Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I also found her article on Slam-dunk Submissions worth repeating. See if you don't agree. ~ Donnell
Sure, a slam-dunk is hard to learn in writing as in basketball, but once you've mastered it, you can really rack up the score. And, just as in learning to shoot baskets, learning to write queries is a simple skill that takes practice. I set out to discover a submission playbook. Here's one that everybody can use to beat the odds.
The Query Letter - one page/4 paragraphs; your voice/no fluff
The first and most important thing to remember is that a query letter has one purpose - to get the reader to ask for more. That's it. Anything that diverts attention from your purpose is irrelevant.
- Write to the right person. The biggest complaint I heard from agents and editors was that would-be authors didn't do their research. Now, you spent a year or more writing the book; spend a few more weeks researching who might publish it.
- Make it look good. This means neat formatting; letter-perfect. Any imperfection is a red-flag that signals you're an amateur. Even if you are a newbie, there's no excuse for looking like one.
- Use good quality, white paper.
- A standard font in 11 or 12-point - and a laser printer.
- This is a letter - single-spaced with 1" margins and paragraph indents.
- Header for your contact information. If you have spare cash, invest in letterhead.
- Don't forget the date and the full recipient address.
- Book titles are ALL CAPS.
- If you can afford it, send it FedEx or Priority Mail, but do NOT require a signature. Those cardboard envelopes really do get more attention.
- A word about e-mail. Unless an agent/editor specifically requests e-mail submissions, use snail mail; it has more"heft." If you query by e-mail and use an attachment, use RTF because there are too many versions of MS Word. Your document may not open or the formatting may be skewed.
- Want a reply? Include the SASE. If you don't want one, why'd you send the letter? Apparently, a lot of writers skip this?
- Use the Four Paragraph structure. One Page!
- The Introduction. A short description of genre and word-count - one book only. Add a quick, compelling reference as to why you chose this recipient. End the paragraph with a five-to-ten word "tag line" that summarizes your story in a way that is true to the style and tone.
- A Brief Summary of the Plot. Three or four sentences. Remember specificity sells. Include the setting, time-frame, theme and the structure of your plot. If there are good analogues of your story, style or characters in movies or literature, include them. Do not name names; it just confuses the reader. Subplots are irrelevant. Once you have this central paragraph written, try it out on three or four people who do not know what your book is about. See if they "get" it. Then, read it aloud. How do you feel about it? Does it capture your tone and voice?
- The author biography. This should be very short. In general, personal stuff is irrelevant. If you have writing credits, remember to put the book titles in caps and magazine articles in stories in italics so speed-reading assistants get the point right away. Include awards, workshops, MFA programs, and potential endorsements.
- The courteous close. When the request for a partial, or (hurray!), a full manuscript, arrives, send it - Fed Ex. If you wait even a week or two, the reader may have forgotten what it was they liked about your query. Include a copy of your original query letter along with a photocopy of the agent/editor's request so your manuscript cannot go astray. And, send exactly what was requested. Top it all with a short, polite cover letter.
The synopsis is a mini-novel - the bare bones of the plot with the fleshy emotional development intact. Scratch minor characters and subplots. Now that you've just stripped your 400-page book into two pages, remember that the synopsis needs to be gripping, not dry. Imagine you're telling someone to go see a movie you just loved - what would you sound like? That much personality and enthusiasm needs to come across.
The synopsis should be written in the same voice and style as your book. If there is a theme, it should resonate. Describe the setting and then introduce your main characters - heroine first. The first time you use a character's name, put it in ALL CAPS. Make sure your summary captures what makes them empathetic. Why do we want them to live happily ever after. Now, throughout the plot, what drives them and what obstacles stand in their way? For most of what we write, there will be layers to the goals and conflicts - internal and external. Those nuances should be clear. Here, it is very effective to use short telling quotes from your book.
Just as when you wrote the book, you used hooks to keep the reader engaged. Each paragraph of your synopsis needs an arc and a hook. For two pages, you will describe every major scene and turning point, demonstrating the effect it has on the emotions and motivations of your main characters.
Once you're done, edit. Did you resolve all the conflicts? Remember you must include the conclusion. Once you think you have your synopsis complete, edit until you see the story clearly.
- Write to the wrong person.
- Write long. Agents and editors are looking for people who use the language well. In today's fast-paced world, that means tight, efficient prose.
- Pitch more than one book.
- Bloat your credentials.
- Waste space. Of course you're asking for consideration or representation.
- Don't wait. If you don't hear back within a month, query someone else.
- Don't include sample pages unless requested.
- Don't be coy. No gifts; no gimmicks.
- Don't ignore directions.
- Never apologize. A killer sentence might be "I know I'm new to this but..."
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Welcome to the How-to Author Series!
Featured How-to Author: Lee Lofland!
Post a comment today – and you may win:
POLICE PROCEDURE & INVESTIGATION: A Guide for Writers, 2007, by Lee Lofland
A Lecture Packet from me, Margie Lawson
A big Thank You to Lee Lofland for joining us today. He’ll drop by the blog several times to respond to posts.
Factoids and Funtoids about Lee Lofland:
- Police Procedure & Investigation -- Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Non-fiction
- Police Procedure & Investigation -- a Writer’s Digest Bestseller
- Former police detective with two decades in law-enforcement
- Nationally acclaimed expert on police procedure and crime-scene investigation
- Consultant for bestselling authors, television, and film writers
Instructor -- and Instructor Trainer Police Academy
- DEA Trained Intelligence Investigator
- Recipient of the
Association of Chiefs of Police Award for Valor Virginia
- Lee’s uber-popular, informative and entertaining blog, The Graveyard Shift
Add -- The Graveyard Shift to your favorites! Check out the March 24th blog – Lee critiques police procedure from TV show Castle. www.leelofland.com/wordpress -- Beware – Lee’s blog is addictive!
- Lee’s website, http://www.leelofland.com/
- Lee is Keynoting and hosting A Writer’s Police Academy in Hamilton, Ohio, in April, 2009
Jeffery Deaver, International Bestseller:
"A masterpiece . . . Police Procedure and Investigation offers everything, I mean everything, an author--novelist or nonfiction--needs to know about law enforcement: from police headquarters and laboratories to crime scenes to courthouses to jails. And Author Lee Lofland pulls off another coup--he's managed to gives us this encyclopedia of information in a style that's crisp, concise and damn fun to read. "
ML: Could you share your top-five list of situations officers fear the most? Which one is at the top of your list – and why?
LL: Fear is a good word to use. I can’t think of a single officer who hasn’t been scared a time or two. But they do what they’re trained to do and then worry about it afterward.
Domestic violence calls top my list of dangerous situations. These are extremely volatile circumstances, and there are a few reasons why—tempers are high, kids and other family members are present, weapons are often in hand, or nearby, and pets are excited and sometimes aggressive as a result of the turmoil. It can be quite chaotic.
Normally, when officers respond to a call where violence is involved, the suspect has left the scene. In the case of domestic violence, both suspect and victim are usually on hand when officers arrive. The couples are often still arguing, and sometimes they’re still exchanging blows. It is very important to separate the two in order to hear both sides of the story, which is nearly impossible for a single officer to accomplish.
Then, after all is said and done, and the officer begins to place handcuffs on the abuser’s wrists, he’s often attacked by the victim who suddenly realizes the spouse is going to jail. The hardest I’ve ever been struck (with a fist) was by a woman when I attempted to arrest her husband for beating her.
Other dangerous situations are vehicle stops, search warrant executions, crowd dispersals (bar fights, riots, etc.), and hostage situations.
ML: You open your awesome chapter on DNA with this line:
There are two sides to the DNA coin, and when tossed, it doesn’t always land heads up.
Could you tell us about a situation where improper DNA evidence was the reason a case was overturned?
LL: There are many, but one particular case that comes to mind is one where the lab technician simply mislabeled evidence, placing the wrong person’s name on the wrong evidence. Even after she realized her mistake she didn’t make the effort to change the names. The error was discovered, and amends were made, but only after an innocent person was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.
ML: In your discussion about search warrants you describe the conditions under which a search warrant is issued. If an officer has a warrant and is searching the home of a suspect for a knife – is everything he finds in that home admissible? What about the suspect’s car in the driveway? What if the officer sees a bloody shirt on the floor of that car; is it admissible?
LL: It depends (That sounds like a typical legal answer, doesn’t it?). Search warrants are very specific. If an officer is searching a home for a knife, and she finds the knife in question lying beside the front door, she must stop the search immediately. Also, if the officer is searching for a large item, such as a stolen wide-screen TV set, she may not search in areas that couldn’t possibly contain the television. For example, she couldn’t look inside dresser drawers, or inside the pockets of clothing hanging in a closet. If she does look in those prohibited areas and discovers cocaine worth a trillion dollars, she couldn’t use the evidence in court. She, of course, would still seize the drug and have it destroyed, but would never win the case in court, because her search was illegal. She may even face a lawsuit for her actions.
In the old days, officers could get by with searching anything on the property, listed on the warrant or not, as long as they had a search warrant. Courts today normally want to see vehicles and outbuildings listed on the warrant. There must also be a very detailed description of the vehicles. The warrant can’t simply read “any cars on the property.” If officers have legal authority to be on the property and see evidence inside the car, then it’s fair game, because it’s in plain view.
ML: In Chapter 4, DETECTIVES, you describe undercover officers as being taught to lie. Can you share an undercover situation where you had to lie to save yourself or others?
LL: This is an easy question to answer. I was working an undercover drug operation with a multi-jurisdictional task force when I arranged to buy a large quantity of cocaine from a dealer in
The woman (Let’s call her Sally) and I drove to pick up a friend of hers who was a runner (someone who sells for the main dealer), and together we went to meet the “boss.” We pulled up in the yard and gave the okay signal, two short beeps on the horn followed by a longer one. Three of the boss’s heavily armed thugs came outside to make sure everything was all right. They made me get out of the car, patted me down, pulled up my shirt to check for wires, took off my shoes and earring (I had long hair, a beard, and a pierced ear) to check for hidden cameras, and they searched the car. During this process, a fourth man came outside to help with the “security screening,” which was much more thorough than those conducted by TSA.
My heart leapt into my throat when I saw the fourth man. I’d arrested him for narcotics possession a couple years prior. I knew he’d recognized me by the expression on his face. He also gave me a knowing wink. His partners in crime questioned me extensively, asking about where I lived, where I’d worked for the past ten years, my social security number, etc. The questioning was relentless, and I lied like a cheap rug the entire time. Sally held up well during her interrogation, too.
I passed the inspection and, surprisingly, the man I’d arrested never said a word about my identity. I made the buy and Sally, her friend, and I left. The next day, I made a point to look up the bad guy who’d kept my secret, which quite possibly saved my life. Sally’s too, probably. His reason for not outing me: He said he might need a favor from me someday. Believe me, I paid that debt, too. He’d earned himself one big get of jail free card.
ML: How effective are polygraphs? How often are they used?
LL: Polygraphs do work, and they’re very effective tools used for garnering confessions. They also let police officers know if they have the right suspect. They’re used more often than you think. You don’t hear about polygraph use much, since the results are not permissible as evidence in court.
ML: A routine traffic stop can be lethal for an officer. Could you share the dynamics of a traffic stop that lead to an officer being injured?
LL: Let me begin with the old cliché that there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop. There’s not a more guy-wrenching feeling for an officer than to stop a car with dark, tinted windows, at night, in a rural area.
Form this image in your mind. Not a house or business for miles, and no moon. The only lights around are your headlights and flashing strobes (which are extremely eerie even on a good night), and the suspect’s headlights. Your radio crackles softly with that canned dispatcher voice as you approach the suspect’s car. The sound of bass thumping inside the car masks any talking or movement. You can’t see who, or how many people are waiting to ambush you. Is there someone inside the trunk with an automatic weapon? Of course, to make matters worse, the computers are down so the officer can’t check the license plates to see if the driver is wanted or the if the car is stolen. The only thing you can see in the windows is your own reflection. This, my friends, is an experience straight out of a Stephen King novel.
Officers should never, ever let down their guard. However, even the most cautious officers can quickly become victims. A perfect example of how quickly things escalate are the recent shootings in
LL: There’s a simple formula for achieving credibility in court—stick to the facts, use your notes, and never lie. Once an officer decides to stray to embellish a story, he’s done. A defense attorney will be all over him like a shark in the water. If an officer loses his credibility, he may as well start thinking about a career change, because that one’s over.
ML: What are some reasons for conducting a strip search? How is the strip search carried out?
LL: Strip searches are performed when officers suspect an arrestee of hiding contraband in a body cavity. Remember, officers are not medical personnel. They don’t put on rubber gloves and begin “fishing” expeditions. Normally, officers have the suspect:
- remove all his clothing
-open his mouth and lift the tongue
- open his hands and spread the fingers
- lift the feet, one at a time (to look at the bottoms)
- run his fingers through his hair (to dislodge foreign objects)
- they look in and behind the suspect’s ears
- raise the arms
- AND, then comes the ever famous, spread your cheeks, squat and cough.
If a search of body cavities is needed, a medical doctor conducts that, and a search warrant may be required.
ML: When were you in the most danger on the job? How did you handle your emotions at the time? Did you experience PTSD? If so, how did it impact you and for how long?
LL: Do we have enough space and time to answer this one? Let’s see, I’ve been shot at, cut, stabbed, knocked unconscious with a piece of lumber while attempting to arrest someone, spit on, slapped, hit, and more than once someone has called me ugly names. Now that really hurt!
Seriously, I’ve seen the business end of a weapon on more than one occasion. Each time was no less frightening than another. But I’m guessing you’re asking about the shootout I was in with a bank robber. At first, emotions were not a problem. It was much later when the PTSD symptoms began to arrive. The impact this event had on me was life changing. In fact, it’s the reason I finally decided to leave police work. I simply didn’t want to be placed in the same position again. I didn’t want to hurt anyone else.
How long did this affect me? Well, I no longer experience the symptoms of PTSD, but not a single day passes when I don’t think of that shootout and of the man I killed. I’m always trying to think of ways that I could have prevented that young man from dying. But there are none.
ML: Can you share what a hardwire write blocker is – and the circumstances under which a hardwire write blocker would be used?
LL: Trained forensics experts use the hardware write blocker when they’re examining a suspect’s computer. The device allows information to be transferred from the target computer onto a police computer without allowing any information to travel from the police computer back to the suspect’s computer. It’s like a one-way street for information. Files can leave, but they can’t come back. Neither can anything else. This process prevents cross-contamination of computer evidence.
ML: You wrote a very detailed chapter on DNA. You even describe the use of paper bags to store suspected DNA samples. What is the protocol now for DNA samples to be collected? What types of crimes?
Evidence collection is key. Officers, detectives, and crime scene techs must all be trained to properly handle evidence of all types. Paper packaging is used for wet evidence, such as blood, saliva, and semen, because plastic bags create the perfect environment (a sort of mini greenhouse) for bacteria. And bacteria will absolutely degrade DNA.
ML: When writing about police procedures, what are three things writers usually get wrong? Any other tips for writers that you’re dying to share?
2) Police procedure
3) Police procedure
Seriously, I think many writers simply try too hard to get the facts right. I don’t think the public reads mysteries and thrillers to learn about PCR, DNA, and how much gunpowder is in a 9mm round. That’s what research books are for. But I do believe writers owe it to their readers to get the facts they do use, right.
It’s best to allow your facts to gently mingle with the rest of the story. Robert Crais did a fantastic job of this in his book The Watchman. Of course, the list of authors who are masters at the craft of mixing fact and fiction is long. Some (and I do mean only some) of those folks are:
Reed Ferrell Coleman
Robert B. Parker
Any of the three Kellermans
Another huge mistake writers make is not doing their homework. Please, please, please do your research! Ask a cop. Ask an attorney. Ask a plumber if your story features something about a drain, or a faucet. But DO NOT use television as a research source. For example, I really like the show Castle, but the police procedure is quite often wrong.
For some reason, TV shows get away with improper procedure. Writers can’t. Readers just aren’t that forgiving.
For fun, I post a blog about the Castle show each Tuesday. In my blog post, I pick apart the things they’ve done wrong. I also point out the good things. It’s a great learning tool for writers.
If your story is set in
I have to plug the new Writers Digest Howdunit series. This new selection of books is a great foundation for all your police, forensics, and evidence research. And they’re all written by writers, for writers.
The books in the series are:
Book of Poisons (everything you need to know about killing your characters with poison).
Police Procedure and Investigation (my book)
Forensics for Writers (written by my good friend Dr. DP Lyle)
The next book in the series is a WIP, and it’s about weapons. This one is written by another good friend of mine, former ATF agent Sheila Stephens.
By the way, Sheila and I will be teaching workshops at the Writers Police Academy in Hamilton, Ohio, next month. I hope to see some of you there. It’s going to be a fantastic event!
ML: Lee – A
Thank you for answering my questions – and sharing your expertise, time, and wit.
Your Howdunit, POLICE PROCEDURE & INVESTIGATION, impressed me with the content and writing craft. Your on-the-scene stories hooked me. When I read your four-page piece on THE SHOOTER, I had a visceral response. That’s strong writing, especially for nonfiction. ;-)) Like Jeffery Deaver said, your nonfiction reads like a thriller!
FIVE SCRIBE BLOG READERS:
Now it’s your turn to ask questions. Lee will respond to your questions today until 8:00 PM Eastern Time. I’ll draw the two winning names at 9:00 PM Eastern Time – and post the winners on the blog.
Post a comment or question! Don’t miss your chance to win:
- A signed copy of POLICE PROCEDURE & INVESTIGATION
- A Lecture Packet from me, Margie Lawson
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I'm the mother of twins. Twin sons and twin genres. My stories are my babies, just like my real kids, but neither my sons nor my genres resemble each other.
One of my sons is a brunette who plays guitar and loves baseball. He wants to be a veterinarian. The other is a blond who plays drums and loves skateboarding. He wants to be Albert Einstein. People who meet them for the first time don't believe they're twins. If I hadn't been there for the c-section that followed twenty-two hours of labor, I might not believe it either.
My stories are just as opposite. I write both CIA thrillers and paranormal comedy. Why? One lets me explore the darker side of life and the other lets me have fun with that side. Two sides of the same coin. Also, I'm a Gemini, so having a split personality is second nature to me. LOL.
I've had folks ask how I can switch gears from one to the other. For me, it's more like tuning in a different radio station. Some days I'm in the mood for U2 or Bruce Springsteen. Other days, Prince and Bon Jovi are more appealing. Luckily my voice accommodates both.
There are advantages to having fraternal twins. People don't mix them up or assume they have the same likes and dislikes. Each boy has an independent identity. They don't fight much because they rarely like the same thing. If one is struggling with his science homework, the other can help. If one wants to learn how to do a kick-flip, he has a teacher in the bedroom next to his.
The same applies to writing two distinct genres. WITCHES ANONYMOUS, my recently released paranormal comedy doesn't compete with the second book in my Super Agent series, I'D RATHER BE IN PARIS (out this week). Yet, the two genres reach different niche readers and draw more fans to my writing.
There's sort of a built-in bonus with writing multiple genres as well. Paranormals continue to be popular while suspense novels are relatively flat. But as we all know, publishing is cyclical. One day suspense may boom again and paranormals will go flat. Either way, I can sell stories.
Disadvantages with twins like mine arise, though. As toddlers, one boy hated timeouts and would become an angel the second I threatened him with one. The other loved to spend time by himself, even if it was on a chair in a bare corner. I had to be more creative with his discipline.
So, too, with my genres. Humor can lessen the impact of a dramatic moment if overdone. Tension can take over and turn a lighthearted conflict dark and suspenseful. Each genre is unique, and while both can incorporate humor, drama and love, sprinkling the right amount of those elements in the perfect spot is key.
For example, this scene in I'D RATHER BE IN PARIS showcases Lawson and Zara in a suspenseful car chase, but I added a touch of humor....
Lawson had two options. Evade the threat or eliminate it. "Get up here and drive."
"Come on, you're a woman of action, right? You wanted to drive, so get up here and drive the damn car."
Zara's head rose from the backseat, her gaze catching his in the rearview mirror as she leaned forward. "Stop yelling at me."
Lawson reached back and grabbed her arm, hauling her into the passenger seat. She flailed and fumed and once she'd righted herself, he saw she'd exchanged the robe for her leather jacket and miniskirt. She tugged the hem of the skirt down and sent him a scathing look. "What exactly--?"
"Take the wheel. We're going to exchange places, okay?"
"While the car's moving?"
Lawson flipped the steering wheel up as high as it would go. He set her hand on the wheel. "You're going to slide on top of me, got it? Like you're going to sit in my lap."
Her hand tightened and Lawson saw her shift into spy mode. A second later, she climbed across the gearshift and slid between his legs.
He released the wheel and extracted his body from around hers. "Keep the car on the road, but don't make it easy for them to shoot us again. When I give you the signal, I want you to pull the hand brake and crank the wheel to the left like you're doing a hard U-turn. You're going to turn the car counterclockwise and land on three o-clock. The car will be blocking the road and I'll be facing the motorcycle. Got it?"
She dropped her hand and repositioned the seat. "And what are you going to do?"
Lawson hauled the gun out of his waistband. "My Dirty Harry impersonation."
"Oh god." She gripped the steering wheel in a ten-and-two position. "We're going to die, aren't we?"
On the flip side of the coin in WITCHES ANONYMOUS, when Amy is telling her best friend Keisha about her Biblical-size troubles, I needed to show Amy's intense emotional state without losing the overall humorous tone of the story.
Pushing herself out of the chair, Keisha left my office, shaking her head and muttering under her breath. Five minutes later, she returned with two cappuccino milkshakes. She plunked one down in front of me and dropped back into her chair. "Okay, spill it. All of it."
Sitting back in my chair, I sipped the cold milkshake and told her about my visit to the Garden of Eden and Gabriel's missive. When I was done, she was staring, openmouthed, at my gremlin. "Your life is never dull."
"Tell me about it. I can't decide what's worse -- a demon-possessed sister with a slave hex hanging over my head or an angel of God dumping the future of good and evil in my lap."
"This is bad. Really bad." Keisha shook her head in a slow arc. "What are you going to do?"
Taking a long pull on my straw, I swallowed the cool, coffee-flavored ice cream and met her eyes. "It gets worse."
All the muscles in her face tightened in fear. "Worse?"
"Lucifer told me he loves me."
Her eyes lit up, her face muscles relaxed and she smiled. "I knew it. That man is fine, no matter what you say."
"He is not fine. He's the Devil."
Chuckling under her breath, she stood and shuffled to the door. "Don't you just love a happily-ever-after ending?"
"Happily ever after?" I slammed my milkshake down on the desk. "Do you understand what I'm dealing with here? I could snap my fingers and you could die. I could wake up tomorrow and have to clean dog poo off my sister's shoes -- my shoes -- and tell her she's prettier than Gwyneth Paltrow. Come on! My life sucks."
Keisha and her psychedelic hair shook with laughter in the doorway. "Love conquers all." She raised her milkshake cup to me and winked again before disappearing.
"That's it?" I yelled at her. "That's the best advice you've got? Love conquers all?" Growling in frustration, I kicked the side of the desk. "Just so you know, I'm hiding your romance novels!"
Do you want to write twin genres? Lots of authors do it successfully and you can too. Dial your internal radio station to something new that interests you. Read all you can in the genre and get a feel for the tone each story requires to make it work. Then give it a try. Maybe write a short story, like I did, to get your feet wet and see if you like it. While writing in distinct genres requires a bit of labor, you'll end up with two beautiful babies to love and nurture. And who knows? You may want to try for a third.
Misty Evans is an award-winning, multi-published author of CIA thrillers as well as paranormal comedy. Her recently released witch lit novella, WITCHES ANONYMOUS, is part of Samhain Publishing’s Tickle My Fantasy anthology. The next story in her Super Agent series, I’D RATHER BE IN PARIS, releases March 17th. She is currently flipping the coin to juggle her twins as well as writing the third Super Agent book and sequel to WITCHES ANONYMOUS.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Quarterfinalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award!
Out of thousands of submissions, THE ROAD BETWEEN by scribes own, Theresa Rizzo, made it to the top 500! I’m so excited! You can read a free excerpt at, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001UG39DS, read the editorial reviews, and leave your own customer reviews. Check it out and tell all your friends who might enjoy this story!
Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
For help in downloading the free excerpt:
Go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001UG39DS, click on the blue box at the right, “Download For Free”.
Sign in on your Amazon account (if you don’t have one, you can open one for free).
Pick your billing address and credit card info—even though you won’t be charged.
A green box will pop up with the options to View Now, Download, or Email to yourself. Click on your preference.
Please go back and post a customer review if so inspired. It would be GREAT to show Amazon editors that you’d love to read the rest of THE ROAD BETWEEN and that it has terrific market potential.
In every book I write, and I’ve written five to date, it appears I have a problem with finding the very best way to open the story. Determined to improve upon this and save myself some rewrite time, I read Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel workbook. It uses the same principles noted in the book, obviously, yet is presented in a different format with different examples and exercises to illustrate the theories.
At the same time I read one of my all-time favorite author’s newest release—Murder Game by Christine Feehan. This book was so wonderful that I absolutely savored each page! I saved it for plane rides and a Florida vacation, and it did not disappoint. It was one of those rare books that you read as slowly as possibly to keep from racing to the end—and once you read the last page, you're sad it’s over.
To this author/reader, Feehan does it all right—so it’s no surprise she hits the bestseller list every time.
First Line- The cougar was going to turn. Simple, but invokes a ton of curiosity. Who cares if the cougar turned and why? Where is our heroine that she’s near a cougar? Is she in danger?
Setting—She’s camouflaged in the wilderness, perched high on a narrow ledge for hours with pins and needles shooting through her numb, cramping body, taking pictures of a large, very pregnant cougar. Tension in everything about the scene—just as Maass preaches.
Feehan pushes the limit that Maass preaches in my opinion. It’s not enough that her protagonist is stuck for hours in hiding, she’s physically uncomfortable—which also tells us that this character is very determined. It’s not enough that she’s trying to photograph a dangerous cougar—but it’s a large, pregnant cougar—ups the stakes and tension. And finally, the blind itself is perched very high on a narrow ledge—more tension and stakes. Wonderful!
In the beginning we learn that this isolated wilderness is her haven, yet once the hero intrudes, and then the bad guys start shooting at them . . . her perception of her haven understandably changes and it’s suddenly a ruined, dangerous place.
The most clever thing to figuratively slap me in the face was the reversal. Tansy has her shots of the pregnant cougar, she’s safely gotten back to her camp after a long night staking out the cougar. She secures her equipment, calls her adoptive parents to reassure them that she’s well, and she gives the reader a great picture of her inner conflict—that she’s been “different” since birth—and she desperately wants to be normal, that she’d been hospitalized for months and never wants that to happen again, that she worries about disappointing her supportive, wonderful parents. Then she happily bathes in the natural pool and stretches out in the sun to catch a few hours sleep.
On page 10 Feehan introduces our hero, Kadan, who is a special forces, ghostwalker whose mission is to find Tansy and force her—if necessary, which he suspects will probably be necessary, to leave the wilderness and help him save his friends.
On page 25 they meet. Tansy wakes up and looks into Kadan’s face—mere inches from hers. The expected response would be a scream, or react in great alarm, but Feehan has naked Tansy analyzing the man, then she gets up and crosses to her clothes. Her internal thoughts-She made no attempt to cover her nudity because there was nothing she could do about it and she didn’t want to give him any more of an advantage by letting him see she felt vulnerable. Brilliant!
It surprised this reader, logically explained her atypical response, and gave characterization. And it made me determined in my next book to be just as clever—not with a naked woman’s response, but with just as clever of a reversal that will engender as much reader admiration—hopefully.
And in those 25 pages, Feehan packs in TONS of characterization so I felt like I really knew these characters well, and was eager to go on the journey with them. And they hadn’t even shared their first kiss or been shot at yet! And though I knew a lot about Tansy and Kaden, she only included pertinent back story. The key word being, pertinent.
I could continue through all of Murder Game pointing out examples to support most of Maass’s theories of elements that make a bestseller, but I’m already convinced. I loved this book. Now to plot out my new story and try utilize these elements myself.
By the way, a small plug here for the Crested Butte Writers Conference June 19-21. If you too are a Maas fan, he will be giving a two-hour workshop on his new book, The Fire in Your Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great, due out May 2009 at the CBWC. I cannot wait to see what else I can learn from him!
Also, CBWC attendees, can preorder any books--Like Fire In Your Fiction, from the local bookstore, Blue Moon, and get a 10% discount on your whole order AND have it waiting for you to pick up at conference registration--see the website for complete details as to how to take advantage of this cool new offer.
Kudos to two of my favorite authors, Christine Feehan and Donald Maass!