Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Nostalgia

Ahhh, nostalgia. . . .

Years ago a dear friend gave our family a book of 100+ Christmas stories. I know she spent many, many, many hours compiling the stories, typing them up, embellishing the pages, putting them into plastic sleeves, and finally placing them all in a beautifully decorated binder. In a word it is AMAZING. It's filled with beautiful, sentimental, and entertaining stories that bring the Spirit of Christmas into my home. It has a special spot on my bookshelf during the year, but the day after Thanksgiving it gets center-stage on the front room coffee table. It has become a symbol for the season just as much as the tree, lights, stockings, and nativity scene we put up every year. It never ceases to amaze me how words on a page have the power to transform the hearts of those who read them. But I think it's not just the book, but the sacrifice of her time and talents in order to give us such an incredible gift that makes it so special and powerful.

Is it no wonder that this season inspires a desire to sacrifice? To do more for others than we tend to do the rest of the year? There is a power and a majesty about the Christmas season that has the ability to transform hearts if we aren't too caught up in the hustle to feel it.

Christmas is a time of reflection. Every ornament, decoration, and smell sparks a feeling of nostalgia in me. I have always loved Christmas. It is a time of miracles, joy, and family. From the appearance of a new star, a day a night and a day of no darkness, a chorus of angels singing to a group of humble shepherds, to a tiny baby who would one day change the world, Christmas has become the symbol of new hope. It is so precious. I wish I could hold onto the feelings I have this time of year all year long. I want Christmas to come, and yet I don't want it to be over so soon.

I am so grateful for Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for the life He led, for the example He set. I cannot imagine my life without my Savior, my big brother, my best friend.

A few years ago I wrote a Christmas story for a presentation at a retirement home. It has changed titles a few times over the years, but I like to think the message is one of hope and renewal. It is called A Little Grace . When I wrote it I felt so inspired--it felt like so much more than a story. I feel like it was a gift for my Savior more than anything else. This year I hope my gift to Him can be bigger and more lasting. I hope to make a difference in the way He believes I can. If you need a little hope this season, or a little grace, maybe you'll like the story. Either way, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a joyous and hope filled New Year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"This moment contains all moments" C.S. Lewis

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Gratitude is such a fabulous thing to celebrate--every moment of our lives is a gift, we choose whether or not they are something we'll cherish or forget. 

It's so interesting how this time of year seems to bring out the best in people.There is a spirit of gratitude and giving that seems to permeate the very air we breathe. I love this season. I love the smells, the sights, the joy, the excitement, the extra time spent with family. I hate the cold, but during this season I can deal with it--come January I'll be ready for a southern escape.

I have been giving a lot of thought to the meaning of the season and trying to find ways to get my family and the amazing young girls I work with to get into the spirit. That spirit of giving, of bringing joy and smiles to someone else.

I wanted to have this post be about you. What are some of your awesome traditions for bringing the spirit of the holidays into your homes and families? What are some of the things you like to do?
What are your favorite parts of Christmas and Thanksgiving? What have been some of your favorite moments?

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Eating and reading are two things that combine admirably." C.S. Lewis

So . . . I haven't posted for about two months. Shame on me. I know, I know.

Why haven't I posted?

Top five reasons (none of them are very good):
  1. I haven't been able to think of anything good to blog about 
  2. I'd rather read what everyone else has to say
  3. Daylight Savings reared it's ugly head and my hibernation instincts are kicking in
  4. I'm super frustrated with the publishing world right now and I'm not writing anything--no blog posts, no books--just to spite them. (Okay, I know that's not true, but I wish it really did some good to go on strike)
  5. I've been spending my free time working on my studio--this is probably the only legitimate excuse . . . sort of
Do I have something wonderful to blog about today?

Nope.

But I read a couple great posts this morning that have made me pause and think. Time to stop worrying about getting published and write because I love it . . . . I know, I know, I say this a LOT, but the execution of the declaration is the hard part. I know what I need to do, but in the back of my head is always the question--will I hear back from one of them today? Should I self-pub or keep querying (which feels like beating my head up against the proverbial wall)? Or just quit the whole querying, blogging, social-networking, mind-boggling, never-ending requirements to make it in the publishing world and just be content with writing because it's great therapy?

The posts were really, REALLY good. I went away with some great advice: Be positive. Quit complaining. Remember the reasons you started writing in the first place. Write because you love it and stop beating yourself up about it. Give yourself credit for finishing/rewriting your drafts--stop making your manuscripts cry.

So, while I didn't come up with a great post to show what I've been doing for the last two months, here's a link to some awesome ones, and in Emily's post she's got links to two other great posts. If you are in the least bit discouraged or just want to smile you should go check them out.

Go ahead and grab your favorite candy bar and get reading! (If you're looking for a few good books too, I just finished Emerald Green, the last book in the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier. They were a lot of fun:)

 P.S.
Anyone else excited for Thor . . . and Man of Steel DVD on Tuesday?!!!!!!!!!!!!
Or counting down the days for the release of  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug? It's the only thing I'm looking forward to this winter (well, I guess Christmas can be in there too. . . .)


A Complaint Free World ~ Emily R. King 
I have yet to read one of Emily's posts and not come away feeling uplifted and rejuvenated.

David Powers King  is also a fun one to read. He not only has good advice and informative posts, his style is witty and entertaining. He makes me laugh.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vader and Bugs....

Vader and Bugs.

My boys. 

Vader, my oldest, is a huge Star Wars fan-and as he is thirteen and often hides his wonderful, sweet, loving, kind-hearted self behind a bossy robotic exterior, I think his nickname fits him well. Bugs, my ten-year-old, is mischievous, hilarious, and always full of questions. Holy cow do they make life awesome!! 

Boys are so much fun!

Little girls don't despair. I'm not saying that you aren't fun, but seeing as I have none and didn't grow up with sisters, I can't say I have much expertise. I am referencing the fact that I have two young boys, and grew up with two big brothers, and spent more time with the neighbor boys than the girls. So to me, boys really are a lot of fun.

When Vader and Bugs have finally had enough they punch each other (no I'm not okay with it), and then five minutes later they're playing together as if the incident never happened. In my limited experience with girls, if I would have punched my friends when they ticked me off--we wouldn't have been friends afterward, ever, and possibly a few of them would have spread horrible lies about me because of it.

Maybe this is why the girls in my stories are not shoppers, aren't obsessed over their hair or makeup, don't mind getting dirty, and are often interested in auto mechanics; and the boys in my stories don't mind being friends with them. The one difficult point I have noticed in my own life about girls like this--its not always easy to find a guy who isn't threatened if you know more about cars than he does, and doesn't get squeamish when you squish spiders with your thumb. Luckily, my best friend, whom I married, knows more than I do about cars, and doesn't mind one bit about the spiders(as long as I wash my hands after I squish one).

I'm so glad my boys (including my hubby) and I love hanging out together. We build things, fix things, drive tractors, watch movies, read books, make up ridiculous stories to study for tests.... I love watching them and seeing boys through not just a buddy's eyes, but through a mother's eyes as well. It's amazing how much character development I achieve for my stories just by watching my amazing children. Everyday they teach me something new about life, unconditional love, patience, friendship, and paying attention to the details while not sweating the small stuff. 

Thank heaven for little boys!!

Does interacting with your family and friends help you with your character development? Or when you read a book do you often see someone you know in a character's habits or behavior?
Can you create characters that you don't relate to on some level? Can you enjoy a book that you don't relate to the characters in some way?
I even have to relate to my antagonists (the bad guys) on some level or they don't feel real. Is it like this for you?

Who are some of your all-time favorite characters?

Some of my personal fav's: Albus Dumbledore, Samwise Gamgee, and Lucy Pevency
 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Watch this Inspiring Video

Okay, I finally got the video to post on my blog. This is super, super awesome! When I write something it is always with the hope that the reader(s) will come away with something that positively affects their lives. If you're a writer you'll love this. If you're not I'm pretty sure you'll still love it.

Brandon Sanderson: Writing of Epic Proportions

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Perseverance . . . .

Summer vacation.

It's one of the greatest things on planet earth. The sun is warm and happy, the grass is green, the flowers bloom (when I remember to water them), and routine goes completely out the window. No homework, no minimum reading requirements, no bedtimes, or wake-up times. Take all day doing your chores, or get them done fast and play the rest of the day. Whatever works. . . .

At least that's how it is at our house.

I love summer!!

But with the lack of routine its hard for me to make sure I am setting aside time to write. So . . . yeah, haven't done much of that this summer.

But it doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about writing. In fact I think of it constantly. Ideas flow like mad and I even designed a writers/art studio that we've been working on. It even has sheet-rock and if not for a gallbladder attack and subsequent surgery, it would be mud and taped by now.

So since I am now forced to enjoy the end of my summer vacation from the couch, I figured as long as I can stay awake long enough, now would be a good time to catch up on my blog. If the writing is a little confusing, blame the pain meds:).

Before my little attack we had just returned from a family vacation to the beautiful state of Wyoming. We enjoyed the Teton and Yellowstone national parks, Jackson Hole and even spent a few nights in the gorgeous, fun, little town of West Yellowstone, Montana. I have to say, if my husband could find a job up there and the summers were just a little longer, I would so want to live there. It's the perfect place for all sorts of inspiration. I only hope some of the pictures can become paintings eventually--but the light is never the same on photo paper.

The vacation did a lot for our family. We were crammed in our little car for hours on end and yet the fighting stayed at a minimum. My boys were in awe of everything and it was just too beautiful to be grumpy. The pace was slow, and we went to every hotpot or scenic spot we felt like, no time constraints to make, or specific places we just had to see. We looked at the map, loaded our backpacks, and went wherever we felt like hiking to. We even saw a mama bear and her baby just off one of the trails we took. It was so amazing!

I didn't worry about my book or its status with the agent, or how much I had to do when I got home. So when we did get home, I felt refreshed and ready to face whatever came up (even though I wasn't expecting one of those things to be surgery).

When we got home we were watching (yes, this is another movie moment) Rudy--one of the best movies of all time because of the story. I actually had the opportunity to hear him speak at a writers conference once. What an amazing man. During the movie I felt such empathy for Rudy as he opened letter after letter rejecting him from attending Notre Dame, his life-long dream.

Writers know what this feels like.

We spend hours upon hours creating something, it becomes a part of us, and then we send letters about it out into the world hoping someone will see its possibilities, want to read it, and hopefully help get it into the hands of others who will read it, love it, and give it a place on their bookshelf.

So when the rejections pile up, it becomes harder and harder not to give up.

Rudy didn't. Despite the odds against him. And he eventually fulfilled his dream.

Most of you who read my blog know I have written 26 queries, and received 25 rejections. One query finally made it past the slush pile and the awesome intern requested the novel, read it, told me she enjoyed it, and passed it along to the agent to read. I am still waiting to hear back from them, but from everything I've read about other author experiences, I'm just really grateful my creation actually made it this far. I really like the agency and I hope I will hear back from them soon, but this experience has taught me a lot. What if I had given up at query rejection number ten, or fifteen, or twenty-five? What if I had never sent that twenty-sixth query?

There is no guarantee the agent will decide to represent me at this point, but I'm not going to give up on my dream. Sometimes we have to step back and enjoy the scenery, slow down and focus on what really matters, and let what will happen, happen. I can't make someone love my book. I can write it and send it out, but the rest of the details have to work themselves out.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the scenery and never, ever, stop dreaming.

For anyone who might be thinking of giving up on your dreams, you just might want to watch the YouTube video, Brandon Sanderson: Writing of Epic Proportions (I tried to copy the link but couldn't get it to work). My friend shared this with me and it was like he was taking the words out of my mouth--but he says it better than I ever could. Great man, great writer, great inspiration:).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Perspective

Perspective:
*a particular evaluation of a situation or facts, especially from one person's point of view.
*a measured or objective assessment of a situation, giving all aspects their comparative importance.
*the appearance of objects to an observer allowing for the effect of their distance from the observer.
*allowance for artistic perspective when drawing or painting.

Perspective is a word that gets used a lot for different reasons. I've been thinking a lot about perspective lately, and not just when I am drawing or painting. I'm sad to admit that it can take devastating, or just frustrating, events to make me open my eyes, reassess my life, and give "all aspects their comparative importance". . . . A family member is given news about his current state of wellness, that if not changed, will shorten his life; Innocent people lose their lives while watching and cheering a marathon...And so many other eye-opening things. Human frailties and imperfections spawn bitterness, hatred, fear, and an unwiliingness to forgive. How much of life's challenges and trials would be easier to bear if we faced them with the right perspective?If we could see each other as imperfect beings doing the best we can, and forgive one another?

I don't know. Maybe nothing would change. But I'm determined to try a little harder, put things in my life in the proper perspective--most important first with the most detail, least important in the distance with less attention to detail, until its time comes.

A friend recently sent me this great quote:

"To be happy in life, you must learn the difference between what you want vs. need."

Let me add a little to that,

To be happy in life we need to put what we want and what we need in the proper perspective. God desires that we have what we want as well as what we need. So, as long as we go about our achieving and obtaining in such a way that our perspective remains true to the gifts and love that are bestowed upon us every single day, we can discover that our wants usually encompass what we truly need . . . a balanced, happy, life.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Editing Life

Sorry it's been a while. I've been researching, tweaking plot structure, and brainstorming chapter outlines for Book Two in The Ninth series. It's kept me busy:).

Coming up with post ideas isn't always easy, and like most of my posts, today's idea stemmed from life. As I've begun to dedicate much of my free time to my passion for writing, I've recognized the need to "edit" my life.

I think editing isn't just something writers do; it's something we all do. Probably on a daily basis. We make choices and decisions based on what we feel we want and need and we cut out those things we don't--most of the time. Sometimes we hang onto things that drag us down out of habit or convoluted ideas that we are somehow responsible for the happiness of others.

I follow this really amazing lady on Pinterest and by email. Her name is Diane Henkler and she's awesome! She can take anything and make it beautiful, and with her craftiness she always shares some words of wisdom.

This particular post of hers stuck with me. I ended up making a list of my own.
I hope you decide to read Diane's post. Maybe it will help you have the desire to create a list of your own, and edit those things in your life that might be stopping you from experiencing life for its real purpose.

Here's my list:

More of what is right for me:
  • Family time
  • Time to create/develop my talents
  • Time to excercise
  • More "light"
  • More of the "right" details
  • More simplicity
  • More confidence
  • More spontaneity
  • Make the mundane more fun
  • Embracing my beliefs
  • Scheduled "me" time
More focus on what is important:
  • Family
  • Serving others (using my talents to help and/or entertain others)
More of what I desire:
  • Time to create: Writing, painting, drawing, building things, working in the yard
  • Time to relax: Enjoying nature, reading, movies
  • Getting healthy
 Less of what I don't need/want:
  • People who undervalue or under-appreciate me--stop worrying about pleasing them
  • Not being comfortable with who I am. I'm different than those around me and that's okay
  • Wasting time on worrying
  • Loathing daily chores--make them more fun
More confidence to say "no" to the things that just don't fit:
  • Stop scheduling things just to appease the unnecessary when it is inconvenient to me or my family  
Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"What saves a man is to take a step, and another step." C.S. Lewis

I absolutely love the movie, The Princess Diaries. At a very critical point in the movie Mia finds a letter from her deceased father. He offers her some really great words of advice. This advice helps her to make the decision that will ultimately affect the lives of millions of people. (At least in the fictional country of Genovia.)

"The brave might not live long, but the cautious do not live at all. . . .
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the acceptance that there is something more important than fear."

Great advice right? We can allow physical ailments, or disabilities, or imagined slights, or real offenses, or discouragement, or disappointment, or failure, or fear of failure, to keep us from truly living our gift of life. We tell ourselves we're not really missing anything as we hide behind our wall of excuses and self-pity. But the painful truth is . . . we're being cautious instead of brave, and in the process . . . we are not really living at all.

"Men are that they might have joy." If we are wallowing in self-pity and excuses we will never truly find or experience real joy.

Those who truly live life are the ones who go out and find it.

Do something today you were too scared to do yesterday.

Take a step.

Be brave.

Live.

Live for those who have lost their lives to senseless violence. Live for those who no longer have the choice. Live for those you love. Live for yourself!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

There is no try...

My thirteen-year-old is a HUGE Star Wars fan. I've always liked the movies, but I never memorized names, places, Jedi terms etc. My son has. He knows so much Star Wars trivia it's amazing. Well, we've once again completed another Star Wars movie marathon and can I just say, Yoda is the coolest dude ever!!

I love in Empire Strikes Back when Luke goes to Dagobah to be trained by that super cool little green man! Watching it with my boys I suddenly had new insight into that creature's incredibly deep words. Only Yoda can use horrible grammar, and sentence structure, and still get a really good point across. Luke thinks Yoda is crazy. He just can't believe that he actually has the power to lift his ship out of the swamp using the Force. With no faith behind his words he tells Yoda he'll "try".

Yoda says. "Do, or do not. There is no try."

For some reason this time with that sentence I was completely sucked into the moment. I watched with new eyes as, after Luke gave up and stormed off, Yoda squared his little bent shoulders and using the Force, lifted the ship out of the water.

Luke was confronted with the blatant truth. "Size matters not."

He had to realize that the problem wasn't with the task before him, it was with himself. His lack of faith in a power greater than himself, his lack of faith in his gift to wield that power, and overall his lack of faith in himself determined his failure, NOT the task.

In my last post I talked about how doubt has a way of crushing our dreams. How often do we look at ourselves and the tasks we face and say we'll "try", but in the back of our mind we have no real faith behind the "try". We may put in a little effort, but give up before we actually can see ourselves fail--because if we can convince ourselves the task is impossible, we don't have to try and take the chance of failure. We can justify to ourselves that the task was too great, the mountain too high, the goal unattainable, and then we can walk away.

Author Dan Wells in his Seven Points class talks about try/fail cycles. He says that in order to keep a book interesting and keep the reader engaged your protagonist must try and fail at least twice, otherwise it isn't believable or relatable. So, if we need to read about our heroes trying and failing at least twice in order to believe their story, isn't it safe to say that its okay to try something and not succeed the first time? Or even the second or third time?

President Lincoln ran for president at least three times before he was elected. A good friend of mine told me Brandon Sanderson wrote thirty novels before he published his first book. Beethoven composed his greatest works after he lost his hearing. There are countless stories about people who have done great things only after failing numerous times.

My nine-year-old asked me yesterday if writing my book was fun. It made me pause. It was fun, at least it used to be. I told him it wasn't as fun as it used to be. Ever since I started worrying about trying to get it published its become less fun and more of a worry and a stress to create something perfect. Each rejected query has felt like a small failure. He smiled and said he was glad that it at least used to be fun. I love nine-year-old logic, as long as it was at least fun once its still okay.

I have to thank my awesome boys for making me reevaluate and get back on track. I want to have fun again. I still want to share my writing with anyone who wants to read it, but I'm going to stop worrying about it. I'm going to write because I love it. This might mean my posts become fewer and far between as I stop trying to write and just do it . . . write. Whether my books ever get published or not is no longer the goal. To create works I am proud of, to fail at times--but not give up, to live my life--not just watch it go by, to cherish each and every minute with the incredible people in my life . . . that is my goal.

So in the words of Yoda, I'm going to "Do, or do not. There is no try."

Let's all get out there and DO a little more. We might just amaze ourselves at what we are truly capable of once we stop trying and start doing:).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Doubt... Or what I call, The Prison of Dreams

How often does doubt become a prison for our dreams?

Shakespeare said, "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."

I have had this quote hanging on my desk ever since I started writing for more than just myself. It is so true!

How often do we allow our doubts, whether of ourselves or our abilities, to dictate our dreams? How often do we give up before we've really even started, because of fear and doubt?

One of my favorite poems of all time is Invictus by William Ernest Henley. (And what better example of pursuing your dreams, beyond mountains of obstacles, than Nelson Mandela, right?)

For those of you drowning in doubt and fear here are some words of comfort from an incredibly intuitive writer.
INVICTUS By William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be.
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the horror of the shade.
Yet the menace of the years,
Finds and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul. 

Do not doubt. Just do! Even if you can't change your circumstances, you can change how you deal with them.

Monday, March 18, 2013

QUERY... The five letter expletive

I have written dozens of queries and only one has ever made it to the editor and resulted in publication. That said you're probably wondering why I'm qualified to give advice on how to write a query. I'm not. I've attended a lot of classes, asked advice of acquisitions editors and published authors, read websites and magazines, and I still haven't written that perfect query that has agents slavering for my work.

But the nightmare process has helped me come up with a simpler way to brainstorm the query. I've taken the compendium of advice I've found on the subject of queries and compiled it into sections and checklists to make the process easier for me. If it helps one of you out there suffering through the pain of the five letter expletive (q-u-e-r-y), then I'm happy:).

Whether you are an aspiring author, a published author, or just someone looking for a job, you understand the pain of the query letter. Writing a query is like writing a resume, and before you write a resume you do your homework, right?

Right.

You are not going to apply for a job without first researching the job requirements, including the specific things the prospective employer wants to see on your resume. 

A query needs to be treated in the same way. You can write a standard format for a query with all the basic things most queries need, but be prepared to tweak it to exactly what each specific agent/editor wants to see. So, before you even begin, DO YOUR HOMEWORK, even the most perfectly written query won't get you anywhere if you've sent it to someone who only represents children's books and you're trying to sell them your 100,000 word Horror novel...

Most agents/editors do not want a query longer than a single page. So how do you cram all your awesomeness into one page?

You focus on what's most important.

*Hook!! This has got to be good! If you don't hook them in that first sentence, chances are they won't bother finishing the rest of the letter. They're busy people and they base a lot on that first sentence.
*1-2 paragraph description of your book(single space your letter but put a space before and after each paragraph)
*1 paragraph pitching yourself  
*Final thank you  

Let's go through each step:
  
THE HOOK  

     1. What are the most important points of my story?
         2. Out of this list which is the MOST important point? 
        (This will be the point you will work with to create the perfect "Hook". Read book jacket blurbs in your genre for ideas how to summarize the most important point of the book into one catching sentence. It needs to be a sentence that has them eagerly reading on. You can have your "hook" stand as its own paragraph, but if possible try and blend it right into your descriptive paragraphs.)

DESCRIPTIVE PARAGRAPHS

A paragraph is generally 3-5 sentences long. Question's 3, 6, 8, 10 and/or 11, and 12, can be turned into a sentence or two that you can then combine to create your descriptive paragraph(s).

         3. Who are my main characters?
         4. Which character's POV do I use the most? (If you switch points of view. If you only have one character POV then your description should be in their POV.)
         5. What are the main goals in my story?
         6. Out of these goals which are the most important/exciting? (These will be the elements used in the description)
         7. What stands in the way of my characters success?
         8. Which of the above is their greatest challenge? (Include in paragraph)
         9. What will happen if your protagonist fails? (Be emotionally specific)
        10. Out of the above, which is the worst that could happen? (Use this as the end of your paragraph description)
        OR
        11. What elements in my story's climax are the most exciting? (Choose one of these or something from 10. to end your description, tying all the sentences you created using questions 3, 6, 8, 10/11, together.)
        12. What is your Genre, book title, and word count? (example: Your final sentence can read....My 90,000 word YA Fantasy, BOOK TITLE, draws the reader into a world where... fill in however you want. End the paragraph(s) and move on. 

INTRODUCING YOU

        13(a). IF you have writing experience. 
                  What are my greatest writing accomplishments, sales, publications, awards, etc.
        13(b). If you have NO writing experience...yet. 
                  What are some interesting points about me that make me sound qualified to write in the genre chosen? And/or... Who does my writing compare to and why?          14. What books have I read that they represent that may compare to my writing style?
        15. What is my ...?
                  *Genre?
                  *Word Count?
                  *Book Title?
(Be careful with this paragraph and make sure to read your agents specific guidelines.  Some agents don't want to hear anything other than your publishing credits and some get really annoyed when you compare yourself to other authors, especially if you are brazen enough to say you think you are the next Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling. When in doubt skip this paragraph all together, and move onto the thank you paragraph.)

FINAL SENTENCE 

         16. THANK THEM FOR THEIR TIME! Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.  
   Follow with a "Sincerely", "Yours truly", or whatever floats your boat.   

Now that you have your list, you can take all the elements from your breakdown and start writing. Remember to try and keep it down to a single page, and format it according to the guidelines of the agent/editor. There will usually be different formats for email and snail mail submissions.

If the agent/editor wants you to include chapter or synopsis with your query you can type at the bottom of your query...
(For snail mail) ENC: Synopsis and first three chapters as per your guidlines. 
(For email)  INC: Synopsis and first three chapters as per your guidelines.

Once you've typed your query don't jump the gun and send it right off. Wait a few days and go back and look it over with fresh eyes. Check for mistakes. Then loan it to your good pal who's great with grammar and have them look it over. Then if you can afford it, hire a freelance editor to look it over. Some aren't too bad in price and it just might be the difference between a sale or not. I'll have a link on my Aspiring Authors page to the freelance editor I use as soon as its available. She's fabulous and fair priced. I don't know where I'd be without her. My grammar is terrible! I also have a checklist for writing a synopsis--I really hate those. I'll try to get that one posted soon!

Good luck!!! May your next query bring you the success you desire!!