Query of Horror

It’s almost time for Halloween. What better way to celebrate than with a horrific query letter. So here you have it. The worst query letter I could write.

Deer sir or madame:

Are you tired of reading books about vampires? Looking for something new and fresh? Well I’ve got the book for you!

Jessica is an ordinary teenager. She likes hanging out with her friends and cheerleading. She also has the most amazing boyfriend, Ryan. They all live in a sleepy town where nothing ever happens to anybody. But all that is about to change on day when Jessica discovers she actually has magical powers.

At first Jessica is excited about her powers. But when she discovers that her powers make her a target for the evil Queen Quexilbaum, she isn’t so sure. As she struggles to learn how to use her newfound powers, she realizes that magic may be harder than she thought. After encountering a series of setbacks, Jessica decides to rise up against Queen Quexilbaum.

Jessica is joined on her quest by a set of unlikely friends. First, there’s Jobidad, an ex-circus performer who loves pie. There’s also Limasala, a girl who raises mystical creatures and has a quirky side. Finally, there’s Kirkido, a sassy pro wrestler who hates jazz music. Together they must work together to defeat the evil Queen Quexilbaum before it’s too late.

THE MAGIC BRACELET is a heartwarming young adult fiction novel, but it will also appeal to adult readers as well. I wrote the story because I think teens need to read more about true friendship that is about more than just texting each other the latest emojis! I also think that many teens will sympathize with the main character, who has to fight major evil forces, because many teens feel like they must confront high school evil in their day to day lives. THE MAGIC BRACELET will appeal to readers who liked Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hunger Games.

The novel is complete at 124,876 words. I think you would really like it and am happy to send it to you at your request.

Query Critique 77

Dear Lucky Agent:

TITLE TBD, an upmarket suspense novel, is complete at 90,000 words. It follows the mental deterioration of a desperate character and will appeal to fans of Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River and Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. Because of your call for psychological suspense with deeply troubled characters, this might be the book for you. I think you’re probably better off saying “this might be a good fit” than this is THE book for you. Agents handle multiple books at a time. And it just comes off as a little over confident to me.

A john’s love for his hooker descends into a crippling obsession. I think the main character’s name needs to be in the first sentence. Makes the character clear from the beginning. Paul Myers, who lives a humble, dinner-for-one life in Las Vegas, can no longer ignore the urge to profess his love to Janelle, his hooker. I actually think this sentence might make a better hook. But when her self-proclaimed “broker” forbids him from seeing her, Paul breaks into the home-brothel and discovers that her broker recently sold her to overseas sex traffickers. Abandoning his life of apathy and mediocrity, Paul has no choice but to rescue her himself, which leads to desperate and deadly acts of moral ambiguity. There might be a little room for more specificity when you say “desperate and deadly acts of moral ambiguity.” Like what, exactly?

While the book is by no means didactic, I was inspired to write it during my work with Nevadans for the Common Good, a group that has pushed to enact harsher penalties for johns. I currently live in Las Vegas with my wife, our Cane Corso Mastiff, and our orange tabby cat. I have a BA in English from UNLV, and I spent a year as a copy editor. I’d leave out the part about it not being didactic. Let the story speak for itself. 

Below, I’ve pasted the first ten pages of my manuscript, and the remainder is available in its entirety upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Author Contact Info

Should you do NaNoWriMo?

It’s almost that time of year again. That hectic month in which the writing community bands together in an attempt to write as much as humanly possible. A lot of people are gearing up. Right now you can find lots of blog posts and videos (I recommend the YA WordNerds) about prepping for NaNo. But a lot of you may be asking if you should even participate.

Don’t get me wrong. I love NaNoWriMo. But I realize it’s not for everyone. Here are a couple guidelines to deciding whether you should join in or not.

Reasons you should do NaNoWriMo:

  • You’ve never tried it before. I don’t think you can really know if NaNo really works for your writing style unless you’ve actually done it. At least once. I’m also just generally a proponent of trying new writing tricks and techniques. Be adventures. Explore a little!
  • You’re a deadline/goal oriented person. I can be ridiculously competitive person. Seeing that word count chart really gets my blood pumping and helps me write more.
  • You just need to get words on paper. You can always fix it later, but you really need to have something to fix first.
  • You have a crazy idea you really just want to try out.
  • You’re impatient. Or you just like checking things off as done. NaNoWriMo is great for getting something done really fast, even if it’s lower quality.

Reasons NaNoWriMo may not be for you:

  • It stresses you out too much. If you’re going into crisis mode trying to meet word counts, you should probably just sit it out.
  • You have other projects in the middle of.
  • You’re revising something that’s close to being query/publication ready.
  • You’ve done it before and didn’t feel like it helped you out.

Ultimately the choice is up to you. Everyone’s writing process is a little different. You do you.

Query Critique 76

Dear Agent Awesome

RIVER SPELL is a 92K word young adult fantasy based on the Russian legends of the Rusalka. Like THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, my novel shows one girl’s struggle not only against supernatural powers, but against peoples’ perceptions of who she is. RIVER SPELL will also appeal to readers of Shannon Hale and Jessica Day George. Leave your title in all caps, but put comparative titles in italics.

Seventeen year old Arresa is determined not to be a figure head in her political marriage, even if it means being a public figure instead of hiding from her problems.

Just as she settles into life at the palace, Arresa is sidetracked by dreams of a woman made of water, and by her attentive betrothed, Prince Sergei.  His actions seem connected to the woman in her dreams and, as his behavior becomes increasingly erratic, everyone blames the new girl. When he no longer shows any desire to be the next king the nobles begin to make a move on the throne. I’d maybe like a little bit more information about the water spirit. In particular, I’m interested in how the water spirit is connected to Sergei. You have the beginnings of a really strong conflict. Just flesh it out a bit.

Rejected by her prince,  Arresa must step into the spotlight, break the water spirit’s spell and free the prince she’s learned to love before she is driven from the country, and a civil war tears her people apartGood stakes.

Currently a stay at home mom of three, I graduated from BYU with a BA in comparative literature. For the last five years I have been active in the CompuServe Books and Writers Community where I conducted a monthly goals thread (2011-2012). I have been blogging for 4 years and recently started dipping my toes in the twitter stream.   Capitalize Twitter.

Your time and consideration are greatly appreciated.

Writing a Great Antagonist

Last week we talked about two compelling types of villains.

This week we’re going to talk about a checklist of things that you should have for every villain you write.

  • Motivation. Most readers aren’t going to buy a character who is just doing evil things because they can. Even a character like The Joker, who is sort of bad for the sake of being bad, is motivated by his mental illness. There are plenty of motivating factors you can draw from: greed, revenge, loyalty, skewed perception of righteousness. Whatever it is, they need to have at least one.
  • A good match for your protagonist. You need your bag guy to be a worthy opponent for your good guy. If it’s clear the villain is way weaker, then you’re going to have a hard time creating good conflict.
  • No monologues. This perhaps, more than anything villain related, drives me absolutely up the wall. To me it sounds absolutely ridiculous when a villain is just sitting there telling the main character everything about the plan and why they’re doing it. I get that it’s a plot device, and I know why people use it. But I think it should be avoided as much as possible.


Query Critique 75

Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Winters may be a witch, but she doesn’t know the first thing about magic. Overall, I think this is a pretty good hook. I really like that the story takes place in Salem, and I would try to work that into the hook, if you could. Otherwise, I don’t have too much to say about the synopsis portion of the query. It’s looking pretty sharp!

Her father, a wizard himself, has forbidden the use of her powers for her own protection. But when accusations of witchcraft start flying through Salem Village, Elizabeth wishes she was more prepared.

Despite her lack of magical knowledge, Elizabeth appoints herself to save innocent women from the untimely demise the village has in store for them. Elizabeth finds, however, that she is not the hero Salem needs her to be. When Elizabeth is betrayed by Sabastian Giles, the boy she has always fancied, she loses control of her emotions and unintentionally curses the village with the ten plagues of Egypt. Now, Elizabeth must figure out how to break the curse before the morning of the tenth plague—the plague of death. If she fails, Salem will cease to exist.

Bio: I currently reside in Logan, Utah where I strive to balance my love of writing with raising a husband and two kids. My short story, The Quake, was recently published in the Wells Street Journal, a publication distributed by the University of Westminster.

DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND is YA Historical Fantasy complete at 66,000 words. Using many characters from the original trial proceedings, it brings a new and exciting spin to an age-old story. The Salem witch trials have always been a topic that has remained mysterious and compelling. When you add the additional elements of real witches, curses, and betrayal to the mix, it raises the excitement and terror of the trials to a whole new level. I would switch this paragraph and the last paragraph around, just for a slightly more logically flow.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Two types of bad guys

I have this theory that there are two types of villains that work really well in fiction. They type you love to hate and the type you hate to love.

The first kind, the one you love to hate might look something like this:




These are characters so vile that you can hardly hear their name mentioned without grimacing. They just do terrible things to terrible people. They lack any mitigating backstory features that would make you feel bad about hating them. We love hating them with the most passionate hatred we can cook up.

The second type of compelling villain is just the opposite. They’re the villain who, while clearly antagonistic, we feel sorry for. For example:



harley quinn

So does your villain fall into one of these categories? If not, can you push them so that they’re closer to one of these categories?

Who are some of your favorite villains? Tell me in the comments below for a chance to win a critique (see Rafflecopter for details).
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