Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Whether you’re lying on a sandy beach, sitting by a mountain lake, or just hanging out on the lounge chair in the backyard, summer is made for the Two R’s: Relaxing and Reading. We’ve chosen our own TOP TEN favorite summer reads—some are old, some are newer, but all are perfect for lazy days in the sun. [Note: It is also permissible to read these indoors. The point is there should be no heavy lifting.]

Sarah’s Summer Picks:

1.  ANYTHING by Kasie West!!! All of her books are incredibly sweet and fun and perfect “by the pool” reads. And bonus, her new book THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND just came out in May!

2.  CINDERS & SAPPHIRES by Leila Rasheed. This historic fiction book is the perfect read for anyone needing a Downton Abbey fix! Full of intrigue, romance and incredible characters! I was pleasantly surprised by this series and couldn’t put them down!

3.  THESE BROKEN STARS by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. If you’re looking for an adventurous and romantic escape from reality, this is it! The stunning Sci-Fi world of Lilac and Tarver is one of my absolute favorites!

4.  THE ORPHAN QUEEN by Jodi Meadows. For something to get your pulse racing, check out this first book in an incredible new fantasy series. Plenty of twists and turns to keep the pages turning.

Heather’s Summer Picks:

1.  My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. This was such a great book! Amazing characters and the story! Ugh! Love, love, love Samantha and Jase. This is perfect beach read! 

2.  Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally. This book is the perfect amount of romance, heartbreak and determination! The chemistry between Annie and Jeremiah is amazing and watching her grow and change so much as a person in this one book was unforgettable. I will read and re-read this book a million times and NEVER tire of Annie's story.

3.  Rook by Sharon Cameron. If you're looking for a book with a fearless heroine, prison breaks, tons of suspense all wrapped up in a secret identity. Then, look no further than this! This book will grab you, reel you in and never let you go!

Monica’s Summer Picks:

1. THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY by Jenny Han. Don’t let the ‘turned pretty’ turn you off—it isn’t about that, it’s about one particular, life-defining summer. There’s always something special about that summer when we are about sixteen or seventeen years old. It was special for Belly—for many reasons. Romantic, fun, and heartbreaking all rolled into one great book! Oh, and it happens at the BEACH!

2. JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman. Love this book! Love its sequel, Just One Year. It’s summer. You’re wrapping up a post high school graduation tour of Europe. One day you’re in Stratford-Upon-Avon and you meet a gorgeous, interesting guy. He takes you to Paris, for JUST ONE DAY. It’s the day that changes your whole life. Sigh…pass the sunscreen…

3. SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater. The book that made me fall in love with all things Maggie Stiefvater. For Grace’s friend Sam, summer is very special—it is the only time he is human, because when the temperatures dip he becomes a wolf. So romantic. So heartbreaking. So beautiful. The first book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.

And, dang, my friends Sarah and Heather beat me to a couple of books I WAS going to recommend—the Kasie West books, and MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick. I want to add my shout-out for these books to theirs! So good! And, YES, ladies, I will be reading THE WINNER’S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski! In fact it is sitting right here next to me and my glass of iced tea…

Happy Summer Reading!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

QUERY LETTERS: Why Are They So Dang Hard To Write?


Why is this so hard?! I’ve done this before. I’ve successfully done this before so why am I practically in tears?

Query Letters.

There aren’t very many two-word combinations that strike so much terror to a writer’s heart.

I’m writing a query letter. And dang if query writing isn’t like some great mystery of the universe, some massive puzzle the solution to which is held by very few people in the world. ARGGHH!!

The reason for those arghs is that it seems each agent and editor has her/his own idea of what makes a good query letter. No two agents or editors like the same thing in the same way and in the same format. And from what I’ve recently seen, each agent has different ideas on different days of what makes a stellar query! One of my dream agents has several of her favorite query letters posted on a site, along with her comments on what made each great. I was so thrilled to find this Holy Grail, but then my hopes were completely dashed when I discovered that there was no consistency to what she liked. Argghhh…

My first ever query letter, the successful one, was to editors of small publishers, not agents. And to be perfectly honest that book and those query letters were for practice purposes. I was LEARNING how to write a novel and LEARNING how to write synopses and query letters. That my first effort was a success was surprising to say the least. All but one editor requested either a partial or a full, and all sent glowing rejections, except for the one who offered me a contract.

But agents are a different story, and they are making me very nervous. I believe an author’s chances of making it onto an NBA team are better than landing an agent.

Of course we all have our short list of dream agents, the ones we can only hope to one day have represent us. Which raises the next unanswerable question: Do I send queries to each of them in the first round, or spread it out a bit, mixing them into rounds with second and third tier choices? If the query fails, I want to know it and be able to rewrite it before I’ve sent it to all those first choice agents. Argghh…

Now do you see why those two words are so dreaded among writers?

If you want to further educate yourself (or confuse yourself depending on how you’re feeling about it) on query letter writing there are fortunately many good sources online. I just came across a fabulous post by dream agent Sarah Davies of the dream agency Greenhouse Literary. I like this post because she makes it clear and straightforward—there is little alchemy involved. At the end of this post I’ll give you links to Ms. Davies’ post as well as other useful sites.

Now I really need to get back to writing my query letter. And make sure it reflects the voice of my book. And make sure I include a blurb that makes the agent want to read more. And make sure I have enough biographical info but not too much. And, and, and. Sigh…

I highly recommend each of these sites for useful, helpful information on query writing:

Writer’s Digest—60 examples of successful query letters:  http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

Query Shark:

Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino on Query Letter Writing:

Good luck on your query letter!!