Publishers Choice Point Breakdown

You guys are great! I appreciate your participation in this contest and hope that you will return often and participate in future contests. I am very open to suggestions for future contests—let me know what you think will be fun and helpful, as well as the frequency you’d like to see a contest done.

I hope that if you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have that you will continue to come back to this site regularly and comment on the posts, send me questions to answer and queries to critique, and that you will spread the word about this site. (I recently changed the settings to allow you to easily e-mail posts to your friends. Just click on the envelope at the bottom of the post.)

Now, on to how I chose my winner.

The purpose of this contest (other than just to have some fun) was to practice getting the most important info into the smallest amount of wordage, ergo, the three sentence limit and the 90 word bonus. You got one point for each of these conditions.

The absolutely most critical info I need to gain from a pitch is a feeling of whether or not I can sell it, ergo, the specific details I asked for in the contest.

Genre: Is it in a genre that is selling well now and that I expect to sell well a year from now when the book is released? (1 pt)

LDS: Would LDS readers enjoy this? Would they go into their LDS bookstore looking for something like this? (1 pt)

Name and Age of Protaganist: This indicates the gender (usually) that it will appeal to, and the age range of the target reader. (1 pt each)

Plot: A short description of what I can expect to happen in the novel (1 pt)

Most of you got all of these points.

Subjective: Then there were another 6 points awarded for things like if I’d ask for a partial based on the pitch, if it was unique—something I hadn’t seen/heard before or a new twist on the usual (this was the hardest one to do, given that you only had 3 sentences), if I personally would want to read it, and other totally subjective factors like did I smile when I read it, did I laugh out loud (in a good way), did I go “awwww…” etc.

Later today, I will post a summary in the comments trail of each pitch stating my opinion on what you did best, where you lost points, what would strengthen the pitch and whether or not I would ask for a partial/full.

P.S. Winners are free to use their bragging rights in any way they choose. However, it might not impress a publisher/editor if you include it as part of your query.

P.P.S. Those of you who did not win are free to post your identity in the comments trail of your pitch if you want. I will not be doing so. You may also politely explain how I so clearly missed the point of your pitch, if you want.


I want to know if the time has come to seriously consider publishing LDS speculative fiction, specifically, science fiction with an LDS backdrop. So please answer these questions in the comments trail.

1. Would you, as an LDS reader, purchase and read a science fiction novel with an LDS backdrop, published by an LDS publisher?

2. If no, why not?

3. Would you specifically be interested in the following plot line: Religious people exercising their faith and being blessed for it (miraculous healings, inspired to build a space ship, etc.)– on another planet?

4. Why or why not?

More on Speculative Fiction

What does your publisher’s gut instinct say about miracles happening against a technological backdrop? I’m talking the occasional big miracle here, like instant healing, someone being raised from the dead, or having the technical plans of an advanced spaceship being revealed one piece at a time to an entire team of people, while other people have been called to assemble the
spaceship? No magic, no occult, no vampires, just religious people exercising their faith and being blessed for it — on another planet.


Oh, I can give you a real clear answer on that one–I don’t know!

Seriously though, let’s look at in two segments: national and LDS.

National: Does “Left Behind” ring any bells for you? This is a clear indication that there is a market for speculative fiction with a Christian backdrop and a strong message of faith. Also, Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming series, especially the first two, have spiritually based characters, if not straightforwardly Christian. I don’t think they sold as well as his Ender series, but they made it to the Sci-Fi book club. I’ve read lots of other sci-fi books that were faith based, but not necessarily Christian faith based. So in this context, does your basic plot fit in with what is being published nationally–maybe.

LDS: The fact that Pitch #5 in my contest is currently in first place tells you something. (Unless the writer bribed all their family & friends to go vote for it.)
Also, look at the view count on your bio. It has had 1,854 views. I don’t know how many of those have come since you started talking about sci-fi but I would guess a significant portion of them have. So in this context, would your plot intrigue an LDS publisher–maybe.

Let’s see if we can get a better idea of the interest level. See “Poll” in my next post. Also, I am going to contact a collegue of mine and see if she will set up a poll at the latterdayauthors site for me, because I am genuinely interested in the answer to your question.

P.S. The poll is now up over at latterdayauthorsDOTcom. It’s in the Writing Fiction section under the thread “Has Sci-fi’s Time Arrived?”

(Let me just say that some people are big whiny babies and I didn’t pinch her that hard!)

(Also, I have perfectly legitimate reasons for not revealing my identity and none of them have anything to do with being a “chicken-liver,” as she so eloquently put it. BTW, if that’s the best she can do…)

Clarification on Sci-Fi

This was posted over on Yes, I frequently lurk there, among several other places. But I can’t post there because you have to register first and I’m shy and want to stay in the shadows. 🙂 So someone who reads this, go over there to Melanie Goldman’s topic under Member Bios, and tell her I’m talking about her comments over here. Please.

According to the wise woman behind LDS Publisher, [Melanie is so intelligent and perceptive. She’s my new best friend!] “mixing speculative fiction with LDS culture … is highly offensive to many readers … [and she doesn’t know of a] single publisher who would touch it with a ten-foot pole.”

Since I was planning to write a variation of the “Zoram” story from the Book of Mormon on a different world and including a huge spaceship, in the way that Orson Scott Card wrote a variation of the “Nephi” story in his Homecoming series on a different world and including a huge spaceship, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I don’t stand a chance.

Stephanie Black also asked her editor at Covenant, and got a very discouraging answer.

Actually, the more I read that blog, the more I’m tempted to take up her idea of baptizing a vampire family. Could be funny, seeing them doing the refreshments at a church activity, or how nobody wants to visit teach them, because they’re afraid that they might be asked to provide a little red snack. But no … better not. I don’t want people coming after me with pitchforks and torches.

Let me clarify a few things. First, let’s not mix apples and oranges. There are several distinct areas that are all getting lumped together under the category of LDS Speculative Fiction:

1. There is fiction written by LDS authors but have nothing else to do with the LDS culture (Orson Scott Card, Anne Perry, Shannon Hale, etc.)

2. There is national fiction that mirrors LDS teachings but non-LDS readers would not recognize it as such (Card’s Homecoming & Alvin Maker series).

3. There is national fiction published by LDS authors in which LDS culture is referenced, but not a main focus (Card’s Lost Boys–I think the family is LDS, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read it)

4. There is fiction published by LDS publishers and sold mainly to LDS audiences but that does not include direct references to LDS lifestyle, membership or theology (Leven Thumps).

5. There is fiction where LDS culture and theology is a major focus (The Believer; also Card’s Folk of the Fringe collection of short stories, several of which I found very fascinating).

6. Then there is fiction where LDS culture and theology is mixed together with fantasy devices and sci-fi events that are in direct contrast with LDS core principles and teaching.

All of these are lumped into one big category: LDS speculative fiction. What I say about one of these areas does not always apply to the others.

For example, Stephanie Black’s The Believer is wonderful. I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t hard core sci-fi, but it was futuristic and speculative. If Covenant dropped her, I’d snap her up in a heartbeat–assuming of course, that I don’t already work for Covenant, in which case I’d throw an absolute fit if they dropped that series.

I also personally enjoyed Scott Card’s Homecoming series (although I felt the quality of the writing and the storyline lacked somewhat once they left their planet and headed back to “home.” Also, I think the little creatures fighting each other was done to death in his Ender series and I’m tired of it already.) And I really liked his Alvin Maker series. He wasn’t rewriting the Book of Mormon and he wasn’t doing a biography of Joseph Smith. He started with some basics and let his imagination take it from there to spin an entirely different story. I know some LDS readers who were offended by this, but I wasn’t. (The sex and violence bothered me, but the fact that he started with “Joseph Smith” did not. If Card offered me that series, I’d have to turn it down unless he toned it down.)

I think there is a market for good, solid speculative novels written in a way that supports LDS values and beliefs, but that do not neccessarily contain direct references to LDS culture and theology. I, as an LDS pubisher, WOULD be very interested in seeing some of those. But the story has to be compelling and very well written.

A story loosely based on Zoram’s experience, but set on a different planet, in a different universe would be fine. But a story about Zoram (his literal self) going to a different planet, or Zoram (his literal self) being told by little green aliens that one night soon he would meet a man who would offer to take him from Jerusalem and that Zoram should follow him, and then voila, 48 hours later Zoram (his literal self) meets up with Nephi (his literal self)–no. No! NO!!

But then there are some gray areas–like Pitch #5 posted as part of my contest. I haven’t decided how I feel about that yet. The sci-fi fan in me would like to take a look at it. The publisher who needs to run a profitable company is highly skeptical. In this gray area would also fall stories about missionaries sent to other planets, or a “Left Behind” type of story using LDS theology, or a variety of other speculative themes and plots. A lot would depend on how it was handled. I would take a look at it, but it would have to have a killer plot and substantive writing for me to take the risk of publishing it.

What I absolutely am NOT interested in are stories where the power of the gospel and other sacred things are minimized by fantastical devices or science. For example, time travel where modern day kids make sure the gospel stays on track. To me, that says God isn’t powerful enough to run His on business. I also will not entertain a bishop or RS president who uses magic, or anyone who dabbles in anything bordering on the occult as a way of living the gospel. I also will not look at Primary children who make all their problems go away by …whatever. Can’t think of an example right now, but you get the idea.

Now, would I be interested in a newly baptised vampire family, written entirely tongue in cheek and purely for entertainment? Personally, uhm, I probably would. Professionally, I just don’t know. I guess I’d have to make that decision when and if it ever shows up in my slush pile.

Anyway, the point of this whole thing is to say that I agree with Karlene and Stephanie (other posters in that topic string). I think there is a market out there and I’d like to support it because I am a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan and the number of authors I can trust to write a compelling, yet clean, story line is rapidly diminishing. It’s only a matter of time before LDS readers start demanding this genre of the LDS publishers, the same way that they’ve demanded clean LDS romance novels.

So, if you write LDS speculative fiction–if that’s where your heart is, WRITE IT. The readers will come…

Contest Closed

Submissions to contest now closed. Please vote for your favorite(s) between now and midnight, Friday, July 7th, 2006. Check back on Saturday, July 8th for announcement of winners.

Pitch # 9

With the nation frightened by the deadly effects of a new hemorrhaging ulcer, Jaysen Dupray, a 34-year-old tribal lawyer, tries to forget the hemorrhaging death of his own wife until he makes a shocking discovery–the American government has been poisoning the people. Now with people dying, government records being altered and someone sending brutal e-mails, Jaysen sees the horrifying truth: latter-day prophecy is being fulfilled and he’s at the epicenter. Understanding now that his life and the lives of the American people depend on the safety of the buffalo, Jaysen battles to find a way out of the fatal maze even as someone in the government wants him dead. (110 words)

Pitch # 8

At age 28, Confederate Sergeant Eli Slater is in charge of a group of Rebels trained to assassinate President Lincoln and his top advisors in one devastating blow; but their plans are jeopardized when he captures the daughter of a general they are assigned to kill. When she discovers their plans and learns of Slater’s involvement in an assassination plot on Brigham Young, everything is threatened. Now with spies on both sides of the line, the sergeant makes a bold move and takes her North–into the camp of her father. (90 words)

Contest Extension

Someone just asked for an extension due to weather related power outtages and the inability to get to the internet to post. Since power was out here too, I am agreeable. You may continue to submit until midnight (MST) on July 5th.

Voting however will end as previously scheduled.

I just realized that when I copied and pasted from the e-mails to the blog, some of them came through without spaces between some of the words. I have corrected it and will watch for it in the future. If any of you withheld votes for a particular pitch, thinking the author was careless (and therefore undeserving of your vote), please note this was a software transfer glitch and consider voting again.

Pitch # 7

The nation of Israel stands though perhaps not for long after her second king, David, is chased from the throne and almost killed by his son Absalom. As years pass Israel’s enemies take advantage of the wicked Absalom’s reign to weaken the borders and take Israel’s cities from her. Despite having lost his chance at exaltation because of the murder of Uriah, David attempts to reconcile himself with his traitorous son, regain his throne to restore peace, and endure living the commandments of God to the end of his life. (90)

Pitch #6

When 23-year-old Sarah finishes her mission in Guatemala, she returns to Utah to help her Democratic brother, Robert, in his congressional campaign, much to the disdain of their Senator father whose conservative viewpoint endorses Robert’s opponent and opposes Sarah’s friendship with a Black campaign manager. As her father attempts to mold Sarah into the woman he thinks she should be, she fights for independence to create her own pathway to happiness. Can she survive her father’s machinations and their opponent’s deceptive methods and in turn find the love she seeks? (90)

Pitch #5

Having lost her voice and no longer able to sing praises in the temple, 32-year-old Ruhama feels that she’s been rejected by the Lord and her life is over. But when a member of a strange cult which claims to have the fullness of the gospel comes to re-possess a precious artefact from the temple, Ruhama is caught up in the forced exodus of these Apostates. Travelling to another planet on a huge spaceship, Ruhama grows to realize that what she perceived as rejection was really a blessing in disguise. (90 words)

Slightly revised at request of author. Since this is just for fun, I’m agreeing to post the revision. However, keep in mind that were this a real pitch, there would be no second chances. 🙂

Pitch #3

At the Scout overnighter, 11 year old twins Matthew and Marc stumble upon a secret meeting in the woods where four men are plotting murder. Known for their tall tales, when they get back to camp, they find no one will believe them, not even the bishop (who is also their dad). Can they foil the murderous plot without becoming one of the dearly departed themselves? (66 words)

Pitch #4

At 21, Jennifer Smart’s heart is broken by a Dear Jane from high school sweetheart, Travis Kellerman. Leaving heartache behind, she transfers to BYU and meets dashing Donovan Montgomery. The day after Donovan proposes, Travis shows up wanting her back and pulling her heart apart. (45 words)

Pitch #2

Suzie Johnson, a thirty-something divorced mother of four, finds herself feeling alienated from the Church because she no longer fits the “forever family” mold, and with no desire to ever date or marry again, until the bishop gives her a blessing promising that she will marry in this life and that her new husband will “treat you like a queen, in the way Heavenly Father intends all his daughters to be treated.” Only weeks later, she finds herself trying to choose between two suitors—Alexander, a handsome, rich and also divorced Elders Quorum president in her new ward, and James, also handsome but not so rich, never married, and a non-member. How does her heart decide? (116 words)

Pitch #1

Sixteen year old Kiley Robinson thinks the Church’s stand on body piercing is old-fashioned and out of step, until her belly-button ring is exactly what attracts the attention of a crazed religious zealot looking to add to his harem of new young wives. Kidnapped and locked in solitary confinement, Kiley has plenty of time to reflect on her life choices. Prayer, repentance and a strength gained from knowing God loves you no matter what happens in your life, give Kiley the courage and ability to endure and finally to escape. (90 words)


I’ve already got some pitches. That was fast!

Bonus Word Update: Also, please note the updated Bonus word count. The bonus is now set at 90 words, not 45.

If any of you have already submitted a pitch that is 45 words (there’s one so far) or less and you’d like to resubmit with 90 words, go ahead. I’ll post both and see what gets the most votes.

Voting Clarification: Also, YES, you can vote for yourself, but only once per pitch. And just so we don’t end up with every pitch having 1 vote, vote for a couple of others too.

Word Count Addition: Also, please put your word count at the end of your pitch. It will save me time. Word count does not count as part of your word count. 🙂

Contest with a REAL PRIZE!

This contest has ended.
Winners are posted here and here.

Another contest will be announced soon.

Let’s try another contest. It’s a long holiday weekend, so you have time to write something just for fun, right? Since we’ve done a few queries this month, here’s a prompt that will help hone your skills at summing up your novel.

Write a three-sentence pitch for an LDS novel. Somewhere in that pitch there needs to be: 1) a clear hint to the genre; 2) a clear hint that it’s LDS; 3) your main character’s name and age; 4) the general plot line. Bonus points if you’re able to do this in 90* words or less. (Hyphenated words count as individual words. Numbers count as words.) Please put your word count at the end of your pitch. (This does not count as part of your total words.)

There will be two winners: Publisher’s Choice (chosen by me) and Readers Choice (chosen by you). Each first-place winner will receive a paperback copy of the LDS novel of their choice.

All pitches have their own post, titled “Pitch #1,” “Pitch #2,” etc.

To vote, click on the “comments” link at the bottom of the pitch you like. Cast your vote by leaving a comment.

Stupid Little Details That You Must Follow in Order to Win:
1. Send your pitch to my e-mail address. Include your mailing address and your choice of LDS novel in your e-mail so I can mail your prize as soon as the contest ends.

2. I will post all pitches to this blog in the order they are received. I will NOT post the author’s name or any identifying information until the contest is over.

3. Enter as many times as you want, but send a separate e-mail for each entry. Each entry will be judged on its own merits. (That means, if one is really good and one is really bad, the bad one won’t color judgment of the good one.)

4. The contest STARTS NOW and and STOPS Tuesday, July 4, 2006 at midnight (MST).

5. All pitches will be posted by Wednesday, July 5, 2006.

6. Voting STARTS NOW and STOPS on Friday, July 7th. Vote by posting in the comments trail of the pitch you like.

7. You may vote for as many pitches as you want, but you can only vote for a particular pitch once. You are on the Honor Code not to post multiple anonymous votes for your favorite pitch.

8. You may vote for yourself, but only once per pitch. And just so we don’t end up with every pitch having 1 vote, vote for a couple of others too.

9. Winners posted on Saturday, July 8, 2006. I will post the first-place winners and two runners-up in each category. Unless you specifically request not to be indentified, the names of the winners will be posted.

10. In the case of a tie for the Readers Choice, I will put the names in a hat and draw the winner.

11. The same pitch cannot win in both categories. I will select my winner before tallying the Readers Choice votes. If my winner is also the winner of the Readers Choice, the Readers Choice prize will go to the second place pitch.

P.S. To send this contest info to all your writer friends (that’s a subliminal command for you to do so), go to the “Previous Posts” listed on the right of this blog. Click on the title of this post. It will display in its own webpage. Copy the URL (web address) line and paste it into your e-mail. Then send that link to every writer you know. (Do it! Do it! You know you want to…)

P.P.S. If you’re concerned about nepotism, don’t be. I’ve rejected plenty of my good friends in the past, which is why I no longer have any.

*Updated bonus word count. See comments on this post.

Submit One Manuscript at a Time

Tip: When you are submitting a manuscript to a publisher, do just that–submit A (as in, one) manuscript.

Just this week I’ve received 4 submissions of multiple manuscripts in multiple genres all at once. When I get an e-mail that has 18 attachments–that’s 9 query letters and 9 FULL manuscripts, ranging from picture books to historical fiction to romance to gritty realistic drama–it makes my head spin. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

There are just so many reasons why I don’t like that.

Don’t do this. Pick your best one and send it. If you get a positive response, but it’s rejected because it’s not a genre the publisher does, or they’ve already got one like it, or they ask what else you have, then query another manuscript.

Right of Refusal Clauses

[Okay, I’m done ranting. This is my real post for today.]

What is the purpose of a right of refusal clause in a publishing contract. They publish my first novel and then they want claims on everything I write for the rest of my life?

I have heard rumors that there are some publishers who ask for all rights to all your future works, but I have honestly never seen it in writing. Nor have I seen the non-compete clause that says if you end your contract with them you can’t publish with anyone else for X number of years. (I’ve heard both 3 and 5.)

A good contract protects both parties given various eventualities. We have a right of first refusal clause in our contract that simply says to submit your next work to us first. If we reject it, you are free to shop it and any other subsequent projects to anyone you please.

A publisher takes a huge risk in signing a new, unknown author. Right of refusal compensates the publisher for taking that risk. It requires a certain level of marketing ($$$) to get your name and your book out there. It’s not like you have a reading public waiting for your book to hit the shelves. We have to convince readers that they want to buy your book. Once you have a following, marketing becomes a little easier, with each new book advertising all previous books.

That said, right of refusal should only apply to the next novel and there should be some time limit on how long the publisher has to accept or reject.

And you should never, ever sign a contract with a “non-compete” clause that prevents you from submitting to or publishing with another publisher after the first contract is terminated. That is just wrong!

In my opinion, the only time a non-compete is ethical is if I (as the publisher) want a book written on a particular topic–say, 101 recipes using green jell-o–and I hire you to write this book according to certain specifications. Then I could say that if the contract is terminated before the book is published, you have to wait 1 or 2 years before you write and publish a book of recipes for green jell-o with another publisher. That’s because it was my concept, my idea, and basically you are doing a work-for-hire.

But if Green Jell-o (Vol. 1) was entirely your idea, and I don’t want to do Green Jell-o (Vol. 2), but my competition thinks it’s groovy, then you should be free to take it to them the minute after you receive notification of rejection from me.

That doesn’t mean you’ll get the rights back to Green Jell-o (Vol. 1) if it’s still selling. But there should also be a clause in your contract that states under what conditions the rights revert to you if I let Green Jell-o (Vol. 1) go out of print.

2 Requests

1. I get a lot of really funny and/or clever comments sent to my e-mail. These are not questions or anything that requires a response from me, but are comments based on posts I’ve written or sparked by something someone else said in their e-mail or comment. PLEASE, please, consider posting these on this site in the comments trail, rather than sending them to me. I think others would like to read them too.

[Thanks, Beulah, for sharing the info on carpal tunnel relief in the comments trail. That’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. While not directly related to writing or publishing, many authors suffer from this affliction and I bet I’m not the only one starting a B6/flax regimen.]

2. Someone suggested I talk about publishing contracts. And I’d be happy to, but that’s a HUGE area to cover. What about contracts are you most interested in? What do you want to know?

Critique This! #4


Dear Editor,

Hardly anyone gets off at the Regret exit unless they’re visiting relatives or having car trouble. But for single-again Jane Field, Regret, Wyoming may be her best last chance to build a secure home where she can raise her seven-year old twin daughters within the gospel.

Jane faces that challenge with skimpy finances, a derelict old farmhouse, disapproving non-member parents who urge her to “Come home”, her ex-husband’s gambling addiction, midnight mailbox mashers, power tools, skunks, and a meddling sister-in-law. She is so busy she has not noticed her twins, Hannah and Faith, are keeping a secret from her. A frightening secret about someone hiding in the derelict [Only use derelict once.] chicken coop behind their new “old” house. [Is this a horror story? Suspense?]

Into the mix, come Jane’s ailing and homeless ex-father-in-law and his little dog, Moxie. And Luke and Rosina, a young couple trapped Luke’s mother’s past. [This sentence doesn’t make any sense. Who is Luke? Who is Rosina? Why do we care?] Douglas Riley, the 11-year old who has been accidentally abandoned by his divorced parents [how in the world is a child “accidentally abandoned”? Is this a humorous novel?], and Sariah, the twins’ future step-sister. [step-sister because her Jane remarries or because her husband does?] [Incomplete sentence.]

As Jane rebuilds her life and her house, she learns a home is more important than a house but both must be set with sure foundations and framed with strong timber by supporting and unselfish parents. [Who are the parents? Hers? Does she marry and she and her new husband are the parents? This is confusing.]

Regret, Wyoming Jane [huh? This title doesn’t make any sense. Also, don’t bold, just italicize the title.] is primarily intended for LDS women and emphasizes the importance of individual righteousness and strong family relationships in creating a gospel-centered home. It is the first in a collection of novels set in Regret, Wyoming and comprised of stories, some set in different time periods, about individual residents. [Generally, a series follows the characters, not the town they live in. I’m not sure this is a strong selling point.]

I’d be happy to send you a complete copy of the manuscript of Regret, Wyoming Jane for your review. [Review is not the word you want to use.] Thank you for your consideration and time. An SASE is enclosed for your reply.


The best thing about this query is the name of the town the book is set in, but you don’t mention if that title reflects an underlying theme—as in, we all have regrets, or we should never have regrets, or we only regret…whatever. Don’t waste that name. At the very least, make it a sub-theme.

Based on this query, I have to assume your book has no plot. Without a plot line, I have no clear sense as to what type of book this is. Is it a romance—does she marry the father of Sariah? Is it a literary novel, about growth and personal strength? Is it a mystery? Is it horror? If I don’t know what category to put it in, I have no idea if I can sell it our not.

You have too many characters in this query. Pick two or three of the strongest and then lump the others together in a generic category. These characters also have no clear and solid connection to the story. What about them? Does Jane learn and grow from her encounter with them? Are they all connected to a plot somewhere? Or do they just float in and out of her life? And the one character I’m interested in is the stranger in the chicken coop. From the set-up, this should be a key character and we need to know more about him/her. Is this a man Jane is going to fall in love with? An elderly, homeless woman? A child Jane befriends? Or a psychotic killer who intends Jane as his next victim?


Dear Editor,

No one chooses Regret, Wyoming as a destination unless they’re visiting relatives or having car trouble. But for recently divorced Jane Field, Regret, Wyoming may be her last best chance to build a safe and secure home where she can raise her seven-year old twin daughters, Hannah and Faith.

Jane’s new life in Regret begins to fall apart when her child support disappears due to her ex-husband’s gambling addiction. Coping with midnight mailbox mashers, skunks, and a meddling sister-in-law is trouble enough, but then Jane discovers that Hannah and Faith are keeping a secret—someone is hiding in the chicken coop behind their new “old” house.

Just as Jane is about to give in to discouragement, a handful of eccentric townspeople—including Luke and Rosina, who are trapped in the cycle of Luke’s mother’s past, and Douglas Riley, an 11-year old who has been accidentally abandoned by his divorced parents—teach Jane that a home is more important than a house, and both must be set with sure foundations and framed with faith.

Regret, Wyoming is a literary novel of 90,000 words, intended for LDS women. It emphasizes the importance of individual righteousness and strong family relationships in creating a gospel-centered home. It is the first in a collection of novels set in Regret, Wyoming. I’d be happy to send you the complete manuscript for your consideration. Thank you for your time. An SASE is enclosed for your reply.

Great Links

I’ve got some carpal tunnel or similar such thing going on, so I’ve had to take a typing break for a few days. Still resting the muscles, so this will be a short one. Here are a few of good writer links (not in any particular order). They are all from Writers Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers. Go check them out. And please, put links to your favorites in the comments section

*Disclaimer: In no way whatsoever do I endorse the products or classes sold and/or advertised on these sites. These links are for educational purposes only. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Agent Query (list of national agent profiles)

Angle on Writing (especially like their revision checklist)

Backspace–The Writer’s Place (miscellaneous articles on writing and publishing)

Creativity for Life (articles on creativity)

Baby Names (popular names by year, since 1880)

The Dabbling Mom (writing tips for moms and others)

Fund for Writers (C. Hope Clark; huge site with lots of freebie info)

Verla Kay’s Writer’s Tips (geared to children’s writers & illustrators, but good for everyone)

Write4Kids (this links to the page with the free articles)

Writer’s Break (lots of free articles)

Writing World (link to the articles page)

Critique This! #3

Please give me feedback on my query letter! I’m panicking! Thank you for your time.


Dear Publisher/Editor, [I know you can’t properly address this particular version of your query, but when sending the real one, be sure to find out who to send it to and address it correctly—double check the spelling of the name.]

Brits and Pieces is a story about the power of love and the twists and turns it can take along its road. [its road? to what? to where?] This fiction/romance genre novel [fiction/romance is not a genre, per se; since your protagonist is kidnapped by a psycho stalker from her past, you may safely call this a romantic suspense, or perhaps a thriller romance. A fiction novel is redundant] has humor, tragedy and hope. [don’t tell me, show me]

Angie Carmichael never believed that famous singer Michael Winchester would actually read the Book of Mormon she sent him on a whim but when he requests to meet her after a concert, she agrees with enthusiasm. After an instant attraction, Michael invites her to be his personal guest on his concert tour rather than lose her to her boring life as a welfare worker in Las Vegas. Angie can hardly believe the turn her life has taken when she tells Michael that she has always wanted to pursue musical theater but could never overcome her vicious [find a different adjective] stage fright. With Michael’s help, Angie is able to step into the concert when the soloist falls ill with no understudy. [Is this a single person concert? Or a theatrical musical production? or something in between?]. In doing so, Angie draws the attention of her former friend Michelle Davis. The attention turns deadly when Michelle feels threatened by Angie’s relationship to the object of her obsession: Michael Winchester. As Angie fights to recover from the accidental death of her parents [what?! where did this come from? Is she recovering physically? was she in the accident with them? or is she recovering emotionally?] and the infidelity of her fiancé, [what?! another jolt. this needs to come sooner] Michael battles his own demons remaining from his painful divorce.

The murder of Michael’s manager prompts Angie to feel responsible for his death [why? did she kill him?] in addition to her parents’ [why? did she kill them too?] and she begins a rapid descent into shock climaxing with her own kidnapping by Michelle and Angie’s escape. [this makes it sound like “her” and “Angie” are two different people.] Michelle is arrested and the new couple moves to England to recuperate. [what?! When did they get this close?] Michael’s interest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grows along with his feelings for Angie and soon he is baptized and proposes to Angie.
Through love and loss, Angie and Michael find each other only to wonder if it will last through eternity. [You end the book with some question about them being able to stay in love??]
This 94,000 word manuscript is completed and ready for review. I am currently a full time student in Las Vegas, Nevada and a Human Services caseworker. [how is this relevant?]

This query needs some work. Watch your sentence structure. Shorten them up, make them clear and concise and packing a full punch.

Your facts seem to be out of order. They don’t present a smooth story line. The query is choppy with surprises popping up in the wrong places. It leaves me with too many unresolved questions. In the rewrite below, I’ve made up some details. Replace them with the facts from your story.

After reading your entire query, I don’t get the “Brits” part of your title. Is this a typo? Or are you alluding to the fact that they go to England at the end of the book? And how long after they go to England does the book end? I can’t tell if that is the end of your story (in which case, the title doesn’t work) or if they go in the middle of the story and spend some time falling in love there (in which case, the title still doesn’t work—unless Michael is British, but there’s no mention of that anywhere.)

I know this is every woman’s fantasy, but I don’t buy the premise that a famous singer would ask to meet a stranger after the show, invite her to go on tour with him, that she would drop everything and go, and that she just happens to have the desire, the talent and the skill to replace the lead singer in the show. If this is indeed how you want the plot to unfold, you have to build in some credentials.


Dear LDS Publisher, [We’re assuming this is my real name.]

Brits and Pieces is a 94,000 word romantic suspense novel, featuring love and betrayal, murder and kidnapping, tragedy and hope.

Angie Carmichael’s life is a mess. Her parents have recently died in a suspicious car accident. She discovers that her fiancé has been unfaithful. And the final straw, she loses her part-time job as the weekend warm-up singer at a local dinner theater—lately the only spot of joy in her life. Overwhelmed by grief, anger, guilt and betrayal, she jumps at the chance to escape her life as a welfare worker in Las Vegas (her day job) and go on tour with a musical theatrical group [I am not familiar enough with musical performances to know what to properly call this. But as the author, be sure to research this out and call it the correct thing.] starring none other than the British born tenor, Michael Winchester, her secret crush.

On a whim, Angie gives Michael a copy of the Book of Mormon and he actually reads it! He asks her to accompany him for a quick bite after a show and she agrees with enthusiasm. Michael confesses his own struggle with a painful divorce, and the relationship grows as both Angie and Michael learn to trust again.

Just as it seems they might be headed toward “happily ever after,” Angie is thrust into the spotlight when the soloist in the musical production falls ill and the understudy quits just before the curtain opens. Angie is the only one who can fill in at a moment’s notice. To everyone’s surprise, Angie is a hit and continues on in the role. Being the focus of a production like this is a thrill for Angie, but it has its drawbacks—namely the unwanted attention of former friend, Michelle Davis. The attention turns deadly when Michelle feels threatened by Angie’s relationship with the object of her obsession: Michael Winchester.

Michael’s manager turns up dead, with all fingers pointing to Angie as the prime suspect. Even Michael has his doubts about her innocence, until Angie is kidnapped by Michelle. Angie escapes her captor and together, she and Michael find the evidence to expose Michelle as the true killer.

With Michelle in prison and the tour ended, Angie and Michael travel to England to recuperate and pick up the pieces of their relationship. Michael’s interest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to grow and soon he is baptized. His proposal to Angie testifies to the strength of true love and its ability to overcome tragedy and loss, replacing it with the hope for eternity.

Critique This! #2

Dear LDS Publisher,

I just came across your site and I’m so glad to see someone who doesn’t use profanity in their critiques and comments. Thank you for creating this site. [You’re very welcome.]

I’ve been working on my novel, “Teen Romance” [not the real title] off and on for nearly 20 years. [Since this is not part of your actual query letter, I will not chastise you for including it here. However, this is not something you want to tell an agent/editor at this point in your conversation. Even if your novel is wonderful, it makes it seem like you will only be a ‘one-hit-wonder.’ I mean, at 20 years per novel, you’ve got time for what, 1 more? Two tops? Most publishers
are looking for a writer who can pump out a steady flow of pleasurable reading material.]

I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about how to write novels, and have tried to hone my craft to the point where I think my novel is ready to go to market. However, I’ve been struggling with my query letter. I’ve sent my queries out to numerous agents, all receiving pretty much the same response, “not for me.” So, below represents my latest revision of my query. I’m hoping this one will work.

Any comments?


When 17 year old Mark Wilkerson is thrown free of the fiery crash that kills his family on the XYZ Bridge, his guilt, thinking he caused the accident, nearly tears him apart. [Sentence too long and convoluted. Why does he think he caused the accident?]

Before the accident, Mark had been popular [how do we know?] and talented [how? Give us concrete examples of this.] in his old school. Now living with his grandmother in a new town where the bridge [is this the killer bridge?] dominates the town’s skyline, he suffers from nightmares and visions [what kind? Does he become a psychic? Is this a paranormal story? Do the nightmares and visions have any impact on the plot?]. He meets Genie Lombardi who promises to help him overcome his phobia of the bridge [what is his phobia? Can’t cross it? Can’t look at it? What makes her think she can help him and how does she plan to help him?], and soothe his tortured conscience [how?]. But her ex-boyfriend, Jeff Marino, wants her back and will do anything to get her away from Mark, including killing Mark – or her if he must. Knowing of Mark’s phobia, Jeff kidnaps Genie, and Mark has to overcome his fear of the bridge to try to save the girl he loves. [Sentence structure needs work. This implies a non-existing relationship-—because of Mark’s phobia, Genie is kidnapped.]

The “Teen Romance” is set in the small . . . town where I grew up. The XYZ bridge, known for dense fog, multi-car pile-ups, and even suicides, inspired many of the elements of this story. At 73,000 words, this book is a romantic/suspense novel written primarily for young adults.

I recently finished my young adult novel “Teen Romance” and am trying to find a good agent or publisher. [Of course you are. You don’t need to say that here.] You can check out my website at: [We don’t have time to go check out websites. Put your important info in your query and let it speak for itself. The only time I care about what’s on your website is when we’re ready to market the book.]


In the summer, my kids and I have a movie day once a week, so I get to see lots of trailers. At least once during the previews, I lean over and whisper to one or another of my kidlets, “This could be good or it could be [insert disparaging word here].” If there’s nothing in the commercial to convince me I want to plunk down my hard-earned cash to go see the movie, it does not bode well for the full experience.

Unfortunately, I feel the same way about your query letter. Your book could be good or it could be same-old, same-old. There’s not enough meat in your commercial to make me want to explore more deeply. There’s no hook.

Also, keep an eye on your sentence structure. If you’re unsure of what I’m talking about, find a critique group or a friend who’s a strong grammarian to go over it. If your manuscript is written in the same tone and style, it will need some work too.

This is a 90 pound weakling query. There’s not enough here for me to work with. Pump it up with action, involve the senses, get those descriptive juices flowing. Feed it some steroids and send it to me again.