#34 Query Corner – Emilia Afloat

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

When a sorcerer steals her father away, Emilia cobbles together a crew from her siblings to escape her home island and rescue her papá.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

Your story definitely draws me in, and I love the world building is immediately evident. With Ownvoices being actively sought, hopefully your hard-earned perspective can help someone else know that they’re not alone.

  1. Try to start closer to the inciting incident, the query needs to show stakes — not background.
  2. The “I’m sure you have many submissions…” is a bit apologetic. Don’t be sorry for querying — it’s an expected part of the process. I suggest the more standard, but equally gracious. “Thank you for your time and consideration.”

Queryist’s Original:


Dear Mx. __

Fifteen-year-old Emilia Marcela Noble is known as the abuelita of the island. She dedicates her days to chores she hates: delivering magical plants, fixing shirts, and cooking meals for her siblings. At least she has sailing lessons with her papá and a plan to someday leave aboard the ship he wrecked against the Aolan shore seventeen years ago.

Then soldiers arrive from far-off lands, capture her papa, and set sail for the other end of the world. Emilia cobbles together a rescue crew from siblings who don’t know a binnacle from a barnacle and Milo, the biggest nuisance on the island. As she captains The Urchin across great oceans, stories exchanged on starry nights and kidnapped children from island ports paint a picture of the power-hungry sorcerer who took their papá and is after even more. Between navigating storms, negotiating with pirates, and knitting terrible sweaters, Emilia will have to decide just what she’s willing to give up to bring her papá home.

Emilia Afloat is a YA fantasy standalone with series potential. This 80,000 word story merges the fierce family ties of Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire with the magical twists of Tricia Levenseller’s The Daughter of the Pirate King Duology.

I attended [SCHOOL], where I completed a semester of research sailing on a tall ship. My own asexual identity and five years of teaching middle school students inspire me to tell stories with queer heroes.

I am sure you have many submissions to review, and I deeply appreciate you taking the time to consider Emilia Afloat.  

Best regards,

Q34


The query was clearly very close – it has all the component parts and the story was clear. My main mission was to streamline it a touch — lightening the backstory without losing the context.

My Revision:

Dear Mx…..

When foreign soldiers steal away her papa, fifteen-year-old Emilia Marcela Noble’s quiet life as the island abuelita ends. She hated delivering magical plants, fixing shirts, and cooking meals for her siblings, but had always planned to leave someday on her own terms — aboard the ship her papa wrecked against the Aolan shore seventeen years ago.

With a crew cobbled together from siblings who don’t know a binnacle from a barnacle and Milo, the biggest nuisance on the island, Emilia knows it’s up to them to rescue papa. As she captains The Urchin across great oceans, stories grow about the power-hungry sorcerer who took their papá and is after even more. Between navigating storms, negotiating with pirates, and knitting terrible sweaters, Emilia will have to decide just what she’s willing to give up to bring her papá home.

Emilia Afloat is a YA fantasy standalone with series potential. This 80,000-word story merges the fierce family ties of Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire with the magical twists of Tricia Levenseller’s The Daughter of the Pirate King Duology.

I attended [SCHOOL], where I completed a semester of research sailing on a tall ship. My own asexual identity and five years of teaching middle school students inspire me to tell stories with queer heroes.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Q34


While this tweaked query didn’t get Q34 the mentor they were querying, it did get them a request for more pages — which is exactly what a good query should do. The pages themselves have to get you the rest of the way there.

Best of luck to Q34! That mentor might have said “no”, because the story was already there.


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

The Secret To Writing

Did you know there’s a way to take your writing from draft to beloved classic? Something often skipped when you’re learning all the ‘should’ and ‘should nots’ of the novelist’s world?

There are so many things to remember when you’re writing. All the guidelines you’ve been taught — knowing you can break them all if you make the story compelling enough.

  • Keep a consistent voice
  • Pace your story to keep people reading
  • Don’t switch tenses
  • Make sure dialogue from different characters don’t have the same voice
  • Be sure to engage all the senses
  • Avoid adverbs and passive voice wherever possible
  • Copy edit and make sure it reads well
  • Create characters that are relatable
  • Etc

The list of things a writer is told to remember, techniques and skills they should wield, is almost endless.

And thus, it seems a daunting task. In fact, it IS a daunting task.

For some, it can lead to writer’s block, where one cannot move past a scene because it’s not right, yet. For others, they see their work, compare it to published works, and despair.

The secret that those published writers know? The one that most of your teachers never thought to mention?

You Can Write In Layers

Like an onion, or a parfait, it doesn’t have to be all mingled together and done at once.

I know, I may have mentioned this before. It’s something many of us do naturally, but adding the intent and narrowing your focus during an editing session can be the key to making your manuscript something you’re proud of.

Without the struggle to do all the things at once, you can actually finish your rough draft. And once your rough draft is done, then you can go back and add the layers, the complexities, the intricacies that make a novel sing.

This is exactly why NaNoWriMo works for a decent number of writers. Yes, we tend to be — well, obviously goal oriented — but we’re almost forced to get our story down while only using our writing strengths.

Like a painter to a canvas, starting with large strokes and adding the final details at the end, writers can do the same.

For me? I’ve said before, my writing tends to be focused on the main character — both in their head and how they interact with the world around them.

When I go back to layer things in?

  1. I’m looking to add sensory details to make the world more 3 dimensional
  2. Then, I try to remove some of the main character’s mental observations because I can get pretty wordy.
  3. Next, I’m looking to remove filler words like “just”, “a bit”, “very”, “that”, and adverbs (searching on “-ly”)
  4. Finally, I read it aloud to make sure it flows smoothly and nothing is repeated.

Now, writing in past tense is my default, so I don’t usually have to edit my tenses, and I can’t read my work or a beta’s without copy-editing, so that happens naturally for me. But, if your writing strengths lay elsewhere, feel free to do an editing pass looking for those things.

Often, the more complex the storyline, the most skilled it seems from the outside.

But?

If you write with time hops, or carefully sprinkled clues, or multiple points-of-view? There’s no reason you can’t write one point-of-view at a time. No one has to know the time hops were written in order. And who can prove that those carefully sprinkled clues weren’t added in during post production?


What layers come naturally for you?

What ones do you have to focus on to make sure you get them right?

Author Spotlight: Azriel Hope

  • fantasy and paranormal romance writer for books AND the small screen

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Azriel Hope.

Lorie Hope writes fantasy and paranormal romances as Azriel Hope. She has ghostwritten for several contemporary romance authors and decided to begin her own romance brand. Lorie also writes Young Adult novels under her given name.

Lorie has been a writer for over ten years, she’s a single adoptive mother of two, soon to be three gorgeous girls and loves to travel the world when not schlepping her kids to school or contemplating life over a nice cold glass of chardonnay. Lorie spent many years working in television development and now writes for a living. 

Lorie, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Um well, I’d definitely have a dragon. I mean they are very impractical because…where do you put them? And they seem cantankerous, but of course, as the movies tell us, they can be tamed.

But yes, I am ready for a Dragon all the way, I’d fly through the sky on my dragon, we’d flame stuff (but you know nothing that would cause permanent damage) and I’d just be a badass with my badass dragon…hello! 

Classic choice. As an occasional fire-dragon myself, I completely understand the urge.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write everything…seriously. I have written everything, like stuff I was like…what? I mean if you pick three words out of a hat and give them to me with a genre I can write a book about it. BUT I love fantasy, that’s my favorite.

For my ghostwriting job I had to write contemporary romance with a lot of steam and I um…well…sort of like it, but what I love is writing fantasy with a little steam and a lot of love.

For YA, I love writing love in just a little sweeter way, both really work for me. In fact, at the moment I am co-writing a Christmas movie for Hallmark and you know there is NO STEAM in a Hallmark movie and I laughed out loud during our meeting with production because I felt like the whore who was invited to the Hallmark Christmas Social. I mean the steam I’ve had to write in stuff and now…well we can’t even have a kiss until the very very end and only a peck. It still makes me laugh.

But, I’ve written horror, comedy, a dance novel about steppin’… I’ve seriously written everything.

What I love most about what I write is how it breaks down barriers and paradigms. A lot of my characters, written in a mainstream way, are sexually fluid or ethnically diverse. In fact, as a mom of two biracial daughters, it’s important to me that YA novels have ethnic diversity. And in romance, there are a lot of heterosexual couples and a lot of gay couples, but sexually fluid romances are pretty rare, though becoming less so. I love writing characters that just love.

At the moment my Immortal Romance Series has these delicious bisexual men in it and a sweet F/F romance that is intertwined with the main couple and I just love it because mainstream readers get to see the different sides of love.

I started writing in the fourth grade. I had actually won the Orange County fair as the best writer in my age group for a book called How To Keep A Schmoo, but my teacher had entered my book and never told me. Since I never knew she entered my book, I didn’t know I had won. I didn’t collect my award, so the library called my mom and asked if I wanted my trophy and my book after they had it on display for a few months. I cried tears of joy and sadness that I had won, but never knew. I’ve been writing ever since. 

Wow, you’re definitely a skilled veteran — since 4th grade! Ghostwriting seems like a better fit for certain genres, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. But, it must be a real treat to put your own name on your own works.

And congrats on writing a Hallmark Christmas Special! I’m sure doing research for that… well, got a little repetitive after a while.

What do you like to read?

I like to read, young adult novels and fantasy. Weird huh, it’s also what I like to write 🙂 Actually even though I’ve written several best selling contemporary romance novels for my boss (as a ghostwriter) I have never actually read a contemporary romance. I’ve read parts of a few, but never the whole thing…hahaha.

You know this is the right place for YA and fantasy novel-lovers. 🙂 I’ve read a few contemporary romances, but they aren’t usually my jam, either. I need at least a little fantasy in my contemporary stories to really pull me in.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Using the formula

…hmmm. I guess I’m not very good at following a formula.  I think I might just intrinsically follow a formula, but I can’t write with any kind of formula in mind, like the hero’s journey, or the build-up to a climax, or acts in a screenplay. Anything that has any kind of logic to it, I just can’t do it.

I just let my characters be who they are, they tell me what they want to do in the story, I write it and then go back and read it and if it affects me emotionally, that’s the story. Hahaha, um…hope it’s working out okay, cause none of my work is very formulaic.

That’s so great that you have such a natural sense of pacing and story. I know as an unpublished writer, I worry quite a bit about my pacing and sometimes lean on beat-sheets and the hero’s journey to check my story and see if it looks ‘right’ according to those formulas. Maybe I should trust myself a little more.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

BE TRUE TO YOU!

Oh baby, BE TRUE TO YOU!!!! Be true to your voice, your story, your character, your people. You are unique and your stories are beautiful. While all writers need to rewrite and get feedback and make sure that their stories resonate, they won’t always resonate with everyone.

I think the best thing I’ve learned about following your own voice came when I started getting reviews for my work. At first, it was five star…five star….five star and seriously, I was like “I’m the best writer that EVER lived” (sort of, you know, you’ve had those moments) and then I get like a three-star review that annihilates me, and then a one-star review and I’m like “I can’t write for….sh*t.” But you know it all balances out. When I read the good reviews, what was great about them is that the readers got it. They understood the story and were moved by it and took the journey I created for them.

Then I found that in following my voice and my uniqueness my story resonated with some of the readers and for others, they were like….”no thanks”. It will happen with any story where you write from your heart. Some will love it…some will become obsessed with it and others will hate your story so much they’ll line their kitty boxes with it and that is….writing.

But still, be you…always be true to your voice.

What lovely advice. And I know that I’m not the only one hoping to find that audience where my story and my voice truly resonates with the readers.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

The Reign of a Queen, the third book in the Fallen Angel Immortal Romance Series will be released on March 11, 2020, on Amazon and is available for preorder now. And….the first two will be FREE the day the third book is released. (The release had to be bumped because Hallmark wanted their edits first…)

Book One: The Fall of Arcades follows Rayelynn, a fairy/mortal halfling and Farrow, the prince of Fallen Angels. What I love about this series is that not only does it tell an epic love story, it also deals with the prejudice of assuming people are good or evil based on where they are from or what they were born into.

Cover for: The Rise of a King

The Fall of Arcades is an incredible love story with some dark elements, sexual situations, and several polyamorous characters… because when you’re an immortal an eternity of vanilla is just no fun.

The second book, The Rise of a King (in the Fallen Angel, Immortal Romance Series) takes us from the Arcades and the kingdom of dark angels to The Cirque, a fairy realm where Farrow’s brother Prince Drayden rules. Born half-fairy and half-fallen angel, Drayden possesses both goodness and evil.

Book Three: The Reign of a Queen is EPIC!

Cover for "The Reign of a Queen"

Farrow and Rayelynn are brought to Estancia to live among the gods until Farrow serves his sentence for killing fairies and elves at their Samhain celebration. Rayelynn and Farrow’s children grow rapidly and Rayelynn is forced to commit a crime she never thought imaginable at the behest of the gods, who Farrow and Rayelynn discover are not as good as eternity believes. Farrow and Rayelynn tour the realms trying to instill peace among the agitated immortals who are angered the Arcades have been liberated. As they visit the realms, Rayelynn must face her past, her real father and take her place as the Queen of Eternity to save Farrow from himself and Drayden from Lucien, the demon Lord of Martu Mara.

Anastasia and Naida’s love grows as Anastasia rules the newly liberated Arcades, and settles into her role as their queen, faithful wife, and mother. With the balance of eternity threatened and Drayden’s promise to bring Rayelynn to Martu Mara to eternally suffer, Rayelynn alone must heal the ills of their existence to save Farrow from the prejudice that cripples him and Drayden from the hell that seeks to consume his soul so that she can make existence better for her children and all those she loves.

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The Grind versus The Hustle: Comparing Office Work and Creative Work

9-to-5 jobs get a bad rap. But, just as there are tons of benefits to working on your own projects, there are obvious benefits to the 9-to-5, even beyond a capitalist society.

Now, clearly there are companies where these 6 benefits aren’t in play — and in that case? Your company is probably not a healthy one to work for. Polish your resume and see if you can get out. Or? You’re not actually working a 9-5 job.

6 Benefits Of The Daily Grind

  1. Health Insurance
    If you live outside the United States, this might not be such a big deal, but working a full-time (36+ hours a week) in the states means that your company subsidizes your health insurance. Buying your own insurance on the open market starts at $500 a month and only covers catastrophic health issues…

    When you’re a creative — or otherwise self-employed, that insurance comes out of your own pocket — or you find a spouse and get on their insurance.
  2. Regular paychecks
    You know when payday is, it comes regularly, and you know how much you’re going to get. Plus? Taxes are already taken out of it and you only have to file at the end of the tax year.

    When you’re a creative — or otherwise self-employed, that paycheck comes when you have a contract, and complete and deliver your product. Assuming you can get your client to pay up what they owe you, when you bill them. Sometimes, that can be a challenge.
  3. Known Tasking
    At a 9-to-5, you know you’re doing the right thing – or at least the thing your boss wants you to do. If you’re at a good company, you know what they want and how they want it.

    In my 9-to-5, I write code, and I’m told what to code and what language to code in.

    But if you’re not working the grind, you’ve got to be hustling. You’re either out there trying to convince someone to buy what you’re making, or you’re looking for someone who needs your skills and using them on whatever projects they’re willing to pay for.
  4. Objectives
    When given a task at a 9-to-5 job, assuming it’s run properly, you know what the task is for and what it needs to do/look like.

    At my 9-to-5, when I get a task, I am given requirements, things my code must do and things it should not allow.
  5. Set Endpoints
    At a 9-to-5, you know when you’ve finished a task. Either your boss stops asking for you to fix it, you hit the deadline, or it’s a regular task you do, but you know when it’s been accomplished

    For me, I have due dates and I have tests my code must pass. Once it passes those tests and/or that deadline? I’m done and need to move on to the next task.

    When you’re a creative, you work on something until you think you have it, or you can’t stand to work on it any more, then you try to sell it. Or have someone else take a look. Some people get into the trap of eternal revision, or re-painting, tweaking their projects for eternity and never finishing.
  6. Done when you go home
    The biggest change for me after I graduated college was, once I left work, I was done. There was no homework.

    Now, there are jobs that have people on call, and companies with poor work/life balance, but for a standard 9-to-5, when you’re done, you’re done until you walk through that door again in the morning.

    When you’re a creative — or otherwise self-employed, your day is never done. You’re always working, or thinking about working, or thinking you should be working on your project. Your life and your work bleed together.

Now, that said, clearly I wouldn’t be here blogging if I thought the 9-to-5 life was the end-all and be-all of the working world.

Benefits Of Being A Creative

  1. Answer to yourself
    No one else is telling you what to do, when to do it, and what time to show up.
  2. Work on what you love
    Most of us who are creatives or otherwise self-employed are working on a passion project, something we want to see in this world and hope we’re the right person to make it work.

    We’re clearly doing it for something other than the money.
  3. Decide on your own tasking
    At a 9-to-5, you might get to pick between project A and project B, or even propose project C and have the company decide to go for it. But usually? They tell you to jump and you ask, “how high.”

    When you’re in charge, you can decide project A is boring and switch to project B. And if that gets stuck, take a break and work on project C.

    You’re the creative spark, the final say on what your finished project: your art, your story, your product — whatever you’re working on looks like. You get to decide when it’s done.
  4. Deadlines are what you make of them
    (Well, until you’re under contract. But even then, sometimes they can be flexible.) If you’re not happy with your work, you can pull it apart and start new.
  5. Set your own hours
    Plus? You get to work when you feel you’re most productive.

    Okay, this is often a lie. You get to work when you can fit it in around life. But if you’re doing this INSTEAD of a 9-to-5, instead of alongside it, your schedule can be more flexible.
  6. The successes are all yours
    When/if you hit it big, all the profit/fame/whatever is yours. You’ll know that you made it on your own and all the external validation belongs to you.

Now, I do have a soft-spot for predictability and stability, I’m a bit of a homebody. But, that doesn’t mean I’m afraid to take chances.

These days? I’m working both gigs: one by day for pay, and by night to write. But, I’m never going to be the one to say that the 9-to-5 is the wrong choice for you.


Do you work a 9-to-5, a creative/self-employment job, both, or neither?

Do you think bad management gives 9-to-5 a harsher rap than it deserves?

Author Spotlight: Joanne Machin

  • Multi-passionate contemporary own voices romance author

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Joanne Machin.

Image may contain: Joanne Machin, smiling, eyeglasses and indoor

Joanne Machin is a contemporary romance own voices romance author, a feminist, freelance copy editor, and career and life coach–just to name a few!

She lives in Seattle, WA, with her Welsh terrier puppy and her husband, where she drinks A LOT of coffee, indulges in an occasional brunch, and thinks a lot about what she’s doing with her life. 

Joanne, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

An air bison, like the ones from Avatar: The Last Airbender! 

Oooh! So cute, so loyal, so clever. And? A mode of transportation. Excellent choice.

What do you write and how did you get started?

Right now, I primarily write contemporary romance, but I actually got started writing on RPG boards on Neopets–yes, really!–over fifteen years ago.

I dabbled A LOT in fantasy, but I quickly latched onto romance. I just love love stories so much. I’ve been co-writing with my best friend Sarah since I was twenty-years old or so. We’ve been churning out stories since we first met (on Neopets), and our first published story is in an anthology that’s been on sale since last August. I’m really proud of us! My current WIP is a contemporary #ownvoices friends-to-lover romance. 

Oooh. I’m more of a paranormal or fantasy romance fan, but I sometimes branch out to contemporary world stuff.

And please, don’t remind me about Neopets. I’ve got an abandoned little purple dragon named “Morrigaine”, I believe (the other spellings were already taken) who’s been dying of thirst and hunger for over a decade. It would be nice if we could have put them in orphanages when we abandoned the game…

What do you like to read?

I love reading contemporary romance of all varieties and with all kinds of tropes. I’m loving this trend of contemporary romances tackling tough themes that are on the verge of women’s fiction. I also love sci-fi and fantasy, and I have a special place in our heart for the YA/NA genre.

It’s awesome when you can read a story and see a character dealing with — and overcoming some of the real life challenges that many of us face. And we all know I’M a huge sci-fi/fantasy buff.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write everyday

So true. Life happens, and if you force the words in when you’ve got too much else going on, you can grow to resent it. And? You’re probably not putting out your best words.

I push through during NaNoWriMo, but 30 days a year is very different than every day of your life. I know I let a lot slide during November to make it happen, and I can’t always live like that.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Treat your author career like a business.

I know this is kind of writing-adjacent, but I hope it’s still okay; treat your career as an author like a business; it’s definitely a “long game”.

It’s so true. If you only have one book in you, you still want to be sure to find the right audience that will love your story. But most of us? Most of us have so many stories we want to share.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

A group of authors and I just published an anthology of short stories in titled “Valentine’s Day Gone Wrong,” and it includes romances ranging from contemporary to paranormal (and couple of them includes furry friends! That was a definitely shifter joke… Pun intended.). It’s all about thwarted Valentine’s Days–all with HEAs, of course!

My story was written with my best friend Sarah Estep: Pancakes and Puppy Love

After a brutal break-up while overseas, Robby returns home without a girlfriend to find a woman staying in his apartment. He tries to kick her out, but instead, they strike a deal.

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