Monday, June 23, 2008

#47-two revisions

We met at the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Conference/BEA Convention on May 28th in Los Angeles. Thank you for inviting me to post my query for Twisted Sisters, commercial women’s fiction complete at 65,000 words, on query shark.

Mikayla Trelane's nearly perfect life implodes when she learns her dead father isn’t, and worse, she apparently has an eight-year-old half-sister in peril. Mik is reluctant to become embroiled in her father’s petty criminal activities and even more reluctant to take on a young child she’s never met. Mik’s best friend, business partner, and only true family for the last ten years, Abby Willis, joins her on a rescue mission to El Salvador. Murder, theft, kidnapping, romance and a gun fight bring her to a horrible choice. Can she protect the only two people she counts as family, or will she have to choose only one of them to save?

"nearly perfect" is one of those phrases that makes me think caricature. Almost no one I know, particularly not twenty-somethings describe their life as "nearly perfect". Happy maybe, not bad, sure; but I can't think of anyone who says "nearly perfect" when you ask them how they're doing.

The reason I leap on this is that it's imprecise writing. I'm looking for precise "nearly perfect" (ha!) word choices.

I don't understand the connection between El Salvador and her not-dead father. I don't get why her 8year old sister needs to be rescued (there's a mom who should be on the scene not to mention other family in El Salvador)

There's no mention of an antagonist, and there's no plot.

What you have here is a list of things that happen and that's not a plot.

I am a member of Rose City Romance Writers and RWA. Upon request, I would be happy to provide a short synopsis, chapters, or the the full manuscript, as well as a rough outline for the next Mik Trelane book. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

If you read other entries here in the Shark tank you'll see I loathe "look forward to hearing from you soon" but that's just me, and it's not going to stop me from reading pages.

What will stop me from asking though is that I don't really have a sense of what the book is about and why I should care about the characters.



Revision #1

#47 - revision:

We met at the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Conference/BEA Convention on May 28th in Los Angeles. Thank you for inviting me to post my query for Twisted Sisters, commercial women’s fiction complete at 65,000 words, on query shark.

Mike Trelane is a woman with a friend and business partner who is like a sister, and a lot of money to live the way she wants. Then she receives a mysterious package that contains a shocking video of the father she was certain had died ten years ago. Turns out not only is the old man still alive, but he wants Mik to fly down to El Salvador and take her half-sister, Nola, off his hands. She doesn't believe it's that simple, still how can she leave a little girl in the hands of her criminal father? Mik, accompanied by her best friend, Abby, returns to her dark past and everything starts to slip out of control.

well, she's not returning to her dark past, she's going to Central America, a place she's not been before right?

Mik's father won't sign-off on adoption papers for Nola unless Mik does a little "favor" for him.

And the reason Mik doesn't say adios papa and leave on the next plane is?

Mik tries to find a way around criminal activity, but still manages to cross paths with the local crime boss, igniting an imprudent passion. While Mik struggles with her reckless attraction for a man far more dangerous than her own parent, she must find an ancient artifact known as the "twisted sisters." This is a jade statue her father wants her to "collect" for him and then he promises to sign off on the adoption papers and hand over Nola.

When Nola is kidnapped by local thugs, Mik must trade the statue to save her. The showdown arrives in an empty warehouse with Abby held at one side and Nola at the other, both with knives to their throats. Mik must make an agonizing choice between them and though she saves Nola, Abby is injured. Mik finally takes Nola home to Portland Oregon, but Abby, traumatized by the violence and near death experience leaves with her boyfriend for Boston.

You don't need a complete rundown of the plot, just the stakes for Mik if she does what her father wants, or doesn't. Also this all seems amazingly improbable. Come get the sister you never knew you had, and oh by the way if you really want her you have to steal something for me? That defies logic to me but then I'm a cold cruel beast.

I am a member of Rose City Romance Writers and RWA. Upon request, I would be happy to provide a short synopsis, chapters, or the full manuscript, as well as a rough outline for the next Mik Trelane book. Thank you for your time and consideration.

You don't need a menu of items available. I'm pretty sure if I called you up and asked for any of those you'd cough them up. Use those precious few words for the important stuff.


#47 revision #2

We met at the Writer's Digest Writer's Conference/BEA Convention on May 28th in Los Angeles.

Mikayla Trelane receives a mysterious package that contains a disturbing video of the criminal father she was certain had died ten years ago. Not only is he still alive, but he wants Mik to fly down to El Salvador and take her half-sister, Nola, off his hands. Mik didn't know Nola even existed and despite a deeply ingrained distrust of her father, her conscience leads her to investigate.

Accompanied by her best friend, Abby, Mik returns to her childhood home in El Salvador and everything starts to slip out of control. Nola is only 8 and Mik immediately bonds with the girl. Their father won't sign-off on adoption papers, however, unless Mik does a little "favor" for him. Unfortunately getting her sister is not as easy as she hoped and she finds herself in a dangerous situation. When Nola is kidnapped by local thugs, Mik must find an ancient artifact known as the "Twisted Sisters." Mik must trade the statue to save Nola, but then Abby is also held hostage and Mik must make an agonizing choice between saving her new found sister or her best friend.

I am a member of Rose City Romance Writers and RWA. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Much better

Monday, June 16, 2008

#46-two revisions

Two worlds collide in Wings of Desire, my completed 105,000 word fantasy romance. Readers will enjoy the spunky heroine's sassiness as well as her snarky sense of humor.

I hate spunk.
Me and Mr. Grant**, but mostly me.

Restless in a world where she doesn't quite fit, Rhiannon Kinsley becomes intrigued by Cerne Silverwing, a mysterious man who appears in her bedroom. Despite the instant attraction, she finds it impossible to believe him when he tells her she is a Faerie princess.

If someone appeared in your bedroom and told you that, you'd be calling for the guys with nets. This is an overused, cliched, and rather dull start. Have her shoot at him, taser him, or at least scream. Or better yet, start someplace else for the query. You don't have to start the query in the same place you start the book.

Twenty-five human years earlier, the White Faerie Elders chose Cerne to become the princess’s consort. During that time, he’s enjoyed his freedom, yet secretly yearns for his faerie-wings and the magical powers they will bring. When Rhiannon ignores his call, he enchants her with Faerie dust and brings her back to their magical world.

So, what is he now? A guy drinking beer and watching JackAss? Reading Tucker Max and secretly yearning for faerie wings? If you don't give me substance I start imaging all sorts of stupid things. You're lost in generalities here. One or two specifics will strengthen this immeasurably.

Forced into the role of White Faerie Princess, Rhiannon struggles to accept her destiny. Amidst the looming invasion of the Dark Faerie army, Rhiannon and Cerne discover exploding passion. However, despite their growing attraction, Cerne is afraid to voice his true feelings. Will Rhiannon accept her role as princess in her new world, and will Cerne learn to freely admit his love? Or will they lose each other forever?

Why is he afraid to voice his true feelings? Oh wait..he's been reading Tucker Max when he was back on hiatus from faerie land. And why is their passion exploding? Passion never simmers does it? I'm poking fun here cause this is SO overused that I literally can't read those words without making jokes. This is not the response you're looking for.

This manuscript has taken 1st place in the Valley of the Sun’s Hot Prospects contest and 2nd place in North Texas Romance Writers’ Great Expectations contest. In addition, Wings of Desire has recently finaled in SMRW’s Laurie and Passionate Ink’s Stroke of Midnight contests. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, two local RWA chapters, and several on-line special interest chapters. I am also an active member of two critique groups, where I have the opportunity to work with several published authors. I am currently at work on a Regency-Set Historical, which has also finaled in several RWA contests.

So, it's probably just me then cause right now this doesn't entice me to read it at all. And it could just be the query letter.

And "finaled" is writer shorthand. I'm not sure it's an actual word. "Was a finalist" is correct, but I'll yield to the local grammarians to correct me if I'm wrong here. And "finaled" isn't going to stop me from reading something.

I’ve included a synopsis and the first three chapters of Wings of Desire. I would be happy to send you the full manuscript if and when appropriate. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.
Thank you,

**here's the reference


Revision #1

Dear Query Shark:

I am currently seeking representation for WINGS OF DESIRE, a 105,000 word steamy fantasy romance.

Time to call the nice young men in white coats! Rhiannon Kinsley has finally fallen off the deep end of workaholism as she strives to succeed in a world where she doesn’t quite fit in.

Is it just me or does that second sentence make no sense? First, you don't fall off a deep end. Deep end is an allusion to the deep end of the pool. You'd fall IN. You can fall off an edge, but not off an end. Second, do you mean she's finally become a workaholic or stopped being a workaholic? I don't know from how this is phrased. Again, it may be just me.

Then a sexy stranger insists she is a faerie princess whose fate will also determine his own. What a crock!

The sexy stranger Cerne Silverwing, her kidnapper and would-be consort, is jaded where love is concerned. He needs this woman in order to gain his own wings and nothing more. However, d Despite their differences, the two are thrust together to defeat the wannabe dominatrix Dark Faerie Queen who covets their kingdom. Passion and peril aside, will "more" be their destiny after all?

What does gaining his wings have to do with the Dark Faerie Queens covetousness?

The sentences have to have a logical connection. You can leave out parts that a reader can intuit but you can't leave out the parts they won't. I don't get this.

WINGS OF DESIRE has won and placed in several RWA sponsored contests. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, two local RWA chapters, and several special interest chapters. I am also an active member of two critique groups where I have the opportunity to work with several published authors. I am currently at work on a Regency set historical which has also placed in several contests.

The first three chapters and synopsis are included for your review. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Dear Query Shark,

Rhiannon Kinsley’s life goes from boring to downright bizarre when a freak lightning bolt streaks through her window and strikes her laptop. To make matters even weirder, strange words and symbols start flashing across her computer screen and she starts hearing a mysterious voice in her head. Time to call the nice young men in the white coats! Then Cerne Silverwing, a strange yet sexy man, appears. He insists she is a faerie princess whose fate will determine his own. What a crock! Now she knows who really needs the white coats.

Cerne kidnaps her and brings her to Fey, a land where magic flows freely and unicorns flee the debauched. He’s performing a duty to his kingdom and nothing more — a duty that will bring him his wings and the strengthened magical powers that come with them. He needs to unite with the princess as her consort or he will never grow his wings. That would be the Faerie princess who grew up in the land of laptops and instant messages. The one he kidnapped. The one who's convinced they're both crazy.

Despite their differences, the two are thrust together to defeat the leather-clad, whip-wielding Dark Faerie Queen before she takes over their kingdom. Passion and peril aside, will "more" be their destiny after all?

Ok, here's where you lose me. Up till now it's been lighthearted and funny, and the plot seems to be that Cerne needs to ...err...snuggle with Rhiannon to get his wings. Suddenly here comes the Dark Faerie Queen and some sort of evil agenda...straight out of left field. And what do you mean by "more?"

WINGS OF DESIRE, a 105,000 word fantasy romance, has won and placed in several RWA sponsored contests. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, two local RWA chapters, and several special interest chapters. I am also an active member of two critique groups where I have the opportunity to work with several published authors. I am currently at work on a Regency set historical which has also placed in several contests.

I have included the first three chapters and a synopsis for your review. I appreciate your time and consideration.



Dear Query Shark:

Bailey Brennan takes a job at a local funeral home to help out a friend, not to become a customer.

This is a great first line.

When a biker is brought in to the morgue whose death is not an accident, Bailey is caught up in a chain of events—creepy crematories, stalkers in red Cadillacs and drive-by shootings—that puts every breathing person in the funeral home in danger and digs up events from the past she would like to keep buried.

And we lose the connectivity here. She works in a funeral home, not the morgue. Then there's a list of events with no known connection to her or to each other.

Bailey's long-lost cop-brother doesn't want her involved, but mysterious Luther is counting on her help for his own reasons. A second murder pulls her irrevocably into an underground of criminals and drug-trafficking. It's up to Bailey to unearth the connection that solves the case before time runs out for them all.

If he's long lost how come he's standing around telling her what to do? Shouldn't he be like...lost? You don't need every detail in these queries. This one for example.

And who is Luther? A second murder, who was the first? The biker? "not an accident could mean he died of natural causes"

The description of the plot isn't any where near the lighthearted tone you had at the start. This is where I'm confused.

First Call is complete at 70,000 words, and is the first in a series. Along with my credentials as a journalist, I also work in a funeral home, where most of our guests arrive by natural causes.

"where most of our guests arrive by natural causes" is a great line. You know how to open and close the letter, that's for sure. The middle needs some sprucing up.

I look forward to speaking with you about my work.

Insert sound of screech of panic. Never put the words 'phone' or 'talk' in a query letter. You'll scare me into thinking you might call me up. The best way to close a query is "thank you for your time and consideration, here's the twenty dollar bill's serial number in case you need to look for it in the mail room."


Second Revision:

Dear Query Shark,

If Liz McCall could change anything about her life, she’d change damn near everything.

Every Saturday, Liz regales the staff and clients at Margie’s beauty salon with her wit, wisdom, and imperious, down-home advice. Born in Mississippi, divorced from several well-heeled Texans, and the mother of eight disparate sons, Liz takes a special interest in Leah Starks, a twenty-six-year-old whose life has been burdened by abandonment issues and doubts about her self-worth.

When Leah’s emotionally distant mother is killed in an automobile accident, Liz unravels a secret that lies in the spelling of Leah’s name. These two events are not logically connected. The spelling of Leah's name is not a secret until her mother dies. Presumably Liz knows Leah's name already.

Margie’s husband, who had briefly dated the dead woman in high school, is Leah’s biological father. (so?)

Shortly after Leah’s joyful marriage to her former fiancé and an announcement that a baby is on the way, Liz is rushed to the hospital with a respiratory ailment. Four days later—with Margie, Leah, their husbands, and Liz’s youngest son by her side, Liz succumbs to pneumonia.

In a poignant letter penned before her demise, Liz reveals she has a daughter with whom she has had a loving relationship with for over thirty years. At the reading of Liz’s last will and testament, Margie and Leah meet the only son Liz had included and the illegitimate, biracial daughter Liz had given up for adoption fifty years ago. Following a life-threatening pregnancy, Leah gives birth to a special little girl after receiving a late night visit from a nurse. Although no one on the hospital staff knew who the mysterious nurse was, Leah knows that Liz never abandoned her.

Written for the women’s fiction market, saints and sinners learn that love has many faces, and sometimes an angel is disguised and is called a friend in my 80,000-word novel, WHEN HEARTS CRY OUT. (this paragraph doesn't make any sense to me. Start by breaking it into more and shorter sentences)

You're covering so much of what you think is the plot that you're leaving out the other ingredients. Who is the main character? Leah? Liz? Who's the antagonist? And no, it's not Leah's dead mother.

If Liz could change her life, why doesn't she? Why did she make the choices she did? How has regret shaped her life? You don't need long answers to these, but we need to get a sense of a some depth to these characters.

There has to be more to the plot than the discover of a letter that miraculously reveals things after a character dies.

Form rejection.

First Revision:
Dear Query Shark,

Married seven times, Liz McCall doesn’t vote, go to church, or believe in doctors. A purveyor of wit, wisdom, and life-changing advice for the staff and clients at Margie’s beauty salon, Liz fears the thoughts of having to live out her remaining years in a nursing home, dying alone, and having her wealth end up in undeserving hands.

The only Saturdays Liz misses her appointments at the salon are if the weather in North Central Texas is bad, if the salon is closed due to a holiday, and the two times a year she travels to Washington, D.C. to visit a black family she has known many years.

None of this has anything to do with the hook or the plot. It's all description and set up.

When twenty-six-year-old client Leah Starks’ emotionally estranged mother is killed in an automobile accident, Liz unravels a family secret, and Margie and Leah learn they have more in common than either of them ever imagined. Shortly after Leah marries her ex-fiancé and announces she is pregnant, Liz succumbs to a respiratory ailment at a local hospital.

Wait. The main character is DEAD? .

In a poignant letter penned before her demise,

and reveals the plot and the story in a letter? No. No. No

Liz reveals among other things, that the wife of the family in Washington is a daughter she had given birth to between her third and fourth marriages. The only relatives Liz includes in her will are the youngest of her eight sons, a cousin, and her daughter.

The answer to a question that had plagued Liz most of her life is in the last five words of the epitaph she had requested her daughter place on her headstone: There are six things in life that are free—the air we breathe, a smile, laughter, the wisdom of older people, the love we give to ourselves and others, and the grace of God.

Written for the commercial and women’s fiction markets WHEN HEARTS CRY OUT is an 80,000-word novel in which saints and sinners learn over a span of three years that love has many faces, and that angels are sometimes disguised and are called friends.


There's no plot here. It sounds like all the events are revealed in a letter after the main character dies. I can't begin to describe how un-energetic that sounds.

Why don't you just tell Liz's story as it happens on the page. Even if you bracket it with the beauty salon stuff, at least get the actual story on the page.

Dear Query Shark,

There are some things even a woman’s hairdresser doesn’t know for sure.

Married seven times, Liz McCall doesn’t vote, go to church, or believe in doctors, but loves lawyers. Burdened by her failure as a mother, she hasn’t seen or talked to seven of her eight sons in years. Aside from these “minor” character flaws as she calls them, the seventy-three-year-old beauty salon denizen is an infallible source of wit, wisdom, and life-changing advice for saints and sinners.

When Liz passes unexpectedly at a local hospital, a poignant letter she had penned before her demise, her amended last will and testament, and the words she had requested for her epitaph reveal a side of her the staff and clients at the salon never knew—and a family secret she had kept for almost half a century.

Written for the commercial and women’s fiction markets and complete at 80,000 words, WHEN HEARTS CRY OUT is about a woman who, during the last two and a half years of a relatively long life, resolves the dilemma of whose lives she wants to benefit the most: family or friends.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Steel Magnolias for seniors?
There's no plot here (also a problem in Steel Magnolias, but when Olympia Dukakis gets to lovin' her luggage, who cares.)

What you've got is a very general idea of what the book is about, but nothing of substance to entice me to read it. Even the language is dull for such a spitfire old lady.

This may be a great novel, but this query letter doesn't give me any reason to think so.

I suggest you start again and think about how Liz McCall herself would talk about this.

Monday, June 9, 2008


When I send you a form rejection letter for this, you won't know it's cause I literally can not read it.

Test your query letters before you send them!

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Would you consider my query letter for your critique? Thank you!=0AAttn: (n=
ame of agent),=0A=0AGiven today=A2s high cesarean section rates, increasing=
maternal and infant deaths, and the rising incidence of postpartum depress=
ion, what is a Christian maternity care provider to do?=0AMy recently compl=
eted book, Inspired Birth: A Fresh Perspective on Childbirth for Christian =
Maternity Care Providers, is a 61,000 word inspirational guide that confron=
ts these and more challenges of American maternity care from a Christian pe=
rspective. With an estimated 153,135 or more Christians offering various ma=
ternity care services in the United States, Inspired Birth would be a usefu=
l resource to all those who read it. Many books are available to childbeari=
ng families, but none offer this unique and highly needed perspective. Topi=
cs within Inspired Birth include: God=A2s view of medical and natural child=
birth; how fear, pride and greed affect maternity care services; the power =
of prayer in childbirth; learning to work with difficult colleagues; pain i=
n childbirth; postpartum depression; salvation at birth, and several more i=
mportant discussions. =0ANow, a little bit about me. I have been a Bible-be=
lieving Christian since childhood. My writing experience includes over 30 p=
ublished articles through Associated Content, Inc., all on topics relating =
to pregnancy, childbirth and the early postpartum period. My education in c=
hildbirth includes birth doula certificates through Hope House, Inc. and tr=
aining through Doulas of North America, Int. My experience includes six yea=
rs of attending births and teaching childbirth education classes, in additi=
on to having two children of my own.=0AAfter finding that you specialize in=
subjects on health, spirituality, and women=A2s issues, I knew that you wo=
uld be a wonderful agent to represent Inspired Birth.=0AI have enclosed a S=
ASE for your convenience. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward =
to having an opportunity to share my book proposal with you soon.=0A=0ASinc=
erely,=0A(my name)=0A=0A=0A
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Sunday, June 8, 2008


After Ellie’s fiancé dumps her on Valentine’s Day, she finds herself deep in debt, deep in doubt and deep in despair.

Determined to pay off her loans and avoid romantic distractions, Ellie vows to live in poverty and celibacy until her life is back on track. While trying to wrangle a full-time job at her bank, she mops floors and rents a cheap room in a decrepit boarding house with a group of eccentrics.

Then things get weird.

Her house-mates form a punk band called ‘Anal Leakage’. They purloin Ellie’s angst-filled poems about her ex-fiancé, turn them into lyrics and upload the songs to the Web.

Around town, terrible rumours begin circulate about Ellie as she fights to regain control of her destiny. Unaware of her growing online popularity as Anal Leakage’s mysterious lyricist, Ellie puzzles over the nature of love, her purpose in life and the obsessed Japanese fan on her doorstep.

Right here is where I say "huh?" We've got her as the unknowing muse, but how does that segue into "terrible rumors" and "fight to regain control of her destiny". Surely she'll just consult a copyright lawyer and sue for a lifetime supply of CDs while waiting for an endorsement deal from Depends? And honestly doesn't every one have a deranged fan on their doorstep these days? Oh wait..just me?? Hmm.

She endures a year of lost love, lost friendship, public humiliations, vendettas, misunderstandings, vile rumours, lawsuits, and conspiracies until she finds love and direction once more, and a bit of sweet revenge.

Who's the antagonist? What are the stakes? I know this is a humorous romance, but you still need those things.

I have been previously published in Spinetingler Magazine and Storyteller Magazine. (Credit list available)

Mental Notes is a humorous romance, complete at 75,000 words. I would like to submit my novel for your consideration.

I'm profoundly grateful you did not name the novel for the band.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


To (Specific Agent),

I would like to introduce you to Mississippi Kids, a new mystery/fantasy novel for ages 9-12.

She falls against the cold wall, fire in her eyes, heart weeping with the sadness of the rain. She has been betrayed by the one she loved most. Sisters. He stands with breath caged in his chest, staring at the evil he's allowed. He has always wanted to be strong enough to leave his mark, but now he knows he's a coward. Alone. Tessa. Norman. Susan. All three are locked in a centuries old secret. The conspiracy of their own past.

Uh, what? Who are these people and why are they weeping all over my carpet? I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to be PLAINSPOKEN in a query letter. I'll be happy if you never use more than one adjective, adverb or metaphor in a paragraph. Tell me who the characters are, what happens to them, and why I should care.

I'm sorry, but this is a bewildering mess right now. I'd stop reading here (well, ok, really, I stopped reading at the first sentence) and click "no thank you" auto-reject.

Found alone in a Mississippi wheat field as infants, Susan and Tessa have lived their entire lives at the J Putanbee Orphanage. After ten years, a twist of fate causes them to be adopted by a professor. Soon, Susan begins to learn of the Order of the Oaks, a secret society that has been searching for the sisters their entire lives. It does not take long for Michael, the brother of the professor, to poison the sisters against each other. At the same time, clues of the twins shrouded past begin to come to light. Finally, Susan gets too close to the answer and Tessa too close to the Order. The sisters are ripped apart forcing Susan to trust a junior member of the Order and rush to save her sister. In a shocking turn, Susan rescues Tessa, but learns who it was that really betrayed the sisters.

And you want 9 year olds to read this?

They fight for a chance to know family they've never had. Seeking truth. Finding betrayal. All their answers lie in the cruel hands of evil men. If only they can work together. If only they can survive.

See comment on paragraphs 1 and 2.

My name is (redacted) and I am a graduate student in my last semester working toward a Masters in Education. During my educational career, I have focused my research and thesis on Educational Storytelling. I have gained experience interacting and understanding children through my work as a children's pastor, middle school pastor, preschool teacher, mentor, literacy volunteer, and children's drama writer/director.

Written under the penname, (redacted), Mississippi Kids begins the six-part saga that tells the complete story of Susan, Tessa, and Norman. Book One is approximately 60,000 words, completed. Book Two is finished and about 55,000 words.

For 9 year olds??

Elements of Mississippi Kids can easily be compared to The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, and The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black. However, it possesses a fresh style unlike any on the market.

Wait, you've just told me that any book I sold into this market doesn't have a fresh style? And you're comparing a book for 9 year olds to The DaVinci Code?

I would be happy to send you a longer writing sample, manuscript synopsis, series synopsis, resume, or full manuscript(s).

May God bless you with the imagination of a child,
and the wisdom of a grandparent,

Resist the urge to bless me in a query letter. Please. I know you mean well, but this just isn't the place for that.


Dear Query Shark:

Four total strangers sit across around a card table from one another and each holds the others’ fate in their hands. The prize is a million dollars, but they’re each playing for something far more valuable than money. The players come from four different worlds, and none of them can go back. Each turn of the cards changes the odds of success, and survival, for everyone at the table. Face Cards is a thriller that gives the reader clear reasons to champion each of the players at different times throughout the story, knowing all the while that only one can be the ultimate winner.

I don't get it. What's the purpose of the game? How did they get there? Why does the game have such high stakes?

For Ruby, the queen of the trailer park, it’s literally life or death. Her lover and her best friend are both dead, and their killer has his sights set on her next. If she wins, she lives. If not, all bets are off. Will is the guy you love to hate, but he doesn’t care. He’s in love with himself. His wealthy mother was his ace in the hole, but now it’s time for him to stand on his own. For Cashbox, the jack-of-all-trades from South Central LA, it’s win or return to the streets. If he can’t outplay the other three, his dream of a better life is over. Ted’s been a loser all his life. He has one last chance at a happy ending if only fate will finally deal him a hand fit for a king.

This is character soup. It doesn't tell me anything about the plot, and at this point, I'm not sure there is one.

You haven't given me a reason to care if any of them win the game or not. At this point I'm hoping Omar **shows up with a shotgun and robs them all.

I’m currently seeking representation for this completed 85,000 word novel. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ellis College in 2006 with a BA in English. My emphasis was in literature and culture. In 2007, I graduated with distinction from National University. I received my MA in English with a concentration in creative writing. Face Cards is my first novel.

I look forward to discussing my work with you. Thank you for your time and consideration.


**Season 4 The Wire


Dear Query Shark:

No one understands Angela Mitchell; not her neighbors, not her co-workers, not even her slightly twisted younger brother. So, when Stephon Barker – his hair slick and his smell funny – shows up on her front porch, Angela thinks she's found a kindred spirit; a partner not only in bed, but in murder, too. Unfortunately, Stephon's overly-enthusiastic penchant for killingbecomes quickly becomes irritating and challenges Angela's patience as well as her more methodical style. Knowing she must resolve the situation, she decides to take drastic action. But no matter what technique she employs, getting rid of her new boyfriend turns out to be much more difficult than simple murder.

First, when you start mentioning younger brothers, I think this is a YA novel. I'm not sure why, but younger brothers are a fixture of YA. Since the younger brother never makes an appearance in the query again, I suggest you change this to family, even if her younger brother is her only family.

I also don't get the segue from people don't understand her to murder.

I hope you might consider representing Knives in the Basement It is a 93,000 word paranormal thriller. No vampires are employed in the story, but ghosts and beings from other dimensions accompany the protagonist (a killer though she may be) on her journey.

My education degree is from the University of Iowa, though I've spent most of my career in newspaper advertising.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


This query isn't quite a mess but I'd read the pages just cause you have the one thing I look for more than anything: voice. I'll bitch from now till the cats start waltzing around the kitchen with the cows who've come home about punctuation grammar and diction, but I can fix all that, and I WILL, if you've got a great voice.


Dear Query Shark:

I hope this query will interest you in my 75,000 word manuscript, Favorable Impressions, is a romance in the tradition of Jane Austen filled with mystery and suspense akin to Hound of the Baskervilles.

Victoria Aston is an unconventional Regency lady who would rather help manage her family estate in Hampshire than navigate the ballrooms of London. But when her family discovers her sister is the victim of spousal abuse, Victoria’s parents insist she must marry before her sister’s vicious husband can lay claim to their lands. Despite her protests, Victoria’s parents throw her into the whirl of the social season where she soon catches the eye of Simon Carmichael. Carmichael is one of the richest men in London and seems to be the perfect match for her—that is until Vicky comes face to face with Tom Sherborne, the man she has loved since childhood.

However, even after a ten-year estrangement, Tom refuses to forgive her for a misunderstanding that gravely wounded his pride and wants nothing to do with her.

I'm really in favor of simple sentences when you're explaining plot. Such as:

Tom wants nothing to do with her. He refuses to forgive her for a ten year old misunderstanding that gravely wounded his pride.

So when he warns Vicky that Carmichael’s intentions might not be completely honorable, she isn’t sure if he’s telling the truth or just spouting vitriol to hurt her. But once strange accidents begin to happen to Vicky and her family, both Carmichael and Tom start implicating blame each other for them. To triumph over those who seek to destroy her, Vicky must use all her wits to discover the truth and find the courage to trust someone other than herself.

So, did you buy a vat of so, but and however on ebay? This kind of throat clearing makes me wonder how much copy editing your ms will need. Given a choice between several equal mss, I'm going to prefer the one that needs less work before I can start it down the road to the auction block. The other things to watch for are would, had, and that.

My partial manuscript has recently been requested by Editor X at Avon and Editor Y at Kensington.

I always want to know how they got the ms. Was it at a conference? Did you submit over the transom and they responded?

I have a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California. In addition, I have worked as an assistant to a literary agent, as an editor for the Southern California Review, and as an editorial intern for Prima Games, a division of Random House. I am also a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


Dear Query Shark,

The jogger Charlie Rudder never meant didn't mean to abduct Mrs. Ann Kocheka Skyler from her suburban home in Simpsonville, South Carolina. At least that’s what he writes in his first letter to case detective, “Mr. Bruce Willis.”

The fact that he takes the lawn service owner's name is a one note joke, not a plot point. Don't use your brief amount of time explaining it, we'll see it in the pages.

Taking the alias Charlie Rudder (Mrs. Skyler’s former lawn service owner), the jogger Charlie professes he and Ann share a great love and how unfortunate it was unfortunately her husband discovered them in the act and had to suffer an accidental death. To save Ann from the bloody scene and police interrogation, Charlie claims he had no choice but to sedate Ann with booze and Benadryl and whisk her away on the road.

Smart-ass Charlie floods Sergeant LaRoche (Detective Willis) with letters, and a cross-country chase begins. For Charlie, a simple affair gone wrong spells Canada and, hopefully, a loving Ann.

Why on earth is he calling LaRoche Bruce Willis? It may be a hilarious part of the book, but is it something we need to know here? (I'm guessing not)

It also signals the difference between Sergeant LaRoche’s law and in what is becoming Charlie’s law at the hands of love, oh so transformational.

I don't understand what this sentence means at all.

Given Ann’s escape attempts, Charlie knows she has to be mentally astute and drug-free to choose a life with him. Once Ann is no longer under sedation, life is blissful, until they discover her husband is still alive.

I'm confused. She's trying to escape because she's sedated?

Sergeant LaRoche closes in on the outlaws, though his detective team worries about his judgement, given the recent affection from spitfire reporter Roma Reva.


A rural Montana town provides the setting for the face-off as love battles the law in a final showdown.

Pow Pow Willis! is a literary crime novel complete at 79,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

It's a great title. I'm also a tad confused about why the detectives are chasing him if the victim is alive and/or it's an accidental death.


Dear Query Shark,

Charlie Rudder says he didn’t mean to abduct Mrs. Ann Kocheka Skyler from her suburban home in Simpsonville, South Carolina. And he certainly didn’t know Ann would kill her husband.

Sergeant Nik LaRoche thumbs a confessional letter from Charlie Rudder and realizes what first looked like a botched burglary and assault is going to be some kind of difficult.

What Charlie and Ann don’t know is the husband survived though he is comatose. What Ann doesn’t remember is that she is the one responsible for the assault.

Charlie professes to Sergeant LaRoche that he and Ann are deeply in love. He had to save Ann from the bloody scene and police interrogation. He had to knock her out and sedate her with booze and Benadryl. He had to whisk her away on the road.

Ordnung muss sein. There must be order. Sergeant LaRoche’s firm German upbringing won’t allow for anything else. After the tragic loss of his own wife, LaRoche is unswerving in his attempts at justice. Charlie and Ann must be caught or the world might just not make sense.

The more miles Charlie and Ann put in, the more the love affair deepens. Together they mastermind a plan to cross into Canada while LaRoche’s pursuit is as exact as his dry-cleaned fedoras.

dry-cleaned fedora is a perfect phrase. I love it.

Just when the lovers seem to be in the clear, Ann learns her husband is alive and has awakened. TV crews, police station mayhem, a hot Corvette, and Ann’s second thoughts instigate the face-off as Charlie, Ann, her husband, and LaRoche meet on the streets of a rural Montana town.

Pow Pow Willis! is a literary crime novel complete at 83,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Yup, that's much better!