A Very Happy Query Days!

By Julie Kazimer

*Keep reading for a very special holiday gift from me to you! No skipping ahead or you’ll be on the naughty list.

Oh, the holidays. Goodwill toward our fellow man. Gingerbread houses. A half-finished novel left over from NaNoWriMo. And of course, the dreaded New Year’s Resolution.

I bet I know what yours is. No, I’m not psychic (or any variation on the word like psychotic).  I know what your resolution is because you’re a writer, and we all want one thing—peace on Earth, but barring that, we’d love a major book deal with a movie franchise, and a few million readers.

Not a lot to ask, but how can our New Year’s Resolution get us there?

It all starts with a query.

Every year, for many years, my resolution was to query agents and editors in a quest for the aforementioned book deal. And every year, for so many years, I’d quit by February. Why? Because I was either being rejected outright or ignored.

Looking back, it makes complete sense.

There wasn’t anything wrong with my novels (for the most part). But there was something very wrong with how I was approaching those agents and editors. My queries sucked. Bad.

This past month, I was asked to judge a writing contest where the writers provided a query with their submission. It occurred to me while reading the queries that they all fell into three categories:

1)       Well written, interesting, unique concept, and appropriate for the agent/editor. A winning query. One guaranteed to pique the interest of an agent enough for a partial or full request.

2)      Well written, but lacking spark, either with voice or concept. These queries only get a request if the sample pages included are far more interesting.

3)      Poorly written (structure, grammar, typos, run-ons, etc), which, no matter how great the concept is, can’t be overcome.  No requests.

Sadly my queries often fell into the 3rd option. That’s why I’m going to give you a special gift (or not so special depending on your viewpoint). I’m offering to critique your query before you get ready to hit send in the New Year.

Here’s the deal, you can post your query in the comments, and I will read it, and comment on things I would change. Why would you listen to me, you might ask? Because I’ve made every query mistake known to writers. I’ve written hundreds, read double that, and am willing to read yours, for free.

If you are worried about someone stealing your idea if you post your query, you can email it to me at jkazimer at msn.com. If you’re worried about me stealing your idea, I’m terribly offended and think I might cry, right after I finish plagiarizing JK Rowlings.

This gift only will last from today until December 12th. So get to posting those queries, and, if you read the other queries and would like to comment on either the query or what I’ve said about it, please do so. It takes a village…minus all that reindeer poop.

Happy Holidays!


J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming book, The Assassin’s Heart. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator. For more about Julie, visit her website and blog.

Connect with Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

Sometimes You Need to Shut Down the Business Side of Your Brain

By Vella Munn

Vella MunnShe was a tiny thing, several inches shorter than my 5’2” and maybe one hundred pounds. Her lovely white hair had been professionally styled, she had flawless skin and sparkling eyes, and her pink smock appeared to have just been washed and ironed. In contrast I looked like something the cat had hauled in because I’d been running errands. (My story, my explanation) I was there for my yearly mammogram while this darling 80 year old woman was a clinic volunteer. Her job was to guide me to a changing room. “Are you the writer Vella Munn?” she asked. Surprised and wishing I’d washed my hair, I confessed I was.

Turned out she’d read every one of my nine Native American historicals. They’d resonated with her because several were set in California where she’d lived with her husband of 47 years before his recent death. My stories in some small part took her back to their time together. She cried, I got misty eyed, and we hugged.

On my way home, I turned on the radio. Neil Diamond, who I would have run away with if he’d known I was alive, was singing. It was a cold afternoon but the sun was shining.

Just like that I was transported back to those innocent and heady days when it was all about the writing—when I didn’t concern myself with the business aspect of this career I’ve been addicted to forever. With the music as loud as my ears could handle and the sun on my shoulder, I embraced a raw thrill I haven’t felt for years. I vowed to again get drunk on writing.

For years I’ve been telling new writers to treat what they’re doing like a business. We have to. Otherwise we don’t stand a chance. Publishers are there to make money. Much as an editor might love a writer or manuscript, if she doesn’t believe it’ll make a profit for the company she won’t/can’t buy it. The publishing world is constantly changing. Genres move in and out of favor, hot becomes cold, a book no one saw coming breaks all sales records and the charge to duplicate begins. We must be informed, realistic, to shift with the market.

I get it. I wouldn’t have sold over fifty books for mumble-mumble publishers if I wasn’t committed to keeping my fingers on the publishing pulse. I also educated myself about self-publishing and hung out my own shingle. I pay the bills with my writing and that’s how the IRS has long classified me.

But I’d lost the pure joy of burying myself in a fictional world and suspect I’m not the only one. All this time we spend staying informed takes us far from the stories in our hearts and souls.

Near Crater Lake
Near Crater Lake

Even before meeting that 80 year old woman I’d been coming back to my roots, to when everything was about character and emotion. I’d spoken at this year’s RMFW conference and afterward my buddy Lynda Hilburn and I took off for the mountains. (I live in Oregon and had never been to Colorado.) We sat on a patio overlooking a rushing creek drinking wine and watching/feeling a storm come in.

Suddenly it was there, maybe blown my way by the fierce wind, the kernels of a four-book romance series about something that has always resonated with me—the wilderness.

I came home, cleared the decks of other writing projects (I’ve been doing a lot of erotica) and spent a day sketching out the series and pulling characters out of that place in all writers’ minds where characters wait to be brought to life.

Early in November I got started. I didn’t have much of an idea about where story #1 was going, just that life hadn’t been easy for this man and woman and they need each other and the mountains that represent second chances for them.

The words have been flowing from me and I’m approaching each writing stint with a joy I’d forgotten was possible for, I believe, one reason. These characters and their stories tap into what’s true about me. What matters to me.

Munn_TouchOfTheWolfSo if I have any advice, it’s to shut down the business side of your brain and write from the core of what you are as a writer and a human being.

Promo time: Touch Of The Wolf, a paranormal romantic suspense with Entangled’s Ignite line releases on Dec. 30. The story is set in Washington state’s Olympic Forest. Hey, you can’t take this gal out of the country. It’s all I know or want to.

I’m gearing up to revamp my web site so please take that into consideration when/if you visit. I can also be found on Facebook.

Talk to the Paw: Moody Pets

by Karen Duvall

Have you ever noticed how your pets pick up on your moods? If you're feeling down, your beloved dog or cat instinctually knows you need a cuddle. Or if you're cranky, they may become subdued and avoid contact altogether. I'm a generally calm person and rarely get cranky (or if I do it's because of something they did).

When my pets get moody it's usually triggered by... Your guess is as good as mine. Who knows why they get worked up? But they have their ways, and they can carry on entire conversations with each other using just their body language and facial expressions. It's open to interpretation, which I'm always happy to do.

Kinsey, my dog, is typically very happy. Always high energy, always sassy, always wagging her tail, and always bugging the cats. At least that's how she is during the day. With her energy levels on extreme overdrive, she's bound to crash at some point and when she does, it's best to stay out of her way. She doesn't act like the same dog when she's sleepy and she wants nothing to do with anyone, including me. She's quick to snap and I don't think she's even conscious she's doing it. Kinsey is hyper alert when she's tired.

Teddy, Cody & Sammy

Kinsey: Asleep on the bed and snoring loudly.

Sammy (my little tuxedo cat) whispers: Just jump up on the other side of the bed. She won't even know you're there.

Cody (my black & white scaredy-cat): Not gonna do it. No how, no way.

Teddy (my 34-pound Tom cat): Come on, it's no big deal. Leaps up on the bed a few feet from Kinsey, who lifts her head and gives him the stink-eye but is too sleepy to do anything else.


Cody: That's easy for you to say, Ted. You're almost as big as Kinsey is. She doesn't intimidate you.

Sammy: Ah, come on, Cody. We need to stick together for body heat. It's below zero outside.

Cody: Teeth chattering. I'm plenty warm enough, thank you.

Sammy: Your gums are blue.

Cody: Backs up toward the bedroom door and shakes his head. No.

Sammy: Fine. Go ahead and freeze your nuts off. See if I care.

Cody: I don't have any nuts.

Sammy: Pauses. Oh, yeah. I forgot.

Cody: It's your funeral. Turns around and trots down the hall.

Sammy: Sighs. Coward. Hey, Ted, cover me. I'm coming up there.

Teddy: Yawns. What do you expect me to do?

Sammy: Give Kinsey a good smack on the nose if she goes after me.

Teddy: Hesitates and starts grooming himself. Sure thing.

Sammy: Narrows her eyes. I don't trust you.

Teddy: Stretches and lays on his side, yawning again. Why not?

Sammy: You don't exactly look ready to defend me.

Teddy: Not my problem.

Sammy: You're so lazy.

Teddy: Yeah? Tell me something I don't know.

Sammy: Crouches and prepares to spring. Here goes.

Sammy leaps onto the bed. Kinsey lurches up and barks then snaps at Sammy, barely missing her tail. Sammy hisses and smacks Kinsey hard on the nose once, twice, three times. Kinsey blinks, grunts, then lays back down on the bed.

Sammy: Breathing hard. Damn, I hate it when she does that.

Teddy: Yawns.

Sammy: Okay, move over, fat-boy. I need some body heat. Curls up next to Teddy.

Teddy: Bites Sammy's ear.

Sammy: Hisses. Hey!

Teddy glares and Sammy hisses again, then jumps off the bed and runs out of the room.

Teddy: Looks like we have the whole bed all to ourselves.

Kinsey: Stretches and yawns. I thought she'd never leave.


Karen Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.



Looking With Better Eyes

By Trai Cartwright
Part 5 of a 6-part monthly series

For the past few years, I decided I wanted to get better at reviewing the medium I watched. It's a weird goal, but one I realized was essential because every writer gives this edict to would-be writers: read.

I read, you read, we all read. So what?

What those great writers mean is that, read closely. Read smartly. Read with writer's eyes or we'll miss one of the best educations out there. Reading with better eyes helps us steal the secrets of a fine piece of storytelling for ourselves.

Here's how I learned to be a deeper thinker about the stories I watch and read.

1. Reading The Critics

When I was 20, I had a job that involved quite a bit of downtime, and there was a copy of Roger Ebert's A-Z collection of movie reviews. I read all 2,000 onionskin pages of it (there was a lot of downtime). This immersion into cinema studies taught me more about how to understand movies than film school or all my years in Hollywood ever did. Roger Ebert was a genius, a passionate lover of film, and a beautiful writer.

The best critics verbalize exactly what you were feeling or thinking, but with pithier, more organized language. They deal in abstracts but can cut right to the heart of things—namely, theme things. They tell you what the film's trying to do, if it did it, and what it all means in the end.

The only downside is, well, sometimes by relying on their hallowed opinions, we look at the film through their eyes and forget to look with our own.

2. The Academic Approach

This is new to me, as I had to learn it to teach Film Studies at a university, but it's proven invaluable.

The Academy tends to not want to indulge of the banality of the combative, hyperbolic language of mainstream thumbs-up, thumbs-down reviews, so it sticks to "filters" through which a piece of media can be deconstructed. Those filters include Aesthetics, Economics, Technology, and Social History. I include Talent.

These filters can empower our writing because it reminds us that we do not write in a vacuum; there is a whole world with a long comet's tail of tradition and trends that will influence the reach of our work.

However, the Academic approach makes engaging in media a bloodless event, as it can turn your favorite book or film from a vital living conversation and into an artifact for study.

3. Breaking Down The Craft

The driest, most bloodless approach of all, but so important. My film students are delving into the language of cinematography, weighing the lasting contributions the original Russian editors and the American ones, slowly mastering the art of deconstructing structure. "Why was it good?" I ask them, and the response tends to be something like, "The story hits all its beats, it had classic Eisensteinian montages, and the Dutch angles really informed the mise en scene."

Yes, those are all reasons why the movie was great. But was it a satisfying answer? Did it address that elusive thing, the soul, the passion, the je ne sais quoi that transforms a film from well-made to a miracle.

Take, for example, the film Gravity.

Audiences can't seem to separate the thrill ride from the technology extravaganza. Was it great because of the never-before-seen-tech, which was crucial to tell this story, or was it great because Sandy convinced us we were stuck out there with her, rapidly ratcheting through our limited options, knowing that if we didn't figure it out (or get spectacularly lucky), there was no dues ex machina coming to our rescue. Was the magic in just knowing that, out in this dire void so convincingly wrought, we were hopeless and helpless, without scientific knowledge or even jimmy-rigged pop culture education that would let us reason our own way out of this, thus we had no choice but to let go and give in to the movie?

Dunno. Sometimes these questions have no answer, but pondering them is part of being a writer. Being aware of what's beyond our ability to deconstruct reminds us of the potential all storytelling has to connect with our soul.

Understanding the craft and technique that went into the making of work is vital—these were choices the writer made, and understanding those choices is the key to being able to make those kinds of choices for yourself.

Like many of you, I'm making my New Year's Resolution to look with better eyes. And steal every trick I can find.


Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.

Making a Big Deal Out of It

As writers, we spend a lot of time beating ourselves up. That story wasn’t good enough, we didn’t finish it on time, it didn’t sell to our market of choice, it got a bad review, I’m just not happy with it… etc. etc. Too often, we forget what a monumental undertaking writing is in the first place. How many people say they’re going to write a book and never even set hands to keyboard? How many people get started but don’t stick with it? I propose that today, at the start of the Christmas season, we start thinking about how to reward ourselves for our accomplishments instead of letting them fall away in the stew of self-criticism and all the pressure we put on ourselves.

There are many different ways to do this, of course. Hang the reward out there as a carrot or just promise yourself you’ll do something special when you meet that next milestone. For a long time, I bought a print from my favorite musician/photographer whenever I finished a manuscript. (When I ran out of wall space, though, I had to try something different.) I’ve also been known to give myself a day off just to read, watch TV or knit when I finish a project.

A few years ago, I started a charm bracelet. It’s one of those Chamilia bracelets, where you buy the bracelet and then string beads on it as you purchase them. I got the idea when my daughter got a similar bracelet, and now I buy a bead to commemorate book contracts and completed book series. The first bead I bought was a Bestseller bead for my book Where There’s a Will, which was on the Kindle bestseller list. Then I got beads for some of my past books—a Celtic-style bead for The Haunting of Rory Campbell, a black, night-sky-type bead for my Dark Callings series, and a glass bead in ocean colors for my Mara’s Men series. Recently I picked up a bead with crossed hockey sticks to commemorate the sale of Blood on the Ice, and a round bead with embedded stones for Necromancing Nim. I’ve got a pretty good string of beads going, but there’s still room for more before I run out of room on my bracelet.

These beads aren’t exactly cheap. This makes me try to talk myself out of them on a regular basis. But finishing a book is a big accomplishment, and selling it is even more so. So I promise myself a bead for major sales, or for the completion of a three-book series, or for other milestones beyond simply completing a manuscript. It makes me feel good, and when I wear the bracelet, when people ask about it I can revisit the warm fuzzies I’ve gotten from writing and selling these books.

These ideas might not be for you, but I think we as authors need to acknowledge our own awesomeness on a more regular basis. We spend far too much time locked up in our offices churning out words and then telling ourselves we didn’t churn out enough words, or didn’t commit the right words to paper. We need to pat ourselves on the back. We really need to make a big deal out of it.

So think about that this Christmas. If you don’t already have a commemorative system in place, think about something that might work for you, and then treat yourself.

(Beads from top to bottom: Necromancing Nim, Blood on the Ice, Beautiful Music, Puck You, Vampire Apocalypse, Ring of Darkness, Crimson Star, Mom bead (a mother's day present), Dark Callings, Where There's a Will, Mara's Men, Haunting of Rory Campbell).


Katriena Knights wrote her first poem with she was three years old and had to dictate it to her mother under the bathroom door (her timing has never been very good). Now she’s the author of several paranormal and contemporary romances. She grew up in a miniscule town in Illinois, and now lives in a miniscule town in Colorado with her two children and a variety of pets. For more about Katriena, visit her website and blog


Listen to Your Heart

By Mark Stevens

According to one website, the first draft of Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire was 1,400 pages long.

400,000 words.

He has since whacked it down by one-third, but the projected 900-page novel drew a $2 million advance.

The deal was announced a few weeks ago.

First novel.

Hallberg had previously published one novella, A Field Guide to the North American Family, way back in 2007.

It was 144 pages long and, apparently, out of the ordinary in its own way.

Check this description from an online review: “...a compendium of brief one-page thoughts titled alphabetically and matched with a photograph that illuminates the words written. And as if this weren't clever enough, the entire book is a marvel of design, taking the form of a notebook one would take on a journey, a collection of musings, paraphernalia, variations in paper types and typefaces, and printed in such a way that the reader feels almost guilty about opening the cover of someone's private diary, so intimate is the structure and the content. This is an art book—but it is so very much more.”


Sounds great, doesn’t it? I just ordered a copy.

I guess we will all have to wait on City on Fire, see what we think of the 900 pages. (No publication date is set.) The advance buzz is, of course, quite buzzy. As with all hype, it’s over-the-top. Hype: short for hyperbole.

But can you imagine querying an agent today? “Dear Literary Agent of My Dreams: I have recently completed my first novel, a 300,000-word novel about...”

I sit here and think, yeah, Hallberg lives in Brooklyn—right there in New York City. He can move in those circles. He can flash snippets of his prose here and there, pique the interests of the Publishing Powers That Be. And it’s a novel about, get this, New York in the 1970’s. New Yorkers love New York. New York publishers love books about New York. (Okay, who doesn’t?)

Turns out I’m way off.

Hallberg isn’t saying much about the sale or the novel, but he’s been quoted as saying he doesn’t write for people in the publishing biz.

“They’re all very bright and good-looking and well intentioned — but they’re not the ideal audience to have in mind when writing, I don’t think,” he said.

Good looking, really? Maybe flattery got him what he was after.

In the two-day bidding war for City on Fire, 10 publishers offered over $1 million. (I didn’t know there were 10 publishers left that could offer those sums; I thought we were down to “The Big Five.”)

Anyway, somebody knows how to stage a frenzy.

So, great for Hallberg. (Film rights have already been sold, too.)

That whopper of an advance is great news: reading is not dead. Twitter hasn’t turned us to monsters who require ideas fed to us in rapid-fire fashion one minuscule morsel at a time.

Publishing lives.

I hope Alfred A. Knopf makes a bundle from their $2 million investment and turns the dough right back around to support 100 other up-and-comers, too.

I love Hallberg’s audacity—circulating a 900-page doorstopper. I love that the agents and publishers are going to make it happen—and the fact that they believe there are enough readers out there (book buyers!) to make this happen.

And I already like Hallberg—taking six years to execute the story he imagined.

He listened to himself, followed his own instincts, set his own course.
He wrote the story he wanted to write. How many times have we heard THAT advice?

Bottom line? You gotta listen to your heart.

It’s art.

There are no rules.


Mark StevensMark Stevens is the President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan.

You can learn more about Mark and his novels at his website. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

RMFW Spotlight on Shannon Baker, Treasurer

The RMFW Spotlight feature will introduce a few of our RMFW officers and volunteers. We started out with the board of directors, sat them in the hot seat, shined the bright light on them, and channeling our best inner Oprah, plugged them with a few questions. This week, we've interrogated our Treasurer, Shannon Baker. I must say, Shannon didn't squirm one bit. She sets a powerful example for volunteerism within our organization from a distance and while on the move.

Shannon Baker scuba1. Shannon, tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

Back before the dawn of time I lived in western Nebraska and I had thoughts of publishing novels. I certainly read plenty of them so writing one couldn’t be too difficult. And it wasn’t. I wrote two and thought the second was pretty darned good. I looked for the closest conference around so I could present it to an agent who would gratefully take it to New York. (Quit laughing.) It didn’t work out that way.

I discovered how little I knew about writing but thankfully, found a home with RMFW. The support and knowledge and camaraderie drew me. I hadn’t found anything like it in Nebraska. I was hooked. I volunteered to coordinate agent/editor appointments for conference and did that for nine years. Then I worked as registrar for three years. Finally, by that time I was living in Colorado, I joined the board and serve as treasurer.

In October, we moved to Nebraska. (again). It’s not that far to commute to Denver to participate in RMFW events and I intend to stay as involved as possible. I’m stone cold sober when I say this (I really haven’t been drinking or I’d be a lot more sentimental), I really love these guys and want to hang out with them as much as possible.

Baker_TaintedMountain2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

The first book in the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, Tainted Mountain, was released by Midnight Ink in March 2013. The second, Broken Trust, which is set in Boulder, is slated for a March 2014 release and I just sent Book 3 to my editor. It should be out in 2015.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists-- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

I just got back from a sailing adventure in the British Virgin Islands, which crosses that off my list. But I’d dearly love to go on a live-aboard diving trip someplace sunny and warm with incredible reefs. I’m thinking next year. Other than that, my wish is to not have to move again for a year or so and pound out a couple of books.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

I am just not smart or clever enough. It takes me way too long to work out plot twists and come up with new and exciting scenes. I read amazing books that are surprising and perfect and I wish I didn’t struggle so much with plot. I could probably use some of those brain cells that evaporated in happy hour fumes.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

I love writers. There have been times in my life when I would have given up writing. You know, when real life gets pretty rocky and you need to concentrate on trimming the sails and setting the tack. It would have been easy to let the writing go, because, you know, writing is hard work. But if I quit, I’d lose touch with the writers I love and I wouldn’t meet new writers. The people have tethered me to this crazy business.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

First and above all else, write. Every day if you can, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. Everyone says it and it’s true. So I’m going to give you another piece: trust the process. In every book, with every writer (I’m sure there is an exception but they are so rare it is okay to generalize) there comes a point when it seems hopeless. The book is a mess, you can’t possibly salvage it, you might as well give up writing and take salsa lessons. Even the best, most successful writers experience this. So expect it, accept it, and keep writing. It will all work out.

Baker_office7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

I haven’t had a desk for years. We keep moving (I’ve said this, haven’t I?) and we end up in tiny houses. I write on a laptop and it gets hefted from here to there. I write on the couch, the kitchen table, the bed, outside, if the weather is nice.

I plot on an Excel spreadsheet and print it out, cut it into strips and pin it to a cork board and that’s usually stashed behind the couch and pulled out when I need it.

I rigged up a standing desk by plopping a boot box on a pub table and stand there a lot. I don’t have any special items. I usually just write hell-bent on accumulating my word count quota so I can quit for the day.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I’m reading the Longmire series and loving it. I’m also reading a bunch of new adult novels to get a feel for the genre. I’m itching to read fellow RMFW writer, Susan Spann’s new release Claws of the Cat, but I need to unpack a few more boxes before I indulge.


Thank you so much for answering our questions. Shannon. I hope we didn't keep you from your writing (and moving and unpacking) too long.

To learn more about Shannon and her novels, visit her website. She can also be found on Facebook.

Talk to the Paw: Weapons of Destruction

by Karen Duvall

Having pets has its advantages and disadvantages. Young pets are like babies. They explore, get into mischief, teethe... Yeah. Well, sometimes they don't grow out of their childhood habits.

I have a full grown cat and a full grown dog who still act like a kitten and a puppy respectively. Days go by without a mishap, and then BOOM, it's massive destruction. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, erupting volcanoes... okay, so I'm exaggerating. I'm a writer and I can't help it. But these two are like furry natural disasters waiting to happen.

The Criminal
The Weapon
The Victim

Sammy (my cat): You are in soooo much trouble.

Kinsey (my dog): Hangs head in shame

Sammy: I can't believe how mad Dad got. He was speechless. That's never happened before.

Kinsey: I wagged my tail to show him I was sorry.

Sammy: You and your stupid ball. You just had to knock over one of Dad's most beloved cactuses, didn't you? You know how much he treasures those plants.

Kinsey: I didn't mean it. It was an accident.

Sammy: Shakes head and looks disappointed.

Kinsey: Hey, don't act all innocent. You've knocked over your fair share of plants yourself.

Sammy: But I'm much, much, much smaller than you. I don't do half the damage.

Kinsey: Oh yeah? Not only do you constantly knock plants over, I've seen you use the pots as a litterbox.

Sammy: Looks left and right. Shhh. No one was supposed to see that.

Kinsey: Well, I saw. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Sammy: Lifts her nose in the air. Not my fault. It was instinct.

Kinsey: Mom is still trying to vaccum all the dirt out of the carpet.

Sammy: I didn't mean to cause trouble. You know I hate sharing a litterbox with my brothers. I simply won't do it.

Kinsey: Yet you have the nerve to shame me for making a mistake?

Sammy: Mutters. Sorry.

Kinsey: What was that? I couldn't hear you. I think I have dirt in my ear.

Sammy: Hisses. I said I'm sorry!

Kinsey: Whips ears back and forth. Okay, okay. I believe you.

Awkward silence.

Kinsey: Well, I'm sorry too.

Sammy: What can we do to make it up to Mom and Dad?

Kinsey: Looks thoughtful. Look cute?

Sammy: Nods. Works for me.


Karen Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her K

night’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.


Do You Know Your (Publishing) Rights?

By Susan Spann

The grant of rights to the publisher is among the most important (and trickiest) terms in a publishing contract. Although the paragraph itself is seldom long, it's often connected to several others, not all of which are obvious during an initial read.

Regardless of the length or complexity of the terms, it's critical for authors to understand the rights the contract grants to the publishing house.

The most expansive (and most commonly requested) rights provision grants the publisher "exclusive, worldwide rights to publication and distribution in all languages and in forms and formats now known and hereafter developed."

Although short, the quote above contains the four primary factors authors need to consider in any grant of rights:

1. Exclusivity. Rights granted "exclusively" to the publisher cannot be granted to or utilized by anyone else (including the author) for the duration of the contract (which normally lasts for the term of copyright in the work, unless termination language in the agreement gives other options). It's normal (and not abusive) for publishers to want exclusivity. The publisher is investing time and money in your work, and deserves to profit from that effort (as do you!). Just make sure the publisher has the resources to exploit the rights granted in the contract. A small, U.S. only publisher may not need exclusive worldwide rights. Exclusive North American (or U.S.) rights may suffice. Then again, it's difficult to publish ebooks effectively without the right to sell them on the Internet, and Internet sales often cross borders.

2. Geographical Reach. Since the publisher will normally want exclusivity within its territory, pay attention to the manner in which that territory is described. Options include "worldwide" (formerly "throughout the universe") or any lesser territorial boundaries the parties agree upon. U.S. rights are different than North American rights - so pay attention and be sure to ask if you have any question about the geographic and territorial descriptions in the contract.

3. Languages. The contract should specify what languages the publisher's rights include. Contracts which merely state "exclusive, worldwide rights" are generally deemed to include all languages. If you intend to grant only English-language rights, the contract must say so. If the publisher wants a more extensive grant of language rights, be sure the publisher has the capacity to translate accurately and distribute in those markets. A poor translation is sometimes worse than no translation at all. On the other hand, you shouldn't refuse foreign language rights to a publisher with a proven track record and the capacity to translate and market your work abroad.

4. Forms and Formats. Most publishers will request "all forms and formats"  - author, BEWARE. Does this include film, TV, and gaming too? It shouldn't. Those rights aren't tied to a publisher's right to publish the book in print and ebook formats. Make sure your publisher has the capacity to act on all of the formats you grant, and that you don't give away formats the publisher doesn't need or deserve. It makes little sense to grant print rights to an e-only publisher - and is equally nonsensical to refuse e-book rights to a major brick and mortar house. Be aware that "all forms and formats" now includes mobile devices and potentially also app, gaming, TV, film, merchandising, and many more. A specific carveout is required if you want to retain those rights.

There are other factors that merit additional consideration, too, and which may appear less commonly in publishing deals. These can include film and TV rights, editing, the use of outside "co-authors" and/or editors, and several other issues. These often take a back seat to the "big four" we discussed today, but they remain important, and we'll take a look at a few of them next week.

The "right" clause depends on many factors - there is no "one size fits all" - so be vigilant and pay attention, and make the right business decision for you and your book.

Today's big take-away lesson is this: pay attention to the grant of rights, and know what rights you're agreeing to give your publisher. A proper grant of rights lays the foundation for a positive, long-term business relationship between the author and the publisher - and that, of course, is good for everyone.


 Susan Spann is a publishing attorney and author from Sacramento, California. Her debut mystery novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, July 2013), is the first in a series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori. The sequel, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, will release on July 15, 2014. Susan blogs about writing, publishing law and seahorses at http://www.SusanSpann.com. Find her on Twitter @SusanSpann or on Facebook.