Newsletter Signup


Little Pillows

My mental state has slowly progressed from irritation, to concerned, and now alarm.

It started innocently enough, as these things usually do. I’m fairly certain the place of origin was in the bedroom, but my mind is so fragile that the facts could easily be jumbled up there. Where it started is hardly the issue anyway. It’s survival! It’s either me or them!!

It all began six months ago when we brought home a new comforter for the master bed. The bundle we purchased included a set of matching pillow shams. We never used shams before, so in addition to the two pillows we each slept with, now there were two more sham pillows. That’s six pillows total. After my wife made the bed each morning she would carefully place the sham pillows on top of the others, eliciting the desired decorative effect.

That’s when the other pillows started to appear.

According to my wife, the smaller throw pillows were necessary to “bring out” the color of the comforter and tie it in with tones and hues present in the room. That was their only purpose! At first there were only two pillows, but when more and more started to appear I began to wonder just how many colors we had in the room to tie together. Nobody ever laid a head upon them, used them to prop up an arm, or even stuck them under a shirt to fake pregnancy. Their whole existence revolved around adornment. Soon it wasn’t just the bed space they occupied. It became a 15 minute ordeal to remove the pillows at night and toss them in a semi-organized pile in the corner of the room. Sometimes they didn’t all make it back onto the bed the next morning and hung out elsewhere. It wasn’t long before they were everywhere in the room, under-foot and in the way. However irritating I thought the whole situation was, I humored my wife and kept my mouth shut.

The pillows soon took advantage.

A month ago I was sitting in my recliner reading a novel, when something caught my attention. I peered over the top of the page, scanning the room for anything out of the ordinary, when I spotted it. Nestled in the corner of the couch, half-hidden underneath a lap blanket . . . was a red throw pillow. I didn’t recall seeing it there when I sat down, and nobody had wandered through the room. At first I thought it could have been an escapee from the bedroom, attempting to blend in as it made its way toward the front door, and freedom? But it wasn’t a color I recalled seeing before. During an intense cross examination of my wife that evening, she admitted that her practice of using pillows to accent color combinations had spread to the living room. My mood switched to concerned.

Slowly, but surely, the pillows spread. At one point I swore that the little buggers were procreating, evidenced by the fact that I’d go to bed with three pillows on the couch and the next morning I’d find four. Of course my wife told me I was crazy, letting my writers’ imagination get the better of me, but I had seen enough. I put my foot down (ironically on top of a pillow) and told her NO MORE PILLOWS!

Despite my edict, soon our daughters room was infected, and then the playroom. There was nowhere to sit without moving a pillow. I was at a loss trying to figure out how they were getting around. My concern even drove me to slipping out of bed one night, easing out the backdoor and peeking in through the porch windows using my son’s night-vision goggles to try and catch some sort of nefarious night time activities. But I saw nothing. The bedroom pillows must have warned the others what I was up to.

Finally, I went on the offensive and stuffed a handful in the hall closet, only to have them reappear in their original position the next day. I was reaching the end of my rope.

The rope broke last week. I caught our ten year old son walking through the kitchen on his way to his own room, carrying a pillow. THEY HAD TAKEN CONTROL OF MY SON TO MIGRATE! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

So now I’m alarmed and what’s even worse, I think the pillows are on to me. Just the other day I woke from an afternoon nap, out of breath. A pillow was covering my face!

I have to find a way to turn the tide. After I finish posting this I’m going to print a copy and place it in our lockbox next to the life insurance policy. If I should die under mysterious circumstances, especially if there are PILLOWS nearby, at least the truth will be known.

This battle is only beginning!

Thank you, Santa.

I don’t imagine Santa receives very many of these. Thank you letters. After all, who has the time? The children (and those adults who still believe) tore into their gifts on Christmas morning and never looked back, except maybe to complain about a present that wasn’t under the tree. They’ve been playing non-stop for days and as the newness begins to wear off, they’ll seek out their friends and relatives to play with their new toys. Soon it will be time to return to school and the holiday season will officially be over, just a fading memory with a trail of AAA batteries and bags of trash left in its wake.

Well, I’m not going to let it go this year. Is there a better way to start a new year by taking one last glance over your shoulder? Santa deserves his do. We know Santa doesn’t do what he does for the recognition, or appreciation. His reward is in the smiling faces on Christmas morning and the glow his generosity leaves behind and touches us all. But just because thanks isn’t expected, shouldn’t mean it’s not offered. A thank you means so much more when it’s unprompted. I mentioned this to my youngest son and he agreed whole-heartedly. I told him I would be writing this post and received his blessing.

So, thanks Santa. Not only for the gifts you left for me (which were unexpected and awesome), but for those you left for the rest of my family. My wife and I were the recipients of the joyful hugs and kisses your presents elicited, despite our attempts to give you the credit. Each year we’ll strive to take more of the burden off you and let you concentrate on your younger admirers, but we’ll always keep your mystery and spirit alive in our household.

Enjoy your time off and I look forward to your return next year!

If anybody else would like to tack on your own thanks before this gets sent northward, by all means.

Happy Holidays

I wanted to take a moment to wish all my faithful readers HAPPY HOLIDAYS! I hope you are spending it with family or friends and the spirit of the season is within you.

I also want to thank each of you for your support and encouragement this year. I’m really looking forward to 2010!


I’m hoping that the list next year will take much longer to type out . . . but each name will remain just as important.

Query Letters - Update (An Early Christmas Present)

Amanda received an early Christmas present this morning, and it brightened my holidays as well.

Who's Amanda? She's the woman who authored the query letter (Gargoyle Moon) I posted in my first update. Why is she smiling right now? Because this morning I received an e-mail from a literary agent. She works for an agency (redacted - there's that word again) who represents YA and Children books. She was reading my blog (MY BLOG!!) and came across the query letter Amanda had written. She was very interested in it and wondered if I could give her Amanda's information so she could get in touch with her.

I immediately went on-line and checked out the woman who sent the e-mail as well as the agency she said she represented. Both were legitimate. I e-mailed her back to thank her for the kind words about my blog and inform her I would forward Amanda her e-mail and the two of them could take it from there. She e-mailed me back a thank you.

I forwarded the agents e-mail to Amanda at 7:15 this morning, along with all of the links to the sites verifying the agents legitimacy, and I've been on pins and needles all day long waiting to hear back from her. She just responded 30 minutes ago. Excited would be an gross understatement. She promised to keep me updated about how things progress.

I don't know which to be more tickled at . . . the fact that my goofy idea for a blog post possibly ended up landing a reader an agent . . . or the fact that an agent was reading MY BLOG.

I choose both.

Writers Toolbox

I take a backpack with me wherever I go. Its black and the straps have stretched to the point where it’s constantly slipping off my shoulder. I originally purchased it because I was always carrying various papers and manuals related to the sports teams I coached, as well as stuff related to organizing the leagues where we live. I’m not involved in all that anymore, but I still lug around the bag.

Last week my wife was cleaning and attempted to move the bag out of the way. I heard her cry from the other room, “What do you have in this thing? Bricks?” I hadn’t noticed how heavy it had become and it made me wonder just what was making it so heavy. After taking an inventory of its contents I discovered most of it was writing related. I had collected all sorts of materials I reference, or used, when writing. You never know when inspiration will strike you, or a chunk of time will suddenly present itself to work on a project, so I prefer to stay mobile.

After seeing all that I had collected, I decided to take a complete inventory of everything (in the bag or not) I’ve acquired to help me learn the craft of writing. Here’s what I discovered:

1 - Digital voice-recorder
1 - IPod
1 - Bottle of Excedrin migraine
1 - Bottle of Visene
1 - Mini-book lite
1 - Writers Market (2010)
1 - ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King
1 - ‘Don’t Murder Your Mystery’ by Chris Roerden
1 - ‘Word Painting’ by Rebecca McClanahan
1 - ‘The Elements of Style’ by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
1 - ‘Echo Park’ by Michael Connelly (pleasure reading)
2 - Lead pencils
4 - Legal notepads
6 - Membership in writing forums
10 - Printed research articles for latest book in-progress
13 - Copies of Writers Digest magazine
47 - Blogs following via Google reader.
108 - Firefox internet links to writing articles

So, what’s in your toolbox? What do you have on your Christmas list that’s writing related?

Query Letters – Update Vol. 1

I was tweeted by Rachelle Gardner. Does that make me a twit? Whatever, it was way cool! I have also received a slew of awesome query letters from aspiring writers just like me. It has been truly a joy, and a learning experience, reading through them. The talent waiting to be discovered is both awe-inspiring, and humbling. It causes uncertainty within me when I read the quality of work being slow-brewed out there. But if I’ve learned one thing over the past eighteen months delving into the literary/publishing world, it’s that no matter how many books you’ve sold, self-doubt comes with the territory.

Not everybody has been as accepting of my offer however. A few members of forums I posted to had suspicions about my motives and questioned my standing to pass judgment over your queries. What I told them, and what I’ll reiterate again here to you, is that I have no standing. I’m a regular Joe (or Jill) . . . like you. I am not judging, critiquing, or evaluating these queries. I am simply posting those for books that I personally would be interested in reading. Nothing more . . . nothing less. It’s not a contest. There is no contract waiting to be signed. Just a little bit of exposure on an obscure blog existing of the fringes of the internet.

I’d also like to say that in doing this I’m gaining a better understanding of the struggles agents go through. I’ve read some beautifully written letters for stories that demonstrate the power of imagination. But no matter how meticulously prepared the letter, if the material isn’t something that stirs interest in me I can’t honestly post it here. Although I’ve experienced just a taste of the process, I can see how an agent could agonize over sending a rejection letter to an author. Not because their work isn’t good, but rather it just isn’t right for them.

That being said . . . here is one I’ve put on my list to watch for. It’s targeted for the young adult market, but my wife says that’s what I am anyway (the actual term she uses is adolescent). But seriously, this is one I would pick up for my son. I’ve redacted (that’s the second time I’ve used that word – I’m on a roll) the personal information.

I wish the author the best of luck!


Dear Query Guy,

When bizarre things start happening to her, high school student Madelyn Tate discovers a connection between her brother's childhood ghost stories, an ancient book of prophecies, and the stone gargoyle that has gone missing from the roof of her family's Victorian home.

Maddie is a volleyball player for East Arken High, sub par student, and social climber extraordinaire. But when she takes a wrong turn running from the police and is implicated in a church fire, her social status plummets and her volleyball career is cut short. She meets mysterious and charming Jesse Slater, who has a penchant for pyrotechnics, and aloof Charlie DeLuca, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the stone statue that has disappeared from her roof. To add to her problems, Maddie discovers that her brother Sean isn't the only one with a secret to hide. The Tate family has a dark history of witchcraft, and the strange abilities that lay dormant for centuries have awakened themselves in her. And Maddie isn’t the only one waking up; a magic wielder known as the Dark Son is gathering strength. Now Maddie must decide whether to suppress her new found abilities and allow the Dark Son to wreak havoc on the city, or to plunge herself into a new, mysterious world.

GARGOYLE MOON is a 65,000 word young adult novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Keep Those Query Letters Coming

No. I’m not an agent. Nor a publisher. I’m just a regular schmuck…like you… trying to get somebody interested in my novel. But it’s difficult when half the literary agents in America are taking a hiatus for the holidays. Even for the ones that are still accepting them, there’s plenty of advice being passed around that suggests that querying during this time of year may not be in our best interest anyway.

I can’t say that I blame the agents for stepping back though. They work awfully hard year-round. And not just for themselves, but their clients as well. So they’ve earned the right to take a break from reading our confusing, rambling, unfocused, misguided pitches that are just a step up from smelly fish bait. The never-ending search for a diamond in the rough takes a toll. So, enjoy the time away Mr. and Ms. Agent.

But because they’ve turned off the spicket shouldn’t mean that we writers have to break up our submission routines, whatever they might be. Don’t know what to do if you can’t send out a letter this month? Does it make you feel like you’re going to explode having to wait until 2010? This is where I’m willing to help. While the agents are away, go ahead and send your query letters to me. Were you about to send one off to the Bookends agency, or Rachelle Gardner, or one of the many others before you read the notification they were not accepting any until next year? Send it to me instead. I’ll read each and every one of them and I’ll even post a few here on my blog. Don’t worry, I’ll redact (wow – that’s the first time I used that word in a sentence – fun) any personal information first. The ones I post won’t be for ridicule (I’ll do that in the privacy of my home), or held up as an example of what works or doesn’t work (like anybody really knows anyway), but rather because they’re about books I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN READING.

Submission guidelines: From now until January 15th, send your query letter only to No synopsis or partial manuscripts. You can consider your submission an instant rejection because I won’t respond back, but I will post the ones that really stand out.

I’m glad to do my part and give back to the community that has given so much to me. If this is successful maybe someone else will step up and carry the torch next year.

Keep those query letters coming!

A Writers Circular Logic

I write . . . therefore . . . I am
I am . . . therefore . . . I must have purpose
I must have purpose . . . therefore . . . I set goals and objectives
I set goals and objectives . . . therefore . . . I am singularly focused
I am singularly focused . . . therefore . . . I am easily distracted
I am easily distracted . . . therefore . . . I must have Netflix, Gamefly, Dish, and the internet
I must have Netflix, Gamefly, Dish, and the internet . . . therefore . . . I am in debt
I am in debt . . . therefore . . . I need a real job
I need a real job . . . therefore . . . I must have a decent education
I must have a decent education . . . therefore . . . I would have attended an institution of higher learning
I would have attended an institution of higher learning . . . therefore . . . I would have partaken in the college experience
I would have partaken in the college experience . . . therefore . . . Many of my brain cells have bitten the dust.
Many of my brain cells have bitten the dust . . . therefore . . . I can’t remember what my next point is
I can’t remember what my next point is . . . therefore . . . I make notes
I make so many notes . . . therefore . . . I write
I write . . . therefore . . .

What If Your Critique Group Doesn’t Like Your Novel?

It’s time to look for a new group.

I’m serious.

What? You think that sounds a bit childish? A little like “I’m going to take my toys and play somewhere else.” It should, because that’s exactly what it means. Let me explain.

First off, let me clarify what I’m trying to get across by saying - If the majority of your critique group doesn’t care for your novel, you should look for another group. When the group has seven members (apart from yourself), and all seven have issues with your book, then you should probably listen to what they have to say. Having worked with statistics most of my career, I concede that your novel probably hasn’t much of a hope if you can’t interest even one person from a sampling of seven. But if two or three see merit in what you’ve written, then it’s time to move on to a group where the numbers are more in your favor.

This is my rationale. I’ve read a lot, and I mean a lot, about how there are hundreds of agents out there and it take’s drive and determination to find the one agent that see’s something special in your work and believes it can be sold to a publisher. All of those other agents either don’t represent that particular genre, don’t feel the work is publishable, or recognize the potential but sense it’s not right for them.

The make-up of the individuals in a critique group is the same way. Some have no interest in the genre you write in, some can’t warm up to the creative voice (style of writing) you choose to use, others are genuinely helpful and offer constructive suggestions, and the rest think you can do no wrong and your crap smells like roses. So why would you make changes to your manuscript based upon the recommendations of people who most of which aren’t 100% behind it?

Maybe an example would better illustrate my point. In the town where I live there’s a local writers organization. I joined the group about six months ago, anxious to have my book critiqued by its members. What I quickly discovered was that 95% of the members were Christian romance writers. I write mystery/thrillers. Although a couple members graciously offered to take a look at my book (though they doubted they could be of much help), none of the others were interested. I didn’t blame them. I’ve critiqued for other authors before and I know how hard it is to look over a story you wouldn’t normally read. Clearly I had come to the wrong place and I would have to search elsewhere for help. I ended up having to find my critiques from the on-line community (except for my wife of course).

Now that was an extreme example, but my core philosophy is still sound. The people you choose to critique your work should be from a diverse group. Some should hate it, some should love it, and some can take it or leave it. That group will make your book better and help it find the agent it deserves. A group made up mostly of doubters will turn your book into something you don’t recognize. Three of the people I’m currently using really like my work, the fourth one believes I should try writing screen-plays instead. But I receive a ton of creative input from all of them! I’m always on the look-out for another eye, so if you’re interested drop me an e-mail.

But if you’re having a hard time finding enough people to be on the positive side, maybe it’s time to start listening to the doubters.


Every year, usually the weekend just after Thanksgiving, our home becomes encased in this sort of pupa shell and a couple days later it emerges as this beautiful Christmas butterfly. What goes on inside that cocoon during that time isn’t pretty, but the result puts a smile on my face every time I walk through the door.

I’ve already professed my love for Christmas in an earlier post here, but what I didn’t make abundantly clear was my wife’s own affinity for celebrating the holidays. Over the years the number of boxes stored in the attic that are stuffed with decorations has reached the 30+ mark. The day we wrestle the boxes down has been affectionately labeled GRUNT DAY. Just the creative stacking necessary to still allow us to pull our car into the garage is remarkable. I’ve always feared that one day the attic floor would give way under the weight of all those boxes and something resembling Christmas vomit would cover of the house below.

Aside from the humongous tree in the living room, there are four other mid-size ‘theme’ Christmas trees scattered around the house, and that’s not including the tiny ones in the kids bedrooms. There’s a teddy bear tree, a precious moments tree, an LSU tree with purple and gold lights, and one that gets re-invented every year. But I would stack our main tree up against any challengers, those impressive enough to be featured on a hallmark card or on some sentimental advertising campaign. With enough lights to illuminate a small town and inter-mixed with various kinds of garland, we’ve learned from past experiences to plan for disaster and tie the top of the tree to the wall to prevent it from falling. Ornaments, each imbued with special meaning for everybody in the family, top off the grand display.

Adornments are intricately placed everywhere throughout our home. No nook, cranny, corner, or crevice is spared. There are knick-knacks that dance and play tunes, or tiny reindeer that drop milk chocolate whoppers out of their backside. One of almost 50 holiday themed CD’s blares throughout the house during the day (Transiberian Orchestra is our favorite) and every night a different Christmas movie is played. Our abode is literally filled with Christmas, and the effect is nothing short of magical.

Of course we don’t neglect the exterior of the house. Icicle lights hang from the gutters demonstrating our longing for the real thing. Tiny sparkling deer nibble on the grass in the front yard and flickering candy canes line the driveway. A large lighted wreath hangs from the eave above the garage, which can be seen all the way from the end of a very long block.

On that first night after the strands have been hung, when we’re all standing in the middle of the street admiring our efforts, only the glow of the lights brightening our smiles, we can feel a small piece of what Christmas really means.

It’s not just our surroundings that change during this time of year. We all smile a little easier. Laugh a bit louder. Volunteer our time and support more frequently. Forgive transgressions more readily. Most of us transform into a better version of ourselves during Christmas, and it’s not because we’re reminded that Santa’s watching.

That’s the part I choose to celebrate.

Query Revisions

I've revised my query letter and in keeping with my promise to detail the entire process of attempting to get published, I'm posting it again. 

I'm actually including two versions this time.  The first is an edited copy of my original.  The second is a version that focuses on Lee's POV (Point of View).  A critiquer from another forum suggested this tact, so I'm giving it a try.  Let me know which one you like (if either) as well as any suggestions for improvements.

Query #1
Dear Ms. Agent,

Dianne Williams, the manager of Greenville’s largest Private Detective Agency, is desperate for answers. The investigators at her agency have been poisoned and now she’s stumbled across the badly beaten body of her newest investigator. But before she can begin the search for the person responsible, she must first ask for help from a most unlikely source.

Lee Hamilton is a human resource manager in a small southern town, but he was also once a knight. One of six close friends labeled ‘The Knights Who Say Ni’ in college twenty-five years ago; he’s shocked to learn that one of their group has just been savagely attacked. He immediately responds to Dianne’s beleaguered request for assistance by rallying the remaining knights to her aid.

Despite the dire circumstances, Lee and the knights see an opportunity to rekindle their adventurous past and escape the doldrums of everyday life. For Dianne, the amateur-sleuths are simply a means to an end. But along the way she forms a respect and friendship for the knights and soon worries about the danger her selfish vendetta has placed them in.

The group follows a trail of clues to Manassas Virginia and the horrific events surrounding a high school shooting and the suicidal boy whose final note claimed I’m not finished yet. When the massacre is connected to the troubles at her agency, as well as a string of other serious crimes, Dianne’s investigative abilities and the boundaries of the knight’s friendship are soon tested.

As the rag-tag group must scramble to avoid arrest by both the local police and FBI, the puzzle pieces slowly come together revealing a plot whose evil intent can only be matched by its scope. It all climaxes with the Dianne and the knights racing the clock to prevent the release of the largest bio-terrorism attack in U.S. history.

Fallen Knight is a 105,000 word Mystery/Thriller. Thank you, Ms. Agent, for your consideration of this query. At your request, I will be happy to send along the complete manuscript.

Query #2
Dear Ms. Agent,

Lee Hamilton is a middle-aged human resource manager in a small southern town, but he was also once a knight. One of six close friends labeled ‘The Knights Who Say Ni’ in college twenty-five years ago; he’s shocked to learn that one of their group has just been savagely attacked and left for dead. He immediately responds to a beleaguered request from the owner of the detective agency where their friend works by rallying the remaining knights to assist in the investigation.

Despite the dire circumstances, Lee and the knights see an opportunity to rekindle their adventurous past and escape the doldrums of everyday life. The group follows a trail of clues to Manassas Virginia and the horrific events surrounding a high school shooting and the suicidal boy whose final note claimed I’m not finished yet. When the massacre is connected to the troubles at the detective agency, as well as a string of other serious crimes, the boundaries of the knight’s friendship are put to the test.

As the rag-tag group must scramble to avoid arrest by both the local police and FBI, the puzzle pieces slowly come together. They reveal a plot whose evil intent can only be matched by its scope. It all climaxes with the knights racing the clock to prevent the release of the largest bio-terrorism attack in U.S. history.

Fallen Knight is a 105,000 word Mystery/Thriller. Thank you, Ms. Agent, for your consideration of this query. At your request, I will be happy to send along the complete manuscript.

Thanks everybody!

Road Critique

This past Thanksgiving weekend the family traveled down to Monroe, La. to see my family and then continued down to Baton Rouge for the LSU - Arkansas game.  The food was awesome, the company entertaining, and the game . . . victorious (GEAUX TIGERS!). 

From where we live in Arkansas it's a 4 hour drive to Monroe, and another 4 hours down to Baton Rouge.  Our usual habits when driving as a family is the two older kids jam in their ear-buds and listen to music on their IPods, the youngest either watches DVD's on a portable player or plays games on his DSi, and the wife reads a book.  If a DVD isn't playing, I listen to the radio, but if it is, I'm forced to listen to a movie I can't watch.

Just before we pulled out of the driveway an idea popped into my head.  I had been looking for a way to jump-start the process of going through the final edit on my manuscript, and maybe I could kill two birds with one book.  I wasn't sure if the family would go along with it, because it meant some sacrifice on their parts, but I decided to pitch the idea to them anyway.  What if everybody took turns reading a chapter of my book as we drove (except me of course - duh), critiquing along the way?

Surprisingly, everybody was up for the idea.  The ten year old didn't want to read aloud, but he would offer opinions.  So down the road we went, driving and critiquing.  At the end of every chapter I took the opportunity to quiz them about plot points, motivations, character development, sub-text, etc.  My wife jotted down notes for suggestions they came up with and each individual reader highlighted sentences that needed work as they read.

Between the two drives we managed to cover eight chapters.  We didn't do any reading on the way back because nobody was in the mood, but I'm still pleased with the progress I made.  I'm also glad that we did it as a family.  It was a great experience and SO VERY HELPFUL.  I hope we can do something like that again.

So, if your a writer and struggling with your book, may I suggest that you take a drive with your family.  Both your work, and your relationship, will be better for it.


Blog Blitz

Design by: The Blog Decorator