Monday, August 26, 2013

Turning Points of Romance: Keep Them Wanting More

Turning Points of Romance: Keep Them Wanting More

I want to talk about turning points in a romance because I sometimes see potentially great stories that lack structure. No, we don’t want cookie cutter stories but in order to keep the reader interested, the plot moving, and the conflict high, we need a balance of goal, motivation, conflict, and turning points.

Depending on the line you’re targeting, your story begins with the characters in their ordinary world.  Then something happens —the inciting incident—that brings the characters together and forces their interaction. For example, if you’ve seen the movie While You Were Sleeping, you know the inciting incident is when the man of our heroine’s dreams falls in front of a train and she rescues him. Her path in the story is changed.

The first turning point, usually by the end of the third chapter in a full-length novel, is when the family believes she is their injured son’s fiancé and she makes the decision to let them believe it because the grandmother has a weak heart. This turns the story in a new direction. She’s caught and though she knows it’s wrong, she wants the closeness of his family, something she’s never had and desperately desires.

The second turning point (or middle) is when, after spending time with the family and enjoying the love and unity, she meets the brother. Again, the story is turned in a new direction. He’s suspicious and she must dive deeper into a pit of lies even as she begins to fall for him. She thought she wanted one thing but now she’s not so sure.

The third turning point comes very close to the end. This is when the “man of her dreams” wakes up and she’s forced to follow through with her lie of an engagement. She’s getting everything she thought she originally wanted. The story reaches a pivotal point and the heroine must make a new decision.

The black moment is another turning point. This is when the character thinks all is lost. Our heroine doesn’t love the original man but loves his family. She doesn’t want to break their hearts, but she can’t go through with the wedding and spills the beans at the altar. She leaves the chapel having lost both the family she needs and the man she loves.

The conclusion comes last. Everything is wrapped up, all is forgiven and the character lives happily ever after. In a romance, this is when the I loves yous are said. In our story, the hero and his family track her down at work and he proposes.

Once the I love yous are said and everyone is happy, the romance plot is done. I’m seeing a lot of those I loves yous said early. Romance readers need their heroes and heroines tortured with internal and external conflicts. Happiness too soon will bore the reader into putting the book down. Romance readers read for that happy ever after moment that comes only after the characters have had their hearts ripped apart.

In other words, don’t solve the conflict too soon and always leave them wanting more.

Diana Carlile
Sr. Editor, Scarlet Rose
The Wild Rose Press
Cover Art Design

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What’s In a Name? By Masha Holl

Originally publishing in the Greenhouse on the Wild Rose Press website

What’s In a Name? By Masha Holl

There's more in a name than you think. And it all depends on how you look at it.

Sometimes a character springs up all ready, clothed, in full color, and named. Sometimes, a character is a nebulous creature that needs a lot of refining, from looks to style, down to the name you will call him or her for the next weeks, months, or years, that it will take you to craft your story.

So how do you find a name? Let me tell you the ways...

I. Seven Don'ts for finding names for your characters:

1.   Don't use baby-name books for foreign or historical names. Use dictionaries and scholars as sources. In places far away and in times past, naming traditions were not like our own. Big surprise. In fact, in times past, and in to this day in some faraway places, naming is a complex ritual that must follow set patterns of great significance for the child and the adult. Not applying them properly could cause a reader to throw the book at the wall. Turn to someone who has solid knowledge of the culture you're writing about to help you with the naming.

2. Don't forget the meaning of a name. It can trigger a cascade effect that will suggest entire plot lines. Sometimes, the sound of a name is enough to satisfy a writer. Not me. I like the play with the meaning of the name. Or a pun on the origin or the sound of a name. I have a werewolf character whose name is Lucas. Why? Lupus-wolf in Latin-  sounds a lot like Lucas. I have a photographer with a last name Lucien. The name is derived from lux, which, in Latin, means light. Photographers work with light. I don't attach any deep meaning to the names, but a play on sound, on etymology, or on meaning helps me focus my character.

3. Don't rely on baby name books and web sites for the etymology of names. Few of them are put together by linguists, nor are thoroughly researched. Always double-check the information. I always look up the Russian names in baby name books, and then the French names, because I can spot mistakes very easily. I always spot very basic mistakes. I do know whereof I speak. If I can't trust the selfsame books to give me information I can verify how can I trust them to provide me with information I do not know?

4. Don't use the same initial of the same beginning sound for more than one character per story. Cathy and Carmen are too close to fit in one novel. So are Cathy and Katerina. But Cindy and Corrina are OK. Sound is more important than the actual written letter, but too many names looking alike will confuse the reader. The reader doesn't like to be confused. Better keep your character's names varied. No, it's not like real life. It's called fiction. Unless, of course, everybody else in the story is confused and it's a significant aspect of the plot. But you would have to justify it.

5.    Don't use gender-ambiguous names -- unless you do it on purpose. The name makes the character. Make sure a man's name sounds like it, too. Unless you want it to be effeminate. It's all up to you but be mindful of the effect of the name. I'm not talking fashion and passing associations between names and popular characters, but names that could be either masculine or feminine. Does Robin stand for Robert or Roberta? It can work either way.

6. Don't use first names as last names if it's going to confuse the reader. Especially if they're gender-ambiguous. Unless you're doing it on purpose. Mike Robert might look like a good name, but you're going to trip someone with it.

Yourself first in all likelihood. It's not a very hard fix to change it to Mike Roberts. Or even better Robertson.

 7.    Don't apply English grammar to foreign names. People spend years learning foreign languages. They will throw your book at the wall if you don't respect their hard work.

II. Seven Dos for finding names for your characters:

1.   Do recite the alphabet. The sound or shape of an initial letter might bring up the perfect name. Sound is important. It will not matter, not consciously, to your reader. But you have to like your character, and the sound of the name is part of it. Listening to it, or looking at the shape of letters as initials of a character's name is an entirely different game from reading ordinary words on a page. A big part of writing is playing mind tricks with yourself.

2. Do use good name dictionaries that provide the history and meaning of a name. Even if you don't share it with your readers, the information can help crystallize some aspect of your character's nature for you. And you'll have readers who will enjoy looking for it. Just imagine you're building a fan base. You're becoming well known for the small details. Your readers research the meaning of your character's names and how it reflects their nature, their background, or their deep dark secrets. All that can be contained in one little name. A key for you to use.

3. Do break the rules. But know the rules first. Length of name and sound combinations will affect a reader's reaction to your character. But you can only control that in your own language. And your own time. A name will sound odd to another culture regardless of your effort at making it universal. But then a reader who picks up a book by a foreign author expects strangeness, so we shouldn't worry about that. There's really only one rule to anything in writing: don't confuse the reader. And that means, make names memorable, pronounceable, and distinct.

4. Do consider the sound of a name. And the feel. And your first reaction to it. It's a good bet your reader will have a similar reaction. Need I say more?

5.    Do use other writers' ideas, even Great Writers such as Austen, Tolstoy, and Dickens. How did they pick their names? How do the names correspond to the characters? Don't be afraid to learn from the masters. Tolstoy often played on names of real people. We will never forget Austen or Dickens's heroes.

Why should we avoid reading and learning from them? Why should we limit ourselves to what's on the market right now? It would be like learning to write by typing on a keyboard. What if the power went off? Shouldn't you be able to handle a simple pencil? Old fashioned never goes out of style in writing.

6. Do play with spelling -- but know what you're doing. There are variations, but there are also rules. We're back to the dictionary here. Variations on names are one thing, but creative spelling is a distracter you don't want to impose on your readers. Unless, of course, you need to do it on purpose for a specific character. But then it becomes a plot point, and that's another story altogether. A corollary of the "don't confuse your reader" rule is: "keep it simple". Which doesn't mean "keep it moronic". Streamline it. Smooth it out. Make it glide.

7.   Do make sure that the form of the name fits the genre of your story. Time, place, the vast universe... Don't give your Viking a cowboy name, or your Victorian lady a Chicago moll moniker. The same applies to the spelling of said names. And check all of it before you send it to any agent or editor. They know a lot about all of this.

If your critique partner, or group, expresses doubts about names, take it under advisement, but check the historic and linguistic accuracy of names with someone who's a specialist in the field. A graduate student. A professor. A fellow writer with an advanced degree, or proven research experience. Someone who's good at surfing the Web for tidbits of information is not necessarily a good source. Not necessarily bad, but...


Masha Holl was raised on magic tales, Russian literature, Mozart, Verdi, and French cuisine. Today, she writes romantic science fiction and fantasy---that's werewolves, spaceships, and alien universes---to the sounds of Metal Rock.  

Reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Theme By Megan Kerans

Originally published in the Greenhouse on the Wild Rose Press website

Writing Mechanics: Theme By Megan Kerans

Theme when used to its full advantage can be a powerful ally for writers and their stories, especially in a genre that has to fight for respect. As romance writers we often take a lot of grief and endure our work being called "silly, frivolous, and at worst meaningless." But, we aren't the only ones to endure these obstacles, just ask Walt Disney.

When Walt began on his first full-length, feature animation film, Snow White, in the late 1930's, the public viewed cartoons with the same descriptors I used above. As we all know, Walt changed people's opinions. One of the biggest keys to his success was incorporating strong themes into his stories.

What does Theme do?

Theme gives you three key elements

1. A base
2. Emotion for the characters & readers
3. Enriches the whole

A base

Many times plot is described as the frame or skeleton of story on top of which you add characters, goals, setting, and all the other necessary elements. If that's true, then theme is the DNA running through the bones and wood.

Whatever your theme, that universal truth comes out in your narrative. That belief shapes how you tell your story and what receives emphasis. Take Disney's Beauty and The Beast and its theme, "don't judge a book by its cover". The animators used multiple scenes to show The Beast as kind and generous, such as him feeding small birds and giving his library to Belle. And on the opposite side, we see the handsome villain Gaston being a jerk and plotting to have Belle's father committed as insane. If the story's theme had been about a young girl's search for adventure or a better life, those scenes wouldn't belong in the final film.

The same way theme guides what scenes go in a story, it also guides what roles characters play. Still looking at Beauty and the Beast and "don't judge a book by its cover", theme guides and shows the differences in your characters. The Beast is ugly on the outside, but a good person on the inside. Gaston is handsome outside, but an ugly person inside. Imagine trying to tell the same story with a cover model-looking hero?

Emotion for the characters & readers

Walt Disney said, "If I can't find a theme, I can't make a film anyone else will feel." He was right. That universal truth creates an emotional connection with your reader, the same way your characters do.

This is where the "universal" part of theme comes in. When readers can relate, they dip into and attach their own emotions. Emotion creates an attachment to not only the idea, but the characters. When the Beast is shunned for his appearance, the viewers feel his pain. They connect to him as well as the idea of not judging by looks alone.

Likewise, how a character feels about the theme, which relates to their goal, taps into their emotions and influences their actions.

Enriches the whole

Walt Disney had another belief. "Theme is a key creation of stories that endure forever, and characters that take up permanent residence in lives of filmgoers around the world." Considering fifty years or have passed since the original creation of many of Walt's fairytales and they are still as beloved today as then, he was on to something.

While characters have an external goal-to get the gold, a new job, or save the Earth-it's the lesson they learn that makes a story richer. We remember the lesson because it drew our caring. Suddenly, the tale goes from "silly" such as finding gold to something much more important.

The lack of this enrichment or important lesson by the character is most often times the reason sequels don't do well or work. The story is too focused on the external.

Imagine Beauty and The Beast if at the end of the story the only change was that the Beast became human?

What kinds of Theme are there?
 Ambition
 Jealousy
 Beauty
 Loneliness
 Betrayal
 Love
 Courage
 Loyalty
 Duty (filial piety)
 Perseverance
 Forgiveness
 Fear
 Prejudice
 Freedom (Aladdin)
 Suffering
 Happiness
 Truth
 Redemption
 Acceptance
 True love conquers all (Sleeping Beauty)
 Let your conscience be your guide (Pinocchio)
 Don't judge a book by its cover (Beauty & The Beast)
 These are just a few possible themes. There are many more.


Reprinted with permission from

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tips from the "Queen of Clichés"

If you have ever written any of these three things—oops! Sorry, there are four—please know I will catch you if I can. I may be the Queen of Clichés, but I still wield a pretty mean wet noodle. I have seen them misused so often in the galleys I process that I now check for them regularly.
He sunk into a chair.
Thunder rolled and lightening flashed.
It’s alright as long as you do it with flare.
No. these are not all right, no matter how you do them.
Let’s work in backwards order. “Flair” is the spelling you want in the third sentence above. For a character to do something with flare might indicate you have a firebug on your hands. And while we’re on the subject, how often do you use the word “flare”? Don’t avoid this question! I have seen it more than a dozen times in one book…his nostrils flared, her temper flared, his lust flared, her skirt flared, his passion flared, her nostrils flared, his anger flared, her eyes flared, etc. etc. etc. It’s a wonder it all fits in and doesn’t combust, with so much flaring going on.
“Alright” has not yet received official acceptance as a replacement for “all right.” The two-word version is still preferred. Like it or lump it. That’s all I will say about that.
And “sink, sank, have or has sunk” has been burned into my brain since sixth grade: Today I sink, yesterday I sank, and before that I had sunk” whether into a chair, a slough of despond, or beneath the waves of the ocean. It’s like “swim, swam, have or has swum” and “sing, sang, have or has sung”—Yesterday I sang and swam and sank into bed happy.
As for thunder and—What is it that flashes and then you hear the rumble? Oh, yes. Lightning. No “e” in the whole word. None. Non-e. Of course there is a word “lightening,” but it’s related to the idea of making things lighter or more clear: “Here, let me lighten your load,” or “Let me enlighten you.”
While I’ve got you by the ear, so to speak, let me mention just one more thing, on the editing/reading side of my life: How weary I am of reading the same phrases time after time in almost every book when we get to the more passionate scenes. Is there truly no other way to describe them? Does everyone have exactly the same moves? Maybe I missed the memo that said, “This is it. Use these descriptive words whenever your characters are getting it on.” Fingers and tongues “tangle” and “trace” and “tease…” I usually quit reading by then, from sheer boredom, and pick up again after they have gone “over the edge.” In processing galleys I also check for “peak” (frequently found in said love scenes) vs. “peek” and find them often overused and/or misused and occasionally substituted for “pique.” My high school English teacher used to groan over the song lyrics of her youth rhyming “spoon” and “moon” and “June” and “croon.” Now I know why. Suffice it to say there must be descriptive words in the dictionary that would give your writing more individuality and flair rather than sounding like you copied the scene out of the last romance you read and merely substituted your characters’ names.

My apologies if the above sounds harsh. But remember—I don’t deal with nearly as many books per week as those readers who go through at least five books a week, some as many as twenty-five or more per week, so they say. Do you think they will not notice these things? Do you think they won’t take note of your name and figure they’ll look for an author with more variety in her vocabulary? Keep a dictionary and a thesaurus handy and try using one new word per book. Too much to ask?

Nancy Swanson- Editor
The Wild Rose Press

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Bother to Write? By Betty Hanawa

*Originally published on the Wild Rose Press website

Why Bother to Write? By Betty Hanawa

The air is sweet with perfume of springtime blossoms. There's a cool breeze blowing no longer holding the sharp bite of winter. It's time to be enjoying the outside before Summer's heat and humidity makes everything miserable. The last thing you want to do right now is sit at a blasted keyboard and try to write a book.

Why bother?

On the other hand, you've dealt with cranky co-workers all day, came home to a family who has the audacity to demand supper and clean clothes. The last thing you have time for is to write on a book that odds say is never going to be published anyway. So why bother?

But wait! The Muse showed up with a perfect scene. You finish cleaning up the supper dishes and head to the keyboard. The words are flowing. But the youngest kid leans against your shoulder and you realize he's got a fever. The teenager screams from the family room that the dog just puked up all the corn chips the teenager thought it was fun to toss so the dog could catch them. Naturally, you have to clean it up because the teenager will puke herself if she attempts the job. Now you've got a headache. You might as well go to bed after taking care of all the family's needs. The Muse will be gone anyway.

Why bother to try to write?

Because you have to do something for yourself.

Everyone needs a creative aspect in their life to make their soul sing. You're reading this newsletter because your soul needs to write, whether it's a journal you keep for your own self-pleasure, articles for newsletters, or a story with characters you've created and love.

But how do you get time for yourself to create with the Muse?

There's not much you can do about the cranky co-workers and the day job, except to firmly remind yourself what happens at the job, stays at the job. You're not paid enough to worry about the dratted day job on your home time.

Household chores - a teenager and a spouse can each make a dinner meal once a week. A four year- old can set the table and help with clean-up. And, yes, teenagers and spouse can be introduced to Ms. Washer and Mr. Dryer and be responsible for laundry. Everyone lives there. Why are you the only one doing the household chores? The teenager made the dog sick, she can clean it up - then clean up her own mess.

Granted a feverish kid needs your attention. But once the kid is dosed up and put to bed, there's no reason for you to provide entertainment. A sick child needs sleep. Check on him once in awhile, but it's amazing how quickly a child gets well when bed rest and nothing but bed rest is enforced.

To fill your own creative need, you must get back to the Muse

Now here's the thing about the Muse. If you make the time to show up at the keyboard, the Muse shows up, too. It might take awhile. You might have to force yourself to write garbage for a while - which is really hard if you haven't discovered yet how to kill that stupid Internal Editor who sneers at any imperfection. But, if you write enough garbage, eventually the Muse gets curious, comes back, and says "Here, let me help."

The Muse always, always appears when you sit down to write. You've all heard of the tools to help you write while away from the computer. In addition to a laptop, there's the AlphaSmart and its companions The Neo and The Dana. If those are out of your price range, there's always the standard yellow tablet and pen or pencil.

The Muse needs the invitation to join you.

The invitation gets issued when you sit to write. If you deny your creative urge to write, you'll get frustrated, then resentful, and you become the cranky one your coworkers and family complain about.

For your own peace, for the peace of those who love you, take time from each day to write. They'll complain at the beginning, but don't give in. Your coworkers and boss need to learn that your time away from the office is your time, not theirs. Your family will not only learn to respect your private time, but gain their own self-respect by learning skills that will serve them in their own lives.

When you don't grant yourself the self-respect to value your writing, how do you expect respect from anyone else?

Spring is the time of new life. Give your writing a new life. Set writing goals of pages per week and make those goals despite all the distractions life throws at you. Be firm and make sure the family and friends respect your time for yourself. Getting them in the habit of leaving you alone now makes it handy when you're published and have unmovable deadlines.

And if the warm Spring breezes and blooming flowers are completely irresistible?

Take your writing tablet and pencil outside and invite the Muse to join you. Start writing and the Muse will come.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Taking your reader somewhere new

More and more lately I’m seeing stories set in either—one: a bar, diner, restaurant, coffeeshop (insert type of eating/drinking establishment here); or at a school or at the church at the wedding Susie is about to run out on. The plotlines ultimately spread out and move on their own, but far too many--maybe one third--of the aforementioned settings come across my desk. 

What do I do? I write to the author and ask/beg/implore her to change it. Why? Because it's too common. Too been there done that.Yes, you might argue that readers like familiarity. They like to be in a place where they can identify the surroundings or feel the ambiance, but why not give them new sensations, new emotions? Put your readers in new situations where they can explore their own emotions and reactions.
I'm not saying you should blow up something or make one of your characters into a fire-breathing dragon. I'm saying that DIFFERENT can happen anywhere, anytime--in any type of story, not just romance. It doesn't have to be momentous or life-threatening. What's cooler than for the reader to join your heroine as she's standing on a girder atop a new highrise (in her job as inspector or construction worker), or the hero as he's whooshing down a ski slope (dodging tumbling children or an enamored elderly woman)? Or she's attempting to put a new fanbelt in her car and opening the oil pan instead, or he's relaxing on a nude beach on a dare by his best friend? The point I'm making is to stretch yourself. Don't "write what you know", get out there and learn something new, THEN present it to your readers. Guaranteed they'll thank you. 

Oh yes, you won't believe the great time you'll have researching. I've never found a company that didn't LOVE helping authors out. They take us on ride-alongs and tell personal stories. They provide free tours. AND they often provide book signing venues! What can be better than that!

Cindy Davis 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Who Are My Characters? By Myla Jackson

*Originally published on the Wild Rose Press website

Who Are My Characters? By Myla Jackson

Before I begin a new story, I lay out all my characters so that I know what they look like,who they are and what makes them act the way they act. Let's take one step at a time...

 What do they look like?
 Hair color, style, length
 eye color
 Height
 body structure
 clothing style
 age
 skin (color and texture)
 scars (location & why)
 Sometimes it helps to cut out a picture from a magazine or print one from online of a person you picture as that character. That way you have a clear picture in your mind when you put the description into words.
 Where do they live?
 Apartment
 house
 ranch
 city
 state
 country
 description of abode
 Who lives with him/her?
 Where a person lives tells a lot about that individual. Getting to know where they live and with whom, gives you more insight into your character. Does the woman have a roommate? Does the man still live with his mother? Does your heroine live in a homeless shelter?
 Does your hero live on a ranch?  

Getting to know the outside of your character is important, but more important to your story is what's on the inside. What makes them tick? Why do they behave the way they do? How do they react to different stimuli? One of the steps in getting to know your characters is a basic understanding of their goals, motivations and conflicts. A good book to have in your arsenal of writer's weapons is Debra Dixon's book Goal, Motivation & Conflict. If you get a chance to see her workshop, do it! It's worth every penny spent.

Here's my interpretation of what these three words stand for and how you find them in your characters:


What does he/she want? A lot of the time, a character believes he/she wants something at the beginning of the story only to find out by the end of the story, that's not what he/she wants anymore. This morphing-of-the-goals comes from character growth. What does he/she learn along the way? So when you start your story, identify what your character thinks he/she wants. Then identify what he/she really needs. For example, your hero might think he needs to be the richest man in town and in acquiring his wealth; he squashes everyone in his path. What he really needs is to move on and forgive.


Why does he/she want it? It's not good enough to know your character's goals. You have to dig deeper and understand why he wants what he wants. If your hero's goal is to be the richest man in town, why does he want this? Is it because he was born on the wrong side of the tracks and he's determined to punish everyone in town for turning their noses up at him when he was growing up. Or is it because the rich town mayor wouldn't let him marry his daughter and now he's out to prove he's good enough? Either way, the motivation will help you to understand why he thinks he needs what he wants. It will also help you to understand what he really needs.


Why can't he/she have it? A story without conflict is a boring story. Every reader wants to cheer the hero on.
How can you do that if everything in his life is hunky-dory? He doesn't need a cheering section. The reader will get bored with him and go look for someone with real problems she can invest herself in. She wants a character that reflects the real world. How many people go through life trouble-free? Not many. We like to know others have problems and we cheer them on to overcome their issues so that they can triumph in the end. Think about the time you went to a football game and you were on the side of the winning team, but they were winning by such a longshot that you started cheering for the losing team. Give your characters conflicts!!!!!! If you love them enough, you'll torture them and hurt them and make them cry. How you do this is by creating conflicts that get in the way of them attaining their goals. Make it relevant by hitting them below the belt in their motivations. Hero thinks he needs to be the wealthiest man in town and squash everyone in his path. Put obstacles in his path. Make those obstacles matter. Make them show him how wrong he is to want to hurt others. By the end of the book, he will see that he no longer wants to be the richest man in town. He didn't know it, but he only ever wanted to belong. (Like in the Scrouge).

Get to know all your characters. Even your villain. The more you know them, the more you will discover ways to introduce them to your reader and show how they will grow and overcome their problems.

Reprinted with permission from

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Email Query By Roni Adams

*originally publishing on the Wild Rose Press website

How to Email Query By Roni Adams

In this age of email and instant access to editors and agents, should your email query letter be as formal as one sent through postal mail?

Of course it should. Even though email is a more informal means of communication, your first representation of yourself and your work should always be completely professional. A query letter doesn't have to follow the same format as a written letter, like we learned in high school business class. You don't need to provide an inside address, a proscribed number of spaces, the date and a formal salutation and closing, but the letter should contain formal attributes.

Email Address should reflect you as a serious writer

To back up one step, one of the most important things in an email query should be your own email address. Is it professional? Does it reflect your writing career, such as or is it something like Which one sounds like a serious writer working towards publication? An email address should be an extension and should include your pen name, if you have one. Another thing my email demonstrates is that I have a web site where they can go to discover more about me.

Do you need a web site? That's another whole discussion, but if you have one, you should definitely advertise the fact by using that email when querying or in any correspondence with editors or agents. If you don't have one, you do need to get an email that's professional. Either with your given name or your pen name.

Okay, so now you have a professional email address. Do you have the name of the editor you are querying? If you do, then you should certainly address that person by name in the email the same as in a regular letter:

Dear Ms. Jones.

If you don't know the editor's name or you are querying a general email submission box such as then no salutation is needed. For some, the greeting, "Dear Editor" is too generic. Choose to start your query like: "After reading your submission guidelines, I would like to submit the following to your erotic romance line." Then a space or two and then the next line: "My story is about two actors caught in a timewarp on an old west stage. The two loves wind up in a series of…" You get the idea. Make your query only a few paragraphs, hit the highlights of your story the same as you would in a printed query letter.

In the final paragraph say something to the effect of, "I have included my synopsis following this query letter. I look forward to hearing from you soon." Close the note with a formal signature and your contact information, including snail mail address. I always add my phone number. The last thing you want is an editor who would like to request your story but can't find you.

The Synopsis

After your contact info, make three *** to indicate a break between the query and the synopsis. Start with the title of your book, the page or word length, and then, if appropriate, which line in the publishing house you are targeting. For example:

Roni Adams
"To Love and Lose"
55K words
Champagne Rose Line

No attachments, unless requested

One of the most important things when emailing an editor is to never, never, never attach anything unless you have been invited to do so. In this day of virus and SPAMS, editors have been instructed by their IT departments to never open attachments they aren't familiar with and to delete them without reading.

Brief Synopsis

Keep your synopsis brief. Make it appeal to the editor and generate interest. Your goal is the same as it is in a snail mail query; you want that editor to respond positively and ask for more.

Once you have that editor's email, you may be tempted to simply shoot them a note and ask them if they received your query. Editors are very busy people. They receive hundreds of emails weekly, sometimes daily. Most will send an email verifying receipt of your query and will be in touch after their review. Sending your email with the "return receipt" button turned on is generally acceptable.

When to Inquire

So you know your query was received and several weeks have passed. How long do you wait before contacting the editor and asking for a status update? The worst thing you can do is email an editor a week after you've sent your submission. Just because email is instant and quick doesn't mean the reading or reviewing of email is any faster than reading a printed letter. Give the editor time to do his/her job.

How to Inquire

So how long do you wait? The same as you would a snail mail submission. First refer to the publisher's submission guidelines. Is a timeframe stated? Some houses request no additional contact for at least six months, etc. If no details are given, use the guideline of three months. Again, be professional. Do not become a pest to this editor and be tagged as such. Your follow-up should be short and to the point. Something along the line of:

"On February 1, 2007 I emailed a submission for my story, "On Bended Knee." I am following up to see if I can provide additional information on this story. I am still very interested in your opinion of this time travel western, and I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience."

That's it. Again, give your contact info, etc. Remember, the fact email is friendly and informal doesn't mean you have that type of relationship with this editor. Even if you've met at a conference, had lunch or exchange greetings in the ladies room, do not assume they will remember you. Keep things professional, and you will begin what is hopefully a healthy business relationship on the right foot.


Reprinted with permission from

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bringing in the Senses By Beverly Oz

*originally published in the Greenhouse of the Wild Rose Press website

Sensory Detail: Bringing in the Senses By Beverly Oz

Ever run across the sweet, heady smell of honeysuckle while driving in the country? Can you close your eyes and visualize the vibrant reds and pinks of a sunset, or the pale greens of a newly budded tree? Can you imagine the brush of a feather against the backside of your knee? When you think about licking a freshly cut lemon and allowing its tangy juice to linger on your tongue, does your mouth water? Does the sound of honking of horns and screeching of tires make you cringe?

Can you smell it?

Can you taste it?

Can you hear it?

Can you see it?

Now think about what you've just read and how those words affected your senses? Did you smell the honeysuckle? See the reds, oranges, and greens? How about that lemon? Could you almost taste it?

Sensory Response

The human mind reacts to sensory suggestions, even suggestions taken in through written words. After a person experiences a sound, touch, taste, etc., the mere mention of the experienced sense can quickly evoke a sensory response.

For a writer, like myself, this is powerful information. Why? Because I know I can control what my readers see, smell, taste, hear, and feel simply by choosing one word over another. For example, consider the impact of changing just a few words in the following sentence.

Can you feel it?

I rubbed my hand against the furry softness of the cashmere sweater.

I rubbed my hand against the slick, almost wet, skin of the snake.

I opened the door and was nearly knocked down by the oppressive heat and humidity.

I opened the door and was nearly knocked down by the frigid north wind.

When I write, I carefully sprinkle in sensory words to achieve greater reader involvement. I want the readers to experience what my heroines and heroes experience and become immersed in my story. If I can coax the people who buy my books to completely lose themselves in my books' make- believe worlds, maybe they'll come back for more.


Reprinted with permission from