S.G. Browne

Query Letters: The Hook, The Book, and The Cook

I attended a writers and agents conference in New York a couple of years back and sat in on a panel where writers would read their query letters out loud to agents. The agents, in turn, would tell the writer to stop reading at the point in which one of the agents would stop reading the query letter and move on to the next one.

It was a harsh but illuminating experience for all of the unpublished writers in attendance, as not a single query letter made it longer than 10-15 seconds before getting the hook.

And they got the hook because they lacked a hook. That’s what you need to catch an agent’s attention. A good hook in the first few sentences that makes him (or her) want to keep reading. This is followed up with a couple of paragraphs that provide an engaging description of the key elements of your book, then capped off with a brief one paragraph description about you. The cook.

The hook, the book, and the cook.

While this isn’t the only way to write a query letter, it’s a fairly standard and successful method that has been espoused by a number of literary agents as well as on www.AgentQuery.com, which is a good place to not only find potential agents but to also find advice on querying and on agents in general. It also provides examples and suggestions for hooks and a description of what to include in your book and cook sections for your query letter.

AgentQuery.com is where I found my agent, Michelle Brower, back in November 2007 . This was after 15 months and 82 agents who passed on my novel. So the lesson there is: Don’t give up

The query letter I sent to Michelle for Breathers was included in the Writer’s Digest series “Successful Queries” back in July 2009. If you’re interested, you can read my query letter and my agent’s commentary on my query by CLICKING HERE.

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Filed under: Breathers,The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 10:38 pm

My Top Ten (Plus One) Holiday Songs

I was going to blog about my Top Ten Holiday Films, but I decided that was about as original as picking the New York Yankees to get to the World Series. Besides, it’s not like there would be a whole lot of surprises:

It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Elf, The Santa Clause, Bad Santa, Miracle on 34th Street, Die Hard, and The Family Man. Though I’m not sure how many lists would have included Edward Scissorhands (yes, the climax takes place at Christmas) or Planes, Trains and Automobiles (true, it’s Thanksgiving, but last I checked that was still a holiday.)

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are my Top Ten Holiday Songs and the artists who sing my favorite versions:

“Winter Wonderland” (Louis Armstrong)
I love me some Louis Armstrong and no other version of “Winter Wonderland” hits the same notes with me as this one. This song is playing at the beginning of Chapter 50 in Breathers. Sing it, Satchmo.

“Happy Xmas” (John Lennon)
Yes, it’s a bit of a political song, but The Beatles are my favorite all time band and Lennon my favorite songwriter of the group, so this one makes the list. Plus I love the Harlem Community Choir signing in the background.

“A Holly Jolly Christmas” (Burl Ives)
This is the classic version from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that always makes me feel like a kid again. I can almost hear the reindeer up on the roof.

“Christmas Time Is Here” (Vince Guaraldi)
This vocal choir version from A Charlie Brown Christmas is such a sweet holiday song and the instrumentals are absolutely beautiful. See “A Holly Jolly Christmas” for the way this song makes me feel.

“The Christmas Song” (Nat King Cole)
The perfect song to appreciate your friends or family or that special someone around the fire or the Christmas tree. Thanks Nat.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (Petula Clark & Rod McKuen)
The most playful and risque version of this song I’ve heard. And you’ve got to love a holiday song about a guy who’s working hard to get some cold weather action.

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (Judy Garland)
This is the It’s A Wonderful Life of Christmas songs. Sweet and poignant and filled with hope. No one owns “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” like Judy Garland.

“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” (Andy Williams)
No other song gets me revved up for Christmas like this version by Andy Williams. For some reason, it always manages to give me goosebumps.

“Father Christmas” (The Kinks)
I’ve always been a fan of the Kinks and came across this gem of a social commentary holiday song about poor kids threatening Santa. “Father Christmas, give us some money, don’t mess around with those silly toys…”

“Santa Claus Is Back In Town” / “Merry Christmas Baby” (Elvis Presley)
No list of Christmas songs would be complete without something from The King. I couldn’t pick just one and went with these two because I love the R&B influence in both of them.

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Filed under: Holiday,Just Blogging,Movies and Books,Music — S.G. Browne @ 7:56 pm

The Twelve Days of Bookmas

On the 1st day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 2nd day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
A Tale of Two Cities, and Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 3rd day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 4th Day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 5th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 6th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 7th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 8th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Eight Men Out, The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 9th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Nine Stories by Salinger, Eight Men Out
The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 10th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Ten Little Indians, Nine Stories by Salinger, Eight Men Out
The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 11th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
The Count of Eleven, Ten Little Indians, Nine Stories by Salinger,
Eight Men Out, The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 12th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, The Count of Eleven
Ten Little Indians, Nine Stories by Salinger, Eight Men Out
The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

(*Author’s Note: Thanks to everyone who gave me their suggestions for the 8th and 11th days)

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Filed under: Holiday Blogging,Just Blogging,Movies and Books,Random Fiction — S.G. Browne @ 8:45 am

I Am Not a Fan of Fruit Cake

For my next novel, Lucky Bastard, which comes out April 17, 2012, my publisher, Simon & Schuster, created an Author Revealed portal where I answer questions and share personal information, including my greatest fear, my favorite fictional hero, and my five favorite songs, among other things:

S.G. Browne / Author Revealed

To follow up on this, I thought I’d share a dozen additional tidbits of information that you might find enlightening, amusing, or worthless. Or maybe all three. I like to keep my options open…

  • My first job when I was 16 years old was making pizzas at Chuck E. Cheese. I earned $3.35/hour.
  • I attended Burning Man from 2004-2007.
  • While I’m definitely Beatles rather than Stones, I think The Who should be involved in the conversation.
  • Give me Mark Twain over Ernest Hemingway any day.
  • My cat’s name is Griffen. Sometimes when he purrs he sounds like a pigeon.
  • I’m a sucker for It’s a Wonderful Life.
  • I’ve been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings since 1977. Somebody please shoot me.
  • When I was 11 years old, I wanted to play professional football.
  • My major at the University of the Pacific was Engineering. That lasted one year.
  • I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer until a year before I graduated from college.
  • My favorite artists are Vincent van Gogh and Edward Hopper.
  • I am not a fan of fruit cake.
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Filed under: Just Blogging,Lucky Bastard — S.G. Browne @ 8:24 am

A Few of My Favorite Words

Ribald and raucous and soirée and eschewed,
Sibilant, dulcet, omniscient and (yes) dude.
Blimp, murmur, plethora, zeppelin, and nerds,
These are a few of my favorite words.

I was recently asked on my Goodreads author group about words that I loved and/or hated. While I provided a brief answer on the original post, it got me to thinking about some of my other favorite words, which eventually led me to corrupt the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

To be honest, I don’t make use of all the words included in the rhyming lyrics above on a regular basis, though I am fond of spitting out eschewed and omniscient and plethora whenever I can fit them into the conversation. Dude is my favorite word, because it can mean so many things with just a simple change of inflection. And I don’t think there’s a more amusing word in the English language than blimp.

Go on, try it. Say blimp. Then say it again. Repeat it over and over. I’ll wait. See? I told you so.

Some of my other favorite words include:

Susurrus, salubrious, lugubrious, onomatopoeia, omnipotent, gargantuan, quintessential, ubiquitous, denouement, verisimilitude, denuded, culinary, milieu, bogart, apocryphal, gasp, haunt, and loathe.

Speaking of loathing, while there aren’t any words that affect me like the proverbial fingernails dragging along the chalkboard, I’m not particularly fond of the word gherkin. I don’t know why. It just rubs me the wrong way. Other than that, I’m pretty easy to get along with.

How about you? Any words that you love or hate? That just roll off your tongue or make you squirm?

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Filed under: Just Blogging,The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 8:03 am