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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


 This is the scene from the school dance, where Emily thinks that Toby is the Soul Stealer or his slave.  She's gone with him to try and get him to prove it, but quickly finds out how wrong she was and ends up with an unexpected surprise.  Let's watch.

Toby picked me up in a fancy red sports car.  Since cars and I didn't really get along, I had no clue what kind it was, but I could tell this one was expensive. 
Since his parents were solidly middle-class I was pretty sure I knew where he'd gotten the money for it.  But I had no proof and I didn't want to accuse him of being a demon's slave until I was sure.  That was all I needed to be was wrong and then he tell everyone in the school I was insane and thought I was a reaper. 
 Though I doubted anyone would believe him.  No one but the real demon that is. 
He took me out for dinner--where he bored me brainless with his incessant chatter about football, and accidentally let it slip the car was a rental he'd gotten to impress me--and then drove straight to the dance. 
   There he dragged me around the room introducing me to his friends and preening as if I were a prized mare instead of his date.  He was always trying to touch me and I had no idea how Addy had put up with him, but it hadn't taken me long to realize I'd made a mistake. 
   He wasn't a demon slave and he wasn't the demon.  Unless he was a very good actor, which I doubted. 
   Demons were selfish and self centered, but this, this took the cake.  Not to mention that he was oblivious of anything but my bust line and cleavage.
   No, he wasn't the demon and I'd wasted precious time on him.  That meant that someone else had taken Addy's soul and she didn't even know who it was. 
   How did a demon, or his slave, steal a soul without her knowing the person?  Soul Stealing required skin to skin contact.  Just like my reaping required soul to soul contact.
   Having had enough of Toby for the night, I sent him to go and get me a drink and then hid in the shadows, trying to think of a way to get home without him.
   When I saw Toby looking for me, I tried melting into the wall behind me, but bumped into someone and turned to apologize.  I bit my tongue when I saw it was Kieran.
   He blinked and then smiled.  "Emily?  Is that you?"
   "Duh." I shook my head.
   "Wow.  You look...great!  That's a wonderful color on you."
   I couldn't help but grin and preen a bit.  "Really?  Thanks."
   He gave me a once over and then frowned at my silk covered wrist.  "You don't have a corsage."
   "A what?"
   "You know.  A flower arrangement the girl wears to fancy dances."
   Oh.  Oops.  Guess Isis didn't know everything.  "Oh yeah.  I, uh, forgot to get one of those."
   "Em, you're not supposed to get it.  He is.  Speaking of him.  Did you mean what you said?  About paying him back for what he did to Addy?"
   "Ah, there you are, my sweet.  I'd wondered where you disappeared off to," Toby said from beside me.  "Kieran.  It's nice to see you again."  He held out his hand for Kieran to shake, but Kieran only stared at it.  Toby dropped his and then turned back to me.  "Come on. There's a group of people I want you to meet."
   I suppressed the groan and started to follow after him, but Kieran stepped in front of me and took my hand in his.  His eyes met mine.
"What are you doing?" I hissed, trying to tug away.
"You can't go to the dance without a corsage."  He smiled at me.  Something heavy slipped over my hand and I glanced down to see a bracelet with gold flower links resting on my wrist.
A thrill ran up me at the sight, but I knew better than to take trinkets from boys.  "Shouldn't you be giving this to your date? And this isn't a corsage."
"Close enough and this is for the person I wanted to be my date," he whispered.
His thumb rubbed circles across the back of my hand. It didn't take a genius to know he was talking about me.  My stomach muscles tightened in response as my heart skipped a beat.
I moved my eyes to his.  "Thank you.  It's beautiful."  We stared at each other for a few minutes, until Toby cleared his throat.
   Reluctant, I slid my hand away and followed Toby as he took me as far from Kieran as he could manage. 
   Toby glanced down and I could have sworn he glared at the bracelet, but he didn't say anything and neither did I.
   We danced a few dances, but he was so clumsy I begged off to save my feet.  Undeterred he joined me and once again started his I'm-so-good monologue.   Before long though he seemed to get that I wasn't all that into his stuff and started asking questions, which I answered with the shortest possible reply. 
   I just wanted this night to be over with. 
   When he caught the hint I didn't want to talk, he stopped and we stared off into opposite directions.  I was relieved when a girl came up to him and asked him to dance with her.  He shot me a questioning look and I nodded and shooed him away.  At least it would be quieter now. 
   A hand dropped on my shoulder, startling me and I looked up to see Kieran's half grin.  "Where's your date?" he asked.
   I gestured toward the dance floor.  "Over there.  Somewhere.  Thank goodness."
   "Has Prince Charming turned into the frog?"
    I laughed.  "No, he was always the frog."
   He burst out laughing and then held out his hand.  "Well, it's a shame for such a pretty lady to be sitting all alone tonight.  Care to dance?"
   I shrugged, but held out my hand for him to help me up.  The dress may have been beautiful, but it was a pain to move in. 
   He led me onto the floor just as my favorite slow song came on.  I sent him a quizzical look and he smiled.  "You were listening to it the other day and you seemed happy.  I bribed the DJ to change the song the minute we stepped onto the dance floor."
   Giving him a large smile,  I placed my arms around his neck, careful my skin didn't touch his, and he put his on my waist.  I tried to ignore the little tingles his touch had given me.  The last time I'd felt those things, it had been the beginning of the end for me.  And nothing could come of this.  I couldn't touch him.  He would be the one who died this time.
   "You never answered my question earlier."
   "Which one was that?"  Being so close to him was causing my blood to hum and I was torn between enjoying the feeling and wanting to run far away from it. 
   "About Toby.  That you'd only come here with him because of what he did to  Addy."
   "Yeah, but..."
   "I don't know.  There really isn't anything I can do.  It wasn't a very good idea."
   "Well, in a way it was."
   I tilted my head back to look at him.  "Why is that?"
   He pulled me closer to whisper in my ear, sending tingles throughout my body.  "Because now I don't have to pretend we came together as just friends."
   I couldn't speak.  Sand dunes had arisen in my mouth, making my mouth as dry as the desert.   We were both quiet as we continued to dance. 
   "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
   I wanted to tell him that yes he did make me uncomfortable and pull away, but my heart decided to take control of my brain and answered for me.  "You didn't make me uncomfortable," I said, breathlessly.
   "Yeah?  What did I make you?" His own voice was husky, as if he'd just woken up from sleep.           
   At that moment the song changed and I stepped away, but he pulled me back.  "Don't go.  If you do, you'll just have to deal with the frog prince."
   I glanced over my shoulder and saw Toby waiting at the table for me.  I tried suppressing a shudder at the look in his eyes, but Kieran caught it and tugged me closer. 
   "See, I told you, you wanted to stay with me."
   For the rest of the song, I stayed in his arms, wondering why things had to be so difficult.  Why I couldn't, for one night, pretend I was something other than what I was.
   His hand rubbed up and down my back and I gave up and rested my head on his shoulder, pretending we were like any other couple on the floor. 
   When the song ended, neither of us let go of the other, until a hand rested on my shoulder. 
   "May I cut in?" Toby asked.
   Kieran's arms tightened for the briefest of seconds before he let go and stepped back.
   "Sure," he said and disappeared into the crowd before I could stop him.
   Toby took his place in time for the next song to start, but it had changed to a faster song.  I gave him a grin and a shrug and danced along with the music. 
   For the rest of the night I kept an eye out for Kieran, but I could never find him.  I found Becca though and she did not appear happy.  Eventually I gave up looking for him.  And made sure to stay out of Becca's way.
   A pop song came on and I wiggled my hips and moved my body in time to the bass.  The best part of this world was it's music.  Where I'd come from music was boring and even the chaste dance I'd had with Kieran would have been outlawed.  Toby's eyes gleamed when he saw my movements and then he joined me, stepping behind me and placing his hand at my hip, matching his movements to mine.
   Having too much fun, I didn't care.  I laughed when we bumped each other. When I glanced behind me to smile at him, I stopped in mid motion.  Kieran was leaning against the wall in the corner, his eyes focused on me.  He raised a brow and I gave him a saucy smile.  He lifted his glass in a toast and smiled back.  I took a step toward him, but Toby stopped me, turning me around to face him.
   I pulled away and started again in Kieran's direction, but he'd disappeared again.  Disappointed, I stayed where I was and eventually let Toby pull me into another dance.  This one a slow song again.
   Halfway through the song, he tugged on my hand and started leading me toward the doors leading to the outside.
   "Let's go get some fresh air."
             I set me feet and shook my head.
   "I don't want to go outside."
   He ignored me and pulled harder.  Unfortunately, even though I was supernatural, I didn't have super powers.  Meaning I wasn't stronger than him and he was able to pull me toward the doors.
             I struggled to get away, but it wasn't any use.  Tremors of panic zigzagged through me as he succeeded in pulling me outside and into the garden. 
   It surprised me nobody had noticed his little stunt and come to help me.  Then again, I was just the new girl and a freak on top of it.  No one probably cared what happened to me.
   When we'd gotten to where he wanted, he loosened his grip at the same time as I found the strength to pull my arm away.  But I did one better and punched him in the face.  Blood spurted out of his nose and splattered my dress.
   He yelped and jumped back, tearing one strap of my dress.  I hissed at the throbbing in my fist, but stood firm.
   He glared at me out of tear filled eyes.  "What the hell is wrong with you?" he demanded.
   "Me? You pull me into the middle of some dark garden without my consent and you wonder what's wrong with me?"  I stood there, panting and cradling my fist in my other hand.
   "You owe me."
   "For what?" I spit out.  I couldn't believe my ears.  How the hell did I owe him that?
   "I bought you dinner.  I bought the stupid tickets to this dumb dance, rented the car, and I took you here.  You owe me."
   I sputtered.  And instead of answering, reared my hand back to punch him again, but a hand grabbed my wrist stopped me.  I glanced over and saw Kieran next to me.
 "Don't.  He's not worth breaking your fingers over."  He glared at Toby.   "Don't you ever touch her again," he told him.
   Toby smirked.  "Yeah, and what are you going to do about it.  You didn't do anything when I took Addy away from you and you won't do anything now."
   Before I could say anything, Kieran had punched Toby and sent him crashing into a large potted tree.  I stared in shock as a Toby fell over the pot and landed on the ground.
   Blood continued to pour from his nose and he was starting to get a black eye, but he didn't get up.  He was out cold.
   The crash from his fall had finally alerted the others and pounding feet raced toward us.  I tugged on Kieran's hand.  "Come on.  We have to get out of here."
   When he didn't budge, I was worried he wouldn't come and we'd get into trouble, but when I tugged again he slowly followed.  And soon we were racing to the parking lot.  He took the lead and pulled me to his truck.  It sparkled under the lamplight.
   "It's clean," I said with a laugh.
   "Well, yeah. I had a date, you know. I couldn't let her get her pretty dress ruined before she could show it off."  He lowered the tailgate and patted it. 
He turned when I made no move to jump onto it and sighed.  Then he stripped off his jacket and pulled it around my shoulders.   "What a creep."
   "Yeah, I guess he was.  Well, at least we both payed him back for Addy."
   "Nice shot, by the way."
   "Thanks."  I winced when I moved my hand and a sharp pain shot up from my knuckles to just above my wrist.
   He grabbed me by the waist and lifted me up to sit on the tailgate, and then took my hand.  I yanked it away. "Don't take off the gloves."
   "Why?" he asked.  "I have to to see what damage you did." He started to tug on the silk again.
   I pulled away again, causing the glove to slid off.  Damn it!   "No, please.  Just trust me."
   "What's the big deal?" He paused.  "Are you a cutter?"
   I blinked.  "A what?"
   "A cutter.  You know," he made slicing gestures over his arm.  "The people who cut themselves to make themselves feel better.  Is that why you're always covering your arms up."
   "Oh, no.  I'm not a cutter.  I...uh...have a skin disorder.  Very contagious.  Nasty stuff."
   He gave me a 'yeah right' look, but handed me the glove.  "Go ahead and put it back on.  I've seen enough."
   When I'd replaced it, being as careful as possible, he took my hand and started feeling around.  I prepared for more pain, but he probed around very gently.
     "It's swollen and bruised.  I think you broke more than his nose."
   I groaned.  Super healing was also not part of the job description.  I was as close to human as I could get without being, well, you know, human.  "Great.  Well, that's just the perfect end cap to the night.  Isn't it?" 
   "Here.  I'll kiss it and make it all better," he said.
   I laughed, but shrugged.  "Sure.  Why not?"
   He lifted my hand to his mouth, and watching my face, kissed it.  My nerves hummed at his touch.  His eyes turned black as desire filled them and the next thing I know his mouth was on mine and he was pulling me into him.
   At first I was frozen in place, and only had only a moment to think that he shouldn't still be kissing me, that he shouldn't be alive, before my mind went blank and I was lost in the moment. 
   My eyes fluttered closed and I brought my arms around his neck.  He made a sound that was a cross between a groan and a moan. His hands grabbed my hips and yanked my closer, pressing his body against mine.  The skirt of the dress hiked up along my legs, revealing them to my thighs, as he slid his body between them.
   My head spun and my pulse bounded in my throat as he pulled back to give
us a chance to take a breath, but I dragged him back to me again.  I wrapped my legs around his waist and locked my ankles.
   He moved his mouth to my throat and I tilted my head, enjoying the sensations of his tongue running down my neck and along my collarbone.  His hands moved to my legs, but stayed just above my knee, his thumbs running circles over my skin and driving me crazy.
   All at once, reality came crashing in on me and I realized what was happening.  I yanked away and jumped to the ground, getting as far from him as possible. 
   I was still gasping for breath, as he was.  "What's wrong?" he asked, taking a step toward me.
   I stepped backward.  "What are you?" I asked, trembling.   Why was he still alive?  How come I didn't kill him?
   He stopped in his tracks and his face went blank.  "What do you mean?"
   "How come I didn't hurt you?" I didn't care at this point that I was giving too much away.  There was no reason he should be still alive.
   He laughed.  "A kiss isn't going to hurt me, Emily.  I'm not worried about...your skin disease."
   I narrowed my eyes and studied him carefully, and then did the dumbest thing I could think of.  I ripped off my glove and grabbed his hand.


Monday, April 26, 2010

The First 250 words

Okay, so I talked last week about your queries.  Today I’m taking just a moment—as I’m in a crunch with MI at the moment (Some edits that I need to get to my agent pronto!)—to talk about those all important first 250 words, which is approximately 1 page of writing. 

As in all things, there are no specific rules, but you need to grab the readers attention.  You don’t want the reader (whomever it may be) to look at the first sentence and go “BORING!  Why would I read more?”

Remember, you want your first sentence to really hook them.  Think about what you did for your query letter. 

Use your first sentence to hook them, then use the rest of the paragraph to reel them in, and use the rest of the first page to anchor them to that book. 

Here’s a few things to consider while you’re writing that all important first line.  (People who’ve read my blog from the beginning will recognize this from another earlier post.)

1. Sentence Style.  Basically what this means is that the sentence must be concise.  This doesn't mean it can't be long, but it needs to make sense.  It definitely needs to be structured correctly so that the reader doesn't feel as if it's a mouthful.
2. It should make the reader ask a question.  Basically this part is your hook.  This doesn't necessarily need to be in the very first sentence, but if not it needs to be in the first paragraph.  Give your reader a reason to keep reading.  Let it be a hint of what's to come and set the tone for the book.  If it's a comedy, open with something funny.  If it's a horror, something scary, etc.
3. It needs to be relevant.  Since this line sets the tone for the rest of the book, don't just add in something that sounds interesting or funny, but has nothing to do with the story.  It'll only cause your readers to stop reading that much faster.  Readers are smart, they'll figure it out.
4. It needs to allow for setup.  You shouldn't toss your readers in the middle of a scene where no one knows what's going on.  It's distracting, chaotic, and of course another reason not to keep going.  People don't like feeling confused.  They want to feel like they've got a good handle on something before they continue.

There are people who say not to start off with dialogue.  Or description, but as in all thing writerly, you have to follow your instinct.  If dialogue fits better.  USE IT!  If it needs to start with description.  Do it!  But make sure it’s EXCITING! 

It’s your hook.  If it doesn’t make the reader go. “Oh my!  I have to keep reading now!”  Then it’s not enough.  Try something else.

What’s just as important as that first line?  The last one.  In this case it would be the last line before you end at 250 words.  Make sure to end on another hook.

If you can make the agent go, okay, I liked the query, but I LOVE this page and I have to know what happens next, then you’re golden! 

So, you have a few days now to make your queries and first 250 shine, so get to it.  I’ll see you back here on the first!


Friday, April 23, 2010

The Query: Putting it all together

Just a quick post today.  Here's what my query letter looked like all put together when I sent it to my agent.


You'd think imagining a handsome stranger in your rearview mirror, crashing through a guardrail, careening into murky waters, and then being rescued by the same imaginary boy--who gives his name as Jackson--would be bad enough. But for seventeen-year-old Lily Baker, that’s just the start of her problems. (HOOK:  GRAB THE READERS ATTENTION)

After coming home from the hospital, Jackson starts showing up in reflective surfaces — mirrors, puddles, windows, you name it. Lily, fearing others will think she’s crazy, keeps the visions to herself. After all, they’ll just go away if she ignores them, right? Not if Jackson has anything to say about it. And it isn’t long before he convinces her he’s real. The more time she spends staring into her mirror, the more she realizes she’s falling in love with a boy her family and friends insist is nothing more than shadows in her mirror and the hallucinations of her healing head injury.  (SYNOPSIS:  EXPLAIN ENOUGH OF THE BOOK TO GET THEIR INTEREST.  END ON A HOOK)

MIRROR IMAGE is a science fiction romantic young adult novel, complete at 83,000 words. With a mix of Alice In Wonderland, The Phantom of the Opera, and Romeo & Juliet, this is a story of love that knows no bounds. Time, space, even the very fabric of reality cannot stop it.  (BOOK DETAILS)

My young adult book, under the working title FALLEN, has been offered a contract from XXX. We are currently undergoing negotiations. I am a member of the RWA and CFRW.  (PERSONAL BIO)


Per your guidelines, I have enclosed a synopsis and the first 50 pages.  Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.  (TELL THEM WHAT YOU ARE INCLUDING AND THANK THEM FOR THEIR TIME.)


         As you can see, it’s pretty easy. Mostly.  :D

         Here’s some fantaboulous resources to help you. 

         Absolute Write
         Query Tracker
         Agent Query

         And my own agent’s template. 
         I’ll add more agent’s onto this as I find them, so check back throughout the day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Query Letter: The conclusion

And we’re back for Part 4 of my query letter workshop. As always, remember what worked for me, may not work for you as all agents are different and want different things.  ALWAYS read the agents/editors guidelines for their recommendations.

Let’s talk about your bio.  First the things you can and should include .  Other manuscripts, short stories, poems, articles that you’ve published.  List the title and whom you sold it to.  If it’s a book, make sure to list sales numbers.  They’re going to want to know you write something that sells. 

Also include if you belong to any writers groups like the RWA (Romance Writer’s of America), the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), MWA (Mystery Writers Association), HWA (Horror Writers Association), SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers association), etc. (I suggest joining one or a few of these organizations, because they offer great support and information.  My RWA chapter gives wonderful workshops once a month, which has really helped my writing.)

If you’re an expert in something that’s pertinent to what you’ve written.  For instance, you were in the army for 20 years and went to Afghanistan and you’ve written a book about a corporal in the Army who’s been deployed to that same area.  They’re going to want to know that. 

Things NOT to include in your query:  what your English grades were in school.  That this is your first ever “fiction novel”.  That you’re the next JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Steven King, etc.  That you’re in prison.  This list goes on and on.

When in doubt, leave it out.  If they offer representation and want to know, they’ll ask. 

If you have no relative experience, you’ve never published anything, don’t belong to any official writer’s groups, and therefore have no official bio, leave this area blank.  It’s better to not list anything than to list the fact that you’re a newbie.  

At the time, I was considering a contract for my book, THE EXILED (then titled FALLEN).  Since it didn’t work out for various reasons, I never signed, but this is what my bio looked like when I queried my agent.

My young adult book, under the working title FALLEN, has been offered a contract from XXX publisher. We are currently undergoing negotiations. I am a member of the RWA and CFRW.

And now onto the salutation.  All you want to do here is thank them for their time and let them know you look forward to hearing from them.  Don’t add what you have to offer them, like an offer for the full or partial, or a synopsis.  They know—or hope—that you have a full manuscript ready and polished for them and they’ll request whatever it is that they normally request. 

If they want a certain number of pages, make sure to let them know you’ve followed their guidelines and have included xx number of pages. 

Here’s what mine looked like:

Per your guidelines I have enclosed a synopsis and the first 50 pages.  Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Then you want to close the letter with “Sincerely” and your name and contact information. 

Then include whatever they’ve requested and you’re done. 

Tomorrow, I’ll show you what the whole thing should look like, if  you’ve followed my advice and  a list of resources you can use to help you write that letter if you don’t want to follow my advice, including my own agent’s template for how she wants to see queries. 

Until tomorrow…

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

They Query: Part 3-Deets and Personalization

Welcome back!  This is #3 in my query “workshop.” As always, remember what worked for me, may not work for you as all agents are different and want different things.  ALWAYS read the agents/editors guidelines for their recommendations. Today we’re going to focus on the ms details section and personalizing your letter.

When I’m talking about the details, this is the nitty gritty section that lets the agent/editor know how long, what genre, and who your target audience for your book is.  I try to spice up this section a little so it’s not boring.  We still want to keep the readers attention here. 

Also, you want to make sure your title is in all caps. 

Here’s an example of the one I used for Mirror Image:

MIRROR IMAGE is a science fiction romantic young adult novel, complete at 83,000 words. With a mix of Alice In Wonderland, The Phantom of the Opera, and Romeo & Juliet, this is a story of love that knows no bounds. Time, space, even the very fabric of reality cannot stop it.

Now there is some speculation on whether or not you should actually say the work is a mix of blah and blah, but it worked well for me.  It has been said that it’s better to say that the book will appeal to readers of blah and blah instead.  I’ll leave that up to you.

As I look as this, I realize I’ve come close to doing one of the no no’s in the industry.  You NEVER want to refer to your book as a “fiction novel.”  It’s redundant.  If it’s fiction, then yes it’s a novel.  If I were still querying, I would try to reword that first sentence to make it better, but as they say, “hindsight is twenty-twenty.” 

Now onto personalization.  If at all possible, thoroughly research the agents you want to submit to, then, and only then, submit to them.   With the research you’ve obtained you want to add one or two sentences to your query so they know you’ve done your research.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find enough information on my agent (at the time) to really personalize it, but here’s an example of something you could do.

Since you represent such and such author’s book, TITLE HERE, which is similar to mine, for these reasons (list 1 or 2 reasons), I hope you’ll agree my book is a good fit for your list.

There are, of course, other ways to do it.  For instance, reading their guidelines and mentioning that since they are looking for such and such book, you think that YOUR BOOK would be a good fit.

Or you read in such and such interview that they were looking for, or they said something. 

The potential here is limitless and, if you do your research, this should be the easiest part of the query. 

Tomorrow, will be on your bio and the closing of the letter.  Until then, Ciao!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Query letters-Part 2: The Synopsis

Hello and welcome back for another installment on my query letter writing “workshop.”  Please remember that all agents are different and what works for me, may not work for you! 

So, now onto the next part of your letter.  They synopsis.  So you’ve drawn in the agent with your hook and they want to keep reading and find out what’s going on with your book.

This is the most difficult part of the letter for me.  Because you want to give the agent enough to realize what the plot is, but not so much you give it all away.  Basically, you want to have a back of the book blurb here. You also want to end this on a hook.  And in this particular synopsis you don’t want to give the ending away.  Make it sweet and simple, yet fascinating. 

Grab the agent’s attention and make them want to read the pages you’ve included or make them want to request them if they only have the query.

However, avoid using rhetorical questions.  Agents tend to frown on it. 

Most people say the synopsis should be no more than a paragraph, but it’s probably okay to have two if you absolutely need it.  Try for one though, if you can.  Remember there’s still more you need to include in letter besides the book stuff, and you only get a page to do it. 

Here’s an example of the synopsis I used for Mirror Image:

After coming home from the hospital, Jackson starts showing up in reflective surfaces — mirrors, puddles, windows, you name it. Lily, fearing others will think she’s crazy, keeps the visions to herself. After all, they’ll just go away if she ignores them, right? Not if Jackson has anything to say about it. And it isn’t long before he convinces her he’s real. The more time she spends staring into her mirror, the more she realizes she’s falling in love with a boy her family and friends insist is nothing more than shadows in her mirror and the hallucinations of her healing head injury.

As you can see that even though my story is written in first person, past tense, the synopsis needs to be in third person, present tense.  Always.  I can’t think of any exception to that rule. 

Also, note there’s a lot of my character’s voice in this.  Lily is funny and a smart alec, but she has a romantic side, too.  Not to mention a bit of stubbornness.  If I’ve done this part right, you can see all this. 

This is what you strive for.  You want to SHOW the agent what your book is about.  If it’s a comedy don’t just say it’s funny.  Show that in your letter.

Okay, tomorrow, the details about your manuscript and personalization.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Query letter: The Beginning

As promised here’s day one of my Query letter writing “workshop” for my secret agent contest.  Since it’s the beginning, I figured it was only fitting to talk about beginnings.

Keep in mind there is no secret formula to writing queries, all my knowledge comes from my own writing and what I found worked for me.  Each agent is different, and each agent will want different things.

Also, keep in mind that while you want to catch the agent’s attention, you don’t want to be gimmicky.  Avoid using colored paper, glitter, or sending cookies or anything else with the letter.  It should be just as professional as if you were writing a cover letter for a job interview. 

Margins should be 1” wide all around and the letter should be no longer than one page, single-spaced.  Don’t forget to include your contact information somewhere in your letter.  Usually below your signature.

In normal circumstances, it’s important to do some research before submitting, don’t just carbon copy everyone in the writing business.  Personalize each query to each individual agent and send each query separately.

 Use Query Tracker, absolute write, editors and preditors, and Agent Query to locate, research their preferences, and check into agents.  For the purpose of this contest we’ll just personalize the query letter with Dear Secret Agent:

Now onto the first paragraph.  Some like to say why they’re querying right here, but I don’t agree.  The top of the letter is valuable real estate!  You want to make it as eye catching as possible. And most agents know why you're querying them.  You want them to offer representation!  

So, I suggest opening your book with your hook. 

Since the query for Mirror Image is what eventually got me my agent (along with the manuscript pages) I’ll use that as an example:

“You'd think imagining a handsome stranger in your rearview mirror, crashing through a guardrail, careening into murky waters, and then being rescued by the same imaginary boy--who gives his name as Jackson--would be bad enough. But for seventeen-year-old LILY BAKER, that’s just the start of her problems.”

As you can see, I only give a little bit of information here, but it’s enough to capture said agent’s attention and hopefully make him/her keep reading. 

That’s the goal here folks, is to make the reader (whomever it may be) to keep reading.
Here’s another example of a hook.  This is one from my new WIP. 

"For EMILY BRIAR the rules are simple: life is short, death is never-ending and absolute, and second chances are almost never given. But when teenagers start walking around without their souls, that’s all about to change."

Do you see something interesting about the names?  Names in the synopsis and query are in all caps the first time they are mentioned, as is the title of the MS. 

Also, it’s important that you double, even triple check your query for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors.  Even have another person read it to make sure it’s perfect.  Nothing turns people off like errors in your query and it’s a good way to get an auto-reject.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the synopsis of the query.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Secret Agent Contest

Okay, so here's how it's going to work.

    First place:  Critique of Full Manuscript
    Second Place:  Critique of the first 50 pages
          Third Place:  Critique of the first 25 pages

There will be a call for submissions. When the call comes, follow the guidelines carefully and submit before the deadline. All submissions will then be posted (anonymously) on the blog, and all readers are invited to leave critiques/feedback. Everyone who has entered the contest is expected to crit a minimum of five entries (and I'm not talking about "Oh this is good, I really like it."  The biggest point of this contest is for the critiques.  Get as detailed with them as possible.  If it's good and you can't see a way to make it better, don't comment.  Just go onto another that you can help with.  However, IF you really like it, write a comment telling me you'd like to see this query + first 250 move onto the next round).

Our Secret Agent may or may not join the panel of critters (that is, you) and leave feedback for entries (through me).  Then I will narrow down the list to the best twenty-five entries(using a number of factors, including your "votes").  When the contest has ended, the Secret Agent will choose a winner.

That's it in a nutshell!

Here are the basic guidelines for each Secret Agent contest:

  • All excerpts submitted to the Secret Agent contest must be a query letter (no more than a page long) and the first 250 words of your COMPLETED manuscript.(VERY IMPORTANT!  The manuscript MUST be completed.)
  • Your submission must include your screen name and the title, genre, and word count of your novel.
  • By emailing your submission to me, you are giving implicit permission to have your work posted and publicly critiqued.
  • No submissions will be accepted prior to the opening of the contest. The maximum number of entries per contest is 25 submissions.
  • Winners of previous contests may not submit the same manuscript in future contests.
  • All contest entrants are required to critique a minimum of five other entries.
  • NO ATTACHMENTS are accepted. Your query and 250 submission must be pasted into the body of your email
  • Make the subject of your email Secret Agent Contest
  • You will receive a confirmation email.  (It may not be right away, but if you've made it into the first 25, you will get an email stating I received it and what number you were.)
  • I will not make changes to your query or first 250 after you've sent it, so please make sure it's the best it can be before you send it.
  • Address the agent as Secret agent.
  • Put your query first, separate using the stars (***) and then place your first 250.
  • Email address is

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Secret Agent Contest!

    Starting May 1st I'll be having you.  Yes you!  Submit to me your query letters to a very special guest!  SECRET AGENT!  From tomorrow on, I'll be talking about this contest and tips to make those query letters extra great! 

    I'll post the rules and everything tomorrow, but the grand prize is a...(drum roll please)...FULL REQUEST by the awesome SECRET AGENT! 

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Writer Wednesday: Blog Contest

    Okay, so in an effort to give something back to all my wonderful friends (and because I'm so close to reaching 50 followers on my blog and I'd really like to get to 50), I'm giving away a hardcover copy of Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton.

    Rules (because there are always rules):

    1. Math. You must be able to do math ( :D ) and let me know how many entries to give you, just comment below.

    2. You must live in the U.S. or Canada.

    3. Last Day for Entry is April 30 and I'll draw a winner on May 1st.


    One entry for becoming a follower. Two for already being a follower.

    One for mentioning this contest on Twitter, your blog, any other way you feel like doing it. (Maximum of 3 entries this way)

    One entry for becoming my follower on Twitter and two for already being my follower on Twitter.

    Beta readers get an extra entry for everything I've put you through.

    One entry for becoming my fan on Facebook; two entries for already being my fan on Facebook.

    Like I said... let me know how many entries to fill out for you.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Teaser Tuesday: Reaping

    It's that time again! Here's a little excerpt from my newest WIP. It's very, very rough, but I thought I'd give you a hint at what's to come. :D

             I tapped a sheaf of papers—which was all that was left to do after my latest transport—so the pages lined up, and placed them off to the side to bring to the file clerk, even in the Otherworld there was paperwork.  I adjusted my stapler on the corner of my desk so the edges matched up, spending almost five minutes making sure it was perfect.  Then I slipped my pen in the drawer, and preceded to organize my already organized files, going so far as to make sure the files in the alphabetized folders were also in alphabetical order. 
             This wasn’t done to make sure my workplace was tidy; it was a way of stalling.  Just after I’d transported her to her final destination, I’d received a message from Azrael—my boss, “Meet me in my office when you’re done,” and I’d been a nervous wreck since.
             That wasn’t at all the way it was supposed to happen.  Usually, I got a ‘good job’ when I handed in my paperwork—if he was around.  If I’d done really well, I might have even gotten a handshake, but I’d never gotten called to his office.  And especially not the second I’d returned from Elysia.  In fact, I’d only ever been to his office once.  The day I’d arrived.
             Almost no one went to his office, unless you were a member of his Assembly or you did something very, very wrong.  I was not a member of his Assembly.
             When I caught myself straightening the pencils in my drawer so the tips all faced the same direction, I forced myself to get up and go to Azrael.
             His office was similar to mine—as were all the offices—except it was bigger.  A lot bigger. But then when you where in charge of every single reaper in the Otherworld it only made sense. 
             The walls of his office were a fawn color and had wainscoting along the bottom, while my walls were a dingy yellow, as if they had suffered through years of smoking.  His desk was beautiful rosewood, while mine was a dented, brown, metal military surplus. He had a beautiful Turkish rug over Mahogany hardwood floors and I had threadbare carpet over concrete. 
             I stepped into the anteroom, which was a smaller, cozier version of his office.  It was where he did his more informal discussions with those in the higher circle.  Those that had gone beyond just a simple collector or transporter.  Candlelight lit the room, giving it an even more homey feeling. 
             As modern as the Otherworld had become, it still didn’t run to modern conveniences such as electricity.  There really wasn’t any need.  Reapers didn’t need the comforts humans did.  Cold, heat, light, dark.  None of that mattered to us.  If we were lucky enough to be given an assignment that meant becoming corporeal, than it would.  We would feel the same humans did, but that was rare and only given to the most trusted reapers.  An experience I hoped to gain one day. 
             I grinned when I saw Azreal’s hound sleeping in the center of the Aubusson rug.  One massive eye opened, then the rest followed suit.  His tail waged, and three tongues appeared from behind rows of razor sharp teeth. I knelt down to scratch his belly with both hands, laughing when his leg started kicking.  For a dog that had three heads and was larger than myself, Cerberus was as gentle as a lamb. With people he liked anyway. 
             “Whose a good boy?  Huh?  Whose a good boy?”  One of his large heads lifted and his tongue slurped up the side of my face. “Eww!” I exclaimed, laughing, and trying to wipe the slobber off with my sleeve.  “Keep that up and we won’t play Frisbee later.”  His tail thumbed heavily.
             A throat cleared behind me and I jumped up to stand at attention, trying not to show my embarrassment of having been caught by the man himself, playing with his dog.  Cerberus whined, stood, and went to his master—who gave him a few strokes behind the ears of one of his heads—before going to curl up in the corner.
             “Emily, it’s wonderful to see you again.  I don’t get to nearly enough,” Azrael said, and took my hand to shake it.  He gestured to the couch behind me.  “Please have a seat.”
             My nerves settled slightly as I took a calming breath.  We weren’t going to his office, which meant I wasn’t in trouble.  I sat, but didn’t relax completely; I’d still been summoned.  That was never a good thing.
             He waited until I sat before doing the same, and then steepled his spidery thin fingers together.  He propped them under his chin and then leaned forward to rest his elbows on his thighs, studying me, while I watched him.  His dark hair and pale skin glowed under the lamplight. His eyes locked onto mine and stayed there, not even blinking.
             When I started to fidget from the intensity of stare, he smiled.  “Yes, I do believe I was right about you.”
             That threw me for a loop and I blinked.  “Sir?”
             “When I brought you on board.”  His smile grew.  “I saw something in you.  The others did not agree, but you have proven me right time and time again. As you well know, there aren’t many that were in your position that are offered what you were. I am quite proud of you, Emily.”
             I blushed and looked down at the hands I’d clasped in my lap.  “Thank you.”
             He stood up, drawing my attention back to him. “There is a request I must make of you.”
             Knowing better than to interrupt, I waited for him to continue.  He walked across the room to shut and bolt the heavy door, sealing us into the room.  A feeling of dread settled over me. 
             “You did well with your latest,” he said, returning to seat.
             “Sir?” The abrupt change of subject confused me, but did nothing to expel the dread that was creeping into every corner of my being.
             “The woman.  With the heart failure.”
             “Mrs. Crous?” I asked, stupidly, my eyebrows winging up.
             He gave me an indulgent smile.  “Yes, you would know your charges name.  You always do.”
             “I don’t understand.”
             “That case could have been very difficult.”
             I gave a soft snort.  “How so?  It was just a standard C & T.”
             He shook his head.  “There is no such thing as standard, Emily.  But yes, sometimes they are easier than others.”  He stared of into space again. 
             I waited him out, being careful not to say anything.  Whatever was on his mind was big and it was bad.  Worry and little prickles of panic tickled my nerves.
             “We have a problem,” he said, with a sigh.  “A big problem.  And I need your help.  I’m making you a part of the Assembly.”
             “M-me?”  Ohmigosh.
             “Yes.  I’m afraid you’re the only one it can be.  I trust no one else.” His eyes hardened when he said it, stopping me from asking any more questions. He tossed me a file folder he’d pulled out of thin air. It never cease to amaze me how he could do that.   “Study that.”
             With a slight hesitation, I flipped it open and read through it. The only sound was the rustling of pages and Cerberus’ light snore.   When I finished I looked back up, my brows furrowed.  “I don’t understand.”
             “There’s been an influx of ethereal activity in the past six months, but no one can find the source.  We’ve monitored it, but it wasn’t until a girl died and Cera, who’d been assigned to her, came back without the girl’s soul. Because there wasn’t one to collect.”
             Shock poured over me. “She sold her soul?”
             He shook his head and sighed.  I worried I’d disappointed him, but it was sadness etched onto his face.  “No.  Worse.  Read it again.”
             I read through again, carefully this time.  Going over a few pages several times just to make sure I was reading correctly.
             “Someone stole her soul?”
             He gave me an indulgent smile.  “I knew it wouldn’t take you long,” he said, rubbing a hand over his eyes.  It was the only outward sign of agitation I’d ever remembered seeing on him.  “Yes, and she’s not the only one.  I’ve had three more reapers come back empty handed.”
             “Why? Who?”
             He shoved a hand through his hair.  “There is no good reason and that’s what I’d like to know.”
             “What do we do?”
             “I can do nothing.  It’s you that’s going to have to do it.”
             I almost swallowed my tongue.  “Me?” 
             “I need somebody I trust to go to the Corporeal world—to become corporeal.” He watched me as the news sunk in.  “You will try to find out who is doing this and why. We also need to find everyone who’s missing a soul, so we may return it to them after we get it back from the creatures that have taken them and you have to do it quickly.”
             “The longer a human is without their souls the less chance we’ll be able to get the body to take it back and the more chance that someone is going to realize they’re living, talking, and eating with living, breathing zombies.”
             I burst out laughing.  “Zombies?  What like those horror flicks that humans are always watching.”
             His mouth tilted up a little in the corner.  “Yeah, a little, but they’re not like that exactly.  The voodoo definition is a more accurate description.”  His lips went back to the straight line he’d held before.  “But this isn’t a laughing matter, Emily.  We don’t want any more innocents dying without their souls.  And I don’t want you to lose yours.”
             My heart leaped into my throat.  “What do you mean?”
             “Demons and reapers don’t get along because Reapers impede the demons need to corrupt innocent souls.  They can’t harm a soul as long as we are they to courier them to the Otherworld.  If a demon knew you were there—especially the one that’s the cause of all this—the results could be disastrous.”
             “But why me?  Surely you have someone who’s been around longer, someone who’s dealt with this kind of thing before.  Someone who isn’t here as a punishment.”
             “Because you’re the only one I trust.”
             I narrowed my eyes.  “Why?”
             “Because in life—and death—despite your…mistake, your soul is pure.  You have a kindness that knows no bounds, and most importantly, you still remember what it’s like to be human.”