Sunday, November 5, 2017


Remember to Whom all thanks are due.

The following is Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, which established the last Thursday of November as a day of national thanksgiving to the Lord for His innumerable blessings.

A Proclamation. The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.  In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.  Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.  By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Monday, July 3, 2017

On Independence Day

Independence Day is about to be celebrated in the United States. It is a time of reflection on and gratitude for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon our country. This quotation taken from a speech delivered by President Calvin Coolidge at Independence Hall struck me as relevant to our and to all times. It appears in Mark R. Levin’s Rediscovering Americanism: and the Tyranny of Progressivism.
“A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features, the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man—these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course, the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.”—Calvin Coolidge

Happy Birthday America! And homeschoolers, teach your children well. —Quinn

Friday, May 5, 2017

How to Write a Query Letter

So, you or your homeschool writer have completed and polished a manuscript, and are ready to have the story or article published. The first thing thing to do is study market guides. You can find agents and editors to query in such books as Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide, Writer’s Market published by Writers Digest, and the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents edited by Chuck Sambuchino. All can be found on Amazon. For convenience, editors and agencies are presented by genre.

Each publisher or agency lists the types of fiction and/or nonfiction it handles. Follow their contact instructions. Some only accept referrals or contacts they have made at conferences. Others request a synopsis and sample chapters. Many will only accept a query letter.

So what is a query letter? It is a one-page sales pitch whose purpose is to entice the agent/editor to ask for the full manuscript. This is one's opportunity to make a good first impression. Whether by e-mail or paper mail, use Standard English and follow a business letter format.

Set up pages with one-inch margins. The lines should be single space and paragraphs should be block style. Use Times New Roman and 12 font size. Center align your letter head. List your name in slightly larger font and your contact information—address, phone number, e-mail, web address—in slightly smaller font.

Align the inner address against the left margin. Always spell the agent/editor’s name correctly and use his proper title.

The first paragraph in the query’s body is a hook that is supposed to catch the agent/editor’s attention. It needs to contain the story’s title, genre, and word count. It can mention the name of a referral, part of the story line, or some fact within the story. To show that the query isn’t a form letter, mention something gleaned while researching the company.

The second paragraph resembles a book blurb such as seen on the back of book jackets. Summarize the first quarter of the book and name the protagonist, describe a bit of the setting, reveal his inner conflict, and explain the story problem. End the paragraph with a question.

The next paragraph is the writer's bio. Tell the agent/editor why this story is different from others of its kind and why the author is the one person who can tell it. Present credits, if any. Describe work or life experience that’s pertinent to the story and how the writer can promote the book. In the last paragraph, politely thank the agent/editor then ask whether they'd like to see a synopsis or proposal and sample chapters. When sending a paper letter, be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelop.

Then the writer waits for the listed response time. If nothing appears, send a polite e-mail with the submission’s name and date and ask whether they received the query or whether a decision had been made. Once I waited twice the allotted time before contacting an editor who had requested my manuscript. She told me her computer had died, and she lost all her data. She asked that I resubmit. I would have lost out on a publication had I not e-mailed her. So, unless requested otherwise, make contact.

The following is my idea of how L. Frank Baum might query the Acme Agency if he was looking for a home for The Wizard of Oz today:

 L. Frank Baum
1 Writers Lane
Kansas City, Kansas


C.C. Smith
Acquisitions Editor
Acme Agency
121212 Park Place #4
New York, New York

February 28, 2013

Dear Mr. Smith,  (Note: Double check the title and spelling)

Your client John Rabowski recommended that I query you about my 60,000-word fantasy novel The Wizard of Oz. It is the story of Dorothy Gale, an unhappy Kansas farm girl who learns there is no place like home.

Dorothy dreams of evading her problems by escaping to a land over the rainbow that is a much happier place. To her surprise, a cyclone picks up her house and carries her to a sparkling land filled with music and flowers and happy munchkins. Though she is welcome, she misses her family and wants to go home. The only one who can help her is the great and mighty Wizard of Oz. But he lives faraway at the end of a yellow-brick road that’s fraught with dangers from winged-monkeys, witches, fighting trees, and a deadly poppy field. Can a young girl survive such obstacles and return home?

Having grown-up in Kansas and having studied American Folklore, I believe I am uniquely qualified to tell this American fairy tale. My short stories have appeared in such publications as The Story Teller Magazine and Knights and Dragons. I am on Face Book, have 3,500 Twitter followers, and receive 5,000 hits per month on my blog.

Thank you for your consideration. May I send a synopsis and sample chapters?

Yours truly,

L. Frank Baum

So when should a writer query? For a novice, after he/she has completed and polished his/her manuscript. It is a good idea to have others read it before submitting. Moms will love it no matter what, so find objective readers who can give sound advice.—Quinn

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


My homeschooling adventure began on day one with my first child. At first, I did what every mom does. I talked and sang to her. This served to stimulate her brain development. Early on, I began reading to her as well. By age one, she played with wipe-able books, which were placed within easy access with the rest of her toys. I read and sang nursery rhymes at story time. This taught her the rhythm and syntax of language.

As she grew, I further stimulated her brain development by allowing her to explore her world. We provided many age appropriate learning experiences. She went to parks, zoos, the beach, the snow, the airport. At the grocery store, we talked about the foods. I allowed her to “help” as I worked in the home and garden.

Between ages one and three, she sat beside me on the couch reading picture books. I’d point to the pictures and we’d talk about what we saw and what the characters were doing. This built her vocabulary. Soon, she learned to sing the alphabet. While she learned the letters, I pointed to words as I read to her. This way she connected the symbols with sounds. Around age three, when she seemed ready, I made up cards that contained phonetically similar words (at, bat, cat; book, look, cook; can, fan man). I found several first readers that used this method. She was delighted when she opened them and found she could read!

My little student dictated her first story (about a princess) to me at about three and a half. Over the next year or so as she acquired a larger vocabulary and continued to make up stories, I gently introduced the story format: beginning, middle, end. By five, she was writing and illustrating her own little picture books. At six, she began a family newsletter, The Snoopy News, to keep our clan informed about our family’s activities. Now, many years and a few degrees later, she is about to publish her first monograph.—Quinn

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


In an earlier blog (What Happens After the End, 9/22/15), I chronicled the steps in traditional publishing. Another option which is gaining a large slice of the market share is self-publishing. Writers no longer have to wait up to two years to see their book on a store shelf. It can take as little as 24 hours for an e-book to be on sale at Amazon.

There are two routes in self-publishing. The first is working with a so-called vanity press. In this method, the author pays a publisher several thousand dollars to go through the publishing process. This might be good for a book that promotes a business and has limited circulation. The second is indie publishing where the book is published free by an on-line store such as Amazon for worldwide distribution.

The process is easy. All you need to do is upload the manuscript, a blurb, keywords, and a cover. That should take five to ten minutes. If you are using Amazon, they will take a bit of time to review then within 24 hours you’ll be published.

Edit carefully before you submit your story. If it’s within your budget, hire a professional editor for this. After that you’ll need to format by using the easy to follow directions in Building Your Book for Kindle, which is free on Amazon.

 Amazon offers book covers. However, you can hire a professional to customize one for $40 and up. They must be 100x1600 pixels.

Have a book blurb ready that describes your story. Examples can be found on the back of book covers or by browsing through book pages on Amazon. Decide ahead of time what your categories are. These are equivalent to directions to the particular stack in a library where your book may be found. You are also allowed up to seven keywords or keyword phrases. These are used to direct readers to your book, so select these carefully.

E-publishing is easy and your book will never be out of print until you decide to remove it. You or your student might want to start with short stories.—Quinn

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Motivation reaction units are so important, I thought I should repost my blog entry, What in the World is an MRU? MRUs are the engines that move a story along and keep it interesting. Mastering this technique will take you or your homeschool student a long way in becoming an accomplished story teller.

Let’s talk about motivation reaction units (MRUs). The first time I heard these explained was by Randy Ingermanson, creator of the Snowflake Method. He read about them in Dwight V. Swain’s classic. Techniques of the Selling Writer, which is available on

So what is a motivation-reaction-unit? An MRU is the fundamental grouping of words that form a story.

The first component of the MRU is a sentence or several sentences which comprise a cause. The cause is something the reader can see. It is totally outside of the point-of-view (POV) character, and can be anything tangible or intangible, conscious or unconscious that stimulates a change in the character. Neither the POV’s name nor pronouns that refer to him may appear in this part of the MRU.

The paragraph that follows contains the second half of the MRU. It is a sentence or group of sentences that show the effect of the stimulus. It is about the POV character and shows the change in his behavior or state of mind in response to the motivating stimulus.

The following is an excerpt from the prologue of my novel Kokoweef, which may be accessed by clicking the tab under the banner. I’ve labeled the alternating pattern of motivation and reaction. Notice that the motivating sentences are completely outside the POV. Also note how the stimulus produces a change in the POV that moves the story along

The soldiers assumed their posts. Commander Lucifer positioned himself on high ground opposite the wormhole, his generals at his sides. [MOTIVATION]

Malum drew his swords. With Michael and his army vanquished, what would Lord Lucifer do next? Attack High Heaven? It had been eons since the Enemy cast them out. A victorious return would be joyous. [REACTION]

The wormhole rumbled, and Lucifer raised his hands. [MOTIVATION]

Malum’s swords shook. Steady. Only moments until Lucifer signals to attack. [REACTION]

A low whine grumbled in the passage. [MOTIVATION]

Malum tightened his grips. [REACTION]

The noise rose in pitch and volume. The tunnel’s crystalline walls vibrated. [MOTIVATION]

He swallowed, and his breaths quickened. The surface on which he stood rolled and swayed. He fought for traction then furrowed his brows. Something was wrong. The resonance frequency had changed. An operational wormhole never made that high, warbling sound. What was Michael up to? [REACTION]

Fire roared from the wormhole and incinerated several soldiers. The tunnel warped. Squealed. Folded inward. In a blink, it disappeared. [MOTIVATION]

Malum cursed, and turned his attention to Lucifer. [REACTION]

Rage contorted the commander’s faces. He bellowed and lashed out with his swords. The heads of his generals rolled down slope to Malum’s feet. [MOTIVATION]

His hearts lurched. [REACTION]

So why are the MRUs important? They provide the momentum that moves the story along. Strings of MRUs form scenes and sequences. Alternating scenes and sequences then produce the story pattern.—Quinn

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Young adult (YA) literature incorporates nearly all genres. Its main target is youth between twelve and eighteen, but older people may enjoy it as well. The plots are primarily plot-driven and coming of age.

Writing techniques employed in other genres also apply to YA.. However, sentence structure is less complex and vocabulary is simpler. A typical story runs between 40,000 and 70,000 thousand words. That’s enough to develop a multi-dimensional story, but not so much that the reader loses interest. While secondary characters can be any age, primary characters must be teen or college age.

The readers experience the story through a believable and empathetic main character (MC) that they can identify with. As they feel the MC’s emotions and participate in his problems, they can take part in their resolutions. They vicariously overcome crises, reaching milestones on their way to adulthood. This can give them a sense of security, validation, or meaning to their lives. They might also experience psychological or emotional transformation.

Before you begin to write, get to know young adults. Listen to their vocabulary and speech patterns and how they interact. Study their books and magazines for style. Determine what plots or themes are overworked and aim for something fresh.

Teens are constantly bombarded with new experiences. Everything is big, important, and intense. Possibilities are endless. They may feel invincible or they may feel vulnerable and inconsequential, isolated and craving community. Many that desire to change the world care deeply about things of substance.

Topics that interest them are romance, independence, friends, influence of peer groups, and milestones like first date, first car, first job. Stories for older teens may deal with drugs eating disorders, cutting, and other intense subjects.

Stories about romance and darkness are most favored. Fictional romance from the MC’s unrequited love to his love relationships helps the readers understand their fantasies. If the readers feel trapped and helpless, they may turn to tales of dystopia and vampires. Identification with the MC makes them feel more in control of their lives. Stories such as death, suicide, and cutting allow readers to explore dark topics safely.

The focus of all YA is growth. Readers who experience the MC’s conflicts and resolutions gain more maturity and insight, which inches them along toward adulthood.—Quinn