Writing a #Plot Summary and a #Marketing Blurb

I recently attended a webinar by @JordanRosenfeld about writing a plot summary for a manuscript through Writer’s Digest. What I liked about her presentation was the notion that a plot is formulaic. She suggested using a three act setup. Being more math-minded, it was something I understood. I liken it to being a baker versus a cook. I am much better at following an exact recipe for lemon poppy muffins rather than a pan with some fancy sauce and adding a pinch of salt and a handful of basil.

Case in point – My husband emailed me the article with a picture of J.K. Rowling’s hand-drawn spreadsheets to map out her plots with the subject line “this is something you would do.” He knows me well. I had already started a google spreadsheet mapping out my book.


I have a good sense of pacing, but I like the way she mapped it out. I used a similar setup, stolen from Elizabeth Sims, to note the flow of the classic hero’s adventure. It worked well.

Writing a marketing blurb was a piece of cake after that.  (Pun intended!)  I simply used the section designated as “Act 1.” Feel free to let me know what you think.

Think it’s difficult to be accepted into Harvard? Imagine attending Vita Post Mortem Academy, where the spirit of John F. Kennedy teaches social studies and the spirit of Albert Einstein gives physics lectures. There’s no hope getting in if you can’t see spirits.

Jules believes in spirits. She doesn’t analyze their existence on a regular basis. She just accepts it as fact. Living in New York City, where anything is possible, how could she not believe in spirits? However, the summer before ninth grade, when her best friend, Johnny, dies, she finds herself yearning to see his spirit.

Johnny was prone to brushes with death due to mysterious accidents, but the ominous light and the girl who gave him a final shove on to the subway tracks puts doubt in Jules mind that his end was a freak incident.

The strange events are jarring, but the foundation of everything Jules knows is shaken when she finds out she’s adopted, and she’s forced to attend a special school in California run by the spirit of the biological grandmother she never met. Needless to say, high school is going to be overwhelming.


To see more pics for this book, go to: https://www.pinterest.com/alanasiegel/afterlife-lessons/


Dedicated to the Girls Who Used to Stand in the Back Row in Dance Class

Don’t be mad. I just googled the band, Mötley Crüe. I know its a heavy metal band formed some time in the 80s, but why were they a “motley crew?” One picture solved the mystery for me:


Don’t be surprised, but this is where I relate Mötley Crüe to young adult fantasy books.

I’ve been doing lots of research on character introductions and came to the realization that most of my favorite books have some sort of motley crew – a group of underdogs who beat all odds and save the day.

The obvious one is Harry Potter.  Wasn’t Luna a little looney?  Neville Longbottom accident-prone? And Ginny Weasley just a little girl? But you loved the ragtag bunch.


Percy Jackson wasn’t any better – his best friend was a satyr and his brother was a cyclops.


Don’t even get me started on Lord of the Rings.


How about the New Directions in Glee?  Definitely your standard geeky bunch.


Well, my next book series starts the same way – a mismatched gaggle of kids, looking for a brave leader, getting into trouble, and of course, attending a school taught by famous ghosts.  Look for it soon, called (after)life lessons.


I feel like real life isn’t so different.  Didn’t everyone in San Francisco cheer for the 49ers?

I take jazz classes with a talented teacher named Ann twice a week.  There are a group of us who joined about a year ago.  We started in the back of the class, our own version of a motley crew, tripping through combinations and embarrassing ourselves.  Through dedication and hard work, we improved.  Most recently, the teacher suggested we stand in the front of the room.  I felt like my own personal underdog, able to keep up with her challenging routines and perform next to beautiful dancers without missing a beat.   [Perhaps I’ll attache a video soon!]

Traveling Superheroes

Four plane rides, five diligence meetings, four states, six coffee catch-ups, and one Bat Mitzvah.  That’s how I spent my first week of December.  I was impressed.  Okay, so I wasn’t attacked by monsters, I wasn’t gallivanting around Rome, and I wasn’t traveling on a trireme, but we can’t all be demigods searching for the House of Hades like Percy Jackson’s friends aboard the Argo II.


I did manage to find time to write a few more chapters of my next book series, Bone-Chilling.  As I approached the last few chapters, I noticed the characters suffer from time travel whiplash.  If you were able to see ghosts, like the main character, Juliandra Winklevoss, you would also have a hard time keeping track of which time period your teachers were from.

She knows one thing for certain, if they teach at Vida Post Mortem Academy, they must be superheroes.  President John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Eleanor Roosevelt, are just a few of the spirits that make a translucent appearance.


Dead or alive, historic or unknown, traveling or stationary, there are many different types of superheroes.  They can make sweeping changes or simply bring a smile to your face.  My mom forwarded this picture of one of my favorite dancers from So You Think You Can Dance, Twitch.  He is the king of optimistic superheroes.


At the end of the day, one of my favorite reasons to travel is to see my rag-a-muffin cat, Zeus.  Named after a Greek God, he too, likes to dress the part.  Happy Holidays!


More Than

Our love is more dangerous than Bonnie and Clyde’s.

Our love is more more romantic than Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s.

Our love will last longer than Bella and Edward’s.

Our love is more magical than Remus and Tonks’s.

Our love is more powerful than Lois and Clark’s.

Our love is more passionate than Rhett and Scarlett’s.

clark gable & vivien leigh - gone with the wind 1939

Our love.


Mom, My Personal Superhero

I’ve been thinking about Moms as superheroes for awhile now, but I took it as a sign when one of my best friends from NYU gave birth to a baby boy last night.  Pregnancy, labor, and birth…now that takes superpowers. Congrats, Lovecakes!

I find most motherly superpowers (other than giving birth) to be behind the scenes.  Rather than being the person, sword in hand, fighting the dragon, mothers are the unsung heroes in the background. Without their support, the protagonist would never have the courage to stand up to the dragon at all.

That is of course, unless your protagonist IS a mother. [I’m picturing Claire Dunphy from Modern Family who doesn’t take crap from anyone and still finds time to take her kids to mathlete competitions. Or perhaps Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones?] But in most of the fantasy books I read, the mother is there to support the lead. This blog is a tribute to all the Supermoms.

Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series is, hands down, a supermom. From cooking dinner for a family of eight, to joining the Order of Pheonix, to killing Bellatrix Lestrange, she is heroic.


Another superb example is Sally Jackson from the Percy Jackson series.  She lived (and died and came back to life) in terrible circumstances with an abusive husband, just to protect her son from the wrath of the gods.


Even grandmas can be superheroes.  Remember Gran from the True Blood series?  Fighting and loving vampires and fairies.  That’s hardcore.


However, no superhero compares to my own mom. Brave, smart, thoughtful…as my Aunt Iris would say, she is the whole package! Her love and support makes me the women I am today.  And trust me, I can take on any dragon!

photo (36)

And just because Olivia Hart tends to think like me, I leave you with a quote from the Olivia Hart and the Gifted Program Series:

She said exactly what I needed to hear. “Thanks, Mom. I love you. I’ll call you,” I said and hung up the phone. Something about a mother’s guarantee did wonders for self-confidence. I felt hopeful because Mom said I could do it. I was going to save my friends. –OLIVIA HART, THE RESCUE

The Ultimate Superpower

As a fantasy fiction author and reader, I am constantly thinking about superpowers.
Speed. Strength. Invisibility. Magic. Charm….
All terrific abilities to have and useful when defeating the big bad enemy, but none of these traits are the supreme reason for the hero’s success. The way I see it, the ultimate superpower is optimism.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world,” said the King of the Dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield, who recognized hobbits were the true heroes, doing good for the sake of doing good, without further goals or desires.
While I agree it is their selflessness that should be revered, I also think it is their optimism. There is something to be said about persevering with a positive outlook as you helplessly stare your enemy in the eye.
It’s the same “Can-Do-It” attitude the unsung hero, Neville Longbottom, portrays when he grabs the sword of Gryffindor and takes down the Dark Lord’s snake.
Although applied to fight a different type of enemy, I watched the power of optimism in action last night. I attended a jazz class taught by a fabulous women named Ann, who’s mother had just passed away. To add insult to injury as if to mock her and say ‘try being happy now,’ it was also the teacher’s birthday.
Ann, with the help of her friends in the class who dressed in animal print to show their support, was an optimistic superhero and beat down the enemy. The class became a joyful tribute to her mother, and we danced our hearts out with glee.
I was truly touched with her parting words for the night. “Create your own happiness, and keep dancing.”  — Ann Barrett