Monday, October 20, 2014

Revealing...the SC SPOOKS for Nightmare on Query Street 2014!!

Yes. It is that time.

The SC Spooks, our 13 (scary number!) team for Nightmare on Query Street, is being revealed.

I know you guys will all run down to the list, but I have some things to say.

Actually, I've said it all many times. Over and over. And I'm tired of saying the same thing over and over! You know? So click here, and here, and especially here and here. I can go on, I've written about this a lot! If you still don't believe in the subjective nature of contest picking, if you still don't believe that my 'picking' is not at all as big of a reflection of quality as you might think, then I really can't do much else. I've told you the truth. You can lead a horse to water....


Picking was hard. Very hard. But I think we've got an amazing team. 


Timber Point
Erasing Ramona
The Battle Born
Thicker than Water
Eighteen Years Later
When You Don't Know Me
Finding Beauty
Down for the Count
A Ghoulish Affair
Winter on Brimstone Hill
I Wish I Had a...Dang You Autocorrect!
And my Free Pass, Beyond the Wild



We are going to destroy Michelle's Minions and Mike's Monsters. I mean, both of them start with M and that's boring. We're the SC Spooks (#SCSpooks). And we are going to DOMINATE.

Mentors, regardless of what I sent you in your mail - you can contact your mentee now! We unveiled our picks a bit early :)

There has been conflicting information (probably my fault!) so the below is the correct info on what's happening, mentor-wise. 

Writers should be getting emails from your mentors within the day. Contact me if, by Wednesday, you don't get them. You will be working with your mentor in private, over email, not on the blog. Please PLEASE keep one thing in mind: I picked many of you guys based on the potential of improvement. Meaning, if the entries you sent in were the final versions, I might not have picked you. So don't take your position on the team to mean you shouldn't listen to mentor advice! Please, take into account what they say. They are smart, talented, and knowledgeable. If something they say doesn't settle well with you, feel free to disregard that advice if you honestly believe it is not helpful. Just trust your gut. And don't bombard your mentors with emails! They are professionals too :)

Mentors, be tough, be brutal, but only in letting the writer's essence come through.

Revised entries must be sent by the writer by midnight of the 25th, EST!


The Honest Benefits of Teaching Writing to Others

Bob Clary, from the online learning company Webucator, invited me to speak about teaching writing --  meaning, how to pass on the knowledge of the writing craft to others -- as part of their "Teach Your Talent" project. Specifically, he asked: "When you're staring at a page (or screen!), how do you turn the words into wine? You could write a tutorial for your readers, or even give a lesson to someone and then share how the experience went."

I am beyond honored that he asked me to speak about this, and I hope I do the topic justice!

(I have not been paid or anything to do this.)


I'm not going to talk about craft. If you want to know about craft, go to writers better than me and those who have talked about it in more depth than I will: Stephen King's "On Writing", Kurt Vonnegut's essays, etc.

I taught a writing workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. 'Taught' is too strong of a word; 'led' or 'guided' would be more appropriate. And even though it'd be great to think that the workshop completely changed their lives around, it'd be a lie. They changed me more than I changed them.

There are things that I never knew or would know about these adults had we been in any other situation. Their favorite foods, relationship to roommates and other adults in the building, boyfriends, girlfriends, enmities: all those I found out in two one-hour sessions.

There are times when the triviality of writing dawns on me and scares me. I like to think I write for myself (I can't not write or I'll explode) but I write to expose horrors that frustrate me. Part of that requires that I go out to the places I'm writing about -- such as the homeless community -- and get first-hand experience to convey what I'm talking about. And after these experiences, I need time to collect myself - because I want to rip apart all my writing.

How stupid must I be to think that I can sit in a room and write while people, actual people, go through horrors and nightmares every day? To be 'moved' by what I'm writing feels like a ghost compared to what I saw. I am in no position to write about such things. The whole 'pretending' aspect of writing becomes disgusting and despicable. I'm pretending and, if things go well, I will reach a larger audience than those shunned by society. My stories will be heard by more people than the stories of those who know more about their situations than I do. How can I write? No matter how hard I try, it'll be a lie.

And I don't have an answer to that. No matter how much I know the fallacy of my writing, I must write. Books have the power to change lives, I know that, you know that, you told me that.  And I must write. I simply must, I'd explode if I don't. I try as hard as possible to be honest in my writing, especially with my current novel.

Teaching the adults with developmental disabilities exposed me to an entire new view about how to write honestly.

Give a person a pencil and they'll expose their lives to you. It might take digging, it might be hiding under the surface of their stories, but the writer and the story can never be independent. I'm sorry, but it's true. Probably. (I don't like saying statements are 100% true, but that statement just might be.)

So this is an odd benefit of teaching writing, one that I only realized once I went out and 'taught' a group of people who usually do not get 'taught' writing. For one thing, teaching went out the window. it was all about exploring, encouraging, having fun. Their writing was pure at its greatest form, only for themselves without care for standards -- and they never felt ashamed about sharing their writing. They spoke up and told other adults to speak up if they hadn't for a long while. This is what writing can do to a person. Writing without need of publication has a power in itself, a power of expression for only expression's sake. It's an undeserved privilege to witness it.

Because witnessing their writing meant witnessing their minds and lives. If I wrote a book about adults with developmental disabilities before the workshops and after the workshops, they'd be two different novels. That may seem obvious, but think about what that means in terms of the power of 'teaching' writing.

This benefit may seem niche but in fiction, writers are not writing autobiographies (they're writing veiled autobiographies ;) ). They're writing about other people. For example, a woman might be writing a book about a man coming to terms with his impotency. And although there might be men who published articles and books about their lives, this published writing is inherently different than writing for writings sake. The latter tends to be incredibly more honest in a way that staggers the mind.

If you want to write honestly about someone, 'teach' that someone writing. And by 'teach', I mean give them open prompts ("Make a poem where every line starts with 'I am'"; "What is your favorite season? Holiday?" simple stuff, harder stuff if you feel like it, "What is your worst memory?") and, if they trust you, they'll bloom in front of you. 

Don't ever do someone the disservice of 'pretending' in fiction without any attempt to honestly learn about their situations. Without a doubt, when you go to learn about them, people will surprise you.

I can't find it on YouTube, but I watched a video about adults with developmental disabilities who were asked the question, "If you would change one thing about yourself, what would you change?"   

Not one of them mentioned their disability. The most common answers were, "Be happier," or "I wouldn't change a thing."

Go out. Learn about your subjects.

"Write what you know." And if you don't know what you want to write about, don't be one of those people who discredits, in my opinion, the greatest adage in writing and thinks, "I can make it up, write what you know is so dumb! What about fantasy?" 

GET to know it, your world, your emotions. Or else you'll be one of those fools who conveys their subject falsely, writes yet another source of misunderstanding in the public. Ever wonder where the idea of rough and tough, gun-wielding lesbians come from? Straight people. 

You'll fail to connect with those you've written about, and for me, that'd mean my novel failed.

Hopefully, this benefit of teaching writing to others is unique. I don't want to repeat what others have said because others can say things better than I can.

But really, teaching, learning, and writing itself has a whole spectrum of benefits that many people can talk about and present unique takes. That's why I'm so so glad Bob asked a number of writers to discuss this topic on their blog. Please take a look at Webucator's Twitter feed and read some of the links they Tweeted.

Webucator is offering a free Microsoft training class each month. It's a necessary skill that most employers require, and their classes run the entire spectrum of Microsoft applications (some I haven't even heard of!). Check out Webucator's reviews and take a look at their classes. They seem great. If you think you can learn anything from the classes, check them out.

Thank you so much again for inviting me to speak on this, Bob!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The Window is now closed! Thank you for submitting!


Older posts might have the wrong info, but THIS post is the official one for submission guidelines! Don't rush - make sure to follow guidelines.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Submission Info for Nightmare on Query Street!!!!


The submission window opens at 12 noon (EST) on Wednesday, October 15th! (Tomorrow) The window will close at 8pm on Friday the 17th, or when we receive 225 entries. Any entries sent before noon will be deleted.

We are accepting all age categories and genres, excluding picture books and exotica. Despite the title of the contest, your book does not have to be horror.

Michelle, Mike, and I will dig through the slush pile and choose twelve entries for each of our teams. After being critiqued by one of our awesome mentors (October 22nd-25th) those 36 finalists will go up on our blogs for the agent round (October 28th-30th).

There are a few important stipulation to be aware of:

1. If you are in the PitchSlam agent round, you may NOT submit an entry into the Nightmare on Query Street contest.

2. To participate, you must be following ALL of our blogs (Michelle, Mike, and SC).

3. ONE entry per person. No exceptions. Not even if you submit under another name (trust me, we know). If you have more than one work ready, choose the work you think is strongest.

4. Submission guidelines need to be followed to the letter.

5. In order to participate in NoQS, your novel must be completed, polished, and ready to send to agents.

6. If you've already queried your novel to most or all of the agents participating in the contest, please do not submit the work. It would be counterproductive for everyone.
The Format:

Send your one and only submission to nightmareonquerystreet (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per email address/person is allowed. If you break this rule, all of your submissions will be deleted without question or warning.

Here's how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded and everything!) Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. No worries if your gmail doesn't have Times New Roman. 

Subject Line: First initial. Last name: TITLE, Age Category + Genre
(example: M. Anthony: DEADEARTH, NA Apocalyptic Sci-fi )

In The Email:
Name: Michael Anthony
Title: DEADEARTH EP. 1: MR. .44 MAGNUM (yes, caps!)
Genre: NA Apocalyptic Sci-fi(Age category and genre. YA/MG is not a genre.)
Word Count: XX,XXX

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

(Can be from your MC's POV, but doesn't have to be. 100 words or less. Make these fun!)

Here is my fantastic query! *Do not include a bio or comp. titles.

First 250 words:

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence, even if I hit 259 words :)

Conformation emails will be sent. If you don't get one, ask one of us on twitter. Submissions will cut off after 225 entries. We'll announce closure of submissions on twitter.

Again, the picks will go live for the agent round on October 28th. Prior to that, we will send finalists an email letting you know who your mentor is.

Please do not comment on the entries! No cheerleading this time.

Requesting agents will:

Scream for a full request

Shriek for 50 pages

Shiver for 10 pages


Just as we did with Query Kombat, we're going to have a Twitter party where contest hosts and mentors get to mingle with the awesome writers who've entered Nightmare on Query Street.

Like earlier this year, we've got some questions for entrants to answer under the hashtag #NoQS

10.15.2014 (Submission Day!): Title of your book and the time you emailed it.

10.16.2014: If I knocked on your MC's front door on Halloween, would I get a trick or a treat?

What is your MC going to be for Halloween?

10.18.2014: Your MC goes on a haunted hayride. What would make him/her scream the loudest?

10.19.2014: If your MC could pull one prank on Halloween and not get caught, what would it be?

10.20.2014: What would your antagonist do for Halloween?

10.21.2014: What scary setting would we find your MC in on Halloween? Would they be hiding under the couch or prancing in a graveyard?

What's your MC's favorite scary movie? Or do they watch scary movies?

Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Monday, October 13, 2014

"We Are Groot!" Pitch Slam Team, REVEALED!

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably heard about Pitch Slam, headed by the amazing L. L. McKinney.

I know I say this a lot, but this time I mean it very honestly: I've never seen such a talented pool of entries. I was in shock, honestly! There weren't any I could throw out right away due to crazy lack of talent. I honestly think almost every single one would be able to get requests from agents, which made my job of picking only eight very hard but also oddly relaxing; I knew they'd find other ways to attaining their goals.

In the end, all mine came down to subjectivity. I loved these entries, their voices, prose, pitches... different things for different ones. 

If you didn't make it on any of the Pitch Slam teams, seriously, don't fret at ALL. There was so much talent, I bet I could randomly pick eight and find a solid team. Honestly, I was blown away (and hopefully some of you who didn't make it into Pitch Slam will submit to Nightmare on Query Street co-hosted by yours truly!).

Make sure to check out L.L. McKinney's team, Michelle's team, and Jamie's team.






AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! I love this team :) Congrats if you got in, and congrats if you didn't, because you gave me one hell of a ride, seriously. (And if you are on another's team, it's probably because I didn't read many of the entries that someone called dibs on, and/or because I lost you in negotiation :( ) Before you do anything, read your own entry and make sure I didn't lose any italics while switching from email to blog post! Make sure I didn't make any mistake, and if I did, Tweeting at me would be the fastest way to reach me. Other options include commenting on this post or emailing me.

But this team is solid. It all ended up being based on my subjective preferences, which means I'm rooting for you guys no matter WHAT happens in the contest! Why?

Because we are awesome.

We are fantastic.


(Team name :D)

If anyone asks who are, WE ARE GROOT! Amazing, natural, Earthy, silent but deadly, and bigger than life (don't kill me, but I haven't watched Guardians yet (I know, I have to!) so I'm throwing adjectives out at you guys that I think will fit; I CAN STILL LOVE GROOT THOUGH D:).

Look how Groot is.



Now go out and rock this contest!!!! Comments are set on moderation, but comment on this post and cheer/congratulate/discuss as much as you want!!! Seriously, if you didn't get in this contest, don't sweat it. There are so many more opportunities and you guys are talented, I'm not saying it just to say it. This is just an exciting form of querying.

A reminder to any wishing to bid the new squad additions well wishes: please do not comment on any of the posts unless you are an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. or any other bureaus. All compliments and accolades are to be given on the #PitchSlam twitter feed. The Agents will have from now until 3:oo pm Eastern on October 14th, to make requests for the new heroes to join them in field duty using the following format:

Lone Hero - Query and first 10 pages
Dynamic Duo - Query and first 25 pages
The Trio - Query and first 50 pages
Team Takedown - Query and first 100 pages
ASSEMBLE - Query and full

When the request window closes, the Superhero Showdowns begin. Requests will not be revealed until the after the Showdowns are complete.

If more than one Agent makes the same request on a single entry, those agents go head-to-head in hero trivia. Each Agent in the showdown will be tagged in a #SuperheroShowdown tweet. The Agent who answers correctly first keeps their request as is. Their opponent can then choose to have their request demoted one level or wait 24 hours to receive their initial request. OR the Agent can call in for backup.

Agent Coulson from S.H.I.E.L.D. is standing by to lend assistance when needed. If contacted, he can come in and negate a loss, ending the showdown in a draw. If absolutely necessary, commander Nick Fury can issue a Showdown Override, upgrading an Agent's request to the next level if applicable, giving them victory. Agents can call on Coulson three times and Fury twice.

Again, to all who...


Signal disruption detected. Security protocols engaged.


Signal dis--









All those receiving this transmission, know that your heroes cannot save you. S.H.I.E.L.D. is defenseless against our tactics. The H.E.L.M. Initiative is doomed. Though you have bolstered your ranks with the entries below, and across the four squad hubs, know that your efforts are futile. We rise, ready to face your warriors with our own. Come. FACE US, if you dare.

Cut off a head, and two more take it's place.

Hail Hydra.













Transmission terminated.

Pitch Slam: A GOOD GIRL - NA Romance

Title: A Good Girl
Genre: New Adult Romance
Word Count: 78,000

Hero: Cat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You.

Pitch: Charlie's done her last walk of shame. Escaping to college she reinvents herself as good girl Charlotte, but being good is hard. Faced with temptation it's either risk her heart or save her new reputation.


The bass vibrates through me as I lean against the wall and try, without success, to stop the room from spinning. Out the corner of my eye I catch the curl of Lisa Myer's lip as she sneers in my direction, before turning to her friend. "She's the one I was telling you about." Her voice travels over the noise, and I glare back. God, don't they ever get fed up talking about me?

Because of my reputation they think they can say what they like. Bitches. At least after tonight I won't have to deal with them anymore. I'm leaving in the morning and sure, getting trashed at some party the night before isn't the smartest idea but there was no way I was going to stay home, alone... again.

Ignoring them, I throw back another shot and wait as the tequila starts to do its job. I've almost had enough alcohol to convince myself I'm having a good time. Almost but not enough. So when the hot guy that's been watching me all night hands me a beer, I accept it and flash him an overly bright smile. Taking it as the sign of encouragement I intended, he moves closer. Hmm, he is very good looking. Tall, broad shoulders with dark jeans that hand low on his tapered waist.

"Hey." The guy's arm wraps round my waist, and I gulp. I promised myself I wouldn't. Not tonight. But when he looks at me through hooded eyes, I'm gone.

Pitch Slam: MARANATHA ROAD - Adult Literary

Word Count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Literary

Sadie Caswell doesn't believe in heroes or heroines, but if she had to pick one, she'd say Jackie Kennedy because—even though she isn't from the South—you can tell that girl was raised right.

Pitch: After Sadie’s son died, she spurned Tinley, who was pregnant with his baby. When Sadie’s husband gets sick, she must hurry to make amends before he runs out of time to meet their grandchild.


Chapter One: Tinley

If Mr. Stepp's white car comes crawling down the driveway, it'll mean they haven't found Mama and Daddy. It's dark in the old chicken shed and nobody knows where I am. When I bend down, I can see through a hole in the wood—the fig tree, the gravel driveway, the road with fields on both sides, green and slippery in the rain.

If I see Daddy's light blue truck, it's easy. They got lost or the road was washed out. Mama will shake her head and say, "I'm awful sorry that everybody was worried." They were supposed to be back for supper yesterday, and now it's almost suppertime a day later but nobody's seen them.

If no cars come down the driveway, then they're still looking—Mr. Haughtry, the man Daddy works for and who lets us stay in a trailer on his land, and Mr. Stepp, who's Mrs. Haughtry's brother. Maybe they'll keep looking after it gets dark, even though it's Sunday and they'd usually head back to church for evening service, everybody but Mr. Haughtry who says he wouldn't darken the church doorstep if somebody paid him.

Earlier, Mrs. Haughtry said I could wait up at the house with her. "But I guess you're sixteen and you can go where you please." She sighed.

The shed smells like corn or seeds, something the chickens used to eat. Who knows what might be watching me in the dark—mice scratching in the dust or bats hanging from the wooden beams.


Title: The Battle of Wonderland Gardens
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure
Word Count: 41,000

Hero: The protagonist, Ellis Brown, best relates to Captain America because he is reluctantly recruited to participate in an adventure where he leads a group of unlikely team members toward a common goal. Captain America has superhuman physical skills and Ellis has above average physical skills. Captain America is susceptible to normal human vulnerabilities, while Ellis’s weaknesses are always being second best and bad dancing. These two would get along very well.

Pitch: After his middle school nemesis is kidnapped at a retirement home by its possessed dance instructor, Ellis must save the girl and lead the oddball elderly residents to battle the demon and its raven minions.


Ellis Brown could not believe what he just heard. The air seeped from his balloon of hope and instantly ruined his once-promising Saturday morning. “You mean a girl has already been here selling these tickets?”

Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Center’s hosts, sat in the lobby’s red velvet arm chairs smiling. Mr. McGregor returned the tickets that Ellis just tried to sell them and said, “Yes, she came about an hour ago. Still in the building, I believe.”

Mrs. McGregor beamed. “Such an angel, blonde hair, blue eyes, and beaming with joy.”

Yep, that’s Alicia. What a fake.
Ellis forced a smile as the anxiety bubbled in the pit of his stomach. “And I suppose she sold you tickets to our show?”

“As a matter of fact, she did," Mr. McGregor said. “Such a sweet young lady. She did mention that a friend of hers, a boy, may be stopping by later, and here you are.”

Sweet? Maybe, if rattlesnake’s venom is sweet. “She does have a way,” Ellis said.

Ellis was good kid, but he had one big problem, Alicia Swanson. She’d been a thorn in his side all throughout middle school. She beat him at everything and, to make matters worse, she had a habit of broadcasting it to everyone.

Ellis planned to beat Alicia by selling more Alice in Wonderland show tickets than her and was banking on the retirement home’s residents. Not any more. He felt the satisfaction of his victory slip painfully through his fingers.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pitch Slam: THE PACKING HOUSE - YA Contemporary

Title: The Packing House
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 81,000

Hero: Iron Man. Joel tries to avoid his past until it becomes public knowledge. Forced to face his problems, Joel discovers his own super powers in the vulnerability of words, risking everything in a public poetry performance; in the same way, Iron Man faces his own wreck of a life, turned around for all the world to scrutinize, to become the badass hero of iron built upon his heart wound that would otherwise kill him.

Pitch: Everyone knows Joel's secret. It's all over YouTube. Joel must track down and face the unknown person behind his nightmares, and find a way to publicly regain his dignity through participating in a poetry slam.


At the bell, I head to study hall, my last class. There's a substitute today. Cell phones come out. Someone has their iPod up way too high. In a way I feel sorry for the sub; has to be right up there with garbage collector. I prop a book between myself and my backpack, then close my eyes, which have slammed shut all day.

The next thing I know, the substitute is standing over me, his hand on my shoulder, shaking me awake. Someone sniggers nearby.

"Wake up, young man. There's no sleeping in study hall."

I look up and try to get my eyes to adjust and stay open, blink a few times, and look around wildly. What an idiot. I even forgot where I was for a moment. A surge of warmth starts at my ears and neck before it slides across my cheeks.

"All right, I'm up."

Whispers erupt in various places around me, as I sit up and rub my eyes. Someone laughs. My desk is askew. Something smells bad. Sulfur. Odd…the realization hits me hard.

A female voice remarks, "If I were him, I'd be totally embarrassed!"

"What's your name?" the substitute asks quietly.

"Joel Scrivener."

The substitute leans down. "Joel? You might want to speak with a counselor about those dreams."

"What do you mean?"

He leans closer, lowers his voice. "You kept saying, 'get off me, stop touching me, get off me,' over and over."

He gives me what he must think is a reassuring smile. Then he leaves.

Pitch Slam: THE SAYER - YA Sci-Fi Space Opera

Title: The Sayer
Genre: YA Sci-Fi Space Opera
Word Count: 85,000

Hero: Robin Hood, he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. (featured in Marvel comic Earth-616)

Pitch: Theo wants revenge for the public executions of his parents. After using an asteroid to destroy the Martian President’s car, he starts an intergalactic war and discovers his parents created him from alien DNA.


If I screw up, I kill these people.
Theo breathed. This could go so wrong. He breathed again. Self-doubt crushed under the weight of determination. A dry brittle egg of weakness, shattered. Fueled by murder, injustice, fiery grief. His blood chanted in his veins, whispering his name to him above the clamor of the Martian crowds. His name, fractured in hypnotic beats. 

Say-er. Say-er. Sayer.

The Martian people amassed in a screaming, dancing mob filled the park, copper red buildings cutting into the red sky on every side. A woman brushed against him. Her skin touching his bare arm banished the chill in the air, startling him. She didn’t notice him. He recognized in an instant everything about her: grey hairs tucked behind her ears, small wrinkles of her jowl, tiny signs of aging. Her open-mouthed laugh slapped at his memory. Her expression repeated on every face in the crowd. They were not the same people who’d attended his parent’s executions, people he’d seen from the stage. The horde of martian spectators gathered, same as any celebration day, any reason to binge party. Any reason. Even a public execution. The chance to see his parent’s heads roll. His nightmare, the President’s victory, the people’s entertainment. 

Theo’s hand tightened around his phone. 

A small, basketball-sized asteroid was his remote controlled missile, traveling at a speed of twenty thousand miles an hour with two tiny thrusters. If he didn’t hit the safe zone, he stood on ground zero.

Pitch Slam: RESTRICTED ACCESS - YA Dystopia

Title: Restricted Access
Genre: YA Dystopia
Word Count: 91,000

Hero: Amber relates best to Black Widow for her grace, style, and all-around asskickeryness.

Pitch: In a future where memories can be watched like YouTube videos, seventeen-year-old computer geek, Amber Ross, must catch a killer before the only boy she’s ever loved is executed in his place.


Damon’s cornflower eyes hold me captive as I march down the aisle toward him. It’s our ninth time making vows, but his ancient tuxedo with cuff links, bow tie, and tails still sends my heart tumbling.

With the veil over my face, I focus on not tripping. The last thing I want is a thousand VizCam files popping up on the nets tonight, all showing me face-planting in white satin.

I manage not to fall, and take my place beside him, loving how my four-inch heels put us at eye level. His chocolate-colored hair is slicked back, and right now, with our eyes locked, it's easy to pretend he likes me back.

The priest makes a speech and angles toward me. "Jane Smith, do you take John Jones to be your lawfully wedded husband…." The words enchant me, like romantic whispers carried on a timeless breeze to an undeserving present. "…for as long as you both shall live?"

The answer comes unbidden. "I do."

He nods and faces Damon. Somewhere between "to have and to hold" and discovering a tiny scar in Damon's left eyebrow, I decide today's the day I'll tell him my real name, even if it kills me.

The priest finishes, but Damon just stares into space, his face an expressionless puzzle. I stifle the urge to improvise.

The priest clears his throat.

Finally, Damon blinks and shakes his head. "I do."

"Then I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

Each time I hear these words… breathe.

Pitch Slam: BUSY BODIES - Adult Comic Crime Fiction

Title: Busy Bodies
Genre: Adult - Comic Crime Fiction
Word Count: 97,000

Hero: Johnny Campbell sees himself as a noir hero à la Sam Spade: Canny, street-smart and able to deal with any situation. He’s wrong on all counts.

Pitch: Would-be insurance swindler Johnny Campbell has just faked his death using a clone of himself—and incidentally gotten his hapless wife Darcy arrested for his murder. There’s only one solution: He has to die. Again.


The powder-blue Volvo turned into the driveway. Weeds growing through cracks in the concrete brushed against the undercarriage as the car coasted smoothly into the carport and stopped. If any neighbors were watching, they’d just seen Gerhard Neiman’s car turn into Gerhard Neiman’s driveway; nothing suspicious. But the man behind the wheel wasn’t Gerhard Neiman, and it would really be better if no one spotted him, as he’d come here to rob the place.

He had a cover story ready, of course. If a neighbor actually came over and said hello, he was Johnny Campbell, a mechanic who’d fixed Neiman’s car and was now returning it. The story had the advantage of being mostly true, though it did contain a few holes. For one thing, Neiman wasn’t home, or at least Johnny sincerely hoped he wasn’t. For another, if Johnny was dropping off this car, how did he plan to get home himself? But surely Neiman’s neighbors weren’t in the habit of bounding over to say hello whenever he drove up. He was too menacing a figure for that.

Johnny slipped quietly out of the Volvo and made his way down a rutted dirt path running alongside the house. The white clapboard siding was interrupted here by a few tall windows, all of them screened and grimy and hard to see much through. The gate to a white picket fence enclosing the backyard lay on the grass beside the open gateway, its pickets swollen with moisture. Great, Johnny thought, I’m robbing a complete dump.

Pitch Slam: NEVERLAND - Adult Epic Fantasy

Title: Neverland
Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy
Word Count: 105,000

Hero: Peeta from The Hunger Games, because they both love someone who doesn't always give them the same in return.

(NEVERLAND is a reimagining of the story of Peter Pan and James Hook, with the initial twist being that James is now Jaime, a girl.)

Pitch: When Peter Pan murders the dictator Emperor of Neverland, the island of immortals bursts into civil war, forcing Jaime to decide to either take her father’s throne or follow Peter, the man she loves.

First 250:

“Don’t kill him,” Blackbeard whispered to himself. “Just don’t kill him.”

As the carriage trundled on through the streets of the dockyards, frustration began to dance across his face. After three hundred and fifty-seven years, he knew himself too well. “Fuck it, I think I’m gonna kill him.”

He reached down and unsheathed the knife that was strapped to his leg, then opened the carriage door and flung it out into the street. But that did little to ease his mind, for he knew he was most certainly heading into a trap.

The palace courtyard was filled with arriving guests, and for a moment, Blackbeard hoped he might go unnoticed. But as he stepped into the ballroom, he was inundated with a multitude of stares and gasps. The lords, ladies, and courtiers were not accustomed to seeing a pirate, and although he had cleaned himself up, the trappings of his face painted true his identity. His solitary eye settled on the nearest bar, and he slowly made his way over. He leaned against the counter while a servant poured him a glass of wine.

“I’m afraid they don’t have any rum,” said a voice behind him.

Blackbeard froze in place. He cursed himself for discarding the knife. “Then they must not have been expecting any real men,” he said, then turning to face the speaker, he added, “only cunts.”

David Hameth simply smiled. “Ah, the tongue of the sea. Long has it been since it last graced these halls.”

Blackbeard raised an eyebrow, enhancing the weathered crevices on his forehead. “That it has.” He set down his glass and rose to face Hameth. “I’m surprised they still stand without me.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Introducing the Nightmare on Query Street 2014 MENTORS!

Below is a list of writers who were AWESOME enough to donate their time to help compete strangers achieve a dreams that they have accomplished themselves. It truly takes a special kind of person to do that, so I ask that anyone and everyone participating in Nightmare on Query Street take a moment to thank, follow, or shout out a few of our mentors (and agents), because without them, none of this would be possible. Michelle, Mike, and I may put these contests together, but it is out AMAZING volunteers that truly make the magic happen.

Now, I present to you...

The Wonderful Mentors Of Nightmare on Query Street 2014!


Laura Heffernan is a California-born women's fiction writer, represented by Jen Karsbaek at Foreword Literary. One Saturday morning when she was four or five, Laura sat down at the family's Commodore 64 and typed out her first short story. She's written both fiction and non-fiction ever since.

In her spare time, Laura likes travel, baking, board games, and new experiences. She lives in the northeast, freezing like the true California girl she is, with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts. Her fuzzy sock collection is becoming impressive. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter @LH_Writes.

Betsy Aldredge is a former magazine editor turned museum professional and YA/NA writer. This summer, Betsy and her co-author, Carrie DuBois-Shaw, were named Grand Champions of Query Kombat 2014 for their YA Contemporary Romance, Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things. The entry, nicknamed “Shalom Sasquatch,” earned them 10 requests from agents and led to signing with the wonderful Christa Heschke at McIntosh and Otis. Betsy lives and works in New York. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @betsyaldredge

Sarah Glenn Marsh is a YA fantasy author represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis Literary. She lives in Virginia with her husband and four rescued greyhounds. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s baking, painting, traveling, or fervently wishing for another season of Firefly. You can check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @SG_Marsh.

Caitlin Sinead is represented by Andrea Somberg. Her debut New Adult novel, Heartsick, comes out on February 16, 2015 with Carina Press. She earned a master's degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University and her short stories have appeared in multiple literary journals. In her writing, she enjoys mashing the fluffy aspects of life right up against the not-so-fluffy aspects, while sneaking in fun words she wished more people used (e.g., nincompoop, ragamuffin, and peccadillo, to name a few). You can check out her website and follow her on Twitter @CaitlinSineadJ


Before Tracy Townsend became an English teacher at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, she earned degrees in Creative Writing and Rhetoric studying in the American midwest and the Republic of Ireland. She flirted briefly with careers as an assistant martial arts instructor, a Wal-Mart associate, and a janitor before realizing the only thing that gave her as much pleasure as writing was teaching others how to do it, too. Her super-powers include the ability to feed a house full of unexpected guests with nothing more than a box of macaroni, a tomato, and a package of cold cuts. She is renowned for her steely gaze and quintessentially Irish penchant for self-deprecation. When not elbow-deep in speculative fiction, she can be found in the nearest garden, kitchen, or book store - or asleep on her kids' bedroom floor. She's represented by Bridget Smith of Dunham Lit., who is both classier and more mature than she could ever hope to be. You can find her on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter @TheStorymatic

Aside from exploring magical places, investigating unexplained occurrences, and time traveling, Wendy Nikel enjoys a fairly quiet life with her family in Utah. She has a BA in elementary education, which she currently puts to use in homeschooling her two very imaginative sons. Among her favorite things: black coffee, chai tea, photography, board games, bookstores, and road trips. Wendy is represented by Natalie Lakosil of the Bradford Literary Agency. You can check out her website and Facebook, as well as follow her on Twitter @wendynikel

CZ Ketchem writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a high school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

CZ holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling. She is a voracious reader, eats too many cupcakes, loves to travel, and hopes to one day be bi-coastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and the world’s most rambunctious four-year-old. CZ is represented by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary. You can check out her website or follow her on Twitter @CZKetchem

Lara Rectenwald is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace University. She writes adult historical fiction. When she's not writing, Lara records audio books for ACX. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two cats, Chicken and Duck.

Lara is represented by Brianne Johnson of Writers House. Follow her on twitter @lararectenwald.

Kristen Scheer has a B.A. in Political Communications and Legal Thought, and a J.D. from the University of Tulsa College of Law. In law school, she spent a year interning under an international corporation’s in-house counsel, which led her to write LEGAL MOXIE, pitched as The Pelican Brief for teens. A YA contemporary legal thriller, LEGAL MOXIE is Kristen’s debut novel. Kristen is represented by Laura Bradford with the Bradford Literary Agency, and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Kristen lives in Oklahoma with her husband and two children, and is working on her next novel.

Find Kristen on Twitter @Kristen_Scheer, and talk to her about writer-y stuff, Supernatural, dirty jokes, and/or anything involving baby animals. 

Gamer and librarian Max Wirestone writes geek-themed mysteries and is represented by Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates. When not rescuing his precious Japanese-imported game soundtracks from his toddler, he is usually writing. Or playing Mario Kart. But probably writing. Catch up with him at

Carrie DuBois-Shaw is a YA writer and playwright. This summer, Carrie and her co-author, Betsy Aldredge, were named Grand Champions of Query Kombat 2014 for their YA Contemporary Romance, Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things. The entry, nicknamed “Shalom Sasquatch,” earned them 10 requests from agents and led to signing with the wonderful Christa Heschke at McIntosh and Otis. Carrie recently relocated from New York City to San Francisco. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @carriedubois

Katherine Locke lives and writes in Philadelphia where she's ruled by her feline overlords and her addiction to chai lattes. She graduated from Allegheny College, a college that actually did change her life, and she'd do it all over again if she had the chance. Except she wouldn't take microeconomics again, even if you paid her. When she's not writing, she's reading and when she's not reading, she's tweeting about reading and writing. She likes heroes with boyish charm and heroines with dirty mouths. She writes romance, New Adult, and Young Adult novels. Her debut novel, SERENADE, is forthcoming spring 2015 from Carina Press. She is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. You're most likely to find her on Twitter @bibliogato or blogging at
Lisa Koosis is a prize-winning short story writer whose work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Family Circle, Abyss & Apex, the British-Fantasy-Award-winning Murky Depths, and Blade Red Press’s Dark Pages anthology, which was shortlisted for the Australian Shadows Award. Lisa is a contest success story, having found her agent after entering The Writer's Voice. She is represented by the amazing Brianne Johnson of Writers House. You can find Lisa at or on Twitter at @MidnightZoo.

Cale Dietrich is the writer of the upcoming novel LOVE INTEREST. He hails from a small picturesque town in Australia, and now lives in the coastal city of Brisbane. His hobbies include reading any YA books he can get his hands on, binge-watching TV, and spending way too much time on Tumblr. Seriously, if he didn't have a Tumblr he probably would've written like fifty books by now. He can be found on twitter at @caledietrich.

Amy is a two-time Golden Heart finalist (2013 and 2014) who writes Young Adult fiction as Amy DeLuca and New Adult romance as Amy Patrick. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband and two sons and actually craves the heat and humidity of Mississippi, where she grew up. She's been a professional singer and news anchor and currently narrates audio books as well as working as a station host for a Boston TV station. You can check out her website or Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @AmyPatrickBooks

Wade White hails from Nova Scotia, Canada, land of wild blueberries and Duck Tolling Retrievers. He teaches ancient Hebrew, dabbles in animation, and spends the rest of his time as a stay-at-home dad. It is also possible he has set a new record as the slowest 10K runner. Ever. He owns one pretend cat and one real one, and they get along fabulously. He has been writing speculative fiction for over thirteen years and is now represented by the Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency.

If he could only bring three series to read on deserted island, it would be the three Hs: Harry Potter, Hellboy, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Oh, and just for the record, Firefly should have had a seven season run. No question.

You can follow Wade on twitter @wadealbertwhite and check out his website.

Angie Sandro was born at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Within six weeks, she began the first of eleven relocations throughout the United States, Spain, and Guam before the age of eighteen.

Friends were left behind. The only constants in her life were her family and the books she shipped wherever she went. Traveling the world inspired her imagination and allowed her to create her own imaginary friends. Visits to her father's family in Louisiana inspired this story.

Angie now lives in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an overweight Labrador. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary, LLC. She is the author of the Dark Paradise series.

Aimee Hyndman is represented by Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary. She is a sophomore in college, attempting a triple major in Creative writing, English and Film Studies because she is, arguably, crazy. She reads the slushpile as an intern for Kimberley Cameron & Associates and she is also a contributor at Operation Awesome. She has been writing since her toddler fingers first grasped a pencil. Her area of specialty is Fantasy of all sorts but she dabbles in many genres. Whatever she feels compelled to write at the moment.The plot bunnies are never ending but, luckily, so are the words! You can check her out on her blog, Tumblr, Pinterest, and follow her on Twitter @AimeeHyndman

Naomi Hughes writes quirky middle-grade fiction (mostly about unicorn riders) and is a freelance editor. She lives in rural Oklahoma with her hubby, baby daughter, and a Border Collie named after a Last Airbender character (the show, not the movie). In her free time, she likes to play video games, re-watch Sherlock episodes, and overuse parentheses. Check out her website.


Nicole Byers is an adult horror writer, gamer, and book nerd. She recently moved to Ruckersville, Virginia where she's waiting to see snow for the first time. She's represented by Italia Gandolfo of the GH Literary Management team. Her short fiction appears in both Under the Bed and eFiction Magazine under the pseudonym of Dr. Self Destruct. While she now writes horror, her first love is and always will be high fantasy. Dragons, man. Dragons. Check out her Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

MJ O'Neill writes lighthearted,adult romantic mysteries and contemporary. YA drama-edies full of rich characters and family escapades that will leave you dying with laughter, diving for the tissue box and sometimes both at the same time. She is thrilled to be represented by Lotus Lane Literary and is currently on submission. Check out her blog and follow on twitter.


Having spent a lifetime travelling the globe, Kate Larkindale is currently residing in Wellington, New Zealand. A cinema manager, film reviewer and mother, she’s surprised she finds any time to write, but doesn’t sleep much. As a result, she can usually be found hanging out near the espresso machine.

Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.

She has written eight contemporary YA novels, five of which other people are allowed to see. She has also written one very bad historical romance. Agented by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary, she is currently working on a new YA novel that is still looking for a title other than its Twitter hashtag, #juvvielesbian. Her debut novel, An Unstill Life, is available now. Check out her website and Goodreads page, and follow her on Twitter @Vampyre14

Holly Jennings

My love of speculative fiction has seeds in my early childhood. My mother gave me the gift of books while my father gave me the gift of Star Wars. At some point, these two things converged and I started writing science fiction and fantasy. 

In 2012, my New Year's resolution was to be published by the end of the year. To my complete amazement, my first short story was published through a professional level market on December 31, accomplishing my goal with less than 24 hours to spare. After writing short stories for a few years, I fell in love with New Adult books and now write novels about being 18 and lost in fantasy worlds or sci-fi futures. I find the voice of New Adult is unlike any other. It weaves a line between mature and immature, rational and irrational, teenager and adult. 

As a big believer in "We Need Diverse Books", I strive to write stories about minority protagonists with backgrounds other than my own, where their differences are not the highlight of the story, but sometimes where they draw their strength. 

My first novel is currently on submission via my agent -- who is awesome, by the way. Set in the year 2054, the book features an 18-year-old Chinese-American girl inside a virtual gaming tournament. Fighting rivals in the digital world, fame in reality, and the man after her heart in both, she soon uncovers her real battle -- the venality of electronic sports and the demons within herself. 

Visit her website and follow her on Twitter!

Thank you so, so much mentors for doing this! These contests would not work without your time and selfless energy.

For those who are participating in the contest, please, take the time to thank/follow on Twitter/buy the books of at LEAST 5-10 of these mentors. Pick randomly, so if everyone does this, all the mentors will get some love :) We'd love it if you did it for all of them, obviously, but if you can't do that, try for at least 5-10.