Another Hiatus?!

I’d hoped to post today. But I ended up spent all day doing the copy edits for SCHEMES, going to class, and prepping for a presentation due on Thursday and my last midterm tomorrow morning. I can’t believe it. The last day of classes is Dec 7, and there is a midterm tomorrow.

Hope everyone had a good thanksgiving.

R.I.P.

I’ve been killing my darlings in the past week. And not just any darlings.

The summer of 2005 marked a turning point. My big martial-arts action-adventure epic bombed at literary agencies across the country. I had no idea what was wrong with my writing other than it wasn’t good enough. I was never less sure of my ability to sell a work of fiction in this century.

So I went on writing.

And one day, I wrote the following opening to a historical romance:

It was a truth almost universally acknowledged that Madame Durant’s cooking killed Bertie Somerset. The proponents of this conjecture intended it to be a moral lesson—Mr. Somerset, having paid for his gluttony with an early demise, would dine for the remainder of eternity where steaks were perpetually charred and soufflés everlastingly flat.

But the fortunate few who had actually been invited to Bertie Somerset’s fabled twenty-course spreads pondered that same theory with awed envy. Lucky chap, to have feasted upon Madame Durant’s delectable food for more than a decade, and then to have departed this earth with his face buried in a bowl of the silkiest, densest mousse au chocolat known to man. Lucky chap indeed.

While England’s dozen or so gastronomes reminisced fondly over tarte au citron and escargot en croute, the rest of Society, master and servant alike, regurgitated old rumors concerning the special relationship between Mr. Somerset and Mme. Durant—namely, whether she slept with him and how often, though more intrepid souls went so far as to speculate on depravities involving pastry cream and rolling pins.

I remember being astonished. That writing had a voice. Where had that come from? I’d never had a discernible voice before. And suddenly there I was, writing as if I’d always had this voice that perfectly reflected my cynical, sly take on life.

I’d finally hit my stride. Six weeks later, I would rediscover the old manuscript of SCHEMES OF LOVE in a cardboard box, flip through it, and be inspired to re-tell the story, with this brand new, slightly arch, self-assured voice of mine.

When my editor approved the proposal for DELICIOUS, I tossed most of what I’d written in 2005 to start afresh, but there was never any question that this opening would firmly remain in its place of honor. Because it instantly establishes the book as a Sherry Thomas book. Because it is fun and slightly naughty. Because I am ever so fond of it, my darling, my own, my precious.

I chucked that whole opening this past week. I tried to save it. I tried long and hard. But my darling has become like that favorite blouse from fifteen years ago. It looked wonderful then. There are so many good memories. But it doesn’t go with anything else in my closet and I just can’t wear it anymore.

Taking out the old beginning has opened up the story to go where it needed to go (I hope). It has uncorked my thinking, sharpened my editing pencil, and given me renewed zest. After all, if I can handle taking a knife to my most beloved darling, I can scare this story into shape (I hope).

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

When You Can’t Go Forward, Go Back

I’ve been away from my manuscript for a while. Partly because of all the demands of school—tests and cases being their own unalterable deadlines—and more because I was stuck.

The forward momentum on Delicious had been decelerating for a few weeks before it halted altogether. And where it finally ran aground was an unexpected place, a mere reaction scene, or a sequel, if you’ve heard of scene-and-sequel. (If you haven’t, imagine the scene is a big fight that ends with everyone banging the door storming out, the sequel would be one or more of them trying to sort out what happened, what it all meant, and where to go from there.)

The heroine, Verity, is a cook. The hero, Remus, is her new employer—and half-brother to her late employer who had, at one time, been her lover. There is a strong attraction between Verity and Remus, but neither of them wants it to go any further: he, being a rising politician, does not want the complication; she, because she’d long ago stopped believing in Cinderella stories. Finally, one night, Verity gets a little tipsy and almost manages to land Remus in the sack.

That scene is done and in the can. The scene that followed, during which Remus directs Verity to return to his country seat, ostensibly to prepare for the Christmas feasts, is also finished and usable. Then I thought, hmm, we never got to know what was in his head during his near-seduction, better put in a few paragraphs.

The few paragraphs refused all cooperation. I wrote and deleted and wrote and deleted, baffled by my inability to make progress. What was the matter? Why didn’t the words flow? Why couldn’t I accomplish something as simple as describing a man’s reaction to almost sleeping with the woman with whom he was in deep lust?

Then it hit me: I’ve lost all touch with him.

From the moment my proposal for Delicious met with approval from my editor, I’d been racing against the clock, pushing hard to move the story along. I’ve written many scenes but almost no sequels: no introspection, no reflection, no layering of character and very little revealing of backstory.

And that is no way to go for a character-driven story. The estate Remus inherits should have been a character in its own right, full of scents and sounds and textures that trigger long-forgotten memories at every turn. Remus himself, born illegitimate, and not legitimized until just before his mother’s death when he was in his late teens, should have been a much more interesting and multidimensional character than just this handsome gentleman who arrives once in a while to speak a few lines to startle Verity.

I knew, of course, that the beginning of the story needed much reworking. But I kept putting it off in the name of progress. Now I’m totally pumped to go back and flesh out the skeletal frame, to give weight that would anchor the story much more firmly, and to make my characters real people, as opposed to obedient pawns in my drive for victory against the deadline.

Midterms went swimmingly. Thank you so much for all the good wishes.

Live From New York, Anatomy Lessons

A few weeks back I blogged about the purplest sentence I’d ever penned: He was a burning pyre of concupiscence in a sarcophagus of despair.

Okay, you can stop chuckling now.

For that bit of over-the-top writing I have something of a semi-valid excuse. My agent, in her revision letter, had requested an additional love scene, a scene which I’d let fade to black in my original manuscript because I found it too daunting to do, given all the love, hate, anger, and anguish on the hero’s part, because of a course of action he’d already decided upon for the morning after.

When my agent insisted, I got to thinking, and came up with a totally new way of tackling it. I was so excited, I rushed to my laptop to finish the whole scene in one emotionally charged session. Ergo, the semi-valid excuse. It was done really fast and it was essentially a first draft when I dashed off the revisions to her. Had I a little more time, and a few more readings, I might have come to my senses and hacked the sentence myself.

There existed in my manuscript, however, a far graver error, that slipped by both my agent and me, even though I must have gone through the scene twenty times during the writing of the book.

The error took place in the aftermath of a love scene. She stands facing a table. He is behind her. Here’s the snippet. See if you can spot what’s wrong.

His cheek nuzzled against her neck. His hands were on either side of hers. They stood, practically in an embrace, with him leaning into her, surrounding her.

“Oh, God, Gigi,” he murmured, the syllables barely audible. “Gigi.”

She froze, the spell of the moment shattered. He had uttered that exact phrase on their wedding night, over her, under her, beside her, in what she had believed to be exultant bliss.

She twisted and slammed her palms into his chest. Her abrupt ferocity did not budge him, but his eyes widened in surprise. A moment later he voluntarily disengaged from her, withdrawing and stepping away.


See it?

Here’s what my editor, Caitlin Alexander, wrote on the page: “How can she slam her palms into his chest unless she turns completely around?” Then Caitlin put brackets around the word “withdrawing” and drew an arrow from the word to the part that said “twisted”.

I think my jaw literally dropped to the floor at that point, followed by hysterical laughter, thinking of what Caitlin must have thought but refrained from putting down on paper: indeed, how can Gigi do that, turning around, and hitting him, before he has withdrawn from her, unless he has—okay, let’s go with purple prose here—a love lance with the length and flexibility of a vacuum cleaner hose.

I’d have never lived it down had that made it to print. And you know some clever reader would have caught it and the Smart Bitches would be rolling on the floor laughing and blogging it. I’d have to forever hang my head in shame, the romance author equivalent of Dan Quayle. Worse, Dan Quayle only added an “e” to “potato”, I gave twenty-four whole new inches to the male anatomy.

That was my anatomy lesson from New York. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Professor Alexander. I promise to study harder for the next midterm.

Next Tuesday, hmm, I’ve both my contract and my author photo coming in the mail this week. Let’s see which one is more blog-worthy.

He Was A Burning Pyre of Concupiscence in a Sarcophagus of Despair, or, What a Good Agent Does for You

He was a burning pyre of concupiscence in a sarcophagus of despair.

Yeah, I actually wrote that. Sounds like something that would have fitted right in at the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, Best Beginnings for the Worst Novels Never Written. And here I thought I didn’t do purple prose.

Fortunately for me, Kristin Nelson, my lovely literary agent, caught it and crossed it out right away. I remember staring at the bright red line through my darling words. I was highly tempted to reject that particular editorial change and reinstate the sentence. It was pithy, it was strong, and it was startling imagery. It was mine, my own, my precious.

I’m glad, however, that I acquiesced on that one.

In a way, that little experience is symbolic of the trust I place in Kristin. By now her niceness is probably legendary, but most readers of her blog probably don’t realize that she is also a terrific editor. Not that I went along with everyone of her editorial suggestions–Kristin would be the first to tell you that I struck out my own way on some major story decisions. But when she took the trouble to delete one particular sentence, it was my trust in her, rather than anything else, that made me go along, cuz I didn’t realize how ridiculous the sentence was until much later.

Give at that point we’d been working together only a couple of weeks, how do I know she is that good? Easy, because she sent me a long list of editorial points right after our figurative handshake and everything she asked for made SCHEMES OF LOVE stronger and better. Some of what she wanted made hellish rewrites, because she had exposed underlying weaknesses in the story that I hadn’t even considered. But judging by how quickly the story sold, and what a relative cakewalk I had with revisions from Bantam, it was well worth the effort.

How quickly the story sold brings me to another point. The first editor who offered for SCHEMES OF LOVE did it within three days after the manuscript began making the rounds. Part of it was pure luck, that the manuscript hit her desk when it did. The other part of it, however, had to be Kristin. I don’t believe any editor is ever completely free from the to-be-read pile. That particular editor, even in a moment of relative lull, probably still had various manuscripts lined up. That she chose to read what Kristin sent in right away tells me that one, she trust’s Kristin’s taste and selectiveness, two, Kristin probably did one heck of a job selling it over the phone.

The funny thing is, the ms sold to Caitlin Alexander at Bantam in the end. I have never heard of Caitlin before, nor was Bantam even on my radar–and I’ve been writing a while, and know the names of many editors at different houses. So this is where Kristin’s familiarity with editors and their tastes and what they are looking for really paid off big time.

Big time. Therefore, I don’t understand why Kristin even has to explain that nice doesn’t mean wimpy in negotiations. Ask anyone of her clients. They will tell you she is a tough, shrewd gal. Not beneath that niceness, mind you, because there is nothing surface about her niceness, it comes from empathy and sensitivity. But just right alongside each other, the triumvirate that is Kristin Nelson: shrewd, tough, and nice. (I’d throw honest in there too, but I don’t know the 4-part equivalent to triumvirate.)

I’d go on, but I’ve homework piled up and 4000 words to write for the week. Plus, I’d better disengage my lips before they become permanently attached to Kristin’s posterior (haven’t seen it, but I’m sure it’s nice too). Hehe.

Next Tuesday, But I’m So Much Better than What’s-Her-Name!

Everything I Know About Writing I Learned from Rejections III: When Rejection Letters Go Bad

Golda Meir once said, “Don’t be so humble, you are not that great.”

I have been very humble in the previous two posts. But as I’m really not that great, today we chuck all that humility, cuz there are times when there’s frankly nothing you can learn from rejection letters, even if they are personalized.

Both of the two rejection letters below are for SCHEMES OF LOVE, which five different houses wanted, and went to Bantam in a pre-empt (thank you Ms. Nelson and Ms. Alexander). My agent forwarded the two of them to me within minutes of each other on a Friday morning. At that point we already had an offer on the table, but trust me, it still wasn’t easy to take two rejections back-to-back.

Names blacked out to protect my own sweet patootie.

Rejection Letter I

July 14, 2006

Hi, Kristin—

I got your message this morning when I returned to the office. I can absolutely see why you’re so keen on this project (and why you currently have an offer in hand!). Its premise is unusually dark, yet charming at the same time (reminds me a bit of ****** that way), and the prose is well-paced and engaging.

That said, ****** is currently streamlining its list, and I think this book, while excellent, would come too close to the sort of thing ****** is currently doing for us. Given the challenges of breaking a new voice out in the market, I fear that here SCHEMES wouldn’t get the attention it deserves.

So reluctantly, I’m going to let this one go (and kick myself anew when it appears on the shelves, I’m sure). But thanks for thinking of me, and for the pleasure of the read. Enjoy your backcountry trip!

******

This is a sweet, lovely letter. But make no mistake, it is a rejection letter. Editor I didn’t come right out and say it, but the implicit message is nevertheless loud and clear: she didn’t love it. She is an acquiring editor. Had she fallen in love with SCHEMES, she’d have made room on her list and gotten the editorial board behind her to make damn sure that the book got the attention it deserved.

A frustrating letter, at once diplomatic and sincere, yet it ultimately saying little more than “not right for us.” It makes me want to eat a whole pile of something fried and fatty and mumble “Why? Why? Why?” with every stuffed mouthful that hastens my trip to the heart surgeon’s.

That said, I don’t wish the editor to kick herself at all. There are books others love that I don’t. I understand.

The next letter, however, made me lose sleep, the first time that’s ever happened in all my years of writing. And not one night of sleep, either. Every night for four nights running until we finally reached a deal with Bantam, I’d go to sleep okay, and wake up at two in the morning absolutely convinced that all the other houses we hadn’t heard from yet were all going to reject me too.

Rejection Letter II

July 14, 2006

Hi, Kristin

Thank you so much for sharing SCHEMES OF LOVE with me. Regretfully, however, I’m going to decline interest.

The bones of this story is actually very similar to a book ****** published last year – ****** by ******. While Sherry Thomas has a good voice overall, I found it too matter-of-fact and not as emotional as it could be.

Again, I really appreciate your thinking of me. And as you mentioned there is already an offer on the table, I wish both you and Sherry success in this project

Have a good weekend,

******

Nothing terrible, except, omg, OMG, it singled out my greatest strength as an area of weakness. Emotional complexity is my bread and butter, what am I going to do now?

At some point I have to draw the line. Publishing is subjective. Either I believe SCHEMES OF LOVE is one of the most emotionally complex romances to come along in a long time or I don’t. And I believe it, without question.

So off went Rejection Letter II to the bowels of my email archive, with a few teeth marks and a stamp marked “Not right for me”. That opinion wasn’t right for me, that editor wasn’t right for me, and that house wasn’t right for me.

At the RWA national conference in Atlanta this past July. Susan Elizabeth Phillips received a most well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Rita. At the conclusion of a very affable speech. She declared that she was going to do something mean, but not just for herself, for every writer in that banquet room.

What she did was this. She told of how some years back, while her career was at a nadir, she put herself and the first Chicago Stars book up for auction to completely underwhelming results. From there on the podium, in her fabulous jacket-and-skirt ensemble, with two thousand of us waiting breathlessly below for what further pearls of wisdom she was going to dispense, she shouted at the top of her lungs, “BIG MISTAKE!”

Thank you, Ms. Phillips. Now I can be gracious and not say anything of the sort. He he.

Next Tuesday, Why I Don’t Hate Angelina Jolie. And I promise, it’s got something to do with writing.

Everything I Know About Writing I Learned from Rejections, the Sequel

I have never understood why people remain in unproductive relationships. Not just the obviously abusive kind, but relationships that seem to generate no particular emotional benefit, that coast on through sheer force of habit—because breaking up is hard to do.

It wasn’t until recently, however, that I realized that I myself had been in such a relationship for a rather extended period of time. With one twist. In that relationship, I’d been the no-good sorry-ass that I kept telling my friends to ditch.

That’s right; I’m talking about me and my former agent.

Like all once-promising relationships, ours had a romantic beginning. She was one of the agents I queried for my very first finished manuscript (a prior incarnation of SCHEMES OF LOVE, which, torn down and rebuilt many years later, was sold this summer to Bantam). We did the usual song and dance. I queried. She requested a partial. Then she requested a full. Then I didn’t hear from her for nearly two trimesters.

Then one day, out of the blue, she called. She didn’t offer representation, but we talked for two hours, on my book, on writing, on everything else under the sun too, probably. When I finished my next manuscript, I sent it to her and she called right after I brought my newborn second son home from the hospital. She loved it. We became a team that day. And what a lovely time it was in my life, with a beautiful, sweet baby in the house and a limitless future in publishing stretched before me.

The manuscript didn’t sell, but we continued to have fun. When my husband gave me a surprise registration to RWA’s national conference in NYC, she changed her vacation plans and flew back from New England especially to meet me.

That was, however, the last run of good times for us. My new manuscript she did not like. I revised and sent it back. When she finally called me, she was livid. I’d changed the story around, but did absolutely nothing to improve it. “It’s not that you don’t have conflict,” she thundered. “You don’t have a story!”

Oblivious to the precarious position I was in, I sent her a few chapters from my new WIP, a slow-moving few chapters where absolutely nothing of importance happened and—I cannot believe it today—the whole thing was written from the view point of an unimportant, observing character. I never heard back from her.

She tried to tell me where I needed improvement. She really did. But I simply never heard her. I’d written one manuscript that she loved and I thought I’d learned everything there was to know about writing novels, not realizing that that particular manuscript was more of a fluke than anything else. I’d sat down and done more or less the same thing as I’d done on my first ms. It just came out a lot better. Then I pretty much went on doing the same things, and predictably enough, there was only so much story luck going around in the universe, or encoded in my karma. And my subsequent efforts sucked like the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

A lot of times, when I see women stuck in relationships with men who don’t deserve their love, I get as angry at the women as I do at those men. Why do you tolerate that no-good sorry-ass? How is he gonna learn that what he’s doing is unacceptable unless you refuse to accept it anymore?

Well, my former agent wasn’t one to stay stuck in such a relationship. When she finally saw how clueless I was, she did the smart thing. She dumped my no-good sorry ass. And, proving that my theory on relationships and sorry-asses was exactly correct, getting dumped by someone who used to love me was one hell of a wake-up call.

I stopped assuming that everything I scribbled was readable. I became a lot more suspicious of my affectionate indulgence toward my own output. I finally got a critique partner. And tried, at least tried, to do things right.

I didn’t get things right immediately. I floundered for another whole manuscript—sixteen months, that one—showing flashes of improvement in certain chapters, and a great deal of laziness and lack of understanding on what makes anything a good read in other chapters.

But one thing was for sure. Getting rejected by my own agent taught me, if not a whole lot about writing techniques, at least a lot about myself, about the weaknesses in my character that needed to be addressed before I could sustain any kind of success, in publishing or any other field.

I can’t say that I enjoyed the process. But, just as I enjoyed neither pregnancies nor labors (no drugs, ah the pain, the pain) but am awfully fond of my children, I’m glad that someone had the wherewithal to kick me out of the house and say “I’ve had enough of your sorry ass. Grow the bleep up!”

Next Tuesday, the conclusion to the thrilling trilogy, Everything I know About Writing I learned from Rejections III: When Rejections Go Bad.

Everything I know about Writing I learned from Rejections, Part I

Alas, the author interview has been devoured by the Crapometer, hungry for some nourishment before its next appearance at Miss Snark’s dig. I have it on good authority that by the time the Crapometer has feasted on the blood and guts of dozens of hopeful writers, it will regurgitate my insignificant little piece. In the meanwhile, nothing to do but wait, and muse about rejections.

I took rejections well. When I tore open a limp, self-address envelope that had hitchhiked all the way back from New York City, and read that “thank you, but no thank you,” I grimaced a little, maybe rolled my eyes, tossed that sucker in the shoebox in my closet, and got on with my day.

No weeping into my porridge bowl, no banging my head against hard, shiny surfaces, no telephoning my fellow scribes, begging them to help me picked up the broken pieces of myself. And boy, was I smug about my robust ego and Teflon-clad, resolute sense of self. I was tough, baby, t-o-u-g-h. I got what it took to make it in this business.

Problem was, I wasn’t making it in this business. I churned out completed projects with some regularity. I had people who liked my work. I even had representation for a while. But I couldn’t scale that final height, cross that last hurdle, and get a publishing house to cough up cash for my work.

Slowly it a rather appalling suspicion began to take shape in my mind. Was it possible, was it at all possible that my toughness was actually a-r-r-o-g-a-n-c-e? I was plowing ahead, damn the torpedoes. But was I learning anything, getting any better at this whole mysterious, inexplicable art of storytelling? Or was I doing the same thing over and over, each time expecting folks to like the results a lot better?

One of the most instrumental rejection letters in my writing life came at the beginning of the query process for my grand martial-arts historical fiction. An early query letter went out via e-mail to Marcy Posner, an established NYC agent. She responded within three days, asking to have three chapters snail mailed to her.

Needless to say, I complied immediately. Three weeks later, her response came.

Dear Sherry,

Thank you for sending HEART OF BLADE. Unfortunately I just did not love it. It needs a lot of editing and is too long for the marketplace. Please do keep in mind that this is only one opinion. It is often the case that material one agent doesn’t respond to is to be met with much enthusiasm by another. You will want and need an agent who will get behind you and your work with full confidence. Given my hesitation, I’m not the one.

Sincerely,

Marcy Posner

I haven’t seen this letter in over a year. I pulled it out of the bowels of my mail folders today and was shocked by how kindly it was worded. Because I remembered it differently. I hated it when it came. It had been a bucket of cold water thrown in my face. I couldn’t care less at that time that the water was Evian and had all kinds of curative properties, I just cared that I was cold and wet and royally peeved.

What made me unhappy were the words “It needs a lot of editing”. That totally conflicted with my view of my writing. I wrote polished prose, damn it. What the bleep was I supposed to edit? At least she had the sense to acknowledge that this was only her opinion, I thought huffily.

But as the rejections trickled in, singly and in pairs, I became less and less sure of myself. Every “not right for us” joined the chorus that backed up Ms. Posner’s professional opinion. Reluctantly, but ineluctably, I began to see that my grand opus wasn’t the masterpiece I’d thought it was, but a great idea trapped in an unwieldy execution.

The other dozen or so rejections were important. They added weight and preponderance to Ms. Posner’s judgment. They made it hard for me to say, “Oh, that’s just one person who doesn’t get it.” But it was Ms. Posner’s words in that personal rejection that really sank in, that went a long way toward turning me into a much harsher judge of my own writing.

And I’m a better writer for it.

Next Tuesday, Everything I Know About Writing I Learned From Rejections, Part Deux.

Two Queries

I’ve said in various places that my first blog entry would be my query letter. Well, I’m going to exceed your expectation. Yes, I’m going to give you two query letters.

Query # 1

May 2005

Dear Ms. Agent,

Catherine Blade is a woman of uncommon beauty, great intelligence, and deadly martial arts skills. She is also the illegitimate child of an English adventurer and a Chinese courtesan, the disgraced mother of an illegitimate child of her own, and a servant in perpetual bondage. And now she has been given the one chance to serve her country, earn her freedom, and redeem herself.

She travels to England to recover stolen relics, clues to a legendary treasure. But standing in her way are three men: a new enemy bent on arresting her for espionage, an old foe out for blood, and the lover she thought she had killed long ago.

Heart of Blade is a quest, a book of thrilling martial arts action, and a perilous love story. But above all, it is the tale of an extraordinary woman, set in the waning days of the Qing Dynasty, the glitter and glamour of fin de siècle Victorian England, and the deserts and mountains of Eastern Turkestan, at the height of the Great Game. It is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets The Forsyte Saga, a book unlike anything available in the marketplace at this moment.

The manuscript is complete. If this query piques your interest, I should be delighted to provide a partial. Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Cordially,

Sherry Thomas

Query #2

April 2006

Dear Ms. Nelson,

I’m a faithful reader of your blog. I admire your enthusiasm, your humor, and your candor. Since you represent all subgenres of romance, I’d like you to consider Schemes of Love, my historical romance set in late Victorian England. The manuscript is complete at 100,000 words.

Gigi’s marriage is doomed from the moment she decides that she must have Camden, by fair means or foul. Camden, who has come to adore Gigi, discovers her deceit on the eve of their wedding. Shattered, he responds in kind, gives her a tender, unforgettable wedding night, then coldly leaves her in the morning, devastating her.

As the story opens, it is ten years later. Gigi has petitioned for divorce in order to remarry. Camden returns to England and sets the condition for her freedom: an heir. Despite the years and the sea of bad blood, the physical attraction between them remains as ferocious as ever. Though they each vow to make the act of procreation a cold, clinical one, the overwhelming pleasure of their marriage bed soon makes it apparent that the enterprise is fraught with emotional peril, for both of them.

In an atmosphere thick with mistrust, desire, and incipient hope, they are torn between the need to safeguard their hearts and the yearning to reach out across the chasm of ancient mistakes. As they rediscover the easy rapport they’d once shared, they must decide whether to let the bygones rule the future, or to love despite their painful past and forge a new life together.

Schemes of Love recently placed first in its category at the Merritt Contest, organized by San Antonio Romance Authors. Chris Keeslar at Dorchester has requested the full. Another one of my manuscripts has won the Romantic Elements category of the 2005 On the Far Side contest, hosted by the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA.

Thank you for your time. I hope very much to work with you and look forward to hearing from you.

Sherry Thomas

The query for SCHEMES OF LOVE is superior in its clarity, with the genre, the sub-genre, the setting, and the word count all up front in the first paragraph, where as Query #1 doesn’t mention the setting until the third paragraph. Discerning readers will also have noticed that there is no word count in Query #1. An deliberate omission in this particular instance–the book was quite long.

But if you are thinking, well, in spite of its shortcomings, Query #1 isn’t half so bad, then you, my insightful friend, share my opinion. Furthermore, Query #1 succeeded every bit as well as Query #2 in its chosen function, and generated several requests for more material.

Then how come I am not happily announcing my fabulous historical fiction with the half-English, half-Chinese kickass heroine coming soon to a bookstore near you the way I’m happily announcing my fabulous historical romance SCHEMES OF LOVE’s debut from Bantam (thank you, Ms. Nelson!), in fall 2007?

The answer next week, in The Tale of Two Queries.