Monday, September 30, 2013

Girl Scouts video with Michelle Obama

You all know I'm a HUGE fan of the Girl Scouts organization. Besides leading two troops of my own, I started as a Brownie GS and it was ONLY through Girl Scouts that I met friends I'd have for the rest of my life. Although we could barely afford the uniform/books growing up, I was privileged to belong to a troop where we earned money together to do the events I never would have afforded on my own.

It taught me confidence, perseverance and life skills. Except car maintenance. I never did get the hang of that badge...

Join me in sharing this video if Girl Scouts touched your life as it did mine...

Happily My Ever After,

Friday, September 27, 2013

Inspirational Romance Query Letter that Worked!

Love On The RangeToday on my Writers Paying it Forward Friday, I am pleased to welcome inspirational historical romance author, and a good friend of mine, Jessica Nelson. Jessica was able to nail that elusive Harlequin contract with her query letter, and has graciously agreed to share it with us!

Hi Jessica! As you know, I've read "Love on the Range" and loved it! I'm not usually drawn to inspirational romances, but your character, Gracelyn Riley, was spunky and vivacious in a time in our history when it was not considered feminine to be either one. (Check out her book trailer and excerpt for "Love on the Range" here).

First, I'm passionate about showing writers Actual Query Letters that Resulted in a Contract, and yours is a great example not only of a query letter, but also of how a novel can change once it's in an editor's hands.

Would you share your query letter here, and tell us why you think it got a response? What made it successful? 

I think the query was concise and had some hooks that Love Inspired Historical was looking for. Maybe it was just luck too? :-)

I love that your query fits to the standard Anatomy of a Query Letter format, and you've even used one of my favorite Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query Letters--and that's knowing your market and sending exactly what would fit in a specific publisher's line.

Next, what is THE most important thing writers can do for themselves to get an agent/publisher in today's market? 
I think it's important to be flexible. Many writers can be rigid in how they write, what they write, or who they'll work with, but this is a business and I believe flexibility gives writers more opportunities.

Your query letter illustrates your writer-ly flexiblity in your willingness to rework your novel based on feedback. And in fact, even after contract, your novel changed. The title changed from "Waiting for Spring" to "Love on the Range," and your heroine's name changed from Prudence to Gracelyn. Kudos to you for using your editor's feedback to make your story stronger and get published!

If you could have done anything differently with your writing career so far, what would it be? 
I'm not sure! Great question. Hmmm. Maybe I would make sure I'm writing more often? I've been lax on the word counts and that is working against me now.

Who are your writing role models, and how have they influenced you? 
I love so many different authors for so many different reasons. Some for their prose, some for their plots.

Do you have any upcoming releases? 
I have a Love Inspired Historical releasing next June. In the meantime, I've been busy self-publishing my contemporary romances. I'm aiming to have my next one out in October. :-)

What's one fact about you that most people don't know?
I have extra bones in my feet. :-)

LOL. Extra bones--who knew? I know people will want to check you out online. Can you give us your website links and contact information? 
Sure! My website is
 (Or check her out on Goodreads, or on Twitter.)
I also play a lot on Facebook and love to accept new friends, so feel free to find me there! Thanks so much for having me, Dylan!

Thanks for sharing your Actual Query Letter that Resulted in a Contract, Jessica and good luck with your upcoming releases!

Happily My Ever After,

Ready to tackle your OWN query letter? Check out my printable, helpful tips on the Anatomy of a Query Letter, as well as my Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query Letters.

Need another example of a query that worked? Check out my query letter for my paranormal romance, DESPITE THE GHOSTS here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

7 Tips to Host a KILLER Zombie Prom Party...on the Cheap!

I love my genre. Paranormal (and the romance, too) is just the coolest one to write, because it gives authors like me the excuse to...
Throw a Zombie Prom Halloween party!

Like I need an excuse. ;)

Here are 7 Tips to Host a Killer ZOMBIE PROM PARTY on the cheap. Check out more photo/ideas from our Zombie Prom Halloween Party on my Pinterest page here.
Zombie Prom Invite

  1. Invitations--We made our own and splattered blood (scrapbook spray ink) on the outside of the envelopes. Above is a scanned picture of mine, with the address, etc. deleted.
  2. Costumes--We invite tons of kids and adults to our parties...but they ALL must come dressed. In fact, our invite envelope said "If you're not dressed as a are FOOD." Scour the thrift stores for cheap, gaudy, horrible dresses and suits (remember ugly is better!), or be creative and be the zombie janitor (like my hubby--picture below) or the zombie football coach, etc.) then take a pair of scissors, some craft paint and fake blood, and go nuts! Hit the Halloween stores for make-up, dripping wounds, eyes, etc. to complete your look.
  3. Prom Pictures--No prom is complete without awkward prom pictures, so be sure to create a
    Me & Hubby-Zombie Prom '12
    backdrop like we did for our Newton H.S. Zombie Prom last year. The backdrop is some scrap wood that we painted white, then we spray painted a 'Zombie Prom' in runny, red paint, with 'Brains' on the other side. To add extra Zombie ambiance, we put a dead prom queen in the tree behind the backdrop, hanging her limp, lifeless (and completely fabricated) body over the top of the backdrop.
  4. Food--Go for the gore factor. Everything had to be what a zombie would crave, so we had the 'Flayed Skin-Head' ham and cheese dip and the 'Bloodshot Eyeballs' deviled eggs. (This website has some great ideas: ) 
  5. Create a ghoulish cemetery, complete with some of the graves partially dug up (with a mound of dirt and a shovel sticking out) to hint at the zombie origins. To create simple gravestones, simply use old boards (painted white, with black for the inscription), cardboard boxes faux painted to look like large tombstones (see mine on Pinterest here) or Styrofoam pieces cut in shapes. We used the pieces that came from packaging material to make ours. TIP: If you use spraypaint on Styrofoam, it almost curdles the foam, creating an instant "aged" look to your tombstone. 
  6. Games--We had a "Thriller" dance contest, a contest for the best costume (and at OUR party, you aren't allowed in if you're NOT in costume. Even our 75+ neighbors came dressed in full Zombie regalia!), and also had a Zombie Total Blackout, where each participant was led into our tricked out garage to stick their hands into various tubs of disgusting stuff they had to identify...blindfolded.
  7. Prizes and Favors--No prom is complete without a King and Queen, so be sure to Zombi-fy your prizes. I got old bowling trophies and dance trophies from our area thrift shops, spray painted them black and handed them out to our Zombie Prom Queen and King. All of the guests walked out with a Zombie party favor bag full of zombie-themed candy. Try online stores (like Oriental Trading here) for some pretty freaky favors.
Detail from my Zombie Prom Scrapbook page

We had a blast at our Zombie Prom last year...looking forward to this year's theme: Witch and Werewolf (to celebrate the release of my novels ANY WITCH WAY, and DESPITE THE FANGS!). 

Here's to a spook-tacular...
Happily My Ever After,

P.S. Want to see more pictures from our Zombie Prom? Check out my Pinterest page here. Enjoy!

Fantasy novel by Juli Revezzo FREE this week on Kindle

A past blog guest and friend of mine, Juli Revezzo, has her novel out FREE until Saturday on Kindle! Check out her new fantasy from The Wild Rose Press here on Amazon below:

Passion's Sacred Dance is Free on Kindle today through September 28!

And if you want to read her interview of how she got published, and her inspiration for Passion's Sacred Dance, click here.

Happily My Ever After,

P.S. The link for Juli's blog interview is here, and you can get her fantasy novel FREE on Amazon this week by clicking this link for Passion's Sacred Dance here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Actual Query Letter that Got Results: Anna Small, Historical Romance

As part of my Writers Paying it Forward Friday, I'm thrilled to welcome historical romance writer, Anna Small, who is sharing her Actual Query Letter that Got Results and some tips helpful for any writer.

I'm fortunate enough to know Anna personally, and can tell you first-hand her new book, "In the Arms of An Earl" is outstanding! If you liked Jane Austen's books, but wished there was a little more...well, steam, then Anna's book is for you! You can read my review of it on Goodreads here, or follow Anna's links below to her website and Amazon page for more information.

Welcome, Anna! So glad to have you! Let's get right down to your Query Letter that Got Results first--I think it's a great example of How To Sell Yourself in a Query Letter (see my post on that topic here) Would you share your letter here, and tell us what you think made it so successful?

This is my query for the new book that I sent to the agent. I was fortunate to have already built a relationship
with this agent through a different book. She told me she enjoyed my writing and wanted to see my next project, so I had an almost guaranteed audience! I researched this agent and discovered we had both grown up in England and loved Jane Austen. Since this book is a Regency historical romance, I was barking up the right tree! It's important to not just spam every agent and editor out there, but know who you are sending to. A few minutes of reading biographies really makes a difference.
Dear Becky,
Last year I queried you about my historical romance, "Miss Bennet in Love." While you didn't think a Mary Bennet story would sell, you said you enjoyed my writing and would like to see something else. 
I am pleased to submit to you a new Regency historical romance, How To Marry A Rogue. At 97k words, it's set in England and the Bordeaux region of France and involves a rogue who doesn't trust love and an impetuous miss who intends to set him straight.
Independent and spirited Georgiana Lockewood has promised her brother she will consider marriage if he allows her to travel abroad with their aunt. When he asks his best and most trustworthy friend, Jack Waverley, to escort them, Georgiana is delighted to renew their friendship. Jack keeps her at a distance, which confuses her, as they used to be close.
Jack has seen what passionate love can do to a man. His father killed himself when his wife deserted him, and his widowed grandfather is bitter and depressed. So when Jack sees Georgiana all grown up, he knows he has to resist her. When she is accidentally compromised, he steps in to save her reputation. After all, what harm can come from pretending to be in love?
I would be happy to send you the full at your request. I will miss Atlanta this year, but wish you a happy conference if you are going. Thank you for your time.
I write my queries based on a very simple model - 5 short paragraphs with the first one showing a personal connection of some kind, the next paragraph describes the heroine's issue, the third is for the hero, and the fourth is the plot hook. I tend to end with a question, as I did here. The last paragraph would be my writing credentials and published books, but since I already knew her, I mentioned the conference, as she might have gone.

Great advice, Anna--and I love how you end with the hook. 
What is THE most important thing writers can do for themselves to get an agent/publisher in today's market?
When critique partners, reading groups, editors, beta readers, etc., tell you to work on or change something, do it! Don't let your ego or dream get in the way. I think a lot of writers are in such a hurry to be published that they don't see the big picture. The other obvious answer is "write a great book!" but that is in itself subjective. What one editor considers great another will consider trash! As far as finding the perfect editor or agent, a writer needs to research the best fit for their project and career. I've seen so many postings from writers saying, "Help! such and such agency requested my book. Does anyone know anything about them?" Worse than that is settling for the first publisher who offers a contract. The biggest hurdle we all have to overcome is patience. A successful career is not made overnight.

If you could have done anything differently with your writing career so far, what would it be?
Following my own advice from the above question! <g>  Seriously, my issue was follow up. Early on in my writing career (probably 20 years ago) I went to my first small conference and met an editor who was extremely interested in my work in progress and requested I send it. Life got in the way and I never did, and always wonder if I would have been published in my 20s, instead of now. By the way, the novel from many years ago ended up being my first published novel, "Tame the Wild Wind."

Who are your writing role models, and how have they influenced you?
Let's see - I admire the novelists who paved the way for us romance authors today, such as Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell, the Brontes, and numerous others. It was harder being a female author then, and their persistence in their art gave us the timeless classics we love today. As an English major in college, I enjoyed reading all the classic British and American lit as I could. My favorites (big surprise here!) are the Romantic poets and authors. As far as contemporary authors, J.K. Rowling's story of how she was a single mom writing in cafes makes me think I have no hardship or struggle in comparison, and no excuse not to write!

I just read your new book, "In the Arms of an Earl" and it was outstanding (link for my review on Goodreads is here)! As a Brit Lit major in college, when I read your Jane Brooke, she felt like a modern take on an Austen or Bronte heroine--a heroine who had the opportunity to experience some steamy romance! ;) Can you tell me your inspiration for the book? 
I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! Jane's character is loosely based on Mary Bennett, the middle sister from Pride and Prejudice. I always wanted to see Mary have her own story, and wrote her one. Obviously, her name is Jane to honor Jane Austen, and Brooke for the B in Bennett. Frederick, however, is completely of my own imagination, although I'll share that I pictured Hugh Jackman in a white shirt and breeches the entire time I was writing!

Yummm...Hugh Jackman...oh, erm, last question:  What's one fact about you that most people don't know? 
I love to SCUBA dive! It's the only adventurous thing I do. So far, I have dived Grand Cayman, Roatan (Honduras), and the Florida Keys as well as the many beautiful springs and rivers in Florida. I'm always looking for sharks and would love to see one. Not a Jaws cousin, of course, but some sweet little nurse shark. When you're underwater with sea life, everything swims around with you, like you belong. I feel like a mermaid!

What are you currently working on?
I have another Regency historical romance sitting with an agent at the moment - so keep your fingers crossed! In the meantime, I'm starting a few new projects and digging up old ones. The best advice I can give anyone is to keep writing and try a variety of genres or plot themes until you find your niche. I love Western romance, and want to finish my followup stories to Tame the Wild Wind. And contemporary romance also has a hold on me. And there's that medieval time travel I started a few years back....

I'm looking forward to your next one(s)!! :) Thanks for joining me today. I know people will want to check you out online. Can you give us your website links and contact information?
Thanks for having me today, Dylan! I hope readers enjoy my books as much I love writing them.
Twitter - @annasmallbooks
FB - anna small books
Anna Small's page on Amazon is here.

Stay tuned for my next Writers Paying it Forward Friday when I will have inspirational romance writer, Jessica Nelson as my guest with her outstanding Query Letter that Got Results.

Happily My Ever After,

P.S. Here is another example of a Query Letter that Worked--it's mine for Despite the Ghosts--here.

P.P.S. Want to get your query letter as spiffy as Anna's? Check out my post on How to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter...and not Sound Like a Jerk here.

P.P.S.S. Want the basics on Query Letter writing? I have a great downloadable cheatsheet on the Anatomy of a Query Letter here, and the Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query Letters here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

How to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter...and not sound like a jerk

If you've been following my blog, you know that Friday is Writers Pay it Forward, and today I'm talking about How to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter (not your book, but yourself. 

When I wrote my query letter for my first paranormal romance, DESPITE THE GHOSTS, I naively thought the Author Bio portion of the query letter would be a breeze. In fact, of the four parts to a query letter (See the Anatomy of a Query Letter here), I figured the brief writing bio would be the easiest. I was talking about myself. How hard could it be?

Really freaking hard, is the answer to that question. 

I hated writing the Author Bio/Writing Credits part of the letter, and not just because I wasn't published at the time. I even hated it the second time with ANY WITCH WAY, after I'd been published already. And, surprise! When I wrote my query letter to my editor for my third novel, DESPITE THE FANGS, it was about as effortless as extracting an impacted tooth, and she knew both me and my writing!

It's tough to write about yourself and make it sound professional, yet not come off as a braggart. Or an idiot. So, in the spirit of  paying it forward, I'm going to give you my tips to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter, and below that, you can see my Author Bio/Writing Credits portion of all three of my novels (which all got a contract from The Wild Rose Press):

3 Ways to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter:

1. The Author Bio/Writing Credits paragraph, typically toward the end of your query letter, tells the agent/editor who you are as a writer, and what writing props and/or other skills that you possess. List any publication credits you have here, but list only the most relevant. TIP: If you have NO writing credits, don't apologize. Let your writing speak for itself and move on to Step 2. 

2. List any writing groups you belong to, as it demonstrates your dedication to writing. For example, in my first novel, I had only my critique group to boast of (and yes, this is a good thing to mention, as it shows the agent/editor that you are serious enough to seek out feedback--a key quality in a good writer). In my second novel's query letter, I was a member of RWA as well as a VP of a writing organization. TIP: If you are NOT a member of a writing organization (in your genre, preferably!), sign up, for Pete's sake! If you ARE a member of a writing organization, you better get yourself involved. Write the newsletter, hold an office--anything to distinguish yourself above the rest of the saps in the slush pile!

3. Include any relevant life experience/hobbies as it relates to your expertise in writing that novel. The key word here is relelvant--I run marathons, scrapbook and have a Shiz Tsu, but none of that is relevant to any of my novels to date. However, if I were pitching a book featuring a marathon runner, scrapbooker-turned-serial-killer, or where a Shiz Tsu was the narrator, then it's relevant! TIP: If you do have a hobby/relevant life experience that relates to your novel, remember to use that to your advantage when you are published! If your heroine knits, hold a book signing in a knitting store, or create a blog that features your books, plus your knitting to appeal to both audiences.

And finally, here are my Author Bio/Writing Credits paragraphs from each of my query letters. They may not be perfect, but both my query letters landed me a publishing contract!

Author Bio/Writing Credits paragraph I used when I sold my first novel, DESPITE THE GHOSTS: (my transition sentence makes more sense when you read the whole query letter here)

Unlike Nola, my publishing credits are more mundane. They include a year-long stint with as a Go-To writer, publishing a total of 22 “Stories from the Heart” and educational articles for their website. I have writing credits with several local newspapers, as well as training and sales materials created for corporate clients. I am an RWA member, as well as a member of Scribbler’s Ink, a Tampa-based writer’s group.

Author Bio/Writing Credits in my query letter that sold ANY WITCH WAY. While I sold it to The Wild Rose Press (same publisher as published DTG, my old editor was gone, so it was sort of like starting anew.
My most recent publishing credit is my debut novel, DESPITE THE GHOSTS, a paranormal romance published with The Wild Rose Press in 2009. My website, contains a blurb and excerpt of the novel, as well as current events to promote the book. As Vice President and Co-Founder of Sunshine State Romance Authors, a Florida chapter of Romance Writers of America, I believe in doing my homework and the Black Rose line at The Wild Rose Press would be the perfect home for my novella.
I hope this helps you on your query journey!

Happily My Ever After,

Need more help? Click here for my Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query Letters and check out my post on the Anatomy of a Query Letter here.
Want to see the entire query letter for DESPITE THE GHOSTS? Click here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Friday the 13th Book Signing

Paranormal Romance author, Dylan Newton, will be hosting a spooktacular book signing this Friday the 13th for her new book, ANY WITCH WAY.

Join her at "Just a Cupcake" tomorrow (9/13/13) from 5 - 8pm on Citrus Avenue in beautiful Crystal River, FL for an evening of prizes, giveaways and a free taste of her "Grimaldi Ganache" the delectable treat featured in her novel.

How Book Covers are Made

I'm thrilled that my book cover for ANY WITCH WAY just made it as a finalist in the EPIC Awards! Why? Well, here's what most people don't realize...


When time came to submit my very first "Manuscript Information Sheet" for my first novel, DESPITE THE GHOSTS, I was shocked to discover this was the only information the cover artist would see when making my cover. This one-pager, fill-in-the-blank-style sheet was the only detail I got to provide for what would be the face of my novel forever!

"What?!" I gasped to my editor, "They aren't required to, like, READ my book first?"

"Nope," my editor said, then followed with some very true words, "The writer's job is to write the novel. Our job, along with the cover artist, is to sell it. And we know what sells."

Since my first novel's cover got such great reviews, I've learned to trust the system. But, when it came time to submit the manuscript info sheet for ANY WITCH WAY, I was very specific. Here's what I asked for on my one-pager that was sent to The Wild Rose Press cover artist assigned to me:

  • heroine had long dark hair, blue eyes, dressed in contemporary clothes.
  • I described in full detail my Wiccan hero, Joshua, going so far as to paste links to Sully Erna and Josh Groban (The two guys that inspired my hero--and yes, I realize how very different the singers are, musically speaking. I've got elclectic tastes.) and had envisioned him in a black, hooded robe as he wears in the restaurant scene (before performing the delectable "Five Fold Kiss" on Lily).
  • Setting in a forest of bare/autumn-like trees, filtered by moonlight
  • Asked if something funky and Wiccan-like could be done with the title.
  • Asked NOT to put a pentagram on the cover, as it might turn-off potential readers.

Thank God the cover artist (the incredible Rae Monet) ignored most of what I asked for!

So, while my hero isn't on my cover, you can't see all of my heroine and there is a big, ghostly pentagram
smack in the middle of the was perfect! So far, it has finaled in two contests, and I've had reviews by readers who ONLY picked up the book because it had the pentagram on the front.

Go figure.

 And now, I await my cover for my third novel, DESPITE THE FANGS. And I gave detailed instructions. Which I hope they ignore. :)

Happily My Ever After,

Curious to see who I based my hero, Joshua, on in my novel, ANY WITCH WAY? Click here for some scrumptious pics and insider info.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Query Letters that Worked--mine for DESPITE THE GHOSTS

When I was deep in the throes of a query letter-induced nervous breakdown, I'd have given my left nostril to view an actual query letter that worked, along with the book it was written for--typically, you only get the former, without the latter.

Well, call me your Scary Godmother, but I've got mine for you. An actual query letter that worked, which you can then marry to DESPITE THE GHOSTS, my first book that was published. 

:) You're welcome.

As part of my Writers Paying it Forward Friday program, here's the query letter that got me a partial request from 2 agents and 2 publishers--which went on to translate to a full request and contract from The Wild Rose Press in 2009. My query title is different than the title we ended up with when TWRP contracted me (as there was already another book with "Ghost of a Chance" as a title), which proves you should never fall in love with your title, because your title won't love you back!)

You'll note, the query for what would become DESPITE THE GHOSTS has all of the necessary parts that I talked about in my Anatomy of a Query Letter post (click here for that), and I stuck to all of the Top 10 Query Letter Do's and Don'ts post (click here for the Top Ten list).

(FYI--This was an email query, so is formatted for email with no return address, date sent, etc. The name of the editor has been made generic for the purposes of this post.)

Dear/Attn Ms. Agent:
Nola Richards is pissed. Not only did the ghost looming at the end of her bed interrupt what had the makings of an amazing erotic dream, he’s intent on ruining her summer with his fragmented plea for help. Really, despite her skills as a spirit medium, parapsychology professor and psychic author, what is she supposed to do with “NOT SUICIDE” written in the steam on her shower door? 
When his ghostly antics scare off a paying client, it’s the last straw. Nola vows to solve this ghost’s mystery and insists on meeting with his bachelor brother, business tycoon and complete skeptic Parker Sebastian…and then bedding him. After having her first week of vacation ruined, her car stolen, and topping it off with her rough reception at Parker’s office, Nola figures breaking her two-year dry spell with the executive was her right. He owed her. 
For Parker, stepping outside of reality never felt so good—neither had the sex. It was perfect…except for the fact that Nola had a hand in killing his brother. How else could he explain her otherworldly knowledge of his brother’s death?
Nola must overcome Parker’s disbelief to help unravel his brother’s message and discover the real killer. Both of them will have to alter their version of ‘normal’ to give their love A GHOST OF A CHANCE.
Complete at 85,000 words, A GHOST OF A CHANCE is an edgy paranormal romance with a quirky, modern heroine (endowed with the ability to see ghosts), a hot executive (who is just plain endowed), and plenty of conflict, ghostly suspense and sex.
Unlike Nola, my publishing credits are more mundane. They include a year-long stint with as a Go-To writer, publishing a total of 22 “Stories from the Heart” and educational articles for their website. I have writing credits with several local newspapers, as well as training and sales materials created for corporate clients. I am an RWA member, as well as a member of Scribbler’s Ink, a Tampa-based writer’s group.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Best Regards, 
Dylan Newton
I hope being able to see an actual query letter that resulted in a publishing contract (along with being able to read the resulting novel) helps you avoid a query letter-induced nervous breakdown. 

And you didn't even have to give your left nostril to get it. Now that's what I call...

Happily My Ever After,

P.S. Want to see the whole structure necessary in every query letter? Click here and print off my Anatomy of a Query Letter post for your reference.

P.S. And make sure your query letter obeys the Top 10 Query Letter Do's and Don'ts by printing off my post here.