Jo

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We are Jo.

Jo – short for Josephine – is our preferred pseudonym.

We are a (happily) married couple. He mostly writes scientific papers, she is a published novelist. She writes in Italian. English is not our native tongue, so creative writing in English was initially just a divertissement, and the idea of completing a novel – let alone publishing it – was a far cry from our expectations. Then something happened, and – in Jo’s analytic mind – the probability of getting published stepped up dramatically, from one in a million to, say, one in a thousand.

So here we are. One in a thousand is not so bad. And creative writing in English is so fun!

Jo is not just a pen name. When Jo writes, she shows her distinctive personality and her signature style, mixing and merging creatively our writing styles and our discussions and our Weltanschauung.

Jo is us.

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Jo Discussions
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Dear friends at Jerichothe time is now! After the long journey you all know, my first novel is ready…
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  •  · Hi Libbythank you again for your revision. Intriguingly, some of your notes mirror those written by …

Thank you Sweetums for founding the group, and let's look forward to participating in the new group...


Hi Rebecca, I guess Xy and Deya are ready for beta-readers now... please email me the manuscript if you like, and good luck with the other beta-readings. Jo

Welcome Christopher, I'm looking forward to knowing more about your creative writing. 

Welcome Laurene! I'm looking forward to talking the magic of writing with you.

Welcome Tara, and good luck with your novels! I am very sympathetic: what I (try to) write is very different, but it is 'very much to do with women's issues', as well. And - just my two cents (of euro of course) - I believe that cross-genre could maybe be difficult to 'sell', but it is fine, and sooo fun to write.

Cheers from sunny Southern Europe

Jo

  

Hi Libby

thank you again for your revision. Intriguingly, some of your notes mirror those written by another beta-reader (e.g. these men are serious meaning they use 'serious' pistols, Glock 17s - our heroine is a trained undercover agent, so she knows which weapons are 'serious', but your note demonstrate that it needs rephrasing and clarifying) - and they need definitely to be addressed. Others were noted only by you (exit), unexpectedly, after so many readers... but I am convinced that any manuscript is a draft, no matter how many revisions it has passed. The only reasonable goal is not perfection, but a level of acceptable imperfection. Thank you for helping me in getting there!

Jo 

Hi Heather 

thank you so much for your feedback! You are right about the Prologue, the connection is feeble, it is in the change of tense (from past to present) and narrator (from third to first person) halfway through the page, implying (feebly) that the unknown narrator in the prologue is the main character, the lady we meet in the first chapter, And the two stories, of course, will connect in the novel. The second explosion came unexpected - it was unexpected in that the first one could have been an accident (that was the case in the famous incident of USS Maine, a sister ship of our (fictional) USS Egeria) while the second one means that the sinking of USS Egeria was deliberate. 

But I'll think about your notes. The first pages are read for free by the Kindle readers: I ditch whole books because I dislike the first page. And (hopefully) by the agents, so your opinion is precious. 

Thank you!

Jo

...on second thought, I believe you are right about ensign, in this specific case because of 'stars and stripes, that makes it obvious that it is the flag, so I have adopted your suggestion. Thank you! And in general, I agree with your theory, and I will let you know if I find empirical support ;)

Hi Libby 

thank you so much for your help! I don't find it confusing, it is very clear and it reminds me of how much there is to learn in creative writing. It is much more complex and tricky than academic writing. I am rewriting the prologue taking into account your suggestion, which are all very interesting. My only concern is about overkilling, in that that the usage of 'stronger', more interesting words (e.g. ensign instead of flag) could mean a more difficult language for certain readers. Weak contrasting strong writing is an intriguing concept, and once you have pointed out the critical points it is easier to find the right 'stronger' images that for me come from the technical, specific language. By the way, talking about images, please find in attachment a picture of the stern of USS Egeria featured in the prologue - in a less dramatic moment. She is a warship, a protected cruiser, and the (fictional) sister ship of USS Olympia, which is on display in Philadelphia... historical fiction is sooo fun!

Thank you again, and greetings from good ol'Europe

Joimage_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=446&dpx=2&t=1621419538

Hi Julie

This helps a lot.

I believe you are right – doing too many things at once is a typical rookie error, and I guess I am doing it in this query letter and possibly – God forbid – in the novel as well…

But! At least for the query letter, I can try to amend it. So, the opening paragraph (after title, genre, and length) will be the best elevator pitch I have so far ‘An Ivy League professor turned undercover agent is abducted and – while unveiling a historical enigma – explores her transgressive self and rethinks feminism.’

I am not sure about the comp: Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden inspires the feminist radical approach rather than being a comp. It is not fiction. Lisa Hilton’s Maestra is the only comparable recent novel, but it compares only in intention (stretching the limits of mainstream toward graphic erotica). James Bond or Indiana Jones compare to the main character, but she is not a cartoon…. And so on for another half-dozen novel, mostly classics.

Finally, you are definitely right about cutting the last paragraph. Thank you!

Added a forum 

Dear friends at Jericho

the time is now! After the long journey you all know, my first novel is ready for pitching the first agents: it has reached a level of acceptable imperfection. It still needs revisions (possibly major ones)  – but it can be done when considering the rejections (LOL) hoping for some useful feedback. So, as the last verification before jumping, I am requesting your opinion on my query letter and first pages. This particular agent(s) require query letter made of two or three paragraphs ‘sounding like the back cover of a novel’, plus the first three pages:

I have two particular concerns:

  1. The novel is cross-genre, and albeit recognizing that it is a good idea to label it after the dominant genre, since it would probably be ‘erotica’, it doesn’t seem such a good idea after all. On the other hand, labeling it as an 'erotic/romantic historical thriller' seems rather awkward. Silver bullet, anyone?
  2. The first two pages (World and ‘At sea’). One of my beloved beta-readers is enthusiastic about it, another suggests ditching it altogether, and start directly from what is now page three. I believe that it could be a good idea for the final manuscript, but here it has the advantage of foreshadowing the novel showing its three+ themes. What do you think?

Finally, since English is not my first language, if you spot any typos or idiomatic errors, please let me know.

Please find in attachment (.pdf and .docx) and below (some formatting lost...) the document. I am looking forward to your feedback and help, and thank you in advance! Cheers from sunny Southern Europe.

Jo

Subject: Query letter: seeking representation for my novel titled Princess in Time

Dear Jane Agent

I am writing to seek representation for my novel, Princess in Time, an erotic/romantic historical thriller of 70,000 words. The novel explores the theme of sexual fantasies through the story of an Ivy League professor turned undercover agent who is abducted and – while unveiling an historical enigma – explores her transgressive self and rethinks feminism.

NANCY FRIDAY’s feminist legacy inspires the narrative arc of Doctor Varela Autopoiesis, the main character, who is forcefully enrolled at the Sex Fantasy Academy and explores the Secret Garden. There, she also solves the historical enigma (an unusual jewel was found in a sunk warship…) finding the breakthrough in her family microhistory, bringing about an unexpected (but historically plausible) connection between the American and European history of the 20th century. The novel touches controversial feminist issues – rape fantasies, for example – but approaches them in an entertaining, ironic, and funny way. Romance unexpectedly crept into the story en route – and I welcomed it.

Josephine Gentileschi is a pseudonym. The novel embraces both the male and female point of view and we believe it can be of interest to a broad audience, extending the limits of meaningful ‘graphic’ erotica, comparing in this with LISA HILTON’s MAESTRA. But our heroine is no psychopath, she is a complex, clever feminist woman seeking new answers to ancient dilemmas. We are published authors in other subfields (e.g. academic publishing), but this story is special to us, and – on the basis of your profile - we see in you the perfect agent for it, so we hope you could be interested in knowing more. We are looking forward to the opportunity of submitting the synopsis, the first chapters, and of course any other useful information.

Please find below, as requested, the first three pages of the novel. The first page gives a glimpse at the utopic world in which the action takes place.  Besides the fantasy/sci-fi flavor, the World is an opportunity of exploring some gender-identity issues in virtual worlds; the second page introduces the historical parallel plot, the third is the incipit, in medias res.

World

Life is good in the World.

People are young and healthy and handsome. Nobody is hungry or in need of shelter.

Sex is easy and plentiful. Even good sex. And – albeit rarely – love. Real Love.

But there are ominous events plaguing the World.

Sometimes your friends, and even your lovers, vanish without warning.

Sudden quakes are often felt, and immediate evacuation is required. Homes, buildings, even whole islands disappear. And the Avis – as the inhabitants of the World proudly call themselves – consider these terrifying incidents to be perfectly normal.

But Doctor Varela Autopoiesis, the famous social scientist, knows better. She suspects that the organization abducting successful women is much more than just a criminal ring. The villains call themselves ‘The Humans’ after the mythical, evil creatures that – according to legend – control the whole World. Doctor Autopoiesis is determined to shed some light on the ultimate question: who are the dreadful Humans?

But her quest - like that of the three princesses of Serendip -will provide unexpected answers to unasked questions.

Prologue

At sea, 28° 07’ 25’’ North Latitude and 86° 24’ 00’’ West Longitude

The second explosion came totally unexpected, and some sailors thought it could have been just the echo of the first one, reflected by a rocky island hidden by the mist. 

But the ship knew better. There was no island. She lurched high through the next wave, then her speed decreased quickly, as she started taking on water through the ragged underwater holes, until she stopped, listing more and more to the starboard side.

I can see the young, pale cadet clutching the arm of the older man as he is helped into the whaleboat, the unusual kindness of the bearded officer as he wraps the shivering younger man in his uniform jacket. I can see their faces illuminated by the red, dancing reflection as the 8-inch forward magazine explodes, and the bow plunges underwater. I can see the white ship showing her red keel and her glistening bronze propellers just before her name – USS Egeria – disappears, the star-and-stripes flag showing for a last instant before darkness falls.

 

It was Sunday, October 9, 1904.

Part One – Women on Top

The Day

At Desi Yoga Center on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan

Two men are hiding in the park.

Badly cut dark suits, bulging jackets concealing big guns, stern expressions, sunglasses worn even in the dwindling evening light, they could pass for bodyguards. Moving like panthers, they advance toward me, traversing a trafficked street in the far side of the park. A yellow cab screeches to a halt, and its Pakistani driver yells a string of creative obscenities at the men crossing his path. They just ignore him. He shuts off midword as soon and he sees the big black pistols they are fitting with long silencers. Glock 17s. These men are serious about their weaponry.

Definitely, they are not bodyguards. They are criminals. Abductors. Coming for me.

As usual, I am the last customer at Desi Yoga Center. Out there, just across the Avenue, the thugs in sunglasses are patiently waiting in the cold. The bad weather had not been forecasted. After a mild spring day, an icy drizzle is falling on Central Park and the men in black are getting soaked. They are listening intently to their earpieces connected to coiled wires, waiting for the green light, the perfect moment for the abduction, me exiting the dressing room and crossing the dark hall, alone, toward the exit. But I take my time. Naked, sitting in front of the full-body mirror, I slip my silk stockings on, followed by five-inches heels.

I know that a surveillance system is hidden behind the mirror. 

The criminals are spying on me, ready to warn the abductors out there as soon as I exit the dressing room. I smile for them through the looking glass before clasping the push-up bra on. Enjoying that naughty Basic Instinct feeling, I uncross and re-cross my legs, sharonstoning the bad guys, imagining their sweaty faces, their leering eyes, their bulging pants.

A look at the small display hidden in the vanity confirms that the abductors in black suits are still there, their cheap jackets shining with rainwater in the twilight. The poor guys know that they cannot be seen by the surveillance cameras as they crouch behind the massive stone retaining wall, well below street level. But! They don’t realize that the luck-bringing ladybug which has followed them and is now crawling up in front of them – as ladybugs do - is actually a tiny drone carrying miniaturized cameras. 

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