ORIGINAL QUERY, where I tried to follow all the advice. It received nothing but rejections:
Lisa Montgomery never learned how to show love. As a child, she was acceptable only if she were clean, composed, and quiet. For most of her forty-three years she survived by keeping her life and emotions tightly controlled. Then, after her husband succumbs to cancer, she discovers her control was only an illusion. His secret life has left her in debt and nearly penniless, and her daughter, instead of offering comfort and support, is judgmental and emotionally distant.
Bitter, Lisa returns to work and meets Gene O’Neal, a retired fire chief who pursues her with a passion that melts her icy façade. She falls in love and learns how glorious true lovemaking can be. Only her troubled relationship with her daughter dulls her new happiness, so Lisa prepares to make one more effort to talk to her, to offer the love she’d always felt but never knew how to express.
When her life changes again, she realizes pain and loss has made her stronger. As a woman who has learned to cherish each moment, she leaves her old life behind to follow her dream, welcoming each tomorrow as a new opportunity for adventure.
REVISED, and written from the heart. With this one, I landed an agent who sent the manuscript to a certain line with major publisher. My agent said the acquiring editor for that line was interested and would get back to her. After weeks of nail-biting anxiety, my agent regretfully informed me that the publisher was discontinuing that line and all negotiations were off.
After picking my heart off the floor, my agent and I discussed the next step. She wanted me to revise the story to fit one of the publisher's other lines, and after a period of intense self-examination, I decided to keep the story as originally written. My agent and I parted company.
Then I sent it to a small, RWA recognized, indie publisher. I received a request for a full the next day. Within a week, they offered a contract:
I lost my husband to divorce after nearly thirty years of marriage, I
read everything I could, desperate to learn how other women coped and
what they did to rebuild their lives. Beyond the Quiet, my mainstream
novel of approximately 90,000 words, is my version of how one woman
struggles though bitterness, loss, and betrayal, learning to cherish
each moment and follow her long-buried dreams. It’s the story of how a
quiet, passionless widow becomes spirited enough to climb onto her
lover’s shoulders for a piggyback ride in the nude.
“To all of our years together,” Lisa Montgomery’s husband said one evening, raising his glass in a toast, “some of them good.” They laughed and clicked wine glasses. But after his death, Lisa discovers he hadn’t been teasing. When she discovers his secret post office box, she struggles to come to terms with his betrayal. Forced to examine her life as a wife, mother, and as a woman, she realizes her troubled childhood didn’t allow her to be anything but composed and quiet, and she’d never learned to show love.
A chance meeting with a retired fire chief leads to changes she’d never imagined, and she falls in love for the first time. She learns to open her heart, to let go of the sterile woman she’d become and passionately embrace the woman she wishes to be. Only her relationship with her estranged daughter dulls her new happiness, so Lisa prepares to make one more effort to talk to her, to offer the love she’d always felt but never knew how to express. But a jealous coworker watches, wanting to destroy what he can’t have.
For my next novel, I went back to the one-hundred-word mini-synopsis I describe in my Writers' Tips and snagged a large publisher's interest:
When a shortage of reporters forces traumatized restaurant reviewer, Madison Young, to cover an execution-style murder in her quiet California town below Big Bear, she has no idea her life is about to change. Reluctantly interviewing a witness, she jots down one word, one seemingly insignificant word that will link to a chain of murders across the country, and to a secret society, a vast and deadly organization that will stop at nothing to protect its secrets. She traces clues, shocked when they reveal a connection to the man who slaughtered her parents, horrified when threats to stop the investigation turn deadly. With the help of a family friend and homicide detective, she must uncover the secrets before she runs out of time.
I received a request for a full, then, after about four months of anxiety, 5 Star offered a contract.