By Your Request: Query Success Stories and Why They Were Successful — AoR Ladies

Want to see the query that landed me a contract with Turquoise Morning Press? I’m sharing it today over at Aussie Owned.

Aussie Writers

Recently I asked you, our readers, what you wanted to see. The answer I received was about querying successfully, how to do it, and examples of successful queries. So today, I have the ladies here, at AOaR telling their stories.

Cassandra Page  Cass!

First off, I should warn you that the query letter contains a minor spoiler for the book. (There was also a bigger one in there, but I’ve deleted it from the example; I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to illustrate the point.)

There are a few reasons why I think this query was successful. I followed a basic when/then structure in the pitch (the first two paragraphs). When Isla’s life starts to spin off the rails, then she must discover the truth about who she is and what she can do. It also outlines the stakes: Isla’s father is in danger and needs rescuing. (He’s such

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The waiting game

On Tuesday over at Aussie Owned and Read, I wrote about the various writing-related ways I distract myself from going crazy while I wait for writing-related things. 🙂

Aussie Writers

I’m an impatient person. (I will pause here while you express shock at this statement… WHY AREN’T YOU EXPRESSING SHOCK?) I’ve always been that way, and it’s something I’ve had to learn to manage over the years. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, writing and publishing books is a special kind of torture for me.

SlothThe publishing industry is a slow-moving beast. Even if you disregard how long it takes me to draft a novel in the first place—I’m jealous of you speedy NaNoWriMo types—so much of publishing is waiting. Waiting for beta feedback. Waiting for responses to queries. Waiting for edits, and covers, and publication dates. And now Isla’s Inheritance has finally been released into the wild, I’ve discovered a new thing to wait for: reviews.

It’s possible to be waiting for all these things AT THE SAME TIME. If you’re a writer, you have probably discovered this…

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NaNoWriMo musings, and a pep talk

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbConfession: when I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I was quietly horrified. (NaNoWriMo, if you’re wondering, is National Novel-Writing Month, a challenge where participants attempt to write 50k words during the month of November.) This was years ago, before I’d even started Isla’s Inheritance, the first novel I successfully completed.

There’s no doubt that jealousy was a factor—at the time, none of my ideas had progressed beyond random thought bubbles, and I had deep-seated doubts about my own ability to sit down and actually write a novel.

Past Cass was very insecure.

But the other factor for me was a fundamental misunderstanding about the point of NaNoWriMo. I hadn’t really internalised the fact that first drafts are generally, well, not very good, and so I objected that the results of these month-long word sprints couldn’t possibly be edited to be publishable in that time. (Most NaNoWriMo participants realise this too, although there are some that just send off their completed draft to an agent or agents on 1 December. If you’re thinking along those lines, DO NOT DO THIS!)

These days I think NaNoWriMo is largely a good thing.

For people that participate, there’s no doubt that it demands a certain level of discipline. Don’t feel inspired? Tough. Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. Can’t write today? You’ll have to write twice as much tomorrow to catch up. It’s a great way to beat procrastination. And for some people that motivation, the fact they’re being held accountable in public (on the NaNo website and by any friends they’ve told), can be just what they need.

Also, even as a non-NaNoWriMo participant (NoNoWriMo?), I’ve found the flurry of moral support among the writing community on social media both heartening and inspirational.

If you’re wondering why I say NaNoWriMo is only largely a good thing, rather than unequivocally, the reason is that the kind of frenzied writing required for NaNo isn’t going to be for everyone. For those people, I expect the best way to benefit from NaNoWriMo is to make the daily or weekly writing goal a habit, so that at the end of November you can keep it going once the pressure drops off. It doesn’t even need to be the 1667 words a day that NaNoWriMo demands. Even if you write 500 words a day, you’ll have a 90k word novel in less than six months.

And then you can start editing. 😉

Even though I understand it better, I still don’t do NaNoWriMo. Sadly, being a single parent that works full time means I can’t find the hours a day that this sort of writing would require. But these days I’m jealous of those that can take part. I do have a minimum word goal but it’s a paltry 2000 words per week—which means it would take me almost a year to write that 90k word novel. (I often write more than this in a week, mind you; that’s just the least I’ll accept from myself.)

To those doing NaNoWriMo who may be struggling, remember: if you don’t get to 50k by 30 November—if you get 40k or 25k or 5k—you haven’t “failed”. You’ve started a novel. Keep writing.

Go, you good things.

Cheerleader Eliza

Hyphens: a quick and dirty guide, by the Hyphenator

It’s been a while—over a year—since I’ve “treated” you guys to a blog post about punctuation. I’ve blogged about dashes (em rules and en rules) before, and also semicolons. Today I want to talk about the dash’s smaller cousin, the hyphen. At work they call me the Hyphenator, which isn’t as lame as it sounds. Ok, it’s probably exactly as lame, but I really love a correctly used hyphen, almost as much as a correctly used semicolon.

I suppose I should just be grateful they don’t call me the Colonator.

Now, I could save you time by pointing out that at least 50% of the time, when I have a question about hyphenation, my first port of call is my trusty old (actually new) dictionary. Words are always changing, and even between dictionary editions a word won’t necessarily be spelled the same way. Words that work as a pair often evolve from being two words to two words with a hyphen to one word. For example, a few years ago a word like “counterterrorism” was spelled “counter-terrorism”, but the hyphen has been worn away with the word’s frequent use over the last decade.

The other 50% of the time, when the thing you’re looking at hyphenating isn’t one word but two or several working as a compound modifier, whether you need a hyphen is a judgement call. The more-common examples will be in the dictionary, but more-unusual ones won’t.

Compound modifiers

A modifier is typically an adjective or adverb, and a compound modifier is (unsurprisingly) a modifier made up of two or more words. Most of the time when I see them they are adjectives; I can’t think of any compound adverb examples off the top of my head, but I won’t rule the possibility out because the English language is a tricksy thing.

Here are some examples:

  • My long-term goals include becoming a bestseller.
  • She gazed at the blue-green sea.
  • I have a five-year-old son.
  • I’ve got that I-can’t-think-of-any-more-examples feeling.

In all these instances, the bolded words are a compound adjective modifying a noun. Not every word I’ve bolded is an adjective itself, but working together, they form one. Importantly, the compound adjectives are all sitting before the noun. In this instance, I almost always hyphenate the modifiers.

If, however, the sentences were written with the adjectives after the noun, you don’t hyphenate them: “My goals for the long term include becoming a bestseller.” (Yeah, good luck with that.)

Exceptions to hyphenating compound modifiers

There are two reasons I wouldn’t hyphenate a compound modifier even when it’s before a noun. One is when the meaning is clear without the hyphen, and the other is when it changes the meaning of the sentence to add a hyphen.

An example I frequently see is a construction where the modifier to the noun is actually an adverb and a verb, such as “the quickly running boy”. In that instance I wouldn’t hyphenate, simply because there’s no possibility of the reader misunderstanding. “Quickly” can only be modifying “running”, not “boy”.

Here’s another example I see at work a lot:

  • I will read the most popular books.
  • I will read the most-popular books.

The first says that I will read more popular books than anyone else, while the second says I will read only the books that are bestsellers. In that case, whether you hyphenate or not depends on what you’re trying to convey. Sometimes it’s better to reword to avoid ambiguity; for example, some people might misread the first sentence as having the second meaning, even without the hyphen, because they don’t know what a pedant I am for hyphens. If I reworded to say “I will read more popular books than anyone else”, there’s no chance they’ll misunderstand.

Hyphenating numbers and ages

Ages: In my first examples, I included one about my son being five. That sentence would work the same way whether I wrote it with or without the word “son”, because ages are written with hyphens. (The exception is if there is a noun and the age sits after it in the sentence.)

  • I have a five-year-old son.
  • I have a five-year-old.
  • My son is five years old.

Numbers: Numbers written in full are always hyphenated where they are more than one word (so from twenty-one onwards).

As an aside, when you switch from writing in full to using digits depends on the style you’re using—at work we write words for whole numbers from one to nine and then use digits from 10 onwards. Most other places it’s whole numbers from one to ninety-nine. There is one exception to using digits beyond a certain number, though. If the number starts a sentence, it should be written in full—so if you have the number 28563 at the start of a sentence, you might want to reword to put something in front of it, or it’s gonna get ugly.

There is more I could write about hyphens, but this post is already on the long side and I’m sure that you’ve all fallen asleep anyway. If you haven’t, high five!

High five

Guest vlog and giveaway for ‘Dream Boy’

DREAM-BOY banner

Writing With a Partner

  About Dream Boy

dream boy cover

Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.

One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | The Book Depository


Enter here to win $10 Gift Certificate to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice)
PLUS a nifty Dream Boy T-shirt!

About the Authors

Mary Crockett likes turtles, licorice, and the Yankees. Madelyn Rosenberg likes cats, avocados, and the Red Sox. Luckily they both like the weirdness of dreams (and each other) enough to write novels together. The friendship has survived three moves, six kids and countless manuscript revisions. Madelyn lives just outside of Washington, D.C. Mary remains in the mountains near their hometowns in southwestern Virginia.

You can find them on Twitter @marylovesbooks and @madrosenberg or their blogs at and

Where to find Mary:  Website | Goodreads Twitter | Facebook 

Where to find Madelyn:  Website | Goodreads Twitter | Facebook



3 Reasons to Write the Book That Calls to You

There is a lot of different advice about what writers should write. I see the occasional clickbait article on social media claiming to give advice on how to write a bestseller, for example (although I’ve never clicked, because I know when someone is trying to sell me something!). The more common mantra for writers is “write what you know”, something I believe in so long as the definition of “what you know” is expanded to include things you’ve researched, or a fantasy world you’ve built until you know it inside out.

But probably the best bit of advice — IMHO YMMV etc — is to write the book that calls to you. I don’t believe in a muse in the literal sense, but there’s no doubt that when I’ve been choosing between two projects, the one that drags me in like a whirlpool, that won’t leave me alone, is the one that gets written.

I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, for various reasons. So here are my three reasons to write the book that calls to you.

Because chasing trends is pointless

If you’re thinking of traditional publishing, there’s not a lot of point in chasing trends. Say you look around the bookstore and think, “Gee, were-swans are hot right now.” By the time you write your were-swan book, edit it, get it beta read, edit it again (and again), and start querying agents or editors, your idea is one of many were-swan books on the slush pile. Publishing is a slow-moving beast; that new trend you see breaking in the bookstores today was actually bought by a publishing house 18 months ago (or longer). Right now, they are buying something new, not the trend you’ve just discovered.

This is also true, although to a lesser extent, with self-publishing. If you’re going to be a proper author–publisher, that still takes time to do right. (Again with the editing, but also with the typesetting and acquiring of or designing a professional cover.)

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write your story about were-swans if that’s what you really want to do, but don’t write it because you think it’s going to be the next were-swan hit. Write it because it’s the story you have to write.

Because writing a book is hard

I don’t want to sound like I’m having a pityfest over here, but sometimes writing a book is simply hard work. It’s not always glorious, giddy typing to the Murder, She Wrote theme — sometimes it’s awkward transition scenes and words that move about as quickly as my son gets dressed when we’re in a hurry. (For the record, that’s not very fast.)

If you love your story, if in the middle of the night you think about your characters and ways you can mess with them, getting through these writing rough patches will be so much easier. This is particularly important if you’re still working on your first novel, wondering whether you can do it. (Note: you can.)

Because you’re going to read that book a lot

I just finished proofreading the galley proof of Isla’s Inheritance. I’ve read it from cover to cover (so to speak) at least two or three times in the last six months. Before I got my publishing deal, I read it maybe four more times, going over it again and again, looking at places to tighten or tweak. So not only was it my life for as long as it took me to draft it, it’s been a huge part of my life since then.

Regardless of how you decide to publish, you’re going to read your book again. And again. And again. If it’s not a story your passionate about, you’re going to get more than a little stabby. Even if you are passionate about it you may get a little stabby; it can’t be avoided. But love makes it easier.

I feel like I should leave you with some sort of uplifting message: art harder, or write the story you want to read. Something like that. But instead, I’ve decided to make you an inspirational meme. It’s my gift from me to you. 🙂


This Writer’s Space: Ashley R. Carlson

This Writer's Space

This week on This Writer’s Space we have fellow Fall 2014 debut writer, Ashley R. Carlson — although her debut is steampunk fantasy! I love it already!

Where I Write

This is my office, where I write fantastical prose about zeppelins, corrupt governments, and futuristic Victorian clothing (at least I am right now with my steampunk WIP). As you can see, I have an official “writing” chair, with the side ripped up by another item in the picture—my destructive cat, Ava. She rarely sits on my keyboard, instead preferring to leap onto the back of my chair at random times and give me mini-heart attacks. To the left is a notebook full of my WIP’s character names, places, and inspiration/themes to remember, as well paperwork for my one of my current jobs, as an editorial intern for Arizona Foothills Magazine. The post-its are quotes that inspire me, including my favorite by William James: “Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that assures the successful outcome of any venture.”

Ashley_My writing space 1

Where I’m Inspired

I get inspired in a variety of weird places, but felt it best not to take pictures of the inside of my cluttered car or shower—yes, the shower. Please tell me I’m not the only person who gets inspired there; the entire idea behind my current WIP came to me in the shower after watching a Real Housewives of Orange County episode…so yeah. Weird times and places. This is a picture of my whiteboard, which really helps to arrange my thoughts as I plod through my current novel. When I’m writing, I can just spin my chair around (and yell “Wheeee!” if I go ‘round a few times before stopping) and refresh my memory about the current scene, or brainstorm ideas if I get stumped.

Ashley_My writing space 2

To Be Read

Being that I am a huge supporter of e-books and the digital age of the publishing industry, I buy my books on my iPad more often than not. Currently, my TBR list includes Rosehead by Ksenia Anske, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, How We Fall by Kate Brauning (a first cousins’ romance?! What?!), and Divergent by Veronica Roth (to see what all the fuss is about).

Ashley_My writing space 3

About Ashley

Ashley R. Carlson is a fantasy author and editorial intern for Arizona Foothills Magazine and Midnight Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @AshleyRCarlson1 for thoughts on Tinder, animals, and self-publishing, and check out her blogs at and Ashley lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with two dogs and a mean-spirited cat. Ashley will release her debut novel, a steampunk fantasy, in Fall 2014.

Ashley Carlson

This Writer’s Space: Kate Larkindale

This Writer's Space

Today on This Writer’s Space I have a fellow antipodean, Kiwi YA writer Kate Larkindale! Take it away, Kate!

Where I Write

This is where I write (most of the time, anyway). My partner is a recording engineer and he works out of our dining room which is also my at home office. So you can see the mixing console behind my laptop, and the speakers everywhere. As you can imagine, not a lot of dining is done in this room!

It’s not ideal because if we both want to work during the day, we only have the one desk, and because my laptop is easier to move than his whole set-up, I take my stuff to library to work. But since I mainly work in the early hours of the morning before the kids get up, and at night after they go to bed, the shared place thing works okay. One day though, I want a house with a turret so I can claim that as my writing space!Kate_workspacephoto

Where I’m Inspired

There is no one place that inspires me really, but when I go on vacation to the beach, my mind tends to be less full of boring work stuff so I often find myself solving problems with my stories or coming up with new ones. And really, who could help but be inspired by a place as beautiful as this? I apologise for the boats ruining the idyllic scene… My son is kind of obsessed with them and I took this for him to bring home the last time we were there.


To Be Read

My TBR pile? It’s neverending. This massive tower of fiction waiting to be read. And because so many talented writers keep writing, I doubt it ever will. Most of the books I’ve purchased to read are on my Kindle and that doesn’t look super-impressive, so here’s an interpretation of what it might look like if I actually bought everything I want to read as an actual book….


About Kate

Kate Larkindale author picHaving spent a lifetime travelling the globe, Kate Larkindale is currently residing in Wellington, New Zealand. A cinema manager, film reviewer and mother, she’s surprised she finds any time to write, but doesn’t sleep much. As a result, she can usually be found hanging out near the espresso machine.

Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.

She has written eight contemporary YA novels, five of which other people are allowed to see. She has also written one very bad historical romance. She is currently working on a new YA novel that is still looking for a title other than its Twitter hashtag, #juvvielesbian.

Author Links




 About An Unstill Life

Things at home are rough for fifteen-year-old Livvie Quinn. Jules, her beloved older sister is sick again after being cancer free for almost ten years. Her mom becomes more frantic and unapproachable every day. School isn’t much better. Just when she needs them most, her closest friends get boyfriends and have little time for Livvie – except to set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates.

Livvie seeks refuge in the art room and finds Bianca, the school ‘freak’. Free-spirited and confident, Bianca is everything Livvie isn’t. Shaken by her mom’s desperation, her sister’s deteriorating condition, and abandoned by her friends, Livvie finds comfort and an attraction she never felt before with Bianca.

When their relationship is discovered, Livvie and Bianca become victims of persecution and bullying. School authorities won’t help and even forbid the pair to attend the Winter Formal as a couple. If Livvie defies them and goes, she risks expulsion and further ridicule from her classmates. At home, her mother’s behavior escalates to new levels of crazy and Jules is begging for help to end the pain once and for all.

While searching for the strength to make her life her own, Livvie must decide how far she’s willing to go for the people she loves.


Five things to do after you finish your manuscript

In case you missed it, here’s my July post over at Aussie Owned and Read, where I make suggestions about things you can do after you finish drafting your manuscript that don’t involve either submitting it to agents or editing it immediately.

Aussie Writers

As I draft this blog post, I’m a chapter away from finishing my fourth manuscript. It’s also the third and final book in my Isla’s Inheritance trilogy—and it’s under contract with a scheduled release date partway through next year, so needless to say I’m pretty keen to get it whipped into shape so I can present it to my editor with a pretty pink bow wrapped around it.

A virtual bow. You can get those, right?

But here’s what I’m going to do (after I do an ecstatic dance around the house, frightening the dogs, and have a brag on Twitter):


That’s right. I’m going to step away from the manuscript. And, gentle reader, if you’re in this situation you should too. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to dive headfirst into that precious document, to roll around in your words. You’ll be riding the rush of those final…

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Cover reveal: ‘Restless in Peaceville’ by Pippa Jay


Welcome to Peaceville, population 2067 and rising…from the grave…

Luke Chester has had enough. He’s the school geek, the girls laugh at him, he’s lost his dead-end job at the pizza place, and in the midst of the world’s messiest divorce his parents don’t even know he exists. An overdose of his mom’s tranquilizers and a stomach full of whiskey should solve all his problems…

But they don’t. Instead, Luke finds himself booted out of the afterlife for not dying a natural death, with nowhere to go but back to his recently vacated corpse and reality. How the hell is he going to pass for one of the living without someone trying to blow his brains out for being one of the undead?

And it just gets worse. He’s got to fight his own desperate craving to consume the living, evade the weird supernatural hunter who’s having a field day with the new undeads rising, and there’s this creepy black shadow following him around. Add to that the distraction of female fellow undead Annabelle burning to avenge her own murder, and clearly there’s no rest for the wicked. Jeez, all he wanted to do was R.I.P.

A YA supernatural novella, coming from Lycaon Press 20th August.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf HERE.

Sign up to Pippa’s no-spam newsletter HERE to get early sneak peeks at covers, and news of the latest releases, giveaways and contest.


Where the hell am I?

Not the most original question, I know, but it’s the best place to start. The only place. I don’t know where I am. I can’t remember where I was. What I was. But nothing about this place is familiar, and some part of me didn’t expect this.

There’s a line of people all the way to infinity. I’m not exaggerating—I do mean infinity. And it hurts to look at it because the human mind can’t handle that. Not completely. You think you know how that looks? You don’t. You can’t. Try to imagine the whole of creation. Can you see every last ant, every last star? No.

Around us—well, it’s a big gray hall. A really, really huge space, like an aircraft hangar kind of place, only no planes and no doors. In fact, no walls or roof either. The edges just blur into the darkness, as though none of it exists except the floor we’re standing on, and I’m not even sure about that. Looking up makes me giddy. You know when you’re dizzy from spinning around, and you lay down, but you feel as if you just keep on falling? That. So I don’t try it again. I keep my eyes away from the endless line of other people waiting. Instead, I stare at the back of the person in front of me and try not to think about where I am and what may be going on. Because now I have a nasty suspicion about it and what might have happened. My mind scurries away from the thought. This ain’t good.

Oh, by the by, my name is Luke Chester. That much I do know. I can’t be that old—my hands aren’t wrinkled or calloused, although there’s a cool scar across my left palm. My skin is pale gray. So are the long sleeves of my T-shirt. In fact everyone and everything is gray, just like the room. I stare at the guy in front of me, hoping for some clues. He has dreadlocks and his skin is so dark as to be almost black. He’s wearing a tank top, torn and covered with dark streaks that something tells me should be red, but, like everything else here, have no color. There are two deep slashes in the back of his neck, and more on his arms. They aren’t bleeding though. I guess they’ve all dried up, or maybe he’s all bled out. His jeans are ripped too, although that could be a fashion thing. I can’t see any wounds on his legs.

I look down at myself. My jeans are in one piece, but my feet are bare. I wriggle my toes and watch them dance like I’ve never seen them move before. I can’t feel the ground. I don’t feel warm or cold, just kind of numb, and distant. It’s as if I’m not really here, but clearly I am. What happened to me? How did I get here? That bothers me. I shouldn’t be here. Then again, I’m not sure where else I should be.

About Pippa

Pippa JayAfter spending twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay is now a stay-at-home mum who writes scifi and the supernatural. Somewhere along the way a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moment playing guitar very badly, punishing herself with freestyle street dance, and studying the Dark Side of the Force. Although happily settled in the historical town of Colchester in the UK with her husband of 21 years and three little monsters, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres. Her works include a YA science fiction novel—Gethyon—published through BURST (Champagne Books), two self-published short stories (Terms & Conditions Apply and The Bones of the Sea), and she’s one of eight authors included in a science fiction romance anthology—Tales from the SFR Brigade. She’s also a double SFR Galaxy Award winner, been a finalist in the Heart of Denver RWA Aspen Gold Contest (3rd place), and the GCC RWA Silken Sands Star Awards (2nd place).

You can stalk her at her website, or at her blog, but without doubt her favorite place to hang around and chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen.