Kelly McCullough writes fantasy, science fiction, and books for kids of varying ages. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series — Penguin/ACE, and the forthcoming School for Sidekicks — Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star — part of an NSF-funded science curriculum — and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited — funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Kelly on Twitter, Facebook, G+, ello

Friday Cat Blogging…On Friday!

November 17, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

With this ceremonial sword I call our meeting to order.

Does anyone have anything to share on feline domination?

I like birbs.*

I am a birb.

More like a pterodactyl!

I could take it.

Look I are eating from feeder, like a real birb!

I think there may be something wrong with that birb.

Gosh, what was your first clue?

*birbs: https://twitter.com/Birbs4Birbs

Friday Cat Blogging

November 12, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

So that whole baby shower thing is over and done, right.

Yep, no baby here. That’s Matt and Mandy cat’s prob…blessing.

Wait just one second.

Joke’s on you.

What fresh hell is this?

Better thee than me, fuzzball.

I refuse to believe you.

Believe what you want, but the McCullough cats speak truth.

Besides, I hear babies are a delight. Wake me when you sort it out.

With thanks to Matt, Mandy and Neil for guest cats and inspiration.

The (temporarily*) Habitually Late Friday Cat Blogging

November 5, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Monkey, why is the house all topsy turvy?

Yeah, I was kind of wondering that myself.

Wait, did you just say “baby shower”?

He did.

Does this mean someone’s bringing us a baby!?

Because, we will convene a jury and convict you on the spot.

It’s for someone else, you say?

Oh thank Bast. Stand down everyone.

Whew.

Yeah.

Relaxing…for now. But never forget I’ve got my eye on you, monkey.

 

Big Congrats to Matt and Mandy, whose cats have so often graced these pages.

 

*Swear to dog I’m going to get back on top of this at some point

Friday*cough*ish Cat Blogging

October 29, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Monkey, you haz fuds, why are you not giving them to me?

I bet the monkey doesn’t even like cats, not even purr Tiny Tim.

We got this; monkey, hand over the fuds and you don’t get hurt…

My monkey gave me drinxes.

All cats today courtesy of the Souk Mubarakiya, Kuwait.

Friday Cat Blogging

October 20, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Nothing, no reason, why do you ask?

They look guilty to me.

I never look guilty and butter won’t melt in my mouth.

I iz dubious.

I iz plotting my revenge.

We are also innocent of anything at all.

GROWRR!

Close Enough to Friday Cat Blogging

October 15, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Oh Juliet, I iz slain, woe!

Overact much, dude?

I waz riveted!

Really? Because that was one of the worst performances evar.

The Russian judge concurs. 1.2 points.*

2.4 from the forests of Norway…

*Guest cats supplied by Matt and Mandy.

Furday Cat Blogging (Like Friday, Only Late)

October 7, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

You’re not my real monkey and I don’t have to listen to you.*

You’re not my real monkey and I don’t have to listen to you.

You’re my real monkey, but I’m deaf and can’t listen to you.

You’re my real monkey, and I hate that I have to listen to you.

I like listening, but I’m not going to remember it in ten seconds. Narf.

It’s too late to say you’re not my real monkey after you fed me? Bleah!

Hey there, monkey boy, do you want to listen to me?

_____________________

*extra cats courtesy of Matt and Mandy

Not part of the storyline, but 4 cats 1 room and 0 fighting! WIKTORY!

Friday Cat Blogging

September 30, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I’m bored.

I’m delicious.

I’m a leezard.

…the hell was that?

A leezard, duh. You know what a leezard is right?

Killy it!

Dammit, missed. Oh well, back to the regular program.

We are ennui brackets.

I am totally innocent of anything to do with the cabinet behind me.

I EAT YOUR HEAD

No, I asked for head skitches, not chomps. Like dis.

Fine, skritch, skritch. No we are mobius cat!

Synopses, A Lengthy Discourse on a Pithy Topic

September 22, 2017 in Friday Cat Blogging, Publishing, Synopses Etc., Writing

I’m posting about synopses as part of a project set up by Joshua Palmatier to help newer writers deal with some of the scarier parts of trying to sell a novel. There are three parts, each with a master page linking out to all the participating writers.

The elevator pitch project.

The query project.

The synopsis project.

Being the somewhat lazy soul that I am, I’m going to borrow from my own previous writing on the topic and only update the bits that I feel I got wrong. So, stealing from myself:

First, and, IMHO most important, is the question of what a synopsis should do. If you don’t get that right, the details hardly matter.

Now, the marvelous agent/blogger Miss Snark* claimed at one point that all a synopsis had to do was be short, not painful to read, and show that the author hasn’t screwed up somewhere in plotting the book. Now, those seem like good minimum conditions, but I want more from my work than to demonstrate I haven’t screwed up in the minimum number of words.

I want to leave the reader with questions that interest them enough to want to read the whole manuscript. This does not mean questions about what happened–those are by way of screwing up, because the reader of a synopsis needs to end their perusal knowing what happens. What I’m talking about are questions of method. I want my reader to say something like That’s cool, I want to see that or, Really? Why didn’t I see that coming, I have to read this, or just, oooh, nice.

A well written synopsis gives conflict, plot, setting, character sketches, and some genuine flavor of the book, at least in my opinion, and if that takes slightly longer, I think it’s okay. I keep coming back to the idea of talking about what excites you about this story as a writer as I did in the elevator pitch post, because that’s what’s going to convey the most important parts of the book’s flavor. Since I already covered that in detail I’m going to go ahead and give you a bunch of bite sized thoughts on the matter followed by examples in the shape of the proposals that sold WebMage, The Fallen Blade Series, and School for Sidekicks.

Practical advice on writing synopses.

1. Learn how to do it. If your career ever takes off, it’s likely to be an important and painful part of your life.

2. This is easiest if you can A, write several of them in quick order, and B, get your hands on someone else’s synopsis to read and really thoroughly critique. Knowing what worked or didn’t work for you in someone else’s synopsis is a great learning tool. Doing this with several is better, and synopses that have sold books are probably best, especially if you can read the book at the same time. You needen’t ever give the critique to the author, that’s not why you’re doing it.

3. The normal structural stuff: one inch margins, double spacing, etc.

4. The abnormal structural stuff: Present tense. Five pages is standard for most synopsis requests. For pitch sheets one page, (single spaced!?!-what’s up with that?) is what I’ve been told is standard and how I do mine. different editors and agents often have different rules for these, so YMMV, and be sure to check before sending it along.

5. Dig through your favorite books. Read the dust jacket or back of book blurbs. Really study the ones that successfully represent the book in question. Try to write several of those for your book. Do the the same with the ones that strike you as bad. Pick the best of your sample and expand from there. Don’t try to trim it down from the book.

6. Again, what’s cool to you should drive the synopsis. But don’t forget plot, character, setting, and theme.

7. Try to write it in the same style as the book, not the same voice necessarily, but a funny book should have a funny synopsis.

8. Pace and swear. No really, this helps. So does a long walk away from the computer where you mutter to yourself about what your story is really about.

9. Call your writing buddies. If they’ve read the book, ask them what they thinks its about. This will be enlightening and possibly terrifying. If they haven’t read it, tell them about it. Remember what you’re telling them and use it.

10. Treat yourself when you’re done. The job sucks and you deserve a pat on the back.

11. It goes to eleven!

12. Write the one sentence version. Expand from there.

13. If you outline, grab the outline and trim it to the right size. Then edit for tone and format.

14. The rules can sometimes be bent. My WebMage outline was ten pages double spaced. Both agent(s) and editors were cool with this. Don’t try this at home, i.e. without the approval of your agent if you’ve got one.

The examples are going behind the cut, because they’re enormous.

Read the rest of this entry →

Queries…Or, I May Be Talking Through My Hat

September 22, 2017 in Plot, Publishing, Synopses Etc., Writing

I’m posting about queries as part of a project set up by Joshua Palmatier to help newer writers deal with some of the scarier parts of trying to sell a novel. There are three parts, each with a master page linking out to all the participating writers.

The elevator pitch project.

The query project.

The synopsis project.

I’ve never written directly about queries before because I’ve never actually written one myself* so take everything I say after this with a grain of salt. That said, the query is basically a combination of the cover letter and the single page pitch both of which I’ve done about a zillion times at this point in my career, often successfully.

So, first, the cover letter part. Keep it as short and simple as possible. My cover letters go something like this:

Dear: (GET THE NAME RIGHT!!)

I’m Kelly McCullough, author of (three most relevant publications here**).***

(Insert personal connection if appropriate here)****

I am looking to place the (novel title here) or, I am looking for representation, my latest novel is (novel title here).

One page or shorter novel pitch goes here (more on that below the break).

Thank you,

Kelly McCullough

____Arbitrary break to provide someplace for cover letter footnotes_________

*I got my agent through a truly bizarre process, but he’s done very well for me.

**If you’ve you’ve got them.

***Which three of my publications or series are most relevant depends in what I’m pitching and who I’m pitching it to. Basically, my novel resume is not the same as my fiction for science education resume, and it’s important to remember audience.

****”I met you at ArghCON, we discussed my work, and you suggested I send you something” and the like is appropriate. Most other things probably aren’t.

_________________ONWARD____________________

Now for the short pitch segment, I’m going to play to my strengths, laziness and organization and pull from previous things I’ve written on pitch sheets and only update the bits I feel need it. So, stealing from myself:

I’ve already covered some of what a pitch needs to do and how to do in the post on elevator pitches and I’ll go into it further in my post on synopses, so I’m just going  to post a diverse set of examples here. Below you will find a pitch for a novel I’ve never written, one for a novel I’ve written and haven’t yet sold (though I’ve had it almost sell three times), and one for the first novel I sold, WebMage. All of these are exactly as they went out to editors. After each pitch I’ll include a brief note. Oh, and there will obviously be major spoilers.

The rest of this post is beyond the cut to hide the spoilers and because it’s enormous.

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