Book Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Think of all the darkest vengefests you’ve enjoyed in literature and film and you have the experience that is Foul is Fair, the latest novel by Hannah Capin.

MacBeth, Heathers, Mean Girls, Kill Bill, and AHS: Coven have all been used to describe elements and the tone of this new book, and they are all appropriately used.

Jade and her friends have fabled teen lives, they’re the “it” girls and the world is at their feet—until a group of boys from a wealthy prep school make the mistake of assaulting Jade. Now, Jade has sworn to get vengeance, and nobody will stand in her way.

Foul is Fair is a dark, unflinching journey into manipulation and vengeance. Capin’s writing is raw and intense, drawing you along and daring you to turn away while taunting you to turn another page. This is one of those books that is both horrifying and fantastic at the same time, and destined to create quite a buzz.

*I received a copy of Foul is Fair from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Not The Day I Expected

Yesterday I had an extra day off from work. I took my youngest to the doctor then to breakfast, we hit the Halloween store and did some other errands. My afternoon was pretty well planned out, I was in the middle of writing a blog post for newer writers about finding your writing community and then was planning to spend a chunk of time on an editing project. But then, my entire world shifted off its axis.

This is Rebel, he’s been with us for eleven years. He’s an old dude with some significant arthritis, digestion issues, and an intolerance to hot weather that leads to stroke-like symptoms. He loves gardening and food prep, and obviously he’s highly tolerant of my shenanigans.

What we didn’t know until yesterday is that Rebel also had a softball-sized tumor. Suddenly our buddy was not doing well at all. After a discussion with the vet and as a family we made the choice to ensure he wasn’t in any more distress and we said goodbye.

Two of my boys chose to be with him when he passed, and that was truly one of the hardest things to consider, but I’m comforted in knowing that it was a peaceful transition for everyone in that room.

So, our family is a little smaller today, and a lot sadder as we try to focus on happy memories and the spirit of Rebel Alliance Gallegos that lingers in our hearts.

My Summer 2019 Reading List

I’ve been so bad about keeping up my blog this summer–okay, for always is a truer statement. The one thing I thought I could reliably do is a post about all the books and audiobooks I’ve loved. Well, I have no excuses. I’m reliably unreliable and you should know that about me.

So here is a really, really, long list of my summer reading. As you can see, I did do some series binge reading (or listening), so there are a number of book series listed. I even managed a couple of nonfiction books.

Next Girl to Die (The Calderwood Cases Book 1) by [Poirier, Dea]

Next Girl to Die (The Calderwood Cases #1) by Dea Poirier

Solving the case will avenge her sister—unless the killer finds her first.

It’s been fifteen years since Claire Calderwood’s sister, Rachel, was brutally murdered in their small hometown in Maine. Claire has finally carved out a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit, but the past comes calling when the local police back home ask for her help with a murder eerily similar to Rachel’s.

Still haunted by Rachel’s cold case, Claire returns home, hoping to solve the crime and finally put her grief to rest. As she starts investigating, the last thing she needs is tenacious journalist Noah Washington asking questions she’s not ready to answer. But like her, Noah won’t give up until he finds the truth—and Claire reluctantly finds herself relying on him more and more when disturbing new details about Rachel’s death come to light.

When the killer strikes once again, Claire knows he’s not done. Now he’s set his sights on Claire, who will have to find the courage she needs to survive a deadly confrontation years in the making.

Beneath the Ashes (The Calderwood Cases Book 2) by [Poirier, Dea]

Beneath the Ashes (The Calderwood Cases #2) by Dea Poirier

A troubled detective learns that the fires of the past are still burning in this haunting, emotional thriller.

When detective Claire Calderwood is called to a grisly murder scene, she’s haunted by memories of her murdered sister. The victim is tied to a motel bed, her head covered in plastic and her body sprinkled with ashes. Claire’s dealt with vile crime scenes before, but this one strikes close to home.

Claire’s boyfriend, reporter Noah Washington, once helped find her sister’s killer, but now he’s a distraction to this new investigation. She wants to help him resolve the mysteries of his past, but Noah has been distant, and Claire knows he’s keeping something from her.

When another girl is murdered like the first, Claire suspects the work of a serial killer. As the case heats up and evidence mounts, she finds herself in profound danger. Claire’s been burned before; now she must decide if she can trust Noah to help her solve the case and uncover the truth that lies beneath the ashes.

Keeper by [Chance, Kim]

Keeper

by Kim Chance

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.

With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

Seeker (Keeper Duology Book 2) by [Chance, Kim]

Seeker (Keeper #2) by Kim Chance

Lainey’s normal, bookworm life no longer exists. With her family murdered by the Master, she joins forces with a group of Supernatural rebels. But as she struggles to cope with her new role as Keeper and the uncontrollable power it gives her, Lainey realizes that magic does indeed leave a mark—but it’s not always physical.

Ty isn’t one of the good guys. He’s done terrible things, and he won’t stop until he gets what he wants. Even if it hurts. Even if it means betraying the girl he loves . . . again. For Maggie, all her comic book dreams have come true, and her new life as a Shifter is just beginning. But with war closing in, is it truly a dream or a death sentence?

In the ultimate battle for power, Lainey, Ty, and Maggie must face-off against the Master, and work together to discover the greatest weapon of all.

Seek and you will find.

A Life Without Living (The STREGA Series Book 1) by [Alban, SC]

A Life Without Living (The Strega Series #1) by SC Alban

How long would you wait for true love?

Kate Martins appears to have it all; a good career, a beautiful home, and an amazing husband. What more could anyone ask for? But when Kate’s recurring nightmares begin to cross over into her waking hours, she discovers her perfect life is not at all what it seems. It isn’t until she meets a mysterious stranger that Kate begins to question who truly she is and where she comes from.

For the past four centuries, Giovanni Rossi has faced the dark powers of the Strega Negri in search of the one woman who can lift his curse of immortality. The problem? His enemy always seems to be one step ahead. Desperate to be free, Gio races against the clock to find his true love. Will he find what he is looking for in Kate, or fail once more and be doomed to another lifetime of loss?

All Boy by [Kerick, Mia]

All Boy by Mia Kerick

Seventeen-year-old Callie Canter knows all about screwing up—and being screwed over. After her so-called boyfriend publicly humiliated her senior year, taking a fifth year of high school at Beaufort Hills Academy is her second chance to leave behind a painful past. But her need for social acceptance follows, and going along with the in-crowd is the difference between survival and becoming a target. Staying off the radar is top priority. So, falling for an outsider is the last thing on Callie’s “to-do” list. Too bad her heart didn’t get the memo.

With his strict, religious upbringing and former identity far away in Florida, Jayden Morrissey can finally be true to himself at Beaufort Hills Academy. But life as a trans man means keeping secrets, and keeping secrets means not getting too close to anyone. If he can just get through his fifth year unnoticed, maybe a future living as the person he was born to be is possible. Yet love is love, and when you fall hard enough, intentions crumble, plans detour, and secrets are revealed.

From multi-award-winning author Mia Kerick, comes a powerful, timely, and life-changing novel, which follows two teenagers nursing broken hearts and seeking acceptance, and who together realize running away isn’t always the answer.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

MEET THE DOG

WHO WILL SHOW THE WORLD

HOW TO BE HUMAN

The New York Times bestselling novel from Garth Stein—a heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope—a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

Contagion by Erin Bowman

After receiving a distress call from a drill team on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is sent into deep space to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

When they arrive, they find the planet littered with the remains of the project—including its members’ dead bodies. As they try to piece together what could have possibly decimated an entire project, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon. . . . ” This is how Abby Whitshank always describes the day she fell in love with Red in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate an indefinable kind of specialness, but like all families, their stories reveal only part of the picture: Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s parents, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to the grandchildren carrying the Whitshank legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn house that has always been their anchor.

Crucial Conversations

The first edition of Crucial Conversations exploded onto the scene and revolutionized the way millions of people communicate when stakes are high. This new edition gives you the tools to:

  • Prepare for high-stakes situations
  • Transform anger and hurt feelings into powerful dialogue
  • Make it safe to talk about almost anything
  • Be persuasive, not abrasive

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys – a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface – changing everything in its wake.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.Friends can betray.Mothers can disappear.Visions can mislead.Certainties can unravel.In a starred review, The Bulletin called The Dream Thieves, the previous book in The Raven Cycle, “a complex web of magical intrigue and heart-stopping action.” Now, with Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the web becomes even more complex, snaring readers at every turn.

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.In a starred review for Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Kirkus Reviews declared: “Expect this truly one-of-a-kind series to come to a thundering close.”

Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold―a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.

Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite―and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.

As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.

Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

Siege and Storm (Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner―hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long.

The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army.

But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice―and only she can face the oncoming storm.

Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo

Soldier. Summoner. Saint.The nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

The Darkling rules from his shadow throne while a weakened Alina Starkov recovers from their battle under the dubious protection of the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Now her hopes lie with the magic of a long-vanished ancient creature and the chance that an outlaw prince still survives.

As her allies and enemies race toward war, only Alina stands between her country and a rising tide of darkness that could destroy the world. To win this fight, she must seize a legend’s power―but claiming the firebird may be her ruin.

Six of Crows by [Bardugo, Leigh]

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo returns to the breathtaking world of the Grishaverse in this unforgettable tale about the opportunity—and the adventure—of a lifetime.

Crooked Kingdom: A Sequel to Six of Crows by [Bardugo, Leigh]

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Face your demons…or feed them. The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war―and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, Nikolai must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha general, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried―and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The wildly popular novel by Stephen Chbosky about a freshman named Charlie (Logan Lerman) who is always watching from the sidelines until a pair of charismatic seniors takes him under their wing. Beautiful, free-s pirited Sam (Emma Watson) and her fearless stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) shepherd Charlie through new friendships, first love, burgeoning sexuality, bacchanalian parties, midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the quest for the perfect song.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

William Golding’s compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behaviour collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them-the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories-and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible.Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

Here’s what started the phenomenon: the best seller, for over 15 years, that’s been used by screenwriters around the world! Blake Snyder tells all in this fast, funny and candid look inside the movie business. “Save the Cat” is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying, including: The four elements of every winning logline The seven immutable laws of screenplay physics The 10 genres that every movie ever made can be categorized by ― and why they’re important to your script Why your Hero must serve your Idea Mastering the 15 Beats Creating the “Perfect Beast” by using The Board to map 40 scenes with conflict and emotional change How to get back on track with proven rules for script repair This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a showbiz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat.

The Hollow Queen (Stolen Empire #5) by Sherry D. Ficklin

As a princess of the Romanov Empire, Elizabeth has enjoyed a life of luxury and privilege. But the sudden deaths of her parents leaves her unprotected—awash in the dangerous tide of her family’s political rivals.

When the supreme council crowns her half-nephew Peter II in her place, Elizabeth is left with no title, no power, and no allies. Now little more than a bastard in the eyes of the world, she is sent to serve in the palatial home of Prince Menshikov—the real power behind the boy king. But Elizabeth refuses to fade quietly into the background. Determined to uncover the truth behind her mother’s murder and expose the men who mean to rule Russia in secret, she grows closer to the handsome young king and swears to protect him and his rule at any cost. But the forces that oppose them are as dark as they are far-reaching—and this time, Elizabeth could lose more than just her title…

Book Review: Beneath the Ashes (The Calderwood Cases #2) by Dea Poirier

Fresh off the investigation into her sister’s death, detective Claire Calderwood is called to investigate a murder in a nearby community. A girl’s body has been found tied to the bed of a hotel room, covered in ashes. Without witnesses, and with few clues, Claire must figure out who killed this girl while dealing with her own memories and the realization that her boyfriend, Noah, has been keeping secrets about his own past.

And then another girl is found, and another. Now, faced with a serial killer, Claire has to find out how the three girls, text messages from a burner cell phone, and GPS coordinates tie them all together while under pressure from the local police and a very irate hospital CEO to find the killer.

In her follow up to Next Girl to Die, author Dea Poirier has expertly crafted another thrilling who-done-it. The story line is fast paced and with just as much intensity as book one. Claire is someone you can just identify with, she isn’t perfect, but she’s exactly the person her past has molded her into. While characters in some books seem to act just to advance the plot line, Claire is consistent and genuine. Poirier has also done an amazing job of bringing the details of Maine to life so that the setting acts as another character, helping to bring a stark, harsh richness to an already chilling story. The crime and resolution is just as satisfying as I’d hoped (no spoilers from me!).

Beneath the Ashes will be released November 19, 2019.

While you wait for it’s release, you can get your copy of Next Girl to Die (The Calderwood Cases #1) from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

You can also read my interview with author Dea Poirier here

Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace Year is another of those rare books that has left me speechless. This is what I knew about this book going in…

“Survive the year.

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.”

I was immediately lured into this world that was at once so bizarre and so familiar in theme. It has all the feels of The Handmaid’s Tale (a dystopian patriarchal society). The Hunger Games (sending away teens who may, or may not, return) and Lord of the Flies (the psychology of people existing under duress and away from the confines of society).

Tierney has just been sent to a remote location for her grace year, and survival against the elements isn’t the only thing she’ll have to endure. Almost immediately the power structure among the thirty-three girls is established and the cruelty of some of them becomes evident, with simmering grudges boiling over into vengeance. Danger also lurks outside the compound as poachers are waiting for the opportunity to kill the grace girls in order to sell their body parts to people looking to capture some of their magic.

From the start to the end my heart was pounding and my mind reeling at every turn of the storyline. Kim Liggett has done an amazing job of building this shocking world and weaving tension and hope amid world that seems so bleak. The Grace Year is available October 8, 2019 and I highly recommend it.  

*I received a copy of The Grace Year from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: The Hollow Queen by Sherry D. Ficklin

Sherry Ficklin continues to thrust us directly into the turbulent machinations of the life in the Romanov Court.

The Hollow Queen is the latest novel in the Stolen Empire series and it does not disappoint. We were introduced to Elizabeth in the novella Winter Queen (link to Winter Queen review) and now, we join Elizabeth as she travels deep into the perilous world of Russian royalty.

With her fiancé and mother both dead, Elizabeth—daughter of Peter the Great—is returned to court in St. Petersburg where she’s been stripped of her title, lands and jewels—all of which now belong to her nephew, Peter the second. Elizabeth understands the peril she faces, her mother has just been assassinated, there is no Romanov heir after her nephew, and there are many—including Prince Menshikov—who would prefer to use the crown of Russia toward their own benefit.

Elizabeth vows to support the reign of Peter, and thereby the Romanov line. But although he’s entitled to the throne by blood, it’s Elizabeth who truly understands how to rule. As her affections for the new Tzar grow, so does the danger to them both. Will Elizabeth be able to overcome the threats from both within and without her country? And will she continuously have to sacrifice her own desires and happiness for the sake of her family’s rule?

Once again the story is steeped so deep in political intrigue, danger and desire that I just couldn’t set the book aside. This is truly one of my favorite series to get lost in and can’t wait for more.

The Hollow Queen is available September 28, 2019 preorder now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

**I received a complimentary copy of The Hollow Queen from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Query Strategies

I recently jumped back into the query pool. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve actively queried a new project and I have to say, it’s as rough as I remember–maybe more so. The querying process will wear an author down on on several levels.

Level 1

First, and the one we all know too well, is the emotional toll that comes from rejection. This level has sub-levels that are directly related to the differing means we have of arriving at this level.

Sub-Level 1A: Straight forward rejection as in “I’m afraid I just didn’t connect with your writing”.

Sub-level 1B: Rejection by lack of other evidence. This is when you can assume that no response is a rejection.

Sub-level 1C: The high of a partial or full request, followed by a rejection.

Level 2

Second, researching agents and publishers is a time-intensive process. You research agents/publishers and their agencies/houses to find out what they represent, their manuscript wish lists, who their current clients/books are, how they interact with the writing community/world on social media, and what their submission guidelines are. It takes a lot of time.

Level 3

Preparing to query is also a time-intensive process. You have to craft the best query letter possible, one that highlights your story, captures attention, and compels the agent or publisher to request more. And you have to do it in about 250 words or less. But you also need to have a synopsis ready, and any writer who’s ever tackled this knows the special room in hell that houses synopsis writing. Is there really a way to effectively condense a 100,000 word novel into a one-page synopsis? (No, really! I’d like to know. If you have the answer, please email me!)

Level 4

This is the actual sending out of the query to your chosen agents/publishers. This step seems like a quick and easy one, until you get started. For each query you have to check, double-check, and even triple-check (at a minimum) that you’ve followed all of the submission guidelines, properly spelled everything (especially the name of the agent/publisher!), correctly entered the email address, included only what is requested by that agent. And then you do it again for the next agent, and the next, and the next….

Level 5

You realize you’ve made a spelling error, formatting error, forgot to include your sample pages, forgot the actual query letter, accidentally pasted the letter you wrote for another agent, just re-read your sample pages and realize you should make more edits…It’s bound to happen. Everyone has experienced that horrifying moment when you realize you shouldn’t have hit Send quite so soon.

Survival Tips for the Querying Author

So what can you do to make the querying process a little more tolerable?

First, always keep in mind that even with the best manuscript it really does come down to that novel arriving in the right hands at the right moment in time. Rejection isn’t personal, it isn’t you that’s being rejected. Your manuscript really just isn’t the right fit for this person, and you don’t want someone to accept it with a “well, I don’t love it, but I could probably sell it” view. Ultimately you want someone who will love your manuscript, who will be passionate about it and pursue publication because they believe in it, and you. So keep in mind that each rejection puts you closer to the right hands.

Second, be sure you are researching agents and publishers to find the ones who you want to work with. Don’t go into querying with an anybody-will-do approach. Be sure you’re targeting submissions to people who represent the genre you write in, agents who will meet your long-term career plans (for example, if an agent only represents YA, and you plan to write in the adult market as well, you’ll need to consider that). You should be able to tell an agent or publisher why you submitted to them. Do they represent an author you admire, did you hear them speak at a conference or on a podcast, did you read an interview with them? What specific reason can you offer for thinking this agent/publisher is for you beyond the fact that they are open to submission?

Third, and this goes without saying, but will probably continue to cause all of us ongoing issues: read your submission 3-4 times before sending it! Pay attention to the spelling of the agent/editors name–as well as your own!

Fourth, learn to be patient, or come up with ways to distract yourself from the wait. On average you can expect to wait 4-8 weeks for a response (or lack of response!). I know, from the minute we hit Send on that query we begin the constant checking and refreshing of our emails. We can’t seem to get away from it, but what else can we do to busy our minds and make the wait go by faster? A common suggestion is to get busy on your next project. Writing definitely makes the time pass and keeps you occupied.

One trick I’ve adopted is to plot my submissions so that every week I should have something going out or a resolution on an outstanding submission. Part of my research involves making a note of expected response times. I then send out submissions, in part with an idea of response times (long, medium and short waits). I mix my submissions with an even number of 8-12 week responders, 4-6 week responders, and 2-4 week responders. That way every few weeks I’m either closing out submissions and sending new ones or researching more. But in my mind I’m making some sort of progress every few weeks.

When you do start feeling the sting of waiting and/or rejection reach out and talk to someone. If you don’t have a local writing community, the internet has so many opportunities for reaching out. On Twitter the #WritingCommunity threads are very supportive, and there are smaller, genre-specific groups as well. One thing you should never do though, is use social media to slam an agent/publisher who has rejected your work. Sadly, it is something that still happens, and it will not help you achieve publication–nor should it.

Well friends, that’s it, that’s all I have to offer. Above all, I encourage you to keep writing, keep submitting, and keep dreaming! (and drop me a comment when you achieve your dream–or any time)

Dual Book Review: Keeper by Kim Chance & Seeker by Kim Chance

Keeper (Keeper #1) by Kim Chance

Lainey is a typical teenage girl, she’s trying to find her place in high school…oh, and she just found out her mother is a Keeper. Not only was her mother a Keeper—a witch the ability to open and use the grimoire—but Lainey finds out she’s a Keeper as well.

But the grimoire has gone missing along with the most powerful spell known. Of all the people who are looking for it, the Master is the one person who is the most dangerous. If the Master were to find the grimoire he’d be able to absorb all the magic in the world for his own use.

Along with her feisty superhero-loving friend Lainey has to try and find the grimoire while navigating the dangers of the magic world and people who may not be who they pretend to be.

Keeper is an exciting, fun adventure with an explosive ending that left me ready to immediately open book 2!

Seeker (Keeper #2) by Kim Chance

In the wake of the explosive finale in Keeper, Lainey and Maggie have been spirited out of the Master’s reach by a group of paranormal renegades. Lainey is dealing with the loss of her uncle, Ty’s betrayal, and the ever-present threat that the Master will find her as well as the pressure of having to conceal where the grimoire really is.

Seeker is a solid follow up to Keeper. The pacing remains solid, the characters and storyline develop at a satisfying pace. There was a bit of a lull until the mid-point, but it picked up again and I was left just as satisfied with this book as I was with the first.

Maggie and Ty are so well-developed here, I couldn’t help but be more focused on their progression than Lianey’s, though hers was just as intriguing.

Kim Chance has done a great job of building this world that exists right in the midst of our own and oh, how I want this secret world to be real!

*I received a copy of Seeker from NetGalley and Flux in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Pretty Guilty Women by Gina Lamanna

At the rehearsal for a wedding at a fabulous Californian resort a man is dead and four different women insist that they alone are responsible.  

Each woman’s story is alternated with a police interrogation in which Detective Ramone tries to sort through the confusing and contradictory accounts that each woman claim’s is the truth.

I was hooked on Pretty Guilty Women from the opening chapter, it was suspenseful and creepy. That feeling lessened a bit as I waited for the story to progress, but the pacing was good, and it held my interest throughout. I wasn’t completely surprised at the revelation of “who dunnit”, but it didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the book for me.

*I received a copy of Pretty Guilty Women from NetGalley and Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Kammani is a healer, a skill she learned from her father who was banished into a life of poverty after failing to save the son of a ruler. Now the ruler is dying and, according to tradition, the three most beautiful girls have been chosen for the ultimate honor of accompanying him in the tomb—and the afterlife. One of the girls is Kammani’s sister.

Now Kammani will be challenged at every turn as she desperately tries to challenge tradition and her own skills to save her sister.

Gravemaidens is a dark, intense, pulse-pounding story. The supporting characters are well-developed, the setting is vibrant and rich. There were a few plot developments that I found to be a bit convenient, but it didn’t really distract me from the pace and enjoyment of the story. I’m looking forward to the next book!

*I received a copy of Gravemaidens from NetGalley and Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review