eat lunch that day…) I had my pitch coaching session with Heather Webb.  Naturally I was extremely nervous, and although I had prepared a pitch several days prior, when I sat down in front of her, my mind went completely blank!

Photo Source - http://www.heatherwebb.net
Photo Source – http://www.heatherwebb.net

But that was okay, because she started asking me questions about the characters and story and helped me come up with a much, much better pitch!  More than that, as soon as I started telling her about Chronicles of the Sentinels, her eyes lit up, and she was immediately hooked!  That is an awesome feeling when an established author who writes in a completely different genre finds your story idea intriguing :D

From there, I attended a couple of seminars, including an uplifting “Rejection is a Four Letter Word” seminar :)

Friday Dinner – I Found My Home

Image Source - www.westindenverboulder.com
Image Source – http://www.westindenverboulder.com

Friday night’s dinner was just as phenomenal!  I ended up sitting at Heather’s table and met some phenomenal Historical Fiction writers.  More than that, however, was the feeling that had started to build that day, and entered my conscious mind at dinner.

This is going to sound cheesy, but: I found my people!  lol.  Seriously, though, everything that had happened, I felt like I had found people who could truly understand me.  I felt like I had found a home, of sorts.  The funny thing is, about a half hour after I had that very thought, someone up on stage said something very similar :)

It occurred to me that I don’t actually know many writers in my personal life, or at least, I didn’t before now.  To be surrounded by 400 of them?!  And unlike the attitude I got from certain people at a certain university I attended almost a decade ago, everyone from every genre, including Literary Fiction, were open, warm, curious, and creative.  Everyone accepted everyone else with open arms.

Why?  Because we’re all writers.  And I’ve learned just how special that really is :)

Saturday – Pitch #1

Saturday was another full day, 14 hours non-stop just like Friday, but it was a truly nerve-wracking day!  Saturday was when I had my first pitch!  *gulp*  Worse than that, it wasn’t until 11:20AM, which meant I had the whole morning to freak out over it!

Thankfully my fellow writers came to my rescue :)  When I entered that waiting room, the first thought I had was, “I’ve seen photos of things like this, when actors and actresses are waiting to audition for roles.”  I sat down, and looked at the person next to me, who looked as nervous as I felt.  So what did I do?  “Hi, I’m Jon!”  Just like I’d already done dozens of times at the conference.

Image Source - rmfw.org
Image Source – rmfw.org

Striking up random conversation with everyone around me soothed my nerves, and seemed to help them with the same :)  When the time came, I was still nervous, of course, but the editor I pitched to, Kerri Buckley, was extremely friendly and patient!  And while Kerri was not one who represented Fantasy, she encouraged me to submit to her coworker, and said she would tell him to expect me :)

After that I had lunch, where I met even more awesome people, and finished the day of conferences optimistic and quite happy!

Saturday Night – Who Needs 2 Forks?!

The dinner Saturday night was probably the most formal dinner I had ever attended.  I’m not kidding, 2 forks, 2 knives, a dainty looking spoon, and some…interesting fancy meals.  I felt wholly out of place in my Hawaiian shirt and jeans.  But, as always, writers came to the rescue, and those at my table made me feel quite welcome :)

Image Source - www.ninc.com
Image Source – http://www.ninc.com

The Keynote Speaker was Mark Coker of the famous Smash Words website, an insanely fast-growing self-publishing eBook website!  His speech was pretty inspiring in some parts, while other parts were a bit degrading to traditionally published authors, but all in all I was impressed.  And there was one thing he said that I really loved hearing: printed books are not going away!  There is an equilibrium being created between eBooks and printed novels, and for someone who has always dreamed of seeing a hard-backed copy of my novels, that’s good news :D

Sunday – The Big Day!

Image Source - twitter.com
Image Source – twitter.com

Sunday was when I had my 2nd pitch to the agent I was most looking forward to meeting: Lucienne Diver of Knight Agency!  And thankfully, I was considerably less nervous after the incredible amount of support and interest I garnered from everyone throughout the conference!

I was totally unprepared for what happened next: I went in, met Lucienne, and at her request I dove right into my pitch.  A minute later, it was done.  Without blinking, she handed me her card and said, “Ok, I’d like you to send me 30 pages and a synopsis.”  I was completely blown away, and I can only imagine the look of surprised glee on my face!!  She wanted to see my work!!!!!  An agent was interested in my novel!  Wait, let me repeat that in it’s own paragraph for effect:

Lucienne Diver wants to see my work!

It was exactly what I had hoped for!  :)  There is more to that short, 10 minute meeting with her, but I’m going to save that for my next blog article: it deals with genre, target audience, and something about Chronicles of the Sentinels that I am most excited to share :D

After attending one more session about Theme, there was a final lunch with another inspiring speech, where I got to say goodbye to all of the fantastic friends I had met.  I have to admit, as exhausted as I was by then, I was really sad to have to go.  I felt like I was leaving my new home, just when I had found it.

What’s Next?

Next, I have some work to do on Chronicles (again, more to come on that later!  This is already a too-long article…)  I am looking forward to submitting those 30 pages and the synopsis to Lucienne, and who knows, in a couple of years, my first novel may very well be on bookshelves!

No, scratch that, I’m not going to say may.  I’m going to say will.  In a couple of years, Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy will be on bookshelves all over the nation!  The power of positive thinking, right?  ;)

If you’ve made it this far, kudos!  This turned out to be my longest blog article yet, but there is so much material for more articles.

To anyone who attended the event, and to RMFW, thank you for an amazing weekend, and for making me feel at home!  :)

-Jon Wasik

CotS – Legacy Chapter 14 Excerpt

Hi everyone!

Today’s excerpt comes from another chapter in Emmi’s point of view.  I developed Emmi’s character about as much as I did the main character, Chris, and I think she’s someone a lot of young adult women will be able to connect with.  At least, that is my hope.

What Claire might look like (Image Source - Google Images)
What Claire might look like (Image Source – Google Images)

In this chapter, she is confronted by Nabu’s current consort, Claire.  I don’t want to reveal the circumstances behind this confrontation, but suffice it to say, Emmi is at a considerable disadvantage here, and Claire knows it.

As you’ve all seen, I’ve used photos of real people (some actors/actresses, some not) to kind of show what a character might look like.  For Claire, she is a former Sentinel turned to Nabu’s side through manipulation and deceit.  I could imagine Katee Sackhoff playing her because of the actress’s ability to be strong, both physically and emotionally, but also because she has a very human side, she does feel emotion.  In Battlestar Galactica, I think she performed that complicated role very well!

———————————————————————————-

Emmi frowned and shook her head, “Why Chris? What the hell is so special about him?”

“Oh it isn’t just him,” Claire turned fully towards her. “It’s all of you. He just fears Chris the most.” Emmi looked at her in surprise, and a moment later Claire closed her eyes and clenched her teeth. She probably realized she shouldn’t have let Emmi know about that.

“Why would he fear Chris?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Claire shook her head and opened her eyes to glare at Emmi. “Just know that he needs all three of you.  And I will make sure,” she took one menacing step towards her, “that his infatuation for you wanes, and he will sacrifice you.”

———————————————————————————-

Image Source - Google Images
Image Source – Google Images

I hope you all enjoyed this!  I’m not sure I’ll be posting many more excerpts, I’m worried about saturating too much, like when previews give away too many important plot points (for instance, Terminator Salvation’s previews ruined what could have been one of the greatest surprises in the franchise!)

What do you all think?  Do you want to see more, or would you rather wait for the novel to be published?

On a related note, I’ve heard some feedback from beta readers lately, and it has all been good!  I am so excited to hear that, everything they’ve said was exactly the kinds of reactions I wanted from readers :D  I can’t wait to share this novel with the world!

Thanks for reading :)
-Jon

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Book 2 Already?!

Hi everyone!

Yep, you read the title right: without even meaning to, I started developing book 2 of Chronicles of the Sentinels today.  I couldn’t help it!

Image Source - http://www.rmfw.org/
Image Source – http://www.rmfw.org/

In fact I actually know the very basic story books 2 and 3 will have, but today ideas just started streaming without my even wanting them to, lol.  I mean I never complain, but I had intended to wait to work on book 2 until after the Writer’s Conference!

As happened with book 2 of The Sword of Dragons, I think this one will end up being longer than book 1, though by how much it’s impossible to say at this point.  However, I am looking forward to it already, I’ve had some really exciting ideas that I can’t wait to write about!

Having said that, I don’t want to focus too much on book 2 in my blog yet.  I want the focus to remain on book 1 right now, for several reasons, not the least of which I want to keep hype up about it for its eventual publication (I am highly optimistic about finding an agent for this one :) )

I haven’t heard back from any beta readers yet, so I’m very anxious and excited!

Anyway, tonight’s blot article is short, I apologize for that.  I also want to apologize ahead of time, because for the next two weeks I am going to be exceedingly busy, so my blog posts may be even fewer and far between than they were while writing Chronicles!

Never-the-less, I intend to keep everyone updated on my preparation for pitching Legacy at the conference, as well as how the conference itself goes!

Thanks for reading!
-Jon

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy excerpt

Hi everyone!

I continue to find it difficult to pick a passage to post on here, because I always want it to be something interesting, but I don’t want to give away the best parts of the novel!

For instance, I had thought about avoiding any excerpts that revealed what Emmi’s powers were, but then I remembered I had already revealed that in an early article about Chronicles.  So today’s excerpt comes from chapter 12, and is one of many chapters from Emmi’s perspective :)

Image source - Google Images
Image source – Google Images

To those who weren’t already following my blog when I revealed it, Emmi’s powers grant her the ability to transform into animals.  I’ve heard different terms for this, including shapeshifting (but to me that suggests more than just animals) and animorph, which is actually the name of a sci fi series.

Anyway, in this scene, Emmi has been exploring the Sentinel facility in the middle of the night.  When the leader of the Sentinels, Tom, nearly catches her in a part of the facility she isn’t allowed in, she turns herself into a cat, and hides in one of the labs.  The excerpt picks up just after Tom leaves the lab.  Emmi is hiding under a shelf behind several bottles of cleaning solvents.

———————————————————————————–

Curiously, she found she could hear his boot steps for a long time, and she realized that her cat ears gave her better hearing. It was definitely a perk, and would allow her to sneak around a little easier.

After she was convinced he was far enough away, she slipped out. Her tail brushed up against a nearly-empty bottle and knocked it over, and when she heard it fall, she jumped three feet high in fright!

When she had collected her wits, she slowly made her way out of the lab. She stayed close to the wall, and felt like she was walking on the tips of her cat toes. She felt her ears move in various directions as she picked up tiny little noises. The novelty of moving ears made her want to smile again, and once again her new body translated that into a purr.

She investigated each of the open labs, and her curiosity intensified. The cliché ‘curiosity killed the cat’ came to mind, but she humorously thought to herself, but satisfaction brought her back. And besides, I have nine lives now.

———————————————————————————–

There you are, a quick peak into Emmi’s experience as a cat.  I hope you all liked it!  I feel like these peaks and glimpses into the world of Chronicles barely does it justice, but it’s still fun to post them and hear what everyone thinks of them :)  So please, comment below and tell me what you think!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon