Query letters, demystified

Writing is the art of seeing through another pair of eyes. This is true at every step of the process, from creating characters to describing a scene to understanding what agents, editors, and readers want.  For many writers, putting together a query letter is nearly as daunting as writing a novel. Literary agent Kristin Nelson offered these helpful tips on her most recent newsletter:

Fact #1: Shorter query letters get a better request response from agents and editors.

Fact # 2: Literary agents rarely read the entire query letter.

Fact #3: Clearly outlining in your query letter how your story fits in the market will encourage literary agents to read your entire email letter closely.

Fact #4: A really good title for a novel will catch an agent’s attention.

Fact #5: A really terrific concept in your query won’t save you if the letter itself is poorly written.

Fact #6: If you have to defend that your novel is over 200,000 words in your query letter, then you are not pitching your story from a place of strength. And agents are more likely to pass.

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Review of online resources

Recently I’ve added some internet services to my routines and resources. In descending order of joy and usefulness, they are as follows:

#1  Lynda.com. Wonderful tutorials, impressive range of useful topics. I’m building skills in PhotoShop, Illustrator, web design, online marketing, and illustration. I love this site.

#2 Basecamp.com.  Simple but effective product management tool. It works. I’m also a big fan of the site itself, particularly the hand-drawn illustrations–great match of design and tone.

#3 Duotrope. So far, not impressed. $50 for a year’s subscription, and the first month has yielded no useful leads–at least, nothing I didn’t already know about from other sources. Probably a better resource for people who are looking for exposure-only markets, or, possibly, relatively obscure literary markets. If you write speculative fiction, www.ralan.com is a better resource and a free service.

As always, YMMV.


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Affordable swashbuckling

When Brian Thomsen was managing editor at Wizards of the Coast, he liked to say, “If Dumas was writing today, he’d be writing for us.”

I grew up reading Alexandre Dumas and I’m a history geek, so I was intrigued when I saw The Black Count, a biography of his father, Alex Dumas, in a Barnes & Noble. It immediately went on my wish list, but Life intervened and I didn’t think of it again until I received this week’s BookBub update. The Kindle version is $1.99 until March 1.

A few words about BookBub might be in order. It’s a service for people who read ebooks. They curate online deals and send you updates listing reduced-price or free books in your areas of interest, with links to Amazon.com, B&N, and other online booksellers. I’ve not only gotten some great deals on books I’ve been wanting to buy and authors I usually read, but I’ve also discovered some unexpected treasures and a few new favorite authors.  If you’re a voracious reader, this is a great resource.

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Newsletter 2.0

I stopped sending out an email newsletter a few years back. The interactivity of social media and blogs made a newsletter seem outdated. As a writer, I didn’t see the point.

As a reader, however, newsletters make a great deal of sense to me. There are several authors whose books I’ll read on the day of release. Not all of them have newsletters, and I wish they would. I don’t always remember–or have time–to check for new releases, and would love to get a heads-up when a new release is on the horizon. To me, the ideal newsletter would be short and infrequent. Its primary focus should be upcoming releases, but I’d also like to hear about new projects and work in progress.

So. On the theory that you should write the sort of things you want to read, I’ll be starting a newsletter this spring. It will be sent via MailChip, so your contact info will be secure and spam-free. If you’d like to receive an occasional email newsletter, you can sign up in this post or on the Contact page.

Subscribe to ec’s newsletter

Thanks!  You’ll get an email from MailChimp shortly.  Follow the link to confirm your subscription, and you’re good to go. 

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COVER, Madness on the Orient ExpressIf you’ve been thinking about picking up this anthology but wanted to get more info first, this detailed, story-by-story review ought to do it.    Here’s a link.

The reviewer commented on the anthology’s diversity. This is a hallmark of Jim Lowder’s projects, all the more impressive when you consider the ven diagram suggested by TWO very specific themes: the Cthulhu mythos and the Orient Express luxury train.

Looking forward to Jim’s next project, whatever that may be!


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2014 in review

In many ways, 2014 was like the second book of a trilogy.  The year had its own narrative arc, but its primary purpose was to move the story forward to the point where Important Stuff Happens.

Nevertheless, here’s a few highlights of 2014.

  • Walked over 2000 miles, approximately the length of the Appalachian Trail (minus the mountains and black bears…)
  • Started hiking the network of trails in southern New England. Climbed Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, walked part of the North South Trail in Rhode Island and part of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts.
  • Daily exercise has, for the first time, become a firmly entrenched habit.
  • Nonfiction:  Read stacks of books focusing on the the science of habit formation, wrote a considerable amount of web content.
  • Fiction:  Published 2 short stories, 3 poems, and the foreword to a poetry anthology.
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Na zdrowie! (To good health)

I‘ve been focusing on developing good health and fitness habits this year. Though I have a ways to go, I have been illness-free for over a year. No serious respiratory infections, no asthma, no panic attacks. Allergies are under control–the occasional itchy eyes, but nothing that slows me down. For someone who has been sick with one thing or another for YEARS, waking up every day feeling well and energetic is a blessing I will never, ever take for granted.

An interesting result of this lifestyle change is that the story tap is starting to flow again. Fiction is not my primary focus right now, so I quickly consign story ideas to a file and then get back to work. But every now and then, I catch a whiff of a story that’s busily fermenting (and sometimes fomenting) somewhere in the brain-basement. I have missed that warm, yeasty aroma.

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Halloween Haiku II

halloweenhaiku2test5f-661x1024As it has every year since 2009, Popcorn Press will be publishing a collection that’s mostly seasonal poetry, with a bit of short fiction tossed into the mix.

This will be my third appearance in PP’s Halloween collections.  My contributions include a short free verse poem, two haiku, and the foreword. Editor Lester Smith brings his usual seamless professionalism and joyful sense of play to this project. If all collections were this much fun, everyone would be reading and writing poetry.

As it should be.

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Knight in the Silk Purse, ebook

COVER, A knight in the silk purseThe second anthology set in the fantasy city of Taux is finally available in ebook format.

Here’s the link to the Kindle ebook at Amazon.com

Here’s the ePub version at State of the Genre website

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ToC for “Madness on the Orient Express”

A few days back, the contributors to this upcoming Cthulhu-inpired anthology received this Table of Contents and the go-ahead to share it.

Introduction by James Lowder
“There is a Book” by Dennis Detwiller
“The Lost Station Horror” by Geoff Gillan
“Bitter Shadows” by Lisa Morton
“La Musique de l’Ennui” by Kenneth Hite
“A Great and Terrible Hunger” by Elaine Cunningham
“Inscrutable” by Robin D. Laws
“Engineered” by Ari Marmell
“Black Cat of the Orient” by Lucien Soulban
“The Face of the Deep” by C.A. Suleiman
“Demons Dreaming” by Cody Goodfellow
“A Finger’s Worth of Coal” by Richard Dansky
“Bound for Home” by Christopher Golden
“Stained Windows” by Joshua Alan Doetsch
“On the Eastbound Train” by Darrell Schweitzer
“The God Beneath the Mountain” by James L. Sutter
“Daddy, Daddy” by Penelope Love

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