Category Archives: Really True Really

Exactly How to Write a Query Letter

Didgeridoo

Waiting for Elvis

If you’ve been wondering how to write a query letter to propose your book to literary agents, you can get books that talk about it, or you can find advice online, or you can even talk to literary agents at conferences. Or you could read this.

For those who are not actually interested in being published, or being taken seriously as a human being, or entirely avoiding jail time, I can help you out with my convenient guidelines—see below!—on how to write a query letter.

  1. You have two choices for how you begin the letter. One possibility is a formal, business-like approach, which will read thus: “Dear Sir or Madam or Whatever (who am I to judge?).” This shows your open-mindedness. The other option is to emphasize your friendly nature and show how easy it will be to work with you. Then you will take the informal approach and begin your letter thus: “Hey, babe.”
  2. At the beginning of your letter, it’s important to tell how many words are in your book. I’m not sure whether this includes the articles “a” and “the” but it definitely includes “an” because of the final consonant. Therefore, when you write your book, try to use as many nouns as possible that begin with a vowel, to increase the number of times you use the word “an” and increase your word count.
  3. Use several paragraphs in your query letter, as paragraphs tend to be popular, so the more the better. Make sure to end each paragraph with the phrase “We’re not done yet!”
  4. Say things about your book to make it sound interesting, even if you’re pretty sure it isn’t. In this context, saying things that are not true is not called “lying” but rather “verbal malfeasance”, which sounds so much better, and is therefore OK. Here are examples of interesting things you might include: (1) After dogs take over the world, human beings learn to carry sticks in their mouths, and it turns out they are much happier than before. (2) Elvis Presley is reborn in Australia, where he learns to play the didgeridoo. (3) A really stupid person is elected President, but it is hard to tell the difference.
  5. Just use your imagination when writing the query letter. That’s what being a writer is all about. Make sure you use plenty of exclamation points. They make your book sound more exciting!
  6. Mention the names of your characters, and give every character a middle initial. Most people have a middle initial, so giving them to your characters makes your characters seem more real. If your character is rich, the middle initial should be W. If they are foreign, it should be Z. If you happen to have a humorous character, then of course the middle initial will be J.
  7. It’s important to let the literary agent know that you did not hire someone to write your letter, so your last sentence should be “I wrote this entire letter by myself.”
  8. And very importantly, don’t forget that being a literary agent is a business. They are doing this to earn a living, so include a twenty dollar bill with every query letter you send out. Doing this will indicate your level of professionalism.

Good luck with your letter

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I Am Resolved

new life old lifeSince the invention of speech, so long ago, human beings have been saying they would do something, but then never did. We have even formalized this into a ritual, as a new year begins, of pretending we will make changes in our life, with New Year’s Resolutions. I recently came across an old document with the resolutions of a number of famous people, and for public benefit, I offer them here.

Cleopatra

My brother has a pet hippopotamus, and he struts around acting like he’s some kind of god. No one in the world should have a brother as irritating as mine, but no one could, I’m sure. He always says we’re co-rulers, but he’s just a stupid child, and I’m older than him. I keep thinking about what I can do to show I’m superior to him, and I’ve thought of it. Next year, I resolve to get a pet snake. Even a hippopotamus is afraid of snakes. Let my brother shake his little fist and run to Rome, for all I care.

Beethoven

In the last six months I’ve written more than forty songs for the beerhall singers, and I only get enough pfennig to buy a loaf of bread. I’m bored to the point of wishing I was deaf with writing songs where all the lyrics are “Hooray for loose women” or “Let’s drink more beer”. Next year, I resolve to get back to work on a symphony. If I can write just one symphony before I die, that would be a great achievement, I think.

Leonardo da Vinci

How many boards and canvases have I covered with pictures of women? Smiling women, half smiling women, women with baby Jesus. Nobody is paying attention, not even the Medici, and they even like that stupid Michelangelo. Next year, I resolve to stop messing around with this painting nonsense and learn something useful, like cooking. A cook can make a good living, plus it’s your job to try the dishes, so you get to eat all that great food. Maybe I could even make a name for myself as a cook.

Marie Curie

I’ve had enough of bartending, where drunks dumber than my cat think because I serve drinks maybe I’ll serve a little something extra in the back room. Besides, bartending here is dangerous work. At least once a week some intoxicated trash wants to start a fight with the entire place. Then I have to get down behind the bar until the glass stops breaking and they stop pounding on each other. Next year, I resolve to go back to school and study for a profession with no danger, like science. Radioactivity would be a nice safe thing to study. You can’t even see it, as if nothing is there.

Wilbur Wright

My brother keeps talking about “We’re going to fly, we’re going to fly” and sometimes I think I hate to break it to you, buddy. Pick up every possible object you can see and toss it in the air. What happens? It falls to earth (unless you toss a bird). Why would anyone think a human being can fly? We’re not angels. There’s no such thing as magic. But so far I haven’t had the nerve to tell my brother I’m done with this ridiculous idea. Next year, I resolve to stop this flying foolishness and learn how to build boats. That would be a useful skill. You can actually go somewhere in a boat.

Emily Dickinson

I am 800 pages into my novel, and I still have so much more to write. My brother and sister tell me that the book will be too long for anyone to read it, but I have so much to say, and even this novel feels inadequate to me. Lately I’ve been wondering whether I might be able to say what I want in a shorter form, and I tried a few short stories, one about a woman who goes to Boston with her minister father, and she finds a vase from Japan. It didn’t really grab me. But I’m going to see what else I can do. Next year, I resolve to try a little poetry and see if I can make anything of that. I’m not sure how much meaning you can get into a small poem, but we’ll see.

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140 Characters Till Christmas

drunk Santa on floor

Where’s my cell phone?

Starting sometime in November, the bitter cracking cold of the North Pole reaches a point where it has gone as low as it will go, and in that frigid time, there are remarkable days when the wind disappears completely. Those are the days when the elves go outside and play volleyball to relax, divided into red and green teams.

During one such game, the head elf, Galston, who had been watching, came in to get warm. “Santa baby!” he said, “Where’s that special hot chocolate?” Galston gave a big wink to Santa.

“Get a cup off the counter,” Santa said, then poured from a thermos into the elf’s cup.

Galston took a drink, looked up at Santa, and said, “Somebody isn’t delivering gifts with the usual festive holiday spirit.”

Santa paused a moment, then said, “Oh, OK.” He reached into a cabinet, brought out a bottle of rum, and poured a shot into Galston’s cup.

“Now that’s Merry Christmas!” Galston said, and with some effort he climbed up onto a high stool, to sit at the counter opposite Santa Claus. He took another drink, and said, “With that game going on out there, the Easter Bunny put a hundred bucks on the red team.”

“He’s here?” Santa exclaimed. “I’m supposed to be told when special visitors come.”

“Naw, he’s not here. One of the tech elves has been tweeting every couple of minutes, so Easter Bun is following the game.”

Santa looked puzzled and said, “The elf is doing what?”

“Tweeting. You know, on Twitter.”

“What’s a twitter?” Santa asked. “Sounds like some kind of German candy.”

“Are you kidding?” said Galston. “You don’t know what Twitter is?”

Galston explained Twitter as best he could to Santa Claus, who seemed skeptical, until Galston pulled out his cell phone to illustrate. He showed Santa the Twitter home page and all the people and events that could be followed. Santa was amazed to see that from all over the world, everyone’s slightest thoughts, no matter how truly slight indeed, could be instantly shared with everyone on earth. Galston went on to show Santa how to sign up for an account, which he immediately did.

“Now you got it, Santa,” Galston said, taking a swig from his cup. “Anything you got to say, you can share it. I bet you could have a million followers in no time.”

Galston left and Santa thought But I already have millions of followers. Still, maybe it was different on Twitter. He wondered what his first chirp should be. Or no, Galston hadn’t called it a chirp. It was . . . some kind of bird noise. Oh, right, tweet. What should his first tweet be?

He typed: “Hey, I’m a bird, I’m tweeting!” He sent the tweet, laughing as he did it, shaking like a bowl full of jelly. He took another drink of special hot chocolate and thought he should do another. He started typing again: “Who wants to buy some raggedy ass reindeer who smell like wet dogs after they’ve been flying all night?”

“Ha ha ha!” Santa laughed. He poured more rum into his cup and began typing: “If not for me, what kind of Christmas would you have? Huh? What if I brought everybody a box of spiders?”

“Ha ha ha ha!” He poured more rum, then drank straight from the bottle. “You’ve all been BAD! Don’t even bother getting up Christmas morning, because I’m coming around to STEAL from you!”

Everything was hilarious now. Santa sat grinning, took another hit from the rum bottle, then typed: “I’ve seen your mamas at night, and let’s just say, reindeer butts ain’t the only thing that’s ugly!!!”

“And some of your daddies snore and fart so much at night I can’t even get the reindeer to land on the roof. Sad!!!!!”

“I’m the Christmas Daddy!!!! You’re all pathetic! No presents for not if me if. Cocoochyx” He slumped back in his chair, passed out.

The next morning when Santa woke up, his head was clanging like Christmas bells, and his wife was standing looking down at him frowning. “You happy?” she asked. “You get a Twitter account and all you can think to do with it is show your ass to the world? If you can crawl to the kitchen I’ll give you breakfast.”

Later that morning, Galston came by and said, “Maybe I should have explained something, but I thought it would be obvious. There’s three circumstances when you shouldn’t send out tweets. When you’re drunk, when you’re sleepy, and when you’re stupid.”

“Can you bring me some aspirin?” Santa said.

“Somebody needs to give up the tweeting,” Galston said.

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We Need a Nap After Those Interviews

bowl of gravy

Ya know ya want me.

Here at Loonistic Information Source, in honor of Thanksgiving, we’re taking the week off from our normally Serious and Meaningful blog to interview some of the participants who make up a typical American Thanksgiving feast.

The potatoes, unfortunately, refused to turn off the TV or get off the couch, so they didn’t take part. Nor did the sweet potatoes, in fact, who were upstairs doing . . . we don’t know what they were doing, but they took a bag of marshmallows up there.

We had also hoped to interview kale and broccolirabe, who were out back in the garden, but they said they have nothing to do with Thanksgiving and wouldn’t come in the house.

So the first interview was with gravy. In the interest of Pure and Honest journalism, we have to say that we found it necessary to take gravy’s words with a grain of salt (actually, it was quite a lot of salt, maybe half a cup). We’re not sure how much to trust what gravy said, given that smooth, oily way of speaking.

“I’m the most popular dish on the table,” gravy said. “No other dish even comes close to how much people love me.”

We said, “Well there are other things that—”

“No, no, no! Not even close. They love me. Really, I don’t know why people don’t just have gravy and nothing else. I’m the best there is.”

“So you think you go with everything?”

“GO with everything? I AM everything. If there’s no gravy, it’s not Thanksgiving, it’s just a bunch of people arguing.”

After our conversation with gravy, we interviewed cranberry sauce, who seemed a little bitter.

“No one, you know, appreciates my subtlety. I mean, do you? Because, like, I have so much to offer, but who gets it? No one, you know, really. On my own, I could have been a main dish, no, seriously. People look at me and they think Ohhh, you’re so sweet, but no, no I’m not. You know what? I’m not sweet at all, but no one appreciates that.”

After cranberry sauce, we got a chance to talk turkey with the big bird of the day, and turkey sat down for our interview about 3:00 in the afternoon.

“I know you been waiting,” turkey said, “but aren’t I worth waiting for?”

“Thanks for doing this interview,” we said, “and we want to start with a question you probably hear a lot, but what are your views on light and dark?”

“Oh, I love that question,” turkey said. “Good and evil as metaphorically represented by the presence or absence of light, it’s a universal concept in human societies.”

“But not everyone eats turkey,” we said.

“That’s true,” turkey said. “Some people inhabit a space that, while not completely nihilistic, certainly evokes darkness through its profound amorality.”

“And how do you feel about gravy?” we asked.

“Well, gravy’s always on top of things, I’ll grant that.”

The next interviews were with vegetables, a mixed group who hung around together. “We didn’t think you were coming,” carrot said. “We got cold waiting on you.”

“Sorry,” we replied. “The interview with turkey took a little longer than we expected.”

“Anybody here surprised by that?” said green beans, looking around. “Has there been a year when that wasn’t true?”

“Anyway,” said onion, “you probably want to know what we contribute to Thanksgiving?”

“Yes, we’d love to hear your opinion on that.”

“We’re mostly there for ambiance. We add color to the occasion.”

“Oh well,” said carrot, “some of us do. And of course there are people who like carrots.”

“Uh huh,” said onion. “All four people in America. You make me cry.”

At that point we had to wrap up our interview with vegetables, as it was announced that pecan pie had arrived, and we felt the best interview of the day had just walked in the door.

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Revelatory Physiognomy

red truck

Hey, ladies!

I have a friend named . . . actually, “friend” is a substantial word, with robust implications. I save that word for just a few people. I have an acquaintance . . . but “acquaintance” means you know someone well. That would be stepping off the path of veracity here. There is someone whose existence I’m aware of, named Lester Ray, who comes to my house sometimes and sits on my porch. If I give him a beer or two or four, eventually he goes away. So we have our relationship.

I have never been able to verify whether Lester Ray has told me anything that would not hold up in court on a busy day. Thus the story I tell here has some statistical chance of truth. I would not condescend to pass on this parable except as it was related to me. I do not fabricate.

Lester Ray, that is, had reached the grievous conclusion that the romantic part of his life had ceased to entirely meet his needs, consisting, as it did, only of himself. He decided to participate in internet dating. People, I know, you are asking “Why would anyone do that?” I condescend to tell you only what I know. As I mentioned, I seldom fabricate.

Lester Ray, that is, signed up for an internet dating service. It required a profile. He created a profile. It required a statement of interests. He described his interests. It asked for a photo. Lester Ray, that is, did not include a photo. “My physiognomy is more revelatory in real life, in terms of my qualities,” he said. Who could deny such precision? I have known photographs that frightened small children, whereas the actual person only made them wary.

Women, that is, did not reply to the profile. Oh, people, the superficiality of this shallow world. I know you agree with me. Lester Ray decided that perhaps the description of his interests needed the piquant stimulus of visuality, so he posted a photo of his truck, a red Ford with a small green air freshener in the shape of a Christmas tree, hanging gladly from the rear view mirror. “Ladies,” that little tree promised, “here is where it smells good.”

Women, that is, still did not reply. Lester Ray had a brief sojourn in the vale of perplexity. Women like good smells, and they like a man with property, and he had illustrated both, so what was the impediment to romantic vivacity? Then Lester Ray remembered that of course, women love animals. So he added a picture of his dog, Jimgoober, a brilliant hound of grace and poise known by every mailman in the county. That is, Jimgoober had known his day, and the fact that his day was slightly expired was not the dog’s fault. If he still had hair, he would have been handsome.

Women, that is, grew even less interested, and one woman who had looked at Lester Ray’s profile wrote him to say that just in case he was thinking of it, she wanted to make sure he never contacted her. “You’re not the sort of man I would want to date,” she wrote, “or know casually, or see on the street, or be aware of in any way.” Some women don’t like dogs.

Lester Ray, in his observations of the human condition, had also noticed how much people are drawn to mysteries, so he decided to post a photo of himself with the added allure of enigma. The photo showed him standing somewhere that wasn’t clear, and in light that was not very bright, so it wasn’t possible to be certain that he had all the standard facial features. Which I happen to know he mostly does.

Women, by God, did not respond.

Lester Ray looked carefully over his profile, wondering where the deficit was most acute. Perhaps, he thought, it was the listing of his interests, insufficient in detail. He was fond of movies, for instance, but was that fact entirely clear? He took down all the other photos and posted a picture of the actor Brad Pitt, to show how much he enjoyed movies.

Women, that is, began to write him, and he would give them opportunities to observe his physiognomy in person. “But every woman who I set up a meeting with,” Lester Ray said, “would walk in, and before she said a word, she would turn around and leave.” It turns out none of them liked movies after all.

People, what would you do when faced with such a great riddle? Lester Ray and I both drank another beer.

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Control-Alt-Swagger

Zeus on a throne

Who took my mouse?

Perhaps you’re aware of the literary/cultural phenomenon called “steampunk” that plays with alternative histories. Steampunk is influenced by Victorian culture and assumes that technologies such as steam power continued to be developed.

It occurred to me that if we took the internet and placed it back in ancient Greece, we might start a “stonepunk” phenomenon. Of course if the internet had existed, then Zeus, being the egomaniac he was, would have been sending out angry tweets about himself all day long.

Actually, all of the Greek gods were egomaniacs. That’s how the Greeks conceived of them. And as egomaniacs, if they’d had the internet, they probably would have all had a blog. That is, I’m not saying that everyone with a blog . . . Anyway, because I can travel through time and space in ways mere mortals cannot, I obtained copies of some of the Olympian blog entries.

Apollo
Twice recently I’ve arrived at Mount Olympus to find all the other gods there, and no one was saying anything. What could I think but that they stopped talking when they saw me coming? I think they were trying to have a meeting without me. What does that mean? I’ve known for centuries that most of them are jealous of me, and if I were on their level, I’d be jealous, too. I wonder if they’re conspiring, if something is happening that I’m not being told about. I wouldn’t put it past any of them, not even my sister, so I’m watching them closely.

Ares
As if we don’t have enough trouble on Mount Olympus, with the stupid squabbles that go on nonstop, the girls have started some nonsense with the Trojans. I can see where this is going, and soon everyone will be involved, choosing sides. If it was up to me, a blazing sword of fury would be the answer to every argument. But Father Zeus doesn’t allow it, and how much does it benefit him to permit this bickering of the whining gods? If I could have my moment, it would all have a solution like red thunder.

Aphrodite
What is it with Athena and Hera and Artemis (like anybody worships her), acting like they’re beautiful, like there’s some kind of contest going on? Yes, sure, they have their particular areas, necessary no doubt, but beauty? Have they never walked by a pool of water and looked down? I think there’s a reason why somebody whose name starts with “A” and ends with “phrodite” is the goddess of beauty, and let’s don’t forget sex. I am the goddess of sex. Try doing without that.

Hephaestus
Every Body keppt telling me I should do this Blog thing, and I keppt saying whatt’s wrong with Fire and a good old Anvill, yah, something you can bang on. Whatt’s wrang with that, huh? Who wantes to look at a commputer when you could be bangging on hot metal, yah! But every Body sed no, Hephy, your the one boy, people wante to Read about whatt your doinng, you need a Blog thing. Allrite, here It is. Here’s whatt Im doing. Imm banging on hot metal. Yah!

Athena
Pardon my sublime and awesome wrath, but I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time. I hate olives. They’re bitter, they’re oily, maybe they’re good enough for humans, who will, frankly, eat dogs on occasion, but Olympian gods should not be eating olives. It’s time for Father Zeus to stop having bowls of those things sitting around. I’ve noticed, in fact, that no one but Hades eats them, and if that isn’t a clear message, then what is? Blast this blue sea, if I eat one more olive, humans are going to end up having to worship cockroaches, because I swear I’ll kill everything else.

Zeus
[Zeus had a temper tantrum on Saturday and threw 157 lightning bolts in one minute. They created a power surge that shut the internet down, so he didn’t post this week.]

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I Feel More Perfect Just Thinking About It

man sleeping

Hey, wake up! I made you a list.

It is a long tradition as the New Year lurches toward us with all its grinning potential, to predict what the future might bring. Self-driving cars (cool). Gene therapy (cool). Meat grown in a petri dish (umm, it’s not spam, is it?). Another album from Justin Bieber (let’s kill ourselves).

Instead of predicting, we can follow a different tradition, of compiling lists of lies to tell ourselves, of all the ways we’ll improve as soon as that magic midnight minute moves to morning, and suddenly it is a new year. NOW we can do things differently! NOW we can haul our fat ass off the couch and start exercising. NOW we can start vacuuming the house more than twice a year. We will make New Years resolutions.

Up to this point in my life, I have always begun my list with a resolution to make more resolutions, but then I don’t keep the first one, so my list is always blank. This year, however, I will be conscientious, indefatigable, and assiduous at concocting reasons to castigate myself for moral failure within one week.

So here is my list of New Years resolutions:

1) I resolve to aim at spiritual growth, to be kind, thoughtful, and tolerant of other people, and to . . . No, wait, this one is too hard. Never mind this one.

2) I resolve to no longer wish for things I don’t want just so other people can’t have them.

3) I resolve to eat only those foods that contribute to strength of body and mind, on even-numbered weekends.

4) I resolve to tolerate no vice in my life that does not fit comfortably into my momentary whims.

5) I resolve to diligently help other people discover their flaws and discuss how bad those flaws are.

I suspect you are not going to get around to making a list, so I’ve made one for you. You can wait to thank me if we go out to dinner sometime, then you can pay.

1) You resolve to stop just talking about getting a tattoo and get one (go ahead and get the one of naked people and the monkey.)

2) You resolve to change every one of your internet passwords frequently, to something really complicated, as we’re supposed to (hint: use your birthday, plus your initials).

3) You resolve to send a birthday card to your parole officer, and to call her sometimes just to chat.

4) You resolve to wear more purple underwear (I just thought you might like that).

Well. I feel better about myself already. I feel better about you, too. I’m looking forward to seeing your tattoo. Or your underwear.

Happy New Year!

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