Add this to your site

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Join Us For JANO 2011

Again this year, Sleuths' Ink will sponsor JANO 2011. You've heard of NaNo. We call our write-a-novel-in-a-month JANO (because it begins in January!) The goal is to write like mad (no editing) beginning Jan. 1 and end up with a 50,000-word novel that you can edit the rest of the year.

What a great way to kick off 2011. Start a new novel or add to a work in progress (any genre). While you're wrapping those gifts, start thinking of a great premise. Start plotting now. Get your character bios ready. But, remember, NO ACTUAL WRITING until Jan. 1, 2011.

With help from many donors and SI members, we award GREAT prizes at a celebratory party in February. Categories include best title, best first sentence, most unique plot, the first three writers to reach 50,000 words and more. Note: You do not have to be a Sleuths' Ink member to win these prizes. Last year we had participants from four different states!

In addition, one lucky SI member will win a Kindle at Saturday's holiday party! In order to qualify for the Kindle next year, you must be a member of Sleuths' Ink (just $15/year).

To sign up for JANO 2011, contact Stephanie Jarkins at skoyless@gmail.com Hope you join us for JANO 2011. It's fun. Try it. You'll be glad you got your JANO on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Did You Get Your Agent? Allison Leotta

When I got engaged to the man who’s now my husband, the first question friends asked was: “How did he propose?” Now that I have a book in bookstores, the first question folks ask is: “How did you get your agent?”

My story of getting an agent is one of incredible good luck and unexpected tragedy.

The most important thing I did was refine my manuscript until it was in the best possible shape I could manage. That took a while. I’m a federal sex-crimes prosecutor in Washington, D.C., so my day job is pretty intense. I wrote in the mornings before work. After two years of pre-dawn writing (and re-writing), I was satisfied that my novel, Law of Attraction, was a compelling story of love and violence in the nation’s capital.

At that point, I knew I needed an agent. One how-to book suggested contacting everyone in the publishing industry with whom you have the slightest connection. I understood that I’d probably send out 1000 letters and get 999 rejections. I was prepared. I bought reams of paper for query letters. I created a spreadsheet for rejections. I had several bottles of booze ready.

Before I sent out query letters, I thought about any personal connections and networks I had. I knew some folks in theater and children’s books; I sought their advice. I made a mental list of people I didn’t actually know, but with whom I had something in common.

Along those lines, I’d recently read a charming novel called The Opposite of Love, by Julie Buxbaum. Julie had graduated from Harvard Law School a few years after I did, although we’d never met. I shot her an email, and – to my surprised delight – she emailed back, then called me. Julie was kind and generous with her time. She said her agent might be interested in my manuscript.

Julie’s agent, Elaine Koster, was something of a legend in the publishing industry, credited with “discovering” Stephen King and pulling The Kite Runner out of a slush pile. I sent Elaine my manuscript, glad that it was truly ready to be judged. A week later, Elaine called. She said she loved Law of Attraction and wanted to represent me. I couldn’t believe my luck! It was one of the happiest moments in my life.

Elaine and her colleague, Stephanie Lehmann, suggested some changes to Law of Attraction. It was amazing to have professional hands help craft the story. Then Elaine sold my book to Touchstone Books an imprint of Simon & Schuster. I was over the moon.

That was one of the last deals Elaine ever made. She died this summer, after a decades-long, secret battle with breast cancer.

I was devastated. Elaine had been an advocate, a teacher and a friend. After her memorial service, I went home and cracked open one of the bottles of booze I hadn’t needed to use for rejection letters. I used it, instead, to give a solitary toast to the agent who launched my career but didn’t get to see my novel hit the bookshelves.

After Elaine died, I felt very much at sea. I called an author whose novels I’d loved since I was in college. Earlier that year, Barbara Delinsky had given me some heartfelt advice about balancing writing with mommying and working. Now I asked her what to do in this situation. Barbara is a wise and generous advisor. She offered to put me in touch with her agent, Amy Berkower, the renowned president of Writers House. When Amy eventually offered to represent me, I felt like a guy who’d been paddling in a life raft, who was pulled aboard the Queen Elizabeth and handed a winning lottery ticket.

Law of Attraction was published this October. So far, so good! I hope that in some cozy, book-lined office in the sky, Elaine Koster is smiling approvingly at the numbers on BookScan.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Allison Leotta to Guest Blog on Nov. 18

ALLISON LEOTTA, a native of Michigan, has been a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. for ten years. Like her heroine, Leotta started out prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence cases. She now handles the most serious sex crimes in D.C. She lives with her husband (who is also a federal prosecutor) and their two young sons in Takoma Park, MD. Please visit Allison at www.allisonleotta.com.

Stop by on Thursday and comment for a chance to win a free copy of her book, Law of Attraction.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Editor From The Missouri Review to Speak to Sleuths

Evelyn Somers Rogers, associate editor for The Missouri Review for 20 years, will speak at the November 13 Sleuths' Ink meeting. As you probably know, The Missouri Review (TMR) is a prestigious, nationally acclaimed literary magazine that publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and literary features.

Evelyn holds an M.A. in fiction writing and a Ph.D. in literature. She will discuss her role as associate editor and will provide helpful editing tips. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask questions of a seasoned editor!

Additionally, Evelyn is a writer. Her fiction has appeared in several journals, including TMR. She has edited approximately 24 books, some of which have won the John Simmons Award for short fiction, the Drue Heinz Award and the Peter Taylor prize and have gone on to be published by small and large presses.

Don't miss our speaker on Saturday, November 13. She'll bring a wealth of information (and she just happens to be the daughter of Sleuths' Ink member, Toni Somers.) See you at the Library Station on North Kansas. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. and the speaker's presentation is from 11 a.m. until noon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writing The Cozy Mystery - Elizabeth Lynn Casey

On my bookshelf sits a rather yellowed and dog-eared copy of Mary Higgins Clark’s A Cry in the Night. It was, and still is, my all-time favorite mystery…as a reader and a writer.

As a reader, it kept me up all night, turning the pages, trying to figure out who was behind all of the awful things happening too the main character. It was as if I was Jenny McPartland on that wintry Minnesota farm and my life, my well being, was at stake. How on earth could I even think about sleeping until I knew how things turned out in the end?

As a writer, it’s the book that made me decide to be a mystery writer rather than the children’s writer I’d always imagined. I liked the pace, I liked the notion of creating a character that my readers could root for from start to finish, and, quite frankly, I liked the image of taking those folks down one path after the other…until they finally find the right one.

I’ve had that yellowed and dog-eared paperback for nearly thirty years and, every once in a while, I take it out and reread it, finding myself to be every bit as enchanted with the characters and the story as I was when I was a teenager. Only now, right beside that book, are some of my own titles—books I’ve dreamed up and put on paper.

Five years ago, my first traditional mystery was released with a small, independent publishing house out of Maryland. I didn’t make a ton of money, but my dream was finally coming true.

That first book led to an Agatha nomination, a direct-to-consumer book club deal with a bigger publisher, and, eventually, an agent.

Two years ago, I signed a three-book deal for a new cozy mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime (an imprint of Penguin Publishing). A year later, that deal was extended to include three more books in the series—books I love to write for all the same reasons A Cry in the Night kept me up all night as a kid.

Because, you see, I learned something from that dog-eared book. I learned that while the story is critical, so, too, are the characters and the setting. Sure, a good story will keep your interest, but it’s when you create characters that leap off the page that you find yourself thinking about them long after the last page.

Why, you ask?

Because they became real.

Well-developed characters become a reader’s eyes and ears during the figuring out whodunit process, but, if you’re lucky, they also become the reader’s friends…

Friends they want to keep up with from book to book.

That’s what I love about writing the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery Series for Berkley. The characters have taken on a life of their very own. They have strengths. They have flaws. They have dreams and aspirations. Yes, they solve a mystery in each book, but they also grow and change right before your eyes, sucking you in as if you, too, are part of the circle.

When you create characters that suck your readers in, you’re creating the kind of book that may, if you’re lucky, find a spot of honor on a shelf in someone’s home. And, aside from fan mail begging for the release date of your next book, I can’t imagine a bigger compliment.

So no matter where you are in the writing process, no matter what fiction genre you’re writing, keep character creation in the forefront of your in mind. They truly are the life of your book. They are, in my opinion, what makes the different between a good book and a great book—the thing that makes readers seek out your books (series or otherwise) again and again…building that lifelong fan Mary Higgins Clark built in me.

***Elizabeth Lynn Casey is the national bestselling author of the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime. PINNED FOR MURDER, the latest book in the series, released last week. In addition to her work as a cozy mystery writer, she also pens romances for Harlequin American under the name, Laura Bradford. For more information, visit her website: www.elizabethlynncasey.com

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October Speaker - Are We Alone?

The Southwest Ghost Finders will speak to Sleuths’ Ink on Saturday, October 9th.

SWGF offers professional services to anyone in the community who is in need of help. They NEVER charge for their services.

If your work-in-progress contains elements of the paranormal, you won’t want to miss this presentation.

We meet in Springfield, Missouri at The Library Station on N. Kansas. We'll have a brief business meeting at 10 AM. Our speakers begin at 11. Then we'll break for lunch at Panera around noon. Our ghost hunters have promised to stay for lunch, so we're sure to hear more stories at that time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September Speaker: About Sheriffs & C.O.P.

Join us Saturday, September 11, to hear speaker, Joan Bodey. She works for the Greene County Sheriff’s Department as a C.O.P. (Citizens on Patrol).

Joan will discuss her duties at the sheriff’s office, the C.O.P. Academy, crimes in Greene County, stats, and more. Formerly, she worked in this capacity in Minnesota, so regardless of the setting of your book, you'll hear valuable information and be able to compare crime in both northern and midwestern states.

Come armed (pun intended) with questions. Maybe you have a character who is a sheriff, dispatcher, or even a criminal? Possibly your character is dating the sheriff or you just want some realistic lingo for your story. Whatever the reason, don't miss this meeting. See you Saturday!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

There’s a PI Aboard Ship! August Speaker: C. Patrick Neagle

Ever wanted to learn about life at sea (for months on end) aboard a U.S. Naval Ship? Maybe you prefer being on land and hearing about private investigators? Either way, you’re in luck. Our August 14 Sleuths’ Ink speaker, C. Patrick Neagle, will address both topics, so you’ll get a two-for-one at this meeting.

Patrick teaches college-level English classes aboard a U.S. Naval ship—a job he has held since 2001. He’s at sea for six months at a time and recently visited such interesting locales as Israel, Crete and Jordan. Patrick will give us insight into ship life, the size of the ship, the food, communing with other passengers, storms, seasickness and more.

In his other life, Patrick’s a private investigator and hopes to open his own PI office someday. Hear how he became a PI, what training/education/ licensing is involved, and the types of people or companies who hire private investigators. We hope to hear about some of his most interesting cases—and what a fun character this would be! Whether you’re creating a character who is a PI, hiring a PI, dating a PI, or have a vendetta against one, you’ll learn some handy tricks of the trade for your novel.

You won’t want to miss this jam-packed meeting. And Patrick’s funny to boot! He’s a Sleuths’ Ink member (although he rarely attends meetings since he’s at sea). Follow his blog, Goblinbrook, at http://goblinbrook.net/.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Who is your favorite sleuth?

Do you have a favorite sleuth, either from television or books? A few come to mind for me. Columbo is my absolute favorite sleuth. He's so unassuming, and yet he always manages to get his man or woman.

Next on my list would be Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. And if you're as old as I am, you might even remember the old medical examiner show, Quincy. I loved that one!

Who's your favorite?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


If you're in Missouri, as most of our members are, there are at least three conferences you won't want to miss in 2011. First of all, BOUCHERCON is coming to St. Louis next year! As most mystery writers are aware, BOUCHERCON is one of the biggest fan-based writers conferences around. This one moves around a lot, so having it held in St. Louis is a real plus!

Secondly, Missouri Writers Guild's conference always has a great assortment of editors and publishers. This year, an editor from Avalon will be on hand. Get your pitches ready!

While OWFI meets in Oklahoma City, it's close enough that I've included it in this list of potential Missouri conferences for 2011. Editors and agents swarm to this one as well.

For more info on any of these conferences, check the side link on this blog. I've linked to each of these three.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boyd Morrison, The Back Road to Publication

My thriller novel, The Ark, got what I call “rave rejections.” Editors loved the premise, plot, and characters, but they just couldn’t see how it would fit into a crowded thriller market. We went to every major imprint that published thrillers, and all 25 publishers turned The Ark down. Any publishing hopes for it were effectively gone.

In early 2009, I was just completing my web site (www.boydmorrison.com), and I decided, why not try to build up a readership by giving my three unpublished books away? I mean, they weren’t doing any good just sitting on my hard drive. At about that time, the Kindle 2 was about to come out, and Amazon was starting to let unpublished authors put their manuscripts up for sale on the Kindle store.

I figured if people could find my books for free on my web site, I had to set a low price on Amazon. I set the price on my books between $0.99 and $1.99. My only expense was the small fee I paid to a graphic designer to create professional-looking covers for my books.

I was armed with glowing blurbs from generous authors like James Rollins, Douglas Preston, Jon Land, and Chris Kuzneski, all of whom I had gotten to know through Thrillerfest. Amazon let me choose up to five categories under which I could list my books, so I maxed those out (technothriller, suspense, men’s adventure, action & adventure, and thriller).

In the second week of March 2009, I put my books on the Kindle store and on my web site. I had no plans for marketing or advertising. My plan was just to see what happened.

Within several days, readers on web discussion forums noticed the low price on my books (there were very few self-published authors on the Kindle at the time, and the Nook and iPad didn't yet exist). Through the magic of Google, I was notified about these posts, and I went ahead and introduced myself to members of Kindleboards.com, Mobileread.com, and the Amazon discussion boards.

I radically underestimated the power of the Amazon bestseller lists and word of mouth. In three months, I sold 7,500 copies of all three books together. The Ark was the number 1 technothriller for over a month, outselling books by Tom Clancy and Brad Thor, and my books occupied the top three slots in multiple genre lists. By June, my books were selling at the rate of 4,000 copies per month.

Because of the velocity of my sales, my agent, Irene Goodman, was immediately able to take that data to publishers. Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, was just making a transition into the thriller market and was impressed by the reception for my books. Sulay Hernandez, now my editor, loved The Ark and offered me a publishing contract. That phone call from Irene will always be one of the most amazing moments of my life.

As far as we can tell, I was the first author to get a Big Six publishing contract for a self-published Kindle book. Touchstone acquired The Ark and its sequel in a two-book deal. On the strength of that deal, my foreign rights agent, Danny Baror, was able to secure deals in eighteen foreign markets.

Since then, Pocket Books acquired the rights for my first two books, The Adamas Blueprint and The Palmyra Impact, so essentially I have a four-book deal with Simon and Schuster. The Palmyra Impact will be released as a mass market paperback and ebook under the title Rogue Wave in December 2010, and The Adamas Blueprint will be released under a new title in December 2011.

Today, I’m lucky enough—and persistent enough—to hold a book in my hands and call myself an author.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boyd Morrison to Guest Blog on Thursday

Boyd Morrison guest blogs on Thursday, July 15th. Stop by for a chance to win a copy of "The Ark".

After being turned down by several book agents, Boyd decided to sell his debut novel through Amazon’s Kindle program and on his website and in three months sold 7500 copies. THE ARK
(May 2010) became an Internet sensation and he got a publishing deal with Touchstone Books/S&S!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Radine Trees Nehring - Writing For The Small Press

I'm a small press author and, after seventeen years of working with small publishers, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I think we are all aware that the ground under book publishing is shaking, and the six large New York publishing conglomerates, along with their authors, are the ones most affected by this earthquake. That explains why the majority of book authors today are (often by necessity), leaving behind the cachet of a New York name, and working for small presses. To feed this growing market, new mini publishers are being added weekly to the list as possibles for both print and e-publishing.
So...how do we find OUR small press?

First, an agent is rarely needed, though more and more agents are willing to work with smaller houses as New York options close down. Still, most likely you will be on your own during the search period. Ask around, join lists in your genre, attend conventions, read writers' magazines, study WRITER'S MARKET. One draw-back here is that many small press books are not automatically stocked in bookstores or libraries unless there is special interest in their area, so it's sometimes hard to look at samples of a smaller publisher's work.

Be aware of the difference between self-publishing or working with a vanity press who charges for services, and working for a publisher who does not charge for any services and pays royalties. Both take care of getting your book produced, but vanity presses do little else, and if you self-publish, all the work is on your shoulders. Editing, distribution, significant reviews and promotion are minimum or nil with both of these, and use of a hired outside editor is highly recommended. Many vanity publishers will publish almost anything that looks like a book.
On the other hand, legitimate small presses are selective, and each author must go through the regular application process--query letter, and any follow-up requested if the query reply is positive. If you are offered a contract by a small press it's a good idea to look it over very carefully and--if you are a member of a writers' organization that offers this service--have it looked at by a professional, assuming you aren't using an agent. I was a member of National Writers' Association when Brett offered me a contract. They vetted it for me and deemed it the most author-friendly contract they'd ever seen. When I was ready to sign with St Kitts, the editor at Brett offered to look at that contract. She made some suggestions, and most of them were accepted by St. Kitts. By the time I signed with Wolfmont I was a member of Authors Guild and they also evaluate member's contracts without charge.

There are hundreds of legitimate small presses exhibiting varying degrees of plusses and minuses for authors. I guess I could say "buyer beware," but in my own experiences and those of authors I have talked with, affiliation with a small publisher has been largely positive and most would recommend theirs to those who ask. (All these authors, I might add, are self-starters when it comes to book promotion, a BIG plus.)

I have worked for three small presses--Brett Books, St Kitts Press, and Wolfmont Press. In every case it's been a happy experience. I've received good editing, promotion, and distribution support, and what's more, made good friends in each business. They obviously cared about me and my books. (After all, selling books is their bread and butter too.)

How did I find these gems? They were recommended by editors, by friends in the writing profession, and by organizations like Mystery Writers of America. The fact my publishers provided so many author services in the first two cases was partly luck because I found out all the best things about them after I had signed contracts. (You can be smarter. Learn as much as you can up front. With the advent of the Internet, that's became easier.)

In the case of my recent affiliation with Wolfmont Press, I did ask a lot of questions before I signed with them, but am still learning goodies almost a year later. It isn't that anything was concealed, it's just that I keep getting little surprises, like a box of 800 lovely bookmarks for my new novel that arrived shortly before the book came out. (I hadn't thought to ask about bookmarks.)

Note: Brett, a non-fiction publisher in New York, is now out of business. SK Publications closed St Kitts, its mystery imprint, to new submissions two years ago. That's one of the minuses about small presses. Their financial footing is sometimes shaky, which can lead to closing. Also, there may be only one or two people running the business and burn-out, increased family obligations, or other happenings can mean a close-down unless the business is appealing enough to sell to another party.

No matter what route you follow, today there is no reason why any persistent (and talented) writer can't be published.

Radine Trees Nehring
The TO DIE FOR mystery series.
Now boarding: Take a JOURNEY TO DIE FOR.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Radine Trees Nehring to Guest Blog on June 17th

For more than twenty years, Radine Trees Nehring's magazine features, essays, newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about the people, places, events, and natural world near her Arkansas home. In 2002, her first Ozarks mystery novel, A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, was published, and in 2003 it became a Macavity Award nominee. Her four follow-up novels in the To Die For series (MUSIC TO DIE FOR, A TREASURE TO DIE FOR, A WEDDING TO DIE FOR, and A RIVER TO DIE FOR) have continued to earn awards and have established her place in the pantheon of cozy mystery authors. With her sixth novel, JOURNEY TO DIE FOR, Radine takes her characters to another Ozarks tourist attraction as they ride the historic Arkansas and Missouri Passenger Excursion Train into the middle of trouble and intrigue.

(Radine has been a member of Sleuths' Ink "almost from the club's beginning." She heard the club was forming at an Ozarks Creative Writers' Conference in Eureka Springs a number of years ago and joined soon after.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Joni us Saturday, June 12, to hear Sleuths' Ink member Toni Somers discuss REACHING OUT...VIRTUALLY. Exercise Your Writing Muscles In Online Writing Groups.

Toni's expertise in the virtual world will benefit members who are looking for online markets and online critique groups. She began writing as a "whim" in 1995, joined an online writing group and was hooked. Toni has been involved in four different online writing groups and served as owner-moderator for two of them.

Her publishing credits include Today's Woman, Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love, The Secret Place (a devotional booklet), and several local Art Center anthologies in Texas. Her future writing plans include publishing a volume of Gulf coast poetry, creative non-fiction (or fictionalized memoirs) about growing up as a child of immigrants in Detroit, and a collection of small cookbooks.

Take advantage of the virtual world of writing and critiquing. Learn how on Saturday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

President Shirley McCann Speaking Saturday

Sleuths' Ink President Shirley McCann will speak to the Ozarks Writers' League (OWL) at College of the Ozarks on Saturday. Shirley will speak about writing and submitting short stories, as well as her success in the short story market. Learn how to submit, what to submit, and to whom from this prolific, successful short story writer.

Don't worry, Sleuths. Shirley is slated to speak to us during 2010!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Meeting - Write-in!!!

Our Sleuths' Ink meeting on Saturday, May 8, will be a coveted write-in! Let's take advantage of the time to do some great writing. This will be perfect for our JANO members who haven't touched their JANO projects since, oh, say, Jan. 31 (if you're like me).

This will also be a great time to try poetry or writing a short story. Maybe you want to write a nice note to Mom or your kids for Mother's Day.
Also, there are many spring contests so you use this time to spruce up your entries. We can all get a lot done in one hour of concentrated writing.

Just bring your laptop, legal pad (or whatever you write with) and join us. The coffee is always great and the writerhood (my new, coined phrase) is even better. Since writing is so solitary, it will be nice to be in a room with like-minded folks doing what they love best. See you Saturday!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sleuths' Ink Members Signing Books Friday

Jan Gallagher, Sleuths' Ink member and president of the Quill and Ink Club, has coordinated several local authors to sign books at this Friday's Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield. It's an annual three-day event on April 22-24.

Sleuths' Ink president Shirley McCann will be signing THE NECKLACE, her YA novel. Sleuths' Ink vice president Beth Carter will be signing IT ALL CHANGED IN AN INSTANT, Six-Word Memoirs. Previous SI speakers, Terry McDermid and Wayne Holmes, will sign their books (Terry's romance novels and Wayne's memoir ROCKY COMFORT.)

Many other local authors will be at the event including Sally Tippett Rains, Wayne Glenn, Willie Washam, Ellen Massey, and Reta Stewart Allen. Come support local authors Friday, April 23, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. at St. Paul's Lutheran Church on Locust St.

Enjoy booths, food, a World War II luncheon, English tea, cherry pie contest, and other activities. Check the web site for details. http://www.cherryblossomfest.com/

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Drury Professor to Speak About Memoir Writing

Wayne Holmes will discuss his memoir, ROCKY COMFORT, at our Sleuths' Ink meeting on Saturday, April 10, from 11-noon.

ROCKY COMFORT is set in the Ozarks and highlights Wayne's youth where he was one of six siblings. His family was very poor and traveled by horse and buggy through KS, OK and settled in MO. He'll share plenty of stories about his hardscrabble life--hunting game to put food on the table, pranks, farming, religion, girlfriends and more.

Wayne will read an excerpt from his book, discuss the process of memoir writing, and the publisher he used in Missouri. As background, Wayne taught English at Drury for nearly 25 years. Besides teaching, he enjoys farming, football, playing Rook, building unique homes, Shakespeare, and of course, writing.

Hope to see you at the Library Station this Saturday!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How To Juggle A Writing Life with Famnily LIfe

People who have spent some time writing for a living, have usually found a routine that works for them, and knowing that what they write will most likely be published is all the incentive they need to sit down and do the job at hand. For you, the aspiring novelist, the long, lonesome road from the first sentence to seeing your novel in a bookstore is fraught with challenges.

Okay, so you have a good idea for a novel. Sit down and fashion your story into a 3-4 page synopsis. Once you have tangible a plan, ask yourself: Am I willing to spend upward of a year, perhaps far longer, writing a 100,000 word manuscript which I don’t know if any publisher will ever look at, even less buy?

You’re willing to take the risk? Great! Now find the time. You have a partner/husband/wife, kids, dogs and a full-time job, so it’s going to be hard. The question I ask aspiring writers who complain of lack of time: Do you ever watch television? You do? Okay, you definitely have time to write, possibly lots of it. Making time to write will involve the sacrifice of something else you do daily. In my case, I cut out some of my social life (less drinking = more alertness, more time), started getting up very early in the mornings and took my laptop on holidays. In this way, my family life was almost unaffected.

Make no mistake about it, a routine of daily writing still requires steel-reinforced discipline. Remind yourself constantly of your determination to finish your novel. You need a quiet space, preferably with just your laptop, and absolutely no telephone or internet access. For some this might away from home, a café, the local library or on the train to work.

Hopefully you have a tolerant and encouraging family. If they are not, you have to harden yourself to criticism and recriminations, and demand that they be more self-sufficient. Altogether you need a tough skin and a certain amount of selfishness. Friends too might be jealous and resentful.

Thinking back on the innocence with which I started writing ICE TRAP, my debut novel, I had only a vague idea of what was ahead of me. Working part-time as a psychotherapist, part-time as a sculptor, I had a home, a husband and two dogs (my kids had flown the nest but were always at the end of the phone). I also had other hobbies and interests which I wasn’t willing to give up.
I gritted my teeth and stuck at my daily three-hours of writing, because I loved the story I had in my head and was confident others would too. I sought out other writers, read many looks, got tuition and went on courses, always keen to learn from readers – really hearing their critique (including some scalding ones). I was a bit flattened by the stack of rejections I got from publishers, but I decided early on not to give up until I’d exhausted every last avenue. Eventually ICE TRAP became an international bestseller, and a full-time writer was born.

Kitty Sewell’s book, BLOODPRINT (Touchstone, 2010) is available in paperback wherever books are sold.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pitching and Querying in the Digital Age

Since the advent of digital querying, the game has changed drastically. However, some things never change. Particularly what the editor or agent is looking for hasn’t changed at all – simply how you go about pitching the material has changed.
It used to be that the majority of agents and editors only wanted snail mailed queries. Over the past few years this has shifted and the majority of agents want emailed queries. It makes it very easy for the author to fire off a query – but the same amount of time spent on the traditional query letter should still be spend on the query email. Not all editors want to hear from authors through email and it’s important to adhere to published guidelines as to what they want and how they want to receive it. Some publishing houses have even set up online forms for querying. Look at the guidelines for Avon Books by clicking here.
Below you will find my article on writing the query letter.
My expertise in is the fiction realm, but there are many excellent articles on non-fiction. Below I’ve included links to some you will want to consult.
For fiction queries, the first thing you will need to create is the pitch or blurb. Generally this is a one to two sentence encapsulation of what your book is about. There are many methods for creating excellent pitch statements, but the main things I think you need to get across are very simple.
Who is the book about?
What does this character want?
Why does he want it?
Why can’t he have it?
No matter the version of pitch creation you use, these main questions are always answered. The reason is the editor or agent wants to see if your story is unique or captivating in some way. They want to see the conflict because emotion stems from the conflict (and that’s why reader’s read).
Below is a link to my workshop on writing the pitch as well as my online pitch generator. It’s important to read the article before trying the pitch generator, because the sentence you create through the generator needs to be tweaked with the information in the article. Click here for the pitch workshop. Click here for my pitch generator.
Here is an excellent article on pitching at Writers Digest.
Once you create this pitch, you will likely use it both before you sell the book, for elevator pitches, query letters, and in your synopsis, but likely also after you have sold the book (for your marketing materials). You’ll be glad you took the time to write the best blurb possible!
I’m more than happy to answer any questions you have! – KC
~~~~~ *** ~~~~~
Query Letter Basics
by Kathy Carmichael

A rite of passage as a novelist is trying to interest an editor or literary agent in your book. The first step in approaching an editor or agent is usually the query letter. Editors and agents receive hundreds of manuscripts each week. They ask authors to query in an attempt to manage the material that arrives on their desks. They want to receive the kinds of books they publish and that will interest their readership.
By using the following tips, you will increase your chances of an editor or agent asking to read your partial or complete manuscript.
1. You need to include the blurb or pitch on your book. What are the hooks? What will make a reader want to read your book?
2. Include your publication experience. If you haven't yet sold a book, have you had articles published? Short stories? Have you won writing contests? If you have published, have you been honored in any way (awards, contests, bestseller lists)?
3. If you belong to any writing organizations, include them.
4. Optional: What makes you the authority for writing this book or type of book? For instance, if you're an attorney and writing about a fictional attorney detective, that would have meaning to the publisher. If your work experience does not add credibility to your writing, then it's probably best to omit it. For instance, if you're an accountant and writing science fiction that doesn't have an accountant protagonist, then there's no need to mention your day job.
5. Offer to revise if the story is close. Editors prefer to work with authors who are easy to work with.
6. Be sure to include your name, address, phone, and, if this is snail mail, send an SASE.
7. If this is snail mail, you might wish to include a 1-2 page synopsis, but no longer than that unless the editor has requested it. For electronic submissions, include only what the editor or agent has requested. It’s very important to adhere to their guidelines because some publishing professionals will reject your submission based on that.
8. Try to keep your query letter to only one page in length. If you are sending this by snail mail, your query letter would be one page plus the 1-2 page synopsis.
9. Include any built-in audience (like a newspaper column or web blog or website with a big readership), marketing hooks, tips, information about your target audience if non-fiction. Editors and agents like to see that you have the potential to sell a number of books to an audience you already have.

10. Do not include cutesy stuff! No negativity. Don't tell the editor that your book received rejections from 50 other publishers. Don't tell her your book doesn't fit her guidelines (if it doesn't fit their guidelines as to what they publish, then do not send it there!). Don't offer a bribe or threaten him. Don't send your query on cutesy letterhead or weird paper. This is a business, so treat your query like a business letter. Your query can be written in your personal voice and style, and it doesn't have to be dry. Shoot for professional.

Possible format for a query letter:

Paragraph One:
Your pitch
Paragraph Two:
About you. (Depending on how your background ties to your book, this might take 2 paragraphs)
Paragraph Three (Optional):
Your closing (where you can mention offering to revise or possible target audiences etc)
Paragraph Four (Optional):
If you included a synopsis, this is where you mention it.
Thank the agent for her/his time.
Also mention that you look forward to hearing from her/him.


Dear (Mr. or Ms.) (Editor/Agent's Last Name):

A CATCHER IN THE CORN is a story about a female CIA agent who infiltrates an organized crime ring in Omaha, Nebraska, and must learn who the leader is before he destroys all the cornfields in the Midwest. Is it possible that the leader is none other than the teen baseball whiz who escorted her to the high school prom?
I've published several short stories and my web blog has a larger readership. I belong to a local writers group, Name of Group, as well as regularly attending a regional writing conference, Name of Conference. I was drawn to write this book because my five-year career as a CIA agent gives me an insider's view into how an undercover agent operates.
Enclosed you will find a two-page synopsis of the book as well as a self-addressed postage-paid enveloped. Thank you for your time and consideration. I'm really looking forward to hearing from you and learning what you think!


Your Name

In addition to the above tips, your obvious enthusiasm for your story can evoke a similar response. Always remember, you can't sell books you don't submit. Querying is the first step in the journey to publication!
~~~~~ *** ~~~~~
Award-winning author, Kathy Carmichael, writes mysteries, women's fiction and romance. Her 2009 release, HOT FLASH, was named by the American Library Association's BOOKLIST as one of the Top 10 Romance Fiction titles for 2009. Her latest release (and her first mystery novel), DIARY OF A CONFESSIONS QUEEN, received a starred review from BOOKLIST. In addition her novels, she's sold short stories and wrote a bi-monthly column on the business of writing for a national writing trade magazine. Additionally, Kathy is a contest judge for Writers Digest. For more information about Kathy or to read her other articles on writing, please visit her website at www.KathyCarmichael.com.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

JANO Party A Success

Our first annual JANO 2010 celebration sponsored by Sleuths' Ink was a rousing success. Twenty writers in four different states participated. At our party, we dined on pizza at San Francisco Oven, recognized the four busy writers who made the 50,000-word goal, voted for five other categories (which was very difficult with all the incredible entries), and had a literary reading of every writer's blurb and first page prior to voting for those two categories.

Afterward, we enjoyed an adorable mystery writers' cake, recevied JANO 2010 stones, JANO bookmarks and JANO certificates. We even had a couple of door prizes won by Shirley McCann and Vera Jane Goodin Schultz--a $10 Panera gift card each.


Stephanie Jarkins
- first to 50k (a beaded red and black pen)
Shirley McCann - second to 50k ($25 Renaissance Book Store gift card)
Cindy Dagnan - third to reach 50k ($10 Panera Bread gift card)
Rose Lombardo - honorable mention for 50k (($10 Panera Bread gift card)
Jerry-Mac Johnston - Best title: "Ice Picks, Bombs and Bodies" (a journal)
Wanda Parrott - Best first sentence: "Killing Flippo was easy." (I Survived JANO mouse pad)
Jerry-Mac Johnston - Most Unique Setting: The Bare B, an upscale strip joint (Writers' Survival Tote and goodies)
Pat Eliott - tied for Most Intriguing Plot (It All Changed In An Instant, autographed six-word memoir book)
Shirley McCann - tied for Most Intriguing Plot (The Marshall Plan For Novel Writing)
Beth Carter - tied for Best First Page (chose no gift)
Glendon Thomlison - tied for Best First Page (Two books donated by Borders)
Nancy Dailey - tied for Best First Page (Two books donated by Borders)
Cindy Dagnan - Most Motivational Participant (hand-made journal)
Beth Carter - Best Effort by a JANO member (I Survived JANO tee)

Several members volunteered to serve on our JANO 2011 committee: Stephanie Jarkins, Rose Lombardo, Shirley McCann, Beth Carter, DeLane Parrott, Nancy Crandall and Vera Jane Goodin Schultz.

Finally, a huge thanks to our gracious donors: Borders, Renaissance Book & Gift Store, Panera Bread, Rick McCann, Shirley McCann, Jerry-Mac Johnston, Rose Lombardo, photographer John Schultz and Beth Carter.

Thank you for participating in JANO 2010 and making this event a success. Remember to keep adding to your novels, edit, polish, and get them in the hands of agents and editors by late fall so you can start all over again in January!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pizza Party This Saturday!

All JANO and Sleuths' Ink members are invited to attend our pizza party this Sat., February 6, from 5-8 p.m. We'll be at San Francisco Oven (upstairs area) on Republic Road, just west of National.

Come and find out who the four JANO members are who made it to 50,000 words in one month! See who wins the prize for best title, best first sentence and most unique setting. Many more prizes will be given. Come and cheer on these hard-working, tired-to-the-bone writers.

Sleuths' Ink is sponsoring this event. Be there or be square.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The month is more than half over, so let's continue our excitement for JANO. I've thought of a few JANOisms to keep you inspired. Feel free to add your own and post your favorite JANOism in our comment section.

It's JANO time.
Have you had your JANO today?
Take one JANO every day.
Zero calories. JANO.
Just add JANO.
Get your JANO on.
Just JANO it.
Sugar-free JANO.
I have JANO-itis.
Pass the JANO.
Take a JANO pill.
JANO: The Write Thing.


We had a rousing mid-month update at our Sleuths' Ink meeting on Saturday. Everyone read the first page of their JANO project. Twelve beginnings were read and enjoyed by all. The genres ranged from cozy mysteries to paranormal to romantic suspense to YA historical fiction. We have a talented group of writers and these novels-to-be are promising.

Congrats to our top three JANO contenders as of last Saturday:

Shirley McCann - just under 24,000
Stephanie Jarkins - 22,750
Rose Lombardo - 20,061

By now, their word count is even higher. Hopefully, yours is as well. Let's get our second wind and bring it home for JANO.