Query letters and rejections: the quest continues
"Winners never quit, and quitters never win."  Vince Lombardi

After extensive research, hundreds of revisions, critiques begged from friends and enemies alike, I derived a proper query letter ready for the submission “slush piles”. 
The results came in less than eight hours.  A rejection by a secretary.  (My first drafts were all turned down by the “main guy.”)
It reads nicely and follows:

Thank you so much for allowing The ________Agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for us at this time.  As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate. 

 Again, thank you very much for allowing us this chance to consider your material, and we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.


Submissions Coordinator and Associate Agent

The take-away from this blog post is simply “never give up”. 
David Baldacci submitted numerous screen plays and novels for over a decade before his novel Absolute Power was published.  This is the common thread in the publishing world.

Writing Contests: there are several first novel competitions with dead-lines on April 1st or earlier in March.  We’ll talk about these next blog post.
Excuse me, it’s time to do some more rewriting.


Literary Agents, Novel Competitions and The Courier, by Gordon JC Campbell

I’m feeling fortunate as a first-time novelist yet unpublished.  The publishing world is complex and demanding but access to support and essential knowledge is available and extensive.  Here are five points to consider when preparing submissions for first novel competitions or literary agents:

-1- Submissions:  the publishing industry expects manuscript submissions to have double spacing and some agencies and contests specify 12 point Times New Roman font and require indented paragraphs. Why let the basics get in the way and miss an opportunity because your font is too small?

-2-Read the literary agent submission guidelines and contest rules carefully.  Literary agent submission requirements vary from one page to multiple chapters,  require a one page query letter and a synopsis of one to three pages. There are helpful blogs published by professionals and agency sites offering advice and examples to assist creation of items necessary to submissions. (A few are listed near the end of this blog.)

                One novel competition requires category, manuscript title and page numbers all in the right-hand corner.  I had the document prepared with 12 point Times New Roman font and indented paragraphs and caught this rule while reviewing contest submission guidelines just before launching the email.

-3-Do your research.  Most of the sites I’ve visited have detailed agent bios and often interviews can be found on the web with further information about the agent’s specific interests.

-4-Learn as you go.  I might have shipped submissions before my manuscript was perfected but the research necessary to submissions and contest applications is educational and negative feedback hopefully leads to improvement.  Check out the following rejection format. This is a template I’ll keep and use to “say no thank you”.

Thank you for your query and for letting me have a look at your work. I apologize for the impersonal nature of this email but I receive so many queries that it makes it impossible for me to respond personally to each one. Thank you for your patience.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel that this is right for me, so I’m passing. Just because I wasn’t quite drawn in, however, doesn’t mean there isn’t another agent out there who will love it. I encourage you to continue to submit elsewhere.
            "QueryTracker": this is a platform assisting your search for literary agents specializing in a specific genre.  Find artists you respect and connect with their literary agents.
Query letters. Jane Friedman's site has useful advice on query letter composition and other practical information relevant to novel publication.


A quest to publish The  Courier, a Thriller of  a  Novel by Gordon JC Campbell

It’s finally complete.  After talking about writing a novel for over three decades I’ve finished a 90-thousand-word thriller.

Technology allows authors to self-publish and market their books thru social media.  This might be the way to go as my first few query letters to Publishing Agents were rejected.

(This made me feel like a real artist and at the very least shows that agents take time to read the submissions to the “slush”.)

The process is a labor of love.  I brow beat friends and relatives into critiquing my novel and their feed-back is invaluable.  This leads to multiple re-writes and at last the product is ready to read.

Now it’s time to submit to Publishing Agents and there are many considerations.

-1-How to write a query letter

-2-The need for a concise synopsis. (Try to boil down 99 thousand words to a single page.)

-3-Find the right publishing agent that appreciates your art and genre. One piece of advice uncovered is to follow the path of successful writers from your genre. Who are their publishing agents?

-4-Be ready to represent your platform. A writer’s website, blogs, speaking engagements, and social media are helpful.   (An agent would prefer to find your nationally televised interview on YouTube but………….)

We’ll share the ebb and flow of the quest for publication and hope you enjoy the ride. The Courier, is a roller coaster of a novel and we’ll work to get it out. 

Following is a short description of the novel. Your comments and critique are encouraged and welcome.

When Gregg Westwood left the Yokota Officers’ Club at the American Air Base in Tokyo, he had no idea that it marked his last day as free citizen.  The brief conversation at the bar with US Government agents unleashed a chain of events destructive to Westwood, his new employers and the people standing in their way.

Intelligence agents at Yokota Air Base are tasked with a mission by Old Boys in Virginia.  A terrorist associated with the kidnapping, torture and murder of CIA Station Chief, William Francis Buckley in Beirut surfaced in Bangkok. They want retribution and the unsanctioned mission must stay off the grid.  The assignment is complicated by communication leaks and North Korean disruptions.  It is further jeopardized when Japanese Yakuza execute vicious pay back for debts long forgotten.

Westwood protests when the courier assignment morphs into a supporting role for wet work.  He’s used in the operation and injured. After a short hospitalization he is followed back to Tokyo where his life is literally blown apart. 
Westwood faces enemies he didn’t know existed. The survival of his Japanese wife and daughter depends on an intrepid friend, American government intervention, instinct and luck.
This blog finishes with a picture of Oliver who actually plays a role in The Courier.




Chef Kikuchi seizes the day and launches the Carpe Diem

We’ve enjoyed creations that come from the kitchens of Chef Kikuchi for several years.  Last week he opened his new fine dining restaurant Carpe Diem near  Mukogaokayuen Station (Odakyu Line) and we visited the new establishment on opening night.  This restaurant is going to do very well.

The establishment’s atmosphere is warm but more formal than Kikuchi san’s Bistro Capricieux.  Guests that make reservations will have the option of tables near the bay window, the patio and at the bar overlooking the kitchen. 

The set menu on opening night included roast lamb seasoned to perfection, tai (broiled sea bream) on a bed of couscous flavored with pieces of cuttlefish, a delicious pumpkin soup served chilled, roasted vegetables with a sweet beet sauce and a vegetable terrine that was interesting visually and gastronomically.  Our favorite course was the carrot mousse.  We elected to end the evening with cheese, fresh bread and butter from the bakery next door.  (The “C’est une bonne idee boulangerie”  is another Chef Kikuchi project.)

The evening went very well and left us with great expectations.  The Carpe Diem is an opportunity to experiment and drive creativity.  Chef Kikuchi - the world is your oyster.
Carpe Diem
Address: 2F Dai-Ni Ide Building, 1889-1 Noborito, Tama-ku, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 214-0014
Phone: 044-814-6471
Operating Hours: 11:00-14:00 (Lunch Reservation Only) 18:00-22:30 Closed on Wednesdays








Bistro Capricieux – a secret worth sharing

The Bistro Capricieux is located in a quaint free-standing former family home tucked into the North Side of Odakyu Noborito Station.  The restaurant was opened and continues to be directed by Chef Kikuchi, a graduate of the respected Tsuji Culinary Institute.  It’s been our “go to” dining choice for several years and without conscious intent have kept it a secret.  The service and French culinary preparations have been Excellent. 

The staff take the extra steps necessary to make an Anniversary or birthday memorable and they welcome regular customers with enthusiasm.  (Several of the staff are good musicians and will sometimes lead renditions of happy birthday with guitars and accordions.)  It’s been a good run and we’re gratified to report that recent changes have made the dining experience even better.  The staff are enthusiastic and passionate about their craft.
We’ve ordered a la carte but have found the best value to be the Set Menus.  Dishes that come with the combinations are usually enjoyable and the encouraged experimentation pays off.   Recently we’ve started working with Tsuyuzaki san the Matre’d to pair each course with appropriate wine selections.  It makes for a fun evening as Bistro Capricieux offers interesting selections for wine by the  glass.  Bottles are brought to the table to assist with the decision making process. (Tsuyuzaki san pictured left below and Chef Yuuki Kitada stands far right.)
The Chef Yuki Kitada has brought new life to the kitchen and the results have been terrific.  He’s doing his homework and his creative offerings are presented well and taste great.  We’ve been impressed by dishes prepared with seasonal vegetables, fresh fish and interesting main course specials including wild boar and venison.  Last night’s favorites were Moroccan Lamb and Ayu (sweetfish), a river fish caught in Shizuoka.  Deserts such as caramel mousse and rare cheese cake are prepared by the Bistro and will not disappoint you. 

Seats are limited and reservations are highly recommended.  Phone:  044-933-6621
Operating Hours: 11:30-14:00 LO 17:30-21:30 (21:00 on Sundays & Holidays) LO
Closed on Wednesdays


A Canadian’s first time visit to New York. A few observations.

Perhaps New York City’s image as rude, dangerous, tough and ridiculously fast paced was redefined since my preconceptions jelled without firsthand experience.  Here are a few observations from a first-time visitor to the place described during the musical Hamilton as “the greatest city in the world”.
-New York is a safe place for tourists.  We walked around Time’s Square, the Theater District, Hell’s Kitchen, Williamsburg Brooklyn and Greenwich Village.  There’s a huge police presence and some of New York’s finest hold automatic rifles. These anti-terrorist units will kindly give tourists accurate directions. (We saw it in person. This really happens.)
* Red or green traffic lights are irrelevant. Traffic lights are only reference points for the millions of pedestrians in Manhattan.  New Yorkers watch traffic and move quickly across crowded intersections whenever possible. Vehicle movement is often standing still due to grid lock.

-Most of the New Yorkers we encountered were polite. They didn’t waste time with unnecessary conversation but their direction and service was courteous.  We visited Manhattan and Brooklyn and found that the phrase that normally replies to “Thank you” was rarely “you are welcome”.  That’s been replaced by sure, certainly, of course and absolutely.

*New Yorkers love their city.  When asked how we found NYC we replied that “we love it.”  It was the right answer.
-If you enjoy walking, the guided tours are value for your money.  The wealth of knowledge and new perceptions gained from participation in the tours was overwhelming.   
For example, what do the following people and things have in common?  Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas, Cary Grant, Hemmingway, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Gay Rights, and Mixed Racial Clubs.  The common denominator is Greenwich Village. This list only skims the surface of the artists and social activities that were inspired by the energy of Greenwich Village.
(Check out the price of real-estate in Greenwich Village now.  Call it gentrification. New York’s narrowest house at 75 ½ Bedford Street sold for $3.25 million)
*Shop carefully for Broadway tickets.  The talent on the stages of Broadway is leading edge.  This is not a revelation but ticket prices for the latest hot shows will shock you. (We needed a second mortgage to pay for tickets to Hamilton.  It was worth it.) There are discount sites available and our guides all stated that “New Yorkers never pay full price for theater tickets.”)
-The magic of Central Park:  running thru Central Park, walking, or relaxing on a Park Bench on a sunny day is worth the visit to NYC. There are hundreds of statues, memorials, the children’s zoo, Belvedere Castle, lovely ponds, paths thru forests, and green meadows.  Don’t miss the “Imagine” monument and Strawberry Fields dedicated to John Lennon across from John and Yoko’s condominium at the Dakota House. 
*Plenty of transportation options: Our choice for transportation methods depended on time and traffic congestion. The subway, Ubur and walking worked well. 

-The NEW YORK Pass is value for your money if you’re a “go getter”. My wife set the alarm early and we enjoyed tours of Wall Street, Greenwich Village, Broadway, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, a boat trip around the Statue of Liberty, a trip to the top of the Rockefeller Center, the Big Bus Tour, the Natural History Museum, MoMA, The Met, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and The Guggenheim Museum. The pass also offered some fast tracks into each venue.
*The Frank Loyd Wright designed Guggenheim Museum and The Frick House (Collection) constructed by Thomas Hastings are worth visiting to enjoy the architecture alone.
The collections are equally amazing and can be enjoyed when time is limited.  (Be ready for paintings by iconic artists including Vermeer, Renoir, Van Gogh, Turner, Anthony van Dyck, and Picasso.)

-There are hundreds of Irish Bars. We visited the Celtic Pub on a Friday night near Time’s square. It was crowded, most patrons sang along with the club’s guitarist, danced, and chatted loudly with strong Irish accents.  We stepped thru a door and found ourselves in Dublin. (They left the IRA song list to play my request for Brown Eyed Girl by Irishman Van Morrison.)
Dining. We searched the net before visiting New York and used YELP throughout our visit.  The results were terrific.  Almost every meal met expectations and there were several major positive surprises.  Before and after musicals we loved dining at Lillie’s Victorian Bar and Dutch Fred’s near Hell’s Kitchen. 
They served a world class steak at Keens on West 36th and the atmosphere defined over 100 years was simply sensational.  Great options for dining in NYC are countless.
The Top of the Rock: we saved the trip to the top of the Rockefeller Center for late in the evening and avoided line ups. The night views of New York from the viewing stage on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors were remarkable. (Our friends waited at the Empire State Building for three hours before getting the lift to the top.)
May your next trip to New York be safe, exciting, and full of opportunities to meet friendly and engaging people that don’t waste time.



Bistro Oeuf Oeuf is a blue chip experience waiting at Futakotamagawa

We found a Great Bistro in Tokyo and have enjoyed both lunch and dinner there on several occasions.  The Bistro Oeuf Oeuf is now our “go to place.”  It is located at Futakotamagawa and is about a five minute walk from the station.  It’s a blue-chip experience 
Shall we do inventory?
Great food, check. 
Excellent service, check.
Nice selection of wines, check.
Value for your money, check. 
An interesting ambiance and sparkling clean presentation, check.

Tokyo is arguably the world’s greatest city for foodies.  What makes the Bistro Oeuf Oeuf  stand apart amongst the food and beverage giants in Japan’s capital city?

Start with Yuri Souma, the oeuf oeuf’s general manager. (Tencho)  This lady meets you at the door with a big smile, hangs your coat, and continues working to meet your expectations. 
We often order the daily set menu.  Yuri and her colleagues are pleased to assist with selections of wine by the glass or the bottle. They are very capable at the art of pairing wines with meal selections.  Some novel wine introductions have been very pleasant surprises.
Today’s lunch course started with an assorted appetizer plate.  Finely shaved ham, Pâté, pickles, a carrot salad, cured bacon and delicately spiced pork mousse.  We enjoyed it with a glass of sparkling wine.  It was crisp and delicious.
The appetizer was followed by a serving of red seabream carpaccio.  It was carefully seasoned, lightly graced with olive oil and garnished with lily bulb.  The sweet and spicy Pinot Gris from Alsace was  poured by the glass and contributed nicely.
We all selected roasted duck for our entrée.  The portions were generous.  The duck was served rare with mashed potatoes and lightly steamed vegetables.  The red wine sauce was memorable.  Our family enjoyed the duck with a pinot noir from Bourgogne.  Its sour cherry flavor meshed well with the bird and sauce .
Passing on dessert at the oeuf oeuf is a major loss of opportunity.  A combination plate of puddings, chocolate cake, cheese cream mousse with cranberry  and the  fresh vanilla ice cream was worth the mortgage on a few 10 K runs.  Just do it.  The entire concept was enhanced by sipping Calvados Domfrontais  apple brandy. Exquisite.

Little big things:
The kitchen prepared duck for lunch knowing that it was our favorite.
The combination dessert plate was specially prepared as a birthday bonus.
Every member of the oeuf oeuf staff wished me a happy birthday. 

We got lots of extra help with photos
The restaurant doesn’t allow children under 12.  (We were actually rejected a few years ago.) The wait for a wonderful family dining experience was worthwhile.

The oeuf oeuf staff does their very best to work with English speakers

Yuri and the head Chef Konno saw us out of the restaurant and wished us safe travels.
The oeuf oeuf creates courses based on the specialties of various regions of France.  We have ordered items outside of our normal comfort zone and really enjoyed the adventure.

The Bistro Oeuf Oeuf has a sister restaurant in Ebisu called Le Bistro.  The two stores exchange kitchen and service staff to stimulate activity and keep things fresh.

Both the Bistro Oeuf Oeuf and Le Bistro specialize in Japanese produced pork.  They will purchase an entire offering from specialized farms to secure a supply of top quality meat.

We can recommend the oeuf oeuf bistro experience with confidence.  Plan ahead.  You’ll need a reservation.
Bistro oeuf oeuf (Bistro Uhufuhu)
Yamanakoji Nishikicho 1F, 3-13-1 Tamagawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0094, Tokyo
Telephone  03-5717-3585