Saturday, April 18, 2015

Nest Pitch...TEAM ONE BASKET!

Are you watching closely?

Yes, that’s right – Round 3 for Nestpitch2015 is here!

Over the coming days and weeks all Teams will be working with their authors to help them polish their submissions, but I can’t tell you too much; oh to hell with it, I don’t think Nikola Vukoja is watching, here are my Submission Picks!

#TEAMONEBASKET IS.....

Drum roll...

..
..
.
.
.
..
..

Wounds Heal, Scars Remain
Straw Salt Gold
Fairy God-Mother Boy
New Girl

CONGRATS CONGRATS CONGRATS! You all know all about keeping on even if you're not picked. Contests are subjective. We passed over so many entries, even entries we loved. Don't worry if you're not picked.

On May 11th I will be posting each author’s entire Pitch but for now, it’s all hush-hush

You can find the first clues to the other pitches here (remove your blog from the list):

And you can also go to the Nestpitch Blog where you find a link to all the blogs as well as a complete Title, Category/Genre & Author list.

So; here we go, cone of silence may need to be enforced here! Oh wait! Before I go, come back before May 11th because that clever Nik is running Unmask the Agent again this year & I promise to update you on the details *there’s a $20Amazon Voucher up for grabs and you don’t need have submitted to Nestpitch, all you need is a bit of a detective spirit and to know your (our) agents!

COME ON OVER TO #TEAMONEBASKET!!! We're Twitter fun. Really. And thank you EVERYONE for submitting to Nest Pitch. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Michael Brown - We are Looking at Volcanoes

Yesterday, on Tuesday, April 7th, officer Michael T. Slager was charged with the murder of Walter Scott, a middle-aged black man.

After being stopped by Officer Slager for a broken taillight, Mr. Scott ran away. Officer Slager chased him and shot him with a Taser which did not render Mr. Scott immobile. According to Officer Slager, Officer Slager shot and killed Mr. Scott after Mr. Scott took the Taser. A civilian video, however, shows the two in a struggle, after which Officer Slager shoots eight rounds at Mr. Scott who was running away. Officer Slager picks up an object that was tossed aside in the struggle and places it next to Mr. Scott's body. The full story can be read here.

Officer Slager was charged with murder. Case closed! Problem solved.

Except it's not. Of course it's not.

The problem with these individual narratives is they get individual solutions. All we're doing is looking at volcanoes. Every time one erupts, we get furious. We run around with stoppers and plug up the volcanoes, wipe our hands, and then become surprised and furious again when another volcano erupts somewhere else. We grab another stopper and repeat the process endlessly without confronting the truth: the lava is deep, ingrained, and universal, but hiding under our feet.

Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, the Oklahoma SAE fraternity, comments on Zendaya's hair. These actions were not the cause of rouge racist individuals. We're all prejudiced to some degree, but racism is power to enforce these prejudices.

Racism is the country-wide tendency to infantalize and dismiss Black concerns as 'annoying', the overarching tendency to grow tired of hearing about 'Black issues' and refuse to see them as American issues. The tendency to tell Black people to 'deal with it by yourself' and scrutinize them at the same time, the tendency to demonize  Blackness, Black self-love, and Black culture while lavishing awards upon white artists who appropriate Black culture.

The media is a large cause of this. The media loves headlines. This Canadian-based article about the 'inhumane exploitation in the United States,' a possible new form of American slavery, won't be making headlines. Race, even beyond income, is the single most powerful predictor for the location of toxic waste sites; yet this isn't headline material. The fact that the Oklahoma SAE frat members would have become CEOs, politicians, or in other positions of power had they not been caught will not be discussed.

Institutional racism does not make headlines. Events make headlines, because they are easy to sensationalize.

When we look at Martese Johnson and Renisha McBride as events, we are ignoring the lava that runs under the land we stand on. We are ignoring that some groups of people are more listened to by politicians, when blacks (even before Obama) actually vote more than whites when controlled for income and education.

We are looking at volcanoes, and we need to stop. Next time something like this happens (because there will be a next time), view it in the larger context it exists in. Do not focus on it as an 'event'. Direct our anger towards the overall oppression instead of towards an individual, even though individuals are so much more fun to get angry at. A conviction is not what we need! There can be no 'justice' after a life is lost. There are no reparations for a lost life. We need to engage in better discussions, or else all we'll have are surface-level bandages.

Don't get me wrong. Charging Officer Slager for murder is great, but there was a better solution: not killing Walter Scott.

(This discussion was just for anti-Blackness in America. Wait till you hear about other the loads of other underprivileged groups!)

This post is part of the #WriteInclusively campaign created to promote the normalization of diversity in creative fiction. Please please subscribe to the monthly newsletter! I don't spam. 

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Interview with Amanda Jasper - 'Become an Agent' WINNER!

Woot woot woot! 'Become an Agent' just ended and it was very, very fun. I'm constantly impressed and astounded by the writing community, and this Querypalooza made me even more grateful to have such a community. 

There was one special entry that got the most 'Yes' votes on its first round: Entry 6 by Amanda Jasper!!!! Make sure you read it, because it really sounds like an amazing book.

NOW, INTERVIEW TIME! Here's........Amanda!

1. Fun facts about you: name three!

1. Like Rumilla I’m a huge crafter. I knit and crochet, but I don’t actually spin yarn. Or (sadly) turn it into gold.
2. I really love wizards and have gotten into heated discussions with people about my love of wizards. Once I designed a fake book cover called ‘You guys, Wizards are totally real’.
3. I have a huge collection of dresses, and unless I’m running, I never wear pants. My friends say I’m pretty whimsical.
2. Tell us about your writing/publication experience. How did the drafting go? How do you cope in the querying process?
The first draft of this book just poured out of me. I wrote 75k words in 5 weeks in October of 2013. Then I tackled a big revision on an earlier book, so I put SSG aside. Then I got married, so for a few months (March-May) I wasn’t doing much writing or critiquing at all. I finally tackled revisions from June 2014 - January 2015.

This is my third completed book, but the second I am querying. The first one took almost two years to write a first draft and clocked in at 150k words. So I put it aside because it felt like too huge an undertaking to revise. After that experience I worked really hard on maintaining manageable word counts on my projects.
I find querying challenging, but I think we all do on some level. But it’s the only way to move forward, so onward I go.
3. What/Who keeps you going on this quest for publication, especially if you feel like giving up some times?
Honestly, I feel really lucky because I have so many people in my life who are supportive of me. First, my husband who encouraged me to write again after a 10 year battle with writers block. My sister who reads all my books, and pretends to love them. And I have two amazing critique partners who mean the world to me. My friends and coworkers are all behind me too, which is a relief because some days are harder than others so it helps to have a support network. Also I live in Seattle and they sell craft beer at gas stations… (can I say that? is that ok for a YA writer to say? Don’t drink underage kids! but when you do grow up only drink decent beer.)
4. What is your favorite book? Genre? Author? Also, what writer would you most love to be compared to?
This is like picking between hundreds of my own children. I’m a huge reader and I just love books so much. But my favorites are probably (this is really hard!) House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski, the ‘Wheel of Time’ series by Robert Jordan, and Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn. Those are the books I go back to the most.
My two favorite writers are Ursula K. LeGuin and Joan Slonczewki, they’ve both had such a huge influence on me, they’re my heroes!
In terms of genre, I love Sci-fi and fantasy in any age category. I’m a huge YA reader, and I think YA is amazing as well, especially some of the sci-fi/fantasy stuff that is out now. Honestly, if anyone reading this wants book recommendations, or to talk about books message me, or friend me on Goodreads. :)

5. What are your long-term and short-term goals, writing-wise?
When I first started, my goal was to get published, but in the years since, I've change my focus. Now my goals, long and short term are focused on craft. I have a BFA in Design which really taught me about process and focus, and I’m always trying to apply that to my writing. I’d like to craft deeper characters and learn how to build big and immersive worlds, places that feel real.
My other long term goal is to not stop. I had writers block for ten years and even though I loved my life during those years, I really felt like something was missing. So every day when I sit down to write I feel like I’ve won.

6. How was your experience in Become an Agent? What part of the contest did you find the best, and what part did you find the hardest? Anything to tell the other entrants?
I entered Become an Agent because I honestly thought my husband would divorce me if I made him read draft 300 of my query. I was in need of fresh eyes on my query, and to figure out the weak spots. I’m obsessed with feedback, and I love hearing what absolutely isn’t working. I had four years of incredibly tough critiques when I was in art school, which taught me how to separate myself from criticism of my work. The best part of this contest was all the feedback, especially from people not in the contest, I’m so grateful that they came here and gave their time to critique. The hardest part was saying no to the other amazing entries. There were so many good queries and first pages in this contest, I wanted to read basically everything.

7. What would be a dream review for any of your books? Meaning, what would you LOVE for someone to say about your writing/stories?
The only thing I really want is for someone to say that my book is their favorite book. If I could reach one person with my writing that would be enough for me. Books have had such a huge huge huge impact on my life and I want my stories to live on in the same way. So if even one person (who isn’t my friend Gwyn) reads my book and loves it, I’ll be happy.



 Amanda Jasper has been telling stories since she was old enough to speak. She holds a BFA in Graphic Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Amanda currently works as a designer for university, creating ads, web pages and billboards. She lives in Seattle WA, with her husband, one normal sized cat and one extra huge cat. In her spare time Amanda enjoys obsessing over TV shows, playing video games, and forcing everyone around her to read her favorite YA novels.

Please please please, congratulate her on Twitter  and take a look at her Tumblr! CONGRATS AMANDA!!! Can't wait to see what you do.

AND A MESSAGE TO EVERYONE: If you get a success story because of 'Become an Agent', no matter what that success is or how late it comes, I want to hear about it! *glares at everyone* I'm expecting emails.

Congrats again Amanda!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mary Ann Marlowe - Query Kombat 2014 SUCCESS STORY!

HAPPY HAPPY TIMES! I forgot how great good weather feels, and how happy it makes me feel after such a horrible winter. I haven't felt more warm/content/happy in a while. Weather does bad things to me, people. Bad things.

BUT THERE IS MORE HAPPINESS NOW! Because I get to share the success story of a friend and Writerbee :) 

TAKE IT AWAY, MARY ANN!

#
In 2013, my karate instructor asked me: "What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" The answer came easy: write a novel. He said, “Do it.”

So the next month, I entered Nanowrimo and churned out a total piece of crap. Writing that first novel taught me things about craft, about my own voice and style, and mainly about my own capacity for barfing out a ton of words at a single go. I badly wanted that book to be good enough, so I revised and revised and revised until it wasn’t completely terrible.

Not knowing any better, I entered novel #1 in contests. I entered it into Pitch Madness and didn’t get in. I revised and entered it in Nest Pitch and didn’t get in. I revised and entered it in Pitch Slam and didn’t get in. Undaunted, I revised and revised, learning more and more about what works and what doesn’t.

When I entered Query Kombat in the Spring of 2014, I was seriously on the verge of giving up on this pipe dream. I mean, obviously I couldn’t compete with all those “real” writers. I fully expected another rejection. But the wonderful SC picked me to be on his team (Writerbees!), boosting my morale by letting me know I was getting closer. It didn’t even matter that I got knocked out in the first round. Query Kombat was a career-changing experience for me. (Thanks SC!) [ :D -SC]

As a bonus, the query I wrote for this contest resulted in my first full request (and it came on the day the Query Kombat entries went live). So as I watched my QK entry get KOed, I was doing a happy jig.

As a super-double atomic-powered bonus, I found friends and CPs for life by connecting with a QK teammate and, true story, with the same girl who knocked me out in the first round.

By the time I realized novel #1 was doomed, I’d managed to learn how to write a decent query, get requests, and get accepted into contests. But deep in my heart, I knew novel #1 was my practice novel. My trunk novel. My "one day I'll know how to fix you novel." I needed to move on.

So I buckled down and pounded out novel #2. Thanks to my new incredible CPs, I finished it just in time to enter it into Pitch Wars. I was surprised and delighted to be picked by my amazing mentor, Jaime Loren, who helped me revamp that sucker into a novel I’m truly proud of. And while my entry did great during the agent round, Pitch Wars didn’t lead to an offer. And in fact, cold querying that novel landed me one single solitary request.

In December, I put novel #2 into a metaphorical Viking boat, cast it off to sea, and shot it with a flaming arrow. I love that book, but it wasn't the one.

Fortunately, I’d already started novel #3 before Pitch Wars selections were announced in September. I finished drafting in November (yeah Nano!), revised three times in December, and began querying at the end of January.

This time things went faster. I'd barely dipped my toes into the query waters when I got a number of requests. I entered Agent Query and threw out some twitter pitches which resulted in a few more requests. Coming full circle, I entered Pitch Madness.

However, I ended up dropping out before picks were made because…

After a month of obsessively refreshing my email and trying to read the Query Tracker tea leaves, I heard the panic-inducing “You have mail” ringtone associated with my author email account.

Now, I have a tendency to band-aid rip whenever I get a reply from an agent. I immediately scan for keywords like “unfortunately” and “subjective” on the one hand or “happy” and “please attach” on the other, so I can brace myself for a rejection or psych myself up for a request (or maybe, at long last, an offer). So when this email began with "Please forgive me," I blew a raspberry. And then read: “...for taking a while to get back to you.” I made myself read the words in the letter in sequential order and discovered that it looked suspiciously like an offer. The agent I had cold queried explained that one of the other agents at the agency loved my novel and wanted to work with me.

I spent the next four hours trying to piece together a coherent sentence to let them know I was thrilled. I wondered if it was possible to screw that up so badly the whole thing would go poof.

The contract came at the same time as the invitation to talk, so I went into The Call with an offer in hand, which meant the ball was in my court to make sure she was right for me. That put me at ease and stressed me out all at the same time.

I'd love to share all the details of the actual call, but it's shrouded in the fog of war. I had my list of questions to ask, and ask I did. And she had all the right answers. I hung up the phone ready to sign the contract and send it back, but I had outstanding materials with other agents.

I took the requisite week to get my ducks in a row, got more requests, some rejections, an offer to revise and resubmit, and another offer of representation from a second very lovely agent. If she'd been the only one offering, I would have taken her offer with no hesitation.

But I had a decision to make. I knew I couldn't really go wrong either way. Both agencies were highly reputable. The clients of both agents had nothing but glowing praise to offer. Both agents said lovely things about my novel. And both had ideas for revisions.

In the end, I went with my gut. I felt that the first offering agent's vision for my book and my career more closely lined up with my own. (Also, I have a major crush on this agency.) And so, I happily, accepted representation from Rachel Stout at Dystel and Goderich.




I’m a computer programmer, nerd, and writer of contemporary romance, based in central Virginia. When I’m not writing, I do karate with my kids and read my friends’ unpublished novels in Word doc form. Theoretically, I love to travel but until I find a patron to fund my trip around the world, I placate my wanderlust by letting my characters hop on a plane and hang out in Paris. I’m a contest veteran of Query Kombat and Pitch Wars in 2014. My website is www.maryannmarlowe.com. [Follow her and congratulate her on Twitter!! - SC]


CONGRATS MARY ANN!!! Can't wait to see what comes in the future :)) Everyone, make sure to follow/congratulate her!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Announcement: I'm Retiring from Blogging

Rabbit rabbit rabbit!

I've been thinking about this for a long time.

It's odd, you know? I've been blogging so much, hosting contests, etc. for years now. And I took a few breaks, sure. But everyone's saying blogging is dead and I don't know. It's been a lot of work, work that I could have spent time writing (or more like procrastinating, heheehe).

So right now I'm thinking about moving on. Doing something new.

I don't know what that is yet. I don't even have a clue. But blogging has been too hard. Once Query Kombat 2015 is finished, I'm going to retire this blog and delete it. It feels odd but very relieving at the same time.

I know this is weird but I have to do it, for myself. I hope you guys will still be with me on Twitter and I'm so sorry if I'm letting you all down.

In other news, I'm actually really happy today!

Today's the day of my absolutely most absolute FAVORITE holiday!

;)

ETA: APRIL FOOLS!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Become an Agent Revision Guidelines AND WINNER!

Become an Agent is OVER! (Kind of.)

There is a revision opportunity available. More about that below. BUT FIRST. WE MUST ANNOUNCE THE WINNER!

The winner is.....


....
...

...
....


DRUM ROLL

...
..
..
...

*!!*Entry 6!*!!*
*blows confetti*
I won't be announcing the author's name just yet because of privacy and stuff, BUT please, author, contact me! We have an interview to set up (if you are up for it :D).

CONGRATS CONGRATS! Go read that amazing query and 250.

As for revisions:

If you want a revision opportunity, email me your revisions by Monday 5 pm EST using the same format, except in the subject line of your email, write: "Revision: Post #___" (and fill the ___ in with whatever post number you are).

List of Revised Entries

Post 1
Post 2
Post 3
Post 5
Post 6
Post 8
Post 9
Post 10
Post 11
Post 12
Post 13
Post 14
Post 15
Post 16
Post 17
Post 18
Post 19
Post 20

Same rules apply for voting etiquette, except now you can give as many as you want Yes's. And, more Importantly, say if the review was an improvement or not! Still give the 'Yes' and 'No' (sorry, it might feel a lot more brutal to get No's now after revisions, but honesty is the best, in my opinion).

Be sure to return the critique if your revision gets critiqued! Make sure to include your number in your post so the writer has criticized an easier time finding your post.

(I better see all of you submitting to NESTPITCH!)

I AM EXCITED.

Now That the contest is (almost) over, it's the time for feedback for  me.  In the end, all I want to know is:  How was the contest? Any suggestions for the next time?  Be as honest as you need to be.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Case of the Missing Ace - Tiffany Rose

I'm very excited about today's #WriteInclusively guest post and guest blogger. It's about a sexual identity (Asexuals - people who have no sexual desires) that I knew little about - and as such, I desperately needed to read this post. I'll strive to learn more in my free time. For now, take it away, Tiffany!

#

You’ll see plenty of articles on how to write asexuals characters or how not to write asexuals. Seriously, you can find them on youtube, you can find them on tumblr (a lot of them actually). And while it is really important to know how to write diverse characters, I wanted to talk about a the what-ifs.

What if asexual characters were more common? What if everyone’s most known detective was asexual? I wanted to tell you about how including asexuals would build acceptance, and would help change society. That your single work, a single character can change the world. And that might be true. For example, Sherlock changed the mystery genre. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had forensics in fiction before it was used by the police. Imagine if in 1887 we had a character who explicitly stated that they don’t experience sexual attraction. Imagine how great that acceptance would have been for asexuals. How far that would have carried now in 2015.

Sadly, when things are “different” people want to ignore them at best. Writers censor themselves. They say things like, “Oh, I’d like to include diversity. I just don’t understand it so we will have to come back later.”

“You can't be what you can't see.” I love this quote. It powerfully shows the importance of representation in a simple and elegant way. However, there is a problem with it. In the case of asexuality you can be what you cannot see. Often times, people simply don’t know the word for it.

I’ve seen so many characters that are coded as asexual undermined for an acephobic reason that further belittles and shuns the community. I can’t say that including a marginalized group in your writing will fix this. Because, no single thing will.


But, by existing even fictionally they are acknowledged. I don’t mean universally they will be by everyone (who likely has some bigotry or self-hate to work out first), but it matters to quiet voices who need it. Repensation is a ray of sunshine to those who face hate and dehumanization daily.

It’s just a simple thing to avoid the case of the missing ace. Include them.

Because it’s not a simple thing to have a stranger you might never talk to, or ever see, include you in something as tangible literature. Please #WriteInclusively


About Tiffany Rose: 

Until Rose's Starfleet uniform comes, she spends her time writing about magical girls and the morally gray. When she's not writing there is a good chance Photoshop is open. Any extra time is spent looking out for plot bunnies and serendipity. Find the author on Twitter, Tumblr or follow her own #WriteInclusively story on wattpad [GAH! How awesome is that?!?! - SC]


Thank you for sharing :DDD If you would like to guest post about #WriteInclusively, please contact me through email! If you'd like to be signed onto the pact, also let me know and I'll manually add you on :D

 Make sure to thank Tiffany with a Tweet and take a look at her story!! THANK YOU for sharing!!!
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Nest Pitch is Coming


#NestPitch2015 – is your manuscript pitch ready?

For those who don’t know what Nestpitch is, here’s a quick run-through.
There’s a special Easter tradition throughout central and northern Croatia – making Easter Nests for the Easter Bunny.  On the afternoon or eve of Easter Saturday children go out into the garden and collect leaves, grass, twigs, flowers and then make a “nest” for the Easter Bunny – that’s where he places his Easter-Egg-Presents. The children go to bed that eve wondering if the Easter Bunny will like or love their nest, because the best nest gets the best and biggest eggs!

And that’s the basis of Nestpitch, but the ‘nests’ are the author’s pitches and the ‘Easter Bunnies’ are the agents – get it? Great!

How does Nestpitch work?

This year we have changed things a bit, therefore even if you participated in Nestpitch 2014 you will still need to read the below. We are accepting MG, YA, NA and Adult fiction only.

Teams:
This year there are nine Teams made up of one Mentor [I am one of them!!! - SC] & two Slushies [Laura and Heather are the awesome slushies on our :D -SC]. The Teams are listed here.

Guidelines:
The Pitch window will be open for 48 hours, allowing everyone, regardless of where you live in the world, to prepare and submit a pitch.
The Pitch will be made up of three parts.
(i)                 a 35-word pitch
(ii)               answer to a question (in your main characters voice)*
(iii)             the first 300-words of their manuscript
*QUESTION: If your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?  Keep your answer to no more than 15-words.

Dates:
Agent Reveal: March 27th

Submission Window Opens April Fools Day (April 1st 2015)

7am USA New York Time

Submission Window Closes Good Friday (April 3rd 2015)

7am USA New York Time

You want to find out more? Head on over to the official blog and get all the details!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Become an Agent Critiquing Guidelines!

Read this before you start critiquing or voting!!

 Read this for full details on this contest because I kind of suck at summing things up. Basically, the entrants will vote on other entrants' entries (woah, say that 1304983 times fast) and say Yes or No based on the question: "If I was an agent, would I request more pages?"

Non-entrants can participate in this contest too!!!

Here are the voting guidelines for the entrants (those who are in the contest) AND the audience.

For the entrants
  • Entrants will have to critique a minimum of seven other queries and can vote Yes on two out of those seven. They MUST  critique at least seven and give a however-brief explanation as to why they voted Yes or No. Read on to see what are acceptable Yes's and No's.
  • Entrants must critique the seven queries which have lower numbers than their post (each post will have a post number). So, if you have post #9, you critique #2 through #8. But, say, if you have #3, you critique numbers 2, 1, then start from the other end, 20, 19, 18, 17, and 16.
  • At the end of each critique, entrants, put down your own post number so I can tally how many critiques each entrant did.
  • If entrants finish critiquing their seven queries and so amazingly want to critique more, then they have two choices:
  1. Give a Yes or No for seven other queries. Two Yes's for the batch. If they critique ALL 20, then they'll have six Yes's to give out all together! (But you can only give out 6 Yes's if you've given out 14 No's as well.)
For the audience
  • Audience members have only three Yes votes for the whole lot. (With no need to give/explain No's.) However, if the awesome audience does decide to give/explain No's, then just follow the same rules for the entrants.
  • The only difference between the audience and the entrant voting procedures is that entrants are required to give a minimum of seven critiques, and explain Yes or No for each one. Audience can give three (or even less) Yes's to whichever queries they want without explanation (but, really, explanations would be best).
Comment on the posts with your crits. Be SURE to sign it with your own post number. If you choose to do so, you can comment under 'Anonymous'.

Pretend you are agents and are sifting through your slush pile.  Mention the reasons you voted Yes or No! And explain them enough so the writer can use the feedback to improve. 

Since there is a maximum amount of Yes's, you can say in explanation of a No: "I would have given this a Yes, but I liked query #89234234 better. Sorry!" But keep these types of No's to a minimum. This query is about feedback and helping writers make better queries. This type of critique won't help them improve.

And don't vote No just because you don't like the genre. (Hopefully) the writer will only query agents interested in their genre. So read each query pretending that you like that genre. Exceptions are for hard-to-sell genres like paranormal or dystopian. In those cases, the genre is a hugely significant factor in determining why agents say no. Be honest with the writers here and tell them if it's their genre that's holding them back. Be honest in saying if the premise of the story is not unique enough to stand out in the suffocated genre.

The premise of this whole post? Be honest. But nicely.

The only types of unacceptable No's will be:
  1. Genre-based No's. (See above paragraph for explanation and exceptions.)
  2. Cruel, spiteful No's.
  3. No's with little-to-no explanation. This will absolutely be the main problem for the contest, and it'll lead to angry or sad writers. In text, it's really hard to convey nuance in a critique. What the critiquer writes will be interpreted differently by the critiquee, and usually negatively. Writers: remember, nothing is personal here. To help stop this problem, try saying at least one good thing about each No (while staying honest, even brutally honest!) and thoroughly explaining your reasoning.
  4. There is absolutely NO tolerance for No's that stem from prejudice or for a personal dislike of a subject matter. There are no exceptions to this rule. 
  5. If you recognize an entry, you are NOT allowed to vote on it! Even if it's my entry, for heaven's sake! No voting on entries of authors you know. Simply skip those entries and critique extra entries in lieu.
The only types of unacceptable Yes's will be:
  1. Yes's obviously based on friendship ("Oh, she's my friend, so I have to give her a yes.") If you are friends with the writer and you truly love their query, then go ahead and vote Yes. This is on the honor system. We're all adults and I trust you guys.
  2. Yes's with little-to-no explanation.
Big thing: There are a couple of race-related entries in the contest. Do not hold back on the critiques. As an author of a race-based novel myself, I find it deeply frustrating when no one tells me what's wrong with my book because they're scared to offend. If you get under fire for giving good, honest, helpful critiques of these entries, I will personally and publicly support you. Yet of course, there are critiques on race-based novels that are unfair. Here's a great article to read so you know what types of critiques to avoid.

If you see that there is a entry or a few entries that aren't getting many comments (maybe the posts lower down on the blog's page that sometimes get hidden from view) please try giving them votes to make the number of critiques mostly equal throughout the 20. That's why I made the whole 'critique the 7 above you' so the votes would be fairly equal in number. I'll be Tweeting links to posts that don't get much feedback so follow me on Twitter.

Please try not to share what post is yours over Twitter. Doing so might inadvertently get you some 'Yes's' from friends that other entrants who aren't on Twitter or have fewer followers don't have the chance to receive. But feel free to Tweet about the contest! Twitter is awesome :) 

One more thing

Don't expect all Yes's. DON'T. Because I'm guaranteeing it, you won't get it. Another required post to read: my own experience with harsh critiques.

Phew. That's it!! Go go go!!!!!!!!!

The deadline to finish up all critiques is Sunday the 29th 9 p.m. EST. On Wednesday, I'll announce the winner - the one with the most Yes's - and set up an interview with the winner :)

Have fun guys! And be nice! And please, comment on this post, Tweet me, or email me (I rarely check my email though) if you see some mistake in your entry. The mistakes will probably be a missed italics. I will not fix typos that were in the original email. 

GOOD LUCK GUYS! HOPE YOU HAVE FUN!! We are #BecomeAnAgent on Twitter. Join the community! Our question for the day is: If your MC could not fail, what would they do?

Become an Agent 2015 Post #20

Title: THE SUMERLIN CURSE
Genre: YA Southern Gothic
Word count: 66,000

Query:

Sixteen-year-old George Sumerlin is a boy, no matter what he looks like.

Born under a wicked family curse, he has the wings of a bat, horns of a bull, and the scaly tail of a lizard. While it doesn’t stop him from dibbling a basketball, it does keep him caged on his family’s derelict plantation. He calls it prison. Mama calls it protection; the outside world would not understand him. It would kill him.

After botching an escape attempt, pictures of George surface online and he fears he’s proven Mama right. Grace, a hoodoo priestess, sneaks into his bedroom with the goal of killing the beast terrorizing her village, but all she finds is a scared teenager. George promises to help Grace track down the real monster—something she calls a Boo Hag, a skin-changer who haunts the marshes—even if it will suck his soul, or worse, take his skin. His scaly butt is worth risking for a chance to get close to Grace; even teenage shut-ins know that true loves’ kiss can break a curse.

When he flees the planation, George learns Mama isn’t wrong about the world; it’s dangerous for a creature like him. And Boo Hags and lip-action aren’t the only things standing between him and freedom: a closet full of human skins, a village of islanders who would peel the wings from his back, and a twisted family legacy more rotten than the Sumerlin Curse itself.

Complete at 66,000 words THE SUMERLIN CURSE is a YA Southern Gothic steeped in the Gullah/Geechee folklore of the Georgia Sea Islands. Featuring a diverse cast and mixed-race pairing, it should appeal to readers of Sally Green’s Half Bad and Martina Boone’s Compulsion.

I am a member of SCBWI and RWA. I am the associate producer for The Badger Sports Report and an editorial intern for Kate Brauning at Entangled Teen.

First 250:

Mama says the Lord punishes wicked boys who disobey their parents.

He will punish me if I cross the fence.

The fence circles the entire house. A wall of boards squeezed together, flat trees choking off my view of the outside world. Or the outside world’s view of me. The boards are taller than Clarence, with spaces between them just thick enough to wedge a fingernail through. When I smash my nose into their splinters, I catch a whiff of sulfurous marsh, salty ocean, and the hundreds of animals roaming the forest beyond—but that’s only on the outside.

Inside, the fence forms a giant ring around the gardens, reflection pools, and basketball court, with the manor house in its center; a much, much larger version of the wire fence Clarence put up around the pig pen.

But I am not a pig.

I am a boy. No matter what I look like.

---

Today, the third Wednesday of July, is a good day to run away.

Not a minute has deviated from the routine. This morning, Clarence drove here from the village, taking the dirt road I can just make out through the slits in the fence. I’ve never been to the village—I’ve never left the yard—but I know where the road leads because I’ve stared at its serpentine black line on the map pinned to my bedroom wall.

Clarence passes me the ball. We always play basketball after morning studies. Studies are okay. Today we covered graphing quadratic equations—snore—and finished our unit on Causes of the War of Northern Aggression.

Query:
Sixteen-year-old George Sumerlin is a boy, no matter what he looks like.

Born under a wicked family curse, he has the wings of a bat, horns of a bull, and the scaly tail of a lizard. While it doesn’t stop him from dribbling a basketball, it does keep him caged on his family’s derelict plantation. He calls it prison. Mama calls it protection. The outside world would not understand him; it would kill him.

After George botches an escape attempt, pictures of him surface online and catch the eye of Grace, a hoodoo priestess hell-bent on capturing the beast terrorizing her village. She sneaks into George’s bedroom thinking he might be it, but all she finds is a teenager who's as freaked out as he is freaky looking. George promises to help Grace track down the real monster—something she calls a Boo Hag, a skin-changer who haunts the marshes—even if it will suck his soul, or worse, take his skin. His scaly butt is worth risking for a chance to get close to Grace. Not only can she help him escape, she may have the power to break his curse.

With Grace’s help, George flees the plantation but finds more danger than he bargained for: a closet of human skins, a shrimper bearing an uncanny resemblance to his murdered uncle, a village of islanders who want him dead, and a twisted family secret that puts his loved ones’ souls in the Boo Hag’s sights.

Complete at 66,000 words THE SUMERLIN CURSE is a YA Southern Gothic steeped in the Gullah/Geechee folklore of the Georgia Sea Islands. Featuring a diverse cast and mixed-race pairing, it should appeal to readers of Sally Green’s Half Bad and Martina Boone’s Compulsion.

I am a member of SCBWI and RWA. I am the associate producer for The Badger Sports Report and an editorial intern for Kate Brauning at Entangled Teen.

250:

Today, the third Wednesday of July, is a good day to run away.

Not a minute has deviated from the routine. This morning, Clarence walked here from the village, taking the dirt road I can just make out through the slits in the fence. I’ve never been to the village—I’ve never left the yard—but I know where the road leads because I’ve stared at its serpentine black line on the map pinned to my bedroom wall.

Clarence passes me the ball. We always play basketball after morning studies. Studies are okay. Today we covered graphing quadratic equations—snore—and finished our unit on Causes of the War of Northern Aggression. Because even when time seems to be the only thing I have in unlimited quantities, there’s never enough to kill on learning about the South’s “glorious cause.”

I dribble the ball between my legs, masterfully avoiding my scaly tail, and roll a jump shot off my claws. Swish! The ball catches only the bottom of the net. Clarence claps and says something about how good I’m getting. It’s a small consolation to being trapped here like a rabid animal.

A magnolia-scented breeze picks up. It hits me like the air blowing out of Mama’s hair dryer. The million degrees of south Georgia heat and humidity bake the tips of my leathery wings. I sweat in buckets; the sour moisture pools on my brow, drenching my dark bangs and curling the hairs around my ears and horns.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #19

Title: Master Copy
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: Revised, it should come in around 99 000-100 000 words.

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Amber writes in her diary like it's a religion--once a day, never in class, and always an honest interpretation of her life--until she discovers her diary is lying to her. At first she thinks her little brothers are up to their usual pranks, but the lies are too personal and too well-thought out to be dreamed up by kids. And the worst part is...the entries are in Amber's own loopy cursive.

Amber knows she shouldn't continue holding onto the diary, but when the lies within help save a classmate from being crushed by a collapsing part of the school--one that shouldn't even exist in the first place--she can't deny that the diary just might be useful. As she continues writing and reading, each lie takes her on another wild chase through a memory she never had. The diary draws her in so far that her reality and the false entries begin to blur together. If Amber can't find the secret to the diary's lies, her whole past--and future--may change forever.

Aryanna of the Fury Clan is on a mission to stop the Council from voting in Condensation, an ancient ritual that folds timelines into one another. The man spearheading the movement, Kratos, is intent on their world becoming the Master Copy...before any other timeline discovers the ritual too. But Aryanna knows that whoever controls Condensation will control her world's history...with the ability to alter events and even people as if they never existed.

Aryanna sets out to sway the other clans against Condensation, but Kratos won't be so easily defeated. With only two weeks until the final vote, Aryanna must stop the Council and Kratos from using the ritual or her loved ones--and Aryanna herself--will be killed, an infinite number of times over.

Master Copy is a 99,000-100,000 word YA fantasy, told from Amber and Aryanna's POV.

First 250:

The sun hit my eyes like a one-two punch in the face after being stuck inside all morning. I winced until the brightness subsided and the school commons came into view. Kids milled about, enjoying the nice weather. I took a deep breath of spicy autumn air. Lunch time was often the best time, in my opinion.


I wove around a couple exchanging saliva—get real, you’d see each other after class—and made my way down the steps into the dappled sunshine. Crossing the grounds, I reached the oak I usually met my friends under and leaned against its large trunk. I slipped my diary out of my carrier bag. I only took it out when I wasn’t in class. The last thing I needed was someone grabbing it from me and reading it out loud. The pages curled in the breeze, but I could still read over the entry from yesterday without much hassle.

Emma and I went shopping tonight. I helped her pick out something cute for her seventeenth birthday at the end of the month. We both tried on a lot of stuff and had fun…the first time in a while. She’s been so reserved lately with me, but she insists nothing’s wrong. It all started around when school began, so I’m sure it’s—

That was odd. We didn’t go shopping yesterday. We went last week. And we never looked at anything for her birthday either. In fact, she hadn’t even mentioned it yet. I shuffled a few pages back, scanning my writing. If my brothers got into my diary again, I’d totally—

Query:

Amber Avalon is a seventeen-year-old senior, middle-upper class, thank you very much. Princess Aryanna is the future leader of the Fury Clan and a high priestess acolyte. Two girls. One goal: save time itself.

Amber writes in her diary like it's a religion--once a day, never in class, and always an honest interpretation of her life--until she notices something's wrong. It's as if her diary was written by a different person. The changes are innocent at first, like Diary Amber kissing her best guy friend. But when an entry helps save a classmate from being crushed by a collapsing part of the school--one that shouldn't exist in the first place--she can't deny that the book might be useful. As she continues writing and reading, each entry takes her on another wild chase through a memory she never had. The diary draws her in so far that she can't tell reality from pure fantasy. If Amber can't find the secret to the diary's changing ways, she may never remember her real life and continue living in a lie, forever.

Princess Aryanna’s objective is clear: gather votes in a diplomatic mission to stop Condensation—an ancient ritual that would merge all her world’s timelines into a single, streamlined Master Copy. The man running the show, Kratos, has the votes in his pocket. Aryanna knows that whoever controls Condensation will control her world's history, with the ability to alter events and even people as if they never existed. She'd give up her home temple itself to sway the other clans, but getting kidnapped was never part of her mission. If she and her companions cannot escape and track down Kratos, the Council will put Condensation in motion. Aryanna must stop them from voting for the ritual or her loved ones--and Aryanna herself--will be killed, an infinite number of times over.

Amber and Aryanna couldn't be more different, but they are about to find out how similar they really are. MASTER COPY is a YA fantasy, complete at 100,000 words, with series potential. It is told from two points of view: Amber’s and Aryanna’s.

First 250: 

The sun hit my eyes like a one-two punch after being stuck inside all morning. I winced until the brightness subsided and the school commons came into view. Kids milled about, enjoying the nice weather. I took a deep breath of spicy autumn air. Lunch time was often the best time, in my opinion.

I wove around a couple exchanging saliva—get real, you’d see each other after school—and made my way down the steps into the dappled sunshine. It looked like I was the first one of my friends to reach our meeting spot. I leaned against the oak's trunk and slipped my diary out of my carrier bag. I only took it out when I wasn’t in class. The last thing I needed was someone grabbing my innermost thoughts and reading them out loud. The pages curled in the breeze, but I could still read over my half-done entry without much hassle.

Emma and I went shopping tonight. I helped her pick out something cute for her seventeenth birthday at the end of the month. We both tried on a lot of stuff and had fun…the first time in a while. She’s been so reserved with me lately, but she keeps saying nothing’s wrong. It all started when school began, so I’m sure it’s—

What? Wait. We didn’t go shopping yesterday. We went last week. And we never looked at anything for her birthday either. In fact, she hadn’t even mentioned it yet. I shuffled a few pages back, scanning my writing. If my brothers got into my diary again, I’d totally—

Become an Agent 2015 Post #18

Title: Morrow
Genre: YA Speculative Romance
Word Count: 73,000

Query:

Imani has long known that Orphans have to look out for themselves. As one of the unchosen, she’s lived in three different Complexes and assisted multiple families, and she’s not even eighteen yet. Years of training, along with her fiercely redheaded roommate, have taught her that Orphans exist simply to assist Achievers. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more. So when a guy who isn’t legally required to wear a bracelet or have a tattoo asks about her milkshake preferences, she balks at his attempt to humiliate her and walks away.


Andrew Fischer doesn’t understand her refusal, or why it took him two whole years to finally run into one of the most beautiful girls he’s ever seen. Even the ever-present threat of jail doesn’t sway him from trying to get her to change her initial impression of him. He’s heard of Achievers not trusting Orphans; the other way around is kind of new.

With only three months of summer sunsets, he resolves to show her that the Decency Laws are more guidelines than firm rules. The Administrators may have laid down the law. But they didn’t anticipate this. Besides, there's nothing transgressive about having a conversation. It's just good manners. He doesn’t love her, but he can. And that small fact threatens to ruin them both.

The manuscript for my young adult speculative romance novel, Morrow, is complete at 73,000 words, and has a planned sequel. However, this title has the ability to stand alone.

First 250:

Three things made the less-than-spectacular task of grocery shopping somewhat more bearable: 1. air conditioning 2. riding the cart like a scooter 3. cantaloupe testing. In a life-threatening situation, Imani might place the second reason before the first. Just because there was a certain calm that came with the mindless click-clack, click-clack of the wheels over linoleum. It slowed her heart and numbed her mind into a blissful ease.


Because she’d somehow ignored the overflowing cardboard bin of cantaloupes when stopping at the freshly showered shelves of produce for parsley, she was now back, one leg propped lazily on the cart, shaking to her heart’s content. Angela’s emphatic descriptions were more to blame than she was; they were the reason Imani was thinking about sand and demon-birds called seagulls.

“Nope,” Imani popped the ‘p’ and grabbed another cantaloupe, shaking it like the maracas she’d played with in elementary school. The second one failed the test, so she squeezed it more firmly. Too hard. Tossing it back, she grabbed another one and mindlessly returned to quality testing, listening for sloshing seeds.

It was because of Angela that she all but threw the cantaloupe when the stranger next to her began speaking.

“Hi.”

His appearance was so unexpected she dropped her latest target back into the container with a flustered thud. At the same time, eyes wide, her hand instinctively flew to her pocket, ready to whip out her identification card—the slim paper listing her name and date of birth, nothing else.

Query:

The Decency Laws were written to monitor population growth and to funnel only the most qualified into leadership positions. All the rest could serve.

Imani failed to impress her parents mere hours after her birth. So she wound up an Orphan. The ten foremost laws dictate that Orphans are good for one thing only: assisting Achievers, the babies with the APGAR scores pointing towards future greatness. Achievers like Andrew, who randomly strikes up a conversation with her in the grocery store. He tries asking her out without even realizing he’s breaking the law.

If there’s one rule that everyone knows, it’s that Orphans and Achievers are not supposed to have non-assistance relationships. Ever. Orphans show up to their assigned houses, complete their tasks, and then return to their Complexes. That’s it. Andrew knows that what he’s planning is completely against the rules, but Imani is beautiful and he wants her to stay.

With move-in day for his freshman year of college rapidly approaching, he resolves to show her that the Decency Laws can act more like guidelines than firm rules. Besides, there's nothing transgressive about having a conversation. It's just good manners. He doesn’t love her, but he can. And that small fact threatens to put him in jail and have her labelled ‘unruly’.

Narrated with dual points-of-view, the manuscript for my young adult romantic fantasy novel, Morrow, is complete at 73,000 words, and has a planned sequel. However, this title has the ability to stand alone.

First 250:

Prologue

4 Months After The Trip

When he took her, he said he was doing it for his son’s peace of mind, not hers. Achievers never owed Orphans any favors.

She’d left her other half on a picnic table in a Virginia sunrise. Five slowly curving letters to emphasize all the ways she’d swooped and bent to assist and accommodate. She is me. She was me? Wait…I am her?

He told her to forget, said it rather emphatically. But pretending like she wasn’t someone else before arriving in a new place, halfway across the country, was like willing herself to jump through a burning hoop. It took heel-digging-fixed-eyed-resolution. She needed to look that hoop in the face and say with moxie, “I’ve got this. I’ll do it.”

Don’t slip. Don’t mess up. Just forget and you’ll be safe.


Safe, she was. But Imani, apparently she was not.

It’d been 120 days, and she was still standing in front of that stupid hoop, sweating and trying oh-so-hard to just leap. Willing herself to believe that everything would be as peachy as that sunrise on the other side of those teasing flames. Her moxie was wavering like a lit candle wick in the breeze, flickering in and out, shivering if someone came a little too close. And she felt almost…pathetic. But then she had his words on her skin, her name in his mouth, the welcoming press of all six letters.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #17

Title: Reece
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 50,000

Query:

Reece, a black foster-kid who’s never known a real home, isn't sure what to expect when he gets a scholarship to a predominantly white boarding school. He definitely doesn't see himself fitting in with all of the rich kids, but somewhere during the games of basketball with the guys, long confusing conversations with the girl and battling with the red ink on his Sophomore English papers, he finds a home and a family. When he witnesses a hate crime, he has to find a positive way forward or risk losing the roots and future he has just started to believe he deserves.

Reece is a contemporary Young Adult coming-of-age story complete at 50,000 words. I hope you will enjoy reading this work and am happy to provide any additional information per your request. I am a member of SCBWI and have several completed picture books as well as other YA works in progress.

First 250:

I found an elephant on the ceiling. It was hiding in the bumpy, white paint. I knew if I turned my head toward the pale yellow curtains, I’d see the crack in the ceiling that made up a cat’s tail. I loved that cat. I’d discovered him one day warming up in a puddle of sunshine. I wanted to enter his world. I’d float to the ceiling and disappear.

“Don’t move until you’re ready to give it back, you little brat.”

Disappearing sounded good. My entire body hurt.

Tears dripped down the sides of my face and into my hair, but I knew better than to wipe them away.

“You idiot! She’s gonna be here any minute and you do this?” Tina’s voice sounded concerned, but I knew better than to believe it was for me.

“Don’t question me. That boy had it comin’ and you know it. You know he took it!”

“I don’t know what happened to your money, Roy, but I know we’re gonna be in a world of trouble when she shows up and that boy’s turning colors.”

“Dammit to hell!”

I flinched as Roy kicked over the coffee table. I smelled cigarette ash as the dust settled onto my face.

I tracked Roy with my ears, too scared to move my eyes. His breath came in huffy pants. Then like a cobra, he struck again. Bolts of pain ripped through my body as he threw me onto the couch.

“Sit up, you little maggot.”

My left arm was on fire and I struggled to breathe.

Query:

Fifteen-year-old Reece never thought for a second that his social worker’s plan to get him into Wickersley Academy would come to anything. After all, boarding schools aren’t the typical place to find a biracial foster-kid with an incarcerated mother and abusive grandparents. But he soon finds himself on an academic scholarship and way out of his comfort zone.

Now he is stuck going to school with a bunch of rich, pampered, white kids. They aren’t exactly the kind of people he is used to hanging out with and he highly doubts they are going to give him the time of day. His social worker, however, insists that he give it a try and Reece knows that he doesn’t have anywhere better to go.

To his surprise, between shooting hoops with his housemates, awkwardly romancing the girl from Sophomore English and cursing the devil who teaches it, Reece finds his place among the elite around him. He begins to feel that he has found something he has never had before: a home and a family.

When he witnesses a black upper-classman get shot by a white town official, rage and revenge pull at him. Reece has to choose to trust his new family to support him while standing up for justice or act on his impulses and risk losing the roots and future he has just started to believe he deserves.

Reece is a contemporary Young Adult coming-of-age story complete at 50,000 words. I am a member of SCBWI and have several other YA works in progress.

First 250:

Tears dripped down the sides of my face and into my hair. Roy was really mad this time. I knew to stay still and quiet when my grandfather got like this. My arm hurt so much that I didn’t want to move anyway.

I found an elephant hiding in the bumpy, white paint of the ceiling - that made animal number five. I slowly turned my head toward the pale yellow curtains, searching for the next creature. From my spot on the floor, I saw the tail of a cat formed from a large crack. I wanted to escape to his world - away from my grandparents who argued in the background.

Tina, my grandmother, stood in the doorway. “That social worker’s gonna be here any minute, Roy. Why’d you do this now?”

“The boy had it comin’ and you know it. You know he took it!”

“He's only five. If he stole your money, we’ll find it. It isn’t worth the world of trouble we’re gonna be in when she shows up and that boy’s turning colors.”

“Dammit to hell!” Roy flipped over the coffee table.

I flinched and scrunched up my face as cigarette ash rained down. I tried not to cough, but my throat felt tight and I couldn’t help it.

Like a cobra, Roy struck again. Bolts of pain ripped through my body as he threw me onto the couch.

“Sit up, you little maggot.”

My left arm was on fire and I struggled to breathe.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #16

Title: The Red and the Scarlet
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Word Count: 84,000

Query:

Eighteen-year-old mercenary Fyr has desperate aspirations. One: To keep her sickly brother Asaan alive after they escape racial massacre with only each other. Two: To get revenge on the one man she remembers taking part in the killings. And three: to fulfill an alleged prophecy she's stumbled upon.

The pseudo-historical script promises a supernatural race called "The Blue People" will conquer her native land. As a devoted sister and scarred survivor of near genocide, Fyr isn't about to let that happen, even if it means facing her own arrest.

When Fyr and Asaan are arrested, by the same controversial politician she's vowed to kill, her plans are brought to a screeching halt. But instead of prosecuting the siblings, he invites them into his world. Trapped in the nobility's glittering society, Fyr's criminal dreams and her ideas about "Blue People" quickly become synonymous with scandal. She must fight self-doubt, racism, and a growing affection for her former enemy if she's to keep Asaan alive and safe, and escape before the Blue People attack.

THE RED AND THE SCARLET is a novel about siblings, culture clash, natural and political disasters, and pseudo-history. It is set on a fictional Slavic and Asian continent in the Napoleonic Era, and has sequel potential.

First 250:



When Fyr was struck, and Vladyslav scarred, the world was shivering.

A cloudy blanket lay across nations. Chill dragged into bones. The breath of a hundred furnaces rose to the heavens.

Nevertheless, a handful of caroling bourgeoisie gathered outside the Vlalonnan King’s palace, hoping to warm souls and fill their purses, ignoring winter’s slaps on their cheeks and voices. Relentless wind snatched and swept their ancient song towards the Grassland Reserves, where the Yihhe, the “savages” lived.

The same clouds were on their horizon, but different joy in their hearts. One that gloried in the disfigured heads of Vlalonnan pilgrims staked around the camp.

Yihhe children ran out shrieking to catch snow in outstretched fingers and dark lashes. One girl stood on the edge of her people’s territory, daring to poke toes past the invisible boundary, near the heads. She glanced at them, balancing her infant brother on her hip. From them had come the book in her hand. St. Thandos’s History of Sayy.

She had read it over and over. Even now, she murmured passages. Her words lifted to the heavens, mingling with the carolers’ call, braiding them together with the pure snow into something none knew would enter their lives in a matter of time.

Time after a time.

But then the moment ended, and the riders appeared on the horizon, warped shadows coming in the name of the dead.

They broke upon the village faster than it could panic, guns blazing, shattering still air, clogging it with black smoke and dying screams. In the midst of cold and chaos, the girl ran in a belt buckle forest, clutching her wailing brother.

She had to keep him alive.

Query:
I am seeking representation for my 84,000 word YA historical fantasy, THE RED AND THE SCARLET, which is Les Miserables meets Mulan with a bounty-hunting Jo March as a heroine.

In 1811, 18-year-old Fyr fights racism, looming disaster, and for bloody revenge on Vladyslav, a charismatic politician.

As children, Fyr and her brother Asaan escaped racial massacre enacted by their divided motherland. But devastation may return: every five hundred years, supernatural foreigners, known as “the Blue People,” arrive on the coast for war.

Thanks to their own discord, Fyr’s countrymen forgot the deadly cycle. Fyr, determined not to relive her past, puts aside her personal quest to slaughter one of the massacre’s young participants, and sets out with sickly Asaan to alert her squabbling country.

But Vladyslav, the man Fyr wants to kill, arrests the siblings, halting their plans. But instead of prosecuting, he invites them into his world for his own dark political purposes.

Trapped in the nobility’s glittering society, Fyr, with her criminal dreams, controversially conservative host, and her whistleblowing on corruption and “Blue People,” is soon slandered as scandalous. As her reputation plummets, so does the worth of her word. She must fight self-doubt, discrimination, and a dangerous new affection for Vladyslav if she is to keep Asaan alive and safe, and escape before the Blue People attack.

First 250:
When Fyr was struck, and Vladyslav scarred, the world was shivering.

Clouds blanketed the nations. Chill dragged into bones. Under spinning snow rode Vladyslav’s regiment to slaughter "savages.”

In their village, the “savages” were oblivious. Fyr, eight, watched shrieking children run to catch flakes in outstretched fingers and dark lashes among the heads of decapitated travelers, raised on pikes as a warning to future trespassers. She poked her toes past the edge of her people’s territory, glancing at the heads in defiance, and balancing her infant brother on her hip.

While the other children held the bodiless things in fearful reverence, Fyr was grateful to them. From the heads had come the book in her brother-free hand.

Together they gazed in fascination at the falling snow, and Fyr whispered the poem that opened her book.

But the moment ended. The riders appeared on the horizon, warped shadows coming in the name of heads and vengeance.

They broke upon the settlement faster than it could panic, their blazing guns clogging the still air with black smoke and dying screams. In the midst of the cold and chaos, the little girl ran in a forest of belt buckles, clutching her wailing brother and the battered book.

She had to keep him alive.

Suddenly, she collided headlong into a wall of gray uniform and staggered to the earth. Fyr stared up at the young soldier’s blue eyes, full of dismay, at the blood blackening his coat, the musket in his fingers.

Vladyslav.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #15

Title: Misty Dawn and Violet
Genre: NA Adventure/Humor
Word Count: 50,000

Query:

Down on her luck and lookin’ for love, Misty Dawn returns home from her third semester of college to find that her clueless throwback parents still treat her like a baby. Combine that with a cat with a serious hygiene problem and a dead-end job at the Burger Barn, and Misty knows she’s cut out for more than her small South Carolina town. Seriously, who has a rodeo clown for a father? Enter: a glorious, cowboy-studded brochure depicting a Spring Break experience at The Lucky Lasso Ranch; Red Rock, Wyoming. Armed with her life affirming metaphors and her BFF Violet, Misty trades in her sputtering El Camino for a spunky Palomino and heads west.

Misty Dawn and Violet quickly realize that life on the ranch is not as glamorous as the brochure said. Their week at the Lucky Lasso has Misty and Vi clumsily struggling to learn the tricks of the trade; chow duty, wrangling cattle on horseback, lassoing strays. Lucy and Ethel could have done better. Turns out, their ten years in 4-H hasn’t prepared either girl for what life on a working ranch is like. All they can do is pull up their big cowgirl boots and buckle down next to two hunky twin cowboys, whose yodeling and manhandling of the cattle has set their hearts a-flutter. By the end of the week, the girls are in love, and hankerin’ to take those boys home. But Misty Dawn, suddenly serious, knows that their two worlds could never combine, could they? When Misty returns home, however, there is a message from her cowboy, and suddenly her formerly embarrassing rodeo heritage might just come in handy after all.

Misty Dawn and Violet is a NA Adventure tale sprinkled with humor, in the vein of Larissa Reinhart’s Cherry Tucker Series. A light and fun read, it is complete at 50,000 words.

First 250: 
“Come on, Miguel, we’re almost there”

Misty Dawn’s 1987 El Camino sputtered and creaked as she rounded the bend of her rural South Carolina road. As a poor college sophomore at Winslow University, she treasured her car anyway. The quirky and rusty El Camino, which she named Miguel, suited her own odd style just fine.


"Well, here we are," she said, to no one but herself. “Home, sweet home.”

The three hour car drive to get home from college had dragged on, her old gas guzzling car coasting up the driveway on fumes. Misty had spent the last four months at college, loving every minute of it, but now her wallet was about as empty as Miguel’s gas tank.

She pulled into her parent's driveway. "Whiskers!" she cried, as her black cat, no longer just a kitten, slinked his head, then tail, against her car door. "You're such a cute little kitty! You've gotten so big!" Misty said, in a baby-talk sort of way. Whiskers pawed at her car door, in a most dog-like fashion.

Misty threw it open and the adolescent cat leaped into her lap.

At once, she nearly doubled over. "My GOD! What is wrong with you!" Misty shrieked as a noxious odor took over her car space. She tossed the black cat back onto the ground. The cat wreaked of feces, the odor making Misty's stomach churn.

Her mother, having heard the car pull up, came running out the front door. "Why, Misty Dawn! So nice to have you home!"

Title: Misty Dawn and Violet
Genre: NA Contemporary
Word Count: 65,000

Query:


Misty Dawn returns home for Christmas break to find that her hippie parents still treat her like a baby. Combine that with her dead-end job at the Burger Barn and her cat who thinks he’s a dog, and Misty Dawn knows she’s cut out for more than her small South Carolina town. Seriously, who has a rodeo clown for a father? Bored, broke and ready for anything, Misty Dawn and her best friend, Violet, vow to beef up their stale social status.

Enter: a glorious, cowboy-studded brochure depicting a Spring Break experience at The Lucky Lasso Ranch in Red Rock, Wyoming. Armed with her life affirming metaphors and her BFF, Misty Dawn trades in her sputtering El Camino for a spunky Palomino and heads west.

It doesn’t take long for the girls to realize that life on the ranch is not as glamorous as the brochure said. Their week at the Lucky Lasso has Misty Dawn and Violet clumsily struggling to learn the tricks of the trade; chow duty, wrangling cattle on horseback, lassoing strays. Lucy and Ethel could have done better. Turns out, ten years in 4-H hasn’t prepared either girl for what life on a real working ranch is like. All they can do is pull up their big cowgirl boots and buckle down next to their guides, two hunky twin cowboys, whose yodeling has set their hearts a-flutter. By the end of the week, the girls are in love, and hankering to take those boys home.

But Misty Dawn, suddenly serious, knows that their two worlds could never combine, could they? When she returns home, however, there is a message from her cowboy, and suddenly her throwback family's rodeo heritage might be just what the cowboy ordered.

MISTY DAWN AND VIOLET is a NA Contemporary/Adventure tale, in the vein of Larissa Reinhart’s Cherry Tucker Series. A light and fun read, it is complete at 65,000 words.

First 250: 
Misty Dawn’s 1987 El Camino sputtered and creaked as she rounded the bend of her rural South Carolina road. Although she was a poor college student, with barely enough funds to fill her tank for the ride home, she treasured the quirky open-backed wagon on wheels, which she named “Miguel”. Sure, Miguel had a few quirks. Okay, he had lots of them, but they suited each other just fine.

“Come on, Miguel, we’re almost there.” The gas needle sank even lower into the red. “You can do it!” The lemon of a car thrived on having a cheering section.
Misty Dawn and Miguel eased their way through the small suburban town, where every lawn sported a blow up snowman, wreath or other wintertime lawn decor. The Christmas season had arrived, no matter what the thermometer read, which at the moment read a balmy fifty two.

"Well, we made it," she said, coasting into her parent’s driveway on fumes. “Thank God.”

Misty loved every minute of being a college student, but her wallet was about as empty as Miguel’s gas tank, and she had enough dirty laundry with her to fill the Florence Civic Center.

Her mother, having heard the car pull up, came running out the front door, only stopping once, to illuminate the outside lights on the way. "Why, Misty Dawn, so nice to have you home!"

Misty hopped out of the car to greet her with a hug. "Hey Diane. It’s daytime. What’s with the lights?” Misty Dawn, being a college girl and a self-proclaimed woman of the world, insisted on being on a first name basis with her parents.