Tuesday, April 26, 2011


This is one of the few places I have not yet announced my latest sale. I have sold a Cozy Mystery series to Berkley Prime Crime in a three book deal. YAY! *flings confetti*
The working title of the first book is "Gluten for Punishment." I asked for titles on my Facebook page back in November- explaining that I was about to write a Cozy Mystery set in Kansas in which a gluten-free bakery owner finds a dead man at her door. Unfortunately the dead man is a wheat farmer who protested at her Grand Opening just days before and our heroine is suspect number one.
I had a number of really great title suggestions, but simply had to use Jaci Charbonneau's "Gluten For Punishment." Thanks Jaci!
The book features our heroine, Toni Ryder who returns to her small town Kansas roots after her mother dies and leaves the rambling Victorian family home in Toni's care. Always one to make the best of a situation, Toni opens a store front for her already booming on-line gluten-free bakery business. But Toni left OilTop, Kansas right after her high school graduation because she never quite fit in. Now she is back twenty years later and is still a fish-out-of-water. Her loud, large and creative family plus a dead man at her door does not help Toni blend in. Add in a newspaper reporter out for a story, a good-looking lawyer, a handsome rancher and a best friend whose life is falling apart and Toni has her hands full. Will she be able to figure out who did it and clear her name before the killer gets too close?
This book was a whole lot of fun to write. Plus I am putting some of my own gluten-free recipes in the back so it's been fun playing in the kitchen as well. The book's release date is yet to be set, but I imagine sometime in early 2013.

Meanwhile- don't forget THE COUNTERFEIT BRIDE is out this June. For a fun, sweet western romance, about a gal who makes up a husband to legitimize her business then a man appears, calling himself her husband and she is stuck trying to figure out who he is and what he wants before she loses everything...including her heart. Preorder now!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April Book Review by Ted

I am writing this with a lot of mixed emotions. I keep telling myself I have to be objective with reviewing books, not subjective....It is difficult at times..This time very difficult!
A couple years ago, I read "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. It was 900 pages +/- and I found it very interesting. After all, I was a history major in college, donated my collection of over 50 books on Russian history to the local Junior College, and I read history books like a lot of people read novels. I have been fascinated by the building of about 13 gigantic, beautiful, still-standing cathedrals in Great Britain in a span of 200 years. I had the honor of visiting the Cathedral at Wells the last time I was in England. The book was great.
Then last fall I found a copy of his "World without End." I know the former was written in 1989 and the later in 2007---I told you my house has piles of books!( Not so much right now as we are getting ready to move and last week we drove to the local library and donated 12 bags {about 150 copies} of books for their fund raising book sale) It takes me time to get through them all.
All that said, I read this " latest" book - actually he has at least 1 newer out.
Well, to begin with I must attest to the fact that I like sex---I don't mind if I read about it---I understand that the world would not be as populated without it---but, in a book of 900 + pages, many trees would have been saved, at least 100 pages could have been saved, if the redundancy had been cut out. OK, we get it--the clergy both male and female were not true to their vows! The nobility were able to abuse their serfs and did frequently. Yes, men lusted after women, and women after men...That's how we keep the earth populated despite wars, plagues and other natural disasters. But sometime enough is enough.
Back to objectivity...Well- written, well-researched, entertaining, yes, all of the above. Far-reaching,I believe so...some of the story stretches things beyond the breaking point: 2 Sisters ( nuns) travelling from England to France following the King and the Black Prince to the Battle of Crecy ( English longbow annihilated the bulk of French Knights and changed the way wars were fought), dressing like men and traveling with the French army, then going back, meeting the King of England --and talking back to him, stretches the belief. I know it is not history, it is a novel---but shouldn't most scenarios be possible of belief? Women may find this fascinating ( "You go, girl! ) but in the 14th century, it is unbelievable and if done would have found her not just tried as a witch--but successful burned as a witch----As in Joan d'Arc.
There goes the subjective weighting in again. Would I read it again--probably, did I enjoy it--yes! Did he write well? Let me just say, I could not wait for the villains to get their just deserts, the hero and heroine just had problem after problem....
So ---will I read another book by Ken Follett...yes, I just hope is does not go 900 Pages!And it is not a book without end as the " World without End" seemed to be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Query Letters-Part IV -The Package

So far we have discussed how to discover your market, how to know what you write and who you want to sell it to, along with how to write a tag line and a selling blurb. Then I discussed a simple template for writing the query letter.

For our last and final week, I want to talk about the full query package. What it is and how to make the most of it. So, what is the full package? Depends on what the editor/agent requires. Some require a letter only. Some require letter and synopsis. While other require the letter, chapters and synopsis. (Find query guidelines on their websites and be sure to stick to them.)

1) The letter only. The query letter is your sales pitch. Your marketing tool to convince the editor/agent to look at a partial or the entire work for serious consideration. The letter should reflect your writing style and sell, sell, sell your work. See previous blogs parts two and three for how to write selling bits and how to write the query letter. This is your pitch make it as professional as possible. Hint: do your research.

2) The letter plus synopsis. While the query letter sells your work, the synopsis tells the editor/agent that you can plot an entire book. A well written synopsis-not an outline-will show the editor/agent a plot that is compelling, emotional and concludes with a satisfying ending. Some editors will take a synopsis in with them to the publisher as proof that the story in full "works." Synopsis can run anywhere from a single page to ten pages. Read the editor/agent guidelines to find out length of synopsis. (Short means one to two pages.) I usually have three written. A single page synopsis, a three to four page synopsis and a full ten page synopsis. (A rule of thumb for long synopsis is one page for every 10,000 words in the story.) Remember editors/agents are busy and a synopsis that is too long can be cause to reject the manuscript.

3) The full package: letter, synopsis and sample chapters. The query letter makes your sales pitch, the synopsis shows you can plot a book and the sample chapters show off your writing style. Always send your opening pages. Sometimes you may feel that a scene from chapter five is better than the opening hook of the book and be tempted to send that scene for sample pages. DON'T. If the opening hook of your book is not as good as other scenes- stop your query process and revise the opening. The opening hook of a book is what sells your book. Many readers will pick up a book, read the back blurb and then read the first page or two. If you don't hook in the first page the reader will put you down. Editors and agents know this. They want to read a strong opening hook. They want to be hooked. Hook them. Send them your opening pages-in consecutive order. ALWAYS. If they want 50 pages but that means you end in the middle of a paragraph-find an ending hook on an earlier page. End your pages there. Always leave the query chapters with a hook. You want them to want to read more. Never send more pages than requested on their guidelines, but you can give them fewer if you start with a strong hook and end your sample with a strong hook.

Remember, the query letter is your marketing pitch-your advertisement. The synopsis shows the editor/agent that you can plot an entire book and resolve all conflicts in a reasonable manner. The sample chapters hook your reader and leave them wanting more.

All these parts work in harmony to make your book the next must read on an editor/agent's desk. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Query Letters-Part III- writing the actual beast

(reposted from April 2009 but still relevant today.)
Now that you know your market, you have your pitch and your back cover blurb, it's time to write the actual letter. Here's a format I've found successful.
Salutation: (Dear Ms. Smith) - always direct the letter to a person-not a publisher or agency this shows you have done your homework.
Opening: (It was so nice to me you at whatifacon. I've always had an interest in stories of space exploration. After meeting you I believe my story, Spacequest, a 90,000 word completed Scifi novel is something that might interest you and your readers.) or (I am a big fan of your blog. Your thoughts about trends in the market really got me thinking about how my manuscript fits in today's market. I think Spacequest, a 90,000 word completed Scifi novel might be something that would interest you.) or (I see that you represent Joe Bluffer, my favorite author)- always start with a complementary sentence- that shows you have done your homework- followed their blog, checked out their website to discover they have sold books by authors who are writing what you write, etc.
Hint: Be careful not to give them a reason to turn you down on your opener. Example: if you did meet them and spilled coffee on them- don't mention it! If you disagreed with a blog or opinion- don't mention it! Even trickier- if they say that westerns aren't selling- don't send them a western- not even if your buddy just sold three. Don't insult them by telling them you know their job better then they do. Instead go find someone looking for westerns. Also-if your word count is high or low for the market- don't mention the word count. Don't give them a reason to reject you.
Next- Present your tag line: (Following is the tag line for Spacequest: An intrepid space cadet must pass through the galaxy of death stars to save his planet.)
Then give them your back blurb: A MAN ON A MISSION...Junior Samples knows the code that will allow him to control the monster computer that is guiding the deathstars to his planet. (BR 549...) He has only 24 hours to make it through the galaxy of deathstars and implant the code but his lack of computer skills stands in his way.
A COMPANION OUT FOR NUMBER ONE...Bill Gatesman knows how to implement the code but is only interested in dominating the universe. Saving the planet is low on his list.
Can a hillbilly convince the computer world's biggest genius to work together to save mankind? Or are we all lost?
Give a small paragraph about your qualifications: (I have been a member of a local scifi writers group for two years. I've finaled in three whatifacon contests. Judges have found my work fast-paced and funny.)
Hint: again be careful not to give them a reason to reject you- ensure that you have entered contests in your genre. Or that you've taken workshops, etc. Don't tell them your professor/mother/sister/best friend loved the work.
Finally, close with an ending paragraph that shows your professionalism: (Enclosed please find the first eight pages and a short synopsis per your guidelines. I've added a small bio and an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) for your reply. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, X

This is a simple template you can use to write your letter. Next week- we'll discuss what each piece of a proposal -query, synopsis, chapters- are for and how to ensure they create a branded marketing package. Cheers!