Thursday 30 August 2012

The Query - 3 Tips for that query...You have 10 seconds to catch the editor's eye! Make each second count.

Are you going to be noticed?

I subscribe to a Travel Writer's website as along with writing novels and flash fiction, I write travel articles about the places I've been (and as my followers know, I've been to plenty...). 

I learned about the 'pitch' when I studied Journalism years ago, and yes, in freelance journalism it's all about 'pitching the story' to editors, much like your story pitch for that wonderful novel you've written. I was recently sent this little article on the 'query' for travel articles and it works fine for querying that agent or editor for your novel...

I've recently submitted a manuscript to a publisher. I'm quite confident my ms is a good one, but I wonder whether the query letter I sent along with the ms will be good enough to catch the editor's eye. Oh, those we sink and swim by them?

Over to The Right Way to Travel...

"This week, we’re talking about techniques to help you sell your travel articles faster and easier.

And, today, I’d like to focus on the query letter – the letter you send to editors pitching your story to their publication.

Many writers treat their query letter as an after-thought, once the “hard work” of writing their story is over. But this is a huge mistake. Your query, you see, is the advertisement for your story.And, however good your article might be, if it’s not accompanied by a compelling query, it’s unlikely to ever meet an editor’s eye.

To make matters harder, Denver Post Travel Editor Kyle Wagner says you have just 10 seconds (or less) to win over an editor with your pitch.

So, how do you get your editor at “Hello?”

Here are three suggestions from Kyle:

** 1. It’s all about the subject line and/or the first sentence.

A truthful editor will admit that they devote about 10 seconds to every query. That means you have the subject line and maybe one or two sentences into your query to get some attention. If you can’t woo the editor then, your romance is over before it’s begun.

** 2. Use your writing skills.

I’m amazed at how many writers think it’s OK to put 100% effort into their stories but only 40% into the query. Make sure the editor will want to read the story by dazzling them just as much by your query prose. Spelling counts. Use the same active verbs and strong adjectives as you do in your story.

** 3. Just because it’s e-mail doesn’t mean I'm your drinking buddy.

Don’t use the editor’s first name, don’t start off with your credentials or the famous people you know, and don’t act in a familiar, informal way as if you and the editor were at a bar together last night. Address it like a professional letter.

Be sure to keep these tips in mind next time you’re composing your query."

The Right Way to Travel
2012 American Writers & Artists Inc

  • Do you agree with this 'query' advice?
  • Do you have any 'query' tips to share?

Friday 24 August 2012

Romantic Friday Writers - Challenge No 43 - The Romantic Picnic.

The RomanticFridayWriters bi-monthly challenge this week is 'The Romantic Picnic.  I'm writing a sequel to my previous Challenge, I Need a Change, with the setting in a romantic paradise, based on a real island in Fiji. If you didn't catch my story you can read it here. The challenges are open to all writers of prose or poetry.

Here are the guidelines for this challenge:

The "Romantic Picnic."  

- Who initiates the picnic; is this a first date or dedication to the continuing relationship? 

- Is there an agenda to the picnic: marriage proposal, pregnancy announcement, promotion or new job assignment? 

 - is the picnic all about the continuing romantic relationship: one lover affirming their devotion to the other, or a mutually shared, opportune moment of togetherness?  

***Any genre, any POV; just remember to include a romantic element and a picnic, in 400 words or less.***

Back to the Island

Inya spread the mat on the lush grass, watching how the palm tree shadows painted pictures with the midday light. Squinting into the sun, he remembered a day just like this, six months ago. Their last picnic.

Joy spiked his heart just thinking of her. From the night she’d tripped over his fishing line, to the day she’d left on the boat, they’d been inseparable. What a week that’d been! She’d promised to come back, but he’d been afraid to hope.  

She was here! He’d seen her boat come in. Afraid to meet it, he’d decided to wait for her to find him. That’d mean she really wanted him. She was good at tracking him down. 

Wherever he was, she’d find him.

He opened the hotel picnic basket. The hotel staff loved Sally. Said she was perfect for him. They’d given him all these goodies and a bottle of chilled champagne.

He lifted the plates out of their plastic bindings and set them out side by side. Then he reached for the cutlery and napkins. Pretty fancy!

Before getting out the delicious-looking sandwiches and papaya salad, he picked some gorgeous red ginger flowers from a nearby bush. He filled a plastic tumbler with fresh water and set them in the middle of the mat. 

He checked the sun. She should be here any minute. Just thinking about her made him hot. He threw off his tee shirt and dived into the water. Ah, cool! He was so nervous he was as stiff as a board. He started to swim out to the islands in long, lazy strokes, luxuriating in the glorious feeling of soft water flowing around him. He rolled onto his back and looked at the cloudless blue sky.


Sally’s here!

Splashing madly like a kid learning to swim, he looked towards the shore. There she was, running into the water, throwing off her clothes as she ran. 

In a few strokes they were all arms and legs and gulping water, gabbling nonsense. He pulled her close and kissed her, and kissed her...

‘I love you Inya.’

‘I love you Sally. I’m never letting you off this island without me again.’

‘I’m never leaving without you.’


‘Starving. Do I detect a picnic under a tree?’

‘You do.’

‘How romantic. Do you have kava?’

‘Nah. The hotel sent champagne.’

‘I’m more of a kava girl.’

‘I know. Just wait till tonight.’



Challenge #44 -  Sept 7 -  I Should Have Kissed You  FW/RunnerUp
Challenge #45 -  Sept 21 -Oh How I Hate My Beautiful Friend
Challenge #46 -  Oct 5   -  Birthday Madness 
Challenge #47 -  Oct 19 -  Halloween – House of Horrors FW/RunnerUp

Like to read more RFW posts on The Romantic Picnic. Go to RomanticFridayWriters for the list...


Tuesday 21 August 2012

#RomanticFridayWriters - Challenge No 43 - Friday August 24 - The Romantic Picnic - Do join us for a feast!

 Our bure for the night in  Navala
Hello there!

I'm back from my 6-week holiday in Fiji. It was awesome. More on that later...

I don't often do a post completely devoted to the lovely group of writers, RomanticFridayWriters, but this week we're doing a promo, hoping to get more writers involved. For those of you who don't know who we are, we are a group of 50+ members, prose writers and poets, who write to fortnightly/bi-monthly challenges.Considering it is an ongoing blogfest we feel we do well to average about 15 postings each prompt, but of course we'd like to see more.

Francine Howarth
Donna Hole
RomanticFridayWriters was the brainchild of yours truly, ably assisted by author Francine Howarth in the early days. Francine continues to write for us, but my current co-host is Donna Hole, who has added another perspective, especially regarding critique, to RFW.

The aim of RomanticFridayWriters is to provide a safe, supportive writing environment to practise our writing and to receive as much feedback or critique as we desire. Often published author members find an excerpt from their current WIP that fits the prompt and use it as an opportunity to gauge reader's likes and dislikes regarding their current story. 

Francine created this postcard for RFW feedback requests
All of us believe we have found a place to work on our craft. Keeping to the 400 word limit is certainly good practise for editing out superfluous words. When a story's really itching to be told in more words, writers often continue the story in another prompt, like a serial. Commenters often offer suggestions on how a story could continue. A good way to gauge if your story is striking a chord with readers. (I use reader reactions to see which stories to submit to magazines.) Another member's serialised story was so gripping she has been urged to turn it into a novella, with an author member offering to assist in its production.

In between prompts, we host Guest Authors who inspire us in our craft. Currently we are hosting RFW members who are regaling us with their authorial successes - Madeleine Maddocks, Kiru Taye and Joy Campbell. Go here to read their stories.

Our prompts are very wide ranging with the hosts taking turns in dreaming up challenges. We are not all hearts, flowers, chocolates and hotness, we are writers who are all about telling the story. There is often only a small romantic element in our stories and more often than not, no HEA, but that is entirely up to the individual writer. 

Overall, we have serious fun!

Each Wednesday after the previous Friday challenge, there is a Wrap Up Post, where each entry receives a short critique. Writers return for the lively discussion. See  an example here...

Challenges are always posted ahead so writers can think about the upcoming challenges. There is a Challenges Page at RomanticFridayWriters website which offers further guidelines and suggestions for each prompt, but only two at a time so we don't get confused.

For special challenges which often offer a 600 word limit, and occasionally a 1,000 word limit, we offer a prize for Featured Writer and Runner Up. The prize is a badge to post on the winner's blog which is an accolade to the writer for work well done. We don't write for specific prizes other than the praise of our fellow writers. 

So this Friday's prompt is The Romantic Picnic. It is Donna Hole's prompt, and I quote her from our Challenges Page:

The "Romantic Picnic."  

- Who initiates the picnic; is this a first date or dedication to the continuing relationship? 

- Is there an agenda to the picnic: marriage proposal, pregnancy announcement, promotion or new job assignment? 

 - is the picnic all about the continuing romantic relationship: one lover affirming their devotion to the other, or a mutually shared, opportune moment of togetherness?  

***Any genre, any POV; just remember to include a romantic element and a picnic, in 400 words or less.***

This should be fun! 

I hope you can join us. A Linky goes up at RFW on Thursday morning AEST. Read the Submission process, then fire away! We'd love you to join us - prose or poetry...Any questions, ask me in the comments...


Challenge #43 - Aug 24 -  The Romantic Picnic
Challenge #44 -  Sept 7 -  I Should Have Kissed You  FW/RunnerUp
Challenge #45 -  Sept 21 -Oh How I Hate My Beautiful Friend
Challenge #46 -  Oct 5   -  Birthday Madness 
Challenge #47 -  Oct 19 -  Halloween – House of Horrors FW/RunnerUp

Friday 17 August 2012

My entry for the 'What if...?' Blogfest - Plot Twist

WHAT IF? Fairytale Madness BlogFest!
(Runs August 13 - 17)          

Have you noticed that by changing one detail; one event, one character trait, one thought... you can completely alter the rest of the story?

For this bloghop we are exploring "What If...?"

Not only do we want it to be fun, but it will hopefully be a fun writing exercise and make for some great reading during the hop!

To enter: 

Think of your favorite "well known" fairytale and ask "What If…!"

       Post your story anytime between August 13th to 17th. 

·         Flash Fiction – 300 WORD MAX. (You don't have to tell the whole story in three hundred words. Pick what works to illustrate your point.)

I've chosen the Plot Twist category. What if Cinderella's Prince was a vampire seeking a partner...of course, Cindy fits the bill...

Cinderella and the Prince of Darkness

‘Cindy, don’t go!’

‘I’m 18! I’ll please myself!’

‘Why wear all black to the Prince of Darkness ball? You look like a Gothic princess,’ said Philomena and Persephone.

‘That’s the idea, idiots.’

‘Cindy, this rave will be dangerous. There’ll be party drugs.’

‘Oh pfft! You hate me. Years of humiliation, staying home while you partied. God, it’s my time.’

The step-sisters were horrified. Where was Cindy’s long blond hair, her vintage dresses? Who was this stranger in silken net and all-black accessories?

‘Here’s your shoes Cindy.’

Never ever touch my shoes.'

‘What’s Mum going to say?’

‘She wants me dead. No problem. Thanks to her when he sees my hands the Prince’ll think I’m some lackey.’

‘Come home before midnight!’

‘Or I'll turn into a pumpkin? Idiots. The party’ll be pumpin'.’

‘But Mum…’

‘Pfft! I answer to my mum.’

‘But your mum’s…’


On the subway Cindy hung from the strap and stroked her cross, thinking about the little white dove that’d left her a message at her mother’s graveside:

 ‘Come to the Prince of Darkness party! Best-dressed prize! A private session with the Prince!’ 

She’d wept with bitter joy…

Cindy entered through the large black doors into the cave-like room. Everyone was astonished at her beauty. The Prince himself, who’d been checking out the girls, flew down the stairs and took her hand.

‘Why, Prince, are you dancing with me? All the girls are dying to dance with you. It’s in their eyes.’

‘Their eyes are dead. Yours are alive.’

‘Hmm. I desire your kiss of death.’

‘You want to be with me forever after?’

‘Yes. Mortal life is overrated.’

In his private rooms, the Prince removed Cindy’s razor-sharp stiletto.
He kissed her, then pricked her with her stiletto heel. His cries echoed through the building - ‘Ah, my Princess has come!’

I hope you enjoyed my twisted fairy tale. To read more, check out the list...

And here's a snap of my penultimate day in Fiji...

Cassava and Coconut Pie at Lautoka Market...yummy!


Challenge #44 -  Sept 7 -  I Should Have Kissed You  FW/RunnerUp
Challenge #45 -  Sept 21 -Oh How I Hate My Beautiful Friend
Challenge #46 -  Oct 5   -  Birthday Madness 
Challenge #47 -  Oct 19 -  Halloween – House of Horrors FW/RunnerUp

Check out RomanticFridayWriters Challenge Page for more details...

Friday 10 August 2012

#RomanticFridayWriters - Challenge No 42- I NEED A CHANGE!

The RomanticFridayWriters challenge this week is 'I Need A Change'. A suggested setting is a romantic paradise (not that that would have anything to do with me being in Fiji at the moment!). It's to be a first-person challenge of 400 words of prose or prosetry. These challenges are open to all writers of prose or poetry.

You don’t belong here,’ Inya said, his white teeth gleaming in the dark.

‘I belong here with you Inya,’ I said.

‘Your life is far away. I’m just a holiday romance.’

‘You’re wrong. I don’t want to ever go home.’

‘You came looking for a change. You’ve had your change. Your boat leaves tomorrow. Be on it.’

Inya strode off through the trees. I knew he’d go fishing on the other side of the island. His way of relaxing. That’s where we first met. I’d just arrived on Anam Island and was taking a moonlight stroll when I tripped over his line in the sand.

‘Damn!’ I fell face first into the wet corally stuff.

Strong arms lifted me.

‘You okay?’

I looked into the darkest face and sweetest smile I’d ever seen.

‘I'm fine now. I didn’t see -.’

‘Sorry. No one usually comes this time of night.’

‘Except insomniac me. I’m often wandering round.’

‘You could get into strife that way.’

‘That’s what I’m hoping for.’

He was adorable with beautiful smooth skin and curly hair. No shirt, just a pair of board shorts.  I leaned forward and kissed him.

We sat at the water’s edge the rest of the night sipping kava. We caught no fish, but caught the romance of the spot – lapping waves soft at our feet, misty islands peeping through the fog of early dawn, the majestic elegance of the sailing vessel tacking between islands.

‘I could stay here forever,’ I said.

‘They all say that.’

The next few days were blissful. Inya took me into the village to meet his family - from two sets of grandparents right down to his little baby sister. I loved the way they lived the simple life - catching fish, milking goats, harvesting cassava and taro, drinking fresh-caught rainwater.

After Inya's morning chores, we took a little boat and fished the reef - we snorkeled - we dove amongst the coral.

I lived in my bikini, sulu and flip-flops - no business suit.

How could I go back to the rat race?


The boat sounded its horn as it drifted into the lagoon. My heart was a hollow husk.

‘Ni Sa Moce!’ Farewell.


Inya ran to me, cupped my face in his hands and kissed me, delighting the roaring crowd.

‘Take this. Remember me.’

A beautiful leather plaited wristband. On a mother-of-pearl shell was etched: Inya loves Sally.

I will be back.


WORDS: 407

I hope you enjoyed my little Paradise Romance. To read more on the theme, I Need a Change, click on the writer's names below:

get the InLinkz code

Monday 6 August 2012

What happens when you read trashy magazines! Madeleine Maddocks confesses all...

Many, many thanks, Denise, for inviting me for an interview on your blog, especially now so many of us in the creative writing, blogging world are taking the plunge and self publishing our work. I am DELIGHTED to be here.

Great to have you Madeleine. Firstly, I'm interested in how you got the idea to write this particular story.

For me, ideas for stories come from many different things, like a snippet from a radio programme, something read or heard, being just a couple of examples. For this story, I was at the hairdressers looking through the Celeb photos in Hello and Ok magazine (I stopped reading the spiteful text that goes with them, long ago). Then I came across a different Women’s magazine that included an extremely heart-warming story about a young woman and her soldier boyfriend. I was left with such an unexpected warm glow.

Aha, so you had a magic moment when reading trashy magazines.

Yes, isn’t that the truth! Usually the stories in those magazines seem quite depressing and tawdry, so you can imagine this one left quite an impression. As I thought more about the story, I had a ‘light bulb moment’, as there was one relatively trivial element in the account that got me thinking in that What If? way that writing craft books encourage. Without providing spoilers, I can only say that I realised that I could create my own characters, who suffer a similar tragedy for a novella/short story and explore this element as the twist in my tale. This makes it not quite romance, more realistic fiction with romantic elements.

Yes, there’s quite a difference between the ‘romance’ genre and a ‘romantic’ element to a story.

Now what was informing your plot?

I am fascinated by social psychology and personal relationships and so this story was a great vehicle for exploring what happens when the going gets tough. The ‘who stays and who goes?’  catalyst. The subject is also very topical and full of that all-important conflict, which modern stories demand.

Are you from a military background Madeleine? If not, how did you manage to sound so authentic?

I realised that as I did not come from an army background, I knew nothing about soldiers or what happens to them when they are injured. So I spent the next few days researching these areas, much of which was sobering and heart breaking. I wanted to reflect both sides of opinion about the military. Then I sat down and started to write, mulling over my characters, what they were like, what were their agendas. The rest evolved after edits and revisions. I put the story away for a while, as it was longer than stories in magazines (though it’s occurred to me that it might have made a great serial!)

What happened when you dragged your manuscript out of the ‘bottom drawer’ ?

When I came back to it again recently, it was then that I decided I would launch it as my first e-Publication. After blogging for almost 2 years and submitting stories and challenge pieces, I have recently enjoyed some successes, so I felt more confident to put my story ‘out there’. I am embracing the advice of Neil Gaiman: ‘Learn to write by writing. Make mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something’.

How did you settle on your book cover design?

I wanted something simple that encapsulated both the romantic element of the story and the army theme. The UK flag and the silhouette came into my head immediately, so I trawled the royalty-free image websites (for example, and the design began to materialize. Then I realised the cover wasn’t gritty enough for the story content, so I then played about with other elements and designs and asked my blog audience to vote for their favourites. The feedback/ comments given were invaluable. So I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who took the trouble to vote and comment.

I’ve seen other authors do this, asking reader’s opinions about the cover design. It’s a good way to get readers interested in the upcoming book too!

Thank you Madeleine. It is a pleasure to host you today and I wish you happy sales!

About the Author
With a creative imagination and an imaginary friend to keep her company, Madeleine Sara spent much of her childhood writing stories and making her own books. These days she enjoys blogging on the topic of creative writing, textile crafts, magazine editing and website design. She now lives in Devon, England with her husband and two cats.

Ultimate Sacrifice is available here:
 at   Amazon. UK  Amazon FR     Amazon de

Go here for more launch posts for Madeleine's book.

ALSO, we have India Drummond guest posting at RomanticFridayWriters today. We would love it if you dropped in and said hello.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Insecure Writers Support Group - Creating a Sense of Place

It's the first Wednesday of the month - that means I've been in Fiji for a month (gulp - where did the time go?) and also time for the post for Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click on the badge above to go to lots more posts.

Today is also the Bombshell Launch Party for blogger Madeleine Maddock's ebook, Ultimate Sacrifice. I'll be doing an interview with Madeleine on Monday 6th August. For the full schedule, go here. Good luck Maddy!

Available at   Amazon. UK  Amazon FR     Amazon de

Today let's talk about creating a perfect story (I wish.) But at least we can try to get all the elements we need...

Stories we write are anchored in a specific time and place. That doesn't mean shutting your eyes and jabbing a pin on a map and deciding you'll set your story in the Arctic Circle. No, your story is an entity, and as well as having that story idea, those characters already popping up demanding to be included, you have to have your story and your characters set in the right place.

Think about some of our favourites...can you imagine Wuthering Heights anywhere else but on the wild gothic moors of Charlotte Bronte's 19th Century Yorkshire? Could Oliver Twist be set anywhere else but Dickensian London? Thinking modern now - can you separate Janet Evanovitch's Stephanie Plum from her Trenton, New Jersey roots? What about Alexander McQueen's lady detectives? Don't they just work in Botswana?

Now your mind is racing along and you'll be thinking of your favourite stories - yes, their sense of place is all-embracing. It encompasses not only the physical, but the socio-economic, the cultural, the physical, the language, the politics, the weather, the mood of the place. (And if you're writing fantasy and you're creating a whole world, you need to think about all these things too. If your world boasts triple sun, you've got to know how that affects the people, the seasons, how the shadows are cast.)

"Place...makes the characters real...themselves...[Place] never really stops informing is astir, alive, changing, reflecting, like the mind of man himself." Eudora Welty.

Travelling helps to find that perfect merging of place, characters, plot. As we travel we see the unique, the ridiculous, the different, the quixotic...we see stories everywhere, at least I do.

While cruising the Fiji Islands (sorry, lovely image isn't it?) I came across this unique sight - Fijian locals serenading arriving travellers to their island, Mana Island. Amongst the melody-makers here's this white guy, terribly-bad sun-scorched skin. What's he doing here in this incompatible climate? He looks happy, joyous even. Great story. I've got to write it...And why don't the Fijians wear hats in the boiling hot sun? (Generally it's a cultural thing - insulting to the Chief. Once you could have been cannabilised for just wearing a hat or touching the Chief's head.) I'll tell you, I got quite a headache walking around a Village with no hat on...

  • What about you? Do you think place in your stories is terribly important?
  • If you write fantasy or sci-fi, do you spend ages world building, getting it right?
  • Do you enjoy stories with a great sense of overall place, where it all comes together?