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!
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Teen time traveler Casey Donavon accidentally takes her secret crush back in time. Awkward.
You can read the book blurb and first chapter by clicking on the CLOCKWISE tab.
*Does Snoopy dance*
Friday, August 26, 2011
2. Those of you who are detail people may have noticed that I've added a third column to my blog. This may or may not have something to do with #1. :) Shout out to Tamara Heiner Hart for telling me about Chimpmail. So, yes, I'm going to start writing newsletters! (Baby steps, people, baby steps.)
4. My oldest son leaves tomorrow for his fourth year of university. My second son left a couple weeks ago to work up north on the pipelines, so our house is getting quieter (and cleaner) again. At least until spring. Still two at home but they both drive and have their own busy lives. Perfect time for me to do something new... (hmm, #1 again, maybe?)
5. If you have a refridgerator to move, maybe don't do this:
The RCMP in Vancouver didn't think it was a good idea either.
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Dear Ms. Strauss: Of course, you're not addressing it to me =)
As a regular follower of your blog, you want to make sure this statement is true for each agent I’d be honored to have you consider my police procedural Forty & Out capitalize title which is complete at 68,000 words. (It will appeal to readers who enjoy the complications of relationships in the context of an intriguing crime story. I anticipate this book as one of three interconnected novels exploring the criminal justice community in Toledo, Ohio.) I would put these two sentences at the end just because it feels like a bumper keeping us from getting to the pitch. We want to feel like we're reading the jacketflap right off.
Forty is a dangerous birthday to celebrate in Detective Veronica Jadzinski’s world. Right away we know who it's about. Good. A psychopath is targeting single women at that milestone, making sure they don’t get any older. Saddled with a new partner by her disparaging lieutenant, the loner Jadz delves into the seedier side of Toledo to solve the case and prove her worth before the body count gets any higher.Circumstance. Well laid out. When the killer strikes back by targeting Jadz’s drama-queen sister, the case gets personal.Conflict. This is good, but you could give us a little more. Is there a secondary conflict? Jadz must learn to set aside her ego and separate life’s petty squabbles from battles that really matter. This is your hook line, but it doesn't feel very hooky--would you agree? You could tease us with a specific ego issue and/or petty squabble. I would give it its own paragraph.
FORTY & OUT would appeal...
My publishing credits include six short stories in a variety of regional and literary magazines, numerous newspaper articles, and the full-length non-fiction Historic Warren County: An Illustrated History (Lammert Publications 2009) which was awarded the 2010 Outstanding Achievement Award in History Outreach by the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums.Nice little bio.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.
How about you? Any advice for CPat?
If you'd like me to critique your query or pitch, just post it in the comments or email me. My address is in my contacts tab.
Monday, August 22, 2011
My four point plan to writing queries and pitches is as follows: 1) Who is the story about. 2) The Circumstance. (You could also call this the situation or world set-up) 3)The Conflict. 4) The Twist (or hook).
So let's get to it!
To whom it may concern: This needs to be personalized. Though agents know that you are likely querying others, they want to feel like you've written this query just for them. They also want to know that you've done your research and that you know that they represent the type of story you're submitting.
Aeron is the daughter of Princess Rina. She has the intelligence and strength of her Selkie father. People step aside whenever they see her. At fourteen she is the General of Deryn’s Army. In short: she’s illegitimate, a half-breed, abhorred, and exploited. This tells us who it's about. It could be strengthened with re-wording.
After a disastrous defeat and massacre by the invading Navieans, the Lady Aeron is declared dead. This paragraph is for the circumstance. If Aeron is dead, then who is this story really about? And why did you devote the first paragraph to her?You could add a little more set up here, give us a sense of where we are and what's going on.
New paragraph for the Conflict. The only people standing against the slavery and tyranny that the Navieans have brought are the Shadow-Stalkers, a group of daring warriors hidden in the Blue Woods, who strike like lightening and leave no one alive. This sentence is on the weak side. Instead, start it with The Shadow-Stalkers are...
I don't see a hook here.
SELKIE’S CHILD (51,000/YA) I prefer this information with the first paragraph as it establishes what kind of book we're being told about up front is a fast-paced story about what shapes your character and what in the past you cannot turn your back on. I am a college student at Philadelphia’s Temple University in the College of Liberal Arts.
Thank you in advance for you time,
One of the hardest things to figure out when writing a query or pitch is what to use and what to leave out, especially with a novel length ms. I think you need to take another look and answer the four questions again. You can use point form at first and then craft paragraphs after you have the right details.
From this query, it sounds like the story is actually about Trystan and Madelyn. What happens when she "falls into company" with Tristan? Is there conflict here? He's the leader of the Shadow Stalkers and she's an unprotected female in a male driven society? (guessing here). What's the hook, then? Is there a hard choice on of them has to make or a twist of fate that changes everything? Imagine this on the back cover of your book. What will make us want to read on?
I'd be happy to look at a revision, Phoenix, just send it to me in an email, ellestraussbooks at gmail dot com, or copy in the comments section.
If anyone else would like a query critique, Elle Style, just post it in the comments.
How about you? Do you have advice for Phoenix?
Thursday, August 18, 2011
So excited for Heather and her future plans. Writing full time rocks!
Heather is hosting a giveaway on her blog that will include three winners. First place will be a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble or The Book Depository, a signed copy of The Secret of Spruce Knoll, and a swag bag. Second place will be a signed copy of The Secret of Spruce Knoll, and a swag bag filled with great YA books. Third place will be a signed copy of The Secret of Spruce Knoll and a swag bag. Click here to enter. http://heathermccorkle.
Do you have any questions for Heather? Let her know in the comments.
Monday, August 15, 2011
It's much the way I did it when I first started. I tentatively opened a Facebook account, added a picture and a profile, and then did the same with twitter. Then I spent a good amount of time lingering and watching. Every once in a while, I'd enjoy a post and press the like button. Fairly safe. On twitter I'd dare a reply to a friend I knew personally. Then I started to retweet people when I liked their tweets. Not so difficult.
Then they'd thank me. Oh no. An actual conversation. And it didn't kill me. I'd respond to another post, and they'd reply back. After awhile, updating my status or posting a tweet was like riding a bike. Talking to people on line was Easy Peasy. I was ruling this thing.
Until I discovered that thirty-two friends just wasn't going to cut it if I wanted an effective platform. I was going to have to amp it up, baby, but how to do that?
Well, read the experts, and find out, that's how. Here are three books I recommend to anyone wanting to branch out in social networking, platform building and ultimately effectively selling books. Though I don't recommend following each one religiously, I'm sure they will inspire you. I know that each one gave me a different gem of wisdom and insight.
We Are Not Alone, by Kristen Lamb: This book felt dated in a few ways, but her enthusiasm to just get out there and do it was catching. I did fall into the trap of over-zealously following and friending and wish that this book had given me a few more "rules". But still a good read.
I discovered Twitter Rules by reading this book, Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Carolyn McCray, Amber Scott and Rachel Thompson. The beginning was a bit of a cheering session, but the middle section was very practical. I'll share important THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TWITTER, at the end of this post. I'm not quite finished this book, in the Facebook section now, where I'm probably about to learn how I've screwed up there, and hopefully how to fix it.
The third book worth reading is How I Sold 1 Million e-Books in 5 Months by John Locke. And no, it wasn't because he priced them at .99. This book had me take a second look at how and why I blog, and in some ways took the angst out for me. It's okay if I don't blog every day of the week. It doesn't have to negatively effect my books.
So back to Twitter. If you have a twitter account perhaps you've added a nice background, to personalize it. I happen to really like mine. In the right column under your user name you'll see these words with a number behind them: Tweets, Following, Followers, Listed
Those numbers mean, how many tweets you've posted, how many people are following you, how many you are following, and how many have included you on a personal list they've created and saved.
Here's what I didn't know. The number of people you follow can't be too much higher than the number of people following you--it's a certain percent (I don't remember exactly). And that percentage goes down once you hit 2000 followers. If you cross that barrier, Twitter freaks out, accuses you of being a robot and puts you in the corner. No more new followers for you.
This is what I learned when I went on that building up my followers spree. Bad Elle.
What to do now? How to get out of the corner once you're in?
Well, I learned from Dollars and Sense, that there is this nifty Twitter management site where you can unfollow people who aren't following you back. This is really useful. Why drag along people who don't care about you or know that you exist anyway? Unless of course it's a fave author and you're happy to be a fan, then fine, keep those ones. But Joe Blow writer and his endless book pitching? Ditch'em. And all those unfollowing tweeps who hardly post anyway? Dead weight.
The catch is, just like you shouldn't follow more than 50 people a day (I didn't know that either, thus the robot status), you shouldn't unfollow more than 50 people a day.
So I've been doing this for a few days now, knocking off 50 unfollowers, getting my percentage back into a reasonable level. It's amazing how cathartic it is.
One more last tip, in case you've never heard of Tweet Deck or Hoot Suite. Once you get more than a hundred followers, you might find your twitter feed flowing faster than you can read and respond. Tweet Deck allows you to create columns, so that you can divide your followers into different smaller, more manageable groups. Because we all know that the numbers aren't important if you're not engaging in the community. See the beginning of this post. It's about the conversations.
How about you? Have you learned any Social Networking secrets the hard way?
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
So here goes. Over all, I loved it. It was the only book I've ever read where as soon as I finished the last page, I immediately went back to the beginning and started reading it all over again. Strange? Yes, but here's why.
Ms Gier does an amazing job of creating full bodied characters, terrific dialogue, a well established setting and creating mystery. There are a lot of characters to get to know and many times in the front end of the book characters are revealing key information, and important names are being dropped, but you don't know that you're being given keys and info and so, if you're like me, the details don't stay with you. When I started re-reading, I recognized these clues. Again, if you're like me, you'll forget entirely about the prologue that didn't make any sense, until you read it again after reading the epilogue.
If I were giving the book a starred review I would give this a strong 4.5 out of 5. The reason I can't give it a five, is because it never really ended. I have the feeling this manuscript started out being much longer, and the editor said, let's make it three books, and we'll end the first book right here. What the hay?
Now that I'm re-reading it, I'm floored by all the threads that were left untied by the end of the first book. I understand that, when writing a series it's common to leave a couple threads loose for the second and third book, but all the threads are loose here. I least that's what it feels like. I can't think of one main question raised that was answered satisfactorily.
For example, and I'll be vague so as to not spoil for those who haven't read, but if you have read, you'll know what I'm talking about. What's the significance to the item Gwyneth took from the dark room in the past to give to her friend Lesley in the present? Nothing ever came of that. What about James and the little boy Robert? Are they more than just elaborate set pieces? And why didn't Gwyneth pass the message from Robert on to Dr. White--he was with her at the time? Or Mr. George's mention of the mute man? (I bet you don't remember that one unless you've read it twice). After all the talk about finding the midwife, she's never found. And what gives with the scene mentioned on the jacket flap where Gwyneth witnesses her doppelganger kissing a boy in the past she's soon to meet in the future? There is no other connection to that scene in this book!!
But still, you have to read this--it's just that good. I can't wait until Sapphire Blue is out. Honestly.
Have you read it? What did you think? (Please no spoilers in the comments).
Monday, August 8, 2011
"Luxury is a warm blanket, a soft pillow and comfy bed," said Mark Biech, Director of Hope for the Nations Romania, quoting a friend who comforted him during a time of stress and frustration. "If I can have a warm bath and climb into a nice bed, even after a hard day, I can remind myself that compared to most of the world, I live in luxury."
Our team of nine was from the Boston area in the United States, and we were in Brasov, Romania, on a mission to do a home makeover for a needy family of twelve.
I recalled Mark's words the day we picked up the mama and one of her ten kids when they needed a ride to the hospital. At first glance she looked like the grandmother, only four and a half feet tall, with a shiny red and white scarf tied around black hair, and several front teeth missing. She wore a yellow knitted vest over a winter green blouse and a clashing long red, blue and white striped skirt. In her arms, a young toddler, with a knitted cap, whose chubby hands grabbed at his mother's breast.
"Christina let me use her bath," the mama said, as Mark translated. "It was so wonderful, beautiful." Her face was childlike as she recalled it. She went on to say how she couldn't remember the last time she had a bath. I found that unbelievable.
|Deborah and moi|
Mark said, "Oh, yeah, they just sponge bath in the kitchen. With cold water."
We had just left their small two-room apartment. Deborah and I had spent the day scrapping mold off the walls and ceilings; the infestation was unimaginable, completely discoloring large areas of the room. The apartment wasn't fit for habitation, and yet ten children were being raised there. The three men on our team stayed behind with plenty to do. I have to mention that the bathroom was down the hall, shared by all the tenants on the second floor. There were two stalls with stained toilet bowls filled with brownish water, and no toilet seats. The floors were broken cement, and damp. The place was foul smelling, and I tried to imagine toilet training kids there.
The mama was still talking. "Thank you so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" My head swiveled from the backseat to the front as she spoke and Mark translated. "You are an answer to prayer," she said. "My children are such a blessing, and they need help." (Wait a minute, did she just say ten children are a blessing?)
"I try to clean the mold, but it just comes back," she explained. "The children are always sick. My husband is so often sick and it is hard for him to work. I can't believe that this is happening. It is so wonderful."
Friday, August 5, 2011
1. Summer's half over, but it feels like it only just got here. Up in the Pacific Northwest, (think more north than usual) we've had cooler than normal weather, which I know is odd, since it seems the rest of the planet is burning up.
2. Busy with family and friends. Company that kind of thing. All four kids were home for the summer, but I just put my second son on the bus to go find work in Grande Prairie Alberta. Think even farther north. Twenty hour bus ride--poor kid! But he needs to pay off debts and save money for university and unfortunately the city we live in has didaley squat for jobs.
3. I finished my wip, waiting for DD to read it and then to send off to my agent. I'm also working hard on another project which I can't announce yet, but will by the end of the month--I'll keep you posted!!
4. Twitter is mad a me. It won't let me follow people, so if I haven't followed you, that's why. Hopefully soon, I'll get out of the twitter dog-house.
5. I gave my blog a make-over. What do you think? There's a reason for this, which has something to do with number 3.
So, that's my five. Have a great weekend, everyone!!
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Joel StraussFountain of Youth. Some have said things like “it’s got a real 20s feel to it” or “man, this sounds like Dylan”.
We got a chance to ask him about his vision for the album and here’s what he said:
Tribe House: What do you plan to do with this album?
Joel Strauss: So far, this album has been made available online, but physical copies will also soon be pressed. It’s an album I will probably always keep with me, ready to give out, while then adding “here is when I really started to develop my sound.”
TH: What do you hope most people will say after they listen to this?
JS: My hope is that people are moved by it. There is definitely a lot of emotion in this music. I felt like the writing came out a lot better when I let that emotion “come undone”, and I hope that people can get a sense of the passion and intensity I had been feeling. There is a lot of musical diversity on here too, which I hope people appreciate.
TH: Who do you compare yourself to as an artist?
JS: Sometimes I compare myself to John Lennon, sometimes Frank Sinatra, sometimes Dylan. Sometimes I am Billy Corgan, Thom Yorke, or Leonard Cohen. I think I also love to embody the raw power of Louis Armstrong and Tom Waits.
TH: Who’s your most inspiration artist?
While there are lot of musical groups that have inspired me, Bob Dylan has probably effected me most, singularly, as an artist. I am inspired by how different he is, and was at the time he arrived on the music scene. Regardless of any circumstance, he didn’t try to change himself or morph into what his musical or cultural environment was tuning into. People had to either embrace him or ignore him, but he always seemed to stay who he was.
People often compare me to him, but I’m not sure it’s because I sound so much like him anymore. In fact, I feel like my sound is quite different now in a lot of ways, but I think that people identify in me the same type of “uniqueness” that he brought to the music scene.
TH: What inspired most of these tunes?
A lot of these songs were written over a year ago, and I think it was at a unique point in my life where I couldn’t help but see how messed up everything seemed to be, to be perfectly honest. I think a type of pessimism in one’s early 20s isn’t uncommon, and it’s certainly something I experienced. I do see things differently now, but I was struggling to see a point and purpose to things, even though I was blessed to have been born into a supportive family and environment. A lot of these songs encompass the “What is going on here?” and “What am I doing here?” questions. Fortunately, through this type of confusion I was able to pour out some great material. Often I wouldn’t think too much about fine tuning the lyrics, just letting my intuition pour out. There is certainly a lot of darkness on this record, but a type of darkness where hope and aspiration shine through too.
TH: What’s the theme of the record (if there is one)?
There’s no set “theme” to the record, but I will fill you in on a few of the different song meanings.
Songs like “Ocean Transfix” and “December Star” are definitely songs about the existential crisis, containing lyrics such as “I can do what is allowed of me“, showing the human limitations a person might feel, and “My only roads are in these miles of sand“, showing a walk through the uncertainties and unanswered questions of the human experience.
“Beyond My Flesh And Bone” was partially inspired by a book by Victor E. Frankl called “Man’s Search For Meaning“, and it was after reading this book that I realized just how important it is for any human being to acquire purpose and direction in life. This is something that seems to be inbred within the human condition; that intrinsically there is something more than just pure ‘survival’ as a reason to exist.
Not everything is this intense, though! “Like The Mermaid” is simply an ode to some of the great music that came before the rock and roll revolution. Because the rock and roll revolution was so immense, there is some great sounds that captured a unique moment in history that can get overlooked. The ancient sounds of Louis Armstrong, the Ink Spots, Vera Lynn, Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby sound fresh to me, precisely because they are so ancient. Frank Sinatra is another singer who really lights me up because of this. A lot of these sounds can also be identified in my music.
“Break A Spell” is an ode to the early impressionist painters like Turner and Monet. I had the chance to travel through Europe last summer and was blessed to be able to see some great art. Before the late 1800s, art was basically restricted to religious depictions and ‘coloring in the lines’, so to speak. There was also an expectation that you couldn’t reveal technique within your work. Impressionism was the breaking through of that cultural standard, where art was suddenly able to flourish like it never had before. It was the time when artists declared “in art, there are no rules!” So I have a line in this song that says “Wanna shout it to the sun, say that we are the brighter ones”.
“Civilization Embodiment” is a song about surrender. Not a surrender to forces of oppression or injustice, but a type of ‘letting go of the self’ in order to really surrender to love. The lines “there a glimmer of hope lay in Pietro’s Intermezzo, the mountains along the Coquihalla highway” are when a person is stopped in his tracks by something like beauty, so that his guard can be let down.
The title track “Fountain Of Youth” is a hesitation to be optimistic towards the notion of Utopianism: the idea that institutions and/or governments, technology and science will be able to one day bring humanity to a real contentment. It’s sort of a song about the competitive element of capitalism and the media. The line “we still don’t feel young in their fountain of youth” reveals my reaction to most television commercials and advertisements. But it is also interesting how scientists are actually revealing a ‘fountain of youth’, an ability to prolong age. Fascinating! But I can’t help but foresee some grave consequences as well.
TH: What are your thoughts on combining arts, faith, and justice?
My thoughts on combining arts, faith, and justice? Well, of course this is a wonderful combination. Some people create out of faith (or lack of), some out of a need for justice. We should definitely be aware of our roles as artists, in that we really do have the ability to reach people on these issues in ways that other people might not be able to reach. I don’t think songs can change things in the way that actions can though. As artists, we are simply able to inspire people.
TH: What do you think of the concept of Tribe House as an artist collective?
Love it. I just wrote a new song a few days ago called “Forest” which is sort of about community and fellowship. It’s an amazing thing for artists everywhere to really feel they are a part of something, that they are not feeling polarized but supported and encouraged. It seems that with this type of artist collective, it doesn’t matter what age, or what ‘scene’ you are a part of, or even what level of skill you have. If you make art, are passionate about it, you benefit greatly from being able to connect with other artists. I would think that you could also learn a lot from others, while also being inspired. Tribe House is like a slogan that says “you don’t need to be alone”.
TH: Thanks for existing Joel. This is great stuff. It’s great to see such depth in your writing & looking forward to walking with you…
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
In Blogger it’s easy to start a new blog. I’m not sure how it works with other blog sites, but I assume it’s similar. In Blogger you go to Dashboard, then Create Blog. Pick a template, then go to Settings and set Add Your Blog to Listings and Let Search Engines Find Your Blog to NO. Under Settings is a Permissions tab. You should be listed as the only blog author. Under Blog Readers, click ONLY BLOG AUTHOR. Now this blog is private.
I cut and paste one chapter from an open word doc (of course I have it saved elsewhere in case things go awry,) into the new blog post window and then push post blog. It’s amazing how different your ms looks in a narrower column, different font and non-white back ground, and how much you catch that you didn’t see before when you picture it being read by someone else.
When I'm satisfied, I cut and paste the revised chapter back into my word doc.
That's my basic revision plan. How about you? Do you have a certain technique that works for you?
Monday, August 1, 2011
So to celebrate inspiration I'm posting this very moving video of a whale rescue and the tremendous response of gratitude this magnificent creature showed its rescuers.
It is so worth watching!
Hard work pays off!