by Connie J. Jasperson
Something about the wind-driven rain-bullets here in our part of the world can be death on umbrellas, even expensive ones. Even the cutest umbrellas frequently end up in street-corner trash-bins, ending their days as the tattered and broken relics of impulse purchases.
Despite the carnage, I feel compelled to keep buying umbrellas, feeling sure the next purchase will be the one--the true umbrella for all seasons, able to withstand 40 mph winds and sideways rain. So far, the decidedly unromantic golf umbrella is the bumbershoot I carry.
And this brings me to my point: You may not realize it, but the weather is a huge factor in your characters’ ability to go from point A to point B. For those of us who are writing fantasy, our characters are likely to be traveling through strange terrain in other-worldly weather conditions. If they are on foot or riding horses or other beasts of burden, the weather will be a large part of what impedes them, or enables them to travel faster than they had planned.
Weather can cause complications in a sci-fi tale too, as it could have a negative effect on equipment and morale.
Traveling on foot in the dark during a heavy storm is extremely difficult. Before the advent of the automobile, people didn't travel during storms unless some terrible reason forced them to.
Weather is something I understand. In the 1980s, newly divorced and unqualified for any well-paying job, I worked for a Christmas tree grower as a field hand. In the summer, we started work at 5:30 am so we could be finished and out of the field by 2:30, during the hottest part of the day.
I’ve never been a fan of using too much sunscreen—it’s greasy and full of things I can’t pronounce. It gets in your food, and I’m not sure eating it is good for you. So, in those days I wore light, long-sleeved shirts to keep the sun off me, and wide-brimmed hats that kept the sun off my face. That is old-school, low-tech farm garb, and is how I still roll when it comes to dealing with the sun.
But when November arrived, we field hands were still working outside. With the advent of a Northwest Winter, we wore layers, 2 pairs of wool socks, barn boots, and raingear. Good old Helly Hansen—his fine product kept me dry and warm while I worked to bring Christmas trees into every home. But, working outside in the cold and rain requires a certain amount of preparation, or you can become hypothermic, and unable to function.
Every year, when the cutting-and-baling season started, we would have a new crop of people who had never worked out of doors, and who didn’t understand the sense of investing in long-johns and raingear. The company offered decent gear (boots, gloves, and raingear) at reasonable prices, but many would not spend the money, refusing to believe that it was a war the weather would win.
So I discovered that if you were going to work outdoors year-round, you needed better quality gear than the company offered. In 1982, the best gear available was: LL Bean thermal underwear, and Helly Hansen foul-weather gear, and the mail-order catalog was the place to get it.
My point with this is that if your novel's setting is a low-tech society, weather affects what your characters can do. It affects the speed with which they can travel great distances, and it affects how they dress. It affects their horses, and that is a serious point to consider.
Medieval society had ways of dealing with the weather when they had to be out in it, and the internet is your friend. In medieval times, people of England, Wales, and Ireland didn’t have to deal with extreme temperatures the people of Northern Europe experienced in the 17th and 18th centuries, as it was a warmer time. However, they did get some occasional snow and cold in the winter, and at times they suffered heat waves during the summer.
How did they protect themselves against the weather? Here are several good websites for research:
In a lower-tech society fur-trapping is a common way of earning money, but only the wealthier classes, the merchants and nobility, can afford to buy those furs.
The average medieval agrarian society will have access to fleeces, though, especially if they are a Northern European type of society. Also, in the more urban centers of a low-tech society, the average person’s winter garments, hooded cloaks and gloves, and even bedding would be made of thick wool, layered and felted.
Wool has been a winter mainstay since humans first began making cloth. Some garments will be made of heavy canvas, or oil-cloth. Oilcloth, close-woven cotton canvas or linen cloth with a coating of boiled linseed oil, was a product available from the late middle ages on.
Clothing and cold weather gear will make their appearance in relatively few sentences in your novel. Most likely it will only be mentioned in passing, but it is important as part of what builds the world you are creating. A little research on your part regarding what technology might be plausible in your society will lend a sense of realism to your work.
by Connie J Jasperson
Every author, indie or traditionally published, comes to a point in their career where they must craft a query letter. For many, avoiding having to do that is one of the reasons they went indie in the first place.
We may want to submit queries to two widely different types of editors, but the principal is the same.
Magazines: Most magazines want electronic submissions, so the email you attach your submission to is your cover letter.
Large Publishing Houses: Most agents, editors, and publishers want a 1 page, 300-word description of your novel. This is a query letter. Your ms is not attached to this.
Every magazine, publisher, editor, or agent has a website detailing the way they want things submitted. In general, the larger publishers/agents want letters/emails that follow a certain pattern, and that basic format is readily available via the internet.
Most magazines want a cover letter, which you should format like a query.
ALL prospective publishers, whether for magazines or larger houses, want the hook and the essence of that short shory/novel in 2 paragraphs, and they want to get a feel for who you are. Both aspects of this 1-page extravaganza must intrigue them.
The www.NYBookEditors.com website has this to say about query/cover letters: “You must walk a very fine line between selling your manuscript without coming across like the parent who knows his kid is the best player on the bench.”
That, my friends, is more complicated than it sounds. Of course, we are firm believers that what we wrote IS the best player on the bench. I’ve always known that about my children and my books!
Anyway, back to the query letter. I’ve attended several seminars on the subject and have written many of them. The best place I have found with a simple description of what your query letter should look like is at the NY Book Editors website.
In essence, what they tell you is this:
In an email, you wouldn’t do step one, but you would make sure your personal information was in your signature.
The 1st paragraph is where you introduce yourself. If you have a connection with the agent or editor you are approaching, say you met at a convention or seminar, or you are a fan of one of the authors they represent, mention that. Briefly.
If you have no previous connection, NY Editors suggest you get down to business right away with your attempt to sell your short story or book. Their point of view on this is that you only have a few paragraphs to sell your work, so make those words count.
In the 1st paragraph are the 3 most important things to include:
The 2nd paragraph must give a brief description of the work—showcase the plot, and show why you think it is a good fit for this publication. Do this in one paragraph, and don’t give it the hard sell.
The 3rd paragraph should be a quick (as in BRIEF) bio of you, your published works, and whatever awards you have acquired. If samples of your work are available on your website, say so.
This is most important: don’t forget to double-check your letter for typos and spelling errors. We all make them, and we don't want them to be our legacy.
As I have said, my luck with queries has been uneven. I think query letters are like ice cream—you just have to cross your fingers and hope your query arrives on a day when the person in question is in the mood for a story exactly like what you are selling.
A sample cover letter might read:
I have been considering querying an (as yet unfinished) work-in-progress once it is finished. Its not a fantasy, but is more contemporary. I intend to try to shop it to an agent. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? I’m already an indie, so failure to attract a buyer wouldn’t deter me from publishing it myself.
SHORT AUTHOR BIO EXAMPLE:
Connie J. Jasperson lives in Olympia, Washington. Her epic and medieval fantasy books are available through Amazon and other online vendors. A vegan, she and her husband share five children, a love of good food and great music. When not writing or blogging she can be found with her Kindle, reading avidly.