Monday, June 27, 2011

S - Synopsis

A synopsis is a brief summary. Brief means concise, succinct, or with few words. Summary means comprehensive. Hence, writing a synopsis for your novel means to use as few words as possible in being as comprehensive as is necessary. In an effective query letter the synopsis should be one paragraph. Only send something longer if an agent specifically requests it in his or her submission guidelines, and then limit it to one or two pages. It's just as important to choose your words carefully for your synopsis as it is in writing the book. Maybe more. Start with a one-sentence pitch and expand from there to a succinct and thorough paragraph. Here's my one sentence for The Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog;

With the help of an ancient guru, a talking tree, and an albino dog, sixteen year old Reilly finds a rare stone that helps him understand the difference between reality and imagination, as he deals with the death of his father and faces a renowned scientist who steals the imagination of others.

Here's the synopsis in a 6 sentence paragraph:

Reilly McNamara is an unusual sixteen year old boy with multi sensory abilities whose best friend, Eilam, an ageless guru who most consider to be crazy, helps him deal with the tragic death of his father, and teaches Reilly how to use a magical stone called a Stelladaur to discover what matters most to him. While Reilly uses the stone to find Tir Na Nog--a place of beauty and wealth in all forms and where he believes his father has gone--Reilly must also prevent billionaire scientist, Travis Jackson, from discovering the power of the Stelladaur and destroying the imagination of others with is latest invention of a time travel device called The ROCK--drug-laced, laboratory-fabricated stones. Once Reilly discovers that a Stelladaur can bring to its rightful owner their greatest desire, he begins a series of mystical journeys through various unexpected portals in search of his father. Each time, Reilly returns to the real world with enlightenment which guides him in his assigned task to help others find their own Stelladaur and innate gifts, and to face Travis. When a beautiful girl enters his life, will Reilly continue to trust his heart without giving up what he wants most? Finding Tir Na Nog is about figuring out what you desperately want by understanding the universal connection between imagination and following your own heart.

The complete two page synopsis is for agents' eyes only!

Friday, June 24, 2011

R is for Respect...

When I first started my weekly series "ABC's for Authors", I was faithfully working my way through the alphabet every Monday. However, there are only 26 letters of the alphabet and at least twice that many weeks have passed since I started...well, let's just say time is indeed elusive. Said another way, I haven't yet mastered the art of insisting that others respect my time. My writing time. Does anyone else have this challenge, or is it just me? (Yes, that is a rhetorical question!) Originally "R" represented "Respect your agent's and editor's time"...don't be needy, clingy, demanding, etc. Do be professional, patient, and respectful of their time. This is a no-brainer. But for me, setting boundaries on my own time is a continuous process. Maybe I need to refresh my perspective about time itself by reading an excerpt from my first book, The Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog.

The scene takes place with Reilly in a Freshman science class and a discussion about time.

"Come in, come in!" Mr. Ludwig sang in a high pitched voice while stretching up on his toes and rubbing the palms of his hands together gleefully. "Hurry now! Find your seats. Let's get started. Much to do...much to do!" He clapped his hands numerous times in between the rubbing, while continuing to repeat these brief commands, and nearly dancing about the front of the class until the students were in their chairs and all eyes were up front.

Mr. Ludwig lived and breathed science. As a result, he came to class every day acting as if it was Christmas morning--hardly able to contain himself with the thrill of it all--and overly anxious to tell his students what they'd be learning that day. Or what totally amazing experiment they'd be doing. Or what plant or small amphibian dissection they'd have the opportunity to participate in. Sometimes he'd literally jump up and down with excitement. Reilly appreciated his zeal; most just found him amusing.

"Excellent!" he began again. "Today we're going to shift from our recent discussions on igneous and sedimentary rocks, and talk about something else...but something equally fascinating!"

Mr. Ludwig's philosophy was that anything could be related to science in one way or another. That's why he thought just about everything was fascinating. Without fail, he used the word 'fascinating' every day in class, sometimes in every sentence. And it was not unusual for him to deviate from the regular curriculum because his mind simply wandered off in so many directions at one time. This was precisely why Reilly, and most every student, loved his class so much.

"The science of time," Mr. Ludwig continued. He moved behind the large lab desk at the center front of the room and pulled out an enormous clock, a good three feet in diameter. Propping it up in front of the tall sink faucet, he then pulled out a common kitchen timer, twisting the knob until it ticked for a moment, and then back again to give a ding, and placed it on the counter. He reached in his lab coat pocket and pulled out a runner's stopwatch, dangling it by the cord in an almost hypnotic motion. After setting the stopwatch on the desk, he took off his own wristwatch and placed it, too, beside the other time devices. Finally, he opened the left drawer and retrieved a two-foot hourglass.

"What is time? How is it measured? Why do we measure it? Is it always the same? What is its purpose?" He posed each question while retouching the items he had just set up for display. "Let's try an experiment. When I say 'go', we will each do something to try to capture time for one minute."

Mr. Ludwig paced back and forth slowly--even methodically--behind the desk four times, without saying another word.

"Go!" he finally blurted out.

Most students looked around with bewildered looks on their faces. Some started chatting back and forth or wiggling uncomfortably in their chairs. The girl to Reilly's left inhaled deeply, puffed out her cheeks and held her breath. The boy next to him pulled out a cell phone in a desperate attempt to send a text message before the teacher would notice.

Reilly looked intently at Mr. Ludwig and tried to imagine what might happen next. With Mr. Ludwig, the possibilities were quite unpredictable. The fact that he looked something like the stereotypical mad scientist only added to the mystique.

"Stop! Time's up," he commanded with another single clap of his hands. "Uhm...time's up. Now that's an interesting phrase," he smiled thoughtfully. "What do you suppose that means?"

"Duh, it means we don't have any more time," a kid from the back shouted.

"It means the one minute you gave us is gone," added another.

"Maybe it means after time is gone, it goes up?" laughed Reilly.

" there's a thought. But where does it actually go? How do we know it's really gone?" Mr. Ludwig inquired with a glint in his eye. He reached for the large clock and placed his right pointer finger over the second hand to make it stop moving. "What if we could stop time?"

"But you're not stopping time," the boy with the cell phone insisted. "You're just stopping the clock."

"Fascinating observation! And very accurate, too," Mr. Ludwig responded. "So, is there a way to capture time? Make it stand still? Can we understand its true properties and functions? I'm asking you, who thinks it is simply not possible?" Over half of the class raised their hands. Many shrugged their shoulders.

Reilly continued to grin and watch his teacher intently.

"So then...a few of you think it is, or could be, possible!" he said. "Let's me ask another question. If I take this bottle...and..." He reached under the lab desk and pulled out an empty glass bottle that looked like a small container for chocolate milk. "...put this egg on top of it, can the egg fit into the jar without breaking?" He placed a hard-boiled egg on the lip of the bottle.

"No, the egg's too big," insisted someone on the front row.

"Yeah, it's not possible," another kid agreed.

"Oh, so quick to decide what you think you know. What we think is possible is often limited by what our eyes perceive," Mr. Ludwig said, as he lifted his pointer finger and raised his brow.

Mr. Ludwig removed the egg from the lip of the bottle and set it on the lab desk. He took a box of matches from the drawer, lit one, and tossed it quickly into the bottle. Then, he quickly replaced the egg on top of the bottle.

"Hey, I've seen that trick before," someone whined.

The class watched as the egg slid gently into the bottle, contracting to fit the narrow space and then plopping to the bottom of the glass container.

"No trick," insisted Mr. Ludwig. "This is elementary science. Who can explain what happened?"

The girl two rows to Reilly's left and up one seat raised her hand. "Well," she began, "it's an example of a partial vacuum. The fire heated the air molecules inside the bottle which made the molecules move further away from each other. Some of those molecules even escaped past the egg. That's why it wobbled on top. Then after the flame went out all the molecules cooled down and moved closer together again. The air pressure--well, the pressure of the air molecules--pulled the egg into the bottle."

"I couldn't have explained it more precisely!" Mr. Ludwig squealed. "Extra credit points for you today."

"Okay, so it's not a trick," the whining kid concluded. "But what does that have to do with time?"

"That was my next question. Any thoughts?" siad Mr. Ludwig.

Reilly's brain was spinning. There could be lots of connections. Obviously, the teacher proved his point that some things which at first appear to be impossible are really very possible, when we undertand the laws behind their existence. And they can sometimes be proven in very simple terms. Perhaps Mr. Ludwig wanted his students to consider the possibility that time has invisible, yet very real, elements. What about the partial vacuum? Did that have anything to do with time?

Mr. Ludwig began again. "If time represents the egg, how can we change the conditions surrounding it to change its functionality? Can we hold time? Balance it? Force it? Move it?" He did not provide answers to the questions. At this point, no one raised their hand to give any further response. Everyone sat still, waiting for what would happen next.

There are a few things in my life which are so transcendent they seem to exist outside the boundaries of time: playing with my granddaughters, walking along the beach, and writing. And so I must respect my own measurable time--safeguard it and be disciplined with it--if I want to more frequently go to that place of timelessness. I hope you go there, too.