I'm author ELLE STRAUSS and welcome to my website!
I write fun, lower Young Adult (teen) fiction to do with whimsical things like time-travel, fairies and merfolk.
When my serious side peeks out, she's called LEE STRAUSS. She likes to write upper YA about real things that have happened in the past, or made up things that could quite possibly happen in the future.
This blog is about books, mine and other fab authors', but occasionally I'll share about other topics.
Thanks for dropping by!
Thursday, July 28, 2011
The thing is, I don't remembering ordering it or winning it, but I did stroke it wistfully when I was last at the book store.
I'm so stoked to read it.
Why? Because it's a YA Time Travel book. And it's written by the German author Kerstin Gier.
I love Time Travel and Germany. Double win.
Also, you may or may not know this, but I write YA Time Travel. Have been since before it started trending, so of course, I'm curious.
This book is doing super well with lots of buzz everywhere. Plus the cover is fantastic! So can't wait to read this.
Thanks Mail Faerie!!
Monday, July 25, 2011
Your experience sounds excruciatingly painful. So glad you took your agent's advice!
Freaking Amazing is definitely a technical term and correctly used by you. :) Yay, for alternate routes!
Written in the fall and released in February--that's fast. Good for you! All the best with PULL on subs. We're rooting for you.
As Liam’s story unfolds, Natalie realizes she’s more connected to him than she ever thought–and not everyone she counts as a friend can be trusted.
Thanks for stopping by, Anne. If you have any questions for Anne or me, let us know in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Monday I woke up at home and found out I was leaving for Honolulu the next day. A spur of the moment trip my good friend booked while I was sleeping. I couldn’t very well say no, could I? Would you? I haven’t done something so spontaneous in a long time, and I used to be a very spontaneous person in my younger, unencumbered years. So this feels really good. When you come from Canada, there’s just something about palm trees that sooths the soul. Especially in November.
But the coolest part so far happened on the plane ride on the long, no frills, Westjet flight from Vancouver. A gentlemen, (he later told me his name was Cliff) sat alone beside me in the isle seat. He was thin with grey hair and deep lines in his leathery face. His eyes were narrow and runny and he talked with his knarly knuckled hands.
He lives near Toronto and two years ago he and his wife of 58 years were in a car accident. It was his fault and his wife died. In the 58 years he and Shirley were married, they vacationed in Waikiki twenty two times. They were planning to go again for their 60th anniversary which is why he was traveling to Honolulu by himself at 83 years of age—to scatter her ashes.
He told us, me and my friend Donna, about how he had met his wife as a member of the British Royal Navy on loan to the Canadian Navy in the war. He was eighteen and she, fifteen. They got married sometime after the war,( he never moved back to England,) and he worked many years for Canada post. They had three children, loved to skate and hike together, traveled together and had a very happy life. He spoke of her with such love and admiration, it made my heart ache.
And it made me thankful. For my life—my wonderful husband, terrific kids and the adventurous life I’ve had so far. I hope that if I’m blessed with a long life like Cliff, I will be as spry, and aware as he is. And that I’d be able to forgive who I need to along the way, especially if it is myself.
So what do you think? Isn't that romantic?!
Monday, July 18, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
No one ever dreamed that our beloved bookstores would be affected in any big way.
Boy, were we wrong.
Check out this article by the Wall Street Journal, Borders on the Brink of Liquidation.
Is it possible that 399 stores employing 11,000 people are positioned to shut down? Disappear forever?
I don't even live in the States and this concerns me. I mean, I may go there sometimes and where will I shop for books?
What can bookstores do to survive? Here in Canada, we have a book chain called Chapters. They sell books and a lot of other non-book stuff.
Fellow Canuck, Austin James recently posed the question on his blog, Should Book Stores Sell More than Just Books? And if so, at what point does the book store just become a department store that has a book section?
No easy answers here.
Which brings me to my confession. I LIKE E-BOOKS. I do. And I don't even own a kindle. Or Nook, or other legitimate e-reader. I'm reading my books on my i-phone.
Why do I like it? I don't mind the small screen, really. To me it's like reading a magazine article. Once you get into the story, you don't even notice you're reading a really long column.
I can buy my books in an instant and (usually) for much cheaper. This is helpful to my budget and to my luggage weight when I travel.
Even if I don't read what I buy, I don't sweat it. It's not a big investment. Cheaper than a Starbucks coffee. (Actually, something feels off about that, but anywho...) And it never goes away unless I delete it so I can always go back to it later. The Shelves Never Get Full.
I know I'm sounding kind of two faced here. I want my cake and eat it too. I want my e-books and the bookstore in my town. I love visiting books, stroking them, reading back copy, admiring covers, and on occasion, plopping a twenty down on the counter to buy one.
Readers aren't the only ones concerned about the shrinking bookstore trend. Agents and Editors are pretty unhappy about it as well, for obvious reasons. Plus they are facing the accompanying exodus by published authors to join the e-publishing revolution. (See Passive Guy's post-in the link- for more on this). They're starting to get cut out of the equation and the subsequent piece of the financial pie. Agents and Editors are busy trying to figure out their changing roles in this new publishing landscape. Check out Laura Paulings post on Agents as Publishers to get more info on the debate.
I don't know the answer to this one. What do you think? Is there a way to have the best of both the e-book and print book worlds?
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
These are the steps. 1) Who it's about. 2) The Circumstance. (You could also call this the situation or world set-up) 3)The Conflict. 4) The Twist (or hook).
Dear Ms. Agent:
Two years ago, standing before her dead sister, sixteen-year-old Quinn Montgomery vowed to never fall in love. This first sentence is a little awkward. We think the story is about a 16 year old girl, but then right away we find out that she's eighteen. Best to name only one age. Let's establish who this book is about. Eighteen year old Quinn Montgomery vowed never to fall in love. That statement alone is strong enough. That is, after all, what killed
Now we're ready for the conflict Self-assured and utterly carefree, Torrin wants nothing more than to prove what happened to Quinn’s sister won’t happen to Quinn. So when he coaxes her into a “relationship,” Quinn plays along, assuring herself that spending time with him—even though she’s still hiding her true identity—is just for kicks. These sentences hint at the conflict, but could be more concise. Torrin promises not to break Quinn's heart. Quinn is not ready to risk her sisters's fate by allowing herself to fall in love. She convinces herself their affair is just for kicks. Even though she's growing attached to Torrin, she can't bring herself to reveal her true identity (as a nude model?).
But is it?
Facing off with the one at school who’s learned of her peculiar means to earn money and battling threats made to turn her in for indecent conduct, this is a conflict plot point and should be part of the previous paragraph if it's important.Quinn must confront her own heart and challenge her deepest fears about love. And it turns out loving someone isn’t so terrifying after all. But, would it still be easy if the person you’ve given your heart turns out to be the one who stripped your family of everything? Destroyed the Montgomery cachet? Basically ruined your life?This paragraph is trying to say too much. This is where we want the twist. Just when she thinks it's safe to fall in love, she finds out Torrin is responsible for the loss of her family's fortune. Can their love survive?
ROW ME AWAY is a young adult novel, complete at 63,000 words. Again, I prefer this info up front, but it's okay to put it here too.
A teacher of eight years, I hold a Master’s Degree in Education. I have served as editor and editorial writer for the Butterfly Facts, and have recently reached the semi-finals of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest with a separate manuscript. I am also the founder of YA Stands, a group blog focused on young adult reading and writing. Great bio snipit.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
|Where it is.|
Getting to Italy from Romania is pretty inexpensive, but once you get to Italy, prepare to empty your pockets, and getting to Capri is no different.You have to take a ferry to get there, then you have take another boat to tour around the island, and then you pay again to take a little row boat into the Blue Groto.
Which you so totally want to to. Don't leave before you get to the short video at the bottom. You'll be amazed.
We only spent an afternoon there, so considered this the condensed tour. Actually, I never thought I'd be blogging about my trip so I never paid attention the way I would've other wise, but here are a few pictures.
|Those are DH's legs in the middle of the rower's legs!|
Once inside you are greeted with waters so blue you can't believe it. The rower guy (I'm sure there's a proper title but I don't know it) then starts singing, which sounds pretty sweet. Of course, the cave gets a little crowded after awhile, and with all the rowers singing, it does feel a bit like a Disney ride.
And just like that it's over. Still, it was fun and worth doing.
Afterward when the island ferry successfully delivered us back to the bay, we hiked up to town center for lunch. It's several stories worth of stairs. There's a reason people take the train up, but I'm glad we walked. You get a better feel of what it's really like for the locals who live there.
|View from the top.|
Friday, July 8, 2011
To review, a query should include these four things: who the story is about, the circumstance, the conflict, and the twist.
Dear Ms or Mr. Agent:
When twelve-year-old Roze agrees to retrieve an ancient magic stolen from Lithuania’s Merfolk, she’s desperate to free her mother, kidnapped by the Mermaid Queen.Right away we know who it's about and a little bit about the circumstance. But after battling sprites, tricksters, Gypsies, and a mind-cleansing forest clan, Roze is having second thoughts about giving up her newfound powers. Pay the Queen ransom? Bah! She’d rather rule the Baltic Sea. The circumstance. We know right away that she has a new power and it's controlling her rather than the other way around. Very good.
Undeterred by warnings from friends and family, Roze falls sway to the thrill of sorcery as she prepares to claim the throne. Now she’s turning foes into monsters and placating outraged villagers with rocks magicked into gold. As the hour for her mother’s release draws near, Roze must find the strength to give up the magic that enthralls her or challenge the Queen to a supernatural war. This paragraph just elaborates more on the circumstance. We already know she's got a problem with power. We are missing a definite conflict. The last sentence is the twist, but in this state, it is missing its punch. Right now I'm confused as to what giving up the magic has to do with challenging the Queen to a supernatural war.
WORSE THAN WICKED, a middle-grade fantasy adventure, features elements of Slavic mythology and is complete at 47,000 words. It’s geared for readers ten years and older, I'm a fan of putting this information up front. An agent wants to know right away, what kind of book the query is about and who the intended audience is.
[NOTE WHY I'M CONTACTING THIS PARTICULAR AGENT]Can't hurt.
My articles and reviews have appeared in publications such as Odyssey and the San Francisco Examiner. I belong to SCBWI and started a local branch. Great bio tidbit.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
What do you think? Do you have any advice for Kathryn?
Kathryn, I'd be happy to look at a revision if any of this resonates with you. Also, if there is anyone else who'd like a critique, just send it to me in the comments. (Or if you know of anyone, just direct them to this blog.)
Update: Kathryn, re-wrote her query based on the feedback up above and in the comments.
I would like you to consider my 47,000-word middle grade fantasy, WORSE THAN WICKED, the story of a girl who becomes addicted to the magic meant to free her mother. Perfect. Right away, we know what kind of book it is and who it's for. Think The Wizard of Oz meets Bilbo Baggins at Mount Doom. [NOTE: This last part is something my SCBWI group came up with yesterday. We were trying to brainstorm kidlit characters who fall sway to magic and that’s as far as we got. I swear, these triple-digit temperatures fry our brains!] I like the comparison. It's not always necessary in a query, but if you have one that nails it, like this one does, you should use it.
When twelve-year-old Roze sets off to retrieve an ancient magic stolen from Lithuania’s Merfolk, she’s desperate to free her mother, kidnapped by the Mermaid Queen. Who it's about and a bit a circumstance. And with the above para, I can clearly see her. But after bruising battles with sprites, tricksters, Gypsies, and a mind-cleansing forest clan, Roze is having second thoughts about handing over her hard-won powers. Pay ransom? Bah! She’d rather overthrow the Queen. More great Circumstance.
While preparing to claim the throne, Roze succumbs to the dark power of magic, though each spell leaves her with blinding headaches. As the hour for her mother’s release draws near, Roze must heed warnings from family and friends and give up the sorcery that enthralls her or risk igniting a supernatural war. The Conflict. So much better. We really can sense her inner conflict and how great the stakes are getting.
But how do you reason with a girl who thinks she has the power to control everything? The twist. I would read on to find out what will become of this girl. The only suggestion I'd have here is to take it out of second person. I'm not going to reason with her. I suggest re-wording it slightly. Even saying --how does one-- it probably fits how the people talk or could talk in this world.
What do you think? Better?
I wouldn't hesitate to send this out now, Kathryn. Just make sure your opening pages are just as strong.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Stephanie was brave enough to post a query for critique in yesterday's comments, so here it is. I hope all of you, and especially Stephanie find it helpful.
This is how I break down Query writing:
Tell us who the story is about. Add the circumstance, the conflict and the twist.
I should confess that I didn't use this four step template when writing the query and pitch I used as examples in that post. It's more of a recent breakdown based on my latest pitch, which works.
Let's take a look at how this template would work with Stephanie's Query.
Dear Ms (or Mr.) Fantabulous Agent, the first letter should be addressed Ms or Mr. After you've had first contact, it almost always moves to first name basis.
I'm going to skip ahead to the part half way down the query where the word count is given. I think this should be stated closer to the front of the query, as agents want to know basic stats right away. Also, at 100, 000 words, there is going to be a lot of plot points. The question for the writer is, which ones to include in the query and which ones to leave out. Sometimes it's easier to write the query before the book is written, because it's at this stage, usually, where the writer is aware of the main and important plots. As it gets developed, those main plots get harder to identify. The four points of query writing should help with this.
Daughter to a bear trainer in the Hippodrome, Theodora must provide for her two sisters after her father dies. This states Who it's about. It wouldn't hurt to hint at her age here. Also if you begin the query with the title (and stats) I already understand some of the context. As it is, I don't fully clue in until I get to the words Constantinople and Byzantine Empire (though I know Hippodrome should be a clue, but I'm not that quick!). She claws her way past every actress in the city—including her older sister—to become Constantinople’s premier actress, all in the hopes of enticing a wealthy aristocrat into becoming her patron. She gambles on the wrong man. He abandons her in the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire, despite his promises to marry her and elevate her to the nobility. Alone with an infant, she sells her body to make her way back to the capital. The Circumstance. This is presented clearly here. It's interesting, and now I'm waiting for the conflict. There Theodora is introduced to Emperor Justinian. He wants her. This is the intro to the conflict. I'd start a new paragraph with this sentence.
But Theodora can be Empress or mother, not both. The conflict. Group with previous two sentences
The Emperor needs a wife who can provide him with an heir, not a woman with a son to tangle the line to the throne.Not sure that you need this line of explanation. Theodora must decide what’s more important: pleasing the emperor who claims to love her or keeping the son he can never know about. This is the twist. However, you could word it as a question to create more intrigue. What will Theodora do? Saying she needs to decide what is important, doesn't give it a lot of energy, as all readers would agree the son is more important. I think Theodora knows this too. What is her true angst? Can she deceive the Emperor and keep her son hidden risking exposure and execution or should she flee with her son, even though it means returning to a harder life? (Something like this. She needs a hard choice.) A question will keep your readers turning pages to find out, and hopefully your new agent too!
THEODORA: MISTRESS OF BYZANTIUM is historical fiction complete at 100,000 words. As stated before, I would put this at the beginning.
I am a history teacher who has traveled to Istanbul for research and am currently at work on my next novel about XXXX, one of England’s notorious and charismatic medieval queens. Perfect tidbit about Stephanie and she's also showing the agent that she has more than one book in her.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks again, Stephanie for submitting your query for critique.
What do you think? Do you have advice for Stephanie?
Feel free to post your query in the comments if you'd like a critique--Elle style.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
Canadians know all about American politics and entertainment and have a good idea where all the major cities lie. We know the name of the first lady and what she looks like. (How can you not?) And here's where I confess that I would pass the Prime Minister's wife on the street and not know it.
If you're curious as to how Canadians and Americans differ, this BEER COMMERCIAL pokes a little fun. It's our attempt at being patriot. (A trait Americans own.)
And to all my American friends, HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, weekend!!