Readers' Favorite

January 20, 2017

Finding an Agent

by Byddi Lee

You decided you wanted to be a writer, carved the time to write out of your busy schedule and found that perfect cafĂ© to write in. You’ve studied the rules of grammar. You’ve developed a gripping plot, fallen in love with your characters, engaged them with witty dialogue and thrown them into conflict. Your writing group has helped you whip your novel into shape and given you the confidence to share your work with the world. Your editor has helped you polish your novel, and now it’s time for the truly scary part – finding an agent.

An agent is the gate-keeper to the world of traditional publishing. They present your work to publishers. When a book is bought by a publisher, the agent will earn a commission and is therefore never paid directly by an author. Never pay an agent to read your manuscript. If an agent asks for a reading fee, move on. Good agents will not ask for a fee of any kind.

There are many scams out there that will try to relieve hopeful writers of their cash, and dodgy agents have tried to rip-off authors using a wide variety of “fees’ such as submission fees, processing fees, marketing fees. Some so-called agents make it all sound very complicated and offer a critique if you pay a fee. In fact, the whole fee issue is remarkably simple – good agents read for free. They are looking for their next client, that next breakout novel to sell to the publishers. At that point, an agent gets around 15% of your total income on your book, before taxes. You never pay them up front.

Writers Beware is an excellent resource for those searching for an agent. The website lists agents and publishers with bad practice and who may be potential scammers. The blog keeps writers up-to-date on newly evolving scams. This is a great place to check out that “too good to be true” agent.

A good place to find agents is the Writer's Market released annually by Writer's Digest Books. It gives you lists of agents and publishers. Many publishers will not accept submissions directly from authors, and you will need an agent to present your manuscript for you. Writer’s Market will tell you if a publisher accepts manuscripts from authors. It will also tell you almost everything you need to research your agent.

Researching an Agent

  • Only query agents who represent the genre you are writing in.
  • Do not query an agent who is not accepting submissions. You are only wasting your time.
  • Read the agents website and follow their directions for submissions carefully as specified on the website. Information in Writer’s Market can become outdated.
  • Identify agents who have represented writers you admire.
  • Alternatively, new agents tend to pick up new authors but will have less sway with publishers.
  • Write a kick-ass query letter – do not send a manuscript unless you are asked to.
  • Keep a record of who you contact and when.
  • Wait…
  • Wait some more…
  • And then some…

Writing a Query Letter

  • Number one rule – keep it short and to the point. It should be one single-spaced page long, in 10- or 12-point type in a normal font such as Times Roman.
  • Address the agent by name. Do not send a form letter out to everyone. You will have to spend a bit of time on each letter tailoring it to each agent. 
  • Sell your manuscript with a great hook, using a sentence or two to pitch your book. 
  • Summarize your book in a paragraph so that soul of the story shines through. Don’t get bogged down in too much detail. This part is more like the jacket blurb – you need to sell the story here.
  • Detail the genre and how many words long your manuscript is.
  • Tell the agent if you have a platform, a website, a blog, followers, other relevant publications.
  • Certainly you can have a base letter with the core details in it for you to copy and paste, but each letter will require you to tell an agent why you have chosen them to represent your work. Avoid using flattery.
  • Include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address.
  • If you are using snail mail, use one-inch margins on your paper and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the response

Keeping a Record

Use a spreadsheet to record your progress with agents and fill it in as you go along, when an agent replies (even if it is just a standard acknowledgment of receipt of your query), what their decision is and gray out that row when you get a rejection. This agent is no longer an option at that point but you need to know who you have already approached so you don’t send out to the same person twice.

Set up the following headers in the first row of your spreadsheet. The suggested headers are in bold – notes on them for your own information are in the parentheses:

  • Agengcy/Publisher (Smaller publishers may accept queries and this will be noted in their website.)
  • Agent Website (You can store the link in this column.)
  • Agent/ Editor Name (This is the person to whom you will address your query.)
  • Email Address
  • Notes on submission guidelines (I usually cut and paste the guidelines from the website to have all the information in one place.)
  • Date submitted
  • Response (I also indicate in this field if the agent has stated that no reply means “no.” Many agents will give a time frame such as, “If you haven’t heard back in 3 months it means no.” Record all such information here.)
  • Location (This was particularly relevant to me as my book was set in Ireland and I was approaching agents both there and in the USA.)
  • Address (For snail mail applications)
  • Result  

You will receive lots of form rejections and even some “nice” rejections. Don’t be disheartened. That is all part of it. The best authors have had tons of rejections – welcome to the club. Eat chocolate, drink wine, get over it and keep checking the mail because maybe, just maybe, one letter will not be a rejection…

Byddi Lee grew up in Armagh, Ireland, and moved to Belfast to study Biology at Queen’s University when she was 18. She made Belfast her home for twenty-one years, teaching science and writing for pleasure. In 2002 she took a sabbatical from teaching and traveled around the world for two years, writing blogs about her adventures as she went. She returned to Ireland in 2004 and resumed teaching. In 2008 she and her husband moved to San Jose, California where she made writing a full-time career. After the publication of her short story, Death of a Seannachai, she decided it was time to write, March to November, which was published in 2014 and received international acclaim. In 2016 she moved with her husband to Paris, France and is currently writing her second novel, a science fiction story set in a future where the earth’s icecaps have melted and Armagh is the capital of Ireland. Byddi also writes an entertaining blog called, “We didn’t come here for the grass.” Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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January 19, 2017

Review: Shock Peace: The Search for Freedom by Ciecie Tuyet Nguyen

by Susan Roberts

April 2016; BookBaby; 9781483565286; ebook &
print (368 pages); historical
a free book was provided for this review
Even though the start of the Vietnam War was over 50 years ago, we stop to take the time to remember those who served and lost their lives for our country. But do we ever stop to think of those who were impacted on the other side of the war? Shock Peace: The Search for Freedom by author and refugee CieCie Tuyet Nguyen explores the war from a different perspective: that of a survivor in the fall of Saigon who unflinchingly recounts the horrors of life after the Vietnam War.

A fictional account based on historical facts and the personal experiences of the author, Shock Peace follows young Trinh’s journey as she searches for freedom. A Vietnamese teenager, Trinh has lived through the dark days that led to the fall of Saigon in 1975 and three years under the new regime. The book follows Trinh as she witnesses human rights and freedom stripped brutally away from herself, her family and her countrymen. After struggling with poverty, starvation, desperation, and control, the yearning for freedom propels Trinh and her family to make a daring move - an attempt to escape by boat and face the threat of attack by pirates. At the cost of freedom, 500,000 of her countrymen had perished, most by drowning as they tried to flee. Will Trinh's family be able to find the freedom they seek?

A moving statement on the strength of the human heart, themes recounted in Shock Peace: The Search for Freedom include:

  • The true account of what had happened to South Vietnam during the first decade after the fall of Saigon
  • The life stories of Saigon's refugees and their tragedies in Vietnam's darkest period, when peace, prosperity and reunification were supposed to emerge from the ashes.
  • How human rights, peace and freedom are the best gifts your country has given you.
  • While unexpected circumstances might change one’s life for the worse, with the resilience to survive, one might be able to get back to where they once were.
  • That cruelty should be exposed not to bring about revenge or to lead to war, but to bring empathy and change.

I was in college when Saigon fell and though I was totally against the war, I still remember the images of the Vietnamese people trying to get out of the country before the US troops left. At the end of the war, I was thrilled that it was over and saddened at the number of people who had been killed but I continued to think about all of the people who were left in Saigon and wondered what they were going to face with their new leaders.

Shock Peace gave me closure to my feelings about the aftermath of the war. It showed me that even though the war was over for America, it wasn't over for the Vietnamese people. Trough the story of Trinh, I learned about the hardships that survivors went through in Vietnam - the cruelty, the food deprivation and the daily fear that they lived with. But through all of that, there were people who struggled to survive and find freedom and a better life. Even though the characters in this book are fictional, they were based on the author's life and those of her friends and family.  I thought that this was a wonderful book to help people better understand the results of this war (and any war)from a different viewpoint.

About the Author
CieCie Tuyet Nguyen was thirteen when she witnessed the actual events. Through the character of Trinh, she relives haunting memories of life under the Communist regime before her dramatic escape.
She is now a full-time pharmacist working in the western suburbs of Sydney.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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January 18, 2017

Interview with Christine Brae, author of In This Life

Today is my birthday. We are also celebrating the 6th anniversary of Girl Who Reads. And what is a celebration without surprises? We are once again offering a mystery box giveaway! It will be filled with a book or two and other bookish goodies. I do hope you will enter.

Christine Brae, author of In This Life, is joining us today and has graciously offered an item for the mystery box.

In This Life follows the story of Anna Dillon, who wants to escape her busy life in New York City before she starts medical school in the spring. She ends up volunteering on a medical mission in Thailand with her best friend, Dante. There she meets the passionate and enigmatic Jude Grayson. They’re immediately drawn to him and they share a brief, but fervent affair.

Then Anna has to rush home for a medical emergency, and Jude promises that he’ll stay in touch. But he doesn’t, and Anna tries desperately to move on.

Five years later, and she’s married Dante, after giving up hope that Jude will ever return. And then one day, in a chance meeting, they come face to face again. then she learns the life-altering secret of why Jude never called, and why they can’t be together. But passion that ignited on that Thai beach never died, and it becomes impossible for them to stay apart.

1.) What inspired you to write In This Life?
I wrote In This Life at a time when I was searching for answers for the inexplicable things that had happened to me in the last two years. My books are a reflection of my emotions and feelings at various stages in my life. The stories may or may not be all fiction, but the emotions, thoughts, and words are real.

2.) What made you decide to set part of the book in Thailand?
I have a wonderful job that allows me to travel to many cool places. I try to take the reader with me with every book I write, by showing them parts of the world that they may have never visited. In This Life is about a girl who goes on a mission to help the less fortunate who suffered from a natural calamity. I chose this setting simply because it was where the tsunami happened in early 2000.

3.) In This Life was just optioned to become a movie? How does that feel?
Oh my gosh! I still can’t believe that it happened! I mean, how funny is it that someone reads your book by mistake, gets hooked, and contacts you about optioning it for film? And then, that person becomes your friend! Sometimes, I forget how famous Adrian and Emmanuelle really are. They are just so down to earth and real, it’s like finding a long lost friend and picking up where you leave off.

4.) Are there any secrets or details that you’re allowed to share? Will you be involved in the screenwriting process?
I’m just so fortunate that the actors who optioned the book are keeping me so involved and updated every step of the way! As everyone knows, it takes a very long time to make a movie. Adrian feels so strongly about keeping the essence of the story intact, that they have been in discussions with screenwriters for quite a while. I am happy to report that we should have a screenplay in the next few weeks.

5.) Aside from the movie option, is there anything else you’ve got planned for the future?
The movie option was the highlight of my 2016 year! I am so looking forward to the next phase of this process and seeing who will be cast as Jude and Dante! But I must tell you – I have a new book, Eight Goodbyes – which I just finished and am so proud to share with you this year. It’s a simple, not angsty, not tear-jerkery book that I really think you’ll enjoy. The movie and a new book and two book tours this year – I think I can tell you that I’ve got 2017 well covered.

About the Author:
Christine Brae is a full time career woman who thought she could write a book about her life and then run away as far as possible from it. She never imagined that her words would touch the hearts of so many women with the same story to tell. Christine is the author of The Light in the Wound, His Wounded Light (2013), Insipid (2014). Her new book, In This Life, released in 2016. Visit her website

Mystery Box Giveaway:

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January 17, 2017

Review: Thirst by Jacquelyn Frank

by MK French

January 2017; Loveswept; ebook (279 pages);
paranormal romance
a free book was provided for this review
In Thirst by Jacquelyn Frank, Renee Holden is a New York City homicide detective, and the case she is working on has an eyewitness that swears it was a vampire that attacked the victim. As she investigates, she is drawn to Rafe DaSilva. He's an energy vampire, drawing sustenance from sunlight or absorbing the life force of "pure" humans, those who eat well, exercise and don't drink or do drugs. There are vampires who are less picky, but these sycophants turn violent and crazed. At that point, they can't be redeemed and must be hunted down. There's a treaty that would allow the vampire princes of different cities to band together to hunt down the sycophants more efficiently, making Rafe their primary target. Because he quickly grew to care for Renee, she's a target as well.

I love reading books about vampires in general, and Thirst started out really well. It built up the mystery of the bodies from Renee's perspective, as well as the conflict that Rafe had in trying to keep his society's secret from her while trying to find the sycophants endangering the vampire society. The romance aspect of the book felt rushed; both mention that it's only been two or three days that they've even known each other, and this is out of character for them. Going from a date after a "chance" meeting in a snowstorm to sex in an elevator and declaring undying love is a bit much, even in a paranormal romance. The addition of the energy vampires' origin at the end of the book only threw me out of the realm of credibility entirely.  I know, I know, we're supposed to suspend disbelief in a paranormal romance novel, but it was going too far. The conflict felt a little too contrived, the prologue was unnecessary, and the way the story was wrapped up was neat yet still unsatisfying. Renee is a very likeable heroine, and Rafe had moments where he shone. They were the best parts of the book, actually.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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January 16, 2017

Books Being Read - January 2017 #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber

I spent a lot of my Christmas holidays reading Christmas books that were all about fun reading. But I'm sort of back to reading books for reviews. Thankfully I had a couple of books I read in December for review that I could post the first couple of weeks this year. Here are the books I've read, currently reading, and hope to read this month.


cover The Summoner
The Summoner by Layton Green. The author sent me this book as a thank you gift. It is the only book in the Dominic Grey series that I hadn't read, though it is the first book in the series. I thought the story was a bit slower than I'm accustomed to in this series, but that may have been because I already knew the characters, and they were being introduced for the first time. I liked that I got a bit more background on Professor Radek.

A United States diplomat disappears in front of hundreds of onlookers while attending a religious ceremony in the bushveld of Zimbabwe. Dominic Grey, Diplomatic Security special agent, product of a violent childhood and a worn passport, is assigned to investigate. Aiding the investigation is Professor Viktor Radek, religious phenomenologist and expert on cults, and Nya Mashumba, the local government liaison.

What Grey uncovers is a terrifying cult older than Western civilization, the harsh underbelly of a country in despair, a priest seemingly able to perform impossibilities, and the identity of the newest target.

Himself . . .
~cover and summary from

cover Station Eleven
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. When I returned to work I had trouble with how quiet the office was so I quickly found an audiobook to fill the silence. While I enjoyed the audiobook, I kind of wish I had read it myself. The story is so rich with many layers that I felt like I was only getting the surface sometimes. I don't read a lot of books that get nominated for big book awards, but I'm glad I picked this one.

2014 National Book Award Finalist, A New York Times Bestseller

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
~cover and description from

Currently Reading:

cover How to Manifest Money Effortlessly
How to Manifest Money Effortlessly by Bruno R. Cignacco. I found this book on my ereader and since January is about new year resolutions I thought it might be a good book to review this month.

This book is primarily focused on the most relevant techniques to manifest money effortlessly. The text pinpoints the main metaphysical principles related to the creation of wealth. It also sets out wrong assumptions about money and replaces them with positive connotations about it. The book goes on to highlight the main requirements to attract more abundance. It describes an overarching series of strategies to attract more prosperity, such as visualization, meditation, affirmations, Feng Shui, emotional release, objective setting, playfulness, generosity perspective, gratitude, intuitive insights, de-cluttering, positive thinking, chakra cleansing and energy management, among others. All these techniques are explained in detail, accompanied with easy practical exercises.
~cover and description from

cover Deadline
Deadline by Sandra Brown. I've listened to a few of Sandra Brown's novels and always enjoy them. I have only a couple of hours left of this story, so I'll probably finish it when I return to work on Tuesday. I like the characters and how the story is playing out.

Dawson Scott is a well-respected journalist recently returned from Afghanistan. Haunted by everything he experienced, he's privately suffering from battle fatigue which is a threat to every aspect of his life. But then he gets a call from a source within the FBI. A new development has come to light in a story that began 40 years ago. It could be the BIG story of Dawson's career--one in which he has a vested interest.

Soon, Dawson is covering the disappearance and presumed murder of former Marine Jeremy Wesson, the biological son of the pair of terrorists who remain on the FBI's Most Wanted list. As Dawson delves into the story, he finds himself developing feelings for Wesson's ex-wife, Amelia, and her two young sons. But when Amelia's nanny turns up dead, the case takes a stunning new turn, with Dawson himself becoming a suspect. Haunted by his own demons, Dawson takes up the chase for the notorious outlaws. . .and the secret, startling truth about himself.
~cover and description from

To Read:

cover Beauty of the Fall
The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I'm looking forward to trying a new author.


Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss, Olivia Whitmore, fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.

Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.

Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?
~cover and description from

What books have you been enjoying this first month of 2017?

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