Friday, November 30, 2012

The Charge has a release date!

Texas Empire Flag

I'm proud to announce that my debut novel, The Charge, will be released on 3/2/13 by Curiosity Quills Press! Selecting 3/2 was no accident, as it happens to be Texas Independence Day.

Of course in the alternate history world of The Charge, things are a little different. March 2 is "Texas Empire Pride Day." On March 2, 1836 the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed, which formally declared Texas's independence from Mexico and created the Republic of Texas. Then on March 6th, General Matthias Wilde led Texas to victory at the historic battle of the Alamo. The legend states that the General conjured a storm of blue lightning and killed hoards of Mexican soldiers using mysterious powers. They called him, "El Diablo Azul."

History quiz...can you tell when I deviated from the real timeline? :)

I'm very excited about the release and have lots of event and promotion ideas swimming around my brain. In the next few months, I'll be looking for early reviewers, blogs to host my cover reveal, and blog tour hosts. I'm happy to have gathered such a great network of friends in the writing community, I hardly know where to start! :) Talk about a champagne problem. 

P.S. My cover is almost done! You'll get to see it soon.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black E-Holiday Weekend Giveaway - Win 30 books!

My friends Dawna Raver and Courtney Worth Young have a massive giveaway going on. One lucky winner will win 30 e-books! Yes, that is a lot of books. I went ahead and snagged their Rafflecopter form, so you can enter right here, but make sure and stop by their blogs and say hello!

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! I certainly did. If I haven't responded to an email from you, that's because I'm having a great time with my family. I'll get in touch with you soon!

Here's what you can win:

Here's how you win it:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wildest Moments Blogfest - When in doubt, the answer is YES

My motto is, "When it doubt, the answer is YES." I'm a doer. I'm a risk-taker. When someone says, "Your mission if you choose to accept it..." I accept the mission even before they finish the sentence. That's how I got here. Writing a novel and submitting it to agents and editors is inherently a little wild. Yes, I will write that book in my head. Yes, I will share it with the world even though they may not like it. Yes I will!

As you might imagine, this philosophy has led to a life full of wild moments...and some Wilde moments. (Kate from The Darkness Falls series is distantly related to the Texas royal family from The Charge. At least I like to think so because they share the same last name). This blogfest has caused me to reflect on some of my wild moments, including the ones I really ought not to share publicly. At least I can say that I doubt that I'll have too many death-bed regrets.

The wild moment I'll share is when I decided to travel to Europe in college, even though I didn't have any money. At the time, the fact that I didn't have any money didn't feel like a problem. I had the opportunity to travel to Europe, so I said "yes" of course! I didn't think about anything else. I racked up debt on a credit card until I was maxed out and down to my last Euro. Because one Euro wouldn't help me much anyway, I played the Euro in a slot machine at a casino in Venice. With my last Euro, I won 80 Euro and was able to eat for a few more days.

Fortunately, I was there with friends, so I didn't really ever go hungry or sleep on the streets. But grown-up Sharon with a family and a mortgage is still in awe of my younger self, who did what she wanted to do regardless of financial consequences. And amazingly enough, grown-up Sharon thinks silly young Sharon did the right thing. I got the experience of a lifetime, and grown-up Sharon was happy to pay off that debt with her grown-up job.

Nowadays, I'm not quite so wild. You could even say I'm responsible. I'm quite proud to provide a stable life for my family, with just the right touch of wildness to make life interesting. But I still embrace the "yes" philosophy, and I'm glad I do. Without a little wildness, I would have never gotten a publishing contract. And I have plenty of wild experiences to pass on to my characters. :)


It's not too late to join the Wildest Moments Blogfest!

"Share your Wildest Moment, and you might win a brand new Kindle Fire!

All you have to do is blog about a time you did something wild, something life changing. Jumped from a perfectly good airplane? Quit your job to write full time? I’m looking for fun, heart-pumping, or inspirational stories that you have experienced. “Wilde” things you’ve completed on your quest to grow up or move on.

Don’t blog? Put the cover of WILDE’S MEADOW up on your FB wall, pin it on Pinterest, or change your twitter avatar to the cover. Use the words “Wildest Moments” somewhere to go with the picture and link back to this post. (I will still enter you to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card–or B&N–and all three Darkness Falls books on December 5th.) 

Anyone who posts their Wildest Moments between November 12th-23rd can enter to win a Kindle FIRE ($199), Kindle Fire Skins, or a $15 Amazon Gift Card. Yes, this means I will visit each blog and read your “wildest” moments."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

EVER Title Contest Winners!

What a fun contest! After writing pitches and queries, isn't it refreshing just to enter your title in a contest? So easy. I'll have to do this again.

This was tough, because we liked a lot these! But here are the winners:

Jessa's Winners


Tendril by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet (Winner of EVER & a query critique)
Screamers by Connie Michael (Winner of EVER & a query critique)

John Wayne Marshall's So-Called "Sex Life" by John Marshall (Winner of EVER)
Stricken by A.K. Morgen (Winner of warm fuzzies)

Jessa's analysis:

Obviously, you can all probably tell I'm a huge fan of one-word titles. (EVER and DIVIDE are examples of that.)

STRICKEN is such a powerful word in and of itself, that I would want to pick up the book just by that. I can't wait to see a cover to go with it!

TENDRIL just sounds so creepy to me, and it is such an un-used word, that the uniqueness alone would make me curious. I know it is a Rapunzel redux, but it could really go a gothic/creepy direction too. Love it!

SCREAMERS makes me picture a dark horror, or a Zombie story - but I could be way off there. I picture an artistic book cover with a drawing of someone screaming, but stuff is coming out of his mouth instead of sound. That makes no sense, I know, but hopefully you get the gist.

My other choice, JOHN WAYNE MARSHALL'S SO-CALLED SEX LIFE, makes me laugh, and just by the title I'd be curious. The title alone makes me think that this is probably a humorous take on the awkwardness of young love and the ups and downs of hooking up in High School and possibly beyond. We've all been there - those awkward moments we wish we could forget - so seeing them through someone else's experiences might make us feel a bit better about our own snafus. This title grabs my attention, and with an equally charming and awkward cover, I think it could make me pick it up and read more.

Sharon's Winners


Once in Limberlost by Natasha Hawkins (Winner of a Red-Cross benefiting title & a query critique)
Broken Branch Falls by Tara Tyler (Winner of a Red-Cross benefiting title & a query critique)

Sharon's analysis:

ONCE IN LIMBERLOST has a great quirky fantasy feel. The word "limberlost" has "lost" in it and also makes me think of the word "limbo". It's a made-up word that reminds of real words and thus evokes real feelings, and that's great way to have a creative title that is still meaningful to people.

BROKEN BRANCH FALLS evokes a clear image and even some sounds and smells. Also it has some good conflict words, "broken" and "fall". There's also a double meaning. Is it a waterfall known as "broken branch" or a broken branch falling? :)

For the record, I also LOVE Tendril and Screamers. Even though I am limited on how many prizes I can give, I wanted to name some runner-ups:

Runner's up:

TENDERWOOD has a strong, epic sound to it. It's another great made-up word that sounds real. My only critique is that "tender" is a warm, fuzzy word and the story is dark. Can we go edgier?

THE GRAVE CLOTHES LAUNDRESS, I'll admit, is a mouthful. :) But something drew me to it, mainly it's sheer originality. It leaves me asking questions, in a good way. And of course "grave" is a great word which evokes an image and lots of emotions. Perhaps it could benefit from being shorter, such as just "The Grave Clothes." Also "laundress" feels somewhat old-fashioned to me, like it would belong on the cover of a literary historical novel, not a paranormal YA.

SPEECHLESS has been used for quite a bit of novels, movies, and albums, so it may be a good idea to find a way to add a new twist to it. However, I liked this matched with the Little Mermaid concept. Under water, you can't speak, and it just gives me a deep sense of the themes you take on in your Little Mermaid re-telling.

Popular Vote Winners

Props to...

Shattered Secrets by Krystal Wade (winner of warm fuzzies)
Heirs of War by Mara Valderran (winner of EVER)

Congratulations winners! 

If you won a copy of EVER, please send your email address to Jessa(at) so she can send it to you. If you won a query critique from her, please send it to the same address.

If you're one of my winners, email your query to sharon(at) and let me know which of these books you would like. Even if your query isn't ready, please send me your book selection by 11/16 so I can purchase it during the promotional period!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Haunted Writing Contest Winners!

Now for the scariest post of all....


T. Loveless, The Air Maiden - Please send your full MS to andrew(at)

Yolanda Renee, Memories of Murder - Please send your full MS to andrew(at)

Brianna Schrum, Corrupted - Please send your full MS to kathleen(at)

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet, Tendril - Please send your first three chapters to jessa(at)

Natasha Hawkins, Ignite - Please send your first three chapters to jessa(at)


It's a draw! Each of the winners came from a different team. But I'll give evil props to Thea Gregory, Mike Robinson, Gerilyn Marin whose minions received full requests.

I guess that means we're equally evil. Re-match, maybe?

And our winners by default...

Kelley Harvey and Cat Scully from The Dark Side won full requests from Jessa Russo in GUTGAA during the course of the contest so were not eligible to enter this one because they had already won the prize! The fact that they were both on my team may be evidence that I was cheating when I picked my minions. Well...I am a villain after all. But for the record, I only knew about Kelley's request and not Cat's. :)

Winners, please send your submissions in an attached word document.

I want to thank you all for your participation! Even if you didn't get a request, I hope you got some helpful feedback and gained some good connections. Perhaps a different project will catch our editors' eye, so you're all invited to submit to Curiosity Quills again in the future if you have something new.

For more opportunities to connect with other authors, I encourage you to check out my other site, The Blog Tour Exchange. I'd love to keep working with you as blog tour hosts!

EVER Title Contest - Vote for your favorites!

We have lots of great titles here to choose from! In comments, tell us which ones you like the most. Jessa Russo will be picking the final winners, but who knows, maybe you can convince her. Jessa's two favorites will win a free copy of EVER and a query critique. As an extra bonus, I'll also be picking two of my favorites and giving them a copy of the title of their choice from this list and and a query critique.

I didn't mention this rule earlier, but to make it even, I only put the first of your titles in the list if you listed more than one. If you want to switch which of your titles is in play, please let me know ASAP!

Extra super-duper bonus prize: Three published authors from Curiosity Quills Press wanted to jump in the ring (even though they can't win). The first person to tell me which titles belong to WIPs by Krystal Wade, Ayden Morgen, and Jessa Russo will also win a title of their choice from this list. Just put your answer in comments!

Dark One's Mistress, Fantasy

Elysian Fields, Adult Urban Fantasy

Broken Branch Falls, MG Fantasy

TENDERWOOD, YA, Dark Romantic Fantasy

The Grave Clothes Laundress, YA Paranormal 

Speechless, YA Contemporary/Fairy Tale Retell (Little Mermaid)

TENDRIL, YA Neo-Gothic Rapunzel retelling

Screamers YA urban fantasy

Shattered Secrets, a YA Thriller & Urban Fantasy

John Wayne Marshall's So Called "Sex Life" YA a comedic autobiography

Sibylline Nights, NA contemporary fantasy

Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety, historical fiction/family saga

Heirs of War, Crown of Flames, NA Fantasy (second book in the Heirs of War series)

Branded - NA Contemporary Dystopian.

Stricken (The War Scrolls: Book One), NA Urban Fantasy

Ocean Black, urban fantasy

Kentucky Rain, YA coming of age

DIVIDE, a YA mash-up of a fairytale redux and a gothic horror

The World Beyond the Window (YA Dystopic)

Once in Limberlost (YA Speculative Fiction)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Giveaway Supporting The Red Cross

To support victims of Hurricane Sandy and other disasters, my publisher Curiosity Quills Press is donating 50% of proceeds from select titles to the American Red Cross from 11/9/12-11/16/12. I've already purchased most of the promotional titles, but to add my support, I'd like to buy them again during the promotional period. So, who wants one? Enter using the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win the title of your choice!

Here are the titles benefitting the Red Cross:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Great Title Post

I have to say, I'm somewhat of a book title aficionado, if such a thing exists. But no one ever asks me for feedback on their title. Queries, first pages, whole novels, sure. But why don't we talk about titles more?

It seems like an important oversight as titles are the first words of the book we read. They're the ones plastered across the cover. They should be flawless. 

Here is how to pick a good title:

Start by brainstorming. Write a list of all the important elements in your book, I included examples from my upcoming novel, The Charge.
  • Themes: power, leadership, overcoming the mistakes of our ancestors, becoming a man, finding yourself, David vs. Goliath, freedom
  • Things: storm, blue, electricity, energy, lightning, crown, bomb, destruction, flag, charge, legacy
  • People: King, orphan, son, heir, traitor, President, leader, revolutionary, cowboy, dynasty, ancestors, father, tyrant
  • Places: Texas, Empire, No Man's Land, alternate history, Alamo, United States, wasteland, anarchy
Now start putting things together. Write down some possible titles. Chances are, when you find the right one, you'll "just know." But for something more scientific, here are some points to consider.
  • Originality - Search Amazon for your book title, and you might go ahead and search the whole internet too, just in case your title is also a brand of vacuum cleaner or something. There is no rule saying you can't share your title with another book, but if it's been used over and over, go ahead and cross it off the list.
  • Evoke emotion - The words in your title need to cause some kind of reaction. There should be conflict implied or an image or feeling evoked.
  • Be specific - Avoid vague concepts like A Hero's Regret or A Journey of Faith. It's too vague to mean anything really. Again, use words that we can see or feel and do something original and unexpected.
  • Voice/tone/genre - Your title needs to fit your book. For example, "Game of Thrones" sounds great for an epic fantasy, but it's not right for a light contemporary romance. If your book is epic and serious, it needs a title to match (Atonement). If it's funny and quirky, your title should be too (The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse).
  • Bonus goodness - I love it when titles have double meaning (Empire Falls) or unexpected twists (The Devil Wears Prada, Lord of the Flies). 
After lots of thinking, I chose The Charge because it has double meaning - a responsibility one must take on and an electric charge, which fit my book perfectly. I am quite pleased with it. :)

Some of my favorite titles:

The Hunger Games - Atonement - Fight Club - Never Let Me Go - Game of Thrones - A Team of Rivals - The Tipping Point - The Grapes of Wrath - Of Mice and Men - All The King's Men - The Lord of The Flies - Lord of The Rings - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - The Devil Wears Prada - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - War and Peace - Brave New World - Empire Falls - Faithful Place - Ender's Game - The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - The Last Condo Board of The Apocalypse (shout-out to my friend Nina Post)

Title fails:

I love J.K. Rowling, but this title leaves a lot to be desired. It strongly violates the evoke emotion rule. Both the word "Casual" and "Vacancy" are the opposite of conflict. She should have called it Uptight No Rooms Available. Seriously though, I get no emotion from this title and no image. Boring.

Despite what you might think about the series, I like the first two titles. 50 Shades of Grey evokes both the theme and has double meaning with the "Grey". Not too shabby. 50 Shades Darker - works well with the first book title and ups the tension. 50 Shades Freed? is not a color. This makes no sense.

Ah, fishing...the conflict...the excitement...the passion it evokes. Okay, no. This title sounds like a boring day trip your dad made you take.

For some fun title fails, check out this article, "15 Most Ridiculous Titles" and a spoof on what books should have been titled, "The Best of Better Book Titles."

Fore more tips, also check out, "How To Title Your Book," by Rachelle Gardner.

If you haven't already, you can enter the Ever title contest here. But hurry, I'll post the titles for voting tomorrow!

What are some of your favorite titles? Least favorite?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

EVER Title Contest

Today we have a fun mini contest, brought to you by Ever by Jessa Russo

You painstakingly edit all 80,000 words of your novel, but what about the words plastered across the cover? I think we can all agree that we DO judge books by their covers, and that includes the title. A good title (or a bad one) can make a big difference in whether or not your book attracts readers (or agents and editors). It's your first chance to set the tone for the novel and display your voice.

So, don't forget to ask your critique partners and beta readers for feedback on your title! 

To play, enter your title in comments on this blog post by midnight CST 11/7. You can use a title for a finished novel or WIP in any stage of development. In your comment, please also include your genre. A good title for romance and a good title for horror are different. :) (Example: EVER, YA paranormal romance). 

On 11/8, I'll post the titles and Jessa Russo and I will pick our favorite titles. They'll also be a place where you can vote for your favorite. The prizes are a free copy of EVER and a query critique by Jessa Russo. In addition to being an author, Jessa is also YA/NA acquisitions editor for Curiosity Quills Press, so her query critique is gold!

Later this week, I'll be posting "The Great Title Post," with all my tips on how to pick a great title.

I'll start with my analysis of the title, EVER.

Seventeen-year-old Ever's love life has been on hold for the past two years. She's secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he's completely oblivious.

Of course, it doesn't help that he's dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible.

Frustrated and desperate for something real, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever's life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer.

Some girls lose their hearts to love.

Some girls lose their minds.

Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul.

"EVER" gets my title seal of approval. It's the MC's first name of course, but it's also reminiscent of "forever" a concept which fits well with romance, especially romance with a ghost. Although reminiscent of the word "forever", "EVER" is much snappier and much less sappy and cliched than using "forever" itself. Imagine how different it would be if she called the book "Forever Love" or similar. You want the reader to think "forever love" but it should be more subtle, like she did with "EVER".

The word "EVER" is also a pretty word. It's fun to say. It feels dramatic and epic and has that great "V" sound.

Good titles don't have to be short, but they often are. Unless you're going for something creative and quirky like Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, short and simple is a good bet. Short and simple is especially good for when you are going for dramatic and mysterious, which fits with EVER.

Kudos to Jessa Russo on a great title!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Haunted Writing Contest - Call for Submissions

Alright minions, you've been tortured enough to make you just the right amount of crazy to be considered for Curiosity Quills Press. Now it's time to face the criminal masterminds! 

If you haven't yet, you can learn more about your judges here:

Jessa Russo - YA/NA
Andrew Buckley - Adult

Please submit your query and first page to before midnight CST on 10/31. (That's midnight of Halloween night).

Good luck! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 to your assigned lair

The super villains have spoken and picked their minions. I'm sorry for the delay in posting this, my little minions at home were making things difficult for me today.

Without further ado...

Sharon Bayliss - The Dark Side (you know you want to come over)
Kelley Harvey*

James Wymore - Dark Brain, master of hypnosis, seeking Darkling minions
Rhiann Wynn-Nolet
Connie Michael

Court Young - The House of Gaunt (pure bloods only)
L.P. Hernandez

Dawna Raver - The Mystical Masters

Gerilyn Marin - The Phantom Court

Thea Gregory - The Zombie Culinary Institute

Mike Robinson - The Mighty Minotaurs of Metaphysics
Yolanda Renee

Krystal Wade - Frankenstein's Laboratory

*Kelley - Jessa already made a request from you, correct? I still want you on my team, but you won't count towards the team request count because that wouldn't be very fair! :)

If you're not listed here, then I couldn't find a Haunted Writing Clinic post from you. If I'm wrong, please let me know!! I'll email the teams soon with contact information and more instructions.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Haunted Writing Clinic Battle for Minions

Hello there, sweet minions. The time has come for you to be sorted into houses based on your unique evil characteristics. Because the super villains want to screw with your mind and make you paranoid, we'll be having a secret draft to pick minions. We won't ever tell you who was picked first and last, so you'll just have to obsess about it forever. However, you can feel good knowing that your super villain chose you at some point. :)

To make it easy for the super villains to pass judgement upon you, please post your polished query and first page again between now and Wednesday. If you're new to the contest, or for whatever reason haven't posted yet, you MUST post your query and first page before Wednesday if you would like a minion to mentor you.

We'll announce the teams on 10/24.

After minions are selected, your super villain will provide more detailed critique of your submission package offline and will be available to answer questions you have about writing, submissions, or publishing.

If you want your submission to be considered by the criminal mastermind judges, you'll need to email them to me by the witching hour on All Hallows' Eve (midnight CST the night of 10/31). I'll post closer to that date with more detailed instructions.

The team whose minions get the most requests will win bragging rights as villain supreme.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Introducing The Blog Tour Exchange

I've cooked up something new! 

The Blog Tour Exchange is a free matching site for authors who wish to conduct blog tours to promote their books. By becoming a member, you agree to promote other authors' books on your blog and they do the same for you. By becoming a host, you'll build connections with other authors and a platform for marketing your own current or future book.

Please check it out and spread thew word. Thanks friends!

Learn more at How It Works then sign up at Become A Host.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Successful First Page

Here it is! My successful first page for my upcoming debut novel, The Charge. To be fair, right now it has marks all over it from my editor, so this probably won't be the final version you see in print. :)


Warren’s mother had taped his old Star Wars comforter over the patio door of their apartment.  He didn’t pause too long to wonder why.  His mother suffered from what his brother called, “severe eccentricity,” and blacking out the windows with old sheets for no obvious reason wasn’t out of character.  All in all, she had done better than he had expected in her first year with both of her sons out of the house.  Just in case that didn’t last, Warren always came back home when she asked him to.  But if she had called him because she had forgotten how to use the dishwasher again, he was heading right back to campus to enjoy the day after finals the way it was intended to be enjoyed - drunk and poolside.
He wiped his feet like he had been taught even though their revolting brown carpeting didn’t show much.  He kind of missed the crappiness of their apartment, although he didn’t know why because his new apartment in Eugene was equally as crappy.  Still, there was something about the smell of the pine trees in the courtyard and apartment pool chlorine that let Warren know that he was home.
His mother stood in their kitchen next to their yellow 1980s stove, peeling fake wood countertops, and a refrigerator that always looked too small next to Warren and his other super-tall family members. She held a box of uncooked spaghetti and didn’t respond to his presence right away.  It looked like she’d been holding and squeezing the box for a while and most of the pasta inside was broken.  Something was…off.  It was like she had gotten old overnight.  The wrinkle between her eyes was deeper and a few more strands of gray had found their way into her waist length black hair.  Warren took the box of spaghetti out of her hands.
“I was going to make you lunch,” she said.
“I’m not hungry.”
It was true.  The two Red Bulls in Warren’s hung over and now worried stomach were not sitting well. 
“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Frightening First Page Fouls

For first page week in the Haunted Writing Clinic and Contest, I'd like to share the frightening first page mistakes that can make your worst nightmare come true...the agent or editor may stop reading.

Common first page mistakes:

1) Too many characters - I recommend introducing no more than two characters on page one (you could possibly get away with three, but probably not more). That includes people not in the scene that the characters mention. Too many characters introduced right away, confuses and frustrates a tired editor. Also be careful of introducing too many places and made-up words, especially in fantasy.

2) Poor orientation - That's sort of a fancy way of saying, "I have no clue what's going on here." On the  first page you want to use clear and specific imagery quickly so the reader can visualize the scene. It's not the place to introduce complicated concepts. Stick with dramatic, yet universally understandable details and images so the reader wastes no mental power trying to figure out what's going on and can focus completely on getting immersed in the story.

3) Being boring - Capturing the reader's attention is job one on a first page and pretty much everyone knows this universal rule, but I still run into some ho-hum first scenes. That doesn't mean your first scene has to include explosions, sex, and/or sword fights, but it should include:
-Some conflict or tension
-Interesting or unique details about the character and/or setting

4) Gimmicks and otherwise over-doing it - On other side of the coin, I see a lot of writers trying too hard to make first scenes exciting and it loses it's power. Here are some examples:
-Starting with a dream
-Making the reader think something scary is happening, but it really isn't
-Using a prologue to mask an otherwise ho-hum opening
-Overwrought voice, especially in YA - think overly sarcastic or cliche teens

5) Excessive descriptions of character's physical appearance - A few well placed details about a character's appearance can help with orientation, but these details should flow organically with the narrative. The first page is not the place to take the reader out of the story to describe the physical attributes of your character in detail.

6) Unlikable characters - We have to care about what happens to your character even if you're writing about a serial killer. Make sure you're not turning off your reader right away by showing off their most annoying attributes. I won't name names, but I have stopped reading books on page one because I knew right away that I didn't want to spend a whole book with the annoying MC.

7) Outside of MC's POV - Nothing confuses faster than starting your story in any POV other than the MC from your query. Even if you have multiple POVs in your novel, start with whoever started your query.

8) Telling, passive voice, grammar mistakes, typos, too many adjectives and adverbs - These sorts of things should be edited out of your writing as much as possible anyway, but you're more likely to get away with it on page 100 than page 1. Your first page should showcase your best writing and we assume you've edited and revised it carefully. If you screw up here, an agent and editor will assume that the rest of your book contains even more screw ups.

In summary, here is what you should do:

1) Use concrete, compelling imagery
2) Keep it simple. Any time your reader is trying to figure out what's going on in a scene, they're being taken out of the story.
4) Be interesting. Include conflict, voice, and interesting details.
5) Have the reader invest in the character by showing off their heroic or sympathetic attributes. Even antiheroes need to be likable enough for us to care what happens to them.
6) Revise and edit. Make sure you get lots of critique from people you can trust to be honest. (preaching to the choir here!)

Tomorrow I'll be posting my first page! Come back and tell me if I followed all my own rules. :)

More super villains:
James Wymore - Dark Brain, master of hypnosis, seeking Darkling minions

Court Young - The House of Gaunt (pure bloods only)

Dawna Raver - The Mystical Masters

Gerilyn Marin - The Phantom Court

Thea Gregory - The Zombie Culinary Institute

Mike Robinson - The Mighty Minotaurs of Metaphysics

Krystal Wade - Frankenstein's Laboratory

The Criminal Masterminds

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Haunted Writing Clinic and Contest - First Page Week

Welcome to Week 2 of the horrorific Haunted Writing Clinic and Contest. This week minions are posting their first pages for examination and slaughter. Super villains are posting their successful first pages and tips.

If you're in the mood for a good scare, it's not too late to sign up!

Check out an interview with criminal mastermind judge Jessa Russo.

And don't forget to visit the blogs of the super villains!

Sharon Bayliss - The Dark Side (you know you want to come over)

James Wymore - Dark Brain, master of hypnosis, seeking Darkling minions

Court Young - The House of Gaunt (pure bloods only)

Dawna Raver - The Mystical Masters

Gerilyn Marin - The Phantom Court

Thea Gregory - The Zombie Culinary Institute

Mike Robinson - The Mighty Minotaurs of Metaphysics

Krystal Wade - Frankenstein's Laboratory

The Criminal Masterminds

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Query Formula

When I was writing a query, I wanted a Mad-Libs style template that would tell me exactly what to say.  Query writing may not be quite that simple, but there is a standard formula that will work for most stories. If you don't know where to begin or if you want to scrap everything and start over, try using this template to get you started. 

By the way, this isn't intended to be the world's greatest query. I wrote it tonight based on my Sims 3 Supernatural characters. :)

Template for a query:

1. Introduce your main character. (Leif Trick) Share a detail to give a taste of their character. (blue hair, collects bugs) If the setting is important, share a detail about that too. (Moonlight Falls)

2. Describe the inciting incident that changes the MC's life forever and sends them on their journey. (drinks potion and sprouts fairy wings)
3. Outline the MC's primary goal. (Find cure to reverse fairy transformation)
4. Describe the obstacle getting in the way of the goal (zombie invasion makes being a fairy useful)
5. Summarize stakes or conflict (Being fairy and saving town vs. meeting goal of being normal again)
6. Title, word count, genre, comps, & bio.

 [SB1]Introduce your MC. Include an interesting detail.

 [SB2]The inciting incident that changes the MC’s life forever and starts them on their journey.

 [SB3]Describe the MC’s primary goal.

 [SB4]Describe the obstacle that keeps the MC from their goal.

 [SB5]Summarize the conflict or stakes.

 [SB6]Title, word count, genre, comps, bio

And now with my real successful query for The Charge...

Dear Curiosity Quills Editor,


Sharon Bayliss

 [SB1]Introduce MC (Warren King) with interesting detail (protects brother from bullies)

 [SB2]Inciting incident. (Warren’s brother is kidnapped and he finds out that they’re Texas royalty.

 [SB3]Describe the obstacle keeping him from meeting his goal. (The King is hunting him down)

 [SB4]Describe the goal of the MC. (Save his brother)

 [SB5]Romantic complication – if applicable.

 [SB6]Summarize conflict/ stakes.

 [SB7]Title, word count, genre. I couldn’t think of any good comps. J CQ does not request a bio in the query.

You can see with the two examples that there is naturally going to be some variation in ordering and the details needed, but the same basic concepts are the focus of the queries. 

Super simple blank template:

(Age*)_____ year old (Name)_______ is (interesting detail)_________ in (place) ________. Then one day (inciting incident)___________.

Now (name)_______ must (goal)___________. But (obstacle)_________ is stopping him/her. (Name)_______ must decide whether to (choice #1)_______ or (choice #2)________ or (stakes)_______ will happen.

*Age is only needed in MG, YA, and NA

Obviously, if you just filled this out, it would be a pretty lame query, but it could give you the basic framework. It can help to quiet the noise of all those details in the book that seem critical to you, but probably should be left out of the query. After you have the basic format down, then infuse it with voice (which I'll talk about later).

Try this out and let me know how it works for you!

Here are some of my past blog entries on queries:

I'd also like to share my favorite query link, "The Parts of a Good Query Letter" by Susan Dennard.