Monday, July 22, 2013

Characters: Gonzalo González

I'd like to introduce the most important member of the title characters via an excerpt. From Chapter II, this is the first time we see the title characters, and Gonzalo in particular. The scene takes place on the banks of the Arlanzón River in Burgos, Spain, in the year 974. A proud mother introduces her sons to her soon-to-be sister-in-law and her servants. I'll put all clippings from the novel on the new Excerpts page.

Eduardo Verastegui.
This is how handsome (and Spanish) Gonzalo should look.
Sancha’s face lit up again. “My sons are outside with my husband, waiting to meet you.” She grasped Doña Lambra’s limp hand and pulled her outside.
Justa, Gotina, and all the other servants followed the count and Álvar Sánchez outside to find a concentration of masculinity so intense, Justa could feel it wash over her like the waves of the Cantabrian Sea. Nine men, each with a gleaming sword in his belt, and seven with dark brown hair that shone bronze in the sunlight, laughed and talked amongst themselves, producing a resonant rumble in the women’s ears.
Count García said playfully, “Hey, Gonzalo, come and meet your future relative, and bring those sons of yours. Ah, there they are! I would never have known, since they’re so quiet.”

[All six of Gonzalo's elder brothers briefly meet with Lambra, and then we come to the youngest.]

“That will do, Gustio,” cut in Doña Sancha. She took Doña Lambra’s hand and patted it warmly. “And this is my youngest, Gonzalo. We call him Gonzalico.”
The knight in question grimaced at his mother, but just as quickly flashed a smile at Doña Lambra and Justa. He looked to have completed about fifteen years, just like Doña Lambra. Even in similar clothing and with the same nearly black hair and athletic build as his brothers, he was unique. Passersby, whether men or women, let their gazes linger on him. Behind his eyes danced a playful spirit, but it was impossible to tell whether it was angel or demon. Justa observed that the air around Gonzalo seemed to move faster, to bounce off his skin and radiate outward in jagged waves. Her heart skipped. Perhaps this nephew could be an exciting friend for her lady.
Doña Lambra held out her hand for a kiss and was absorbed into his energy. She seemed to pull away as quickly as she could.
The other brothers gathered around, eager to tell Doña Lambra about their little brother.
“Gonzalo’s learning about law. I often consult him when cases come before me,” said Diego, the eldest.
“He’s good at everything he tries,” said Gustio.
Suero added, “He’s even a decent hunter when I lend him my goshawk.”
“Your goshawk?” young Gonzalo shrilled. “You’re just lucky I let you hold him sometimes.”
“Now, boys,” Doña Sancha said over their boisterous teasing. “Let’s act like the nobles we are.”
Justa looked at Doña Sancha and tried to imagine all those well-formed men coming out of her somehow. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Greatest Query Letter Ever --?

I think this lady is a writer  trying to get past the "gatekeepers."
After untold anxiety and knocking of noggins against walls, desks, etc; after checking too many reference sources for "rules"; after showing my query letter to countless hapless individuals; after wringing my hands over how many characters to name and how much to highlight Doña Lambra's role, I got advice from not one, but two, honest-to-God fabulous writers and ended up with what I have to assume is the greatest query letter ever. Tell me, does this make you want to read the book?

THE SEVEN NOBLE KNIGHTS OF LARA is a medieval epic novel with a fast pace, strong women, and valiant knights. It is probably the only novel you will ever read that features a bloody cucumber. 

When courageous, but hot-headed, young knight Gonzalo defends his pride at a wedding in tenth-century Spain, he unwittingly launches fifteen years of devastation on his homeland as the outraged bride wreaks a bloody revenge against him and his family. New hope for peace and justice comes from the unlikeliest place: Córdoba, the shining capital of Muslim Andalusia. Mudarra, our powerful young hero from this exotic civilization, looks just like his half-brother Gonzalo, but would rather catch falling almond blossoms as if they were snowflakes than face his own turbulent history. If Mudarra takes his jeweled sword to the throats of his betrayers, can he restore his family’s power and fulfill his purpose in life?

[A brilliant paragraph adjusted for each agent discussing other books mine is similar to as well as what makes it unique.]

I came across the seed of this story during the course of my PhD in Medieval Spanish. It captivated me so much that I could only analyze it by writing the novel. I hold an MFA from the University of Iowa and have published short stories in many literary magazines. As a day job, I edit freelance and publish fiction with the small Loose Leaves Publishing. I maintain a blog that is growing in popularity at jessicaknauss.blogspot.com and have started a site with information about THE SEVEN NOBLE KNIGHTS OF LARA at 7nkl.blogspot.com.

[A friendly-professional signoff noting what, if anything, is included with this letter and offering the entire manuscript for review, because it's ready.]

The one additional thing I would really like to add is a line or two of quotations from amazing (bestselling) authors who have read the book and love it so much they wish they had written it. If you know any great authors who would like to support a book like this, please introduce me!

If/when I change my audience to small presses, I have a few wonderful friend-authors up my sleeve already. If anyone can tell me when it's time to switch audiences, please weigh in!

The only real test of a query letter is whether it gets the needed professionals on the author's corner, taking the punches and planning offensives until the desired publication, miniseries, and awards finally roll in. In the meantime, I'll keep revising (and writing other books).