Four Query Sample sites. . .



Have a sample query, dearie?



The late, great Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest has been eulogized and properly grieved. Now, Kindle Scout bites the dust. The great ABNA conversation threads are gone as well. You can visit their remains in archives – but no live help from fellow writers there. Shed a few tears and go out in the world to query agents and publishers. Need help? Google ‘query letters’ for the basics. There’s nothing better than seeing some samples. And there are a few sites around to visit.

  1. Galley Cat has a limited sampling of successful queries. They’ve been posted but the site doesn’t add to the cache.
  2. Writers Digest has a page of successful query letters that is added to periodically –
  3. If you want to see queries as they are edited (like in the old days of ABNA Pitch thread) you can visit Janet Reid’s Query Shark
  4. And, if you are using Query Tracker (even if you aren’t), visit the “Success Stories”. Almost all of the writers conclude their interviews with the query they used to hook their agents.


ABNA is dead – long live Kindle Scout?

Mid-January ABNA followers got the word. ABNA wasn’t to be this year. Instead, Kindle Scout would accept entries and offer more modest contracts to top rated entrants. Most ABNA contestants were disappointed.

man looking at computer in desperation

A few took to wringing their hands and bemoaning their fate in online discussion boards. This wringing and bemoaning gradually escalated into “How dare ABNA cut this off. They promised!!!” It was like having a teenager in the house again. Those few seemed to have disappeared. . .leaving behind –

the many ABNA’ers who devote time to sharing experiences and assistance to those who used to enter the fray of the annual competition. They continue to support writers who are entering Kindle Scout or forging ahead with query letters to agents and publishers. These kind, generous souls can still be found on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Forum- The discussion group I find most helpful is the Pitch Thread.

I find it heartening that there is this community of writers on the internet. Many aspiring writers don’t have access to writers’ groups – whether because they live in a remote area or have problems connecting due to work/health/family situations. They can now turn to these intrepid heroes, some of whom have entered Kindle Scout or found an agent or self-published. They are a fount of information in all these areas and I salute them and heartily recommend them to others.

Let’s do the blog hop. Is that like the Time Warp on Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Nope. It’s more of a traveling sisterhood pant’s thing. My Writing Process is an ongoing blog hop where a writer answers four basic questions about their writing process and then is asked to pass the baton to two more authors. I was invited by Rachel Blaufeld, author of the Electric Tunnel. Please visit her page and discover  her amazing personality at

What am I working on?

I’ve just finished Turn Key Condition.  It’s on Amazon at and I’m now learning Marketing 101. Since this book is a mix of cozy/chick lit and a darker subject matter, I would especially love feedback from readers to see if it resonates with any of you.

I have already started on the sequel, Shampoo and Condition. Both feature friends, Maggie and Jane, who (like Jessica Fletcher, I’m afraid) meet corpses periodically in their lives. Maggie’s soon-to-be boyfriend is a Hispanic cop who uses Spanish adages that are piquant bites of wisdom non-Hispanics may never have heard before.

In Turn Key Condition, Jane and Maggie find a naked dead body of a man with a donut on his genitals

In Shampoo and Condition, Maggie’s sister-in-law drops dead in front of her at a beauty salon.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

 Turn Key Condition is a humorous mystery but not a typical cozy or chicklit. Maggie was a victim, now a survivor, of abuse who refuses to let that trauma define her.

Years later events trigger feelings of that trauma that she then has to deal with. The next two books in the series will show how she manages that journey. Whether people will be put off by the humor Maggie uses to deal with life remains to be seen. Abuse is certainly not something to be laughed at, nor will it be in this series, but most survivors live their lives with a surprising amount of normalcy – and I think people should see that side of their story.

Why do I write what I do?

I love a good mystery. And since I would be spending a lot of time with whatever genre I decided to write, I chose one I already love reading. Then, I found a bonus to this kind of book. There has to be a puzzle – (repeat to the rhythm of the saying):

“something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”

something stolen, something dead, something recovered, something red (usually blood). Okay, I never claimed to be a poet.

Mysteries make plotting  easy. Start with a theft or murder. Throw in suspects and then solve it. Okay, the writing isn’t easy – just the format.

How does my writing process work?

  • Am I an outliner or a pantsers (I prefer seatpantser, since “pantser” flashed up all sorts of unwanted mental images – & yes, pun was intended)? A little of both. I try to work off a basic outline.
  • Apres the outline: I set pacing by solving the mystery in a week – the book’s week not the writer’s. It takes many months to weave all the chapters into a complete manuscript. This timeline keeps things moving and avoids the bog-down in the middle that some books suffer.
  • I sometimes wish I had a co-writer. Think of the Columbo writers and Ellery Queen. You need one writer to be crazy and throw a bunch of weird, unlikely, crazy ideas at the paper. Much like monkeys at a zoo throwing – well, you know. Then you need another one to come in and straighten all the crazy stuff up and organize it, make some likely connections to all the unlikely threads. Weave it into some sense of coherency. I try to be the wild and crazy one when forming the idea for a book and then obsessive compulsive one who edits.

Now I pass the torch to these lively writers, both fellow contestants in ABNA 2014:

  1. Sephira Allen, who lives in North Carolina and has an affinity for historical fiction (yay!)
  2. Fran Pickering,, who was in the ABNA mystery/thriller category and is a Londoner whose visits to Japan lead to the authenticity of her book, The Cherry Blossom Murder.

What I loved about the ABNA competition was the variety of writers I met online. Now it’s like I have friends scattered all over the continental USA and the world. I know you’ll enjoy meeting them, too.

Book Launch!!!

TK coverTurn_Key_Condition_BACK_new

To make ends meet, Maggie, a divorcee with three sons, takes creative moonlighting to the limit. While cleaning a model home with her friend, Jane, she discovers a naked dead man with a donut over his genitals. The dead man is a married contractor who had once groped Maggie.

Maggie and Jane become caught up in the investigation to the annoyance of the police officer who answered the initial call. The Hispanic cop responds with pithy Mexican proverbs to Maggie’s sleuthing efforts.

Then Maggie’s ex rolls into town scheming to sell the family home out from under her with the help of an unscrupulous realtor, who is a suspect in the murder. When her sons pop up into the crosshairs of the killer, Maggie sharpens her survival skills to protect them and bring down the murderer.

TURN KEY CONDITION features a heroine who stares down danger with the humor and grace gained from an earlier detour into life’s darkness.

“There’s more fun than malice in this domestic murder mystery; readers will enjoy not only the sleuthing but following Orange County single mom, Maggie, as she goes about doing the many odd jobs that it takes to keep her family of three sons afloat. …A wide range of zany secondary characters circle around Maggie and the plot, each adding something whacky to the mix. The repartee between Maggie and Jane is genuinely funny and the entire production is … an …appealing mystery comedy.” – Publishers Weekly Reviewer

Get your copy Here


A Publishers’ Weekly Review but no cigar.

As promised, I’m posting the review I received from the ABNA Publishers’ Weekly reviewer. Alas, my entry didn’t proceed to the semifinals. But I’m greatly encouraged by the review. Here ’tis:

“There’s more fun than malice in this domestic murder mystery; readers will enjoy not only the sleuthing but following Orange County single mom Maggie Chessman as she goes about doing the many odd jobs that it takes to keep her family of three sons afloat. She’s working with her friend Jane cleaning model homes when they find the corpse of a naked man with a donut over his penis. The dead man is Mitch Thompson, a married general contractor who had once attempted to grope Maggie. The donut, meanwhile, is not the edible variety, but is instead the term used for a type of lock realtors put over a doorknob to secure homes that are being shown to buyers. The cops are called and the responder is officer Fortunado “Tuna” Rocha, a handsome policeman who is attracted to Maggie, and she, of course, to him. Maggie and Jane take it upon themselves to find the killer. There are several possibilities–Mitch’s wife Sherry; the “diminutive and childlike” Pipin, who usually worked with Jane doing the house cleaning; an angry homeowner who felt cheated by Mitch; a local developer, William Winston; and a few other candidates. A wide range of zany secondary characters circle around Maggie and the plot, each adding something whacky to the mix. The repartee between Maggie and Jane is genuinely funny and the entire production is only slightly marred by a dark secret from Maggie’s past that never really belongs in an otherwise appealing mystery comedy.”

That last line is a little deflating but I was encouraged by a fellow entrant’s response. She says: “There is nothing wrong with having humor in a serious book, or people who are just naturally glib. That just gives a realistic portrayal of the way people really are. And with the background implications, its kind of nice to find someone who is still capable of humor. Too many people assume that molestation by a family member results in a malformed person, rather than someone who learns to function in spite of it. I personally liked the way you approached it and wouldn’t change anything in the balance of humor/seriousness. It really makes an excellent story. And with Maggie’s resourcefulness, it really adds a neat dimension.”

Actually, the reviewer got the part of the story wrong about the donut doorlock. It’s not used by realtors at all. And my friend on the discussion thread assumes that Maggie was abused by a family member but it’s never clear about her childhood abuse. That will be dealt with in the next book in the series, Shampoo and Condition.

Anyway, she urged me to try to market the book not as a humorous novel but a serious one with humorous overtones. As I said in my last posting, there’s some great advice on the ABNA threads.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award!



Well, I’ve done it! I entered, along with 10,000 other writers, the ABNA 2014.
The first stage of judging was conducted by Amazon editors who read a 300 word “pitch” about your book. Pow! I passed to the –
second stage of judging, which was a reading of the first 3,000 to 5,000 word excerpt of your book by vine reviewers – people who shop and review commodities and books regularly and have proven to be helpful to other shoppers. Zap! I passed on to the –
third stage of judging. This part is conducted by editors hired by Publisher Weekly. That judge reads the entire manuscript and produces a short review of what they read. Here’s the sticking place (to quote Lady MacBeth). Fear and trembling commence.
I’ve found, though, that it’s not the destination but the journey.
On the threads (read: discussion boards), are other entrants who graciously share their insights and experiences. I’m convinced that the information they posted contributed to my pitch being able to pass muster in the first round.
How have I fared in the third round? I’ll let you know on or about June 13. I’ll post the PW reader’s review here on my blog.
Are any of you out there entered in the ABNA? Are any of you thinking of entering? Post a reply, I’m curious.

bird dogHow to you make your novel adhere to the formula for the genre you’re writing  without being formulaic? Your manuscript has to be just a little different than, in my case, the run of the mill cozies/chicklits/hen mysteries.

Novel classes emphasize that your character should grow in the course of your book. Ideally your protagonist should have a flaw or weakness they must deal with. Mine does.

I love the humor of cozies/chicklits/hens. But I also like the character I’ve created, Maggie. I’d hate to break them up. Can’t a damaged person exhibit humor in her life? Everyone we know lives with that dichotomy.

The trouble is in marketing the book. For one thing, the title, Donuts and Doorknobs, screams humor a la chicklit, but a little warning to the reader seems in order. I don’t want her chuckling along and all of a sudden surprised by the turn to the dark side. But what could I even call this hybrid genre?

Designer Dogs. Obviously you don’t want to refer to your manuscript as anything even like a dog. But . . .the names of designer dogs are really zippy. You know, the labradoodle (lab and poodle), the puggle (pug and beagle), the chiweenie (Chihuahua and dachshund). Whole websites are devoted to listing these combos, most of which I’ve never heard of before. There’s the bocker (beagle + cocker spaniel), the cheagle (Chihuahua + beagle) and my favorites: the dorkie (dachshund and yorkie)and puggit (pug + Italian greyhound). Careful how you say that last one.

So I’d like to create a name for this hybrid mystery. Not quite sure what name to give it, though. Through the series, Maggie reaches a revelation and resolution to her problem. Revolution or resolution + chicklit?  Chicklit/rev? Chicklit/res? That sounds like a vacation package. Chicksuspense?

And is there even an audience for a light frothy way of dealing with murder while seriously dealing with psychological problems along the way? A blog for another day. . . with a quote from George Bernard Shaw.

Lost masterpieces

I had originally planned on a different post than the one I opened with last week. It was good . . . very good. But in the midst of learning wordpress, deciding on pen names, contact info, pictures – most of which didn’t make it to the final page (still deciding) – I thought briefly of when I would post, and dashed off “Marsupial Monday”. The original posting was tucked away in my gray matter. Well, bring out the shovel. It’s buried.

Of course, everyone loses something like that. Nothing tops the story of Garrison Keillor losing an entire typewritten manuscript on a train before there were word processors.

Anyway, comforting myself that my trial isn’t as bad as someone else’s still doesn’t conjure up that living thing, that idea, that is buried inside my brain. Next week, we’ll see if I’ve retraced my mental steps and discovered the living, breathing idea leaning against the inside of my skull.

Marsupial Monday

Besides being alluringly  alliterative,  Marsupial Monday reflects the manner of my posts. A marsupial is a creature born prematurely who continues development outside the womb, nurtured in a special pouch by its mother. My postings may be rough, premature ideas about plots/characters and need to develop a little in this nurturing blog.

Will I post every Monday? Maybe not every Monday. But a post is more likely to show up on a Monday, after I have a weekend to reflect on my writing & submitting efforts for the week.