Monthly Archives: April 2013

Meet Writer Mari Adkins

Posted by April 29th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A


“I write because I can’t not write. It’s in my head going around and must come out on paper.” –Mari Adkins

Mari Adkins is a southern gothic fiction writer from southeastern Kentucky. Mari is now on her way to becoming a published author: her novel Midnighthas been acquired by Apex Publications, and will come out in early 2014!

Nevena: Congratulations on selling your book, Midnight, to Apex. Tell us more about the novel!

Mari: Thank you! This is really exciting! (And scary! LOL.)

Midnight is the first book in an adult southern gothic series. It started as a poem and a short paragraph in 1996. Somewhere around 2000/2001, I decided I had a story and started filling in the blanks just to see what I could do with it. Before long, I had 120,000 words! I decided a couple of years ago I wanted to see the story from the main character’s daughter’s POV, and it just took off.

The book is about an abused, chronically depressed young woman, searching for herself, some stability, an anchor. The people she comes to love and cherish as her friends are vampires. As psychologically ill and damaged as Sami is, those three men—all vampires—continue the abuse in the way they treat her. Though her world is in chaos, once she is able to find what she’s looking for, she has no choice but to face herself and deal with what she finds there. She discovers which of her friends and family she can trust as she battles the transformations that will enable her to find the inner strength to embrace her true nature and the will to awaken the vampire within.

(Let the groaning begin. Yes, I write vampires! I’m “that Hillbilly Vampire lady”.)

Nevena: Haha. On your website, you say that the characters in your stories are “not your usual bloodthirsty Bram Stoker-type vampires.” How so?

Mari: My vampires are more human than vampire; they need only a little blood to maintain their health and to keep them from going insane. The stories revolve around the real-life problems the characters face more than their “vampireness.”

: So it’s more about the vampiric consciousness. Fascinating. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Mari: It sounds cheesy, but I wrote my first “book” when I was six. Complete with illustrations. In crayon. It’s about a princess and her dog and their adventures in their undersea kingdom.

I write because I can’t not write. It’s in my head going around and must come out on paper. And yes, I write longhand; I’ve always found it difficult to get my thoughts straight at the keyboard as I’m dyslexic and have ADHD. This means I’m prone to leaving important things out—like words, sentences and explanations—when I try to compose or edit at the keyboard.
I didn’t get serious about publication until about ten years ago.

Nevena: So how do you balance writing with “life”?

Mari: I’m fortunate to stay home and work at my kitchen table. Since I learned a few years ago that I’m blessed with ADHD, I’ve started keeping a dayplanner so I can keep up with what I’m supposed to be doing on a given day. As well as writing and homemaking, I also do editing for hire. It helps break up the monotony.

When I have to go somewhere, I always take a backpack. We don’t have a car, so I travel by foot or by bus for the most part. I always carry my e-reader, my mp3 player, a journal, notebooks, and a case with pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, and tape. Writing on the bus isn’t the prettiest or best thing in the world, but if I have a scene gnawing at me, I can at least scribble notes so I don’t lose certain thoughts or descriptions.

Nevena: So what is your favorite genre to write, and why?

Mari: I write paranormal fantasy because that’s where my interests lie. I’ve been a Pagan practitioner since 1988. The metaphysical elements and deities I incorporate into my writing are those that I’m most familiar with. The “gothic” element comes in from the setting, especially in Midnight, where Harlan County is very much its own character within that story.

Nevena: Now that Midnight’s with your editor, what have you been working on most recently?

Mari: I’ve been plugging away on my YA project. I started it out as a series of journal entries. But then I realized the format is stifling the story. Writing a journal is fun and what fifteen-year-old girls do. Not so conducive to storytelling. So for the last month or so I’ve been writing. Whatever comes into my head. It’s been more cohesive than what I had before.

Nevena: I’ll look out for it. Now I have to ask: What’s your Book Country story?

Mari: I was invited to Book Country at the beginning and have stayed because I like the professional atmosphere. The members here are all so polite with each other, yet never hesitate to tell each other straight up when they’re wrong. I like that everyone here—admins and members alike—are so free about sharing information with each other. Other places, you have to pry information out of people or go through the whole, “If you spend $20 and buy my e-book,” routine. In all, Book Country is one of my Internet bright spots.

Nevena: You’re one of our bright spots, too. You link to really great writing resources on the Book Country discussion forums. How do you improve your craft?

Mari: Thank you. Google is my friend. I read a lot of blogs. When you read someone else’s links, you get sucked down the rabbit hole and find all sorts of treasures. I also follow a lot of writers on Facebook. Michael Knost, for example, hosts online writing courses now and then, and they are, in my opinion, worth more than what he charges; he’s high on my recommendation list.

Also, I belong to a wonderful writing group. We’re scattered across the US and Canada and meet online once a week. We all have different talents and skills, and read in different areas. In fact, they get the kudos for helping makeMidnight (and its sequel) the story it is today.

Nevena: What should the Book Country community know about you that they don’t already?

Mari: I got so excited about journaling last year that I created a group about it on Facebook, Journaling Journey. We collect prompts, notebook ideas and layouts, shopping hints and tips (where to and how to), pictures of cool things in art journals, scrapbooks, diaries, etc. One of our members started giving us “challenges” once every two weeks. We have a lot of fun, and the people in the group are loaded with some amazing creativity.

Nevena: We’ll check it out. Thanks for chatting with me, Mari! Good luck with the book!

Connect to Mari on Book Country, like her fan page on Facebook, and visit her at Look out for her debut novel, Midnight, in early 2014.

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This Week on Book Country, April 22 – 28

Posted by April 28th, 2013

A weekly update on what’s new and noteworthy on Book Country.

Book flying in the sky

Did you know?

Some of the stories you might have missed this week:

Member Nicholas Kotar talked to us about how Tolkien and Russian folklore influenced his writing for the Member Spotlight.

We’ve got several newcomers this week! Pop into the “Introduce Yourself” forum to greet KellyTE, and Elin.

Member LeeAnna Holt got ‘real’ about editing in an awesome guest blog post. (She name drops Book Country. Woot!)

Fresh off the press:

These are new projects that haven’t gotten any reviews yet. C’mon, give them a read.

Last Brother, Last Sister by Michele Lee
A bokor of questionable morals is all that stands between humanity and a zombie apocalypse.

Youth Arising by Josh Stahl
A slightly futuristic thriller about a young man who finds himself wielding more power than he ever expected. This would be good, if it weren’t for the Finders.

Syzygy by Angela Donnell
In a future where humans no longer fight each other, special pairs of humans are needed to fight in a war between two alien races…whether they want to or not.

Till next week!


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This Week on Book Country, April 15 – 22

Posted by April 22nd, 2013

A weekly update on what’s new and noteworthy on Book Country.

Book flying in the sky

Fresh off the press:

These are new books/drafts of book that haven’t gotten any reviews yet. Show them some love—give them a read!

The Small Room by Kevin Haggerty

Sometimes you can tell the size of a room just by looking at the door.

Lonely Love by Timothy Noble

A lonely man finds love in the strangest of places.

Cursedby Michele Lee

A “high”-urban-fantasy. Dragons and knights instead of vampires and werewolves.

Did you know?

Some of the stories you might have missed this week:

Agent Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary dissected the query letter that led to her partnership with Book Country member—and soon to be published author!—Jamie Wyman. See Jamie’s query in full here.

Member Laura Dwyer shared her fascination with J.R. Ward and her “no-BS style,” and talked about her novel-in-progress, the urban fantasy Aequitas.

Member Alexandra Brim revived an old discussion: Writing Pet Peeves. This is the place to discuss ridiculous plot points of popular TV series.

Till next week!
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Meet Writer Nicholas Kotar

Posted by April 22nd, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A


“Writing is an apprenticeship.” –Nicholas Kotar

Nicholas Kotar is a Book Country member and a full-time theology student in the seminary. He comes from a Russian family, who didn’t teach him to speak English until he figured it out for himself around age four. In his free time, he leads choirs in Orthodox chant. When he’s not studying, he’s out traveling somewhere—looking for the Siren who came to him once, and sang the beginning of his first novel, Raven Son.

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Nicholas. How did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Nicholas: I don’t actually remember when I started. I just remember writing. I still have one of my early stories—a terrible Star Wars rip-off called “Duels of Space,” complete with pencil drawings of laser-swords and blasters. Then I read The Lord of the Rings. That was it. I never stopped writing after that.

Nevena: How do you fit writing into your life?

Nicholas: I honestly don’t know. Right now I’m studying full time at a Russian seminary in the middle of gorgeous nowhere, and also conducting the choir for church services, and working as an assistant editor at a small publishing company, and translating a 600-page non-fiction book from Russian to English. But occasionally it’s like Dostoevsky described—the chick starts to peck at its shell, and you can’t keep it in. When that happens, I’ll just put nearly everything else aside until the torrent of words starts running out.

Nevena: The muse just descends upon you! So what draws you to the fantasy genre?

Nicholas: Tolkien and Lewis were my favorite authors in childhood (in English, that is), not only because they tell a good story, but because they write beautiful language. That’s what I look for in fantasy—glimmers of transcendent beauty in the language, the story, the characters. And yes, that does mean that my fantasy reading is limited almost exclusively to Tolkien, Lewis, LeGuin, and Gene Wolfe (he’s a recent discovery).

Nevena: I noticed your fiction is influenced by Russian folklore. What’s unique about it?

Nicholas: I could tell you, if you had about four hours of free time! That’s like asking what’s unique about the Russian people. I think what I find most interesting is how comfortably these stories jump tonally from serious to hilarious to absolutely horrifying and back again. Death is never far from any of the characters, and going through death is sometimes the only way a character can make sure that “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,” so to speak. There’s something very compelling about that, I think.

Raven Son is a finished novel. How did you come up with the idea for the book?

Nicholas: I was on my way to Cairo for a month-long trek through Egypt, Sinai, and Israel. I had a thirteen-hour layover in the Amsterdam airport, and for some reason I thought it would be smart to stay awake the whole time. So I drank lots of coffee, opened a notebook, and one of the Syrin—paradise birds whose song has been known to drive people mad—started singing to me. Seriously! I wrote the first scene without lifting my pen from the page. Later, when I got back from the trip, I thought it would be interesting to write down my experiences in the form of a fairy tale. But by page fifty, the story had run away from me. It went wherever it wanted to go, and I had to follow it, trying not to lose it. The next few years were incredibly eventful—traveling on all the continents except Antarctica, spending a winter in a Russian monastery on an island, getting engaged, then un-engaged in the worst possible way, then being brought back to life again by a blue-eyed angel in a small cafe on a St. Petersburg canal. Through it all, Raven Son kept writing itself, while I struggled to follow. It was exhilarating.

Nevena: What have you learned in the course of writing and revising the novel—and having all of those incredible experiences?

Nicholas: The hardest thing to realize was that the elation I feel while writing doesn’t immediately translate to elation while reading. I used to think that since I read a lot, then my writing would automatically reflect the greatness of Dostoyevsky, Austen, Eliot, and Tolkien. Nope! After running into the wall many times, I finally got it. Writing is an apprenticeship. You have to learn how to follow the rules, even if the rules are arbitrary and silly, and depend only on the fluctuating market. If you learn to follow them, then much, much later you can (maybe) start to break them.

Nevena: So what’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Nicholas: “Don’t write about long journeys on foot! You’ve never been on one.” So I went on a walking tour of the Lakes in North England for 10 days. I guess that’s an unusual variant of “write about what you know.”

Nevena: Amazing! Why are you a Book Country member?

Nicholas: Other sites, for example, are built in such a way that people are afraid to give anything but positive feedback. I don’t want to know my book is good. I can convince myself of that easily enough. Book Country is good in that sense—I’ve heard some very constructive comments that have helped me revise Raven Son several times.

Nevena: I’m glad! Any advice for new members?

Nicholas: New members! Don’t immediately react negatively to people who don’t think your book is the Great American Novel. It really isn’t, honestly. Not yet.

Nevena: Is there anything else you want to share with the community?

Nicholas: Even though all of us could use a healthy dose of humility when it comes to taking harsh criticism, it’s important to know that sometimes people are just wrong. It’s really hard, but I think all of us need to learn how to distinguish between good and bad criticism. Otherwise we might kill our baby before it grows up on its own. Oh, and give Raven Son’s first few pages a read, if you have a few minutes. Thanks!

Nevena: Thanks for joining us! Good luck shopping the book.

Connect with Nicholas aka Voran on Book Country and check out Raven Son’s Facebook page.

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Query 101 with Agent Jennie Goloboy

Posted by April 17th, 2013

[Update: Jamie Wyman’s book WILD CARD (previously TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) is out now by Entangled.]

Agent Jennie Goloboy dissects the query letter that started her partnership with Book Country member Jamie Wyman.


Most of my clients first gained my attention due to effective query letters. So how do you write a strong query letter, one that makes an agent curious enough to read the book? Jamie Wyman, author of Technical Difficulties (forthcoming from Entangled) has kindly permitted me to share the query that led to our author/agent team.


Dear Ms. Goloboy,

[Hey! She spelled my last name correctly! Always a plus.]

My name is Jamie Wyman and I’m seeking agent representation for my debut novel TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. I see that not only are you a writer as well as an agent, but you’re a fellow zombie fan. I’ve got a few zombie tales in my folder, too. While the shamblers don’t appear in this book, the novel I have to share with you does step outside of the mundane.

[It’s clear from the start that Jamie knows the proper format for a query letter, which immediately demonstrates that she will be professional. In an opening paragraph, if it’s there, I look for one of three things. Was the author recommended to me by a mutual friend? Did we meet at a conference, where I requested a manuscript?  Do we know each other from a writing group? If none of these three things are true, I go straight to the next paragraph.]

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES is a 77,500 word urban fantasy blending magic, myth and the modern world. In the Las Vegas of Catherine Sharp, gods gamble with souls of unassuming humans. Eight years ago, Catherine’s soul fell into the possession of Eris, the Greek goddess of Discord. Since then she has been working a dead end technical support job while performing random tasks for the goddess. When Coyote, the Native American trickster himself, claims to have won her soul in Mayhem’s weekly poker game, Catherine must get in on the action if she wants to be free. This won’t be easy with five trickster gods upping the ante. Along for the ride is Marius, an insatiable satyr with his own debt to Eris. If they play their cards right, Cat and Marius may get their lives back. Assuming they don’t kill each other first.

[Urban fantasy/paranormal romance is a very overpopulated genre, so a pitch has to be really good to attract my attention. I was intrigued by the unique setting of Jamie’s manuscript—a Las Vegas in which all the gods are real.  Jamie was also successful in suggesting her heroine’s world-weary but tough persona, even in this short paragraph. I liked the fact that Cat had a real job in tech support, which suggested that this would be a book grounded in reality, despite the presence of the fantastic. The romance is critical, and I liked that Marius wasn’t your typical vampire/werewolf/wizard, but his description as “insatiable” was one of the things we revised when pitching this to editors. We called him a “sarcastic, self-centered satyr,” which gave a clearer impression of the source of romantic conflict. (Every word counts!)]

Catherine offers genre fans a strong, smart yet flawed heroine. She can’t blast through problems like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, nor can she rely on an infusion of supernatural blood to get out of her predicaments. My approach to this story draws inspiration from Christopher Moore’s COYOTE BLUE and Neil Gaiman’s ANANSI BOYS. While this story stands on its own it is meant to spark Catherine’s greater journey. With trickster gods running the show, though, her adventures take on a Rube Goldberg-esque dynamic that leaves mystery until the very end of the series. Sequels and companion short stories are in varying stages of production.

[Jamie was very astute in choosing the authors with comparable titles, because she gives the accurate impression that her book would appeal to readers who don’t generally read urban fantasy or paranormal romance.Technical Difficulties occasionally pauses to recount a trickster myth in a witty style that totally won me over. (Besides, Christopher Moore is one of my favorite authors.) Jamie also made it clear that this is a novel that could either stand alone or be part of a series.]

While this would mark my publishing debut, I was fortunate enough to be included in eBookNewser’s “Best Online Fiction Authors” list in May of this year for my flash fiction piece “Eat. Prey. Love.”

[It’s true: you don’t need a huge track record to find an agent. It helped that Jamie already had a popular blog and was well-known on Twitter.]

If you’d like to know more about Catherine and her world, the full manuscript is available on a non-exclusive basis.
Thank you very much for your time, Jennie. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

Jamie Wyman

[I requested the first three chapters, read them within the hour, and requested the full the same day. That doesn’t happen often, but Jamie presented a story where I HAD to know what happened to Cat and Marius! After Jamie made some revisions to the ending, I offered her representation.]

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Celebrate National Library Week with Us!

Posted by April 16th, 2013

Share your library story with Book Country. 


It should come as no surprise that the Book Country staff loves books.

We wanted to celebrate National Library Week (14 – 20) in a special and meaningful way, and invite you to join us.

We have personal relationships with our libraries. For us, they’re associated with our love of books and storytelling. So let’s share these stories! As writers, you are master storytellers: tell us your library story.

Feel free to download the above image and share it—on your blog, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook page, or other social media outlet of your choice—with your story or snippet about what libraries mean to you. Recount a childhood memory about the magic of going to the library. Thank your favorite librarian. Tell us why you love them.

Okay, I’ll start: As some of you may know, English is not my first language. What this means is that I didn’t grow up with the same books you grew up with: relatively few English books are translated into Bulgarian, and even fewer originals find their way into Bulgarian bookstores. What I had at my disposal was my hometown’s library Foreign Language branch, which is the size of my bedroom in Astoria.

There couldn’t have been more than a few hundred titles in there, but they were enough to introduce me to wonderful writers and books and fan a hidden fire. I want to thank the two librarians who maintained those shelves, recommended books, and started me on the literary journey that I’m still on today.

Thank you!

Now it’s your turn. Download the image above or pin it from Pinterest. Share links to your reader thanks posts in the comments below. On Twitter, use hashtag #librarylove to join the celebration.

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Laura Dwyer

Posted by April 15th, 2013


“I allow my characters to take me for a ride.” –Laura Dwyer

Laura Dwyer is a long-time Book Country member and former reporter currently working in PR. Her favorite writers’ names all start with the letter “J”: Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, and J.R. Ward. As a writer, Laura has tried her hand at different genres, and is currently working on an urban fantasy with grim reapers. Laura and I chatted about finding time to write, combining reapers and vamps in her fiction, and transporting readers into the skin of her character

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Laura! How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Laura: Hi! Thanks so much for having me. I’ve been writing since junior high (let’s face it: anything earlier was pretty much for school only), and was fortunate to have some phenomenal writing teachers who encouraged me to keep writing. I’ll never forget—in junior high I wrote this first-person POV story about a person’s last hours and death by electrocution. It unsettled everyone who read it (understandably), but since then I’ve been addicted to the visceral response I got from people. No matter what genre I’m writing, it’s that reaction—extreme emotion in any of its forms—that makes it all worthwhile.

I’ve always preferred the written word to anything else, and so a career in journalism seemed natural. But I didn’t decide to get serious about it until a few years ago.

Nevena: So how do you fit writing into your life? What do you do when you’re not writing?

Laura: Well, I write for a living, working in the PR world, so I’m called on to be creative every day. I work for an environmental management agency, so my job is to translate all that science into something more digestible for the general public.

I’ll admit, finding time to write for me is challenging. I work full time, am a mom (to a toddler) and wife, and I also try to work out in some of my limited spare time. It seems that all of those other things eat up a lot of hours, so even if it’s one sentence, I try to do a bit of writing every day. It doesn’t always happen, though.

Nevena: Sounds like you have to be a good time manager. When you do find the time, what are your favorite genres to write and read? And who’s had the biggest influence on your writing?

Laura: I really enjoy paranormal romance, historical fiction, as well as police and crime dramas. Right now, the biggest influence on my writing (because of what I’m working on) is J.R. Ward. I love her no-BS writing style, and she writes from a man’s POV. It’s refreshing, like getting the best of both worlds—a woman who thinks and writes like a man, but with a woman’s perception. And I love her characters. I hope to be like her when I grow up. 🙂

Nevena: Tell us more about the project you’re currently working on, Aequitas. How did you come up with the idea for it?

Laura: The idea came from a shorter story I’d written a couple of years ago for this web site that was soliciting short, dirty stories. Fun stuff! Reapers have always fascinated me—what an interesting job description, right? Originally, the vamps in my short story were “borrowed” from two other book series. But the main character was mine. And I fell in love with her. I realized she had much more to tell me, so I delved back in and re-wrote it.

Nevena: So why did you pair up a reaper and a vampire?

Laura: Call it a knee-jerk reaction, but my first thought—aside from my reaper—was vampire. Some might question that, but I think zombies are gross, werewolves have also been done to exhaustion, and a ghost wouldn’t have worked. I needed a “bad guy” to play against my heroine. And in my book, this vampire is a monster, not a hero, so it’s an interesting relationship. My reapers, in addition to ferrying souls, kill unnatural things to keep the balance of good and evil, light and dark. So you can imagine the conflict in that.

Nevena: Definitely. Could you describe your writing process?

Laura: My process is pretty willy-nilly right now. I started with a loose outline, but I’ve already strayed quite a bit from that. I allow my characters to take me for a ride. I try to have an idea of what’s going to happen in each chapter (I make notes to that effect), but I’ve been surprised more than once with where my writing has taken the story. As for quirks, I have a hard time NOT editing my earlier chapters to make them better. It’s why I’m still on Chapter Eight! I’m on the twenty-year writing plan, I guess. Slow and steady, right?

Nevena: Slow and steady wins at the end! What do you want to achieve with your writing?

Laura: What most writers probably want: to write an amazing book that makes people laugh, cry, and feel like they are right there in the action. I want readers to be transported into the skin of my characters. And I want them to have visceral reactions to my books.

Nevena: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Laura: I’ve been fortunate enough to have received lots. But I think the best advice came from my grandfather, who always encouraged me to keep writing. He said that writing is an art form, just like painting (he was an artist): some days it’s great, some days it’s crap, but you won’t learn unless you do.

Nevena: I like that. So why are you a Book Country member?

Laura: Oh, where to start! My journalism professor and friend pointed me to the site. Thank goodness she did. I’ve learned too much to list here, but the community has reshaped the way I think about my writing, all the way down to not using filter words! I’ve even learned more existential writing lessons from a certain BC favorite.

Nevena: You’re being so secretive! Is there anything else you want to share with the community?

Laura: Only that it’s a wonderful resource full of great writers and amazing people, and that I recommend it to every writer I know. There is truly no other community out there like it.

Nevena: Thank you for saying so! And for chatting with me!

Connect with Laura on Book Country and follow the development of her reaper novel, Aequitas

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This Week on Book Country, April 8 – 14

Posted by April 14th, 2013

A weekly update on what’s new and noteworthy on Book Country

Book flying in the sky

Fresh off the press

These are Book Country manuscripts that haven’t gotten any reviews yet. Show them some love—review them next!

FIXATION by Corinna Thurston

Ariana’s feisty behavior in a hostage situation gets the unwanted attention of a criminal, making her his next objective.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT by Tony Berryman

When a massage therapist’s elderly patients start dying before their time and a killer nurse decides to stop running, the city is too small for both of them.

CRANE’S WAR by Lisa Hall

Warrior Caste is genetically altered in utero to defend humanity. Jaidin hadn’t asked to join, but she was here, and not even the Federation would get past her.

Did you know?

Some of the stories you might have missed this week:

Author Mike Underwood, whose book GEEKOMANCY was acquired off of the site last year, talked to us about his path to publication, working with his editor, urban fantasy, and the delights of geek magic. Read the two-part interview here and here.

Write better query letters by reading as many real-life examples of queries that worked. We linked to a few to get you started.


Member Mimi Speike started a “How About a No-Progress Report” discussion—a direct competitor to GD Deckard’s famous “Progress Report” one. In this new thread, writers can get together to moan and complain about their WIPs, discuss writing woes, and get support from fellow members.

Till next week!

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Getting Started with Query Letters

Posted by April 11th, 2013

Write better query letters.


You’ve just finished your full-length novel; the last thing you feel like doing is boiling it down to a letter crafted to entice agents.

But it’s oh-so-important to get it right. A query letter is the one minute you get to pitch your book to an agent. Start with this tutorial on

To learn more about the art of query letter writing, we suggest you do two things:

1. Look at individual agents’ websites and read what they would like to see in a query letter. Start with respected literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s wonderful post How to Write a Query Letter.

2. Now read a ton of real-life examples of query letters that worked. Compare and contrast different approaches, and make sure you have the main components down, even if you choose a different format for your query. Always check each agent’s submissions guidelines for specific instructions and requirements.

Here are a few original queries by now-published authors:

Gail Carriger’s query for her steampunk/paranormal novel SOULLESS

David J. Williams’ query for his science fiction novel THE MIRRORED HEAVENS

Kelly Gay’s query for her urban fantasy novel THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS
(As you’ll see, this one is from the time our own Colleen was a literary agent.)

Joshua Palmatier’s query for his contemporary fantasy FEVER (this post is part of Palmatier’s Query Project, so scroll down for more examples of queries that worked!)

To ask for feedback for your queries-in-progress on Book Country, post them in the Workshop Your Query area of the discussion forums.

Good luck and happy query writing!

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One Year Since Michael R. Underwood’s GEEKOMANCY, Pt. 2

Posted by April 9th, 2013

Mike Underwood on the sequel, using Book Country & growing as a writer


“Write a lot, read a lot, and give yourself every opportunity you can.” 

This is Part Two of our interview with Book Country member and speculative fiction author Michael R. Underwood. In Part One, we chatted about his debut novel Geekomancy and his path to publication—the book was discovered on Book Country by Pocket/Gallery editor Adam Wilson. 

Here we’re digging deeper into how Mike workshopped his novel on Book Country as well as talking about his second book, 

Nevena: We’re excited that Celebromancy comes out this summer. How was writing the sequel different?

Mike: I wrote Celebromancy in less than half the time it took to writeGeekomancy. I’d been trying for years to break in as a novelist, and now that I’m here, that success has helped me develop my discipline. Now I work harder, longer, and more efficiently.

There were several factors helping that along. I had a deadline to meet. I had already done the heavy setting and character lifting. When I startedGeekomancy, Ree Reyes was mostly just a snarky geeky voice in my head. When I moved onto Celebromancy, she was a fully-realized character who had already survived a trial by fire.

Nevena: Did your writing process change from book to book?

Mike: My process definitely changed, and continues to change. I used to be more of a pantser/gardener, taking a basic idea and then launching into a first draft to figure things out and then clean it up later. With Geekomancy andCelebromancy, I had the main plot figured out by the time I got 20,000 words into each book, which gave me some guideposts. But since writing the second book, I’ve changed my process once again. I’ve been plotting more out ahead of time, filling out more beats along the way and seeing how that affects my process. I just wrote a 26,000 word first draft of a novella in about twenty days that way!

Nevena: That’s awesome! So what’s next?

Mike: In addition to the novella I’m working on, I’m in the pre-writing for a new novel, unconnected to the Geekomancy universe. I’ve got several pitches out in the world, and if/when one of them catches, I’ll dive into that. AndCelebromancy comes out on July 15th!

Nevena: I’ll mark my calendar! Your first book was found on Book Country. How did you get started on the site?

Mike: I first learned about Book Country through Colleen Lindsay (who was a former co-worker of my dad’s—I met Colleen when I was a bright-eyed teen volunteering at the Del Rey booth at Star Wars Celebration II). I saw her tweeting about a Sekrit Project, and I was intrigued. I begged my way into the beta, and was elated to find a critique group, a discussion board, and a new way of connecting with fellow writers. The Genre Map was a fantastic idea, and I was very excited to have the chance to get my work critiqued by writers with a wide range of perspectives and to give back in areas where I had some experience (since I’d been working in publishing already at that point).

Nevena: How has the site helped your growth as a writer?

Mike: The biggest thing I learned from Book Country was how to sort through critiques and figure out how to incorporate the feedback. With an in-person critique group, you get more feedback, faster, and can use non-verbal cues to sort out comments. Critiques on Book Country are more like reviews in the marketplace—they’re just text, and are based on the reader’s relationship to this one text, not with the reader in general. I found that in total, the reviews I got were totally contradictory—so I had to really dig into them and figure out how to reconcile the contradictory parts. That has changed the way I read reviews of Geekomancy: I acknowledge the criticism and try to figure out which bits of feedback to take to heart.

I don’t get to spend as much time on Book Country anymore, since there are many more demands on my time, but I love popping on now and again to see what other writers are doing and adding to the discussion. I’ve sent many fellow writers to Book Country to post their manuscripts and get feedback, because hey, it worked for me, it could work for them, too.

Nevena: Thanks, Mike! Could you elaborate about the process of getting critiques and making decisions from them?

Mike: First, I try to focus the attention of my reviewers by telling them what type of feedback I’d like. Early in revisions, getting line edits isn’t really useful. The earlier in process a work is, the more broad I ask for the feedback to be. Were you entertained? What parts confused you? Bored you? Thrilled you?

Later in the process, I zoom in on specific questions, about a plot-line, a character,  or another concrete issue. And right before a work is ready to go out, I’ll ask specifically for the grammar-checking, typo-hunting line edits.

Once I have that feedback, I try to honestly engage with the responses and decide whether they will help me make the story a better version of the story I want to tell, or will make it a different story—one I don’t want to tell. Most stories can be told in many different ways. And most stories I tell I could probably tell in a few ways. But most of the time, there’s one way of telling the story that best reflects who I am as a storyteller, and I try to dig out the feedback that will help me tell the story *that* way better.

Nevena: That’s really helpful. Any parting words of advice for other writers who are trying to get to where you are now?

Mike: Write a lot, read a lot, and give yourself every opportunity you can. It took maybe half an hour of my time to format a few chapters of Geekomancy for Book Country, and it ended up getting me a book deal. You never know what opportunity will be the one that connects. You can drive yourself crazy trying to find the magic formula or path to success, but if something comes up, I think it’s always worth asking, “What do I have to lose?” Sometimes the answer to that question will end up being too much time, more money than you want to spend, or something else that counts as “too much.” But other times, it might just be a bit of your time, and you never know where it might lead.

Nevena: It was really great catching up with you! Good luck with all of your projects.

Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeRUnderwood and visit his blog, Geek TheoryGeekomancy is now an audio book.

Micheal R. Underwood is represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency.


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