Monday, April 30, 2012

Logline Tips--And a Call to Action!

Call to action first:
Elizabeth Norris's UNRAVELING (featured last week) was placed in the children's section of Barnes and Noble (instead of YA). Please go to your local B and N and ask that this be rectified immediately (don't bash B and N--just politely ask for a relocation).

Feel free to spread the word! (Twitterers: use hashtag #unraveling when doing so.)

On to logline tips (and other ephemera):
I just returned from the Desert Dreams Writers' Conference in Scottsdale, AZ.  If Desert Dreams is any indication of what writing conferences are like, I will be attending many, many more!

Here's an overview of some nuggets I learned:
  • Write not only because you love it, but to make others' lives better.
  • Learn the rules--of writing, of querying, etc. But then customize to what works for you (a formula for one person won't work for everyone!).
  • You can be a squeaky wheel without being an obnoxious one (don't be afraid to put yourself out there, and be smart about it).
  • How to compose a logline that's more likely to land (see below).

For my logline, I originally I had this:

When fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke is given a magical bracelet and transported to the endangered realm of Anderli, she must use her ancient powers to save the land before it disappears.

At the conference, a gem of an author pulled me aside and said something that changed my entire plan: Your logline needs to convey what your book is about without someone having to read it. 

For some of you, that may mean completing the following formula
, borrowed from Donna Newton's blog:

An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the (Antagonist) before SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).

For others, it may be finding your "Hollywood tagline." Here's the formula for this:

       (A book/movie similar to yours) + (another book with an angle similar to yours) 
        = marketing audience for your book

Do not say, "My book is like_________." "My book is the next Harry Potter!" That will give an agent the impression you think you are the cat's bananas. And believe me, no one likes that guy. Choose two books that are well-known (but not off-the-charts huge). 

Here's the Hollywood tagline I came up with: "A YA version of OUTLANDER mixed with A WRINKLE IN TIME."

An advertisement I saw recently helps exemplify how helpful it is to change around words in a logline to convey a clearer meaning:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Release of UNRAVELING, and Twitter Giveaway!

Last month I featured UNRAVELING from Liz Norris, and am happy to report it finally debuted yesterday!

In celebration, I will be conducting a Twitter giveaway for a free copy of UNRAVELING, and autographed bookmarks for the runners up.

Here's how to enter: Send a tweet to @WriterLibrarian  with an answer the following question: If you had a 24 hour countdown to the end of your life, what would you do? Be sure to use the hashtag #unraveling in your response, and I will select from the most creative answers.

Contest is complete! Here are the the results:

And here was Heather's response:

Thanks to everyone who participated!!

For those who want a refresher as to what this awesome book is about, see below:

From Goodreads:

Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.

Here's the trailer:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

365 Days of the Query: Finding Time to Actually Query!

While I'm getting used to the new Blogger look (thanks, Google), I'm thinking about how we start out with the best intentions only to find out that nothing pans out as expected.

For example, before I started querying, I intended to send out about five or so queries a week. Reality struck, and there was only one week which I was actually able to accomplish this (it was a three-day weekend).

Here's what I've experienced since I started querying:
  • Queries always (always!) take way longer than I expect them to (accounting for customizing the query to meet the agent's needs, researching the agent, and updating my bio).
  • I've constantly been revising and tweaking my query in the process of sending it out. This also takes time I didn't account for (though it's absolutely necessary).
  • I have separate documents where I'm revising the various iterations of my query pitch  (must unite these into one document and decide which pitches I intend to use).
  • Queries aren't the only thing on my plate. Along with the full-time day job, I am responsible for the following:
    • Revising current WIP.
    • Drafting Book 2 of the series I'm querying (this idea has been sitting in moth balls for four years, desperately waiting to be written down).
    • Jotting down notes for shiny new book idea (with the hope to start shiny new book when WIP revisions are finished).
    • Tweaking the MS I'm querying to get rid of those nasty, stealthy typos (they're like ninjas!).
    • Book reviews (I'm currently working through a batch of five books).
    • Entering contests (most of which require a query and/or synopsis). 
    • Blogging (and I only do this twice a week! I can't imagine how all you daily bloggers out there do it!).
In light of all this, I've had to reassess how important it is for me to query right now. Part of me thinks I should build up my writing repertoire more (finish WIP, draft Book 2, complete shiny new book idea) before putting so much effort into the query, or entering contests. I'm seriously wondering if I'm approaching this in the smartest possible way I could be. Can any published authors out there attest to methods of dividing and conquering that you've found most effective? I also open up the conversation to my fellow aspiring writers: How do you divide your writing time? What organizational strategies have helped you streamline your efforts?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT by Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler is the author of the brand new YA novel PLAYING HURT. I was originally just going to feature PLAYING HURT, but Holly's first novel, A BLUE SO DARK, had such a compelling premise that I wanted to highlight it as well.


Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talent artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.

Starred Review, Booklist
One of Booklist’s Top 10 Novels for Youth (2010)
Silver Medal, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year (YA Fiction)
Gold Medal, IPPY Awards (Juvenile / Young Adult Fiction)


Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

Here are some questions I asked Holly:

On your website you talk about making margin notes. What other strategies do you use as part of your writing process and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

My journey was looooong.  In some ways, it started when I was a little girl.  From the moment when I realized there was an actual person who had created the books I loved, I had it in my head that I would go to college, and then I would write.  Period.  I got my Master’s in English in ’01, and immediately took my mom up on her incredible offer to feed me while I wrote.  (Very Virginia Woolf, isn’t it, getting a room of my own and freedom from financial concerns?)  I’d been lucky enough to place some poetry, fiction, and literary critique in journals during college, and was under the grand delusion it would take no time at all to publish a book.  The reality?  It took seven and a half years to get the first book deal.

My strategies…I’m an idea junkie, and in order to get to all the novels I had outlined, I used to try to work on multiple projects at once—dividing my days into halves or even thirds to work on two to three different books.  Again, the reality?  Didn’t work.  I have to devote myself to one project at a time—I give myself crazy word count goals, to make sure I get each book drafted quickly, so that I can move on to another.

I know what you mean about dividing time! Right now I'm querying my completed novel, revising another, and I just got a great new idea for a third book this morning! It's hard to put your energy into multiple projects--maybe I'll take your advice and finish revisions before writing my new book!
 In A BLUE SO DARK, one of the characters has schizophrenia. Why did you choose this particular mental illness for your character, and what do you want readers to take away from the book when they're finished?

I think, in some respects, that a hallucination comes the closest to mirroring a creative “a-ha” inspirational moment.  In some respects, the “vision” an artist has of his or her end product is a bit like a hallucination, in that both involve an image or situation that only one person can see.  Since I was exploring the idea of mental illness and creativity being linked, I wanted the mental illness to involve “visions” of some sort—and that’s why I immediately gravitated toward writing about schizophrenia.

I really do hope that readers always take from my work the idea that there’s light at the end of a struggle.  That realization occurs for both Aura in A BLUE SO DARK and for Chelsea and Clint in PLAYING HURT.  Tragedies or hardships can only mark the end of one chapter—but the book, if I’m to continue with the metaphor, is still a work in progress.  I really do believe that the heart is the most resilient muscle in the body, and I hope that comes across in my work.

It sounds like both books are an inspiration, and will be relatable to a lot of readers! 
The discussion guide for A BLUE SO DARK states the title is metaphorical. How did you come up with the title and what would you recommend to aspiring writers having trouble finding titles?

Confession time: the original title—the title the book was acquired under—was THE OCEAN FLOOR.  My editor was really lukewarm about it, though.  He suggested I troll through the manuscript for phrases that would make possible titles.  My mom (also my first reader) and I both reread the manuscript, coming up with lists of possibilities.  I shot my editor several; he instantly fell in love with A BLUE SO DARK, which was from my mom’s list—she was also the titler for PLAYING HURT!

Sounds like an effective strategy--and a nice reminder that friends and family can be a great source for inspiration.
You have a forthcoming middle grade novel, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY. What differences have you found between writing MG and YA? What other projects are you working on?

The pacing is really different—MGs are roughly a hundred manuscript pages shorter than YAs.  The hundred and fifty or so manuscript pages you get for your MG can really begin to feel like a tight squeeze, especially after you’ve already spent thirty pages just setting the book up!  Each scene carries more weight in a middle grade, because there’s less space from the start.  One thing that’s similar, though, is that both MGs and YAs need to ring true to the reader.  You can’t be anything but brutally honest—otherwise, it’ll ring false to the audience.

My writing interests are every bit as varied as my reading interests…and I read everything.  Really—romance, literary, classics, sci-fi, clever cereal boxes…You never know where I’ll find inspiration next!

That's probably one of the clearest definitions I've heard for MG vs. YA. Thanks for sharing!
What do you love most about the writing life? What are some of its biggest challenges?

Honestly, I love the entire process.  The writing, the revising, working with editors, blog tours…Back when I was still reading Little Golden Books, my dream job was to be a writer.  And I’m so, so lucky that every single day I get to wake up and do just that—I get to be a writer.

Holly can be found at and at her author blog:  She also has two group author blogs, one for YA:, and one for MG:  She's also on Twitter: @holly_schindler, and Facebook:

Monday, April 16, 2012

In which I attempt a Query Shark-like chomp....

For those who don't know about Query Shark, I highly recommend it (especially the archives!) if you want to buck up your query. It provides immensely useful insight into what makes a query work and why.

In a contest I entered (run by the Query Shark herself), it was said the majority of our queries were crap. I believe it--the form rejections I've gotten so far are proof my query could definitely use some tweaking.

Another entrant had the notion of posting all failed contest queries to a blog for critique...and I immediately jumped at the idea--the more us aspiring writers can help each other out, the better.

Soon after I got an email with the subject heading "Query Ripe for Attacking." While I'm definitely no query expert, I hope my critique will be useful to this fellow aspiring writer. (And maybe I'll learn something in the process.)

Below is the query with my notes in red:  

Dear Fabulous Agent,

(Information about why I chose the agency).  I am seeking representation for my young adult novel, ENCHANTER, complete at 113,000 words. This is good--gets right to the point. Word count might be a bit high for some of the pickier agents out there. I've heard the range for YA fantasy is 50,000-100,000 words.

Nim is in a race to outwit her mother’s killer.  The only catch?  He’s an enchanter. I'd combine to make this flow a bit more--"Nim is in a race to outwit her mother's killer--a deadly (or some other adjective) enchanter.

When Nim breaks the cardinal rule of the Muirardue household, she has no idea this single act of rebellion will be the impetus behind her mother’s death, or that it will plunge her into the enchanting world: a world where ravens are spies and fire glows blue. Great inciting event--but a lot of words to process all at once. I'd condense: "When Nim breaks the cardinal rule of the Muirardue household, she is plunged into a world where..." The "impetus behind her mother's death" part can be saved until the end as a hook or omitted outright.

After her mother is murdered, Nim is deposited on the doorstep of a mysterious aunt she’s never met, in an east-coast magical enclave called the Quarter.  Once there, Nim discovers that her mother left behind a powerful secret, and it’s her job to find it.  Unfortunately, she’s not the only one seeking it.  She soon sets out on the road with three teens from the Quarter, in a race to discover the truth before the enchanter (a reminder of who the enchanter is--the murdering enchanter, the enchanter who murdered her mother, etc.--might help here) does.  When two boys vie for her affection along the way, she finds her life, and her heart, on the line. Good hook here, but needs more specifics--why is her life and her heart on the line? What does she have to risk?

Attorney and recovering philosopher, I have a B.A. in Philosophy and a Juris Doctor in Law.  I have no prior publications, but as a staff attorney in one of the state’s highest courts, I essentially ghost-write published nonfiction in the form of legal opinions. Good bio.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Hope this helps some of you fellow queriers out there!   

Thursday, April 12, 2012

CLOCKWISER, by Elle Strauss

Last November, I featured CLOCKWISE by Elle Strauss. For those eager for the next book in the series, CLOCKWISER is now available in ebook format through the following sales links:

Clockwiser on Amazon:

on Smashwords:

The print edition is forthcoming. Here's more about the book, courtesy of Goodreads:

The last year has been smooth sailing for Casey Donovan. She and her boyfriend Nate are doing better than ever, and things at home are good, too. Everything’s been so calm, she hasn’t even “tripped” back to the nineteenth century.

Then the unthinkable happens and she accidentally takes her rebellious brother Tim back in time. It’s 1862 with the Civil War brewing, and for Tim this spells adventure and excitement. Finding himself stuck in the past, he enlists in the Union army, but it doesn’t take long before he discovers real life war is no fun and games.

Casey and Nate race against the clock to find Tim, but the strain wears on their relationship. It doesn’t help that the intriguing new boy next door has his sights on Casey, and isn’t shy to let her know it. Can Nate and Casey find Tim in time to save him? And is it too late to save their love?

To accompany the new release, I asked Elle some questions:

Congratulations on the upcoming release of CLOCKWISER! What inspired the idea for the series and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading it?

The Clockwise series idea is an offshoot of a time-travel story I'd written a long time ago. It wasn't publishable but I still liked the seed of the idea and spun it into Clockwise. I hope readers have fun following Casey's adventures, but I also hope they stop to think about some of social issues and how things have changed since the 19th century.

I know a lot of writers (myself included) are experimenting with time travel. What strategies have you used to keep time travel interesting?

Hmm, I don't know. I came up with my own set of "rules" which built in some tension. I think it has to be more than just the time travel element to keep the story interesting. Conflict, character arcs, mystery--a well crafted story.

I agree--a well-crafted story is key regardless of the genre a book is written in!
How is CLOCKWISER different from the first book in the series? Are you finding that your characters are developing in ways you didn't expect?

Well, I didn't plan to write a sequel when I wrote the first book, so it's not the second book of one long story. It's a separate story involving the same characters, and some new ones. I had the idea to take Tim back to the past with the first book, but it didn't fit in with what I had going on already. When I decided to write a sequel (with strong encouragement from my Wattpad fans--thanks!) I knew I had something I could use.

You also published a MG novel entitled IT'S A LITTLE HAYWIRE. How is writing MG different from writing YA? Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers who have a hard time categorizing their work between those two age groups?

Haywire is another one of those stories birthed from a bad early draft written many years ago. Again, I still loved the story, but I needed to work on the execution. Once I had the main character firmly in mind, it basically wrote itself. I love It's a Little Haywire, but my focus right now is Young Adult. Haywire is just a bonus. Oh, and to answer your actual question :) Middle Grade protagonists are younger than thirteen. My main character, Owen True, is eleven and eleven twelves. Though there is definite interest in the opposite sex, the romance is nothing like you'd find in a YA novel.

 Great answer, and thank you for clarifying! I know a lot of aspiring authors are curious as to  whether their novel fits a MG or YA audience.
What other projects are you currently working on?

 The third book in the Clockwise series is a companion book called Like Clockwork, featuring Adeline Savoy who travels back to 1955 Hollywood. After that, I'm releasing a merfolk book called SEAWEED and then something totally different. A YA historical fiction about a boy who grows up in Hitler Youth called PLAYING WITH MATCHES.

Thanks, Elle! Readers, keep on the lookout for CLOCKWISER when it debuts in print.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Descriptors: Do they enhance, overwhelm, or fall flat?

I've been thinking about descriptors lately, both when writing queries and polishing my manuscripts. Sometimes, descriptors can be just the thing to make your manuscript or query stand out. But they have to be used carefully. Too many can weigh down a sentence, and too little can be vague.

In one of my query drafts, I described one of my characters as a "local beggar." (One adjective paired with a noun.). But it wasn't enough to indicate who my beggar was or what made the character an integral part of the story. 

I then tried: "An all-seeing beggar with a sense of other worlds." Too many words without enough description.

"A ragged, swollen-fingered beggar." Two adjectives paired with a noun, which I don't usually like to do, but it gives a clearer picture of who the character is--and it's specific without being overwhelming. (Thanks to the beta-reader who assisted with this word choice.)

Being specific with descriptions is necessary. Another beta-reader and I talked about Terry Pratchett, and how his decriptions usually come across well because they are filled with specific, unique language. Here are some examples, courtesy of Goodreads:

“Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual.”
― From Jingo

“There was this about vampires : they could never look scruffy. Instead, they were... what was the word... deshabille. It meant untidy, but with bags and bags of style.”
― From  Monstrous Regiment

A dog's wet nose is not strictly speaking the worst of the bunch, but it has it's own peculiar dreadfulness which connoisseurs of the ghastly and dog owners everywhere have come to know and dread. It's like having a small piece of defrosting liver pressed lovingly against you.”
From Moving Pictures

Now it's your turn: Take a page from your manuscript (or your drafted query) and write down the adjectives you chose. Ask yourself: Do the words enhance what you're trying to describe? Are they specific enough to warrant a picture in your head? Try using other descriptors and see how they change the look and feel of your prose.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

WICKED AS THEY COME, by Delilah S. Dawson

This week's feature is WICKED AS THEY COME, a delightful mixture of paranormal, steampunk, and romance. I received an ARC for review, and I can't put it down!
Here's the synopsis, from Goodreads:

Have you ever heard of a Bludman? They’re rather like you and me—only more fabulous, immortal, and mostly indestructible. (They’re also very good kissers.)

Delilah S. Dawson’s darkly tempting debut drops her unsuspecting heroine into a strange faraway land for a romantic adventure that’s part paranormal, part steampunk . . . and completely irresistible.

When Tish Everett forces open the ruby locket she finds at an estate sale, she has no idea that a deliciously rakish Bludman has cast a spell just for her. She wakes up in a surreal world, where Criminy Stain, the dashing proprietor of a magical traveling circus, curiously awaits. At Criminy’s electric touch, Tish glimpses a tantalizing future, but she also foresees her ultimate doom. Before she can decide whether to risk her fate with the charming daredevil, the locket disappears, and with it, her only chance to return home. Tish and Criminy battle roaring sea monsters and thundering bludmares, vengeful ghosts and crooked Coppers in a treacherous race to recover the necklace from the evil Blud-hating Magistrate. But if they succeed, will Tish forsake her fanged suitor and return to her normal life, or will she take a chance on an unpredictable but dangerous destiny with the Bludman she’s coming to love?

Below are Delilah's answers to my interview questions:

Your website bio states that you have a BA in Studio Art. Has this background influenced your writing and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

Well, I definitely have a penchant for pretty things! My hope is that the world of Sang comes across as rich and immersive, with colorful details that make it an escape from real life. I took art history classes, painted murals, and taught children's art classes, and I always hope I can paint a picture for the reader of what I'm seeing, feeling, and even smelling. As soon as I wrote my second book, I realized that I was a much better writer than I was a painter. I've written several books since then and haven't painted a thing-- I just totally switched gears. So I guess you could say that I paint my pictures with words now. It's much tidier.

Having read half the book already, I can attest that Sang comes across exactly how you intended. It completely jumps off the page! Who are some of your favorite authors and influences?

I love sweeping sagas about feisty women, like the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the Into the Woods series by Sara Donati, and the Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn. I adore Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate and Meljean Brook's Iron Seas and both of Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunter series. I want to lose myself in books and read stories that stay with me forever. And Joss Whedon is one of my biggest influences. From Buffy to Firefly, he's a master storyteller with complex and intriguing characters. Criminy Stain, the male lead of WICKED AS THEY COME, has more than a little Spike in him.

We have similar reading tastes! Diana Gabaldon a favorite of mine as well--I especially love the intricate world-building in her books. I'm also a fan of Gail Carriger, and featured the Parasol Protectorate in a previous post.
WICKED AS THEY COME has a great premise. What elements and themes of the book do you feel are most important, and what do you want readers to take away from the story?

I want readers to fall into the world and love it as much as I do! Sang is so real to me, and I hope I've captured it exactly, the fun and danger and strangeness of it. If I had to admit a takeaway, I suppose it's that you have to fight for what you want, that easy things are worth nothing. I also like Criminy's attitude, his mix of ferocity, humor, and optimism, and how it affects Tish. She's coming out of an abusive relationship, which is something I've experienced personally, where you're scared to trust anyone with your heart. In Sang, there's hope for everyone, love waiting in all shapes and sizes. But mostly, I just want to make people smile and look forward to the next book.

Tish is definitely relatable--those who've experienced abusive relationships definitely need a strong woman like that to look up to!
What advice (if any) do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those wanting to break in to the paranormal genre?

Get obsessed! You have to be obsessed to start writing, to keep writing, and then to polish your draft until it shines. And you have to be seriously obsessed, not to mention tenacious and thick-skinned, to query agents. As far as genre, I actually lucked into paranormal romance. My first draft was straight-up paranormal fantasy, with black-out scenes that I was goaded into fleshing out for the romance angle. You've got to have a unique and exciting hook, I know that much. And don't write to trends, as today's trend was actually sold two years ago. Make your own trend! I recommend were-narwhals. I'd buy it!

Were-narwhals definitely sound intriguing (though I'm curious as to what they'd look like!).
WICKED AS THEY COME is part of a trilogy. Can you tell us more about the sequels and any other projects you're currently working on?

I'm almost done writing the second book, WICKED AS SHE WANTS, which is out in Spring 2013 with Pocket/S&S and excerpted at the end of WICKED AS THEY COME. It's the Sangish version of the lost princess Anastasia... if she drank blood and was forced to hitch a ride on an airship brothel. There's a novella out next fall with a hot romance in Criminy's Clockwork Caravan. The third book will be a twist on Moulin Rouge and Paris. Also in the works are a YA paranormal based in Savannah and a clockpunk romance version of Robin Hood, although neither of those are ready to shop yet.

Thanks for interviewing me, and I hope y'all enjoy WICKED AS THEY COME! I'm always glad to answer questions on my blog, or on Twitter, @DelilahSDawson.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

365 Days of the Query: What is Your Inciting Event?

Kristin Nelson, head agent at Nelson Literary Agency, has a great blog series about writing a good query pitch. In it, she mentions what she calls the "plot catalyst," or, "the main event that triggers the story." Every good pitch has a plot catalyst.
Other schools of writing refer to the plot catalyst as an "inciting event" or "inciting incident." And I realized mine wasn't obvious within my pitch paragraph.

But it was staring me right in the face in my book title: TRISKELEON. The Triskeleon is the bracelet that allows my protagonist to travel to another world, and the inciting event is when she receives it.

Here is the revised query pitch with the inciting event thrown in (which I've highlighted in red):

In the land of Anderli, the trees are dying, the lake has disintegrated, and the fungus that ravaged the farmlands is showing signs of re-emerging.

The land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke, from Spring Oak, California. Marnie’s biggest claim to fame is colliding with a parked Ford pick-up on her bike--until she is given a Triskeleon, an ancient bracelet linked to her bloodline, that transports her to Anderli.When Marnie arrives, she finds out she is descended from the Momenta—with the ability to manipulate time and space. Rags, a local beggar, helps her hone her skills.

Before Anderli disintegrates, Marnie must locate the impostor who works for Terrsarah, a powerful sorceress fueled by her hatred of Momenta. But it isn’t until she discovers Rags’s true identity that Marnie understands the implications of Terrsarah’s corruption—that if Anderli is destroyed, the universe will start to unravel.

Let's see if you can spot the inciting events in the following summaries (courtesy of Goodreads):

The year is 1915 when sixteen-year-old Eliza Williams arrives at the Billings School for Girls in Easton, Connecticut. Her parents expect her to learn the qualites of a graceful, dutiful wife. But Eliza and her housemates have a dangerous secret: They're witches. After finding a dusty, leather bound spell book, the Billings Girls form a secret coven. Bonded in sisterhood, they cast spells--cursing their headmistress with laryngitis, brewing potions to bolster their courage before dances, and conjuring beautiful dresses out of old rags. The girls taste freedom and power for the first time, but what starts out as innocent fun turns sinister when one of the spells has an unexpected-and deadly-consequence. Magic could bring Eliza everything she's ever wanted...but it could also destroy everything she holds dear.

Did you guess that finding the spell book led to the other plot points?

Try this one:

                                         by Allie Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Did you guess the inciting event was Ky Markham's flashing face?

Now it's your turn:

1. Determine your inciting event.

2. Find your inciting event in your pitch paragraph. If it's not there, add it in.

3. See how your query pitch changes.